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.
He smoothed his hair into place, replaced his hat, then pricked up his ears—in the manner of an alert hunting dog—at the muffled talk coming from the front door. He realized he had a moment to himself, so he quickly sat on the front edge of the sofa—beside the place where Sally’s hips had been—and caressed the cushion for as long as he dared. He sighed, looked under the cushion, then replaced it and tapped it several times while reflecting that there did not seem to be anything criminal‑looking there (—No, no, it all seems perfectly legal to me). He nodded his approval at the law‑abiding cushion, then sat back down in the easy chair he occupied before mounting Sally.
Sally returned with a woman and two men (one of whom—Roland noticed—was limping). She introduced them as The Perception Residents’ Committee. Sally sat in the other easy chair and the committee sat along the sofa, further introducing themselves as Primrose Jones, Thomas Smithe, and Francis Meeke.
The woman clutched a thick wad of paper in (what could only be described as) a vindictive fashion. She eyed Roland while waving this wad of paper to and fro on her lap as if it were a hatchet she were contemplating using on him. Her knuckles whitened and her weapon seemed to start fidgeting as if it had a mind of its own and were desperately trying to get at Roland. She then lost control of it and started waving it at Roland, saying, “What do you think you’re doing—sitting around here when there’s a murderer still loose out there; or haven’t you noticed? No, I don’t suppose you would have. All you can do is sit around here contemplating ‘novel’ uses for your truncheon. Oh yes, I know all about that. Just what do you think you’re doing?—what? come on, what?”
Roland opened his mouth to speak but Primrose pressed on, “Five weeks, you’ve had; five weeks, and all you’ve got is a woman—a middle‑aged, blonde woman. A woman; you’re looking for a woman. Simpletons, that’s what you are. What have you been doing all this time? Come on, what? what?”
Roland opened his mouth to answer but she cut him off again, “Incompetence; that’s what it is. We’ve got a petition—a petition—” waving her weapon at him even more vigorously, “Everybody thinks the same—incompetent; you’re all incompetent.”
Roland rose in his seat, puffed up his plumage and shouted back at her, “Oh, of course—you can do better—with no training at all. All the rigorous training we’ve had (fifty‑seven novels; fifty‑seven!), and we can’t do a thing—oh no. But here’s you—Miss Volcano‑gob—and you can do it all.”

Nonfiction

Acupuncture Explained

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