Lending A Friendly Ear

When that phone call came in I had already had enough. The last thing I wanted to hear was another simpering crybaby tell me his sob story and then beg me for a reason not to kill himself. "Hello," I grated into the telephone, purposely making my voice sound as insensitive as possible.

"Sir…." a cowardly male adolescent voice whimpered.

"Suicide Prevention Hotline," I almost shouted. "Can I help you?!"

"Hello, my name is Josh," the wuss said. "I can't bear the burden of living anymore. Yesterday I got into a terrible car accident that killed my girlfriend!"

Fuckin' loser. "Is that so," I began. "And now what exactly was the cause of this 'terrible accident'?"

"I had been drinking and smoking a little pot. I fell asleep at the wheel and had a head on collision with a truck!" Snivels and restrained sobs followed his confession.

Josh went on to tell me how he had wrecked his brand new BMW convertible and how mean his mom was being to him that she would not buy him a new one and how his twenty-one year old beautiful, model material sweetie had died because of his carelessness.

"Are you facing any charges?" I asked.

"I don't know!" Josh sobbed. "Could I be up against vehicular homicide?"

"Don't worry about that," I hissed. "Your rich parents will take care of that for you. Is that all you were really worried about?"

"I miss my girl!" Josh blubbered. "I want my car back! Why did this have to happen?!"

I erupted, "It happened because you are a stupid, spoiled asshole who doesn't deserve to live!"

A gasp of shock and then, "What?! You can't talk to me like that! I called here for help!"

"And I am giving you help, you piss ant," I blasted, "this is the best advice I can give you: Go kill yourself immediately! Jump off a bridge, take a handful of cyanide, go suck on an exhaust pipe, go electrocute yourself in a bathtub…just get it over with fast. It's obvious nobody wants you around anymore, ya fuckin' sissy!"

"You're a cold hearted bastard…." he cried.

"If I was cold I would try to talk you into continuing your miserable existence and being a burden to all those around you. Look you little, faggot, suicide is the most productive thing you could ever do. This is game over for you, pal." With that, I hung up on his punk ass.

Ah, that felt good! The best I had felt in weeks. Three weeks ago I had been laid off from my good bartending job because the manager thought a young, smoking hot, big tittied girl could scrounge up more business than me. Of course he was right, but how the hell am I supposed to pay my bills now? That's why I took this shitty job as a Suicide Prevention Counselor. When I lost my job my ole lady of over three years left me for an accountant. Come to find out she had been cheating on me with him for months now anyway. On top of all that I had been falling behind on most of my bills thanks to the lousy pay of this bullshit phone job. As you can imagine I was sick and tired of having to listen to these pussies who called in with their petty problems.

Of course, in no time at all I was called into the supervisor's little cubby hole. All calls were recorded and monitored. Everything I said had been heard.

"Do you have anything to say before I let you go?" the supervisor asked - a cranky, Bulimic looking old dike in her late fifties.

"Yeah, when will the direct deposit of my last check hit my bank account?" I growled.

"I don't know what's gotten into you, Chuck," she sighed, "but you better get your mind right. You could be in big trouble if that kid kills himself. You could be charged or sued. Now go." She moved her hand in a dismissive motion.

I cranked up Korn's Life Is Peachy CD on my car stereo as I drove home.

A few days later I was up at about eight in the morning in my little apartment about to go job hunting. Suddenly an unexpected knocking came upon my door.

A middle aged burly police officer presented himself in my doorway. "Are you Charles Nicoletti?" he inquired.

My head slumped. "Yes," I responded. Go on and arrest me. Things couldn't get any worse anyway. Let the kid's family sue me, I pondered. I didn't have jack shit anyway. Even my piece o' shit ride was running on its last cylinders.

"Did you talk to a young man on the Suicide Hotline and urge him to go kill himself ?" the officer interrogated.

"Yes, sir, that was me," I answered. Boy oh boy oh boy oh boy. I really did it good this time. My life was officially ruined. Great job, Chucky.

The officer nodded grimly and then cleared his throat. "Well, Mr. Nicoletti, I'm that young man's stepfather. Are you aware that the young fellow committed suicide that night after your conversation?"

Holy shit. Just sit my ass down in the electric chair. "No, I wasn't," I mumbled.

"Yep. He overdosed on heroin after you two talked. He even left a note saying how you had cursed him out lower than a dog."

I didn't say a word but just lowered my head, waiting to be read my Miranda rights.

Instead of telling me to put my hands behind my back he shot me a strange smile and then extended his hand as if to offer me a handshake. "I came to thank you for a job well done," he declared pleasantly.

"What?!" I whispered in awe and held out my hand.

He grabbed my hand in a hearty handshake and grinned widely. "I can't thank you enough! That degenerate little shit has been a pain in the ass for years. I couldn't stand that brat, but still, he was my wife's son. You've probably saved my marriage!"

It took several seconds for all of this to register in my brain. I just stood there for a while with a dumb smile, looking retarded, not knowing what to say or do.

"What about you, my man?" he asked with a husky laugh. "You been alright? I heard you lost your job as a result of all this."

"Yeah, I did," I grunted. "I can't say I'm in the best financial shape of my life."

"Sorry to hear that, buddy. Look, I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll get some cash to you to help you out for the meantime. How does that sound?"

"Great, sir," I said. "So you'll loan me a few bucks?"

"Oh, no, no, not loan," he insisted, "think of it as a payment for a wonderful job!" He smirked and paused.

Confused, I could tell he had something else to say. "Okay, I appreciate it, sir. Is there anything else?"

The cop pulled out a roll of big bills from his pocket and handed it to me. "Here, take this. You have a very marketable talent, man. Would you be interested in making your phone skills available for hire in the future?"

"Just what do you mean, sir?"

"Relax, just take the money and sit tight for a while. Think it over. If you have any trouble finding a new job just give me a call," the cop handed me a red and black business card: Sergeant Stanton.

"Okey Dokey," I uttered, still amazed, as we shook hands again. "Call me Chuck."

Would you believe this fuckin' demented cop wanted me to talk some more losers into doing themselves in?! I mean, the son-of-a-bitch even had a list of yo-yos he wanted taken off the map. Stanton had already given me $500 for that first douche bag, and he promised me even more for the next few "hits". What was I supposed to do? I was broke, still jobless, and being offered good money for something I would probably have enjoyed doing for free.

After I agreed he suggested I buy a few items and planned how I should go about doing the deeds. First, he recommended I use a calling card since those calls would go through a satellite, making them almost impossible to trace. On top of that he encouraged me to have a friend go buy me (with cash) a pre-paid cell phone from a retail store. This would be the phone I would use for all the "hits", making the calls yet harder to trace. Lastly, he said I should call them pretending to be a telemarketer, using some particular sales pitch he would provide for me to lure the victim into an engaging conversation. Stanton assured me that these wretches were so pathetic and depressed they would be glad to talk to anyone who would listen to them.

Okay, the first mark was going to be some pedophile who Stanton had busted - some real Chester the Molester/Herbert the Pervert type fuck. Anyway, Stanton had roughed this scumbag up pretty bad during the arrest. Thanks to his Dirty Harry tactics he was in a bit of a pickle and would rest easier if this perv just joined Michael Jackson in that Neverland Ranch in the sky (or down below, I should say). The cool thing was that this little twat was scared shitless of going to jail as he awaited trial…and ba-da-bing, that would be the angle I would use.

As prepped I called the lowlife pretending to be a telemarketer selling pre-paid legal services. After giving him a fake name, a phony company, and a brief intro I told the fool we were offering six months of free legal consol for potential customers who would subscribe to a two year contract.

Slam dunk. That got his interest.

"That's right, sir," I emphasized, "Any legal fees would be waived during the first six months if you agree to commit to a two year contract."

"Really?" he asked in a sheepish voice. "Would that be effective immediately?"

"Indeed it would. Absolutely. Is there any particular problem you are presently facing?"

He went on to tell me that he was a junior high P.E. coach and was being falsely accused of something unspeakable in the boys locker room.

Disgusted, this was my cue to shift gears. No more Mr. Nice Guy.

"Sorry, pal," I boomed, "we could never help you with that sort of situation. Uh…do you understand what you're up against?"

"I beg your pardon," he squeaked like a mouse.

"Dude, do you realize what they're going to do to you? If you're convicted they're probably going to castrate you! Even if they don't, when you're in prison the other guys will slice your balls off and shove them in your mouth when you're in the shower! There'll be no escape for you!"

A gasp, a whimper, and then silence.

"What you're looking at is several million dollars in legal expenses," I exaggerated. "I'm afraid there is little we can do for you."

"But the cop brutalized me!" he pleaded.

"Even so," I interrupted, "he'll be a hero in the media even if you are innocent. Regardless, you will still be beaten and sodomized in prison every single day!"

I could almost hear him shaking on the other end of the phone line.

"If I were you," I started, "you might want to settle all your business…before, well, you know, you have to go away. How's your family on all this?"

After a long pause he mumbled, "…they don't speak to me."

I groaned, feigning sincerity. "Well, think of your family. Don't embarrass them. There is still an honorable way out of this. You know…a way to fix everything and still be forgiven. Know what I'm saying?"

Before he could respond I hung up.

Sure enough, the next day I got a call from Stanton laughing about how that little turd had hung himself at home the night before. He could barely tell me the story as he kept laughing so much. He promised me another $1,000 and another "laughing stock" as he called it.

So it was. Our next "laughing stock" would be Stanton's ex-wife. A fifty-ish woman whom had recently been dumped by her boyfriend, a fellow at least a decade her junior. Certainly not a milf, but a dried up cougar. Most importantly, Stanton wanted this old hag clipped because she caused him so much trouble in custody battles.

Now I couldn't just start yelling at this old bitch over the phone and insulting her or she would hang up on me immediately. I would have to ease into it. As I saw it, an older chick shouldn't let herself blow up like a goddamn whale so her husband might still be able to catch a woody for her, but of course, I couldn't tell her that. No, I would have to sweet talk her. Stanton filled me in that she had some kind of retarded-ass Rosicrucian faith and believed in reincarnations. Ah, terrific, that would be how I'd approach her.

In the interim between jobs I quit drinking beer totally, mostly due to having to conserve my dwindling money. I joined a local Planet Fitness and started taking out my frustrations on the treadmills and Smith machines. I noticed that a brunette was usually there working out at the same time I did. Always by herself. She looked kinda like Kate Beckinsale from the Underworld movies. Several times I was tempted to strike up a conversation with her, but I just didn't know how to break the ice. In any case, I really enjoyed the exercise as it gave me a sense of well being and opened up my mind to new possibilities.

When I made the call I introduced myself as a representative of her Rosicrucian Order, soliciting donations. She immediately identified herself as a member and latched in to me as a potential friendly ear. "You sound as if you may be in distress, my dear, if you don't mind me saying so."

She referred to me as "Brother" and then asked if I had a minute or two to spare.

"Absolutely," I assured. "I always have time to help family. What's your name?"

"Anasthasia," she sighed.

"Well, Anasthasia, my name is Travis," I lied. "You sound upset. Care to talk about it?"

She motor-mouthed her whole life story to me - about how she lost her husband, recently her boyfriend, and how she feared losing her son through custody disputes. She boo-hoo-ed about there being nothing left to live for. On top of all that she felt so ashamed for her weakness.

"It's not weakness," I coaxed. "Perhaps this is a clarion call from the universe. There is no shame. Who says you can't be a princess or a goddess in your next emanation of being?"

"So there is hope?"

"I'm saying you shouldn't identify so heavily with this life. There are endless possibilities."

"You are very kind," she said.

Clearing my throat, I paused. "Well, what I really meant is that there is no shame in wanting to start over. To begin again with a new life full of potential."

"Thank you so much for talking to me, sir." Anasthasia beamed. "I really appreciate it!"

"If you feel this life is a dead end, just press reset," I rattled on but Anasthasia had already hung up.

Several days passed without a word from Stanton. After a whole week I finally decided to call him myself.

"You struck out," Stanton sneered. "Whatever you told her must have lifted her spirits. And it looks like she might get to keep custody of her son!"

"Impossible!" I protested. "I led her straight to the Grim Reaper."

"Shit happens," Stanton grunted. "Again, I thank you for those first two fuckheads. But I think it's safe to say our little arrangement is now expired."

To forget my troubles I escaped to Planet Fitness. I headed for the back to claim my own Smith machine. Today would be a leg day, beginning with some squats. The back wall was for the most part one whole mirror so that people could either admire themselves or make sure they were using proper form while performing exercises. The reflection of my favorite brunette suddenly popped up, heading in my direction; she was drinking water and wiping sweat from her brow.

"How's it going?" I blurted out spontaneously.

To my delight, she took out an earbud and smiled. "Hello."

"You seem to work out pretty hard. I've noticed you here before," I said, surprised at how easily the comment rolled off my tongue.

"You too," she grinned. "I've seen you on the treadmill. You look like a natural runner."

Up close I could now see that she was wearing Air Force PT shorts. And then she hit me up with it - the question that suddenly made so much sense to me: "Have you ever thought about joining the military? There's always a demand for drill instructors."