Tuesday, June 19, 2012


            Coquette was curled up on the couch in clothes with no seductive ambition. The tea at her side was still piping, and she was just getting to the next spicy portion of her very sensitive pornography. Then the phone rang.
            A sheepish voice of underwhelming masculinity said, “Hello, miss. I’m calling from the electric company. You’ll be happy to know you’ve qualified for a twenty-five percent discount on your monthly electric bill for all your years of faithful patronage. I just need some information off the receipt from your most recent electric bill.”
            “Why am I getting the rebate again?”
            “Uh, for all your years of, as a-a faithful patronage.”
            “I’ve only lived here for four months.”
            “Well, we’ve taken all the bills from your last house into—”
            “I lived with my boyfriend before moving here four months ago. And with my parents before that. And the electric bills were in their names.”
            “Your twenty-five percent off can begin as, as soon as you—”
            “What’s the name of the company?”
            “The electric company. What’s its name?”
            “The Electric Company…?”
            Coquette was now sitting up in her seat. “Really? Well, I’d like to lodge a complaint with Morgan Freeman. Can you put him on the phone?”
            “Uh… he can’t come to the phone right now.”
            “I’m hanging up.”
            But she didn’t take the phone from her ear. She listened as the voice plowed forward with ignorant courage. “All we need, miss, a little information off your most recent bill’s receipt.”
            “You’re the Electric Company. Why do you need me to read you information off my bill? Don’t you have it right there in front of you?”
            “Well, no.”
            “No? You’re not sitting in front of a computer?”
            “Uh, well, er, yes.”
            “So why do you need me to give you information you already have?”
            “Excuse me?”
            “Redundancy, miss.” He was very proud of his ingenuity.
            “Define ‘redundancy’ as you’re using it.”
            “To… do… again?”
            “We can wrap this up in sixty seconds, miss, if—”
            “Just stop. I’m not giving you my information.”
            “But… I won’t be able to process your twenty-five percent—”
            “Enough!” Coquette was now on her feet. “I want you to give up.”
            “Miss, I—”
            “I want you to concede this is a scam and hang up the phone.”
            Initially the phone ringing had aggravated Coquette, and the immediate realization that the call was nothing more than a con had rankled her further. Now she was enjoying it. It thrilled her to no end having this worm dangle from her hook.
            “A twenty-five percent discount can—”
            “There is no discount.”
            This spineless homunculus had turned out to be a godsend. He had been exactly what Coquette needed: a mosquito blithely buzzing around her head and begging to be swatted. She clutched the phone, delighting in the anticipation of bringing down her heel.
            “The electric company—”
            “—was a dumb show.”
            What did he look like? she thought. What face and spindly imitation of a frame produced that stuck pig’s squeal? Coquette was grinning and nearly licked her chops with carnivorous excitement. She was practically trembling.
            “Just admit it!”
            “Look, what do you want from me? I got over a hundred calls to get through a day. I got a quota I got only two weeks left to meet. I’m way behind, and I got ten million other things I gotta do. I gotta sign five people a day up for an internet sales scheme, I gotta get the three-card monte in, I still gotta prep for a badger game tomorrow. I got four different bosses, they never talk to each other, and they’re all over my ass all the time. Now I can’t sleep because the regional manager’s coming in next week to oversee a pigeon drop I’m shilling for. I’m overworked, I’m underpaid, upper management doesn’t care, and middle management just throws it all back at us here in the stores. I get no health coverage, no 401(k), I think I’m developing an Adderall addiction! I’m doing the best I can!”
            “What are you doing tomorrow night?” Coquette asked.