Please Hold, We Will Be With You Shortly

Dear Sir, Madam, Non-Binary Identifier or Automaton,

I would like to point out an apparent flaw in your system. By “you,” I refer, of course, too all companies in general, whether they are private medical practices or credit-card companies. I hope you will forgive me for lumping you all in the same group, and believe me when I say that after extensive research I have come to the conclusion that the issue at hand is relevant to each and every one of you.

It is not a very big problem, to be truthful, but I believe that you could solve it quite simply. Let me come at the matter in a roundabout fashion – please imagine yourselves using a telephone in order to reach a particular service you wish to use or inquire about. Now, think of automated recording that answers. It tells you, in some form or another, that your call is very important, but that other clients are being served at this time. It requests that you stay on the line, and promise to be wish you shortly. After some variation of this form, music begins to play.

I shudder to refer to the tinny loops of notes as “music” but I suppose that it is the best and least offensive name for the noise. In a world that has birthed string-quartets, orchestras, Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Elvis, The Beatles, David Bowie and Pink Floyd, it is incredible that such sounds still exist outside of the endearing false notes of a beginning violinist. Furthermore, in a universe that has come to use radio waves as well as the Internet for transmitting music, it is hard for me to believe that the options for cheap, or even free, music is so hard for companies to come by.

It is my opinion, and I am sure that others will concur, that the collective “you” to whom I write, that such alienating and disturbing music is the cause of many a headache, not to mention heartaches, missed dates and other inconveniences. I will check the statistic on bleeding ears and get back to you on that when I get more information.

If you truly value your customers, will you please consider trying to play something that doesn’t loop every fifteen seconds? I can almost guarantee that your callers will be in a much better mood when one of your highly-trained service providers answer the phone, thus causing quicker and more efficient service, which would lead to more satisfied customers who would use your services more often.

As a Good Samaritan, I am not asking for any share of the extra profit.

Sincerely,

Slightly Ignorant

Whatever (Flash Fiction/Character study/something)

“Jessica!”

“What? I mean, sorry, yes, Mr. Jacobs?” I ask. I try to hide my phone underneath a mess of clothes on the counter. If he sees me texting again, I’m going to get fired, I just know it.

“There’s a woman right over there who’s looking at the very pricey dress-rack,” he says, smiling like he always does when he’s super-angry. He’s so creepy! “Don’t you think you should be over there? Helping her?

I sigh with relief. That’s all he wants. “I asked if she needed help, Mr. Jacobs!” I say earnestly, putting on what Jill, my co-worker, calls my suck-up face. “She told me she didn’t need any, thanks very much. Who am I to push her, right?” I think it’s an okay answer, but apparently Mr. Jacobs doesn’t.

“Well, if you haven’t noticed, young lady,” I hate this guy, I really do, “she also has a very big purse. Watch that she doesn’t steal anything!” He gives me that smile of his, with his eyebrows all sort of scrunched up and ugly – he plucks, you can so tell that he’s got a unibrow – and then he just stomps back to the back office where he spend most of his day arguing with his wife on the phone. Idiot.

I look over at the woman. She’s still looking at the dresses, putting her rich-lady hands all over them. I swore when I started working here that I’d never try on clothes again. I mean, have you seen how many people cough or rub their noses and then start feeling up the clothes? Gross!

Oh! Text. It’s Beverly again. We were texting before the idiot boss got on my case. She just sent a “?” because I haven’t answered yet. I text back: “Sry boss was here. So wut did u do last nite?”

She’s been trying to get me to ask that question all morning. She can be such a tease and a show-off. I don’t even know why I’m friends with her, but whatever, she works in the designer clothing store that’s also in the mall, on the floor above, and she’s bored too, so we text. I look over at the woman. She’s moved over the scarf section now. Wow, Mr. Jacobs was right, for a change! This one’s a stealer, I’d bet my nails on it.

I walk over and pretend to straighten the handbags that are near the scarves. The woman gives me this look – I hate rich people! She looks at me like I’m trash, just because I actually have to work, you know? Yuck. So what if my dad cut me off and my mom remarried to a loser who lost all his money gambling? That doesn’t make me any worse than this old biddy. Anyway, she’s rich but she’s going to steal something anyway. I know her type – they get a thrill out of it. I say she should just buy a baggie off my friend Tod and live it up at home with a bottle of mega-bucks wine and leave the stores alone.

I’m tailing her now, walking around and arranging everything she’s touched – I’ve got a bottle of hand-sanitizer behind the counter – and I think she’s getting annoyed, because she keeps sighing real deep and stuff. Ha- there! I just saw her let one of the weird necklaces we sell here fall into her bag!

“Mr. Jacobs!” I yell. “Come out here please!”

The woman’s really surprised by my yell, and she turns around to look at me, pretending to be calm. Mr. Jacobs runs out of his office, and asks me what’s up. “This lady,” I say. “She just put a necklace in her handbag. I saw her do it.”

“Alright, let me take it from here,” Mr. Jacobs says. He waves me away. What, now he’s not happy that I caught a thief in the act? Whatever, I’m quitting after my next paycheck anyway. I’m sick of working in this place.

Oh! Text. It’s Beverly. She says: “haha its a secret.” She’s such a – a – I don’t even know what to call her. I text back “whatever.” I don’t need her. I don’t need anyone. Everyone thinks I’m some kind of idiot, I swear.

Whatever. Seriously, to, like, everyone in the world – whatever.

Walk-Rage

I read while I walk. I think I’ve mentioned this before. It’s one of my quirks. I know that a lot of people find it extremely strange. I suppose I can understand that, but honestly, I don’t see how different it is from walking while listening to music. Lots of people, and I among them, walk from place to place with earphone wires dangling around their face, leading from their ears to a pocket or a bag. This is considered quite normal for this day and age. Now that we have the ability to have music in our pockets wherever we go, we do so.

Well, books have been around a lot longer than iPods. They’re also a form of entertainment, in addition to being a source of knowledge for the reader and a method of organizing it for the writer. So why is it so strange that I read while I walk?

I’m not unreasonable. I know why people look askance at me when I do so. They think I can’t see where I’m going; they think I’m going to knock into someone; they think I can’t possibly take in anything I read when I do it in that fashion. I can address each one of these concerns. First, I have terrific peripheral vision. Maybe it’s developed because of my little habit or maybe I had it before, but I can promise you that I very rarely stumble while reading, nor do I hit lampposts or trees. Second, because I have good peripheral vision, I also notice people, and rarely knock into anyone. I can honestly say that the times I’ve bumped into people while I was reading is exactly the same as when I was simply distracted, walking too fast or had misjudged the distance between me and someone else. It’ happens to everyone, right? Third, and finally, I read slower while I walk. I do sometimes need to read a line over. But why is it anyone else’s concern how much I take in while I’m reading?

Now, my detractors may think other things as well, but I’m not sure what. Do they think it’s simply too nerdy to read all the time? Do they think it’s just so very strange to see a young woman with black rings in her lips and a book in hand? I’m not sure. Frankly, I don’t care.

What I do care about, and I’ve discussed this here before as well, is the comments I need to receive. Even saying it’s the strangest, oddest, most bizarre thing in the world to be doing – why does that give people the right to comment on it to my face? They can talk behind my back about the strange girl all they want. But what gives them the right to ask me, mockingly of course, “What chapter are you on?” or demand, mockingly of course, “How about you read some of it aloud?”

Of course, there’s the whole issue of my pierced lips – those draw many inappropriate, and to my mind, unneeded comments as well, but that’s for a whole other post, some other day. The reason I chose to write, yet again, about my habit of reading while I walk is because I received the most offensive comment I’ve ever gotten today, one that made me so furious that it put tears of rage and hurt in my eyes and made me actually yell back a retort.

I was walking to the mall, bag slung over my back with my tiny laptop in it, on my way to Aroma, one of the major coffee-shop chains in Israel. I’ve recently discovered their delicious ice-espressos, to which I add some milk and turn into delicious ice-coffees that aren’t sweet or too milky. The apartment was getting oppressive, and I didn’t manage to write there, so Sir B. F. came up with the idea that I may want to come here – and indeed, here I am, writing a too-long blog post as part of my write-two-hours-a-day goal.

As I was walking, I had my book out. Funny enough, it was actually “The Mandolin Case” – a book by fellow blogger Dr. Tom Bibey. I was in the middle of a particularly exciting part, and I was waiting to see just what that “sumbitch” Olden was going to try now and how he was going to get out of his newest predicament, when I noticed, as I always do, someone walking from the opposite direction. I moved aside automatically and kept reading. As he passed, this fat, balding man who was wearing shorts and sunglasses said the following:

“Someone should give you a slap ’round the face and maybe then you’ll learn not to read when you walk.”

I literally stopped with shock, and I felt my stomach clench so hard it felt like a rock had taken up lodging in my abdomen. Someone should hit me so I won’t read while I walk?! If you can believe it, my throat is closing up right now and I feel tears prickling my eyes again, which is embarrassing as I’m in a public place with families, toddlers and businesspeople all around. How dare he?! How can someone say that? I was so furious that I yelled back, my voice breaking.

“Are you saying you want to slap me? Have you no shame?” This is a rough translation from the Hebrew – if any of you know the term chutzpa, then what I said was “Are you saying you want to hit me? What chutzpa!”

He yelled back something about it not being him who wanted to hit me, just that someone should, but I’d already turned away by then and had started walking, sticking my nose back in my book but seeing red rather than black on white.

Tamer and Tamed

Lara let the snake coil around her neck, slithering over her shoulders and looping itself once, twice, until its head was comfortably level with her eyes. The effect was ominous, and it seemed to Barriana that Lara could see out of the snake’s eyes as well as her own. She couldn’t hope to stare the both of them down, and shook her head.

“No. Can’t do it, love. Sorry.”

Lara’s eyes flashed and the snake hissed, moving so its scales flashed in the poor lighting, showing off its poisonous green color. The Tamer stood perfectly still, lips pursed. She couldn’t believe her ears. Having brought Barriana  this far, and to hear her say this? That she couldn’t? Lara couldn’t think of a worse insult.

“Don’t you ever call me that again. You’re finished, you hear me? You’ll never be a Tamer, and what’s worse is you won’t be under my protection anymore. I’ll have my friends chase you to the end of the earth if you ever try to come near me again. You hear me? Do you hear me?!” Lara realized her voice was rising in pitch, getting out of control. She couldn’t have that. She stopped, took a breath, and stroked the snake softly on the head with one long, brown finger. “Out,” she commanded coolly.

Barriana took one last agonizing look at her, at the magnificent, iridescent and beautifully dangerous Lara. She turned deliberately, completely, and wondered if the snake would attack her. The nape of her neck prickled with Lara’s furious gaze – it almost burned with its intensity. But there were no fangs sunken in her flesh, no claws flashing out, no weight bearing her to the ground. So she walked. She took one step, then another, and another. She didn’t allow herself to look back, because she knew that if she did, she’d return to the Tamer and to the Tamer’s life. She couldn’t do that. It had gone too far.

When she got far enough down the tunnel that led out of Lara’s cavern, she started to run. Not knowing how much time she had, nor where she could flee to, she knew this much – Lara wasn’t the kind to forgive and forget. She’d ruin Barriana’s life if she could – and if not for the betrayal she could have done so at any moment out of sheer meanness or spite. That was Lara, alright. Barriana ran on, emerging into air as humid as the tunnel had been, and not much cooler. She took a moment to steady her breath, and then used one of the talents she’d learned from Lara – climbing up a tree, she began to swing from branch to branch, jumping and landing as lightly as she could where she couldn’t get a good grip with her hands. It would take her hours to traverse the humid jungle Lara called home, but every inch away was a bit of her soul that she got to keep to herself.

Barriana fled, using every bit of willpower and strength to keep going. But secretly, a nasty little part of brain wanted to get caught.

Flash Fiction Thursday: Just a Box

There’s a cardboard box lying on the floor. That’s all, just a box, taped together at the bottom and top, no bigger than a six-pack. Why am I thinking of beer? Oh, yeah, it’s because I’m holding one. Fancy that. I look at the bottle, then look through it to the box on the floor. The empty room takes on a tinge of green. I stop looking and take a long, fulfilling gulp. Oh, dear. Now the bottle’s empty. Might as well smash it as hard as I can against the wall.

It doesn’t shatter or anything. Damn. Even the damn bottle doesn’t do what I want it to do. I want it to smash, to crash, to splinter. I want it to make a noise in this too-quiet room. It’s much to quiet in here. It’s creepy, like she left a damn ghost here or something. I look hopefully around again, almost wishing I’d see her body swinging. But no, the room’s just as empty as it was when I got back from the train-station earlier today. That damn box is still on the floor.

I try to recall the past months, but I’m finding it kind of hard to concentrate. Guess the barman was right for telling me to quit it and go home. It’s not even nine, and the idiot told me he wasn’t going to serve me anymore. I told him where to put his head and went and bought a beer and started walking home. When I ran out of one, I bought another. That one, the one I threw, is the fourth. What? It was a damn long walk home. I needed the fluids, or the sustenance, or something.

Truth is, I just needed something to fill up the ache. I thought that maybe, just maybe, when I got home I’d find all her stuff back here. I’m home now, or what I used to call home, and she’s still gone. So’s her sofa, and TV, and her clothes and her dishes and everything else. I can still smell her here, though, even through the stink of beer coming from my own mouth.

And that damn box is still there on the floor. Is that all that was mine in here? Or did she leave me some stupid long letter about meeting the stud-muffin of her life and leaving with him? I don’t know. I collapse on the floor, the room suddenly spinning worse. I decide that whatever’s in there, it can’t hurt more than what I’m feeling right now. So I let myself drift away, knowing that the box and a headache will be waiting for me tomorrow.

___________________________

As a proud participant in Flash Fiction Thursday, I urge you to check out the others at: http://unabridgedgirl.wordpress.com/

A Leroy Excerpt

Leroy remembered only two things from his early childhood. Tony Boss-man has asked him about it once, to see how good his memory was. So he’d told him those two memories, like pearls in the rough and dirty shell he’d become, and he’d felt he was giving part of himself away. But then, the Boss-man always made everyone feel as if they were giving themselves away. That was part of the Boss-man’s power.

The first thing he remembered was eating cereal when he was about two years old. It had been a shabby house then, shabbier even than the next ones would be, but he had a corner that his mother had painted yellow, and his little mattress was there with his few toys. Inevitably, night after night, he’d sit in that corner and watch as his mom fought with his dad. It happened every day, as far as he could tell, and only years later did he figure out what his mom was doing and why his dad objected. The particular memory that he could see so clearly in his brain was different. It didn’t have drunken-dad and floozie-mama in it. It had been an afternoon alone, and he’d climbed up onto the counter in the kitchen with the aid of a stool, a chair and then a big heave with his puny arms. If nothing else, being inside had strengthened those skinny arms of his. No one can stay weak inside. If you do, you’ll get in trouble. But on that afternoon, he’d felt it was the biggest accomplishment of mankind that he’d gotten all the way on the counter. He’d opened the cupboards because his belly was rumbling – and there was something else, he was always hungry then, but of course he would be, why should his parents give a hoot over a two year old’s nutrition? He’d found a box of cornflakes in the cupboard, and he sat triumphantly on the counter with his small legs dangling daringly. He dug his tiny fist into the box and heaved out a handful of the dry little flakes. He put them in his lap and ate them slowly, one by one. One by one. That’s what the Boss-man always told him, too. Take ’em one by one, Leroy, taken ’em on one at a time and it won’t feel so big. As if the Boss-man, sitting in his office with his piggy little eyes knew anything about the streets.

The second memory Leroy had was from around the same age, he thought, and was just as vivid, although it had a more surreal quality to it. It was a night when Momma and Pop were settled, not fighting. They’d gone to their room for a while, and both came out smiling. Leroy remembered smiling, too, and reaching out with his arms to latch onto Pop’s leg. Momma lit a cigarette and gave it to Pop. The smell wasn’t the same as the one that already permeated the house. It was different. He’d gone over to his corner and taken a pen and stuck it into his mouth, pretending to pull something in and then blow something out. Momma and Pop laughed, so he did it again, and stood very straight with his arm bent sideways, the way Momma held her cigarettes. They laughed again, and this time Pop stooped down to him and gave him the burning roll-up in his hand. Leroy’d been afraid, but he wanted Pop to keep smiling so he took it but didn’t know what to do. Pop took it back and whispered to him that this wasn’t just that green stuff or brown stuff that your Momma has all the time. No, this was some fine quality heroine right here. So smoke up, boy, never too early to have some fun. Leroy, panicking, tried to bend his face away from the smoke that was so close, making his eyes tear up. Pop put it in his mouth and pinched his nose closed, so he’d had to inhale a bit of whatever it was Pop had. He went limp, and the last thought he remembered having before he passed out was that maybe Pop was making him a hero, he gave him hero smoke, maybe he’d be like Superman.

Leroy’d thought a lot about those memories when he was inside. When he worked out, he thought again and again about getting rid of his tiny arms, of those little things that had hauled him onto the counter. When he sat and muttered and made people think he was crazy, he wondered if that toke of heroine smoke – hero smoke, as if – had really made his wiring go wrong. Those memories had proved to Boss-man that he could do what was needed. That’s all that mattered in the end, really – Tony Boss-man approving you or not. He’d been approved and he was damn proud of it at the time. But the man – the gaping hole – the smell of gunpowder – and Tony, letting him take the fall. No, that didn’t sit well with Leroy, not one bit.

Trance

It is night. I am alone. I am in my car. The time is 1:23 AM. My car is dark blue and no doubt looks black in the darkness of the night. There are no roadside lamps on this stretch of highway. I am utterly, completely and undoubtedly alone. The road stretches in front of my car. It seems to go on forever. I cannot see the end of it. All I see is the few feet in front of my car, where my headlights shine on the black asphalt and the white lines drawn on it, passing me by one by one.

My vision blurs as I try to count the white lines passing by on my right. One. Two. Three. Four. But no, they’re going to fast to count. I’m going to fast to count them. The speedometer shows me I’m going too fast. I slow down.

The radio in my car isn’t working. Way out here there is only a fizzle and crackle from any of the stations. My CD player is broken. The only noise I can hear is the sound of fast wheels on cold asphalt, and the sound of my own breathing. In and out. In and out.

The highway is taking me from one home to another. One home, the one I left, is broken, destroyed, a-shambles emotionally. My mouth curves into a wry grin before I can stop myself; after the confrontation tonight, it is a-shambles also physically. Not my problem anymore. I glance back, suddenly worried, but my suitcase is still in the back seat, holding every possession I own. The home I am going to is an old home, a half-remembered home, a home where I don’t know if I will be welcomed. The smile disappears. I was a disappointment. Surely I will not be welcomed. But there is no other place to go.

I jerk. I look at the clock on the dashboard. It is 3:44 AM. I cannot remember the last hour and a half. I’ve heard of this before. It’s called road-trance. Your body drives without you having to pay attention. Your mind sleeps and your body works on its own. Figures. That’s what the last four years of my life have been like, after all. Damn it all to hell. I keep driving. Maybe there will be something worthy at home. My old home, or rather, my renewed home.