CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
Benjamin Clark was thirty-two. He worked in a call centre, selling medical insurance, and lived in his childhood home with his mother. The course of his life was changed forever at the age of eighteen due to a single reckless decision made while holidaying in Spain. But so many years later, he now realizes that every new day may yield up its own sparkling jewels, whatever your circumstances, and on this Monday morning, he appeared to be in unusually high spirits as he took his fourteenth call of the morning.
“Certainly madam, may I begin by taking some details?”
“Oh, please don’t call me ‘madam’; it makes me feel so old.”
“But you sound so young; I can hear the sparkle of youth in your voice; you shouldn’t be concerned about age.”
“I’m blushing now; it’s a good job you can’t see me.”
But Benjamin could see her. Every time he heard a voice on the phone, he pictured its owner, which was perhaps his way of countering the stress of his job, since the images were usually comical. But while this was helpful to him, it constantly irritated Jennifer, who sat beside him.
“What are you giggling at now?” she would ask.
“Nothing,” he would say, barely able to talk through his snigger.
After another ten minutes of provocation she might add: “Tell me! Tell me! you’re driving me mad!”
“It’s nothing,” he would say; “just a funny thought.”
With offensive callers, Benjamin usually pictured them as animals. With the caller before the present one, he pictured him as a cat whose coat was completely shaved off, and wore the drooping belly of a fat, middle-aged heavy drinker and also a tattoo upon each shoulder—the left one a mouse and the right one a kipper. And after a further abrasive comment from the caller, in Benjamin’s mind the cat became toothless and walked with a severe limp. As the caller spoke, Benjamin watched the pitiful cat prancing before the local feline beauties, proudly displaying its tattoos while attempting to seduce them with its toothless smile. And each time the caller’s speech paused, Benjamin saw the cat stumble to the ground, only to pick itself up again and resume its proud prance as the caller continued.
“Yes, sir,” said Benjamin, smirking.
After he finished the call, Jennifer said, “I don’t know how you do it,” shaking her head in disbelief.
But then came the present caller, Melanie Phenix, who was different. From the moment he heard her voice, its tone seemed to touch some part of him he was previously unaware of. She simply said her name and he felt a tremor at his core, as of a mild earthquake in a land that was usually unshakable. And from that moment, she had his attention.
“I’m calling about my insurance,” she told him, and somehow these words conjured up a soft face with a peach-like glow and golden wavy hair hanging about her as the sweet blossoms of delicate flowers might hang at the height of a sunny Spring day (though he had never in his life witnessed such a thing).
“Yes, that’s right, ‘Phenix’,” she told him.
Benjamin could feel the warmth of that Spring sun within him. “And what is your occupation?” he asked.
Inside the house, Sally Softly was lying on the living‑room floor, having stopped gasping alarmingly. As her legs dropped to the floor, she noticed something did not seem right with her tracksuit (she was mistakenly wearing the top and bottom parts from two different suits, and the bottom part was on inside out). She tugged at the suit for a moment, trying to correct it, but only managed to twist one of the sleeves back to front. She shrugged, left it as it was and thought about Peter’s return. She imagined him entering the room, sitting on the sofa and ignoring her to try to trick her into thinking—only thinking, mind—she was ugly.
A few minutes later, she heard the front door, then the living‑room door. She turned her head away, determined not to speak first, and listened to him crossing over to the sofa and slumping into it. She could hear only his breathing, which sounded troubled, as though he had been chasing after something he could not catch. And he then sat there, simply breathing, as though trying to enrage her, which he achieved (Listen to him—he’s trying to get me to talk first—that’s what he’s doing. And now listen to him—he’s now breathing in a way that emphasizes the fact that he’s just breathing. And he’s doing this to try to annoy me. Well, he’s not getting away with sitting there just breathing like this; no, I can just breathe for as long as he can). She started breathing as loudly as she could, echoing each of his breaths but ensuring each echo was louder than the original.
Peter watched her lying on the floor, looking down at that body he used to love so much, that he still did love, only now she was possessed by one of those monsters—which seemed to have slowly grown inside her for years, so that the person he once knew was now smothered by it.

 

Fiction and nonfiction by Fletcher Kovich and also classic writers.

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