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Still Mentally Incontinent
The second MI Book

The first Seven Chapters:

Chapter 1:
- Doing The Gay

Chapter 2:
- Never Saw THAT One Coming...

Chapter 3:
- Top Five Worst Birthdays Ever

Chapter 4:
- 1-800-STALKER

Chapter 5:
- Where's Your Sense Of Adventure?

Chapter 6:
- I Never Really Was The Outdoor Type

Chapter 7:
- Sorry, Deer

If you want to read the contenders for past chapters (and read ALL the non-winning stories for the first book), register for an account! It's free, easy, and safe!

And what kind of author wouldn't give you samples of his first book?

Chapter 1:
- The Wal-Mart Story

Chapter 5:
- The Cows... They Talk!

Chapter 11:
- I'm Just Dying To Know You

All this and more can be found in:

Mentally Incontinent

The first book from this website

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Book 2 Story:   1-800-STALKER (Prologue)
By joe the peacock
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"Uh, hi, guys," I said as my roommates entered the living room.

Mike and Juan stood in the entry foyer, staring at both me and the lump o' strange girl lying on the couch. As if telepathically linked, they both unleashed huge, knowing grins at me.

"No, no," I said, answering their unspoken macho congratulations. "It's not what it looks like."

"No?" Juan said as Mike carried the groceries past me and into the kitchen, smiling all the while. "It looks to me like you wore her out!"

"Uh, no," I said, standing up to help grab the Kroger bags dangling from Juan's fingers, "that wasn't me . . . that was her flight."

Mike poked his head through the doorway and into the living room. "Wait—what? Her flight?"

"Yeah," I answered. "From Phoenix."

Grins turned to gaping mouths as Juan and Mike looked at each other and then back at me. With a sigh, I nodded Juan toward the kitchen doorway where Mike stood, indicating that there was a lot of 'splaining to do.

"Can you believe this shit?" Juan said to Mike, who was alternating glancing between Juan, me, and a jar of cookies.

"Come on, man," I said. "At least give me a chance to explain this."

"Nope," Juan responded as he walked over to the cupboard and began pulling down some form of Sara Lee snackycake.

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because you're full of shit?" he said with a teensy bit of hostility.

"What!" I shouted. "Why would I make this up?"

Juan snorted. "Let's just say that this isn't the first story of yours that I've not been able to bring myself to believe."

That much was true. What he left out—what he always leaves out—is that eventually, they all prove themselves to be true, and he always just sneers and says, "Eh, whatever," and continues to disbelieve me no matter what I tell him. Such is the way Juan is.

"I don't really care if you believe me or not," I said. "The major point here is that there is a thirty-five-year-old chick from Phoenix whom I hardly know, sleeping on our couch, and I don't know how to get rid of her."

Juan turned and looked at me. "You want her gone?" he asked.

"Well . . . yeah," I said. "She's creeping me the hell out. But how do you do that?"

He marched over to the kitchen door. "Watch," he said just before slamming the door open. With a huge crash, the door bounced off the adjacent wall and swung back at him, forcing him to push it open far more gently to get it out of his way. "Hey!" he shouted as he approached the couch.

The sleeping crazy chick stirred slightly. "Huh?" she muttered.

Mike and I walked into the living room as Juan knelt down to get face-to-face with the nutjob. "You can't stay here," he said plainly.

"Huh?" she said, struggling to sit up and struggling even harder to open her eyes.

Juan sighed and hung his head momentarily before returning to posture. "You," he said, pointing at her. He then swung his hand toward the front door and added, "Have got to go."

"What? Why?" the chick said.

"To tell you the truth, I don't know, either," he replied. "But Joe doesn't want you here, so off you go!"

"Wow," Mike managed to squeak out.

"Wait . . . You . . . you don't want me to stay?" the crazy chick said as she looked toward me, her bedraggled hair hanging in her face.

"Well—" I said.

"Well, nothing!" Juan interjected. "You just got done telling me you don't want her here!"

"Wait," I said, attempting to do damage control on this rapidly scorching earth. "You didn't even let me tell you what was going on!"

"You didn't need to!" he said. "You said she was crazy and you don't want her here. I told her to leave. Problem solved, right?" He headed toward the stairs. "Now come on, let's go play some Goldeneye."

The dazed and confused girl on our couch blinked a few times and looked at me in disbelief. "You . . . you called me crazy?"

"I, uh . . . Well, yeah, I guess I did . . ."

She sat there for a moment, absorbing the situation. "What the fuck?" she finally said, shaking her head and throwing her hands toward the sky before letting them fall in her lap. "Why did you tell me I could stay, then?"

"You don't have anywhere to go." I looked around the room for emphasis, as if staring through the walls and out into the large expanse of places just outside our house that she could not go.

"I'm not going to stay here if you don't want me to!" she shouted.

"Great!" Juan said as he began marching up the stairs. The hallway echoed with his voice as he shouted, "Come on, guys! Goldeneye!"

The room became uncomfortably quiet. It had been uncomfortable before, but with the quiet added on, it took on a whole new dimension. "Look, I'm . . . I'm really sorry," I tried to say, knowing I was saying it only to make myself feel better.

"You're sorry?" she blurted, brushing her hair out of her face with the back of her hand. "You're sorry?"

"Um . . . yes?" I said, hoping I'd chosen correctly. Mike just stood behind me, watching.

"Yeah, I bet you are," she scoffed. She tossed aside the blanket I'd brought down for her and began looking around for her socks and shoes. "I bet you're really sorry that someone has taken an interest in you! I bet you're sorry that you've got someone here who understands you . . . or at least thought she did . . ."

I sighed. "Look—"

"No, you know what? You know what? I'm sorry!" she yelled, pulling her left sock onto her foot. "Yeah . . . that's right, I'm the one who's sorry here! I'm sorry I fucking flew here, I'm sorry I talked to you on the phone all those nights . . ."

I began thinking back to "all those nights," and I could count a scant four nights in total. Four nights of phone-based conversation. Four nights of simply killing time. Four simple nights that, right then, I'd regretted ever happened. Not that they were great by any measure, I'd regretted them the moment they occured. But being forced to go back and count them just drove home the point.

"ANSWER ME!" she screamed, jarring me out of my trance.

"And what would you have me say?" I replied, trying to play like I was in complete control when in actuality, I hadn't heard a word she'd said.

"I don't know—like ‘Thank you, Jessica'? Like ‘Thanks for spending all that money to come out and see me, Jessica'? You know, something like that?"

"Um . . ." I replied. "I don't think . . ."

"Yeah, you don't think, do you!" she screamed, putting her other shoe on. "You don't even think about how hard it must have been for me to step on that plane and come out here, not knowing what I was walking into. God, what an idiot I am!"

I couldn't think of anything to say. On the one hand, I really did feel bad for Jessica. I imagined the flight wasn't cheap, and I knew that she'd expended a tremendous amount of effort to get to Atlanta just to see me—a guy she'd talked to for a few weeks but somehow felt compelled to fly across the country to meet. On the other hand, she was only one shoe away from walking out the door, and I really didn't want to interrupt that.

"Whatever! Whatever! Just . . . ARRRGH!" she said, standing up and grabbing her bright red suitcase from beside the couch. "Just . . . don't ever call me again! Okay? Don't do it! I mean it!"

Given that the only time I'd called her had been a fluke, I didn't find that hard to agree to. "Okay," I replied with a shrug.

Her eyes popped out of her skull, and her jaw hit the floor. " ‘Okay'? That's all you have to say?"

"Um, yes?" I said, guessing again.

She turned in a huff, her reddish-brown hair twirling around behind her. She marched to the front door and yanked on the doorknob only to be stymied by Juan's habitual need to lock the door every single time it was closed. With a grunt, she twisted the lock one way and tried the knob, then twisted it the other way and tried again. With a strained noise, she turned the tumbler and was able to open the door.

"Just . . . FUCK YOU!" she screamed as she pushed against the screen door and went absolutely nowhere, storming directly into it. Juan habitually locked that one as well.

I tried to hold back my laughter as she fumbled with the latch and got it open, then stomped outside, slamming the door behind her.

"Wow," Mike said. I turned to face him. He wore a gigantic grin. "So . . ."

"Don't start," I said, executing a perfect face-palm.

"Someone got a little more than he ‘ordered,' I see?"

"Please, no puns."

"Did you have to press zero to let her in the house?"

Without a word, I marched into the kitchen, giving him a less than gentle shove as I passed him.

"Okay, okay! Seriously," he said, falling into step behind me, "I just have to ask one question, and it's an honest question, okay?"

I sighed. "Fine."

"So answer it honestly, okay?" he said.

"Yes, yes!" I said, grabbing a mug from the cabinet and placing it under the faucet. "Just ask the damn question."

"Why the hell is she here?"

I took a drink of water and chased it with a deep breath. "You want the whole story?"

He grabbed the jar of cookies from the counter and took a seat at the kitchen table. With a light waving gesture, he invited me to sit in my usual spot.

"Well, all right," I said as I took my seat. "And you're going to let me actually tell it?"

"Don't I always?" Mike said with a smile.

"Like I was trying to tell Juan, you know that 1-800-MUSIC-NOW thing?"

He nodded.

"Well . . ."

I was only two and a half weeks into my career as the Webmaster for BOBB Systems, and only two weeks into discovering that my job was way easier than the company thought it was.

Now, because it was 1997 and a number of people inside the company had dismissed the Internet as a "nonprofit-generating entity" or a "toy," there had been internal struggle and conflict from the first day I took the job. The only person who saw merit in the concept of putting this software company on the Internet was my boss, Gary. He was a bit of a visionary who saw the potential in hiring a dedicated resource to understand the Internet and harness its power: me.

I did a fairly good job of it, if I do say so myself. I set up a relationship between BOBB Systems—the largest ERP software developer in the world—and, so that we received premium placement on this upstart's job-seeking website. I had automated scripts posting our open career positions to USENET and funneling résumés matching certain criteria to the recruiters in our company. I set up an engine to allow marketing, HR, and legal to post all of their press releases and articles to the website without having to send them to me first. I also created a page on our company's website where the software developers could release updates to the platform that BOBB Systems wrote for the supply chain sectors.

Once my first week on the job had rolled by, I found myself in possession of about six free hours a day. This gave me two choices:

1. Go ahead and leave for the day and clue everyone in to just how little work it took to earn such a high salary, causing a huge political riot and pretty much guaranteeing that my salary—or worse, my job—would be cut, or

2. Make it look like I was working all day.

I'll leave it to you to figure out which one I chose.

Just sitting in front of a keyboard tip-tapping all day may be work in most departments, but I was under a massive amount of not undue scrutiny. I had to go the extra mile to convey my state of constant job-related panic. I couldn't simply use IRC and play "You Don't Know Jack!" I had to incorporate other means of Method acting, which was where 1-800-MUSIC-NOW came in.

This concept seems quaint nowadays, but back then dialing a toll-free number to hear clips of music from your favorite bands and then, with the push of a button, ordering their album was quite revolutionary. I probably single-handedly funded the first two quarters of the company's revenue figures, as I spent easily three hours a day dialing in and tapping in the names of bands I figured they couldn't possibly have music for, only to be pleasantly surprised enough to push one and add that album to my basket. Not only did this build out my music collection quite handsomely, it had the double benefit of making me look like I was on the phone with the support teams of one of the three hundred or so IT vendors we did business with.

"Look, I don't care who you need to call," said Darina, one of the company's international recruiters, "I need you to handle this!"

"Sorry, I can't," I told her as I speedwalked down one of the building's main corridors. While it was elegant and quite beautiful, the building's architect must have been a fan of The Shining, because he'd built one of the longest damn hallways I'd ever walked through.

"But I really need those résumés!" she yelped. "Where are they?"

"I don't know," I said, lying through my teeth. From day one, Darina had been one of the biggest objectors to my position, and she wasn't at all shy about letting everyone know. As the technology recruiter who had been forced to hire me, she knew exactly how much I got paid and how old I was, and neither fact sat well with her. She took every opportunity to find ways to convince anyone who would listen that my job did not need to exist. So I found every way possible to inconvenience her. Such is the reason that the system had been dumping any and all résumés for the newly created and much needed development director position into a hidden mailbox on the server, waiting for me to find the "virus" that blocked them.

"Can't you at least look?" she half asked, half demanded.

"I sure can," I said, reaching the doorway to my office. "But I've got to get on the phone with IBM and find out what the hell happened to the new hard drives we ordered!"

"Can you look at my thing first?" she asked, propping herself against the door frame.

"Nope," I replied, plopping into my chair and slapping the space bar on the keyboard, waking my computer from the screen saver.

She sighed heavily. "You know, you wouldn't even be here if it weren't for me!"

I scanned the monitor in front of me, catching up on the IRC conversation I'd been away from. With a purposeful motion, I looked up at her, locked on to her eyes for a moment, and said, "Thanks for the job, Darina." I then went back to looking at my monitor as if searching for a phone number.

"Look!" she snapped as she stood upright. "I can't do my job if I can't see the résumés! And I can't see the résumés because of your stupid e-mail thing! So you're the reason I can't do my job, which means you need to fix this!"

"And I will," I said, then gave a slight look of surprise at the monitor, attempting to sell a moment of "Eureka!" from finding the number I needed. I quickly grabbed the phone and tapped out a sequence of numbers that, if you spelled it out on the keypad, might have read 1-800-OUR-HAMM. Or 1-800-MT.-PIANO. Or, more ostensibly, 1-800-MUSIC-NOW.

"That's how you act?" she said, putting her hands on her hips. "Just . . . pick up the phone right in the middle of our conversation?"

"Obviously," I said.

"That's just rude!" she said. "Can't you show me at least a little respect?"

"Welcome to 1-800-Music-Now," a voice said over the receiver, startling me. Usually, it was an automated voice that prompted you to press one to enter an artist's name, or two for help (or, en español, presione tres ahora). "My name is Jessica," she continued. "How may I help you?"

"Uh, hi, Jessica," I stammered,. "I need to check on the status of an order we placed a few days ago?" I looked up at Darina and adopted a pleading expression. "Sorry, I'm on the phone," I mouthed, adding a gesture toward the handset with my free hand.

Darina's mouth opened wide, and she gasped with exasperation.

"Sure, I can check on that for you," Jessica replied. "Can you give me your order number?"

"Uh . . ." I said, trying to come up with something, "I think it was O-I-C-U-8-1-2."

Jessica laughed. "Nice," she responded. "I like Halen, too, but I'm afraid I need an actual order number."

Darina stood there with her mouth gaping wide.

"Uh," I said, "I actually, um, I don't seem to have the order number here. It was for some hard drives for BOSS Systems?"

"Err. . . . hard drives?" Jessica responded.

Darina continued to stand there.

"Yeah," I sort of answered. "For the IBM S/390 server."

"Well, sir, we sell music," Jessica responded. "This is 1-800-MUSIC-NOW."

"Yes, yes, that's the one!" I chuckled, acting as if I were relieved.

The other end of the phone was silent. I took that opportunity to look up at Darina, who was busy converting the ambient moisture in the air into steam with the heat of her anger. With a dismissive wave, I mouthed, "Shut the door!" and returned my gaze to the monitor in front of me.

I wasn't looking at Darina, but having seen her do it several times before, I imagined what she looked like as she spun ninety degrees on her heel with nearly military-style precision and marched away, leaving a trail of smoldering ozone in her wake.

"Sir?" Jessica finally said. "I'm afraid you may have dialed the wrong number . . ."

"No! Nonono!" I blurted as I stood to close the door. "Don't hang up!"


The door shut softly behind me. "I am so sorry," I explained. "I'm at work, and I was trying to get rid of a coworker, and I was expecting the automated-voice thingy, and when you spoke, it threw me off!" I chuckled nervously.

After a moment of silence, Jessica responded dryly, "Sir, I'm afraid abusing our service to dismiss your coworkers isn't really an approved use of our resources. I'm going to have to report you."

"Uh . . ." I said as I sat in my chair. "Report me?"

"Yes, sir."

"Report me to who?" I asked.

"Your boss," she said with a tension-breaking laugh.

I laughed in return. "You had me going there."

"How can I help you?" she asked.

"Honestly, I don't quite know that you can," I replied. "I was calling to dial in a few names of bands just to see if you guys have them. It's kind of a game I play."

She said, "Ah, stump the system, huh? I can help you with that if you want. I can look up any band you ask for and play back the clips."

"Really?" I replied. "That's pretty cool. But I'm probably going to be a while, and I don't want to eat up your whole morning."

"Oh, it's no problem," she said. "I'll have to do it with the next person who calls anyway, I might as well talk to a Halen fan while I work."

"I'm not really a Halen fan, per se," I confessed. "It's just a funny title."

"Oh . . . one of those types," she said with a chuckle.

"One of what?"

"The people who don't believe in the holiness of Halen and won't be saved when Eddie ascends into heaven."

"Oh God," I said with a smile, "you're one of those!"

"Yep," she answered. "He's Jesus."

"God, I hope not," I said.

"Why not?"

" 'Cause if he is, then John Petrucci is Satan, and he's clearly going to win the battle and take over the earth."

"What!" she verbally sneered.

"Yeah," I continued, "and he's got big poofy hair. I won't want to be forced to wear big poofy hair when he takes over."

"You are so wrong," she answered. "Eddie plays circles around Petrucci."

"Let's put it to the test, then!" I said.


"Dial up Van Halen's first record."

"Ohhhh . . ." she said. I could hear her smiling on the other end of the phone. She pulled it up, and the little automated man's voice went on to describe the album Van Halen by Van Halen. He then introduced a few tracks, one of them being "Eruption," which features every slobbering dork frat boy guitar-worshiping moron's idea of a bad-ass guitar solo.

"See!" Jessica said at the clip's conclusion. "How can you not think that's worthy of sitting beside God in heaven?"

"Because of this," I answered. "Dial up ‘Change of Seasons' by Dream Theater."

The little automated man came up and introduced "Change of Seasons" by Dream Theater, then proceeded to play clips from the middle of songs that had nothing at all to do with Petrucci's solos. If we'd been arguing Mike Portnoy's drum excellence, I'd have won fair and square. But for this particular argument, it wasn't very helpful.

"Yep, totally great playing," she said sarcastically.

"That is totally not fair," I responded.

And so it went for the better part of an hour. Jessica and I argued about bands and music and who was better than whom. We also found some middle ground, agreeing that the first six Black Sabbath records should be dipped in gold and enshrined at Angkor Wat for worshipping throughout eternity. At the end of it, I purchased a few new releases I hadn't yet snagged.

"Okay, that's a huge order," she said, repeating back a total well in the hundreds of dollars.

"Huh," I said, somewhat oblivious to how many albums I'd agreed to buy. "Oh well, I haven't bought any other records this month."

"Heh," she said. "It's the second."

"Yeah," I said. "I get paid on the first. Usually, I'd have spent my music budget by now."

"And what is your music budget?" she asked.

"You don't want to know," I replied.

"What are you, made of money or something?" She laughed.

"No no, I just really like music."

"But . . . you ordered No Doubt."

"Yeah?" I responded. "So what?"

"I thought you said you like music."

"Look, it was a gift for, uh, a friend, and shut up, okay?," I said sarcastically.

She laughed, and then asked for all my order information. I gave it in a practiced cadence.

"All right, well," she said, wrapping up our call, "because you're nice, and because we both agreed on Butch Vig being a prophet and a saint, I suppose I could be nice and give you thirty percent off."

"Really?" I perked up. "That's pretty awesome!"

"Yeah, and I can't believe I'm going to say this, but . . ."


"Well," she said hesitantly, "I never do this, but would you mind if I called you later? Like, after work?"

"Uh . . ." I said, flattered but slightly cautious. Okay, fine, I'll admit it—I wasn't cautious at all. I was all kinds of yes but didn't know how to say it without sounding retarded. "Sure, I suppose."

"You suppose?" she asked, offended.

"Well, yeah," I replied. "I mean, Halen fans calling me isn't something I normally agree to, but because you gave me thirty percent . . ."

"PSSSSSSH!" she said, and then laughed.

"All right, then," I said. "Want my number?"

"You just gave it to me," she said.

"Oh, right, with the order!" I said. "Yeah, okay . . . Talk to you later, I suppose!"

"There you go, supposing again."

"Yep. Get used to it. I suppose a lot."

She laughed. "So much that I have to get used to it? That's either a good sign or a bad one!"

I laughed in lieu of responding because I really had no response to that.

"Okay, well . . . tonight, then!" she said.

"Okey," I responded. "And thanks again for the thirty percent!"

"No problem. Thanks for calling 1-800-MUSIC-NOW, and have a great day!"

"You, too!" I said, hanging up the phone and looking for another reason to blow off work for the day.

Naturally, I was still up after three in the morning when she decided to call. But even if I don't sleep, it is a bit late to be calling someone for the first time. Or maybe it's a bit early, since it is the morning. Either way, it sits right at the bottom of the big list of "Times You Should Call People for the First Time."

"Hello?" I half said, half asked.

"Hey!" a bright voice said from the other end of the receiver.

"Who's this?"

"Uh, Jessica?" she replied.


"The girl from 1-800-MUSIC-NOW?"

"Oh," I replied flatly. "So this isn't Ed McMahon? Or Jesus?"

She stammered incoherently a second, then finally said, "No?"

"Those are about the only two people I can think of who I'd be happy to hear from at almost four in the morning, so . . ."

"Oh jeez, I forgot about the time zone thing . . ." she said with a small laugh. "But come on. You know you're happy I called."

"Perhaps," I replied with a chuckle of my own. Using my best nerdy scientist voice, I continued, "But I must express a certain amount of displeasure at the time that you chose to make the call."

"Well, I was out!" she playfully snapped. "I just got home and didn't want to go to bed without calling."

"Ah, need to be reminded of what good music is before you go to sleep?" I said.

"Noooo," she answered in a soft voice, "I just promised I would, and I always keep my word."

"That's quite honorable."

"Yeah, I guess," she said. "Mostly, I've just been thinking about you all day and didn't want to go to bed without talking to you."

My eyebrows raised, and I cocked my head to the side inquisitively. "That's a nice thing to say . . ." I offered.

"Thanks," she said, her tone noticeably more sultry. "It's true."

"Well, okay," I replied, not knowing what to say. "So what's up?"

"Nothing much, really," she answered, and began to tell me about her night. She and a few coworkers had gone out for a fun evening on the town. Which apparently was a weekly thing, because last week Deborah didn't make it, so this week she was in extra need of alcohol and "delicious boys" to take her mind off Dave, who worked up in the corporate office and had been flirting with her a lot lately but was married, so she couldn't have him, which was why Janice and Mary insisted she come out this time—and trust me, I was just as bored listening to it as you are reading it—and then Mark ordered shots for everyone . . .

"Well, that sounds really . . ." I said, searching for the right word to describe how stupid I felt the entire enterprise was, but without insulting her.

"What?" she said, not allowing the search to follow its course. "Not your kind of thing?"

"Not at all," I answered. "I'm much more into, like, not that."

"What do you mean?"

"I dunno," I said. "I'm not much of a drinker, for one."

"Oh," she said. Then she asked, "Wait—How old are you?"

"Twenty," I replied.

"Oh, Lord," she said. "You're just a baby!"

"I'd like to think that my diaper-wearing is strictly voluntary at this stage in life," I said with a marked decline in enthusiasm.

"Oh, well, I didn't mean it that way," she said. "I just meant . . ."

"What, that I'm young?" I supplied for her. "Why, how old are you?"

She hemmed and hawed. "I don't think I want to say now," she finally answered.

"What? Like, fifty or something?" I asked.

"No!" she said.

"Look, it's okay if you are," I replied. "I like old people. I like Werther's candies, and you guys always have some handy."

"Stop it!" she said through laughter.

"Come on, how old are you?"

She paused for a moment. "Thirty . . ."

"Oh, well, that's not old."

". . . Five," she finally added.

"Yeah, you're one foot out of the casket at thirty-five."

"You little punk!" she said with a chuckle.

We talked for a while longer, mostly about how a twenty-year-old could live on his own, and how a twenty-year-old could have a corporate job without a college degree, and how a twenty-year-old could have such "mature" perspectives on music, and, well, the whole damn conversation was about me being twenty and living the life I was living, and how "amazing" and "special" she thought all of that was.

"It sounds like you really have it together," she said.

"No, not really," I replied. "I just got lucky and get paid to do what I like doing, and it's all worked out so far."

"It's amazing," she said.


"Just, I dunno, that someone so young could be this mature," she replied.

I laughed. "You wouldn't say that if I told you what I did to my previous employer on the day after Thanksgiving last year."

"No, really," she said. "You're like . . . perfect."

HANG. UP, I thought to myself.

"I just wish we lived closer," she added. "I think I'd like to know you."

"Oh, well," I stammered, "um . . ."

HANGUPHANGUPHANGUP! My brain went into overdrive. I immediately began seeking exits from the conversation. "That does suck and all, but hey, at least I got to order music from you," I said.

She was silent.

"So yeah, we got to chat, and that's nice, right?" I tried again.

"You don't agree with me?" she said.

"About what?"

"About knowing each other," she said.

"Well . . ." I said, verbally tugging at my collar, "I mean, we don't have to live near each other to know each other, right?"

"No," she replied, "but how do you get to really know someone if you can't see him, you know? Look him in the eye . . . see him smile . . ."

"Well, you—"

"Kiss him and hold him close?" she added.

The room started to spin. I needed out. "I don't think kissing and holding are mandatory," I quickly answered. "I mean, I hope not, anyway. I don't think I could stomach kissing and holding my friend Mike."

A few silent seconds went by, each one ticking off with a dull and hollow thud from my internal clock. Finally, she said in a markedly more chipper voice, "See, this is why I think you're great. You make me laugh."

"Thanks," I replied. "You're nice, too."

"Okay," she said, letting me off the hook, "it's really late there, I know. I'll let you get to sleep."

"Thanks," I said. "You sleep well, and thanks again for that order this morning. That made my day."

"Same here," she said. I could hear her smiling over the phone.

"Alright, good night," I said. "Have a good day tomorrow."

"You, too," she said brightly, then hung up.

I'm fairly sure that, at least once in your life, you've gone a night with too little sleep followed by a need to get up too early the next morning. You're probably familiar with the dull pain in your head that doesn't so much pound as it squats over your skull and squeezes your brain like it's trying to choke you out in an MMA title bout. That feeling was a constant thing for me at that time in my life—back then I wasn't yet familiar with the nectar that is Red Bull. But the morning after that phone call was especially horrible.

The world was covered in a dull haze as I made my way around the house trying to get myself cleaned, fed, and out the door. I walked into no fewer than four walls while on my Family Circus-esque trek around the house. And just after I'd put a toothbrush full of toothpaste into my mouth and worked up a nice foam, the phone rang.

I walked over to the phone as it rang a third time. Without considering the situation, I picked it up. "Hellofff?" I said through a mouth full of Aquafresh.

"Uh, hello?" Jessica said.

"Haa, uhhh. Holl ohh uh seh," I replied. I immediately spat the contents of my mouth into the trash can beside my desk. "There. Hi."

"Hi," she said glowingly.

"What's up?" I said, wiping my mouth with the floppy end of the towel wrapped around my waist.

"I just wanted to wish you a good morning," she replied.

"Oh. That's nice," I said. "Thanks!"

"You're welcome," she said. "Talk to you later!"

There was a click on the other end. I went to return the receiver to its cradle, and as I did, I noticed a large smudge of toothpaste on the receiver. I shook my head, wiped it down, and hung up the phone.

I nearly crashed into Juan in the hallway as I raced to get out of the house. "What the hell are you doing up so early?" he asked after the near-collision.

"Meeting," I replied.

"Ah. You look like shit. What time did you go to bed?"

"I dunno . . . like five? Six?"

"A meeting on an hour of sleep, huh? Good luck with that. What the hell were you doing all night?"

"Ultima Online," I lied. He'd never have understood if I'd told him about the crazy operator from 1-800-MUSIC-NOW calling and flirting with me all night.

"Addict," he replied with a smirk.

"Yeah, well . . . it's fun," I said.

"Heh. I hope you got enough of that online gold to help you float between jobs when they finally fire your ass." He waved me off as he entered the bathroom.

Yes, it was an annoying morning. And I should tell you that it's not that I didn't like Jessica's little good-morning call. Quite far from it—it's nice when someone calls to wish you good morning. I believe this, and I have done it myself. It's also nice when someone calls to say hi or see how your day is going, or to let you know she hopes work is going all right, or to check on how your drive home went.

Or to let you know that she checked the Weather Channel and saw there was a slight chance of storms in the afternoon and she just wanted you to be aware.

Or to let you know a certain song popped on the CD player and she thought of you.

Or to say that she smelled a cologne in the store that reminded her of what you might wear, even though she's never once met you.

But when she does all of those things in one day—after having spoken to you twice ever—well, it's a bit creepy. And if you add up the bits of creepy over the span of, oh, a week or so, you get a full bucket o' creep. After a while, it begins to wear on your soul to the point where you simply stop answering the phone. Unless you happen to be at work, in the presence of your boss, who isn't quite privy to the circumstance at large and disapproves of an employee ignoring calls on his work line.

"Why don't you want to talk to me?" Jessica's tear-strained voice blubbered through the receiver before I could even say hello. It had been a week solid of crap like this that had caused me to not answer the phone, and now she was wondering why I didn't want to talk to her. I had been an idiot for mentioning my employer during our first ever phone call, but how could I have possibly known she'd be a total psycho and look up the number?

I closed my eyes as the pounding began in my brain. "Look," I said through a clenched jaw, "I'm at work right now. Can't we talk about this later?"

"Oh, we could," she snapped, "if you'd actually answer the phone!"

"I, uh . . ." I looked up at my boss. "I have my boss in my office, and we're talking about some pretty important stuff . . ."

"See!" she exclaimed, sniffling. "Making up reasons not to talk to me!"

"I don't . . ." I closed my eyes, breathed deeply, and reset myself. "It's not that I don't want to talk to you."

"No, really," Jessica choked out through her tears. "It's all right. I . . . I understand."

My boss, Gary, ducked his head and waved at me. "I'll come back," he said as he opened the door to my office. "When you're less . . . busy."

"No, wait—Gary," I said as he exited. With a sigh, I returned my attention to the reason for my certain termination. "Look, Jessica . . ."

"It's so cute when you say my name like that," she said with a slight giggle and a severe mood swing.

"Nonono . . . oook, okay, this is serious!" I exclaimed. "This isn't supposed to be cute!"

"I know. That's what makes it so cute!"

"You, you, like . . ." I stammered with equal parts embarrassment and anger. There I stood in my first real office at my first real job, with a wacko on the other end of the line, and I couldn't even yell.

"I like what?" she asked playfully.

It was just too much. "OH MY GOD!" I snapped. "You have got to stop calling me! Okay?"

She was silent for a second. "Fine, I won't call you at work again. Okay?"

"Not just at work! Anytime! Ever!" I barked.

She paused. She huffed. She said, "You . . . you . . ." And then she hung up, just like that.

I stared at the wall, absorbing what I'd said. I didn't want to do that here. Not at work, and certainly not in front of my boss. I mean, I knew it had to be done, yes. And I figured that when the time presented itself, I'd be purposeful in thought and deed and, like a verbal surgeon, cut only where I needed to and keep the scarring minimal.

I slowly placed the receiver on the cradle, then gently lowered myself into my chair. I breathed a deep, cleansing breath.

My phone rang.

I let it roll to voice mail while I checked my e-mail. And then it rang again. So I began reading the day's news headlines on

The phone rang again. And again. And again. With each ring, a brand-new ulcer appeared in my stomach. I was already seen as having an extraneous job position at this company, and my attitude toward my detractors had done little to sway their opinion in favor of me. This was the last thing I needed.

The intercom alert sounded. "Joe?" a sweet voice asked over the speaker.

"Yeah, Yvonne?" I said to our company's receptionist with a sigh.

"I have a call for you . . . someone named Jessica?"

I growled.

"Don't want to take it, I suppose?" she said.

"Oh, sorry about that," I said, not realizing that that growl had been outside of my own brain. "Yeah, I really don't."

"No problem," she said. "I've got it covered! I'll just send her to voice mail."

"Thanks, Yvonne," I replied as my head fell into my hands.

About ten minutes went by. My phone chirped again, and Yvonne called over the speaker again.

"Yeah?" I replied, placing my middle finger and thumb on my temple in anticipation of what was coming.

"This lady, Jessica? She's uh . . . she's VERY persistent . . ."

"To say the least," I said with a grumble.

"She's really disrupting the flow of calls here. Can you please talk to her and get her to quit calling?"

"It won't work." I sighed. "But sure, put her through."

"Okay," Yvonne said as her voice gave way to a loud beep that signified the connecting of a call from the front desk, which gave way to a rather loud and, frankly, impressive string of vulgarity.

"Hey hey hey!" I said as I yanked the phone off the cradle to hang up the speaker. "Calm down!"

"CALM DOWN?" Jessica barked. "You asshole! I'm not going to calm down! You just tried to avoid me like a fucking coward. You can't even be a man and tell me you don't want to talk to me!"

"Uh . . . I think I did tell you I don't want to talk to you," I replied. "Just before you hung up on me."

"Whatever!" she shouted. "You should be man enough to face a woman when you toss her aside! You should be willing to at least explain yourself!"

I thought for a moment. "If you wanted an explanation, then why did you hang up?" I asked.

"You pissed me off!" she yelled. "You can't . . . You were totally rude!"

"Look," I said, "we cannot do this now, okay? I'm at work. You cannot keep calling me at work, all right?"

"Then stop avoiding me!" she barked.

"Right, okay, I will. Just . . . let's talk about this tonight? Please? Can you hold off calling me until then?"

She sighed. "You won't answer. You'll duck me."

"I won't, I promise." I regretted saying it the moment it came out of my mouth. I knew that promising anything to someone like her couldn't possibly be a good thing.

She thought. "Fine," she huffed. "Tonight, then." And she hung up.

For the rest of the afternoon, there was peace. But that evening was just plain awful. She called at least fifteen times before I got home. I know this because there were fifteen messages on my answering machine from a person who was slowly slipping into madness.

Just as one of the final messages was playing, the phone rang again. It was sheer force of will that made me take hold of the handset of my phone. With as cheerful a tone as I could muster, I greeted my caller. And thus sprang a cacophony of Jessica as the answering machine and the receiver of the phone simultaneously spewed the rants and raves of this crazy woman.

"Who is that in the background?" she snapped after a moment.

"It's you," I replied.

"Ha, ha, very funny!" she barked. "Who is it really?"

"It's you!" I said again. "It's the answering machine playing one of your eleventy-billion messages!"

"Oh," she said. "Well, turn it off. We need to talk."

"Yeah, we sure do," I answered.

And we did. For the entire conversation, I felt like a frightened Dalmatian attempting to flee the leash around its neck as it was yanked and pulled hither and yon. Why a Dalmatian? Because from a distance, they're beautiful. You think "Wow, what a vision of beauty and majesty." So you go and you make the mistake of getting one, and it's neurotic and insane and quite possibly the worst thing you've ever let into your life. She chastised my inability to show any sort of compassion toward her during this lonely time in her life in the same breath that she screamed about my leading her on. I was an evil young man hell-bent on scoring an older woman. I'd been malevolent in my manipulation of her feelings. I was high and mighty and self-important due to the job I had and my ability to survive on my own two feet at such a young age.

And then, almost as if someone had flipped a switch, the tears began to flow. I was the best thing that had happened to her in the past few months. I was so intelligent and unique and special, and she would do anything to make up for her behavior. I was everything she never knew she wanted in a friend and "lover," and it was fate that had brought us together, and who was she to argue with fate? And who was I to rebel against it? Why couldn't I see? Why couldn't I understand? Then came the profanity.

This went on for the better part of three hours. For the entire duration, I sat as silently as possible, agreeing in the right places and allowing her to get it all out of her system. A few times she would wind down a bit, and I'd attempt to make my move to cauterize the wound and terminate the conversation (and the relationship we didn't have) only to be silenced by her renewed enthusiasm for hearing herself talk. Eventually, she ran out of steam, and I was given the chance to bring the thing down gently.

"Okay, I hear you," I said. "I do, I really do."

"Really?" she said through tears.

"Yes, really," I said. "And I want you to know, I understand where you're coming from. You're in a very difficult spot in life. You're feeling alone and unloved."

"Yes!" she said. "Exactly!"

"And you need to believe that there's someone out there for you."

"Right. I really do."

"And you need a friend. Someone who understands you."


"I'm not that person, Jessica."

She was silent for a moment. "Of course you are," she said. "I mean, what you just said. That's exactly it. You get it."

"No," I replied. "I get your situation. I don't get you."

There was a hollowness across the line. Finally, she asked, "What do you mean?"

"You've done a great job of explaining your situation. I just repeated what you've told me. I didn't figure any of this out; you told me what was going on."

She didn't reply.

"And I don't know what to make of it," I continued. "We don't know each other at all. We've talked a few times, and you've confided in me quite a lot. But I'll tell you, I didn't really get any of it. I mean, I heard you, but I don't know what to do with any of it. It seems like all you needed was someone to allow you to vent and get it all out. But everything I just told you? That you agreed with?"

"Yeah?" she chirped.

"You said all of that. Those were your words. You're the strong one here."

She thought for a few minutes. "I am?"

"Yeah," I said. "I'm only twenty! I don't know anything about life! I haven't been through what you've been through, in life or in love. The divorces, the abuse, the moving around, your experiences with other, you know, women . . ."

She chuckled at my naïveté, which was what I was hoping for. I had no trouble talking about lesbians—in fact, what with all the porn I'd seen up to that point, I felt like quite the expert. But playing innocent seemed to convey the point that I had no clue what life was about, as did everything I was saying. My words were all very carefully chosen and planned. And they seemed to be working.

"You have your answers," I continued. "You just needed to put a voice to them. And I'm glad I was here to help with that."

She sighed. "You're right," she said in a relieved tone. "You're so right."

And now the trump card. "I think the best thing for you, honestly, is to just take some time, right now, to be with Jessica. Be by yourself. Get to know yourself again. Disappear. Take a trip somewhere. Meditate. But get to know yourself."

"Yeah, that's a good idea," she agreed. "That's a great idea. You're so right."

"No, you were right," I echoed as I prayed that my plan had worked. "You're the strong one, remember?"

"Wow. Thank you. I am just . . . Wow, I'm SO embarrassed by my behavior, and you've been so wonderful to handle it and help me out."

"No problem," I said, sighing as quietly as I could so my own relief wouldn't be so evident. I placed a little bit of cheer in my voice as I said, "Now get started! Right now!"

"I will!" she said.

"Remember," I said seriously, "you need ‘you time.' No one else can be as strong for you as you are. Not even me. Just Jessica and Jessica alone, right?"

"Right. You're right," she said. "Thank you."

"No problem," I said. "I'm going to go now and let you get started, all right?"

"Thanks," she said. "For everything."

"Good night, and goodbye."

"Bye," she said as she hung up.

I placed the phone on the cradle. With a heave, I flung myself on my bed and lay there, watching the ceiling fan spin nearly as fast as my head was.

The next day I was on pins and needles as I awaited the inevitable call. That night became the next morning, and the days began to accumulate to the point where you could call them a week, and there was no call. No voice mails at work; no messages on the answering machine. Nothing.

It was the eighth day of the streak and a particularly rainy Saturday. My roommates had decided to head off to do a little pawnshop-hopping for the day, and I couldn't have possibly been more pleased—it allowed me to mine for gold in Ultima Online without the jeers and insults. It was about eleven in the morning, and I had just settled into my game with a tall glass of iced tea when I heard a knock at the door.

It took a moment for me to realize I couldn't ignore it because the shades were open and whoever was there had already seen that I was home, so I grudgingly lifted my unmotivated frame off the floor and plodded over to the door. I opened it to find an exceptionally thin, somewhat pretty middle-aged redhead standing on the porch, a suitcase in one hand and her heart in the other.

I knew immediately who it was. "Uh, hi," I said.

She smiled and shrugged nervously. "Surprise," she said in a whisper.

"Jessica?" I asked rhetorically.

She answered anyway. "Yep. Hi."

"What, uh . . ." I began.

"Well," she said, "you said to take a trip . . . so here I am . . ."

I wanted to explode. I wanted to scream and run away. I wanted to call the police. Instead of doing all of that, I simply heard my mother's voice echoing in my head, reminding me of my proper upbringing. "Um, come in," I said, pushing the screen door open.

She did.

I didn't quite know what to say or do. "So, how did you, like, know where I lived?"

"Your order," she replied. "From Music-Now. I looked it up."

"Oh," I said in a tone that I was sure explained that I had no idea what to think of that. "And so you just, like, came out here?" My voice squeaked a little.

"Yeah," she said. "Flew in this morning."

"Well," I said, not quite sure what to say next. I began wringing my hands and shifting my weight from one foot to another as my mind spun.

"You mind if I sit down?" she asked, taking the initiative.

"Sure, go ahead," I replied. "Do you want something to drink? Or something?"

"Yeah, sure. Water would be fine." She took a seat on the couch.

I nodded, smiled nervously, and went into the kitchen to get a knife to slit my throat. But all our knives were dirty, and I was afraid of catching some sort of food-borne illness from them, so instead of slicing my jugular, I got Jessica a glass of water.

I then took a seat across from her on the beanbag chair I'd previously occupied. She drank, then smiled at me. I smiled from one side of my mouth and began staring at the floor. "This is certainly a surprise," I offered.

"Yeah," she said, putting down the glass. "I . . . I shouldn't have come."

"Possibly," I replied. "Your plan was to just show up on my doorstep and hang out for, what, the weekend?"

She shook her head. "I leave next Friday."

"A week?" I blurted out. "I mean . . . you just thought you'd show up unannounced for a week?"

She looked up at the ceiling, then back at the floor. "Something like that," she replied.


"Crazy," she interjected. "I know. I'm thinking the same thing right now."

"Then why?"

Her lip quivered slightly and she sighed. "I don't know," she said, picking up her water glass. "I took your advice, you know? I took some time off work, and I spent some time just, like, alone and stuff. And I knew you said you didn't want me to call, and you said to take a trip somewhere . . ." She took a sip from her glass and looked at me.

"You thought, I'll go to Atlanta; see how Joe's doing? Is that it?"

She rolled her eyes. "I know, it's stupid."

"It's not stupid," I said. "It's really, really strange."

"I dunno, Joe!" she said, setting her glass back on the floor. "I know the answers are within me, like you said. I know I have them, I just . . . I felt lost, you know? And when you talked to me that night, I felt so together. Like everything made sense."

I blinked.

She continued. "I needed that feeling again. And I felt like you may not answer the phone, you know? For my own good? Because I needed to be by myself and figure myself out? But I really needed that anchor. The grounding you provide."

I didn't say a word. Mostly because I had absolutely nothing to say.

"And I felt like, if you could just see me, know me, you know? Maybe you'd . . ." She stirred on the couch, then sighed heavily. "God, I feel so stupid," she exclaimed. "This is such a bad idea. I just really wasn't thinking."

"It's allright," I said. It wasn't, but saying so wouldn't have helped anything.

"I'm so sorry," she said. "I . . . Where's your phone?"

I pointed to the end table on the far side of the couch. "Why?" I asked.

"I'm going to call the airline," she said. "See if I can switch my ticket out and fly out tonight. I feel so horrible."

She reached for the phone. I watched as she dug through her bag to find her ticket and dialed the number on it. I listened as she conversed with the operator on the other end of the line. I watched as she grabbed her credit card to pay the fee for switching the flight. I sighed heavily as she hung up the phone.

"Tomorrow morning, nine-fifteen," she said. "Look—I am really, really sorry about all of this. I'm out of my mind, and I know that. But I have to ask you a favor."

"Okay," I replied flatly.

"Would you mind if . . . I mean, I just spent the rest of my money changing the ticket, and I have no place to go."

"You need a place to stay," I said.

"Yeah," she answered.

In a race for reactions, sympathy beats disgust by a nose. Before I could reconcile it within myself, I had said, "Yeah, that's fine."

"Thanks," she said with a smile. Immediately, she lay back and closed her eyes. I can't be sure, because quite frankly, my mind was in at least two hundred different places at that moment, but I'd be willing to gamble that she was asleep before her eyelids had shut. Inside of five minutes, she was snoring.

The woman was able to fall asleep in under five minutes in a complete stranger's house. A stranger whom she'd just surprised with an unannounced visit from Phoenix. As fucking loony as she was, there was a part of me that couldn't help being envious of that sort of audacity. But there was a whole other part of me that dreaded explaining all of this to the two least sympathetic people on the planet when they arrived home in a few hours.

Mike stared at his cookie, pondering the story I'd just told him. Then again, he could have been studying the pattern his teeth had made as he worked his way around a particularly large piece of walnut. I couldn't really tell. You never can with Mike.

"So . . ." I probed.

Without looking away from his cookie, he nodded.

I sighed.

"What?" he asked.

"You know what," I said as I stood up in a huff.

"What, you want to know what I think?" he asked, following my movement across the kitchen with his head.

I sighed again. "You know I do," I said as I opened the fridge to get a drink.

"Yeah, well, you already know what I think, so I don't see the point."

"Maybe I just want to talk about it?" I said from inside the fridge.

"You just spent an hour talking about it," he responded.

I grabbed a can of soda I'd been staring at for several seconds and popped its top as I kicked the refrigerator door closed behind me. "You know, for being my best friend, you really can be a dick sometimes." I turned to walk out of the kitchen.

"What, you don't want to talk now?" Mike asked.

"Nah . . . If you're not going to help me, I might as well be playing Goldeneye with— Oh shit!" I whipped around to find that Mike had stood to follow me upstairs.

He stood as fast in his tracks as I had. "What is it?" he whispered.

I signaled for him to hush and waved him down as if we were treading the jungle in search of Vietcong. Slowly, I crept into the living room, past the couch and toward the front window to confirm what I thought I'd seen. I made out what appeared to be a sneaker, which was revealed to be connected to a foot, which was fastened to a hip belonging to a crying and distraught thirty-five-year-old woman from Arizona.

"Fuck!" I whispered loudly.

Mike shrugged.

"She's on the porch," I whispered, pointing my thumb over my shoulder, indicating where both the porch and Jessica were.

"Oh, no way," Mike said aloud. Just as he did, I looked through the window to see Jessica's sneakered foot jerk slightly, acknowledging that she'd heard him.

I shot a look Mike's way. "Great."

"Sorry," he said. "But it's not like she didn't know we were home."

"I guess you're right. So, what do I do?"

"I dunno," he said. "That's a tough call."

"You know," I said, "you've been absolutely no help whatsoever today. Thank you. Really. I mean that."

"What?" he said. "You're in a fucked-up situation. Nothing I can say will help it. What do you want me to do, tell you everything is going to be all right? You've got a woman from Arizona sleeping on our doorstep. There's not much to be said, you know?"

"Yeah, I know," I replied. "I just have no idea how to handle this."

Mike looked at me. "You going to talk to her?"

"Yeah . . . I think I have to."

"You don't have to," he said. "You could just go upstairs and pretend she doesn't exist."

"Yeah, and then Juan gets up tomorrow and finds her sleeping on our doorstep and chases her off with a broom," I answered. "Probably not the best way to end things."

"Well, that would end it for sure," Mike replied. "But you're right, you can't just leave her out there." He patted me on the shoulder and ushered me toward the door.

Following his lead, I opened it. Jessica jerked involuntarily at the sound, then regained her sense of isolation and her entitlement to it, and with that, she forced her eyes away from me.

"Hey, uh, you okay?" I said.

"What do you care?" she said through her sniffles.

I didn't really have an answer for that question, so I asked one of my own. "What are you going to do?"

"What can I do?" she cried. "I don't have any money for a hotel room, and even if I did, I have no idea where a pay phone is, so I can't call a cab. You and your roommates are total dickheads, so I can't use your phone . . ."

"Oh, come on," I barely got to say.

"No!" she screamed. She continued saying "no" as she fumbled around and stood up, discovering slightly too late that her left leg had fallen asleep—but that didn't deter her. "You are such a prick," she said, throwing her finger into my chest. "You pretend to be all supportive and helpful! You pretend you have my best interests at heart! And then you call me fucking crazy to your asshole friends!"

"Look, that was taken out of context."

"How can ‘crazy' be taken out of context?" she barked.

I immediately began constructing an argument based on how I'd said that coming here with no notice or permission was a crazy idea, not that she was crazy, but I couldn't bring myself to lie. So I danced around the subject and brought up as many other other subjects as I could to try to lighten the impact of having called her crazy, which had the same result as switching from a baseball bat to a pillow when whacking a hornet's nest.

We argued for a good ten minutes. Then she cried for three. Then we argued for another seven. Then some crying, and then some apologizing, and then some acquiescence, and then the inevitable: "So can I stay here?"

I sighed. I turned around. I opened the door.

Mike was standing there. "You know, Juan's going to freak if you invite her in," he said, reading it on my face before I could even tell him what was up.

"You're right, but what am I supposed to do? Just leave her out there?"

Mike looked at me as plainly as he'd ever looked at me at any point in my life. "Yes," he said.

"Hey, fuck you!" Jessica said from behind me.

"Hey now!" I said, whipping around to face her. "Chill out!"

"He's being a dick!" she said.

"Whatever, ignore him," I said. I turned back to Mike. I narrowed my eyes at him. "Would you?"

He studied me like a cookie. "Probably not," he finally answered.

I walked Jessica up to my bedroom. "You can sleep here," I said, showing her the bed.

"Uh, no, she can't," I heard from the end of the hall. Mike had gone to break the news to Juan, who had come to break some news of his own.

"Dude, she has no place else to go," I said.

"How about the Salvation Army?" he said.

"Come on."

"No," he snapped. "Seriously, dude? Crazy McBatshit can't stay here."

"What did you just call me?" Jessica screamed.

"Okay, stop! Both of you!" I demanded. "Juan—she's sleeping in my room tonight. You can lock your door if you want."

"But what about—" he said, clearly about tomention the downstairs television and Nintendo and other things that could be stolen.

"She can't take a TV on the plane," I replied. "Just chill, okay? Jessica?" I turned to face her. "You're going to sleep in there, and come eight tomorrow morning, you're taking a cab to the airport. All right?"

"Fine," she said, marching into the room and slamming the door behind her.

Juan looked at me in disbelief for allowing a stalker to sleep in our house. Mike looked at me in disbelief for snapping at Juan. I looked at the floor in disbelief that this was even happening.

"You know, I'm not going to come to your funeral after she stabs you in your sleep tonight," Juan said as he returned to his room and, like Jessica, slammed the door behind him.

I walked into my office and pulled out the futon, then grabbed a notebook and began scribbling furiously in it. I was angry that I had to start a new notebook, as my current journal was sitting on the shelf in my bedroom along with the rest of my old journals and notebooks and sketchbooks. But I wasn't about to go knock on the door and ask for it.

I won't lie—the entire night, I fully expected to hear a knock on my office door. I believed with all my heart that Jessica was going to interrupt my post-midnight writing session to tell me how sorry she was, or how she couldn't sleep, or how she hated my guts. I knew that at any moment, she'd lightly tap on the door and ask to sneak in so we could talk things out, and I'd tell her how there was nothing to talk about, and she'd reply that there was and slowly let the sleeve on her oversize shirt slip down her left shoulder . . .

But I'd be strong. It didn't matter how much this chick wanted me, I didn't need a crazy older woman banging on my door and then banging me. No, sir. Not even slightly. Okay, well, slightly. But not enough to go through with it . . . Definitely not enough to get caught doing it by Juan or Mike. So if we DID do it—which I pr

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Posted on Monday, February 04 2008
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Re: 1-800-STALKER (Prologue) (Score: 1)
by Shaggy_Shaggs ( on Monday, February 04 2008
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Suspenseful, how in the world did you get yourself into this and how will you get yourself out of it?

I like the stories where you talk with yourself like this. Makes me feel a bit less abnormal when I do it. :D

Re: 1-800-STALKER (Prologue) (Score: 1)
by Skavoovee ( on Tuesday, February 05 2008
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Good Joe, I like where this is going.

Re: 1-800-STALKER (Prologue) (Score: 1)
by VictoriaE77 on Tuesday, February 05 2008
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Joe, you're like a friggin magnet for the slightly insane. This is gonna get worse before it gets better, isn't it?

Re: 1-800-STALKER (Prologue) (Score: 1)
by Joe the Peacock ( on Tuesday, February 05 2008
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Yeah, this story has been in my "notes" file for a long, long time... I dunno. It's a touchy one, that's for sure... And I fought with myself over writing it. But I just got inspired with it and the words started coming out, and when that happens, I can't really stop it.

So we'll see how it goes :)

Re: 1-800-STALKER (Prologue) (Score: 1)
by opiumfireworksandlead on Tuesday, February 05 2008
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i'm very excited for this series.

Re: 1-800-STALKER (Prologue) (Score: 1)
by angryrobots on Tuesday, February 05 2008
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This is a really really good beginning.

Re: 1-800-STALKER (Prologue) (Score: 1)
by Xaviermuskie ( on Wednesday, February 06 2008
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The title of the story comes up as a phone number for me to call with a push of a button with Skype. I don't know if that warrants a comment, but I find it to be hilarious.

Re: 1-800-STALKER (Prologue) (Score: 1)
by Nemo on Wednesday, February 06 2008
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Geez, you always cut these things off right when it starts getting good, i.e. the perfect time.

Come on with the update, man!

Re: 1-800-STALKER (Prologue) (Score: 1)
by easily-amused ( on Thursday, February 28 2008
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Oh jeez, the stories where Joe talks to himself are the best.... I'm not sure if I'm scared that it resembles conversations with myself though....

Woudn't it be weird if Joe just decided to write about a normal day one time? Hmm...

Re: 1-800-STALKER (Prologue) (Score: 1)
by Alana (Reptiles& on Saturday, March 08 2008
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This is getting good.

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