Here is your short fiction fix on this lovely Presidents’ Day Monday. It’s like a double-whammy of shit, isn’t it? It’s Monday, AND you can’t go to the bank and get laundry money because they’ve closed for some obscure holiday that doesn’t really mean anything anymore. Never fear, Crunchy-Smooshy is here for you.
Excerpt from a yet-to-be-titled WIP:
There’s a formula for gauging phone calls before the other party has answered. One ring, and they’ve been waiting for something important that isn’t you. They’ve been staring at it, playing with it, willing it to ring. And then finally, FINALLY, it comes to life. It’s better to just hang up without introducing yourself, lest you send your own hide in for verbal slaughter. Four or five rings, and you’ve torn them away from something; dinner with the family, an engrossing novel, a homemade explosives project. Take these on a case by case basis. Women are more likely to turn you away than men, especially if you’re me. I’ve been told my voice is sultry when detailing the many uses of a telephone book.
Three rings, though, that’s the sweet spot.
This isn’t something they teach you when you answer an anonymous internet ad looking for people who wish to ‘work from home!’ ‘All you need is a computer and a telephone! It’s EZ!’ You learn by doing.
Three rings and they’ve been waiting for you to call. No, really, they have. It’s their day off and nothing interesting has presented itself as a suitable distraction. You are their distraction.
Don’t worry about selling, the anonymous emailer attached to the anonymous ad tells you. Just log your calls and collect your money.
Sometimes I don’t even market what I’m supposed to. The spreadsheet in my weekly email will call for entertainment magazine subscriptions; I sell them slippers made in the likeness of their favorite United States President. God bless America!
Sometimes, a girl just wants to have some fun.
I’d had a productive morning. One entry left on my daily spreadsheet, and it was just past two.
One ring. Two rings. Three rings.
“Good afternoon. Would you be so kind as to connect me with the matron of the home?”
I cradled the phone between my shoulder and ear while fingering a copy of Little Women. I’d finished reading it over lunch and was itching to try it out.
“Who’s calling, please?
Her voice was calm but reserved.
“Jo March, madam. I’m calling to invite you to participate in an unbelievable opportunity in literature.”
I wished Jo March had a British accent. I loved doing British.
Shuffling against the speaker on the opposite end. She was switching ears.
“Is this a joke?”
“Fiction is no joke, ma’am, unless of course you’re reading comedy. Then all of it is a joke! Unless it’s bad comedy, in which case it’s better used as kindling in my humble opin –“
“Just get to the point, please.”
“Yes, yes, of course. I am offering escape in the form of words. Penny Dreadfuls, specifically. For the cost of a typical novel you will receive five stories in which you are taken through perilous adventures, one after the other.”
She’d hung up.
Unfortunate, since I hadn’t had the chance to tell her about the imaginary friend that accompanied every purchase.
Classic characters are always a risk.
I logged the call, sent my end-of-day email using an out-of-date but perfectly useable desktop computer, and considered my options for the rest of the afternoon.
Would you like to contribute a story to short fiction Monday? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submissions are also STILL open for Asfixia. Send me ALL THE WORDS!