September 18, 2014 Comments Off on Overhaul By Russ Bickerstaff
I was walking out of the office when an angry stranger approached me.
“I’ve had it,” she said. “YOU work it out!”
With that she handed me a pile of papers. Old computer printouts. Napkins. Photographs. Official-looking documents on legal-size paper. Receipts. Hundreds of pages of stuff. I was running a little late so I stuffed it all into my car and drove off.
Later I looked at the pile of papers. The photos were of me. I assumed that they had been drawn out of a surveillance camera, but it was difficult to tell. The documents quantified trivia from my life. There was one that went into detail on my use of a public restroom at a particular time on a particular day a few months ago. Somehow they got a reading on how much water I used when I washed my hands, how many paper towels I used after I washed my hands. Another detailed how much money I made on a given day half a decade ago, and how much I spent on groceries one week later. It wasn’t organized. It wasn’t collated in any fashion. There were whole documents that went into detail as to how much black I wore over the course of a given week a couple of years back.
They went on like that. Transcripts of vague conversations with people I barely knew from work. Deep conversations I’ve had with my ex-girlfriend. EVERYTHING was transcribed from select phone calls from the past ten years.
It had gotten to be midnight. I’d gone through all of it. I held on to the paperwork and put it in my safe. Somehow it ended up being kind of a comfort to me. I’m not sure why.
A few months later I saw the woman who gave me all those papers at an intersection. She tried to deny that she had any idea what I was talking about.
A couple of weeks after that, I received a bill in the mail for a “Reality Overhaul.” The itemizations on that bill corresponded directly with some of the events detailed in the paperwork the stranger had handed me. The office address was clearly stated on the bill. It was not far from my own. I decided to swing by and check it out the next day.
I got there only to find that the office was closed for lunch. I tried returning to the office later, but the space had completely vanished. The building’s management now has no record of a business with that name ever having been there.
I paid the bill. Even put a little “Thanks,” in the memo line at the bottom of the check I sent them. It never got sent back to me. The $53.96 that I’d been charged for the Reality Overhaul was deducted from my account as expected. I’ve never questioned it since.
© 2014 Russ Bickerstaff
Russ Bickerstaff is a professional theatre critic and aspiring author living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.