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Jim Meirose’s short work has appeared in numerous venues, and his published novels include No and Maybe – Maybe and No (Pski’s Porch), Le Overgivers au Club de la Résurrection (Mannequin Haus), Understanding Franklin Thompson (JEF pubs), and Sunday Dinner with Father Dwyer (Optional books).
From WTP Vol. IX #4
Surrounded by the hustling bustle of the Iowa 80 truck stop dining room in Walcott, Iowa, field Detective Gerdulon sat across the table from his licked-clean breakfast plate. His current assignment involved tracking down a teenaged runaway whose whereabouts had been narrowed down to this particular section of Iowa. He was in the middle of an hour or so of cold calling to dig out any possible leads. A green trimmed printout rolled out before him listed hospitals; check; walk in clinics; check; mortuaries; check; county jails; check—and, under each category heading, were roughly between seventeen and seventy-nine ninety-five individual place names and numbers to be called, one at a time, tediously. Palming bravely his freshly charged postmodernistic handy-phone, he called down the line, initiating, conducting, and terminating politely the next probably fruitless query-call ‘bout his lost boy Fedddy-eeko ‘fter t’other. As: fingering ‘ext-line, locating the number, and punch up down overing undering check no wrong number back out this struggle for the length of the digitized Bell System devised North American Numbering Plan-style ten-digit telephone number, push call, the silent, the ring, the once, the twice, the on average ‘tween two, and thirteen rings, which, it doesn’t need to be mentioned, but will be anyway, so what these rings aren’t the backside of the frontface of the rings intruding in, at, or under whatever deskset, wallphone, pocketed portable, or dinnering spatter-ringer, interrupting a possibly myriad number of possible other activities the called are engaged in, which, now that they have been so rudely interrupted by the Gerdulon, who they absolutely don’t know of, care about, or will even remember at all after the call, might in the seconds ‘tween ringing and answering, feel annoyance at having been interrupted at some pleasure—in which case, its fifty-fifty that they’ll pick up, or ignore—or, might feel happiness at having been interrupted in the middle of some unpleasantness, certain types of which cannot be interrupted, and other types of which can, but, in these cases, it may still be the luck of Gerdulon’s draw that they’ll be answered or ignored, which decision by the called may be influenced by even more factors, such as, would the pausing of the unpleasant situation which must be returned to afterward be made even more unpleasant due to some effect of the slight pause on the overall chemistry of the unpleasantness, for example—if the caller is fighting for their life against one or more knife-wielding assailants, will their lack of focus on defense during the call provide a window for a flurry of fatal stabs and slashes, and, if this is the case, will the stabbing and slashing have occurred fast enough for Mr. Gerdulon to hear the actual fatal cut-down of the answerer, and, if this is in fact so, will Mr. Gerdulon, at the other end, hear the clatter and grunt and slishy-slashy muttersounds, or any type of gasps oofs yells ughs or ahhhs on the part of the falling victim, or any triumphantly savage yells of satisfaction on the part of the killer or killers, and then, depending on if the killer or killers hang up the phone neatly, yank the call from the wall sharply, or slice the cord deftly with the murder weapon, will any or all of this add up to the fact of the matter in the face of the Gerdulon, that he should hang up, and pick up, and punch in 9-1-1, as every good decent citizen must, or not, as it may be dismissed it as an unusually complicated noisily raucous electronically sizzling bad connection. And, if it clearly demanded an immediate 9-1-1 call, can Mr. Gerdulon risk, given the sensitive nature of his job assignment, et cetera, getting involved with an incident which would attract the attention of local law enforcement to him; they will grill him hotly on who he is, what his relationship to the victim, whom he called, may be, and so forth and so on and possible involving lawyers, higher level police detectives, politicians and newspaper reporters and, eh eh eh, shit, no, and then, last, but certainly not least, what does the Boole Detective Agency Employee Indoctrination and Orientation Manual, which, though this would not be a factor for most any other Boole employee, the masters back home in their big Jersey office already have him tagged for a sitdown regarding the scads of previous violations he has committed since beginning this, his very first field assignment, because he failed to obey the inviolable rule that once hired every Boole employee must strive twenty-four-seven to defeat the reams-thick orientation document, which is so very dense that not a single line, word, or letter is the meaningless boilerplate that Mr. Gerdulon, in his naivete, thought the orientation document was, and so, did skip it, leading to this dilemma—which is another example that for lack of a thumbtack or two entire urgent immediate notices may go unhung such as such as such as how, how was he s’posed to know to read the fucker—I mean, Christ, the almighty how was I s’posed to know to read the fucker, I mean, does this imply that a job requirement to be a Boole Agency Private Detective is the ability to read minds, or see behind the scenes of all and everything, or have a sense of smell exceeding that of a dog, or, or, you get the point, eh, sistah I ‘hink—and then, if that’s so—I was not, no I was never, tested for mind reading, sir, with all due respect, the punishment I am facing is unjust and inappropriate—it is you, kind sirs, who’re violating policy—I cannot be held accountable to standards I was not found to be capable of before hiring I cannot I cannot be held accountable no no no I have not heard of this—so listen detective sir I don’t recall your name but it doesn’t really matter—there’s no record here of this boy—this Fedlericolio Frayy-mann or whoever her names are! The printouts here are thick! The patients passing through these doors daily are many! And the time I have to handle such inquiries as yours is nonexistent! So, the answer is no! I cannot help you!
Mr. Gerdulon checked off beside the name of whichever jail, mortuary, hospital, or walk-in clinic he’d just called, and ran his hand under the phone number of the next on the list. As he punched in the next number, he idly noticed his breakfast plate and dirty utensils had been taken away, and a fresh cup of coffee had been provided. How considerate. They really know how to run this truck stop. They really do. He made mental note to leave a large tip—but—the other side answered and here he went he went again again. Here he and again and went again. Again. And here he here he went and here he went again and again.
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