Protection

wit

 

Claudia parked in the lot of the sad looking stucco office building that sat amongst the abandon buildings of NE Glisan. She climbed the stairs to the third floor and looked for number 308. She knocked and opened the door to find a short, unimpressive looking brunette seated behind a pine wood desk. The woman stood up slightly.

“Emily,” Claudia asked.

“Yes, are you Claudia?”

“I am.”

“Have a seat.”

Claudia took a seat across from the woman, studying her carefully as she went. She was short and plump. She had dark circles underneath her dull brown eyes and her fingernails had been bitten down to the quick. She wore a grey sweatshirt over black leggings and a worn pair of black Keds.

“Would, you like a glass of water or a cup of coffee?”

“No, I’m okay.  What is it they have you doing here, “Claudia asked looking around the small, dank office.

“I set sales appointments for janitorial service salesmen with office building managers around the country.”

“Interesting.”

“So, how does this all work?”

“Well, you just tell me what our relationship is supposed to be, then you email me whatever backgroundinformation you have told them about yourself. I study it and we go to whatever event it is you need to go to.”

“The event is in two days, you’re supposed to be my aunt Becki. Will two days be enough time?”

“Plenty, I’ve been doing this for a lot of years, ya know. “

“How did you get into it?”

“I answered an ad on Craigslist.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No, I’m not I was an out of work actress. I was looking in the talent section when I came across an ad that said, “actors wanted for a unique opportunity.” I met a guy in a parking lot who told me that the job was for the United States government and before he could tell me anymore, I would have to take some tests and a background check. I was skeptical, but intrigued. I went to the federal building the next day and went through a background check for a secret clearance, six weeks later I was a leading lady in the Witness Protection Program’s core of actors.”

“Doesn’t it make your personal life hard; I mean not being able to tell anyone what you do?”

“I tell them I’m in the mortuary business. They never ask any questions after that.”

Emily smiled and walked over to the coffee machine where she poured herself a cup.

“How did a nice girl like you end up in Witness Protection?”

“Dated the wrong guy.”

Claudia suppressed a giggle.

“What happened?”

“I dated him for about a year and one day he invited me to go away with him and visit his friend in Seattle.

He asked me to deliver a gift for him. I was supposed to go to his sister’s house get the gift and take it on The bus with me to Seattle.”

“You were traveling on the bus and you were going to meet him there?”

“Yeah, he was flying in from New York. But, when I got off the bus I was immediately arrested. The present Was actually three pounds of top quality heroin and about $12, 000 of stolen money.”

“Holy shit. You had to testify against your boyfriend?”

“No, it was his brother that they wanted. The only way I could avoid jail was to squawk. They offered me the program.”

“That’s rough. What was your boyfriend doing in New York?”

“He lived there. It was a long-distance relationship.”

“Oh, where did you meet him?”

“On Bumble.”

“The App?”

“Yes, so had you two ever actually …. I mean. Did you ever meet him, like in person?”

“This was going to be the first time.”

Claudia suppressed another giggle.

“So, tell me all about your Aunt Becki, “Claudia said taking out a notebook.

“Well, you raised me when my mother died on a mission to India. You love musical comedies and you work as a civil rights attorney.”

“Nice.”

“You are 58 years old. Even though you couldn’t afford to send me to college, you always made sure that I was very well read. You are very liberal and love to talk about politics.”

Claudia was secretly impressed she figured Emily for some conservative, hillbilly moron like all the rest of them.

“So, do we fight for women’s rights together or something?”

“Oh no, I hate you. I ‘m really conservative. Ya, see the way I figure it is, if I hate you, I don’t have to see you very often. The guy at the agency told me I only got seven visits and after that I was on my own. He told me it was like $200 a day. Is that true?”

“Well, yes if you want the whole day..”

“I can’t afford that shit. What I figure we do is fight in public and that way my friends will be real uncomfortable and they won’t be on me to get you to visit again.

Claudia hated to admit it, but the plan was pretty clever.

“Now, let me tell you a little about my friends. Julie is a hair dresser. She is really into astrology, so you may want to say something about what BS it is.  Karen is my neighbor, she has cats, so maybe just say you’re a dog person, or something like that. Steve is Karen’s boyfriend. I met him at a Trump rally, he’s a white nationalist. “

“Okay,” Claudia said not looking up from the pad on which she was taking notes.

“Now just for back up I was wondering if you could not bath on the day you come and If you could chew with your mouth open, that would be greatly appreciated.”

“Look, Emily, I think that may be going a bit over the top.”

“Yeah, maybe. It’s just …You don’t know what it’s like being in this program.  It’s not like in the movies. They dropped me off at a pay by the week hotel and told me I was all paid up for two months. They gave me $5000 and a list of people who would give me a job reference. They told me they could occasionally provide an actor to play a relative or friend and that was it.”

“That’s rough,” Claudia said. ‘But, you’re an idiot,’ she thought to herself.

“How about I just chew with my mouth open?

“Cool, “ Emily exclaimed.

“Let’s think of a few neutral memories, just for plausibility. Did you ever take a trip when you were a child?”

“I went to the Wisconsin Dells when I was eight.” I’ve been to Seattle a bunch of times.”

“How about we went to Seattle five years ago and went to the art museum.

“I’ve never been to a museum except on school field trips.”

“We took a boat ride.”

“I’ve never really been on a boat.”

“The Ferris wheel?

“I’ve been on that.”

The two discussed a few more details and Emily described the bungalow in which she had told everyone she grew up. Claudia tried not to laugh when Emily said she had been on the track team and secretary of the student council.

They discussed favorite foods and movies for a bit and Claudia was not at all surprised that Emily loved Taylor Swift and Applebee’s.

They parted and arranged to meet early on the morning of Thanksgiving.

Claudia got in her car and began to drive back to the Motel 6. She wondered if it was too late to look on Craigslist for a real job.

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English to Customer Service Representative Dictionary.

mouth

 

 

So your, phone or your fridge isn’t working and you just don’t know what to do. you’ve called customer service a hundred times and you still don’t have an answer to your questions. Technology is so hard to understand these days and so are some of the customer service representatives who are supposed to help customers with their problems.

Here is  simple dictionary to help you understand what a CSR is really trying to say.

CSR: Thank You for calling The Acme Corporation, My name is Eliza, How can I help you?

English: I am contemplating suicide; what do you want?

CSR: I’d be delighted to help you with that!

English: My will to survive and my want for creature comforts surpasses my dignity and my sense of hope just enough that I will prostitute myself to your likes.

CSR: I wish so much that I could help you, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to transfer you to a specialist in a different department.

English: You’re someone else’s problem now, you malodourous vagina.

CSR: May I place you on a brief hold while I access my resources?

English: I have to take a big dump.

CSR: I understand your frustration.

English: I’m just as exasperated by your stupidity as you are.

CSR: I’m so sorry for your loss, please accept my condolences.

English: Lucky them

CSR: I’m so sorry to interrupt you!

English: I’d like to tie your tongue to the back of a rocket ship and launch it to Mars you nonsensical blabbermouth.

CSR: I’m sorry ma’am, I understand how confusing the computer system can be. Let me see what I can do to help you.

English: A slow witted five year old could navigate our website you insignificant half-wit.

CSR: I want to do everything I can to make sure your customer experience is a good one.

English:  I’d like to tear your head off and pour poison down your neck.

CSR: Thank you for calling and have a nice day.

English: Get your tubes tied.

Diary of a Confused Alien

ss

 

Dear Captain:

I arrived on the destination planet last week, in the middle of their night. I immediately located an establishment that provides sustenance. Although the life forms in the establishment, which was called Denny’s, did not seem to find my façade pleasing to the eye, they did accept that I was one of them, so please tell Zork and Klangbot, “good job.”

 

I fueled on a substance called a “Grand Slam” which consisted of grease, the fried menses of a female, a flat dehydrated wheat substance with a fruit spread, what appeared to be some sort of grease soaked root vegetable and the flesh of a deceased creature which had been cut into thin strips and fried in its own carcass fat. The meal was accompanied by hot bean juice which I found to be a stimulant.

 

I am afraid we overestimated the value of the paper slips with which I was provided. I presented several of them to the life form that served me my fuel and discovered that it wanted more. The fuel cost me ten of the paper slips. When I asked a creature sitting next to me where I could obtain more of the paper slips, I was told to “get a job.”

 

I returned to the craft and disassembled it as per your instructions. I hid the pieces behind some vegetation as per your instruction. I found the weather to be quite cold and located a shelter called Motel 6. The life form behind the desk charged me sixty five paper slips for a pod which it called a room. He it also insisted that I give it 100 additional paper slips for him to “hold” for as long as I inhabited the pod. I am not sure what value there was in holding the paper slips. I can only speculate that there may be some joy found in the fondling of the slips.

 

I asked the creature where I could find a job and it said something about Craigslist. I asked him where I would find this list and he told me, the internet. I did not wish to appear uninformed and so I decided to go searching for this internet in the morning.

 

I found my pod to be sufficient. The bed was made out of a primitively constructed foam and there was a small extra room that contained a bin with two knobs that dispensed water. There was also a box with a drainage system and a sprinkler at the top of it. There was a bar of scented fat that came wrapped in the carcass of a tree. I determined that this was for the cleansing of one’s person as the fat lathered when I rubbed it in my hands and appeared to clean them. I washed myself in the contraption and found the smell quite pleasing and relaxing.

 

I counted my paper slips and found that I had 2000. I had already used 85 and given 100 away that I realized might not be returned. I would need to obtain a job soon. I assumed a job was a device that created paper slips.

 

There was a box facing the bed that resembled a command post. I attempted to turn it on with my mind but it did not work. Instead, I located a control much like the kind used for locating a space ship. I pressed the on button and a film began to play.

There was one creature standing in front of a group of other creatures. From what I could surmise the creature standing in front of the room was a male and the group of individuals he was about to address were females.  The camera kept panning from the male to the females and then back to the male. Some of the woman appeared to be sweating from their eyes. The male said one of their names and everyone gasped and some sort of audial signal played in the background. The female stepped forward and the male presented her with some vegetation.

 

The male proceeded to present vegetation to several other females. Some of the females did not receive vegetation and spoke of their bitter disappointment. From what I was able to infer the vegetation contained some sort of protein or nutrient lacking in the planets diet.

 

I feel asleep to the sound of one of the female earthlings whaling in the back of what appeared to be a crudely designed ship.

The next morning, I put one my spare uniform and headed out of the pod. I walked until arrived at a stand that dispensed bean juice. While I was there I asked the earthling who poured it for me for directions to the internet. It made a strange noise and told me to go across the road to a place called the library, where they would be able to help me.

 

I arrived at the library where a female creature pointed out a small box in the corner which would take me to the internet. The box appeared to be some sort of partial transporter and I pushed the on button and stood in front of it screaming, “Craigslist,” but nothing happened.

 

The creature retuned and told me that they did not have Google Voice. She pushed a button and a screen came up that looked exactly like pictures I have seen of the “knowledge Expressway” that existed a hundred years ago. She typed the word Craigslist into the top bar and a list of various subjects appeared. I selected the one that said jobs.

“Wait, those jobs are in San Francisco,” the creature insisted. She clicked on a link that said Los Angeles. Now all you have to do is chose what kind of a job you’re interested in and click on it. If you want to know if a job is near you, you can look on Google Earth.

What is Google Earth, Google is a search engine and Earth is the planet you are on,” a creature standing next to us said. He made a strange noise after he spoke. Going forward I shall refer to the creatures here as earthlings.

I began to search for a job. I was hoping to find an inexpensive one, or maybe just a used one. I began looking under a category called customer service.

Catfight

la

Christopher rang Abigail’s doorbell. After a week of giving her the disaffected bad boy routine, he was certain that tonight was the night. She invited him over to dinner and told him to bring the booze. She answered the door wearing a silky green top and linen slacks.

They kissed and he made himself comfortable on her sofa while she finished preparing dinner. He sipped his bloody Mary and thumbed through magazines while he waited. Abigail came out of the kitchen and ran downstairs to the basement.  She ran back upstairs and announced that dinner was served.

“Do you like the dressing,” she asked as they munched their salads.

“It’s very light and creamy,” he said, biting into the lettuce.

“I hope you like your steak rare, “she said.”

“I’m glad you know how to treat red meat.”

Suddenly, she got up and ran down to the basement again.  Christopher continued to work on his salad. After a moment, he heard noises coming from the basement. He got up and walked to the stairs. He stood in silence for a moment and caught bits and pieces of the conversation that was coming from the basement.

“I told you to…” You can eat in ….. Uh huh…uh huh. Well, I have a date.”

Christopher heard the door slam and he rushed back to his seat. Abigail retuned and she served the main course.

“Is everything okay,” he asked as they nibbled at the meal she had prepared.

“Yeah, it’s fine. Do you remember how I was telling you about Rachel…that supervisor at work that I didn’t like?”

“Oh, yeah …I think so.”

“Well, I’ve got her tied up in the basement.”

He laughed covering his mouth with his napkin.

She just looked at him.

“She gave me my quarterly review and told me that I wasn’t getting a raise. She basically told me I suck at my job. So, I waited for her in the parking lot and hit her over the head with a tire iron, put her in my trunk and dragged her down to the basement. I’ve got her tied to the radiator down there. I’m pretty sure that it will hold her. Do you want more water?”

“No, I’m good. So um. What is your goal in all of this? I mean are you looking to get the raise…or just an apology…” he said looking down at his food.

“Well, at this point I figure I’ll just torture her for about a week and then whack her. I mean, I can’t let her go she’ll go to the cops.”

“What about the cops,” Christopher asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I mean, aren’t you afraid of being caught with her tied up in your basement?

“Not really, no one knows she’s here.”

“But mightn’t someone suspect you?

“I don’t think so,” she shrugged. “Do you want some more peas?”

“No thanks,” he said with a sly smile. “Why don’t I make us some more drinks?”

“Okay.”

‘She has an interesting strategy,’ he thought as he mixed the drinks. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do here, she was clearly into S and M and this was some sort of seduction strategy. He returned to the dining room with the drinks, but she was gone. He followed the noise of her voice down to the basement.

He stood on the stairs shocked to see Abigail standing over a small blonde woman with a whip.

“What did you mean when you said I didn’t know what the word ‘team’ meant,” Abigail asked.

“I’m sorry,” the woman said.

“I didn’t ask you for an apology, I asked you for an answer, you condescending cunt.”

Abigail smacked the woman several times with the whip.

Christopher backed up the stairs. He sat in the living room wondering what to do. He wanted to sleep with Abigail, but he was afraid she might kill him.

Abigail returned to the dining room, sweating heavily.

She gulped down a glass of water and then the drink that Christopher had made for her.

“So, I just bought, LA LA Land, do you want to watch it?”

They sat together on the sofa and watched as the happy cast members danced their way through traffic.

When Mia and Sebastian kissed, Abigail inched closer to him. Christopher and Abigail followed the films lead and began kissing. She lead him into the bedroom. When they were finished Abigail fell asleep and Christopher snuck down to the basement. The blond woman was crying hysterically.

He went outside and sat in his car for a long moment wondering if he should call the police. He decided it was best not to get in the middle of a catfight and he drove away, checking his Tinder app as he headed for the highway.

The Ascot

 

asc

 

Rebecca negotiated the enormous cart full of plastic bins around the throngs of nervous travelers. She took them out to the start of the security check point and dropped them off for the travelers to load with metal and electronic items. She returned to her station and gazed dully at the x-rayed insides of carry on suitcases, pulling out the ones that contained aerosol sprays and water bottles.

She tried to ignore the two coworkers that stood behind her gossiping about the people in the crowd. The bald one complained about all the dirty underwear she had to touch that morning. The toothless coworker commented that Rebbeca’s shirt was wrinkled.

Rebecca was about to go to lunch when she saw him across the room. He was standing at the end of another agent’s X-ray belt, looking for his luggage with vaguely concealed panic. He was tall and sharply handsome with thick blond hair that had been carefully tousled to look as though he had just emerged from bed. He was wearing a smug smirk, torn jeans and a silk jacket over a white tee shirt. He was also wearing an ascot.

Rebecca noticed that the agent working his belt did not even pull his luggage or pull him aside for a search. She thought that this was a mistake. They were supposed to search anyone who looked suspicious and there was nothing more suspicious than an ascot. The man collected his luggage and began to head to his gate and Rebecca decided to follow him.

The man walked with a purposeful strut, until he stopped and went into a bookstore. Rebecca stood near a table of books, subtly following his gaze. His intense brown eyes surveyed the magazines. She watched carefully to see which one he would pick up. She was guessing he was either a classical musician, a movie producer or a mental patient. In any case, she thought it best that he was followed.

He reached for a copy of, Vanity Fair, he looked at it for a moment, but decided on Down Beat instead. She smiled to herself; she loved jazz.

He walked to the wine bar and went inside. Rebecca realized she was stuck as she couldn’t drink on the job. She headed for the pretzel stand and watched him from a distance. He ordered a wine and swished it around in his mouth a bit before swallowing it down. Brown mustard dribbled down Rebecca’s chin as she watched him drink and chat with the bar tender.

‘God, what a pretentious yutz,’ Rebecca thought.

All of a sudden, the man seemed upset. He seemed to be asking the bartender a frantic question. He paid his bill and walked out into the terminal. He looked at the departures and then took a cell phone out of his pocket and made a phone call. He walked right by Rebecca as she quietly gobbled the last bits of pretzel and pretended to read a safety poster.

“Hi, it’s me my flight was canceled….. I’m not sure, the next flight to LA isn’t until 7:00. It looks like it’s Southwest.”

He hung up and headed into the airports day spa. Rebecca returned to work. On her break she told her boss that she would need to take a few days off as she had to go to Los Angeles. She said her only living relative, her aunt was sick. She bought a ticket on the 7:00 p.m. Southwest flight via Travelocity.

She finished her shift and headed to Ross where she quickly obtained a large backpack two blouses and two pairs of jeans and a week’s supply of undies and a toiletry kit.

She headed back to the airport just in time to catch her flight. The man in the ascot was sitting right up front,  flirting with a pretty young stewardess.

She took her seat in back and tried to plan an exit strategy so she would not lose him when the flight ended. She could pull out her badge and tell the stewardess that she needed a passenger list then she could find out the man’s name.

She waited until after the drinks had been distributed. She went up to the stewardess and said she had overheard something in a conversation that might have been suspicious.

She found out the name was Timothy Parker, He lived in West Los Angeles. She said the address over and over again in her head as she went back to her seat.

“Timothy,” she whispered. She was disappointed she had hoped it would be Holden or possibly Miles. She thanked the stewardess and sat down again.

The plane landed and she went to baggage claim in the hopes that he was there, but he was not. She took the train to a Motel 6 in East Hollywood where she enjoyed a sleep and a shower. The next morning, she woke and went to the address that had appeared on Timothy’s driver’s license. It was a gas station.

She stood outside, looking in for a moment. She went inside and bought coffee. She asked the man at the counter if Timothy was around.

“He sets stand up at 10:00.”

She looked at her watch it was 9:55. She went for a short walk and returned to the gas station. She noticed a long line of men standing in front of a brightly colored cart. As she got closer she saw a sign that said, “Ascots $5.99 2 for $12.

She got in the line and waited to get to the window for an hour and a half. She glanced around at the men in the line and noticed that the business had reached a huge demographic.

Burly men in construction hats and undershirts stood in the line sweating in the hot sun. Men who wore business suits over body hugging tee-shirts discussed the merits of this ascot stand verses the other in town. Pimply teen agers stood giggling at text messages and taking pictures of the cart. Rebecca found it odd that there were no hipsters in the line.

When she reached the window, Timothy poked his head out.

“May I help you?”

“Yes,” she said. “Charging $12 for 2 ascots is not a discount. If one ascot is $5.99, customers will actually pay two cents more for two.”

“I never said it was a discount,” he said.

“Oh, okay,” she said.

Rebecca got an Uber and went back to the airport. She flew back to Portland and shot herself in the head.

In The Cell

pink

 

 

 

It was 2:00 a.m. and Marsha was just about to go home when her phone buzzed. There was a woman named Susan, just two blocks away, who was requesting an Uber. Marsha decided to do one more trip.  She arrived in front of a small brownstone to find a tall man of mixed race standing outside of the building. He walked towards the car and attempted to open the back door and knocked on it when he realized it was locked. She rolled down the window slightly.

“Hi, I don’t think this is your Uber, sir. I’m here for a woman.”

“Is her name Susan?”

“Yes.”

“That’s actually my girlfriend, I got a new phone and I don’t have Uber set up, so she just let me use hers.”

Marsha hesitantly unlocked the door. It seemed like a plausible story. It was very unlikely that a random stranger would be able to guess the name of the customer.

The man climbed into the backseat and confirmed that he was going to North Hollywood. Although it was late and she was tired she was grateful for the long trip and the large fare it promised.

They pulled out onto the street and drove in silence until they got to the freeway.

“I’m Marsha,” she said after a moment

“Okay,” he said with an uncomfortable glance out the window.

“Do you mind if I listen to some music.”

“No that’s fine.”

“Do you have a preference?”

“Anything is okay,” He said rather irritably.

She turned on a classic rock station and studied her charge in the rear-view mirror. He was very tall, nice looking and about thirty five. He was wearing a designer shirt and a nice pair of trousers that looked as though they were part of a suit.

She assumed the ride was some sort of a walk of shame situation. She smiled a bit to herself. Had the man met this Susan in a bar in Long Beach or had they met somewhere in Los Angeles and retired to her apartment? Maybe they knew each other and it was some kind of friends with benefits situation. Maybe they met on Tinder and it was just some random hook up. Maybe he was married and she was actually driving him back to his wife.

Marsha regarded her own flabby face in the mirror. She wondered if he was just in a bad mood or if she was simply not worthy of his attention.

She glanced back at the passenger and saw him reach into his pocket and pull out an iPhone. He began texting with someone. She noticed that the phone was pink. She had never seen a man with a pink cell phone before. He wasn’t gay. He said he had a girlfriend. He also said it was a brand-new phone. His gruff masculine demeaner made her wonder why he would have chosen pink.

“Are ya warm enough back there,” she asked.

“I’m fine,” he said abruptly.

The man had a deep look of concern on his face as he texted. He seemed to be involved in a very serious conversation. His hands were even shaking a bit. She wondered if the woman he was with had just woken in the middle of the night to find him gone. Maybe it was his wife? She felt rather cozy watching the drama unfold.

It was then that she noticed the red stain on his shirt.  Her stomach knotted. It was a fairly small stain, but it really looked like blood. Then she noticed another stain on his sleeve. She told herself that it might be just sauce, or perhaps it came from a cut.

What if he’d murdered the woman he was with? What if he had killed her and used her phone to call the Uber? Maybe he killed her and hid the body and then used her phone to get an Uber. It would be the perfect get away. When people noticed that she was missing it would looks as though Susan had run off on her own volition in the middle of the night.

She looked in mirror again to see that he had gone on Facebook and was posting something. She had to hand it to him; he was clever. Maybe he was posting something to Susan’s page of her saying that she needed a change or a break or something.

It occurred to Marsha that she had Susan’s phone number. All she had to do was call the number and if the pink phone rang she would know that her suspicions were correct. Then she remembered that if her suspicions were correct, he would also have her number. She decided she would drop him off and then call the police.

She turned the car onto the exit ramp and began to drive to the address.

“We’re almost there,” she chirped nervously.

“Okay,” he said.

The man reached into his breast pocket and Marsha’s hands gripped the wheel. What if it was a gun? What if he had seen her looking at him in the rear view, figured out that she was suspicious and decided to kill her?

Her heart raced as she drove down the street. She sped up and reached for her phone to dial 911. She felt a sharp thunk and water began splashing all around the car. She realized she had hit a fire hydrant.

“What the fuck,” The passenger screamed.

He leaped out of the car and ran down the street. When the cops arrived, Marsha attempted to explain what happened. She was handed a ticket and some information about rehab.

Marsha was fired from Uber. She spent the next week on her cell phone looking for a job.

 

The Optimist

InterrogationRoom

 From Craigslist 

Acting Coach – One on One (Silverlake) 

Working producer and acting coach seeking new clients.
Reasonable rates.

Gretchen sat in the small room gulping down the water that she received  after much begging. Detective Puzzleman sat across from her staring at her like she was a bug under a glass.

“Isn’t there supposed to be a good cop,” she asked.

“That’s only in the movies. Besides, the only really bad guy in here is you.”

“I already told the other guy what happened.”

“Tell me, but don’t leave out the truth this time.”

“It was the truth,” she screamed, fighting back tears.

Puzzleman sat down and crossed his arms. Gretchen blew her nose and began to tell her story once again.

“I came to Los Angeles three years ago to pursue my dream of becoming an actress.”

Detective Puzzleman fought a smile. The woman was thirty-five if she was a day. Stringy brown hair framed a chubby pale face. He tried to imagine in what she thought she might be cast.

“I had been so busy working that I couldn’t go on many auditions,” she said looking down at the floor. I’d taken a couple of audition workshops, but the casting directors never noticed me.

I was forever looking at the Craigslist talent section. One day, I came across Tim’s ad.”

“What was the ad for?”

“For the umpteenth trillionth time it was for an acting coach.”

“What made you think an acting coach would work if everything else hadn’t?”

“It was a very convincing ad. It said that we would have three one hour sessions together and then he would put together a reel just for me. It said he’d worked as a casting director for 20 years.”

“I would have thought he was a scammer.”

“I did at first. But, I looked him up on IMDB. There was a Tim Harger who is a casting director. There was no picture of him, but everything there was consistent with what he said. He told me that he was in-between agencies and it just seemed like he knew what he was talking about.”

“What were the acting lessons like?”

“They were amazing. He  found the perfect parts for me. An ex stripper in a gritty story about a murder in the 1940’s, a married woman in love with her boss and then there was the scene he wrote just for me about a young lawyer defending an innocent man.”

Detective Puzzleman made a weird snorting noise.

“Continue please,” he said.

“So anyway, I felt a lot more confident when we started to make my reel. We filmed  the scene he wrote just for me. Then he said he wanted me to do a scene with another actor. He said the scene was set in a coffee shop. He said that there was no way we could really afford to have a shoot in a coffee shop as it would have cost thousands of dollars, so we were going to do it ghetto style,” she said making air quotes.”

“Ya, mean just go in there and shoot it without telling them that you are shooting it?”

“Right, so his sister Jill, my scene partner comes over to his house and we rehearsed the scene…”

“So he didn’t have a studio space or anything?”

“Well, no, I mean he was just using his house, right then.”

“Where was this house located?”

“Downtown.”

“He had a house in downtown Los Angeles?”

“Well, his apartment.”

“I see. Did he have a dedicated room for this?”

“Well, I mean he lived in just one room.”

“He was in a studio?”

“Yeah.”

“And you believed he was a successful casting director? Was it a toney building, at least?”

“Well, I mean it was the Rossyln.”

“Oh, the lofts?”

“No.”

“The Hotel Rossyln?”

“Yeah.”

He just stared at her for a long moment. She looked down at the floor.

“Anyway, I didn’t mean to interrupt your story. Please go ahead.”

“Well, We rehearsed this scene from a play in which this troubled woman is thinking about killing her husband. She caught him cheating with her best friend and she can’t forgive him. My character has most of the dialog. Jill only had two lines. She asks me why I want to do it and how I want to do it.”

“What play was it from?”

“It was called Man Slaughter.”

“Who wrote the play?”

“Dorothy Parker.”

The Detective Googled the play on his phone to see that it did not exist. Gretchen rolled her eyes.

“What exactly were your lines?”

“You want me to do the scene for you? “

“I got some time.”

“Okay, well do you want to just call action or what?”

“Action,” he said with a mean smile.

“Up could you que me too. I mean after you say action could you say, ‘How ya been doin’?’

“Action, How ya, been doin?”

“Last night I was layin’ in bed and I was thinkin’ about her.. just her, not him. I started thinking about all the times I confided in her….ya know like when I told her about intimate details of our relationship and stuff. Did she go right back to him and tell him what I said?”

Gretchen played with an imaginary napkin. She seemed to be attempting to cry.

Detective Puzzleman pushed the Twitter app on his phone.

“So, I realized that as long as she was alive I was always gonna… just..I was always gonna be haunted by memories of that…that I was never gonna sleep again. I think I’ve had like twenty hours of sleep in the last six weeks. I can’t eat. I drink and it just it makes me so sick. So I got so crazy that last night I went out and I bought a gun, a shotgun, like for hunting.

This is where my scene partner said would say, ‘are you kidding’ and then I would go on.

I’m not saying I’ll use it or anything. I’m just saying I have it; ya know. “

“So you rehearsed it and then went to a coffee shop to film it?

“Yeah we did.”

“The wait staff wasn’t suspicious when they saw you guys filming?”

“No, we used IPhones, not cameras. People film themselves doing everything now a days.”

“I would think it would be a bit different if someone was filming you.”

“Jill and I filmed each other. First from her side and then from mine.”

“You used your own phones?”

“no, his.”

“I see. How long were you there?”

“About an hour and a half.”

“Did he ever give you the actual reel?”

“No, he didn’t.”

“What happened when you asked him for it.”

“He just kept stalling. After a while he stopped answering the phone.”

“Three weeks after this conversation was tape recorded Samantha Hodgens was found murdered at the Alexandra. You were seen on camera going into the Alexandra.”

“I went to meet Jill.”

“What a coincidence.”

“It was a set up.”

“By who.”

“Tim and Jill.”

“Why would they do that?”

“He wanted to kill his ex girl friend and rob her.”

“Oh come on Gretchen, admit it. You were friends with Jill, you started going out with her brother. He told you about his crazy ex-girlfriend who lived at the Alexandria and had a stash of cash and jewelry. You caught him cheating with her, so you decided to help yourself to the goods and eliminate the competition in the process. Fortunately, his sister knew how nuts you were and tape recorded a conversation she had with you at lunch where you basically confessed to your motive.”

“No, I met him on Craigslist, he did the coaching and introduced me to his sister. We made the reel and then I didn’t hear from him for a while. I ran into his sister outside of my building one day and she told me that if I met her at her room at the Alexandria, we could go to Tim’s apartment and get the reel. “

“Then where is the video you made?”

“They must have erased the video. She must have been tape recording me with the recording app on her cell phone. “

“We found a sawed off shot gun in a locker at the Greyhound bus station, along with a pair of diamond earing belonging to one miss Samantha Hodgens.  We found the locker key in your bag How did it get there?”

“I have no idea.”

Detective Puzzleman got up and told her that he would be right back. Gretchen bust out into tears.  She tried to tell herself that everything would be okay.  She wondered if she would go to jail.  She had a vision of herself rotting away. She imagined being raped and beaten and locked in solitary confinement.

She cried until she couldn’t anymore. She wondered when the detective would return. She imagined that he was preparing for her arrest. She wondered if her parents would get her a lawyer; maybe they would get a good one. Maybe she would have to go to jail for a while and then she would be exonerated. She imagined going on “The View” and being interviewed by Oprah.   Maybe someone would see her and see something in her that would bring her opportunity. She began to brighten as she heard footsteps in the hallway.

Empathy

toy

 

 

 

Justin Schafman stirred his drink and looked across the table at Edgar, his prospective client. He was on the hook, but he was a little hesitant. Justin could tell that this guy really wanted to be a well-known author, but the guy knew he didn’t really have any talent. Justin could tell Edgar hated his job as a customer service manager, but he wasn’t really very smart and was lucky to have the job.

“Look, Edgar you’ve got a really great book here, but no one knows about it but you and I’m guessing a few friends and co-workers. Now, I know it seems a little expensive, but you’ve got a pretty good job you work hard, right?

“Yeah…”

“And I mean…you’ve gotta spend money to make money right, man?”

“Well, that’s true but …I just don’t know if I would be able to reach my intended audience this way. I mean I don’t really write the most main stream stuff…”

“Well, that’s our job. Trust me, we have experts in this sort of thing. They can target the exact people who would be interested in your book. We even have a computer program that can pinpoint your dream audience. We’re even trying to have it patented.”

“Really,” Edgar asked?

“I’m tellin ya man, this is gonna be much more expensive a year from now. This is your chance to get in on the ground floor.”

Justin was very careful not to touch his face. He knew that that was a way people could tell you were lying. He reminded himself not to over explain and to seem relaxed. He tried to make his voice deeper and not to cross his arms.  He could tell that Edgar didn’t trust him, but desperately wanted to be able to believe the lies he was being told.

He saw the way Edgar’s eyes always wandered around the room, like he was always looking for something better… a way out.

A pretty woman with dark hair and green eyes walked by. Justin caught Edgar looking at her out of the corner of his eye.

“Look, man, can I fuckin’ level with you for a minute? I used to work as a manager in customer service. It sucked. The people in the office were a bunch of fuckin’ freaks and the customers were really annoying and my boss was this dumb dick who was always riding my ass and all I could think about was how I went to college for this?”

“I think that every day,” Edgar said with a sad smile.

“Well, when my buddy offered me this job I had reservations too. I mean, I hated customer service, but I worked for a big company. This was a startup when I came onboard. But sometimes you just gotta say fuck it and go for it, ya know? “

The two men were silent for a moment. Edgar contemplatively sipped the IPA that Justin had suggested. A homely woman entered the bar. She was pale as a ghost with lopsided features. She was short and plump and dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans. She ordered a drink and sat down with two other dumpy women.

“See those three women over there? They work in my office.”

“Jesus Christ,” Justin sneered sensing a bonding opportunity.

“The white haied one’s really annoying. She’s always messing up and she tells these stupid jokes…Me and my friend Jason call the three of them the wanker blankers.”

Justin laughed. “Dude, come on. You’ve gotta get out of that office.”

Edgar took a deep breath and signed the papers that were in front of him. Justin ordered two shots of tequila to celebrate. They kept ordering rounds into the night. They got louder and louder and Edgar told a few stories about the white, wanker blanker. She appeared to overhear and she and the other ugos got up and left. Justin thought they looked like the witches, he tried to remember the name of the play he read that had three witches in it in college, but he couldn’t.

After a bit, two girls walked into the bar and sat down at a table near them. One was tall and blonde with symmetrical features and killer legs. The other was petite and slightly plump, with a cute face with shaggy dark hair.

Justin opened by telling the tall blonde one that she would look great on a book cover. He told her that the next big author was sitting right with them.

“What’s your book about,” the short one asked.

“It’s about a man who goes home to meet his girlfriend’s parents who are both coffin manufactures. It turns out they are smuggling drugs in the coffins and they want him to join the family business.”

“H’mmm, sounds dark.”

“Oh, it’s very dark,” he smiled.  “All of my stuff is pretty dark.”

The men proceeded to chat up their prospective conquests. Justin observed Edgar as he told the girls  more about his book. Edgar was strikingly ordinary. He was just below average height, with dark hair that was beginning to thin out. He weight about 160 with a good amount of that weight resting in his belly. He wore a white shirt and khaki pant that appeared to have been procured in a discount store.

As Edgar divulged details of the plot to the bored looking honeys, Justin wondered how bad the book actually was. He had told Edgar it was great. He’d skimmed the synopsis and the first and last chapter. He hated to read and hadn’t finished a book since junior high. He could never really tell the difference between good and bad.

After a while the girls asked for rides home saying they were too tipsy to drive. Justin drove the tall blonde girl to a small cottage on Ash Street. He was a bit nervous, he knew she told him her name, but he had forgotten it.

She invited him up for a drink. As soon as they got up he asked to use the bathroom. He checked himself out in the mirror. His five o’clock shadow was at exactly the perfect level of thickness. It lined his strong jaw pleasingly. His thick brown hair was tousled to perfection. He was relieved to see the shirt he’d splurged on at Barney’s gave just the most subtle glimpse of the six pack he had worked so hard to obtain. He’d managed to strike the perfect balance of GQ style and heterosexual apathy.

He walked back into the living-room where the girl handed him a mixed drink.

“It’s my own creation. It’s called a Foul and Fair.”

The two clinked glasses and slammed the drink. Justin kissed the girl. He felt himself getting suddenly dizzy.

…….

Justin saw light, then a celling. He felt tile beneath his head and realized he was lying on a bathroom floor. He tried to sit up, but he couldn’t move. That’s when he saw her; the ugly, pale woman from the night before. She was standing directly above him.

“Morning, Justin! Did you sleep well? My name is Cate, how are you this fine morning? Oh that’s right, you can’t talk.”

Justin tried once again to move, but he couldn’t.

“I guess I should explain. On Friday night you and my asshole boss Edgar were in the bar down the street and you started insulting me and my friends. We didn’t like that and so we decided to retaliate. Wanker blanker, I mean really that expression is in the urban dictionary. Come up with something original. In truth we are witches.

Justin tried to speak again, but nothing came out.

“We went over to my house and we discussed what to do. We thought about crippling you both, making you spontaneously combust, but nothing seemed right. Well then Essie; my friend with the grey hair? She suggested that we turn you into something. Well, that requires an incantation, which requires research so we figured it would take some time. So, we turned ourselves into pretty girls and lured you back to our apartments. I took you to my place and Essie went to Edgar’s house.

Well, at first we were going to turn you both into maggots or something, but then Edgar started telling us about his stupid book. We knew you were a scammer right away and we discussed the possibility of just letting you screw him, but then you would just take advantage of someone nice. So we decided we would just turn you into something and that I would watch him slowly melt down at work.”

Justin tried to scream, but nothing would come out. He thought he was able to move his finger a bit. He felt an enormous amount of saliva in his mouth, but he could not seem to swallow it.

“So, while Essie did research, my other friend Tulley and I set upon the business of making you disappear with Edgar’s $5000. We put his check in the bank and withdrew it over a period of four days. Then we closed the bank account and packed up all your stuff and put it in storage. Your car has been stripped down and sold for scrap.

When Essie was at Edgar’s she stole his laptop and the only print copy of his screenplay. The dumb dick never copyrighted it.

Now Edgar is on the phone all day at work. It’s sooo funny. He is sooo anxious.

His book is a piece of garbage of course It’s like a rip off of the Soprano’s, Orange is the New Black and Six Feet Under without any wit or insight. However, it had a few good lines. We gave them to a nice aspiring screenwriter that we are helping. I wish I could be there when he sees his dialog in a movie.”

The saliva in Justin’s mouth had become almost unbearable. He tried again to swallow but he couldn’t.

“But, I digress. I bet you’re wondering what it is we turned you into. We decided you could do the least harm if you were an inanimate object. Justin Schafman, you are a toilet. You are located in a dive bar right near downtown. It was no easy trick getting you in here believe me. We had to break into the place. Oh, you’re in the men’s room.

Then Cate turned around. Justin tried to close his eyes, but then remembered he didn’t have any. What he tasted next was indescribably horrible.  Cate wiggled his finger and he felt like he was drowning in shit.

Cate left and Justin wondered how many years it would be before the bar would close or he would be replaced with another toilet.

 

Ghost in the Machine

cell

 

 

Becki Marshman awoke one morning to find herself trapped in her laptop. She was not wedged in between the keyboard and the screen as one might assume, but she was on the other side of the screen looking out at her bedroom. She saw her husband sound asleep in their bed. She called to him but, he did not awaken.

After a few minutes the alarm went off and Fred got up. She called to him again, but he didn’t seem to be able to hear her or see her. She realized that he wouldn’t know she was missing until tonight, as she normally got up and left for work two hours before he did.

He dressed and left for work. A few minutes later Daisy Mae, the family dog entered the room and plopped herself down on the bed for a nap.

Becki, sighed. She wondered what she was going to do with herself for the ten hours it would take for her husband to get home. She turned around and saw a long hallway with several doorways. She was delighted to find that she could move about freely.

She walked into the first door and saw her son sitting in front of his computer with a very intense look on his face. She wondered why he wasn’t in school. She looked down and to her horror she found that son’s pant were unzipped, she tried not to look at what he was doing. She ran out of the room as fast as she could.

She ran into the next room to find her daughters room on the other side of the screen. It was a mess as usual. Clothes were strewn all over the bed and magazines littered the floor. Used cups and bowls sat festering on the desk.

She turned around to leave, when she noticed writing on the wall behind her.

“Today Marsha France said I looked like a fucking ghost; everyone laughed. I wish I could make her feel how much it hurts. I’d like to make her look in a mirror while I vivisect her bit by bit till she is just to the point of death. Then I would not kill her, but leave her to writhe in agony for the rest of eternity.”

Becki’s heart jumped. She vaguely remembered meeting Marsha France’s mother at a school. She had seemed nice. Mrs. France had shown her a picture of Marsha and she was very pretty. She decided she would send her daughter to a psychiatrist.

She proceeded down the hallway to her husband’s office. He spent a lot of time in there and she suspected he was having an affair. She squinted into the darkness. She saw his Red Socks poster and the picture of her and the kids. She took a deep breath and turned around. She saw an insurance contract on the wall. She sighed with relief.

She noticed a blue button on the wall. She pressed the button and another page came up. It was a WordPress account called, MightyIvory. It contained what appeared to be a half written essay.

 
“There are no definite numbers, but there are approximately 5 million Jews in America. This is approximately two percent of the total US population. This is a very small percent of people. Of the one percent of people that have all the wealth that the liberals are complaining about all the time the Jews make up all of that one percent.

How has this small group of people become so overrepresented in the economy, the media and in Hollywood?…..”

Becki felt sick. She couldn’t help but nose around a bit more. She found that he had visited, “wherewhitepeoplemeet.com and was chatting with a heavy set young woman who work as a Mary Kay saleswoman.

She left the room and ran down the hall as far as she could go. She saw a bright light at the end of the hallway and she began to run toward it. Soon the light was very bright.

When she adjusted her eyes she realized she was standing in the break room of an office. There was a bounty of candy and cold packed food in the room.  There was also a short, middle aged woman with blonde hair eating crackers and vegetable pate.

“Hi, are you Becki,” the woman asked.

“Yes.”

“Cool, I’m Susan. I’m your sponsor…Sit down, have a snack you must be starving. I highly recommend the Frango Mints. “

“What is this place? Where am I?”

“Your somewhere inside the server. You’re inside the internet.”

“”Yes, but… I mean how did I get here and how do I get out?”

“Well, you got here the way everyone did, you died in an internet related accident.”

“How can someone die from the internet?”

“Oh, usually its texting, one guy got so into a video game that he starved to death. Another guy had a heart attack when he saw his daughter in a porn video.”

“So, how do I get out?”

“No one is exactly sure. Near as we can figure it has something to do with to do with facing reality or self-examination or some other such nonsense,” the woman said.

“There are very few distractions around here, “she continued.  Oh, you get an hour a day to eat and there are bathroom breaks and stuff, but mostly you just stare out at the people you thought you knew in your life and you see everything about them that they didn’t want you to know. Sometimes you overhear gossip about yourself. I hate that part.”

“But I mean. Well I just looked at my house and no one seemed to even notice I was dead.”

“Oh, well that’s because you’ve been dead for at least a year. There very backed up.”

“I see.”

””All this food is overstock from Amazon. You should try some. Really, it’s great.”

Becki snacked on some fancy nuts and coffee. After  a bit a guard came in and told them it was time to head back to work. Becki looked down the hallway and dreaded examining what was on the other side.

Johnathan Livingston Butterbeak

jls

 

Falling catfish from the sky hits woman in the face

 

Markman Bufferbeak was a seagull, but not an especially good one. While the other seagulls flew and fished gracefully, Markman rarely caught a fish and when he did he often dropped it. The other birds in the colony he lived in were not kind about it. They taunted him and called him Johnathan Livingston Butterbeak, they told him he would starve and that no girl would ever want to marry him.

It was true that he didn’t have much luck with the fairer sex, and he ate mostly breadcrumbs and fried fish sandwiches that were thrown at him by tourist. Eventually he met a rather dumpy bird named Mahwak who had migrated to his colony from Cabrillo Beach. She was nothing to look at and she nagged him constantly. They had produced six chicks in their two years together.

One day while out for an afternoon flight Markman saw another bird drop a catfish. He swooped down and grabbed it. He was on his way to present it to Mahwak when he narrowly missed flying into an electric wire. He fumbled and dropped the fish, squawking curse words all the way.

…………………..

Gloria Bortman was walking down the street when a catfish fell out of the sky and hit her on the head. She screamed when the slimy thing slapped her in the face. After she got over her initial shock she looked up at the sky. Fear seized her heart and she dropped to her knees she had never been a religious woman, but Jesus had just hit her in the head with a fish. She hesitantly picked up the fish and headed home to show her husband.

………………….

Markman landed at the colony with an empty beak and tears in his eyes.

“Where have you been? The kids are starving,” His wife squawked.

“I just…I had a fish, but it slipped out and I didn’t see where it went …and…”

“Jesus, Markman. You could have at least picked up some bread.”

“”Let me just rest up and I’ll go back out…”

With this she gave him a hard peck. Then another and another. A crowd began to gather.

“You stay here with the kids, I’ll go get dinner,”

She flew away leaving Markman to face the sarcastic smirks on the beaks of his contemporaries. Someone in the crowd called him Butterbeak.

………..

Gloria arrived at home to find her husband watching CNN and talking back to the television set while stuffing his face full of barbequed potato chips.

“Racist dick, last week you said you were against abortion.” He screamed sputtering potato chips everywhere.”

“Dwezel, I was walking down the street and this hit me in the head.”

“What, someone threw a catfish at you? Were you wearing your union shirt because I bet it was those scabs…?

“No, it feel from the sky it was a sign from Jesus.”

“What are you on?”

“Nothing, Dwezel…God is talking to me.,” she began to tear up.

“Oh come on there has got to be some kind of logical explanation. Maybe someone threw it at you and you didn’t see.”

“It fell from the sky I looked up one second before it happened and saw it fall out of the clear blue sky.”

“A plane probably dropped it…”

“There was nothing in the sky. Dwezel, I think God wants me to do something.”

“What?”

“Well maybe he wants me to fed people?”

“Catfish?”

“No, not just catfish. There was that thing in the Bible about loaves and fishes…”

“What did it say about loaves and fishes?”

“He fed people bread and fish or something like that. Jesus did a lot with fish. Believe me…I do know that.”

“So he wants you to feed the poor?”

She thought about this for a minute.

“Maybe that’s it,” she said with a shrug.

“So are you going to volunteer in a soup kitchen?”

“Maybe, he’s trying to tell me I should like, learn about food. Like taking a cooking class or something?”

“Well, maybe, but.”

“That must be it. Cat’s are curious. What do you do when you’re curious? You learn. Fishes are food, so that must be what he meant.”

She went online to look for cooking classes.

………………….

Marla Finblossom sat at the bottom of the ocean crying. Her friends and family surrounded her and tried to offer comfort. She had lost her husband Frank to a Seagull that morning. He swam too close to shore and the gull had grabbed him. She always told him not to go close to the shore, but he said that the food tasted better there.

She looked at her friends and the vast ocean and wondered where she would go next.