Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 Coldcut “My Telephone”
 Anastasia “I’m Outta Love”
 Queen “The Show Must Go On”
 Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On”
“Well hello there”
“Yes. Can I help you?”
“Are you the home owner?”
“Yes I am. I’m sorry, who am I speaking to?”
“It’s not important”
“Is this one of those nuisance calls?”
“No it’s no trouble at all, I assure you. But thanks for your concern”
“O-kay. And would you mind telling me how you got my number please?”
“Oh you know. I erm…well…okay you’ve got me. It was blind luck actually. Just tapped in some random numbers and voila, here I am”
“I’m hanging up now”
“For christ’s sake, what’s so important?”
“Why the big rush?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I don’t know you from Adam and have more important things to do right now than entertain nut jobs”
“Is that what you think of me? A nut job?”
“I think nothing of you. I don’t fucking know you. But yes, if I had to sum you up on what I have to go on, then nut job seems pretty much on the money”
“Well I have to say, I’m rather hurt”
“Tough titties. See ya”
Who did he think he was calling me out of the blue and wasting my precious time? What an irritant. It’s moments like this that I wish my phone number was unlisted as that’s two minutes of my life I’ll never get back and, for all my best efforts to remain calm and unflustered, I’m now feeling downright aggravated. Where does someone like that get off anyhoots? I’m telling you, some folk have far too much time on their hands for their own good. Think tranquil thoughts, think tranquil thoughts. There, good as new I do believe. Let’s just put the whole sorry incident behind us and move swiftly on. Right then, where was I?
That must be my mother. No doubt she’s been trying to get through as she did say she’d call me around noon.
“Don’t hang up”
“You again. Have you not got anything better to do than fuck me off to the über-extreme?”
“I think we may have gotten off on the wrong foot”
“Give me strength. What do you want from me?”
“How about a dash of kindness?”
“Yeah kindness. Is that asking too much?”
“Well let’s see. Erm…no, I’m afraid I’ve got nothing for you considering my chipper mood has now transformed into a black cloud hovering above my head and it’s all down to you”
“That was never my intention. I’m truly sorry if I rubbed you up the wrong way. Maybe I should just go”
Fucking pleb. I swear I’m a magnet for fruit cakes you know. They seem to smell me from a mile off and I’m fast growing sick and tired of amusing loonies at every turn. What I’d give for a little peace and quiet right now. Just ten minutes to collect my thoughts and move on should do me just fine. I’m half tempted to leave the phone off the hook but mom will only worry if she can’t get through and the last thing I need is her fretting while I meditate. On the plus side, at least I made things final with my mystery caller. He can go and pester some other chump now as I’m washing my hands of this irritant once and for all.
I’m coming mom, just a couple more deep breaths and I’m all yours.
“Kiss and make up?”
“That’s it, I’m calling the police”
“Just hear me out will you? Then I promise I’ll be out of your hair for good”
“Why am I even entertaining this? Okay then, you’ve got thirty seconds. Make ’em count”
“I’ve got nothing. No one. Not one friend”
“Bummer. Is that it?”
“I just thought you might be different from the rest. That perhaps you wouldn’t snub me out-of-hand like everyone else I’ve ever known”
I think I get it. Unless I’m mistaken, he’s playing the sympathy card, and there’s no way such a cheap shot is working with me. Why should I be the one to take in all the waifs and strays? I pay my taxes. Cry me a river pal and I’ll shit you a river bank, you’re getting nothing out of me. Nothing I tell you!
“Well it looks like you thought wrong doesn’t it?”
“Okay, you really want the truth?”
“I can handle it. Thrill me”
“Doctor says I’ll be dead in six weeks”
Well that casts rather a different complexion on this communication. I’m actually starting to feel like a bit of a bastard and now feel obliged to hear him out.
“I’m…I’m real sorry to hear that. What is it? Cancer? Heart disease? Incurable tropical virus?”
“No on all three counts. Trapped wind”
“Haven’t farted in almost two decades. My sphincter muscles are so weak that I cannot seem to muster the vaguest puff and it’s been eating me up from the inside since the nineties”
Where’s the medical dictionary when you need one? Perhaps I’m just naïve but I’ve never before heard of anyone terminally ill through imprisoned gas and, if that ain’t a rat I smell, then it’s two rats with a third no doubt about to enter the fray. Trapped fucking wind. Does he think I just got off the last crosstown rickshaw or something? Fuck it, I’m gonna call this joker’s bluff and go along with it, just for the sheer helluvit.
“I see. That must be most distressing. And does this disease have a name pray tell?”
“Yes. You know, an official title”
“Erm…well…erm…why yes it does as a matter of fact. It’s called…erm…Blockeditis”
“Blockeditis you say?”
“Yeah Blockeditis. That’s it”
“Not sure I’ve ever come across that particular affliction”
“It’s new. Only came out last year”
Is this bozo for real? Only came out last year. Sheesh. Maybe I should ask him whether it received a midnight release like an annual Call of Duty game and shifted 3 million units in its first week.
“And how many others suffer from this syndrome?”
“Well you must feel pretty special. Look on the bright side, you’re a pioneer for something. I actually think that congratulations are in order”
“You know what? I’ve never thought of it like that. I guess I am something of a designer original aren’t I?”
“The one and only. They broke the mould when they rejected you from the assembly line”
“That’s cheered me up no end. You see, I knew there was a reason we became friends”
“Hold your horses Tonto. Friends? I don’t recall saying anything about becoming team buddies”
“Yes you did”
“No, actually I’m reasonably certain I didn’t”
“We’ll agree to disagree, how does that sound? Anyway, actions speak louder than words and we both know we just shared a moment so that’s good enough for me”
Is it considered wrong to mess with someone who is suffering from a terminal illness? How about if said ailment is called Blockeditis? It’s not? Excellent.
“You got me. Truth is, you had me at hello”
“Well now that we’ve bonded, tell me a little something about you. I’ve been hogging the limelight up until now and that’s hardly bestie behaviour is it? I’m frightfully sorry”
“Apology accepted. It’s cool, I’m actually more interested in finding out a little more about you. Tell me, what’s your battle plan now that you know your days are numbered? Have you written a bucket list yet?”
“Yeah bucket list. It’s a short inventory of things you wish to do before you croak. Nothing mundane, real bona fide challenges. Stuff you always dreamed of doing before life got in the way and you never got the chance. I hear it’s a must in your circles”
“No I hadn’t. Do you think we should formulate one together? Right now? Just you and me? Two old friends? Is that the done thing in such circumstances?”
Screw it, why the hell not. I’m in for a penny so may as well wait for it to mature to a pound. Sorry ma if you’re having trouble getting through but, against all conceivable odds, I’m actually having both a hoot and holler here. Granted, it’s utterly at my opposite number’s expense but he seems happy in his state of blissful unawareness and I just can’t bring myself to burst his bubble. When you think about it, I may just be the best friend he could ever have. I mean, how many others would lend an ear to a complete stranger? Even Evander Holyfield sparred for a few rounds before offering his lobe up for the nibbling so my night caller should count himself decidedly lucky if you ask me.
“What are friends for if not to entertain whimsy?”
“Okay then. Well I guess that a good place to start would be to disinfect my house from top to bottom and buy a new plug-in air freshener for every room”
“That’s it? Spring cleaning? I think we may have gotten our wires crossed here”
“Just getting started. Cleanliness is next to godliness remember. Whatever would the MacIntyres think if they popped over for a cup of tea and the place was in utter dismay?”
“Yes. Betty and Norman. Lovely couple, met them at the roller disco back in ’88 and we have remained close friends ever since”
“That’s funny. I could’ve sworn you mentioned something about not having any friends?”
“They’re…erm..more acquaintances really. Hardly ever see them. Actually they get right on my nerves. I’d even go as far as saying that I hate their very bones. Anyway, where was I?”
“Yes of course. Well my girlfriend Marcie has been trying to convince me to take up ballroom dancing for years now and I guess I should give that a shot before I pop off”
“She’s adorable, you’d love her. So attentive. We practically live in each other’s pockets”
“Quite the social butterfly ain’t cha?”
“Me? No. Haven’t heard from her in months now, her behaviour is downright negligible if you ask me. Not even sure I’ve even got her number anymore”
I’m actually rather disappointed that this conversation isn’t face time as I’d pay good money to watch this doofus attempt to cram both size elevens into his mouth at once. Talk about dig yourself a grave and pack yourself in wet clay. I’ve met some numbskulls in my time but nary a cranium so hollow I have unearthed and that equates to a lottery win in my estimations. Fuck the housework, I’m gleaning far too much sick amusement from pulling the legs off this daddy-long-legs one by one to concern myself with such laborious tasks.
“I’m sorry for your loss. Women eh?”
“Can’t live with them…”
“Can’t gradually poison them over time. I hear you. Please carry on”
“Well I’ve always fancied trying my hand at origami”
“That sounds like a plan. What were you thinking? Taking a course perhaps?”
“Could be an idea. I’m a fast learner you see. By this time next year, if I apply myself correctly, I could be the king of western origami”
“Twelve months you say?”
“Nine if I knuckle down”
“But won’t that interfere with your other plans?”
“Yeah other plans. Like, you know, dying?”
“Oh that. Erm…yes…I was only speaking hypothetically of course”
“I understand and full marks for your never say die attitude. You’re fast becoming my personal hero you know”
“Really? I am? Personal hero?”
“Right up there with Batman and Pizza”
“If you could see me now, I’m welling up here”
“So am I my dear friend. So am I”
What I have refrained from informing this schmuck is that any tears shed, and trust me I’m weeping like Gwyneth Paltrow chopping onions right now, are of the happiest variety imaginable and it’s growing ever more impossible holding my shit together here. He’s quite clearly a con merchant and I sussed that one out way back at Blockeditis. But, to his ominous credit, he still suspects me to be buying into his baloney. I’ve not hosted this amount of guilty pleasure since watching Clueless with three pig-tailed cheerleaders in satin negligees and that was way back in ’96. Needless to say, that night concluded in pillow fights and eventual restraining orders. It was fun while it lasted however.
“You have me all inspired now. Suddenly there are a thousand things I wish to do before the dreaded D-day arrives next spring”
“Spring? We’re currently in October so how is that six weeks from now?”
“Spring. Winter. The seasons tend to blend into one when you have a warrant out for your death”
“I understand. Please continue and I don’t mean to be so pedantic. My humble apologies old buddy, old pal”
“Don’t mention it. So as I was saying, there’s twelve weeks…”
“Six weeks to get my affairs in order. And I just thought of another activity that has always interested me”
“I’ve always wanted to earn a degree in neuroscience as the human mind fascinates me greatly. First thing monday morning, I shall make a few calls and see about enrolling”
“How long does a course run in neuroscience?”
“Two years I believe”
“That’s an ingenious idea. Go get ’em tiger”
If you can get any more gormless than my friend to the end here, then I’d imagine that to entail lifting every rock in the Pennines as this one really takes the cookie dough. I’m struggling to think of a solitary thing he has told me that hasn’t been a crock of shit and coming up with squat. I really should put him out of his misery but I’m not yet done with the cunningly concealed digs and feel that I’ve earned that right for listening to his wilted waffle in the first place. Call it payment for services rendered, if you will, just keep it coming.
“I must say, your bucket list is coming along rather delightfully”
“Really? Well I couldn’t have done it without your help. Dare I say that the clouds are starting to clear and I haven’t felt this happy and relaxed since my diagnosis”
“Then why stop there? Don’t worry about me, I’ve got all day. What else would you like to achieve in life? I reckon it’s time to pull out the big guns you know”
“Yeah, really push yourself. I’m talking about stuff that you wouldn’t ordinarily so much as contemplate. Have you ever done a parachute jump?”
“Neither have I but that’s the first thing I would do if my number was soon to be up”
“Could be exciting I guess. But what if my chute won’t open?”
“Then what a way to go huh?”
“But I don’t want to die. Perhaps another time when I’m feeling a little more courageous. Remind me in a decade or so”
And how am I supposed to do that? Through séance? I’m actually starting to feel embarrassed for him you know. How can one man be so utterly dimwitted?
“Will do. Hey I just realized, we’ve been talking for nearly twenty minutes now and I still don’t know your name. Mine’s Richard in case you were wondering”
“Last time I checked yes”
“Well would you believe it, mine’s Richard too”
Great. First thing I do after hanging up is to change my name via deed pole. On what grounds did his parents choose such a regal title for one so clearly lacking in leadership skills. Richards are known for being strong and fearless, two characteristics I’m fairly sure this lunkhead isn’t packing in his armory. If you ask me, he’s an insult to Richards worldwide and should be banished to the stocks for daring to parade under such an illustrious mantle.
“What are the odds of that? And to think I had you down as a Benny or a Norris”
“I should be so lucky. Nope, just plain old Richard. My full name is Richard Charles Stevens”
“I said my full name is…”
“I heard you the first time. Is this some kind of sick joke?”
“What’s wrong? You suddenly appear agitated”
“You could say that. How did you know my name? I never told you that”
“I’m not following”
“You can’t be Richard Charles Stevens. I’m Richard Charles Stevens. What the fuck is going on here?”
It would appear that the joke has been on me and, after boasting the upper hand for the entirety of this conversation, I’m now feeling decidedly vulnerable.
Bollocks and he knows it. If I didn’t know better, I’d think this was one of those single white female scenarios. What next? Get his hair cut into a bob? Start borrowing my very best corduroys? Rob a whole shit ton of banks and pin that shit on me? I have to tread very carefully indeed here as it is my life that looks to be in danger and the whole stupid act was evidently nothing more than a ruse.
“There are no coincidences. Listen, you either tell me what’s going on or our friendship terminates here and I inform the authorities of your underhand tactics”
“I honestly have no clue what you’re going on about. And I’m not altogether sure that I care for your tone either”
“Whatcha gonna do? Show your true colors? Hack me up into iddy biddy pieces? Not on my watch pal”
“I’m telling you the truth”
“Okay then Richard Charles Stevens, what is your date of birth?”
“That’s easy. September 21st, 1974. Around 5am if memory serves”
“Lucky guess. What’s your favorite color?”
“Green, followed by deep red”
“Best out of five it is then. What do you think of that Sandra Bullock chick?”
This one should catch him out. Everyone loves Sandra except for me and he could never know that unless he was precisely who he claims to be.
“Not keen if I’m honest. Don’t get me wrong, she was awesome in Gravity. But I don’t much care for the films she makes on the whole and there’s something that grates ever so slightly which I cannot, for the life of me, put my finger on”
Somebody wake me up from this nightmare please. I couldn’t have put it any more eloquently myself and now I’m feeling truly spooked.
“What do you want from me?”
“Well I would have thought that would be clear by now”
“Well I haven’t got any money so, if that’s your angle, then you’re barking up the wrong tree bucko”
“I don’t want your money. I just want your friendship. I figured you already knew that”
“And what about the whole Blockeditis deal?”
“Okay, I come clean. I made that up just to get close to you. Please don’t be annoyed at me. I really didn’t mean any harm. I just sensed that you weren’t warming to me so thought I’d try the sympathy card. But I do suffer from trapped wind”
“I feel cheated. This whole time, you’ve been hoodwinking me and I fell for it like the sap that I apparently am”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself”
“Don’t patronize me you fraudulent fuck”
“I can see you’re upset”
“You’re darn tooting I am”
“Then how can I make it up to you?”
It’ll take more than a hand job to sort this out, that’s for sure. That said, it would do for starters.
“How about just coming clean? Why me?”
“I already told you, blind luck. And everything I have told you has been true, give or take a couple of little white lies”
“So what now?”
“I hadn’t thought that far ahead to be honest. I dunno, what are you doing on Thursday evening?”
“How about the weekend?”
“Washing my hair. Take a hint will you, I have absolutely no intention of meeting up for a catch up or shooting some pool with you. I just want to know how you got all my personal details”
“I’ve…erm…gotta go now”
“Don’t you so much as think about it. I’m not letting you keep me hanging and you owe me some kind of explanation after all the mental anguish you’ve put me through”
Rotten bastard only went and hung up on me didn’t he? And here was me foolishly believing it to be the start of a special relationship. I’ve never been so utterly appalled in all my life and have a good mind to take this further. I’m sure this would class as harassment and may even inform the national papers as I’m sure they’d be interested to hear of such deception. Actually put that on hold for a moment as I think there’s somebody at the door.
What can I say? Old habits die hard.
“It’s almost time for your shock treatment Mr. Stevens”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Leave me alone will you, I’m feeling broody”
“Nice try. I’ll be back to get you in around fifteen. Just need to check on the other inmates. By the way, I do wish you’d stop attempting to wriggle out of your straitjacket. Who do you think you are? Harry Houdini?”
“No. I’m Richard Charles Stevens. Born on September 21st, 1974. Favorite color green. And surprisingly indifferent to Sandra Bullock. Now leave me alone”