When the Phone Rings

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When the Phone Rings

Postby ClaecElric4God » Tue Apr 08, 2014 11:08 pm

Wrote this for NaNo. This is the prologue. There will be more later. It's 2:00 A.M. and I'm trapped in chat with crazy people. If anyone reads this, send a rescue squad!
Anyways, enjoy, critique, and I promise this is not the insanity that is the Sour Cream Rebellion. This is a real thing.

Morning sunlight streamed through the window, illuminating the otherwise drab bedroom. Musical birdsong had reached its peak, and a light breeze flowed through the window.
Movement from the bed in the corner indicated life, and a tousled head of hair greeted the morning grumpily. After a moment of stillness, the figure sat up, revealing a middle-aged man in flannel pajamas. Although truthfully in his 40s, his wrinkled brow and stiff movements gave the impression of a much older man. He sat still a moment, his head resting in his palms.
Dressed and in his right mind, the man descended the narrow staircase to the first floor of his small, stuffy house. On rounding the corner into the kitchen, he was greeted by his two children, who were already sitting at the table, staring into their cereal bowls. A boy of 16, and a girl only a bit younger. When he heard his father's footsteps, the boy looked up with hopeful eyes.
“Did you hear from Mom?” He asked desperately. “Did they call?” His brow was furrowed, and it looked like this lad would take after his father.
The man shook his head, then reached into his pocket. Pulling out a cellphone, he stared at the screen blankly for a moment, then shook his head again, sighing deeply. Dejected, the boy returned to his cereal. As the father sat down with a plate of toast, silence fell over the room once again, deafening with the thoughts of each person. It lasted a long while, no one daring or caring to make any conversation. Only, occasionally, the man would look up from his paper at his cellphone, or across to the home phone that rested on the end table in the living room.
A low rumbling sound, followed by a hushed whining sound and finally a puff of air heralded the arrival of the school bus. The teenagers said a quick goodbye, hurrying out the door. The man simply nodded and grunted, not looking away from his paper.
After a long time and three cups of coffee, the heavy silence was finally broken by the long awaited sound of the phone ringing. Jumping out of his chair, the man nearly ripped his paper in half in his frenzy, forgetting to release his grip on it as he lunged toward the phone. He dropped it once, grappling hopelessly with shaking hands, before he finally put it to his ear.
“Yes? Hello?” He said urgently. There was a pause, that could have been a second or a century. But in that pause, the entire world stopped spinning, and the air turned deathly cold, waiting for the voice on the other end.
“...Having trouble paying off all those credit cards? Debt piling up, mortgage giving you grief? Here at Plebs United, it's our goal to provide you with the financial support you need to overcome those hurdles. We offer financial counseling, budget planning, and so much more, to get you back on your feet. And the first month's free...”
The man's heart sank as he listened. Then anger boiled up in his chest. All that stress and anxiety and endless waiting, and this phone call was the last straw.
“Listen here!” He barked. “I don't want your services, I don't want your help, just leave me alone!” Before he even finished the last sentence, he slammed the phone back on the charger. After a moment, his composure returned, accompanied by the same desperate anticipation; waiting for that fateful phone call.
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby ClaecElric4God » Wed Apr 09, 2014 6:35 pm

Chapter 1
Joseph stared at the phone, bewildered. What had he done wrong? He'd said everything exactly as it was written on his sheet, and put all of his training into practice. His heart had been in those lines, and he'd executed them flawlessly. So...what had he done wrong? The voice on the other end had so viciously berated him, then hung up before he could get a counter-response in. Joseph looked down at his long list, and after a bit of hesitation, wrote an X next to the name “John Smith”. That was the third miss in a row. The boss wouldn't be pleased...
And no sooner did Joseph think that, then a familiar set of footsteps made their way down the hall. Joseph sunk lower into his chair, trying desperately to blend in with his surroundings. But his small cubicle, with it's desk and chair set, and a small framed picture on the desktop, offered little shelter. And the frosted glass only covered the front and sides of the space. Behind him was the hallway, with nothing between him and it but an open doorway.
Keep it together, don't do anything to draw attention to yourself, maybe he'll keep going, Joseph thought to himself, wishing he could disappear. But as fate would have it, the footsteps stopped...right...outside...his cubicle...
“Joseph...Peters,” a raspy, unpleasant voice rumbled. An unforgettable sound, it could be described as nothing other than gravel scraping against the side of a shiny new Ford, paired with the undesirable sound of cloth ripping. Every once in awhile, something like a sputtering car motor was thrown into the mix, usually when he used deeper tones. Joseph had never heard a voice quite like it, and hoped he never would again.
Terry Marco was a very unique man. Although he was of average build horizontally, he was extremely tall, and took full advantage of his height. He towered above all of his employees, and was often seen standing over one as he barked orders and reprimands at them. After his stature, the next thing to notice about him was his lopsided face, locked in a perpetual snarl that suited his nature. Thick gray hair that was so full it looked like it would explode out of his head any second, was painstakingly combed and greased, only to part in all directions shortly thereafter. He was never seen without a sharp business suit, sporting a small briefcase of unknown origins or purpose. He never opened it, never looked at it, but dutifully carried it under his arm wherever he went. No one knew how old Mr. Marco was. He was one of those people who just was. He'd always been there, and it was understood that he always would be. There was never a question of restaffing, or a more qualified individual taking his place. Because the fact of the matter was, there wasn't anyone who was more suited to the job than Terry Marco.
In person, you would never guess that he was the kind of person who was good with customers. He was gruff, heartless, and calloused. When he looked at you, it was like a nail gun hitting you right between the eyes, pinning you to an invisible wall so you couldn't escape that intense glare. And just when you thought he couldn't do any more to you, he'd start to speak. The only words that horrendous voice ever formed were ones of degradation, scorn, hatred, and indignation. To Mr. Marco, an employee was nothing more than a dishrag. When it was worn thin, or caked with grease that wouldn't wash out, it was of no more use to him. If it didn't perform to expectation, it was thrown aside. It wasn't a matter of being good enough for Terry Marco, since that was nigh unto impossible. It was simply a question of whether you were bad enough for him to get rid of.
It was this final thought that came to mind for Joseph at the moment. Without turning around, he tried to discreetly turn his notepad over, shuffling some papers around on the desk as if he were sifting through them. Instantly, a huge, rough hand smashed down on the table, smashing Joseph's fingers against the edge of the desk. He grimaced, half in pain and half in mild terror.
“What's this?” Mr. Marco inquired, his gravel voice thick with sarcasm. He brushed Joseph's hand aside, picking up the pad. “Oh, it's your customer list, is it? What a coincidence, this is what I came to see.”
The broom-haired man pulled the pad up close to his face, squinting oddly. He cocked his head, looking it over a few times. Then he sighed deeply, a sound like grit caught in a vacuum cleaner. He placed a vice grip of a hand on Joseph's shoulder. The younger man could feel the blood being stemmed from efficiently flowing into his arm. Slowly, painstakingly, Mr. Marco swiveled Joseph's chair around, after which he spent a long moment assessing this useless excuse for a man.
Joseph Peters was a fairly average young man. Nothing about him stood out. Only 20 years old, Joseph's young face was a stark contrast to Mr. Marco's gnarled one. His plain, unremarkable features were framed by short, brown hair that was parted on the side. Anything but unruly, it always lay flat and perfectly combed, with a bit of shine to it. Today, his wardrobe consisted of a white dress shirt over which lay a red and gray tie, and black polyester pants with freshly polished dress shoes of the same color. Average height, average build, average voice, average personality; this young man could accurately be called an Average Joe. The only thing outstanding about him was how socially inept he was. Even to people he knew, Joseph had a hard time getting more than a few, stuttering words out.
“Peters,” Marco began, staring at Joseph. “Tell me why there are eight failed phone calls on this list. Explain it to me.”
“Well, sir-” Joseph started, then abruptly cut himself off when he saw the look of disgust.
“Peters,” Marco said again, exactly the same as the first time. He plopped his briefcase down on the desk, crossing his arms as he leaned back against the frosted glass window. “How long did you attend Dialing Academy?”
“Ten years, sir,” Joseph replied in a subdued tone, unable to break his boss' gaze as much as he wanted to.
“And what is a well-known fact about the Academy?”
“It's the most renowned, highest quality telemarketing school in the country, sir.”
“And remind me, what education did you go for?”
“The highest, sir. Every top-notch class they had to offer, sir.”
“And finally, how many customers have you failed to persuade into business sales this month alone?”
“.....503, sir.”
Mr. Marco sighed again, running his fingers through his hair.
“I considered your application only because it was recommended by the prestigious Andrew Peters himself. And in the end, I allowed you this position because of your education and degrees.”
“So tell me,” here Marco leaned down and spread a hand across the desk, disregarding Joseph's nicely organized stack of papers. His face was just inches from Joseph's, and the scent of his breath was like a dusty old house. “Why is the son of Andrew Peters such a miserable, worthless flop? Nothing in my entire career has ever prepared me to be in charge of something so hopeless as you. Where did all of that schooling go? Because it surely didn't make it into your head!” Mr. Marco rapped the top of Joseph's head with his knuckles, as if to help make his point.
Joseph finally managed to lower his head, staring at the suddenly very interesting threads in his pants.
“I...don't know...sir,” he answered the rhetorical question.
“Peters, I really want to keep you on,” Marco lied, returning to his straight-backed, arms crossed posture. “But if this keeps up...” Then his voice hardened again, a welcome change from what must have been an attempt at a sympathetic tone.
“If I don't see a change in your sales in the next month, it wouldn't matter if you were my own son, I will remove you from this program. You've been in training for 6 months now, and the lack of improvement is disheartening. Show me some of that Peters potential.”
And with that, Mr. Marco picked up his briefcase, scattering papers as he turned to go. He paused as if to add something, then just sighed and headed out the door. As he went down the hall, he could be heard yelling at employees for a sundry of different vices, until his grinding voice finally faded.
Joseph sighed, pushing his chair back so he could rest his head in his lap, clutching the sides of his head.
As shaken as he was, he'd seen it coming. It was more straightforward than usual, but this wasn't the first time his boss had deemed it necessary to mercilessly point out all of Joseph's shortcomings. In fact, it was a bit of a ritual. Mondays and Fridays were the days he usually came. And today being a Monday, it had been perfectly normal.
“Father...” Joseph raised his head and looked at the picture that sat on the corner of his desk. The only personal effect he kept in the office, it was what kept him going. His father's dream. “Why can't I be more like you? What am I doing wrong?” As he did after every conversation with Mr. Marco, Joseph reached over and took the picture frame in his hand, letting the memories come flooding back.

“Dad! Dad!” 8-year-old Joseph ran up to his father, holding the telephone in his hand. “We just got a phone call! It was a telemarketer! It was so cool, he was just like you.” The boy's face dropped when he realized what he'd said, and he sputtered. “Well, I mean, he wasn't nearly as good as you. But that's because you were amazing!” His face lit up again, grinning from ear to ear.
The boy's father smiled, patting his son on the head. He cocked his head for a moment, studying the boy's excited face. Then he picked up a pad off his lap, scribbling something down quickly. He tore off the page and handed it to the him. Joseph took the paper and read it aloud.
“Would you like to be a telemarketer?” Joseph looked up at his dad with wide eyes. His father wanted him to carry on his legacy, to fulfill his dream for him? Joseph hesitated for a moment, looking back at the paper, then back at his dad's expectant face. He stepped closer, grabbing the man's sleeve and looking deeply into his eyes.
“Yes, I want to be just like you and finish your dream for you!”

Joseph's head jerked up at the light rapping on the glass. In the doorway stood a woman in her thirties, with reddish blonde hair that hung in reflective waves to her shoulders. She had a face that was pretty enough to be called above average, but didn't especially stand out. She always wore light makeup and a pretty smile. Apparently she'd found the fall weather cold enough to wear a thin blue sweater, along with a plain gray skirt that fell halfway between her knee and ankle. With her high heels, she was only an inch or so shorter than Joseph.
“I thought I might find you like this,” she said softly, offering a sympathetic smile. “I heard the boss come in; he wasn't in the best mood today, huh?”
“Oh, hello, ma'am,” Joseph greeted. In the six months he'd been working here, he'd never learned her name, and never had the courage to ask. And in reality, names didn't matter here. Identity didn't matter, no one cared who you were or what your hobbies were. Any and all conversation was always work-oriented. The only people here Joseph knew were Mr. Marco, this lady, and a middle-aged man who worked in the cubicle to his left. Known to everyone as Drone, he had a deep, monotonous voice that sounded warmed over death. His personality, or lack thereof, was even more so. He stared into space with the eyes of the dead. His gaze only rested on you if you happened to fall into his line of vision. And consequently, that was the only time he spoke to anyone. Conversation was nigh unto impossible, as he never acknowledged anything said to him, but continued to drone on.
However, he had his own usefulness. “Drone” was more than just a nickname. At the end of every telemarketer's training, they are christened with a title that suits their respective talents. Drone received his title because of his innate ability to ignore the protests and arguments of customers, simply continuing on with his sales pitch. Eventually, many customers would comply with his offer simply to get him off their case. And so, in his own way, Drone was a valuable asset to “Telemarketing Today”, as the company was named.
The pretty young lady standing in front of Joseph was titled “Conversationalist” because of her tendency to put her customers at ease and make them feel comfortable, as if their well-being was of primary concern. Her tactic was to win the customer over; and she had an incredibly high success rate, simply because people couldn't bear to say no to her.
Not knowing a name to call her by, Joseph had mentally nicknamed her Connie, though he would never admit that to her face. Instead, she was just “ma'am”. And she'd never objected or told him to call her anything else. In fact, now that he thought about it, she'd never called him by name. Instead she just called him “Trainee”, his default nickname until he completed his training period.
“It's lunch break, you know,” she said, turning to go out the door. “You'd better hurry up, or you'll miss it altogether.”
Joseph looked at his watch. Sure enough, lunch break was already three minutes in. Joseph nodded gratefully at Connie, appreciating the fact that she had waited for him. He quickly knelt down and started picking up the papers that had scattered across the floor. Hastily shoveling them into a pile, he set them all on the desk - his neat, orderly setup now destroyed. He glanced at them quickly before he left, his hand twitching. But as desperately as he wanted to straighten it up, time was ticking away, with only 6 minutes left before the workers had to return to their phones. Joseph closed his eyes, his brow wrinkled, and purposefully turned away from the desk. Connie was already halfway down the narrow hallway. Lined on either side by identical cubicles like Joseph's, with a dull gray carpet and cream colored ceiling, the hall was well lit by overhead lights, but otherwise entirely dull.
Pushing aside his doubts and worries, Joseph headed out the door after her, toward the cafeteria.
Last edited by ClaecElric4God on Wed Apr 09, 2014 6:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby snowcatgrlX7 » Wed Apr 09, 2014 6:38 pm

This is actually really good if I do say so myself
I wonder what happened to the mother though...
From what I gather, the mother is probably sick and the characters were probably awaiting a call from the hospital to see if she was okay
But still, this is exceptionally good
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby Panda4christ:3 » Thu Apr 10, 2014 12:23 pm

So I've been meaning to comment on this @___@;;
Geez Claec, making the rest of us feel jealous because of your amazing skills (jk, jk)
Anyhow, I love it <3 There's gonna be more though, right?
(I mean...there has to be D: )
"People need fear, we experience it so we can grow stronger"-Maka Albarn
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby ClaecElric4God » Thu Apr 10, 2014 12:37 pm

Panda4christ:3 wrote:So I've been meaning to comment on this @___@;;
Geez Claec, making the rest of us feel jealous because of your amazing skills (jk, jk)
Anyhow, I love it <3 There's gonna be more though, right?
(I mean...there has to be D: )

Psh, skills my foot. I'm gonna asparagus you, Ms. Awesome Artist.
Yes, there shall be more. Hopefully, I'll be posting the whole story here once it's done, but till then, a chapter at a time.
lol, that Lilo and Stitch is priceless.
Also, thanks snowcatgrl, I appreciate the comment. But yeah, that's basically the story behind the prologue. Unfortunately, you'll probably never find out what happened with that. :sweat:
Also, anyone who bothers to critique this, I greatly appreciate it, but I do have to warn you; if you give me advice/critique/suggestions/warnings/etc., I will make note of and jot it down for future use, but I will most probably not do any editing here. This is a first draft, and I'm going to try to finish it before I go back and do any editing. So if you notice I'm not changing anything, it's not because I'm throwing your advice out the window, it's simply because I haven't gotten around to doing anything. Once I get around to editing it and applying the critique of my wonderful friends, I'll share the finished product.

Chapter 2
Joseph stared down into his water listlessly. Mr. Marco's words rang through his mind. Although the older man was always belittling him and reprimanding him for his failures, this was the first time he'd outright said what Joseph had been dreading – that he might actually lose this job. Fear clenched his chest. No, he couldn't fail. It wasn't an option. All his hopes and dreams rested on this. To be fired...
“Hey,” Connie said. She came over and sat at his table, a small plate of food in her hand. She hastily started shoveling it into her mouth. “You should eat something.”
The cafeteria was as drab and lifeless as the rest of the building. A large, room with a high ceiling, it was noticeably less illuminated than the office floors, presumably because it didn't take as much visibility to eat food, and therefore the electric bill could be cut. Long plastic tables, arranged in narrow lines to allow for maximum space use, were surrounded by simple folding chairs. The buffet line looked long and impressive, but in reality there were only a few basic foods offered their. It was longer to allow for maximum efficiency in retrieving one's food; since the employees were only allowed 10 minutes for lunch break. It wouldn't do to have people missing out on lunch break.
Joseph looked up momentarily, only to return to staring at his cup after Connie finished talking. Although he knew it was necessary for mental and vocal health, he simply couldn't bring himself to eat anything. He hadn't even bothered to go in line and get anything. Instead, he dutifully sipped at the cup of water that held his fascination.
“Don't be so hard on yourself,” Connie encouraged, daintily removing the last traces of her meal from her face with a napkin. “Mr. Marco's always like that with beginners. It's his way of making sure no one slacks off. As far as I can tell, you're coming along great! So don't worry about it.” Connie smiled reassuringly.
“But,” Joseph sighed. He knew Connie was trying to help, and maybe she was right. But even if he did keep the job, at this rate... “My father never lost more than 8 customers a day, even from the beginning of his career. Toward the end...” Joseph's voice cracked, then he pushed on. “...He only got 'no's' from 3-4 customers a day. I don't think I'll ever be like him.”
There was silence for a moment, then the sound of metal scraping on the concrete floor as Connie shoved her chair back. She laid a hand gently on Joseph's shoulder.
“I know this is important to you, but you can't dwell on it. You are not Andrew Peters. You can't compare yourself to him. This job isn't about notoriety, or superiority. It's not about excelling. In this job, you do what you can, and you meet your quota. Our goal here isn't to stand out. We work together as a team. Because in the end, individuality doesn't count for anything. We represent Telemarketing Today, as a team that's here to make sure the world gets the services, products, and consultation they need!”
She ended with her head thrown back, one arm raised to the sky. And yet, as emotional as her speech had been, it honestly just sounded like a really convincing advertisement. Joseph couldn't help but feel like that was rehearsed. Maybe it was something they said to all newbies. He sighed and dropped his head. He understood what she meant, he really did. But what she didn't understand was that to him, this was more than a livelihood, or a career. It was his life. He couldn't very well throw away the very reason he'd pursued this from the beginning, the reason he'd spent ten years in intensive schooling. This wasn't about him. It was about the Peters name. And now that he'd managed to thoroughly tarnish that name with his miserable shortcomings, it was even more his responsibility to raise it up above the ranks, above and beyond its former glory.
Turning to look at Connie's shining face, with her pure and flawless ideals, Joseph realized he couldn't say any of that to her. She wouldn't understand, and she'd probably just say the same thing over again. No, this was Joseph's burden alone, one he had no right to force on anyone else, in part or whole. Instead, he simply forced a halfhearted smile, downing the remainder of his water.
“Thanks, Connie,” he said insincerely, but with all the marks of honesty. “I needed that. Now why don't we get back to work?”
“Yes, lets!” She replied cheerily.

Joseph slowly replaced the phone on the hook, hardly daring to breathe.
“Yes!” He said quietly, while internally he was celebrating on a huge scale. He placed a check mark next to the name, taking a few seconds to survey his beautiful list of check marks. That call made 8 successes in a row. Maybe he was on to something, a new technique that was unique to him!
After taking a few moments to recompose himself, Joseph picked up the phone again, dialing the next number on his list. In high spirits, he waited for the click on the other end.
There was a long silence when the other party finally picked up, leading Joseph to believe that maybe the person had unknowingly received the call, ignoring the phone.
“Helloooo....” I groggy voice muttered, just as he was about ready to hang up and redial.
“I'm calling on behalf of Andersen's Electronics. Is Mr. Jarbonski in?”
“....” The silence was unnerving. “What's this about?”
“We have some exciting new offers we think Mr. Jarbonski would be interested, and I just wanted to make sure he doesn't miss out on these great deals!” Joseph tried to keep his voice peppy, but his heart was already sinking.
“In that case, you must have a wrong number. I still have three hours of sleep. Leave me alone.”
Joseph flipped frantically through his book of replies, tripping over his words as he tried to find one that fit this situation. But before he could get a satisfactory reply out, that heart-wrenching click sounded on the other end, followed by a dial tone. Joseph slumped in his chair. There went that streak. Pulling out a sticky notepad, he jotted something down, then peeled it off and stuck it to the glass, next to his myriad of other ones.
Study Standard Replies manual more extensively. How he was going to manage that in his already jam-packed schedule was beyond him. But it obviously had to be done. Joseph was surprised at the huge differences between book knowledge and practical application. Tests and exams, even practice sessions, didn't begin to compare to the real world. Customers were coming up with more and more ways to thwart the efforts of telemarketers. Joseph felt like his schooling had been outdated, that it was time to modernize, and keep up with the changing world. Otherwise, more and more students would have to face these unexpected surprises that he encountered every day.
Joseph quickly dialed in the next number, reading over his script while he waited.
Click. “Hello?”
“Are you ready for winter? It's time to get out those snow blowers and shovels. Make sure your eaves troughs are free of leaves before they ice over! And you can't work outside without a good pair of gloves and a warm coat. Harrison's Hardware has all that and more, for 50% off this weekend only. Be sure to st-”
“Eh?” The voice on the other end said in what sounded like some confusion. “¡Los jalapeños están en la mesa! ¡No come el pollo! ¡Hombre del árboles, no me gusta sus preguntas feos! ¡Insuficiente! Ayuda me, o los perros morirán...” The strange rambling continued on with no signs of stopping.
Joseph blinked, then pulled the phone away from his ear, staring at it in mild anxiety. What was he supposed to do with that? Slowly, he hung the phone up, sitting in silence for a moment.
“That was a new one...” He said to himself, still a bit shaken up. Recomposing himself, he took a drink of water from the cup on his desk. It was standard to have a cup of lukewarm water with you at all times, and drink a small amount between phone calls, to protect the throat and vocal cords from drying out. To a telemarketer, the voice was their most valuable possession, and needed to be taken care of accordingly.
Joseph was snapped out of his daze by the sound of the bell ringing, sounding the end of the work day. He groaned, looking down at his list. He'd missed his quota by 10 customers. Hesitating, he reached for the phone, but grudgingly pulled it back. If Mr. Marco found out he'd made calls outside of business hours, he'd be in a lot more trouble than for missing his quota. Sighing, he gathered up his papers, stacking them nicely, and placing a portion of them in a folder to take home. He peeled off the forest of sticky notes he'd written, pasting them on his folder instead. When he was satisfied everything was neat and orderly, he stepped out into the hall, into a river of people all going home for the day. Like a salmon, he simply flowed with it, running over in his head everything he had to do for the day.
Groceries were stocked up, so a trip to the store wasn't necessary. Being an incredibly socially awkward person, Joseph entered society as little as possible, so his grocery trips were limited to whenever he was entirely out of food, usually about once every two months. Toward the end of each period, it was common for Joseph to be sustained on canned soup, stale bread, and water; having exhausted the fresh food supply after the first couple of weeks.
Running through his mind all the other possible circumstances and needs, Joseph was satisfied that he could go straight home from here. As he stepped into one of the 3 elevators on his floor, he quickly made his way into the corner. Even though it was a good way to be crushed by the press of people, it was also the most isolated part of the elevator, where he could make the least contact with people.
The transition from the 28th floor to the 1st was long and silent. Some people found room to pull out a newspaper and read it, or were writing in small notepads. But no one bothered to make conversation. In fact, they almost looked like the living dead. The monotonous routine had worn them all out, and everyone just stared straight ahead as they waited for the doors to open. Looking around, Joseph didn't see anyone that he knew. He recognized a few faces from riding in the elevator with them for 6 months, but he'd never made contact with them. He didn't know one thing about any of them. There was something...unnerving about that fact.
Joseph shrugged it off, wondering why now of all times he was thinking about that. What he needed to be thinking about was the day's events. How many customers had he successfully suckered into deals? How had he accomplished that? What new techniques had he tried? Which had been successful and which hadn't? What could he try in the future? What solutions were there to some of the problems he'd encountered? Joseph recalled his last phone call. With a start, he pulled a pen out of his shirt pocket, looking for space on one of his sticky notes.
Learn every major language.
Satisfied that he'd given himself enough homework, he started thinking through what kind of a schedule to build for all of it. Over the course of these months, his self-assigned homework had been building up, and he was running out of free time.
But this is what I committed to do, he reminded himself. I'm not going to get anywhere if I don't take this seriously.
Stepping off the elevator at the bottom floor, Joseph found the lobby packed with people all trying to fit out the door at the same time. The lobby was a bit more glamorous than the rest of the building, simply because it could be accessed by the general public. A red and brown paisley carpet, random assorted lamp and table sets lining the walls, and a shiny mahogany counter manned by a smiling attendant were all a stark contrast to the dull and boring upper floors. Domed overhead lamps shed a warm yellow glow on the room.
When he finally managed to get clocked out and step out the giant glass doors, he breathed in deeply, reveling in the fresh air. Although “fresh” probably wasn't the most accurate description. A chill November breeze cut through Joseph's light jacket, bringing with it the smell of car exhaust, pollution, and a myriad of other city-related smells. Joseph shivered and looked back at the 50-story skyscraper, with it's steel frame and giant glass windows. As drab and lifeless as the interior was, at least it had a heating system.
Stepping out onto the sidewalk, Joseph surveyed the highway. A long line of yellow cabs invited him, but he ignored them. Hailing a cab would mean standing next to the road, drawing the attention of hundreds of people he didn't know, demanding service from a random stranger, sitting in someone else's vehicle for the distance to his apartment, and at more than one point having to speak with said individual. The last time he'd been foolish enough to do that, the driver had insisted on making conversation the whole way, much to Joseph's horror.
Instead, Joseph wandered down the street, wishing he'd worn a thicker coat. The clouds overhead warned of a potential rain, which would inevitably be cold and unrelenting. The glistening streets indicated that there had been a light drizzle not more than an hour ago. Joseph took comfort in the fact that the weather had scared most pedestrians off the sidewalk. Most people were waiting for cabs or huddled under overhangs, warding off the cold. Joseph lowered his head and picked up his pace as the wind gained intensity. It cut right down the main street; so the buildings, as crowded as they were, offered little to no protection. It wasn't until the first drops dampened his hair that Joseph realized he hadn't brought an umbrella.
Joseph heard footsteps behind him, but didn't dare to look back. Instead, he stared intently at the sidewalk under his feet, hoping he wouldn't be noticed. The next thing he knew, the rain had stopped hitting his head, and he could send a presence next to him. Glancing a few inches to the right, Joseph caught a glimpse of high heels. He instantly panicked.
Oh, no, he thought desperately. It's a girl. What does she want? Does she want me to say something, is she going to ask me to marry her? I don't have time for that, and I don't know how to say no. This is really bad; if I don't do something soon, she's going to start talking to me. I don't even know how to talk to people, let alone girls.
“Hey, slow down,” a familiar voice said. Joseph closed his eyes and sighed in relief, looking up to see Connie walking next to him with an umbrella that she was trying to share equally between them. She was struggling to keep up with his long strides, her high heels encumbering her. Joseph slowed his pace till he thought she could comfortably match it.
“Th-thanks,” he stuttered awkwardly.
“Oh, it's no trouble!” She replied cheerily. “We have almost the same route home. We'll have to part ways at 4th Street, but I can keep you dry till then, right?” She tilted her head to the side, smiling warmly.
Joseph nodded. They took the same route? In the six months he'd walked this street, he'd never known that. Of course, that was probably because he tended to shut the entire world out on his way home, hoping no one would bother him.
“I couldn't help but notice you didn't have an umbrella, and you looked so miserable in the rain.” Connie laughed, a light, bubbly laugh. It was the same one she always had, like a recording.
“So, how'd you do today?” She inquired curiously.
Joseph shrugged, wishing he didn't have to talk about it.
“It could have been better,” he said simply. “What about you? Did you make your quota?”
“Well, I didn't quite get as many as I would have liked, but I made double the quota,” she said casually, then in a lighter tone, “A few of my customers were more talkative than me!”
Joseph sighed. Double, huh? He was beyond being surprised, though. That was typical of her. Her charisma was overwhelming, and it was rare that she had fewer than 60 successes in a given day. And she wasn't even among the highest ranks...
“Well, this is it,” Connie interrupted his thoughts. She held a hand out from underneath her umbrella. “Looks like you'll have to make a dash for it. But at least the rain let up a bit, right?”
Joseph nodded to Connie, placing his folder inside his jacket. “Thanks,” he mumbled, sprinting down the street to the left. Despite Connie's upbeat weather report, it was still pouring. By the time Joseph arrived in front of the small apartment building, he was thoroughly drenched, and equally frozen.
The outside of the building was nothing to get excited about. A simple, unattractive brick building with small windows. On either side were newer, nicer, and bigger apartment complexes. The proximity of the buildings, paired with the contrasting styles, made it look like a hole had been cut out of the other buildings and this one had been inserted.
The interior, however, was another story entirely. Recently renovated, it was like entering a different dimension. The walls were a bright white, with real wood trim along the floor and doors. Laid out on the wood floor was a long, brown rug that stretched across to the other end. On either side of the hall were four doors. In a two story building, that made twelve apartments in all. Although the building wasn't huge, the space was managed well, so each apartment was a comfortable size.
Directly inside the door was a staircase that led to the second floor, which Joseph mounted tiredly. At the top, he walked down to the end of the hall, where his room was located on the left hand side.
“I'm home,” he said to no one in particular. Flipping the light switch, he surveyed the room, acknowledging that it hadn't changed a bit since he'd left that morning. Taking off his shoes, he stepped into the living room, disregarding the trail of water he was leaving in the thick green carpet. Consisting of a recliner and short couch, along with a small coffee table, it was nothing extraordinary, but it was comfortable enough for just one tenant. To the left was a kitchen that really couldn't be called more than a sink, stove, and some standing space. A microwave rested on a rack above the stove next to a small set of cupboards; but other than that, the only appliance was a small fridge that stood at the edge of the kitchen, next to what little counter space there was. The narrow wood hallway that separated the two rooms extended a few yards past them, where a door was set in either wall, leading to the bedroom and bathroom.
Despite it's small size, the apartment was in pristine condition, due to the recent remodeling. Its brand-new appearance was added to by the fact that, aside from the standard furnishings, there was no décor to speak of. No pictures, magazines, household trinkets. The fridge didn't wear a single magnet, and there were no dishes left out, save for a lone pot that rested on the stove. The apartment went beyond the definition of tidy. It was desolate. You could have advertised it as vacant, and people would be none the wiser.
After changing into a fresh set of clothes, Joseph absently tossed the soaked ones into a laundry bag, telling himself he'd take it down to the laundry mat when the rain let up. It wouldn't do to waste another set of clothes going out in this weather.
After eating a quick meal of potato soup, he washed the few dishes he'd used and returned them to the cupboards. Stretching his arms, he contemplated what to do next. He had so many things on his mind, but he was so tired. Tempted to take a break, he thought better of it when he remembered the events of that day. Pounding his fist against the wall, Joseph resolved to work himself till improvement or death, whichever came first.
“So many failures,” he berated himself. Entering his room, he slammed his barely salvaged folder down on the desk next to his bed. Then he plopped down in the chair, resting his head in his hands.
The most lively room in the entire apartment, the bedroom consisted of a twin bed, the desk, and a dresser. Instead of a wardrobe, he had a rack on which his suits and dress shirts hung. This room had a vague lived-in feel, with a pile of boxes in one corner; and a stand on the other side of the bed that hosted a framed picture of Joseph and his parents from the previous summer, the only land line in the apartment, and a digital clock.
But the biggest deviation from the pattern was the desk. Besides a laptop and lamp, the desk was absolutely covered in papers, pamphlets, and a huge stack of books. A pencil lay across a sheet of paper, as if its owner hadn't finished using it, and a half-filled cup of water perched dangerously close to the edge. Overall, the desk reeked of disorganization and sloppiness.
Joseph straightened up and sighed, looking over at the clock. Then he whipped his head around to face forward, nodding firmly with a grunt. For the next several minutes, he just sat there. Perfect posture, perfectly still, nothing moved except his stomach, which expanded and collapsed as he inhaled and exhaled, over and over again, a perfect rhythm.
After exactly 15 minutes, he looked at the clock again. Nodding to himself yet again, he turned cautiously to the mess in front of him. Joseph proceeded to straighten and organize, nicely folding and depositing in a wastebasket the ones he deemed unnecessary. Sifting through the mountain of books, he separated them into two separate piles. The one pile he replaced in its original spot, the other he relocated to a drawer in the desk. When he was satisfied that everything was in its proper place, Joseph pulled a book off the top of the pile, along with a fresh piece of paper. Flipping to the bookmarked page, he began to peruse its contents, occasionally stopping to scribble something on his paper. Hour after hour, it was the same thing, until he was down to the last book and had a pile of papers filled.
Ring, ring. Jerked out of his deep study, Joseph stared at the phone. In an instant he was across the room, the comfort of a telephone cradled in his hand.
There was silence for a long while as Joseph waited for the other person to start talking. Then he remembered that he was the one receiving the call this time.
“Um, uh,” he stammered, trying to remember how a regular person spoke on the phone. “Hello?”
“Good evening,” the other voice said pleasantly. “You're on a list of only fifteen people in the county found eligible for entry in this month's “Win-a-car” drawing. Enter today, and you could be the proud owner of a 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Tickets are only $18.69, so hurry and enter today!”
“Wait a moment,” Joseph said matter-of-factly, instantly on to the situation. “Your delivery was excellent, and your tone leaves nothing to be desired, but why on earth would you advertise a Jeep Wrangler? It's a well-known fact that most people are not fans of the Jeep franchise. Although those who do like Jeeps are extremely loyal to them, those supporters are few and far between. The Jeep, especially newer models, are known for low fuel economy, rough steering and brakes, and an overall uncomfortable ride. A sales pitch like that is going to turn most people away, and you won't get many entered in your drawing. And you need a more believable number than fifteen. The saying 'too good to be true' is held as a mantra of the general public, and when they catch a whiff of something that fishy, they'll turn tail and run. As a fellow telemarketer, I promise you I've studied these areas thoroughly, and I know what I'm talking about. So please, rethink your spiel before you try to use that on any more customers. Perhaps the Toyota Camry? Toyotas are held in high regard in general, and anything in that line is likely to attract sales.”
There was silence for a moment, followed by a nervous cough.
“Um...thank you...good evening.” Click.
Joseph looked back toward the clock. 8:00 P.M. Looking out the window, he realized it was long since dark. He crossed the room to the window to draw the curtains, then returned back to his chair, staring at the papers with bloodshot eyes. Blinking slowly a few times, he then picked them up and started to read over them again. Every once in awhile, he would lean his head back and mutter something to himself, rehearsing over in his head what he'd read. Eventually he dropped the papers back on the table, pulling out the biggest book in his pile. The cover wasn't in the best shape, and the pages were worn and dog-eared; the result of much, much use. Starting at page one, Joseph worked his way through the book.
Slowly, his vision blurred, and he caught himself slumping forward once or twice. Fighting off sleep, willing his brain to keep working, he smacked the side of his head with the heel of his hand, shaking off the drowsiness. After a handful of these small battles, the melatonin attacked full force, without warning. Joseph's head dropped forward, followed shortly by his shoulders, which then rested on the desk. Defeated, Joseph fell into a deep sleep, head resting on a mess of papers and books.
And thus ended yet another routine day in the life of Joseph Peters, aspiring telemarketer.
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby goldenspines » Thu Apr 10, 2014 9:45 pm

Firstly, congratulations, you have made me feel bad for every telemarketer I have ever been upset at. I'm sorry, world of telemarketers, I'm sorry.

Now, that that's out of the way, let's get down to business. Great set up so far. The prologue and the first chapter flowed very well together and you introduced your characters quite well.
Chapter two also flowed rather well. When I speak of flow, by the way, I'm talking about how I could imagine the space as a reader. Could I see Joseph in the dimly lit cafeteria, staring at his sad cup of water, not even having enough will to touch whatever boring food was offered in that dreary place? Yes, I could.

Overall, you have a pretty solid draft to edit. There are no major problems that would make you have to rewrite everything and give up your dreams of becoming a writer (yay for not giving up!) Since this is your first draft and we're only two chapters in, giving you too specific critics won't help you too much until later (like, "this particular sentence is worded weirdly", etc.), so I'll give you some general things to look at while your editing that I noticed while I was reading (some of this you may already know!).

- Read your sentences out loud to make sure they can be read well. I like all the words you use in every one of your sentences, but I stumbled over quite a few simply because they could have been worded better (I can provide examples if you like, but I think when you go through and edit, you'll catch most if not all of them).
It should also be noted that I'm a reader with a bad habit of skimming, so if there's a sentence I can't read easily, I tend to skim or skip over it, which can sadly make me lose my interest in the story a lot quicker. Not sure if I'm one of a kind, though, but it's nice to make every sentence feel like it's important enough to be read (if that makes any sense).

- I like Joseph, and that's important. You made him likeable. Not many people can do that in writing, so pat yourself on the back, but don't slack off! Overall, his development is solid except for a few bumps which may or may not be out of character, but they seemed odd when I read them (like the part about him being scared of a woman he doesn't know asking him to marry her? Though, seriously, if this is a real fear of guys, I need to know).
Also, a tiny thing about the conversation with Mr. Marco was this line:
“Peters, I really want to keep you on,” Marco lied,
though you follow it up with something great, it seems odd that we need to be told that Marco is lying. Is there any hidden reason for it? Because without knowing that Marco is lying, the reader probably already noticed that he wasn't sincere in the slightest for any kind-ish words he's given Joseph and probably only said that line in a passive aggressive threat to make Joseph seem like the one forcing nice ol' Mr. Marco to fire him.
But, at this point I'm only being picky because everything else is pretty uch fine about your character development so far. I'll let you know when I see something off, though. XP

Two chapters in and I can't help but wonder where this is going, though. Can't wait to read more. The books better be important.

Out of curiosity, how many chapters are in your novel?
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby Panda4christ:3 » Fri Apr 11, 2014 12:41 pm

Wow, I really love Joseph's character, you've obviously put a lot of effort into this ^^
Also, your descriptions are just wonderful <3 I feel like I can really see what you're writing~
(especially the part describing his apartment complex, for whatever reason cx ).
Can't wait for more :3
"People need fear, we experience it so we can grow stronger"-Maka Albarn
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby ClaecElric4God » Fri Apr 11, 2014 1:26 pm

Chapter 3
Joseph woke with a start, his ears ringing. As his senses woke, the ringing became an obnoxious beeping noise, the nerve-grinding sound of an alarm clock. Groggily crawling over the bed to mash the snooze button, he sat on the edge of the bed, staring off into space. After a few minutes, he blinked the sleep out of his eyes. His back and neck ached, and his legs were stiff and unmovable. Joseph sighed, rubbing the top of his head vigorously.
“Can't believe I fell asleep at the desk again,” he muttered sleepily. Though in reality, it was far from unusual for him to spend his night there.
Making his way into the kitchen, Joseph poured himself a bowl of cereal, only to realize he'd been out of milk for five weeks. After a moment's thought, he sat down in the living room and crunched noisily on his dry cereal, still trying to wake up. Apparently he'd miscalculated his grocery situation. Joseph grimaced, thinking about the expedition into town he'd have to make after work today.
“Well, Dad,” he said quietly, staring at the ceiling. “Maybe today will be the turning point, and I'll finally find my inner telemarketer; be the son you can be proud of.”

“What are you talking about?” A woman's voice shouted accusingly. “I never ordered your stupid magazine! I'm not paying such an outrageous sum!”
“I must not have explained it right,” Joseph apologized, sweat dripping down his face. “The first issue is free, and you can cancel at any time, with no hassle.”
“I've told you once, and I'll tell you again. I'm not interested! Now quit calling here. I'm fed up with these calls. Take me off your calling list!”
Joseph gulped, racking his brain for anything he could say to change her mind. When nothing presented itself, he sighed inwardly.
“Thank you,” he said. “Have a wonderf-”
A rhythmic tapping on the back of his chair caught Joseph off guard. He'd momentarily forgotten that this was an assessment call, and Mr. Marco was standing behind him. Not daring to turn around, Joseph waited for the inevitable.
“Peters,” he said slowly. Joseph realized that he was starting to hate his name, since the only time he heard it was in that voice. “You've got three problems.”
Only three? Joseph thought sarcastically.
“You're not assertive enough, you're too apologetic, and you give up too easily.” Marco held up a hand, counting on his fingers as he spoke. Then he leaned down and gripped Joseph's shoulder, like he always did. He stared into Joseph's eyes, a cold, hard glare. “Don't ever, ever give up on a customer.” His last sentence came out like air coming out of a flat tire.
“If I ever hear you end a losing conversation with something other than a business proposition, ever again, I will personally tie you up with a phone cord and hang you outside the window.”
The windows don't open in a skyscraper, Joseph thought, staring in numb terror at his boss. But there was no doubt in his mind that the huge, terrifying man would still do it, regardless of what was humanly possible. He got a mental picture of Marco smashing a fist threw the window, shattering the glass into a billion microscopic pieces, just so he could carry out his threat.
“This is how you do it,” Marco picked up the telephone and snatched Joseph's customer list of the desk, punching in the number. He tapped his foot on the floor as he waited, glaring down at Joseph.
Joseph stared back in complete submission, but inside the wheels were turning. It had never occurred to him that Terry Marco was himself a telemarketer. To Joseph, he'd never been more than a heartless task master who cracked the whip over his employees' heads, barking orders and breaking spirits. And somehow, Joseph couldn't picture Marco being good at it, between his unbearable voice and personality of equal quality.
“Hello, Mr. Osch? I'm glad I could get a hold of you. I have some important information regarding health benefits that you could qualify for...”
Joseph stared in slack-jawed awe as Mr. Marco talked, reeling off his business spiel. This was the first time in his time here that he'd heard his employer talk on the telephone. His reaction was comparable to that of an African lion being teleported to the frozen tundra of the Arctic. Shivers went down his spine.
Mr. Marco's raucous, inhuman voice had been transformed into the most silky, pleasant sound, with a warmth beyond anything Joseph had ever heard. He made Connie sound like a wailing banshee. But his voice was only half of the phenomenon. His personality had completely flipped. It was the most personable, friendly, winsome attitude that Joseph had ever seen in a human being. He felt an overpowering desire to interrupt the conversation and buy the product himself. He shook the feeling off, focusing on every word, ploy, and voice fluctuations and intonations Marco used. Like a student with his master, Joseph hung on every word the seasoned telemarketer said. Truly, this was a man to be reckoned with. Joseph dropped his head, realizing he would probably never compete with that kind of persuasive power.
“Oh, the pleasure is all mine,” Marco said, cutting through Joseph's thoughts. “Don't trouble yourself with the details, we'll take care of it all from here. It's a pleasure doing business with you.”
Marco smashed the phone down on the table, squinting at Joseph with his evil, hateful glare. All traces of the man Joseph had just seen were completely gone, like the fleeting scent of a fresh rain. Marco didn't say a word, just continued to stare at Joseph, who was very unsure of what the older man wanted him to do or say. After a moment, Joseph opened his mouth to speak, hoping whatever he said wouldn't get him in too much trouble. Mr. Marco quickly put a giant finger up, stopping Joseph mid-breath.
“Don't bother,” he said, shaking his head. “You're beyond hope, Peters.”
And with that, he picked up his briefcase, stuck it under his arm, and marched out the door.
Joseph waited until he was sure he was gone, then frantically shuffled through the papers on his desk, until he found a blank sheet of paper. He feverishly wrote for several minutes, not stopping for anything. He tried to remember everything he'd gathered from Mr. Marco's phone call, recording every last piece of information. Eventually, he ran out of page space, at which point he dropped his pen and sighed dejectedly. Gathering his resolve, he downed half a cup of water, breathed deeply a few times, and returned to the phone.

The little grocery store on Main Street wasn't anything to brag about, but it had enough to get by on. Dingy and dusty, the old building had been around for a long time, and was sorely in need of a remodeling and a dedicated janitor. The walls were stained, and the paint was peeling in a few places. The floor and ceiling had seen better days, too. Both were warped and had ugly brown splotches that warned of a leaky roof. Luckily for Joseph, the lack of selections and sanitation made the store less than popular, and most people just went to the super mart on the other end of town.
Joseph slunk through the aisles, avoiding the ones that had people in them. As loathe as he was to come into town any more than he had to, he decided he'd have to make that sacrifice, since one elderly lady couldn't seem to decide what kind of bread she wanted, and had spent a good ten minutes in that aisle. He'd have to come back later for bread.
At the checkout counter, Joseph hurriedly shoved everything at the cashier, avoiding eye contact. The middle-aged woman looked down her long, pointy nose at Joseph, sighing and shaking her head as she rang up the order. She'd come to recognize Joseph's abnormal actions, but she never could get over just how pathetic this young man was. Though in reality, she was convinced he was a delinquent hiding out from the law. Every time he came into the store, she went home and yammered to her husband about it, determined that she was going to call the police next time she saw him. At which point the mild-natured gentleman would tell his wife to calm down and not judge people by their character. Though it should be mentioned he still advised her to keep a can of pepper spray handy at all times.
Nodding quickly at the cashier as he handed her the money, Joseph quickly gathered up his groceries, barely waiting for his change before rushing out the door.
Arriving at the apartment building, Joseph noticed an unfamiliar little gray car parked along the curb. He didn't think much of it, but something about it nagged at the back of his mind as he made his way to his apartment. As he reached his door, he thought he heard a noise from within. Pulling his hand back, he placed his ear against the door, straining his senses. Nothing... He shrugged, deciding it was just his imagination. But when he slowly opened the door, the unmistakable scent of exceptional culinary talent was anything but imagination. Joseph dropped his groceries on the ground, staring at the aproned figure standing next the stove, smiling brightly at him.
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby ClaecElric4God » Sun Apr 13, 2014 2:15 pm

Goldy, you're here! Thanks so much! Ugh, yes, my sentence structure/word choices/etc. leave much to be desired. :sweat: I never thought of reading them out loud, thanks, I will do that.
As far as Joseph's character, I'm ecstatic that you like him, he was meant to be a kind of a blah character to begin with, but he's definitely growing on me. For his seemingly out of character moments, I'm hoping I can dispel that impression in future chapters (a.k.a more character development that helps him being scared of a girl proposing to him make more sense), but if it continues to seem weird or out of character (or even over the top) as the story progresses, please let me know. I am really, really good at butchering my characters and making them completely contradict their nature.
Marco, yes, that is a good point. That doesn't make sense, now that you mention it. His personality is pretty straightforward.
The books? Hehe... :sweat: Seriously, though, did the vagueness make them seem ominous or something? It was actually just meant to show that Joseph is really dedicated and likes to study. I don't want to draw attention to something that isn't actually important.
Anyways, on to the story.

Chapter 4
Joseph savored the last bite of beef stew, sighing pleasantly as he set his bowl on the coffee table. He leaned back, looking across the room at the couch, where the two most wonderful people in the world sat patiently, both already finished with their food.
“Do you want another bowl?” His mother asked eagerly, reaching for his bowl. “There's plenty left!”
“No, thanks, Mom,” Joseph said. “I appreciate your enthusiasm, but three bowls are more than enough.”
“If you're sure,” she said, her brow creasing with worry. “But you look like you've lost 30 pounds! I hope you're feeding yourself properly.”
“I'm fine, Mom,” Joseph argued, rolling his eyes. “Really, you worry to much.” He didn't mention that her guess hadn't been far off the mark, or that he barely made time in his schedule to eat anything at all, let alone as much as he needed to maintain a healthy weight.
Mrs. Peters turned her head slightly, giving him that sympathetic look typical of mothers. Picking up his bowl, along with the others, she took them to the kitchen. Ignoring Joseph's protests that he would take care of them later, she simply rolled up her sleeves and set to work.
A beautiful woman in her late 40s, Joseph's mother was the picture of youth. Short and petite, she'd been passed up in height by her son when he was only 14. She had a wrinkle-free complexion and shoulder-length auburn hair, and was known to wear long, flowing skirts and frilly button up shirts, usually in bright, eye-catching colors. She had a soft, kind voice that sounded like a warm breeze rustling through a field of tall grass. And she never talked too much or nagged. Instead, whenever she spoke, you wanted to hang on every word she said, as if it were of the utmost importance. When she smiled at you, it was like being wrapped in a soft blanket, safe from anything that might threaten you. Ever the mother, she always fussed over Joseph, making sure he had everything he needed and trying to do everything for him. He could only guess how worried she must have been in the time since she'd last seen him.
While she worked, Joseph shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He didn't know what to say. It had been four years since he'd seen his father, and after all the effort he'd put into this career, he didn't have anything to show for it. It was this exact situation that Joseph had feared for so long. What was he supposed to say to the man who expected so much from him?
Andrew Peters was a noble-looking man. He was the same height as Joseph, maybe an inch or so taller, with a handsome, serious face that portrayed him as the type of person who was wise beyond his years. And truly, he didn't look a day older than he was. Although he had an early onset of dusty gray in his wavy brown hair, it only added to his erudite appearance, and didn't make him look aged at all. His commanding attitude made him the type who was easy to respect, but at the same time he was capable of being very personable, the type people enjoyed sharing company with. His eyes were kind but stern, full of expectations. And behind that, deeper, was a flicker of something else...perhaps an almost forgotten dream.
“So, Mom,” Joseph called. “Why exactly are you guys here?”
“Why?” She asked incredulously, wiping her hands on a towel as she made her way back into the living room. She dropped down on the couch next to her son, throwing an arm around him as she gave him a warm hug. Then she held him at arms length, looking him up and down. “Because you never call or write, and we have no idea how you're doing! We haven't seen you since you graduated. And don't tell me you haven't lost weight.”
Yeah, well you call me enough for both of us; and I always tell you I'm fine. Joseph thought better of saying this out loud.
“Well, you could have told me you were coming.”
“Oh, really now?” She asked, snorting. “You just would have refused and told us not to put ourselves out. You never invite us to come, and you always tell us how busy you are when we try to get you to take a break and come home. We miss you! If you keep up this pace, you're going to wear yourself out, you know.”
Little late for that.
“Anyways, I'm just glad to see you again. I could sit here and hug you all day.” She squeezed him again, turning to her husband. “Look how big our boy's gotten! Seems like just yesterday he enrolled at the Academy. Oh, time flies.”
Mr. Peters smiled and nodded, humoring his wife. His look told Joseph to do the same thing, and Joseph sighed, acknowledging the silent command.
“Thanks, Mom,” he finally said. “It's good to see you, too. And the food was exceptional. I'll admit, it's been awhile since I've eaten anything as good as your cooking.”
Mrs. Peters positively beamed, smiling from ear to ear.
“Well, we'll be around for the weekend, so there's plenty more where that came from!”
Joseph opened his mouth to protest. Even as they sat there, he could feel the minutes slipping by, never to be recaptured. He resisted the urge to look at his watch, knowing that at least 30 minutes of his study time had passed him by, with no new knowledge entering his mind.
“A-a-a!” His mother interrupted, putting a hand up to block his efforts. “I know what you're thinking, and put it out of your mind. For the next three days, you will do no studying whatsoever. You'll get a full night's sleep, in your bed, and you'll go to work with a homemade lunch. You will not overwork yourself, and I'll hear none of your excuses.”
Where are the hidden cameras? Joseph thought, mildly unnerved at how accurately his mother had pegged his daily routine, right down to the bed part.
“I may not be taking care of you anymore, but while I'm here I'll make sure my boy gets the proper care he needs. Really, it's a wonder you haven't collapsed from exhaustion yet.”
Well, not in public anyway...Oh, wait...there was that one time on the elevator.
“So, how are you, Dad? Is Mom making sure you take care of yourself, too?” Joseph teased lightly.
Mr. Peters nodded, with a smile that was almost a laugh. Then he pulled out a small tablet-type electronic gadget and typed in a few words, holding it out for Joseph to see.
I'm a bit tired, though, the note read. I might take a rest.
“That's right,” Mrs. Peters added. “Your dad drove the whole way here. I offered to take a turn, but you know how he is.”
“That's fine, Dad,” Joseph replied. “Make yourself at home. You and Mom should take my bed while you're here.”
Mr. Peters shook his head, and his wife laughed.
“Your bed, the twin?” She teased. “No, we'll be fine sleeping out here. The only one sleeping in that bed will be you, sir.” The last sentence was stated firmly and matter-of-factly, leaving no room for debate.
“In fact, I should go change your sheets now. I don't imagine you've taken care of them in a year. Come and help me.”
It's only been 6 months! Joseph rebutted indignantly, but meekly followed her to his bedroom. When she got there, instead of pulling the sheets off the bed, she simply sat down on it, looking expectant. Taking the hint, Joseph pulled his chair out from the desk and sat across from her, trying not to glance longingly at his stack of papers.
His mother took a moment to survey the room, her eyes resting on the desk for quite awhile with a sad smile.
“My, what a mess. You're just like your father. Of course, when your landlord let us in, I thought we had the wrong apartment, or maybe you'd moved without telling us. I think you got that tidy streak from me.”
Joseph listened quietly, unsure where his mother was going with this; or why whatever she wanted to talk about couldn't be said in front of his dad.
“Your father...” she began, looking down at her skirt.
“Is something wrong?” Joseph leaned forward, suddenly very worried.
“No, no,” she assured him, waving a hand dismissively. “It's nothing like that. Just some things I never really talked with you about. At first you were too young, and then you were so busy. We haven't really had a chance to talk in awhile, have we?”
“I guess not...” Joseph hadn't really thought about that. Did mothers and their sons usually have deep, bonding conversations? Wasn't that usually something that happened between young men and their fathers? A lump formed in his throat as he realized what he was thinking. “Mom...what was Dad like...before...” he trailed off, unsure how to finish his thought.
Mrs. Peters looked at Joseph with a look of mild shock, then lowered her gaze again, apparently deep in thought.
“I met your father about a year after he began his career,” she started in a low voice tinged with sadness. “He was about your age; young and adventurous.”
Adventurous isn't really an age.
“I was a waitress at a local diner that your father always liked to go to. He got the same meal every time, and eventually it got to where I knew when to expect him. After awhile, he started asking for me as his waitress. I didn't tell him I already did my best to make sure that happened.
“Even though he had a cocky facade, he was actually a bit shy, so it was some time before he finally worked up the courage to ask me out. We were married a year later.
“But the thing he talked the most about was his career. Don't get me wrong, I knew he loved me more than anything, and I was never jealous of his job. But it was a characteristic of his that I never got used to. He had this whole other side to him when he talked about it. He'd discuss sales promotion ideas, different methods of dealing with customers, and things like that. At first it was like a foreign language to me, and all I could do was listen with wide eyes. Even after I could keep up with his conversations and give my own input, I never quite understood what about it was so enthralling to him. I wanted to be a part of his world, but it was always harder for me when I couldn't really relate.”
She went silent for a moment, lost in thought. But then she looked up again, her eyes slightly red.
“But where did all that come from?” She said. “That has nothing to do with your question.” She leaned back, sighing.
“Like I said, he was adventurous. He had a wonderful sense of humor, and loved to tease. When he wasn't working he was exploring new things, new ideas. He had an inventive side to him, and he always liked to come up with new contraptions that he thought would be efficient, but usually ended up being more trouble than they were worth. I always pretended to think it was ridiculous, but in reality, it was a quality about him that I loved. It was another side of him, that I cherished. As much as I loved to see his zeal for his job, it was a relief to know that there was more to him than that.
“But as the years went by, he changed. His fun-loving personality slowly started to fade, and he was spending more and more time on the phone. I realized this after awhile, and I tried to get him to do other things. At first it was easy to persuade him. He enjoyed outdoor activities, and we would go for hikes or work outside. But it got harder and harder, and eventually he would snap at me if I tried to suggest anything. His temperament changed. He got quiet and solitary, and he mellowed out a lot. Mellow isn't the right word, though...Dry...Yes. He was dull and lifeless. I never stopped loving him, but he became harder to live with. I felt like...” She paused, searching for the right words.
“I felt like I was losing the husband I loved.”
Joseph stared at his hands, too uncomfortable to make eye contact. What exactly was she saying?
“I'm not sure what I'm trying to say,” Mrs. Peters said quietly.
Oh. Well then, that makes two of us.
“The truth of it was, your father was very serious about becoming an expert telemarketer. At first I laughed it aside, assuming it was another one of his jokes. But it was with this unwanted change that I realized that not only was it something he wanted, but he himself didn't realize how badly he wanted it. I don't think your father would ever have intentionally become what he did. He would have known how much it affected his relationship with his family.
“You know how the rest of this goes. It was at the height of his career, right before he would have reached a point that would most certainly have put him in the Yellowbook of Fame, his lifelong dream. You were six at the time, so you might remember. That was when he had the accident. He'd been overworking himself for weeks up till that point, in preparation for the assessment that would be held the next month. Studying, writing, practicing...I think he talked more to the mirror than he did to me.”
Practicing in the mirror? Why didn't I think of that?
“He'd been burning the candle at both ends for awhile now, so it was bound to happen. Overworked and exhausted, doubtless with countless things on his mind, he wasn't paying attention and ran a red light in the intersection. He collided with an oncoming car, totaling the vehicle.
“He wasn't hurt too badly, but he sustained one injury that would affect his career. He damaged his vocal cords irreparably. We consulted with countless doctors, looked into speech therapy, tried anything we could to get his voice back. But they all said the same thing: It couldn't be fixed.”
They were both silent for a long while. Joseph remembered it. He remembered wondering why Daddy didn't talk to him anymore. At one point, in his childish mindset, he'd thought his dad had stopped loving him, or was angry at him for something. It was awhile before he learned the true reason. And that was when he'd realized what it meant to his dad. His mom often talked reminiscently about the old days, back when her husband was still telemarketing, so at a fairly young age Joseph had come to realize just how important his dad's career was to him, and how devastating his aphonia was. And so it was, that at the age of eight, when the opportunity was presented to him, that he'd realized what he wanted to do. He wanted to carry out his father's dream for him. He wanted to prove that the Peters were telemarketers. More than anything, he wanted the Peters name to be in the Yellowbook of Fame, for his father's sake. Because Andrew Peters couldn't do it himself, no matter how much he wanted to, Joseph had decided in that moment that it was his responsibility to carry out that dream.
But the way his mother talked now was far different from anything Joseph had ever heard. In all the years, Mrs. Peters had only ever had good things to say about Andrew, constantly praising his telemarketing prowess and his natural skills. But now, she made it sound like that was a bad thing.
“Why...are you telling me this?” Joseph asked tentatively, afraid of her answer.
Mrs. Peters smiled, placing a hand on Joseph's knee.
“Your father is so proud of you, you know that?” She said, seemingly changing the subject. “I remember the day you told him you wanted to go into the business. He was beaming from ear to ear. I hadn't seen him so excited about anything in years. He was constantly bragging you up; he'd even write big, long letters about how proud he was of you, and how he knew you'd go far. I could tell he wished he could call you while you were at school.”
“He wrote me entire essays on telemarketing,” Joseph added quietly, remembering. “I still read them.”
“I can't tell you what a joy it was to see him getting excited about something again,” Mrs. Peters continued. “And even now, he's still so proud of you. He's convinced that you'll be a far greater telemarketer than he could ever hope to be.”
“I seriously doubt that,” Joseph retorted quickly.
Mrs. Peters smiled, turning to survey the room again, her eyes resting on the photo on the nightstand. She picked it up, cradling it in her hands.
“I've never told your father this,” she said, almost in a whisper. “Or anyone for that matter.”
She was silent for awhile, and Joseph leaned forward in his chair, waiting.
“I'd never wish for the pain and discouragement he went through all those years ago, or what he struggles with in communication. I'd never dream of wanting him to watch his career go down the drain, and throw away his dreams. And that's why I'm pleased and proud that you're carrying this on for him. It means a lot to him.
“But...despite what I said, that I'd never wish any of that on him...I can't help but be a little grateful for it. That change I saw in him frightened me. His career, his dream, were dominating his life, and altering his personality. I felt like a part of him was decaying, and I'd never see it again. But after the accident, that ended. He came back to reality, back to his family. Of course, at first it was hard, and he spent many hours in pain and frustration. I can only imagine how much it must have hurt to realize that he'd never talk on a telephone again. But when it finally registered, when he finally “got over it”, he regained some of his former self. I missed his smile so much...He started spending more time with us again, and he seemed genuinely happy, although with just a tinge of melancholy at times.
“But don't misunderstand, I still wanted him to have his dreams. So it was a happy time for both of us to see his dream live on in you. You gave your father something I never could have.
“But lately, I've been doing a lot of thinking.” She paused, laughing under her breath. “Maybe it's just the foolish worry of a mother. But in the time you've been gone, I've thought a lot about you, and your father, and this job. And I have to wonder...”
Mrs. Peters grabbed Joseph's chin, lifting his head till her deep brown eyes met his hazel ones.
“Is this really your dream, or just your father's?”
Joseph stared in shock, unable to come up with a logical response. What kind of question was that? This had always been his dream. Since he was a little kid, he'd always hoped that someday he could be just like his father. It was an aspiration, an achievement that he'd always dreamed of. Didn't all kids want to be just like their dad's? And a lot of young men ended up following their fathers' careers or inheriting their businesses. So how was it strange to her, why did she have to ask him that? Of course it was his dream, wasn't it? What did she even mean? It was his dream because it was his father's. So the question didn't have a right answer.
“I'm sorry, I don't mean to put you on the spot,” she said, pulling her hand back and playing with the hem of her shirt. “But there's one other thing that I want to talk to you about, without your father. I guess it's the reason I went into all of that about your father, when all you asked was what he was like before the accident.”
Mrs. Peters looked deep into Joseph's eyes again, completely immobilizing him. Like a deer caught in the headlights, he simply stared back, hanging on her every word. There was something in her eyes. Some emotion he couldn't read. Concern, desperation?
“Please,” she said, her voice shaking. “I know how important this is to you, and I know how hard you've worked to make your dream a reality. And I hope you succeed, and that you can find fulfillment and make your dad proud. But along the way, please don't forget who you are. As you study, and learn, and progress; don't change. Don't be enslaved by your career, or so caught up in it that the world around you disappears. You are such an amazing person, with such a unique personality. I can't bear to lose my son the way I lost my husband. You're not just a telemarketer. You're Joseph Peters. Don't ever forget that, and don't become anything less for the sake of this dream. It's not worth it.”
Joseph blinked. He didn't really have a response for that, at all.
I'm sorry, Mom; but you lost me at “please”.
Instead of saying what he was thinking, he just nodded obediently.
“I won't forget, Mom,” he promised.
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby ClaecElric4God » Wed Apr 23, 2014 9:21 pm

Chapter 5
When his alarm went off, Joseph woke to the smell of bacon and eggs.
“Mom's up bright and early,” he said to himself, his mind still foggy. He reached over and turned the alarm off, realizing that it was within arms' reach. Then he remembered that his mother had hounded him about going to bed in time the night before, going so far as to come into his room after “lights out” to make sure that he wasn't up studying. He rubbed the back of his head awkwardly, remembering the earful he'd gotten when she'd walked into the room to find him running through his books with a flashlight.
But as much as he tried to be irritated, he couldn't argue with the fact that sleeping on a mattress with a soft comforter and warm sheets was a welcome change from his usual routine. For the first time in a long while, Joseph felt fully rested, without an ache or pain to speak of. Rolling his shoulders, he sat up, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
“Breakfast's ready!” Mrs. Peters said over her shoulder as Joseph walked out into the hallway. He grunted a greeting, plopping down on the couch. Usually he'd still be zoned out at his desk at this point, struggling to wake up. But he figured that as long as his parents were here, he should show some hospitality. So as it was, he sat in the living room instead, slowly coming to his senses.
“Here you go,” Mrs. Peters said, offering plates to her husband and son in turn. Joseph smiled gratefully, slowly reaching for the plate. His mother chattered away as he ate, talking about everything under the sun that Joseph didn't really care about. By the time he was finally awake enough to actually understand what she was saying, he still wasn't listening. All he could think about was the conversation the night before.
Forget who he was? What had she been talking about? How would he ever forget who he was? It was his identity, something that had never been jeopardized, and he couldn't imagine ever being lost. He'd spent a long time laying awake, thinking about it, but he still couldn't figure out what she'd meant. Everything she'd said about his father had been confusing, too. It didn't even sound real. For as long as Joseph could remember, his father had been the most kind, fair, considerate person he knew. He couldn't imagine Andrew Peters being the kind of man that his mother had described him as, for any reason. Joseph had to wonder if maybe she had been jealous of the job, and maybe just unconsciously come up with an excuse, so she wouldn't have to admit it to herself. Maybe by making the career the “bad guy”, she could free herself from the guilt of being grateful for the accident.
Whatever the case, Joseph was certain that she'd blown things out of proportion, and there wasn't anything to worry about. But for her sake, he'd remember her words and do his best to make sure whatever change she was talking about never happened. The only change he wanted was to improve, and become the great telemarketer that his father could be proud of.
“Joseph? Joseph.”
Joseph's head jerked up. He'd been so lost in thought that he'd tuned out everything.
“Oh, sorry,” he apologized absently. “I was thinking. What were you saying?”
Mrs. Peters sighed.
“Between the two of you, it's a wonder I even try. I was asking what you wanted to do for supper when you get home from work tonight. I thought you might introduce us to a few of your friends. I'd love to get acquainted with them!”
Joseph quickly looked down at his plate, a cough breaking the awkward silence.
“I, um...” he began. “I...don't really...that is...I don't have too many friends, and they're all out of town at the moment. Quite a coincidence, I know, but it can't really be helped.”
A hand fell on his shoulder, and he looked up into his mother's eyes.
“You've never been a good liar, you know that,” she said quietly, smiling. “It's fine, Joseph. I understand. When you're as busy as you are, I don't imagine you have a lot of time for social interaction, do you?”
Joseph shrugged, feeling very guilty. As perceptive as she was, Joseph knew that she knew exactly why he didn't have any friends. He'd spent ten years of his life, most of his childhood, in an intensive schooling program, where the students were encouraged more to study and talk on the phone than to interact with each other or the outside world. To Joseph, society had always been a foreign thing. Nothing about his life had ever prepared him to get to know people, and he was more frightened of it than anything. So to talk to people for anything beyond basic necessity was unthinkable, making friendships virtually impossible.
“I'm sorry, Mom,” he said quietly.
“What on earth are you apologizing for?” She asked quickly. “It's perfectly fine. We'll just go somewhere quiet and have a nice meal.”
“Wouldn't you guys rather eat here?” Joseph asked in a panic. Eating out was out of the question. Even with his parents, there would be so many people at any of the restaurants in town, especially at supper time. “I can go to those restaurants any time, but I only get to have your amazing cooking while you're here, right?” Joseph looked at her anxiously, hoping she wouldn't see right through his ploy.
Mrs. Peters smiled happily.
“You know how to butter a woman up, don't you?” She teased. “All right, my cooking it is. You'd better be grateful, young man. Not everyone has such an exceptional cook for a mother.”
Joseph sighed gratefully, relieved beyond words. But the corner of his mouth twitched in a grimace.
Yup, she saw right through it.

“So, how's the business treating you?” Connie asked cheerily between mouthfuls of rice pudding.
Joseph shrugged, swirling his spoon through the unappetizing bowl of mush. “It could be better, I suppose.”
It had been a week since his parents had left, and the transition was hard. And not just because he'd woken up with a crick in his neck from sleeping at the desk. He missed them already. But even worse, being around his dad again had made Joseph remember what a long ways he had to go before he would ever match up. It was this dilemma Joseph found himself as he sat in the cafeteria, chatting with Connie.
“Let me guess, you wish you were more like your dad.” Connie laughed good-naturedly. “It's the same thing every day.” Then she smiled to show that she meant well.
“Well, it's not just that,” Joseph defended, realizing that this conversation was becoming routine. “I'm just stressed because I don't feel like I'm improving. I mean, I thought I would have made some headway by this point. But I keep getting the same lectures from Mr. Marco. He always says I'm too nice. But I mean, isn't that your method? I don't get why he's so against it, when he's fine with you being all great and friendly.”
Connie pondered for a moment, tapping her spoon against her chin. “Well, it's hard to explain. First off, everyone has their own method. You want to make sure you don't fall into a rut, or try to use a method that works for someone else, but might not work for you. And I think your biggest problem is not being too nice, but being too shy. You're not pushy enough. That's something that, if done right, you can even do in a nice way. You have to have a mindset right from the start of, 'I'm going to get this person to buy this, no matter what.' It doesn't matter whether they want it, need, it or ask for it. It's a simple fact that you have to get them to buy it. Whether through polite persuasion, obnoxious repetition, or a firm, commanding attitude. And different people are different. If you have a customer that's young and naïve, you can usually talk them into buying something by making it seem like a must have, or use their ignorance against them. Other customers have more pride, and have to be convinced that they want it, that in the end, when they say yes, it was their idea from the start. See what I mean? There are all sorts of people, and you have to use different methods to get them to do things your way. It's called manipulation.” Connie cocked her head and smiled warmly, waiting for Joseph to concur.
“Yeah,” he said grudgingly. “I mean, it's all stuff I learned in school. But I guess it's just hard for me, because I don't like inconveniencing people. I mean, it doesn't seem fair to force stuff on people. If I didn't want something, I don't think I'd enjoy having people bug me about it. I always thought it was important to take people's feelings into consideration.”
Connie threw her head back and laughed, a light, pure laugh. It was unnervingly so, considering the words that came after it, just as light and pure.
“Oh, Trainee,” she stood up, pushing her chair in. “You have such a silly way of looking at the world. Feelings don't matter. To be a successful telemarketer, you have to realize that all the people you talk to are just voices. You'll never meet them in person, never get to know them or spend time with them. So it doesn't matter what they think. At the end of the day, a customer is just a name on a list, part of the quota you have to meet to keep your job. If you don't lose your thinking quick, you won't have a hope in the world of being the telemarketer your dad was.”
As those last words sunk in, Connie patted Joseph on the shoulder, her smile as wide as ever.
“Well, we'd better get back to work. The customers aren't going to volunteer themselves!”

Joseph sat on his couch, pondering what Connie had said at lunch break. A part of his brain was itching to get back to his desk and study, but he just couldn't get into it. He felt like he needed to think some things out. Things he'd pushed to the back of his mind, that had presented themselves either during his schooling or along the course of his training program.
It doesn't matter what people think? Should I really just brush aside their feelings and not care?
He thought about all the times he'd called people in the early morning, often waking them out of a deep slumber. How many of those people had a hard time falling asleep, and the early morning was when they got their best sleep? Or people who didn't sleep well enough as it was, so their sleep was precious to them. He always had an instinct to apologize to them, but his training strictly spoke against that. A telemarketer's policy was “Never apologize, just change the subject”.
Sometimes a customer would sound upset or preoccupied. Joseph could only guess what was going on in their lives. Maybe they'd suffered a tragedy, or were in trouble and needed time to ponder deep things. And the last thing they needed was an unwanted phone call. But like Connie had said, feelings didn't matter. Their concerns weren't his, and his only agenda was to get them to accept his offer. And if he could read into the situation, all the better, to use it to his advantage.
But what about financial condition? What if they didn't have the money to buy the things he wanted to sell them? Theoretically, if he got good enough, he would be able to convince people to pay for whatever he was advertising. But what if they couldn't actually afford it, or they had to take out a loan for it? Forcing people into that position didn't seem right.
Then Connie's last statement rang in his mind again.
“You won't have a hope in the world of being the telemarketer your dad was.”
Joseph dropped his head between his knees, burying his fingers in his hair. What to do? Regardless of what he felt in himself, it didn't matter. He needed to find some way to push that aside, to give up his own morals. Nothing was as important to him as fulfilling his father's dream. And if caring about people was going to keep him from doing that, he had to cast it aside. He was having a hard enough time as it was; he didn't need more obstacles.
Joseph racked his brain, trying to drive out his unwanted feelings. The ten years at Dialing Academy hadn't prepared him for this. He didn't know what to do with himself. It was a matter of completely reconstructing his thought patterns. He searched desperately for some solution.
“You'll never meet them in person, never get to know them or spend time with them. So it doesn't matter what they think.”
Joseph jerked upright, eyes wide, as the words went through his mind again. He instantly ran around the corner, flinging the door to his room open and rushing to the desk. Snatching a piece of paper up along with a pencil, he wrote it down, word for word. Joseph picked up the paper, staring at it like a gift from above. This was his key, his escape from reality. Behind his phone, Joseph was free from guilt, remorse, and any of the needless emotions that went along with it. With this logic, he'd never have to worry about another customer as long as he lived.
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby Panda4christ:3 » Thu Apr 24, 2014 4:01 pm

I really wish I had something deep to say about this @w@;;
all I can really say is I really love where your taking it cx also, I have the sudden urge to draw Joseph XD;;
"People need fear, we experience it so we can grow stronger"-Maka Albarn
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby Wolfsong » Thu Apr 24, 2014 5:41 pm

I find this very interesting Claec. The character of Joseph intrigues me, as well as the others surrounding him. Particularly Connie, and ultimately his dad. The paths and choices Joseph is forced to make are molding his character nicely, and I hope his story ends well for him.
Though...I can't say the choice he makes here makes me very happy, but I've never liked pushy telemarketers anyway :XD: I wish him the best of luck though.
I love how you're doing. Keep up the good work!

Off-topic, but Panda, is that a non-Soul Eater clip I see in your sig? :wow!:
"Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day." Psalm 25:4-5

"Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses.
Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.
Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred.
O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee.
Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles." Psalm 25: 16-22

Thank you. Have a good day.
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby Panda4christ:3 » Fri Apr 25, 2014 10:29 am

Wolfsong wrote:Off-topic, but Panda, is that a non-Soul Eater clip I see in your sig? :wow!:

what are you talking about that's obviously maka
Joking aside, it was non-soul eater clip before too XD
"People need fear, we experience it so we can grow stronger"-Maka Albarn
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby ClaecElric4God » Fri Apr 25, 2014 10:36 am

Yukine ftw!
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? -Micah 6:8 KJV
They have shewed thee, O teen, what is good; and what doth the world require of thee, but to fit in, be wealthy, have good looks, and be rebellious? -Peer Pressure 1:1
"I hate milk; it's like drinking vomit." -Edward Elric and me. :fmed:

ClaecElric4God in regards to Wolfsong - You're the coolness scraped off the top of this morning's ice cream, after being pulled out of a beautiful summer day!
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby ClaecElric4God » Mon Aug 04, 2014 12:10 pm

Oh, wow. Such neglect. Anyways, a couple people have vaguely mentioned in passing that I should continue this. Whether they actually wanted it or were just humoring me, I suppose I'll go along with it. Good thing I still have a few chapters I can post before I have to start writing again, because I have no inspiration at the moment.

Chapter 6
“Thank you for your business, have a wonderful day.”
Joseph sighed deeply, marking off the name. He took a sip of water, then leaned back, resting his eyes for a moment. Four years, and not much had changed. He'd woken up that morning with his face in a pile of papers, scattering them as he rushed frantically to the other side of the room to turn off his alarm. The bed was untouched, since it had been more than a week since he'd managed to fall asleep in it. He'd had a quick breakfast of dry toast and ginger tea to fight an oncoming cold, then come to the office bright and early. With only 30 minutes left, Joseph reviewed his customer list. He'd only managed to make fifty sales so far. Although his success rate had risen exponentially in the last few years, so had Terry Marco's expectations. Unwilling to admit that Joseph was always improving, Marco simply continued to raise his standards so they were always a bit higher than Joseph's achievements. At this point, Joseph had learned what Connie had tried to tell him, that it was just Marco's way of keeping everyone in line. So he brushed Marco's degradation aside, instead aspiring toward his own goals. Although he was still a long ways from the Yellow Book of Fame, Joseph realized his own talents, and had learned not to dwell on his failures. And yet, he still finished every day with a wall of yellow sticky notes on the side of his cubicle, notes from each and every failed call.
Thinking back, he couldn't be more grateful for Connie's advice. Those words he'd written down had pulled him through these past few years. It was thanks to that motto that he'd managed to break through that streak of failures. As soon as he'd adopted it and started putting it into practice, improving had been a breeze. Of course, it had taken awhile to really embrace it. A small part of him had spent a time clinging to the hope that there was a way to compromise the two ideals. But when he'd finally realized what he needed to do, his progress had even caught Mr. Marco off guard.
Joseph sighed and leaned forward. A few more sales and he'd have a full quota for the day. After that he could take it easy. Picking up the phone, he dialed in the next number.
“Congratulations, Mr. Williams!” Joseph said in an upbeat tone. “You've just won a round-trip vacation for two to any popular tourist location, from hundreds of selections across the map. With a small deposit of only $49.99, you'll be well on your way to the dream vacation you've been waiting for.”
“Whoa whoa whoa,” the voice on the other end interrupted him. “Vacation?”
“Yes, sir. All you need to make this happen-”
“Hold up,” he interrupted again. “What on earth makes you think I have time for a vacation? I have the lawn to mow, four dogs that my parents aren't willing to keep at their house, and I'm studying for finals to boot. You do realize it's April, right? I've got so much on my plate, there's no way I have time for a vacation.”
Joseph blinked. Why on earth would he want to know this guy's life story? He skimmed through his mental compilation of responses that he'd spent the last four and a half years memorizing out of his Manual of Standard Replies, and picked out the most applicable one.
“For just $49.99, you can plan any vacation. This offer is good for future plans, too. If you can't take a vacation at the moment, no worries. Get out your planner and book the tickets for your free vacation, as much as 18 months in advance.”
“Fine then,” the voice said in some irritation. “I want to go to McMurdo Station, Antarctica. I should hope that's on your list, if it's as great as you say it is.”
What's with this guy? Is he insane?
“Visit tourist attractions like the tropical Bahamas, beautiful Yellowstone National Park, or the ancient Greek ruins. With a wide selection of tourist spots, you won't be disappointed.”
“Listen here,” the voice said commandingly. “If I can't take a trip to Antarctica, I don't see why I should accept your offer.”
Joseph couldn't wrap his head around this guy, and realized he was in danger of losing his customer. It was time to change tactics. He took a step off the beaten path, but kept himself within the acceptable range of telemarketing.
“If you're planning your trip in the summer, a survey showed that a large percentage of vacationers recommend Fiji Island for summer travel, due to its beautiful weather.”
“You're trying to get me to change my mind! I see how it is! What did I tell you?”
Joseph felt like he'd been shot in the gut. Not only had this guy seen through Joseph's redirection ploy, but he'd called him out on it! The unnerving thing was that he just kept giving Joseph an opportunity to offer his argument, instead of getting angry and hanging up.
“Mr. Williams, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. If you end this phone call without making a decision, this offer will be null and void.”
“Well then, why don't you talk to your higher-ups and see if they can't put Antarctica on the list.”
What higher-ups? Joseph thought to himself. That isn't my jurisdiction.
“If you make the deposit within the next 24 hours, it will include a rental vehicle for the duration of your trip, so you can enjoy each and every attraction at your vacation spot.”
“Listen,” the voice sighed. “I don't want a vacation, I don't want a rental car, and I don't want to make a deposit. I hate vacations. They always end with me spending lots of money on souvenirs and getting soaked to the bone caught in some rainstorm. Why don't you do yourself a favor and take the vacation yourself? I mean, you've got the whole robot response thing going on, and I'm pretty sure you're not listening to a word I'm saying. It sounds like you need it more than I do. Call it a gift from me to you.”
Joseph was suddenly very frustrated with this guy. Nobody talked like this, and he didn't know how to handle it.
“The terms of service state that this offer is only applicable to the person the offer was originally made to,” he corrected, straining with the effort of remaining calm.
The voice broke into laughter.
“You're really hopeless, you know that? Well, it's been fun chatting, but I have to go. My pizza's getting cold as we speak. But thanks anyways. I hope you find somebody else to cheat out of 50 bucks!” The last thing Joseph heard was more laughter, before the line went dead.
Smashing the phone back onto the receiver, Joseph uttered a low growl in his chest. That guy was infuriating! Who did he think he was? Joseph hadn't been so humiliated in years. He felt like a newbie all over again. What was so different about that guy that he'd managed to rile Joseph up? If that guy hadn't ended up hanging up on him, Joseph might have ended up snapping and yelling at him. If that happened, Mr. Marco would have his head. This was really bad, and Joseph had to analyze the situation and make sure it never happened again.
Then it struck him. His barrier had been broken. The customer had gone right past the issue of what Joseph was advertising, and talked to him directly. In a telemarketer to customer conversation, it was understood that the telemarketer was just a channel through which a customer could get great deals. The only purpose a telemarketer served in the conversation was to convey the message to the customer. The customer either said yes or no, or asked questions about the offer. There was never any suggestion that the telemarketer was of any importance. If anything, they were a nuisance, something associated with being bothered and harassed.
But this guy...he'd treated Joseph like he was an average person. What made him think telemarketers had vacations? Joseph hadn't spent more than 10 minutes anywhere but the office or his apartment in the last five years. And that jibe about not listening. Joseph was irritated that he'd let himself give that impression. Although that was Drone's greatest quality, ignoring the customer wasn't how Joseph worked. He preferred to consider it as avoiding subjects that weren't beneficial to the conversation; and having never dealt with someone making such random, straightforward comments, he'd just treated them as if they fell into that category. Truth be told, he didn't have a proper response for that. He realized that his replies had been half-baked and unhelpful. But it was that guy's fault for making the situation so difficult to begin with! If he'd acted like a normal human being, Joseph would have been able to sound more natural, instead of robotic.
The worst part was that he'd kept talking about himself. What on earth made him think that his personal life was important to a telemarketer?
“Well it isn't!” Joseph said firmly, jumping when he realized he'd said it out loud. More than anything, he was afraid of how much he'd allowed it to affect him. According to his motto, he shouldn't care. He'd never meet that guy in person, so why did it matter what he thought? Who cared if he didn't have time for vacation, or if he was eating cold pizza because he'd been interrupted by a telemarketer? That was all in the past, and Joseph would never have to deal with it again. He was nothing more than a voice on the phone, and an X on a list of names.
“All right,” Joseph said firmly. “I've got this.”
But before he had time to pick up the phone, the bell rang. Joseph looked at the clock in disbelief. Had he really spent 30 minutes talking to that idiot and pouting about it afterward? Disgusted, Joseph gathered up his papers and shoved them in his folder, still in a foul mood.
As he stepped outside the door, Joseph almost collided with Drone, who had just come out of his cubicle. Joseph stopped short and looked down at Drone, who was a good 6 inches shorter than him.
“Excuse me,” Joseph said, stepping back so the older man could walk past.
Drone slowly raised his head, taking a moment to register Joseph's face. Something that might have been recognition flickered in his eyes, then he lowered his head again, as if he didn't have the energy to keep staring up. Or maybe it was an automatic response to mechanical gears in his neck that wouldn't let his gaze be anything but level for more than 4 seconds.
“Oh, you're that good-for-nothing kid, aren't you?” He droned. “Haven't seen you in awhile. I thought you kicked the bucket.”
Yup, it's me. I've only worked three feet from you for five years now.
“Mr. Drone, how are you today?” Joseph smiled politely.
Drone stared silently off into space. After a few moments, he closed his eyes and shook his head.
“You'll never amount to anything, you know,” he stated matter-of-factly. “Nothing at all.”
“Nothing...not a thing...nope...not at all...” Joseph could hear him mumbling to himself as the foul-natured man wandered down the hall. Having only encountered the man a few times, Joseph had found no need to establish a bond of any kind with him, so he wasn't entirely used to Drone's tactless remarks. But he was no stranger to them either, as that was the only way Drone had ever spoken to him. So he simply ignored them, choosing to go on with his life.
“Hey, Data!” Joseph turned to see Connie standing at the door of her cubicle, waving him over. He worked his way into the stream of people, pushing and shoving his way toward her.
I'll never get used to that, he thought to himself. After the first year of work, Mr. Marco had finally grudgingly acknowledged that Joseph was a passable telemarketer (though not to his face), at which point Joseph had come in to work one day to find a brass nameplate attached to the top of the doorway of his cubicle. A shiny new plaque that read “Database”. It had caught him off guard, since he'd hoped to end up with a bit more flashy of a title. “Database” just made him think of those geeky glasses kids in the movies who knew all the most pointless information in the world. But the truth of the matter was, that was Joseph's strong point. All that hard core studying he'd done had been more than just how to talk to customers. No, that was what he'd spent ten years in school for. Most of his nightly studies consisted of learning about the things he sold, or what the best things to inform customers about were. Any time Joseph had an issue related to a lack of knowledge, he went home and studied it out until he was an expert in it. Currently, he spoke Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Italian, and Portuguese. In his spare time he studied Yiddish and Turkish. And all those years of studying had paid off, and Joseph was the most knowledgeable person in his trade. As well as being his trademark, it was how he usually performed. He would tell his customers all the ins and outs of what he was selling or offering, and had the ability to answer practically any question presented to him. With this talent, Joseph could quite often convince people to accept his offers, simply because they felt more comfortable buying something when they had an idea of what they were getting into.
When he finally shoved his way back out of the stream to stand next to Connie, she smiled brightly, as usual.
“Hey, a few of us are going out to pizza tonight. I figured all you're going to do is go home and be by yourself, as usual. So do you want to come eat with us?”
“I can't really afford it,” Joseph lied, shifting his gaze so he wasn't meeting her eyes. “I'm broke till my next paycheck.”
“Oh, come on!” Connie pouted, still with a smile on her face. “It's on me! You need to get out more!”
No, I need to get out less. I'm already going to the grocery store today. How much human interaction do you think I can handle in one day?
“But I really have things to do, you know,” he said, desperately groping for an excuse. If this was only a phone conversation, he'd be able to come up with anything. “I mean, I have to have a meeting with my landlord, and he'll throw a fit if I'm late.”
Connie smiled knowingly. “Okay, if it's that much trouble.” Something in her voice made Joseph feel like a heel. For a second, he was almost drawn in by that kind, gentle tone. But then he shook his head. No, this was how she got to her customers. He wouldn't fall victim to it.
“Thanks,” he said quickly, turning and shoving his way back into the crowd. He didn't dare look back.
“Well, what was I supposed to do?” He argued with himself. “I mean, it's not like I can actually spend time with people. It's a pizza party; there'll probably be lots of talking and being talked to. I can't deal with that. Do you want me to die?”
Looking up, Joseph realized he was standing in the middle of the elevator, surrounded by people. He'd been too preoccupied to try to make his way to the back. And in his conversation with himself, he'd managed to draw the attention of four or five people, who were all giving him curious stares. His heart started beating faster, and he stared intently at the ground, willing his feet to sink right through.
Outside, the spring air was as polluted and noisy as ever. Cars whizzed past, sending spray everywhere. Apparently, it had rained heavily earlier. But now the sky was a bright, beautiful blue, with just a few clouds here and there. Joseph unbuttoned his jacket, enjoying the warmth of the sun. At the corner he stopped and waited for a break in the cars, dashing across the street just in time to nearly be flattened by a taxi that swerved around the corner at the last second. A horn blared behind him, but he kept walking, afraid of drawing attention to himself.
The grocery store lady hadn't gotten any less suspicious either, watching Joseph out of the corner of her eye as she bagged his items. Joseph snatched up the bags and dove out the door, exhaustion making them heavier than usual.
His routine of late had been extremely draining. With the increase in sales, Mr. Marco was giving Joseph harder and harder customers, quite often ones that had been considered a lost cause by lesser telemarketers. With many of them, the opening spiel was key, because the customer had been bombarded with telemarketer calls and would hang up the second they found out he was trying to sell something. The strategy he employed quite often determined whether he got more than a few words in before the click. As such, Joseph was spending more and more time in heavy study, whenever he had the chance. What troubled him more than anything, however, was that as he studied, he was realizing two facts. The first was that he'd studied most of the books he had thoroughly. He could almost write each one out word for word by memory, and he'd written every imaginable kind of research paper, essay, and dissection on every element and note in each one of them.
But the second realization was the worst for him. As technology progressed and the kinds of things Joseph sold changed, and as customers began to see through the ruses and read into scams; the books were outdated. Many of the points in them were no longer relevant or useful. So Joseph's book studies had gotten more and more fruitless and empty, and he felt like his time was being wasted, when now more than ever he needed to be cracking down on his studies.
And so it was that he'd found himself turning more and more to the ever growing and developing internet community. He much preferred books, but the gold nuggets were few and far between, since people simply didn't write books any more. And the thought of wandering around town searching through book stores chilled him to the bone. So Joseph had taken to looking for informative telemarketer sites and forums, even making online friends who he discussed telemarketing with. Although it didn't compare to good old fashioned ink and paper, the internet was becoming more and more useful for Joseph, especially with the modern techniques and information it supplied. And it was especially convenient, because online Joseph had keyboard bravery, and he had no qualms about talking with complete strangers, sometimes for hours on end. Real live seminars and discussions would probably be more practical and helpful, but interacting with real people in the real world wasn't really an option for Joseph.
Back at his apartment, Joseph plopped down in his chair, surveying his desktop. Since he'd taken to using the computer more, it would only be logical that there wouldn't be papers scattered everywhere. But old habits were hard to break, and Joseph was still prone to sift through piles of papers and books, looking for useful information.
Rearranging his papers and stacking his books, Joseph sighed contentedly when he looked down at the neat orderliness. He reached for a book off the top of the pile, ready to settle into his regular routine. But then he hesitated. For some reason, he couldn't get into the reading spirit. Particularly since the book he was planning on reading was one of his most thoroughly studied ones. Sighing, Joseph led his hand fall on the table.
Well then, what do I do?
Joseph turned his head, eying the laptop. Suddenly curious, he lifted the lid and opened the browser. He typed in the web address to his most visited forum, “TeleUnite”. Joseph skimmed through the different topics, looking for anything new or interesting. He found a few thought-provoking posts, but overall, nothing had really been updated since the evening before. Shrugging, he decided to enter the chat, hoping he could catch one of the senior members to have a deep discussion with. Otherwise, he figured he'd have to muddle through his studies and try to find something new to work on in his old, worn out books. Either that, or do some mirror practice.
The chat was dead, with no one other than Joseph logged in. Just as he was ready to give up hope and close it up, a name popped up on the roster.
“Cup O' Jon,” it read.
“Hey!” Cup O' Jon's message popped up. “Dead night, huh?”
Joseph racked his brain, trying to remember who this was. He was pretty sure he didn't recognize the name, so either it was a new member or one of those people who didn't really frequent the forum. Disappointed, Joseph grumbled to himself. He'd hoped to run into Gargles or Phony42, two of the more knowledgeable telemarketers on the site. But then he perked up. Since he didn't know this guy, that just meant that Joseph didn't know what he was like. For all he knew, this guy might be more amazing than both of them put together.
“Yeah, it's worse than usual,” Joseph typed in. “So how long have you been around the site?”
“Oh, I just joined today, actually!”
Joseph's spirits dropped a bit. But he told himself not to give up all hope just yet.
“Oh, I see. Well, welcome to TU.”
“thnx. so far this place is p interesting.”
“So how long have you been telemarketing?”
“hehe, that's the thing”
“i'm not actually a telemarketer”
“Really?” Disappointment overwhelmed Joseph.
“So...why did you join the site? If you don't mind my asking.”
“let's just say...I'm intriuged”
“By what?”
“telemarketers. I tak it your 1”
“how long you been doing it?”
“Five years.”
“so like...u do it 4 a living? not just a side job or somehting?”
“Yeah, it's a full time job.”
“So you really joined a telemarketing forum, when you're not a telemarketer, for no reason other than because you're curious?”
“yeah, purdy much”
“...Interesting. So what got you curious?”
“cause tehy alway scall me, and i'm just trying to figure out what its all about”
“Really? You get a lot of calls?”
“o yeah it seems like i gt more and more calls all the time. in just teh last week i mustve got 10 ir more calls. its crazy annoying”
“Oh, I see.”
“oh, but no offense r anything. you guys're great”
“Um, thanks, I think...”
“but yeah, i figured if i read up some stuf i can figur oyt how 2 get them off my case. u now, fight fire w/ fir”
“I suppose...”
“haha, i gess its kinda wierd for me to tell u all this when ur a tele urself, huh?”
“No, it's fine.” Yes, it's really weird. And are you like 4? Your typos and lazy typing are driving me crazy.
“well,, g2g. crazy stuff goin on 2morrow. life n' all that”
“Okay, see you, then.”
“have fun”
Joseph stared at the screen when Cup O' Jon left.
“That was so weird,” he said aloud. “What is this, crazy people day?”
Sighing, Joseph shut his computer off and carefully replaced it where it was before. Stretching, he made a quick decision. Against his better judgment, and after much debate, he decided to just go to bed. In the back of his mind, the lack of study gnawed at him, racking him with guilt. But the exhaustion was too much, and two strange encounters in the same day had messed with his brain too much.
Getting ready for bed, he crawled under the covers, breathing in the comfort of sleeping on a soft, comfortable mattress. But as he tried to fall asleep, all he could think about was the events of the day, and that last chat session.
What was with that guy? Since when are outsiders interested in the affairs of telemarketers? I've never meet anyone on one of those sites that wasn't a telemarketer. There's no reason for normal people to be curious or interested. What a weirdo.
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby Wolfsong » Mon Aug 04, 2014 5:06 pm

You continued this I'm so happy....

Still very enjoyable. I look forward to the next part.
"Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day." Psalm 25:4-5

"Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses.
Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.
Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred.
O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee.
Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles." Psalm 25: 16-22

Thank you. Have a good day.
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby Panda4christ:3 » Tue Aug 05, 2014 9:45 am

Yay~ It's back :3
Good job on this chapter :)
"People need fear, we experience it so we can grow stronger"-Maka Albarn
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby ClaecElric4God » Thu Aug 21, 2014 12:31 pm

Chapter 7
Joseph dialed in the next number, extremely pleased with himself. Five customers in, and he hadn't had a single rejection yet. He felt a rare sense of satisfaction as he looked down at his perfect score for the day. If he was careful, he could make it to eight in a row and break his record for the month of May.
In the past couple weeks, he'd encountered Cup O' Jon multiple times. Every time, his spelling and grammar were as atrocious as ever. But in spite of that, their conversations were starting to grow on Joseph. The guy had a very interesting personality, and Joseph was starting to enjoy discussing things with him. Like he'd mentioned, Cup O' Jon was trying to learn more about telemarketers, for whatever reason, and Joseph was more than happy to share his knowledge. Even though it was still very weird to him for a non-telemarketer to be so curious, he was starting to get used to it, and if anything, it was good practice for Joseph to stimulate his brain and refresh some of the things he'd studied over the years.
To some extent, though, he felt guilty. There was an invisible line between telemarketers and the real world, and by discussing telemarketing with an outsider, Joseph felt like he was breaking some sacred rule, or betraying the trust of his fellow telemarketers. There was something almost taboo about it. And so Joseph felt himself caught in a dilemma, trying to decide what to do. He had to remember his credo, that it didn't matter what people thought. And by creating what could almost be called a friendship with this guy, he was endangering himself. After all, if he started to acknowledge the reality of people's feeling and thinking, it could have a devastating effect on his mindset.
But at the same time, Joseph had to admit that his conversations were enjoyable and educational, for himself as much as the other guy. He was starting to learn how customers' minds worked. If he could balance on that thin line between practical thinking and emotions, talking to this guy could be a breakthrough in figuring out how to get people to cooperate with him. If he played his cards right, he could learn how to win virtually every customer. After all, getting into your opponent's head is the most effective way to conquer them.
“This is your last chance to accept the 50% off deal on a monthly subscription to Greeners Monthly, for all your gardening needs. Make sure you snag this offer before it's gone for good. The only magazine that covers every necessity to make your garden the envy of the neighborhood.”
“Stop...calling...me,” the menacing, icy cold voice came through the phone. Before Joseph could respond, the phone went dead.
Growling, Joseph slammed the phone down, running his fingers through his hair. What was he supposed to do? He called that particular phone number an average of four times a week. Every time they were more testy. Joseph was at a loss as to how he was supposed to convince someone who wanted to hunt him down and murder him, to buy his product. Somehow, he had a hard time believing that he was going to talk them into it.
Then it occurred to him. He remembered the conversation he'd had with Cup O' Jon the first time. Even though he'd never brought it up again, he'd said something about being frustrated because he was constantly getting telemarketer calls. Maybe Joseph could subtly ask him some questions and try to get a feel for how he felt about it. If Joseph could figure out how to put his customers at ease right from the start, figure out what about the calls bothered them, then maybe he could cajole them into accepting his offers. It was worth a shot...
“Peters?” A voice behind him inquired tentatively. Joseph jumped, frantically shuffling through his papers to try to make it look like he was actually doing something productive. He seldom wasn't, which was why it was so frustrating to be caught slacking off. If Mr. Marco heard about this, Joseph would be in huge trouble.
“You are Peters, right?”
Joseph turned around cautiously, phone in hand. A young boy, about 14, was standing in the doorway, wringing his hands. Joseph couldn't blame him. If he'd been under Marco's employ at this kid's age, he would most definitely be psychologically damaged by now.
“Yes...” he replied nervously. “Do you need something?”
“Mr. Marco wants to see you in his office. He says to drop whatever you're doing and get there right away.”
Joseph's blood ran cold. What did he want? In the five years he'd worked there, Joseph had never been called to Mr. Marco's office, or had a private meeting with him. In fact, he'd never even encountered the man anywhere other than his cubicle. Something wasn't right.
Joseph could feel himself starting to sweat profusely. His hands started shaking, and he felt numb all over. He nodded his understanding, struggling to form words. Between the two of them, anyone would think they were suffering trauma from a large scale catastrophe. Of course, it all depended on perspective, since Terry Marco could very easily be labeled a large scale catastrophe. It was that very largeness that Joseph was thinking about at the moment.
“Um...yeah...thanks...I'll be there...” he finally managed to stammer. The boy nodded and left reluctantly, presumably to run some other errand for the heartless slave driver.
Joseph quickly organized his desk, looking it over to make sure it was tidy and orderly. As he entered the hall, he realized he didn't actually know where Mr. Marco's office was. He looked up and down the hallway, but the errand boy was nowhere to be seen. Joseph turned the corner into Connie's cubicle, but she was deep in conversation, chatting with her customer about the most irrelevant things. Sighing, Joseph grimaced and looked down the hall at Drone's cubicle. As loathe as he was to interact with the old badger, Drone was the only other person in the building Joseph felt like he could force himself to talk to, let alone ask directions from.
Stepping inside, Joseph knocked on the glass. Drone was talking on the phone, but it sounded like he was wrapping it up. Or rather, it was at the point where his customer would either give up and give him what he wanted, or get irritated and hang up. So Joseph just stood there, hands locked behind his back. He would never admit that this was as much an excuse to delay his doom as anything.
“You won't find another deal like this, ma'am,” Drone drawled in a painful monotone. It sounded like he could croak at any second.
“...It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I promise you won't regret adding this priceless item to your antique collection.”
“...Well, now is as good a time to start one as ever. This is a popular collection starter, I can guarantee it.”
“...Ma'am, I just hope you don't look back later on down the road, wishing you'd gone with this. There won't be another one like it.”
“...All right, well I'll need your information in order to make sure we get this to you.”
“Oh, I must have misheard you. I was certain you said you were planning to go with this. Are you sure that's not what you said?”
After a moment of silence, Drone slowly pulled the phone away from his ear, staring at it like a zombie. Slowly, he replaced it on the hook, looking down at his list. Marking off a name, he picked up the phone again, ready to dial in another number.
Joseph jerked up, suddenly remembering why he was here. Drone's lethargy was contagious, and watching and listening to him made Joseph suddenly feel incredibly tired. If not for the nagging feeling of terror in the back of his mind, Joseph would have forgotten entirely what he was doing and stood there all day, hypnotized by Drone's intense lack of enthusiasm.
“Um, sir?” Joseph asked tentatively. Drone stopped dialing and raised his head, but didn't turn around. After a moment, he shook his head and turned back to the phone.
“Sir,” Joseph said a little louder. Then he took it a step further and walked over to the desk, tapping Drone on the shoulder. The older man turned ever so slowly, raising his head to look at Joseph. His stare was blank and lifeless, and Joseph could only hope that somewhere in Drone's addled brain he remembered who he was.
“So you're still around, huh?” Drone said slowly, shaking his head. “When are they going to fire you? They should just be done with it.”
“Yes, sir,” Joseph complied, perturbed. “But I need to ask you a question.”
“A question?” Drone replied in some confusion. “I didn't know kids at your level were allowed to ask questions.”
“Yes, sir. Where can I find Mr. Marco's office?”
“Oh, old Terry? He doesn't have the time of day for a sorry kid like you, you know. Save your energy and get back to your job.”
“He called me personally to his office, sir. But I don't know where it is.”
“Ah, so that's what it is.” Drone nodded, looking enlightened. “Well, it's about time.”
What?! What is he talking about? Time for what?
“Well, it's at the end of the hall on the 48th floor. Good riddance.” Drone waved Joseph away dismissively as he turned back to his desk.
Joseph stiffly turned and left. Apparently Drone knew something he didn't, and Joseph was suddenly a good bit more apprehensive than he had been a moment ago.
Taking the elevator up, Joseph started to realize just how big this place was. How did Marco find the time to walk through all the floors and stop to spend time criticizing multiple employees along the way?
Maybe he has clones. Joseph shuddered at the thought. One Terry Marco in the world was more than enough. Any more was a threat to mankind.
Joseph could feel his legs wobbling as he made his way to the end of the hall. Unlike any of the other floors (that he knew of), this one had no cubicles. It was just one long hallway. The carpet was the same, as well as the lighting. The only difference was the lack of employees. It was silent as the grave, adding to the blanket of terror that lay heavily over Joseph.
At the end of the hall, Joseph stood outside the door, wondering if he could get enough of a head start if he started running now. If he could just make it to Canada...
But before Joseph knew what was going on, his body was moving on its own, and he slowly opened the door, even as his mind was screaming in protest.
There sat Mr. Marco, intently staring at something on the desk, and looking rather perturbed. When he heard the door, he looked up, his gaze locking with Joseph's.
“Peters, sit down,” he commanded, waving to a chair. “I want to talk to you.”
Joseph stood in the doorway for a moment, frozen in terror. His heart was beating a million miles an hour, and he felt like a cornered rabbit. Sniffing the air for any sign of danger, he cautiously approached, almost tripping over his own feet.
This is it. I never thought this was how I was going to die. I thought I'd have a heart attack at some social gathering or be murdered by a grudge-bearing customer. I never thought I'd die at the hands of my boss in his office.
Mr. Marco tapped the desk impatiently, and Joseph instantly darted forward, practically diving into the chair. In the process he almost upset it, lurching violently to keep it upright. All the while, Marco just sat there, shaking his head disapprovingly. Though whether it was Joseph's incompetence or his mere existence that he disapproved of, was a mystery.
There was a long, excruciating silence, in which Joseph had plenty of time to speculate over how he would die. He wasn't sure whether it would be quick and painless or as drawn out as possible. The latter was more in keeping with Marco's personality, but Joseph could only hope that the huge man would forget his own strength and accidentally snap Joseph in two picking him up. But regardless, Joseph wasn't looking forward to it. He still had so much ahead of him. Just as he was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, as his potential was starting to shine through and promising to lead him to a bright future, it would be snuffed out in tragic anonymity. Would Marco even have the common decency to send the body back to his parents for a proper burial, or would it be like in the movies, where the pivotal death of the most beloved character ends in something sad and depressing, like being thrown into the harbor or eaten by wild animals?
“This is hard for me to say,” Marco began. Joseph nearly jumped out of his chair, his heart rate instantly rising ten-fold. He stared at Mr. Marco with wide eyes, awaiting the inevitable. But somehow, it didn't look right. The scene didn't fit the impending doom that hung in the air.
Then Joseph realized what the problem was. Marco looked incredibly uncomfortable. His briefcase lay on the desk, and Marco sat on the edge of his seat, wringing his hands nervously. He paused long enough to run a hand through his thick, unruly hair, then went back to wringing. He opened his mouth to say something, then shut it again tightly. And for the first time, he wouldn't make eye contact with Joseph.
Oh no, Joseph panicked. It's worse than I thought. He's been brainwashed by some rival telemarketing agency.
Marco finally looked up at Joseph, with a sincerely pained expression on his face. For just an instant, Joseph almost found himself feeling a twinge of sympathy for his employer.
“The problem is,” he continued, pausing again as he seemed to be trying to muster the courage to say whatever he had to say. Joseph still couldn't get over the transformation, that instant change from the usual Marco, irritated and impatient, to this completely foreign and sensitive person.
It's a trap.
“The problem is...” Marco repeated. Joseph was getting a bit impatient himself. Why didn't Marco just spit it out?
Marco suddenly pulled a piece of paper off his desk, his eyes darting back and forth as he read over it. His eyes pierced into it intensely, perusing it thoroughly. Joseph thought it would burst into flames at any second.
“This has to be wrong,” he mumbled to himself, not taking his eyes off the paper. “I have to be missing something.”
Then he cleared his throat, slamming the paper down on the table. He appeared to have regained some of his composure, but he still looked uncomfortable and unhappy. When he spoke it was rapid and clipped, as if he was trying to get the words out as quickly as possible.
“In the past several months, your statistics have been steadily rising. Better sales rates, more calls made, and an all-around better score. It would seem...” Marco paused, clearing his throat again, then lowered his voice, so Joseph had to lean forward and strain his ears to hear. “...That you're improving.”
Joseph just stared, completely and utterly speechless. For the first few seconds, his brain refused to register it. Finally, he unscrambled the messages that had entered his brain haphazardly, piecing together what Marco had said.
Well, that's something I never would have guessed. He says something good about his victims before he snuffs them out, to make them feel good about themselves in their last moments. Maybe he does have a heart after all.
But then when Joseph thought more about it and realized that Marco was being entirely serious, he was just angry.
What's he talking about? He makes it sound like my improvement is a new thing! My sales rates alone have been rising since my first year. And after all the time he's ignored my improvement, he suddenly decides to acknowledge it, but only “in the past several months”?
But Joseph wasn't about to argue. He liked his head where it was, attached to his shoulders. He told himself that if Marco was only just now willing to admit Joseph's achievements, it meant they were so staggeringly awesome that even he couldn't ignore them. Though what that meant was still beyond Joseph's understanding. No matter how outstanding Joseph's record was, there was no way Marco had called him into his office just to praise him for a job well done. There were some things in this world that would never change.
“Thank you, sir,” Joseph responded humbly. He had a feeling if he didn't show some form of appreciation after everything Marco had just gone through to share that information, he would be in trouble.
“Don't get used to it,” Marco snapped, instantly back in character. All signs of nervous anxiety were gone, and Marco spoke without any hesitation, his voice as gravelly and awful as ever.
Perish the thought.
“And don't think it'll all be sunshine and roses because of this,” Marco continued, waving the paper in the air. “Progress comes with responsibility, and you can expect your quota to rise, you'll have harder calls, and I'll expect a lot more from you.”
Oh, wow. What a new concept.
“And the consequences of failure will be worse. If I see your statistics dropping again, then we'll have a problem. I won't overlook anything, not the smallest mistake.”
So basically nothing's going to change. Can I go now?
“And one more thing.”
Joseph listened with half an ear, wishing he was back in his cubicle, making calls. He was wasting valuable time rehearsing everything he'd learned about this place over the years.
“As of today, you have a new assignment, on top of your regular quota. You have three months, and if you fail, you're out. And not only are you out, but I'll make sure you never get another telemarketing job on the continent. So I suggest you pay attention; because your career depends on this.”
Joseph sat bolt upright, suddenly all ears. He could feel his heartbeat in his throat, and his hands were shaking.
“Yes, sir.”
Marco reached over to his briefcase, sliding it over in front of him. And for the first time in Joseph's memory, he popped open the lid. With the back of it blocking his view, Joseph couldn't see inside it. And somehow, that seemed right. Joseph had a feeling he was better off not knowing what was in the briefcase.
Marco pulled out a simple folder and laid it on the table in front of Joseph. Joseph reached out a hand to pick it up, but Marco slapped his hand, which ended up being more of a crushing motion than a slap. Joseph grimaced and pulled his hand away, waiting patiently. The slowness with which Marco closed the briefcase and set it on the floor was excruciating. When he was done, he folded his hands on the table staring at Joseph. Unsure what to do, Joseph just waited.
“We're not getting any younger here, Peters,” Marco said impatiently, gesturing toward the folder. “Open it already.”
Joseph sighed inwardly, but quickly complied. Inside was a stack of about three papers all clipped together. Reading over it, Joseph realized it was a customer overview. He hadn't seen many of these, since it usually wasn't very important to know more than the name and phone number, but every once in awhile he'd had a tough nut to crack, in which he'd studied up on the customer to get an idea of how to deal with the situation. So while it was rare, he recognized the document. However, he couldn't figure out what this had to do with him or his assignment.
“This is Bill Williams. Up until now, he was just a nuisance customer, one of those people you use to break in newbies. He's quick-witted and nonsensical, making him virtually impossible to argue with. I have no less than ten telemarketers call him every week, but he's never once accepted any of our offers.
“As I said, up until now, he's been nothing more than a problem customer, beyond hope. But a recent report says this man has just inherited a fortune from his deceased uncle. As you well know, this makes him one of our top priorities. But despite being filthy rich, he hasn't loosened his wallet at all. He's a bona fide tight wad, and I'm determined to put an end to that.
“As of today, it is your mission, Joseph Peters, to make Bill Williams spend his money. Once he breaks out of that sense of thriftiness, he'll be ripe for the picking.”
Joseph stared at the information, letting what Marco said sink in. Where had he heard this name before? Something about it was familiar.
Joseph was snapped out of his thoughts by Marco's hand slamming on the table, demanding his attention. Joseph looked up, into Marco's captivating stare.
“Three months, Peter. Three months.” Then he turned to his desk where a pile of papers waited for his attention. Without looking up, Marco waved Joseph away like a pesky fly. Taking the hint, Joseph grabbed his folder and headed out the door, back toward his cubicle. All the while, he was deep in thought.
Okay, so he's a regular customer who's sick of being called. Joseph called to memory the earlier contemplation he'd had on this very subject. Maybe that forum would come in handy after all.
First off, I won't call him today. I need to do a thorough study of this guy before I can come up with a strategy. Calling him prematurely will only aggravate the situation more. In fact, I should request that Mr. Marco terminate all calls made to that number in the next three months.
Joseph needed to be able to get Williams to focus on him entirely, with no distractions or aggravation from any other telemarketers. Breaking the routine was half the battle. The customer didn't have as much fight in them when they were lulled into a false sense of security. If Williams wasn't being bombarded with calls, he wouldn't have his defenses up.
This is it, Joseph determined. I'll kill two birds with one stone. Not only will I learn how to break my own failing routine of repetitive calling, but I'll succeed in a way that Marco will have to give me credit, and I'll be that much closer to fulfilling my dream.
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby ClaecElric4God » Wed Sep 03, 2014 6:55 pm

Not sure if anyone is still reading this, but eh. I'll probably keep posting until I run out of material or someone tells me to shut up.

Chapter 8
Abandoning all notions of rest or nourishment, Joseph headed straight for his room when he arrived home. Slamming the folder down on the desk, he smiled evilly. He knew he could do this.
“Bill Williams,” Joseph read aloud. “Age: 25. Occupation: Computer repairman. Interests: computers, hiking, model airplanes, marathoning, sports....”
Joseph continued reading through it for hours, going back over every little detail until he'd virtually memorized all of it. Tired and stressed, he turned to his bed, thinking about how comfortable it was. Then he shook his head firmly and turned back to the desk, opening his laptop.
“Hey, Cup O' Jon,” he typed in the chat log. He wasn't surprised to see that they were the only two there. This late at night, it was unusual for anyone else to be online, and it was becoming a regular routine for them to have a late night chat when it was just the two of them. And now more than ever Joseph was eager to chat. But he had to find a way to subtly ask questions. Because usually Cup O' Jon was the one asking all the questions.
“heyo, yb”
“Hey, Cup O' Jon,” Joseph replied.
“long day 2day”
“Oh, really?” Joseph asked, not in the least bit curious. But Cup O' Jon would just keep bugging him about it if he didn't give some sort of response. This guy seemed to think the world revolved around him, and his personal business was headline news or something. But in spite of his obnoxious attitude, he was a valuable source of information to Joseph, so Joseph catered to him.
“yh, had a few customers atth e shope that cmplained cuz we didnt have what they wanted, and my boss sent me dwon 2 the psot offixe 2 get a shipmnet thst didnt come in when he wonted it, so i had 2 pck ot up for him but my car brok dwn so i endd up hvin 2 walk and i meen its not too far but i'm trired, u now?”
“Oh, that's too bad,” Joseph typed in, once he'd deciphered the line of typos. “You must be worn out then.”
“yh, a little bit”
“So, have you gotten any telemarketers calling you lately?” Joseph wanted to cut to the chase as quickly as possible, before Cup O' Joe could run off on a rabbit trail again.
“not rlly in the last coupleof days, i dpnt thnk”
“Oh, I see,” Joseph said, a bit disappointed. “But you still get them pretty regularly otherwise, right?”
“oh, yeah. The last time I got a call was last wednesday was the last time I got a call, and I got a bout for calls thta day”
“Oh, good.”
“Ah, never mind. Sorry.”
“so hows teh bizness goin 4 you?”
“Ah, not too well, to be honest.”
“oh? srry 2 here that”
“Ah, it's okay. I just have a lot going on, and now I have a whole new problem.” Joseph looked over at the folder on his desk.
“I know how that is. life cn b crazy sometimes”
“Hey, I have a question.”
“sure, go for it”
“Um, what do you really think of telemarketers?” Joseph's fingers shook as he typed. This was the first time he'd really gone in depth about this. He was afraid of Cup O' Jon's reaction.
“i think they're intersting”
“Well, yeah, I know that. But...what do you think, when they call you?”
“wel, its usually pretty anoying, but it cn be fun messing with them sometimes lol”
“but in a good way! i mean, Ii would never be rude to a telemarketer”
Joseph cocked his head, reading that last line. Never rude to a telemarketer? Was he just saying that because he was talking to a telemarketer, or did he really mean it? Was there really a person out there who would consider the feelings of a telemarketer? Joseph was caught off guard and slightly unnerved. For one thing, anyone who would have regard for his feelings was strictly violating his no feelings policy. If his customer was to be polite and considerate of him, then it would be harder to keep up his own sense of apathy and pretend that they weren't really people. Joseph decided that this was a very dangerous person, and it was his responsibility to protect the industry of telemarketing from such a dangerous threat. He had to somehow convince Cup O' Jon that telemarketers weren't important and didn't have feelings, so he'd quit being nice to them.
“Why wouldn't you be rude to a telemarketer?”
“well, i guess its the way i was raisd. i know alot of peopel wll hang up on a telemarketer er yell at them r whatever, but I've always been taught manners n stuf. i would'n't dream of doing something that rude 2 any1”
“Well, I don't think it's the same with telemarketers. I mean, they technically aren't really people.”
“haha, that's a good one”
“What do you mean? I wasn't joking.”
“seriously? of course theire people. well, accept the voice recording ones. i hang up on those ones cause there isnt rlly a way to politely say no wth tem.”
“But think about it. A telemarketer's job is to call and try to sell you things. There isn't any reason to be nice to them. It's just a part of life. You should be as detached from them as possible!”
“Never mind. I don't know what I was saying.” Joseph didn't bother to mention that he knew exactly what he was saying, but he hadn't meant to be so honest. Somehow his thoughts had managed to enter the conversation.
“yer kinda weird.”
“Well, you're a telemarketer, right? It seems like you'd want people to be nice to you. I can't imagine being a telemarketer, with all the nasty phone conversations you must deal with. I'd think if you had a chance to talk to a customer like this, you'd do your best to try to get them to be nice to you guys. Don't you feel guilty for trying to convince me to be a jerk, so all your telemarketer buddies will have to deal with another jerk? That seems unsportsmanlike.”
Joseph lifted his hands off the keyboard, as if it was suddenly searing hot. That had cut right to the quick, and Joseph didn't know how to respond. What did this guy know? He wasn't a telemarketer. He didn't know what it was like. A few years ago Joseph would have preferred nicer customers. But now, he was so used to rude customers that it put him out of his comfort zone if he had to deal with nice ones. He preferred to be rudely hung up on than politely declined.
Gathering his thoughts, albeit shakily, Joseph went back to the keyboard. He was addled and confused.
“Um, I just realized that I really have somewhere to be. I'm really going to be in trouble if I miss it.”
“ok, talk 2 u later!”
Joseph slammed the lid shut, staring at the wall. After that deep accusation, Cup O' Jon had gone back to his cheery self, as if nothing had happened. Joseph had had every intention of never chatting with him again, certain that the guy hated him now. But that response...
Then he realized, he'd never gotten a chance to ask his questions. Cup O' Jon had completely turned the conversation around and distracted him.
So much for talking about repetitive calls. This isn't getting anywhere.

The next morning at work, the first name Joseph saw on his list was Bill Williams. Reading through the rest of the list, he noticed that it hadn't shortened at all. Mr. Marco wasn't trying to make it any easier, and Joseph wasn't going to get any extra time to devote to this mission. He'd have to come up with a game plan in his own time.
Grimacing, Joseph dialed the number. He'd hoped to wait awhile before calling, to give Williams a bit of a break before Joseph tried to work on him at all. The last time he'd been called probably wasn't too long ago, and Joseph didn't hold high hopes for this phone call. And calling too soon wasn't something he wanted to do. The less he called the better, especially with the brick wall he'd hit with repetitive calling. If he got this guy sick of him, there wouldn't be any coming back from that, and he'd be doomed.
“Hello?” The voice on the other end said. Little did Joseph know, that voice would become very familiar in the next few weeks.
“Hello, Mr. Williams,” Joseph replied in the brightest, most cheery voice he knew how. “We wanted to let you know that you're at the top of the waiting list, and we're ready to send you your benefits as soon as you make the first payment.”
“Benefits? Huh?” The voice was thick with confusion. “Um, I honestly have no idea what you're talking about, sorry. What waiting list are you talking about? Why am I on a waiting list?”
“You are one of the lucky few on a list of customers who've earned special benefits specific to you. So the sooner you take advantage of this offer, the more beneficial it will be to you.”
“Oh, I get it now. It's one of those deals. Don't you love how that works out? I must be one of those super lucky people who just always manages to be one of the few who makes the cut for something or other. I feel guilty, I really should share some of this luck with people. I mean, that's not really fair. Maybe you guys need to mix up the hat a bit more before you pick names out.”
Joseph hesitated. This conversation definitely felt familiar. The deja vu was overwhelming.
“No, it's no mistake,” Joseph countered enthusiastically. “You've been carefully hand picked out of a large selection, and it's your day to earn some special benefits.”
“You keep saying 'benefits'. Don't you have any other words, so it's not so boring sounding? I mean, benefits has lots of synonyms, right? Try something different to make it more interesting, something that'll catch my attention. And that's another thing. You haven't specified what these benefits are. I mean, I'm as excited about benefits as the next guy, but when I don't know what they are, I don't really have any desire to pay money for it. It's like...buying a piece of the moon, or a black hole. If it's not really something tangible, it's not interesting enough to pay for.”
Oh, great. So now I have to come up with a definition of what I'm selling. Just great.
“When you make the first payment, you'll receive a pamphlet by mail in 2-3 business days, thoroughly explaining these...assets.”
“Yeah, that's a better word!” The voice said excitedly. “Well, not better per se, 'cause 'benefits' is still a good word, but you have to have a little variety. I would have used 'perks', but hey, it works.”
Idiot, that was supposed to be subtle. You don't have to go on and on about it.
“After the first payment...”
“Oh, sorry, I really have to go. I just realized I'm gonna be late for work. But it was nice talking with you. Talk to you later.”
“The-” Joseph tried to continue, but the connection was already dead. Growling, he slammed the phone down. And as the irritation boiled over, he remembered why that name had sounded so familiar.
“It's that same guy from the other day,” he reminded himself. “The one about the vacation. I can't believe I forgot that guy.”
Joseph couldn't believe it. So that was his unshakable customer. Suddenly, his job felt a lot more impossible.

At his laptop again, Joseph cringed when he saw Cup O' Jon's name, indicating he was in the chat room. He was sorely tempted to shut the lid and forget about it. But at the same time, he thought about how desperately he needed to figure out a strategy. And at this rate, his only hope was this random internet stranger. If he could just figure out how people ticked...
“hey, buddy!”
“Good evening,” Joseph typed.
“how're you tday?”
“Oh, you know. Same old same old.”
“let me guess, wrok was rough today”
“Well, a little I guess.”
“haha, yeah, i thought so. you're job is alway so bad 4 you. u really shuold quit y'kno”
“I can't do that!” Joseph replied indignantly. Why did this guy always feel the need to tell him how to run his life?
“yeah, yah. thats wht you always say. but really you should giveit some thougth. there are plenty of other good jobs out their.”
“Once a telemarketer always a telemarketer. I can't do anything else. It's in my blood.”
“whatever. you're so weird that wayy.”
“You're one to talk. You're a normal person who hangs out in a telemarketer forum.”
“i still cant' figure out whats so weird about that, you know.”
“Everything!” Joseph tried to keep himself from arguing about this subject yet again, but he couldn't help it. It was so weird that this guy did this.
“well, whutever. i guess i'm just a weird person.”
That's an understatement.
“so wats up with u?” Cup O' Jon asked.
“Nothing much. Just trying to do some studying for work.”
“oh really? anything i can do 2 help?”
Um, that's a pretty random thing to ask, but...
“Actually, I do have a question. The other day you mentioned that telemarketers can be annoying sometimes. What about them is annoying? You can be honest. I won't get upset.”
“wow, thats a deep qeustion”
Really? 'Cause it doesn't seem that deep.
“i gues how they breath don your neck”
“like....lemme think”
There was a long pause as Joseph stared at the keyboard, waiting for Cup O' Jon's response. Finally, he felt like he was going to make some progress, have some serious breakthroughs.
“mostly how they try to sell yo stufv”
Joseph slumped down in his chair. How they sell you stuff? That was all there was to a telemarketer. There wasn't anything he could do about that. He'd hoped it was something about the delivery, or the tone of voice, or what they were selling, or the time of day they called. Something more specific and
fixable than “how they sell you stuff”. He couldn't change that.
“What do you mean?”
“well, like, every time i get a call, theyre pushin me 2 buy some poinltess thing that i dunt relly nede, or i'm not even sure it's legit. and i get tht they really want to sell this stuf, but why they have 2 be so pushy? i mean, yu'd think they could ask, i culd say noe polietly, and that would be the end of it. i mean, i really hate hanging up in these people but what am i supossed to do? id love 2 chat with thm all day, but ive got a life too u know”
Sorry, buddy. It's kind of in our credo not to hang up before the customer.
“Ah, I see. So what would you rather they do?”
“i dunno. i guess, not just call asuming there goig 2 tslk me into buying stuff. im tired of al these spiels. The “buy my stuff or else” routine s getting old”
“Oh, okay.” Joseph leaned back, an idea forming in his mind.
This might work.
“but dont gt me rong!”
“I know, I know. You love telemarketers.”
“yeah, and i really hope i didnt hrt your feelings.”
“No, no, it's fine.” Remembering what he'd decided to do with this guy, Joseph saw his perfect opportunity. “After all, telemarketers don't really have feelings, you know.”
“hahahahahahahahahaha! youre a riot!”
“No, I'm dead serious.”
“you've got to be kidding. of course thye have feelings, you weirdo.”
“I'm a telemarketer, and I'm telling you they don't.”
“maybe you dont, but that doesnt meen none of the other ones do. don't lump themall tigether. you do that alot. like telemarketers r a differnet species or sumething.”
“...Well, they basically are.”
“haha. i don' now where u got that idea, but its pretty funny. althouh its also petty sad that u seam 2 actually believe it. first telemarketrs arent peope, and now they dont hve feelings.”
“Well, I think it's just as weird that you think the other way. Nothing about telemarketers gives the impression that they have feelings or anything like that.”
“well, thats kinda tru, i guess. after all, you guys all seem 2 act pretty dead. but i lways just knd of asumed that itwas cause they were tired of clling people all dya and trying 2 sell stuff”
“No, it's not because we're tired. It's because that's the way we are.”
“o, nothing. hey, i gotta go now. sorry for the short chat”
“Oh, okay.”
“Take care, and work on that personality of yours. It's coming along nicely.”
Cup O' Jon's name dropped out of the chat, and Joseph sat back, dumbfounded. Every single time he talked to that guy, it ended in Cup O' Jon's favor. How did he do that? And Joseph was a bit worried about that last statement. It seemed like Joseph had won some ground in convincing Cup O' Jon that telemarketers didn't have feelings, but at the same time, he seemed to be losing ground. He realized that online, he didn't have nearly the telemarketer attitude or his social awkwardness. So he was defeating his own goal by giving Cup O' Jon the impression that he was a normal person. He realized he'd have to be more careful about that in the future.
“I've got to be myself,” he determined. “I can't become some alternate personality online. I must be true to myself.”
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby Mullet Death » Wed Sep 03, 2014 8:07 pm

Wow, I wish I could describe characters the way that you do. They're ridiculous and over-the-top caricatures, yet very relatable and easy to picture perfectly in each scene. They're like... characters in a Pixar movie, if that's a comparison that makes sense. It's odd that I want to know what happens to a telemarketer-- a telemarketer's story is seemingly one that doesn't matter at all-- a boring story about just another boring guy. But if I want to keep reading, then obviously it's more than that and you're doing a good job. Keep at it. :thumbsup:

I Am Mullet Death, Undisputed Ruler of the Mole and Crab People! Fear me!
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby Wolfsong » Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:24 am

Lol Pixar.....perfect.
I'm still reading Claec. And if you stop before this thing is finished, I will hunt you down and hurt you. I am enjoying this :D
Keep up the awesome work!
"Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day." Psalm 25:4-5

"Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses.
Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.
Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred.
O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee.
Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles." Psalm 25: 16-22

Thank you. Have a good day.
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby ClaecElric4God » Sat Sep 13, 2014 4:58 pm

Chapter 9
“So I heard that we're getting a lot of foreigners in the business lately. And I believe it. Walking down the hall to go home at the end of the day, I hear so many strange accents. And they're so thick! I wonder if some of them even speak fluent English. How the customers understand them is beyond me! But that's all right I guess. I mean, it's better than that.”
Joseph looked up to see what Connie was gesturing at. He hadn't really been listening to anything Connie said, so whatever he saw probably wouldn't mean anything to him. But if he didn't acknowledge it, Connie would realize he wasn't paying attention and bug him even more. After a long day at work, Joseph would rather be alone with his thoughts. He really didn't have the energy for this. But Connie was glued to his side today, and he had a feeling she was going to insist they walk together to the corner. Why she insisted on socializing Joseph was beyond him. There wasn't really any reason for it. As long as he could talk on the phone, it didn't matter if he couldn't say one word in public. The cubicle was his world, and venturing out of it was a waste of valuable time. He didn't have any extra energy for something so trivial as coping in the real world.
Following Connie's direction, Joseph saw an empty cubicle. Usually that wouldn't be a big deal, since everyone was going home for the evening. But this cubicle had no chair, just a large, complicated looking machine sitting on the desk. Joseph stopped in his tracks, oblivious to the bodies jostling around him as he blocked traffic through the hallway.
A telemarketer's worst nightmare. Automated telemarketing. A machine that did the job of a telemarketer, but at a faster, more efficient rate. More and more of them were cropping up in the agency, and the only advantage that the human telemarketers had on them was their efficiency in being able to actually converse with the customers and answer their questions. But more and more complex machines were being invented, and they were getting closer and closer to the same success rate as the average telemarketer. And so, in order to keep one's job, it was much harder than in the old days before the “robots”. Because it wasn't a matter of win some lose some any more. Now it was a matter of having a higher success rate than the machines. A sub par telemarketer never knew when they would be replaced. And so it had become a battle between man and machine. The automated telemarketing system was a sign of failure and desolation. It was like a sign of death to a telemarketer, and if Joseph had had a hat on, he would have felt obligated to take it off. But more than that, it was a reminder to Joseph, of his responsibility, and the odds against him.
“I won't be bested by you,” Joseph vowed to the machine, whispering it under his breath.
“Huh?” Connie questioned, leaning over. “Did you say something?”
“Oh, no,” Joseph replied quickly, shaking his head. Caught up in the tension, Joseph had forgotten what he was doing, or that he wasn't alone. And he didn't realize that he had said what he was thinking out loud. Slightly embarrassed, Joseph waved his hand dismissively.
“Well, we'd better get going before the building closes. We don't want to be locked in all night.” It was a sad excuse, considering the agency wouldn't be closed for another hour or so. But Connie's questioning stare was unnerving, and Joseph needed something to change the subject and draw her attention away from what he'd said. He didn't want to have to expound on his own private thoughts.
“Oh, you're right!” Connie looked toward the elevator. “We'd better hurry!”
Joseph followed behind quietly. The contrast between the two was almost comical; with Connie and her light, high-spirited gait and bouncy golden hair, head held high, against Joseph and his slumped posture as he slowly meandered down the hallway, looking like the living dead. Where Connie got her carefree attitude was beyond him. He couldn't help but be jealous, because she had such success with her customers without even trying. He had to wonder how far she could go, if she applied his intense study regime to her own natural talent. If only he had whatever it was that clicked in her head to make her so good at it. It didn't seem fair that someone who didn't really seem to care whether she did well or not was so skilled.
Stepping outside, Joseph shivered. For a late spring day, it had gotten surprisingly cold. He was suddenly very glad he'd decided to wear a jacket to work that day. It warded off some of the cold, making the prospect of walking home in this weather a lot more comfortable.
But then he looked over at Connie and realized she was wearing a light, short-sleeved shirt. She had her arms wrapped around her, and was visibly shivering. He could almost hear her teeth chattering from where he was standing. Sighing in resignation, Joseph took off his jacket, offering it to Connie.
“Here, you look like you could use this.” Joseph held the jacket out, gesturing toward Connie. Her eyes widened in surprise, and her smile brightened.
“Oh, it's fine, really. I don't want to inconvenience you.” Connie held up a hand in polite refusal.
“It's no inconvenience,” Joseph lied. And as much as she was trying to hide it, Connie was obviously eying the jacket hungrily. Joseph wished she would just take it, because she looked like she'd turn into an icicle at any second.
“Are you sure?” She asked, breaking down a bit.
“I'm positive,” he reassured her. “Wear it home. You can return it to me tomorrow.”
“Well then...” Connie hesitantly took the jacket, carefully pulling it around her shoulders. “Thank you so much!”
“No problem,” Joseph replied, starting down the street. The wind suddenly felt very bitter, cutting through his thin shirt. It had picked up in intensity as well, and Joseph could feel his fingers going numb. He couldn't remember the last time it had been this cold in May. And for the past few days, it had been relatively warm. It was understandable why Connie hadn't thought to bring a jacket. But the sun was starting to set, and as it sank below the buildings, the air was quickly getting colder. Heavy storm clouds threatened to blot it out altogether anyhow, and Joseph grimaced at them, hoping they would pass.
But fate was against him on this particular day, and only a little ways down the street, he felt the first small droplets. The rain was as unforgiving as the wind, and as it drizzled it began to soak into his hair, trickling down the back of his neck.
At the street corner, he parted ways with Connie and she told him to keep warm. Joseph just nodded and turned away, thinking about how utterly impossible that was. Instead of going home he ran to the grocery store, picking up the pace as the rain got heavier. In a matter of moments, it was a torrential downpour. Joseph rebuked himself for not thinking to bring an umbrella to work. But there wasn't much to be done about that. At this point, all Joseph could think about was how cold it was.
In the grocery store, Joseph got more than a few strange looks. The unwanted attention was more painful to him than all the harsh weather he'd just dealt with, and he rushed through his grocery list, practically throwing everything onto the counter as he looked furtively over his shoulder to see if anyone was looking at him. He handed the cashier a twenty dollar bill and muttered “no change” under his breath before snatching up his groceries and rushing out the door. The change had been about five dollars, but the eyes boring into him from all sides was more than he could bear, and all he could focus on was getting out of that store.
The weather hadn't let up any, and a shudder wrenched Joseph's entire body as he ventured back into the rain. After the warmth of the grocery store, the weather was a shock on his system, and already being wet didn't help at all. On the way home, he was forced to stop at one of the busiest intersections in the city. Usually he didn't think much of it. He only ever had to cross it when he visited the grocery store, and he didn't mind waiting. But today, he realized for the first time that there was absolutely no shelter. He tried to stand in the shelter of a lamp post, but the wind just cut around it and worked its way into his bones, accentuating the cold of the soaking rain.
Joseph stood at the light for close to 5 minutes, waiting for the walk sign for the crosswalk. Looking down at his groceries, he had to wonder if some of them would even make it to the apartment in one piece.
Joseph reached the complex just as the last traces of sunlight were fading into night. He sighed contentedly when he stepped inside the building, where the heat was running and he could feel himself starting to thaw out. A piece of paper was taped to the door of Joseph's room, and he leaned over to read it, shivering uncontrollably.
Please refrain from using water for the next 24 hours while maintenance is being conducted. A time in the corner indicated that it had been put up 8 hours before.
“Sixteen hours,” Joseph moaned. “And why in the middle of the night?” He'd planned on taking a warm shower and drinking some warm tea, but now his plans would have to be different.
Joseph opened the door to his apartment to be met with the most icy chill of air blasted in his face. Alarmed, he flipped the light switch. But nothing happened. Everything inside was pitch dark. Taking of his shoes and coat, Joseph fumbled around the kitchen for awhile until he found a flashlight in a drawer. Flicking it on, he surveyed the room. Everything looked fine, except that nothing was running. Not a single appliance was working. His bedroom was the same story, as well as the bathroom. Joseph sighed, dropping his head.
“So I've lost electric somehow, huh?” He reasoned. “This is just great.”
Deciding not to bother with it till morning, Joseph just put the groceries away in the semi-cold refrigerator, then changed into dry clothes. Wishing he had a generator and a quartz heater, Joseph wrapped himself up in a thick blanket and sat down at his desk, pulling open a book. It wasn't long before he had to go across the room and find a box of tissues to blow his nose every few seconds. The shivering had finally subsided, but now he just felt numb and exhausted. He didn't manage to study very long before slumping over and falling into a deep, if fitful, sleep.
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby ClaecElric4God » Wed Sep 17, 2014 12:00 pm

Chapter 10
Joseph's eyes flew open, and he looked over at the clock. Blank. Suddenly remembering the events of the night before, he jerked up. Or rather, he started to. But instantly a sharp pain ran down his neck when he tried to move. After a bit of testing, he realized his neck was so stiff he couldn't bear to lift it up. Further examination showed that his entire body was that stiff and sore. Gritting his teeth, Joseph forced himself upright, then stood up out of his chair. Limping out into the hallway, he shivered as his bare feet hit the wood floor. His cellphone was in his coat pocket, and had somehow survived the rain. Opening it up, he realized it was half an hour past when he'd planned to get up. Rushing as best he could with his dysfunctional limbs, Joseph changed and got ready for work, gasping for breath. His sinuses were completely clogged, and his throat was hoarse and scratchy. A series of deep, ragged coughs racked his body. He could feel a lump in his chest, but no amount of coughing, voluntary or involuntary, was going to get rid of it, it was so deep and solid.
When he was finally ready, Joseph realized he hadn't eaten anything since lunch break the morning before. But it didn't matter, he was already on the brink of being late anyhow.
Stiffly heading out the door, Joseph coughed and sneezed all the way to work, feeling the cold air with every fiber of his being. Staggering and swaying, he almost lost his balance a few times. His head felt heavy, and he was dizzy and disorientated. He got a few strange looks going down the sidewalk, but for once, he didn't care at all what anyone thought. Because he couldn't really think about anything. The one thing that had stuck with him was his new game plan for work. He'd spent a lot of time thinking about his conversation with Cup O' Jon the other day, and although he'd come up with his idea a while ago, he hadn't tried to incorporate it the day before. So through the fog in his brain, he could just barely feel a little bit of anticipation, itching to get to the phone.
On his way to his cubicle, Joseph had a coughing fit. Trying to subdue it, he nervously looked around. An angry glare caught his attention, from an employee with a phone to his ear. Joseph nodded an apology and hurried on to his cubicle.
As usual, Bill Williams was the first one on Joseph's list. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. But the breath ended in a fit of coughing, with Joseph doubling over with the effort. When he'd finally recomposed himself, he dialed in the number, numb and senseless as the ringing of the phone sang a harmony with the ringing in his ears.
There was a long silence. Joseph waited impatiently for Williams' reply, getting irritated.
“Hello?” The voice repeated, and Joseph realized Williams was the one who had said something, and was now waiting for him to respond. Bewildered, Joseph tried to gather his thoughts, but his mind went completely blank.
“Is this a prank, 'cause I really don't have the time,” the voice was starting to sound frustrated, and Joseph frantically searched for the right words. Suddenly, he couldn't even think of his own name.
“Um, I'm calling on behalf of-” Joseph stopped short, horrified by the sound of his voice. It was hoarse and scratchy, and cracked in a few places. Even more bewildered than before, Joseph cleared his throat and tried again.
“I'm calling on behalf of the Central Board of Education,” Joseph began, but his voice was just as awful as before. But he ignored it, pressing on. “I'd like to ask you a few questions. Do you have time?”
There was another long pause, and Joseph had to rehearse the conversation in his head to make sure he was last one who'd said something. But before he could reason it out in his head, the voice spoke.
“...Um, you don't sound so great, buddy. Do you have a cold or something? You sound warmed over death. You should really get some rest.”
“Are you of U.S. nationality?”
“Buddy, I'm serious. You need to take a break. Put the phone down, and go home and sleep. You're going to keel over if you keep this up.”
“This survey benefits you as well as as thousands of high school students across the world.”
“Okay, I get that. But I don't want to take your survey, I want you to take a break. Go have some hot coffee and sleep on it. You can call me back tomorrow if you're feeling better.”
Joseph looked at the phone, bewildered. What had just happened? Bill Williams never ceased to amaze him, and this was no exception. The biggest surprise was that the guy had hung up on him rather abruptly. It had always been a pattern for them to talk for quite awhile, Joseph trying get Bill to answer his questions and buy his product, and Bill ignoring him as he chattered on about his own life. It was always very one-sided on both sides, as if both of them was talking to someone else, since they both ignored the other person's conversation. But today had been different. Today, Bill had gotten very frustrated and concerned, and hadn't talked about himself at all. That was highly uncharacteristic, and it had caught Joseph off guard. And instead of continuing on with their “conversation” as usual, Bill had demanded that Joseph get some rest and hung up rather firmly. Joseph didn't know what to think of that.
Shrugging it off, Joseph decided that he didn't need to think about it. He was done talking to Bill Williams for the day, and that was that. What was important now was to move on with the day and get his quota in.
As Joseph dialed in the next number, he thought about the conversation. He hadn't really been able to incorporate his plan, since Bill hadn't been cooperative at all. Joseph sighed. He'd hoped to see how it would work, but that call had been a failure, due to Bill's reaction to his cold.
After his conversation with Cup O' Jon, where he'd said that he didn't like telemarketers constantly trying to get him to buy things, Joseph had figured Bill Williams felt the same way. Maybe that was what made repetitive calling so obnoxious. So Joseph had decided to employ a new strategy. Since it was mandatory for Joseph to call Williams every day, it was becoming a rut of Joseph feeling like he wasn't getting anywhere, but that Bill was getting tired of hearing from him. At this rate, he'd get hardened and never say yes. Two weeks into the 90 days he had, Joseph didn't feel like he was making any progress.
And so, his new approach was to spend every day for the next few weeks making calls that had nothing to do with selling products. Surveys, announcements, non-profit, anything he could do that wouldn't come across as a pushy salesman. Joseph hoped that maybe he could lull Bill into a sense of security and comfort, and make it so phone calls from telemarketers weren't so undesirable. And maybe if he could get Williams on the same page as him, he could talk him into buying something. He needed to get a conversation where Bill wasn't ignoring everything he said.
“Um, hello-o!” The annoyed voice rang in Joseph's ear, making him jump. He suddenly realized that while he was lost in thought, he'd dialed in the next number and was now holding the phone to his ear. He had no idea whatsoever how long he'd been sitting there in silence.
“This is your last chance to accept the ultimate offer on lumber and building materials.” Joseph's voice cracked again, and he broke into a coughing fit that went on for quite some time.
This is going to be a long day.

Joseph sighed deeply as he swished the water in his cup, staring blankly at it. He'd made himself down a bit of food, making sure that Connie saw him eating it so she wouldn't bother him about it any more. But, much to Joseph's chagrin, she found something else to bug him about.
“Wow, that was a deep sigh,” she observed between bites of food. Smiling sympathetically at Joseph, Connie set her food down, folding her hands. “Want to talk about what's on your mind?”
Joseph looked up for a second, cocking his head as he tried to remember what she'd just said. He hadn't really been listening, because he'd hoped she'd just chatter on about something he didn't have to respond to. But of course she had to make some kind of conversation. She was Connie, after all.
Joseph looked back down at his water, losing himself in its depths.
“Ah, it's nothing,” he assured her, hoping that would be enough to satisfy her. But he should have known better, and her response was no surprise.
“No, no!” She said with concern. “Please, tell me! We're co-workers after all! It's my duty to try to help you out.”
Actually, it's not really. But thanks anyways.
“Well, it's really just that I'm getting tired of the same old same old when it comes to my daily life. I mean, I feel like I'm doing the same thing over and over again, with no break in the routine. I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere, you know?”
A week after his episode, Joseph was mostly recovered from his cold and talking normally, so Bill Williams was no longer hanging up on him the instant he heard his voice. But things still hadn't changed, in spite of Joseph's new strategy. Joseph hadn't delivered a sales pitch in eight days, but Bill still wasn't biting. He still ignored Joseph and talked about something completely unrelated. He wasn't getting anywhere, and he didn't see any new possibilities. All he could see ahead of him was a dead end, with no way out.
Connie nodded understandingly, smiling kindly at Joseph.
“Yeah, I know how that is. Maybe you need a change of scenery. Why don't you ask for some vacation time. You haven't had more than three days off since you've been working here, right? And those were all sick days. I'm sure Mr. Marco would be more than glad to give you a break so you can go out and enjoy yourself for a few days. You could go to some popular tourist attraction, or maybe take a cruise or something. In fact, you should go get yourself some exercise. Go hiking or something. The possibilities are endless! I have some travel brochures I can lend you, so you can get an idea of what you want to do.” Connie's voice rose in pitch and volume as she got more and more excited, as if she was the one going on vacation. She was suddenly far more animated than usual, and even started digging through her purse, searching for her brochures.
Joseph, on the other hand, simply stared in shock, his water long forgotten. He didn't have any words to reply to Connie's onslaught of ideas. In fact, he couldn't quite register everything she was saying. Mostly because she'd lost him at “change of scenery”. He was completely overwhelmed that Connie would even come up with the notion of going on vacation, let alone actually suggest it to Joseph, of all people. He was suddenly lost in the depths of his imagination, thinking about all the awful, horrible, unthinkable things that one was required to do in order to go on vacation, especially to a popular tourist site. The notion of going to such a horrifically populated area was unspeakably petrifying.
And so it was that Joseph sat catatonic, staring at Connie wide eyed. Connie stopped digging through her purse when she saw Joseph's expression. Her perpetual smile faltered for a second, momentarily replaced by a look of slight concern.
“What's the matter?” She asked. “Was it something I said?”
Yeah, pretty much everything you said, actually.
“Um, no...” he stuttered, trying to figure out what to say. “It's just...I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say. Um, I could never go on vacation. And besides, that's not the rut I'm stuck in. I'm fine with work. It's just my studying routine. I'm running out of resources. I mean, I've studied all my old books as much as I can, and reliable online resources are few and far between. What I'd really like are some more books, ones that will teach me what I don't know. I mean, I feel like books are really what I need. But it's also tricky, because a lot of the older books aren't up to date enough. So some of the stuff in them would be obsolete or outdated. I don't want to waste my time studying irrelevant information, and some of these more modern concepts I really need to learn. So that's what I mean by being stuck. And with my new assignment from Mr. Marco, I'm especially starting to need some new material to work with. If I don't start learning how to cope with some of these new problems, I'm going to hit a roadblock, and I won't be able to improve. And if I don't improve, I'm out. No more telemarketing, no dream, no nothing. So I'm really stressed about all this stuff, and the more I think about it, the more stressed I get. And it's really time sensitive, so that doesn't help at all. But I really shouldn't be bothering you about it. It's not your problem.”
Joseph turned away awkwardly, surprised and embarrassed that he'd managed to say so much all at once. He'd never found it so easy to freely pour out his thoughts. It was actually a bit unnerving.
Wow, I must really be having issues.
“I see,” Connie said pensively, her face falling a bit. “Well, if that's the problem, I think I might be able to help you. Though I still think you should take a vacation. You need to get out there and see the world while you're still young!”
I've seen it, and it's terrifying.
“Really?” Joseph looked up excitedly, ignoring Connie's last statement about vacation. He wasn't going to argue with her. He'd learned from past experience that that was a dangerous thing to do.
“Yeah, just let me think for a second,” Connie said. Then she rested her chin in the palm of her hand, her elbow on the table. Joseph shifted anxiously in his chair, thinking about the time. They only had about two minutes left. Joseph had to concentrate on not urging Connie, knowing that he'd just end up wasting time.
“Oh, yeah!” She said, pounding her fist in the palm of her hand. Joseph could almost see the light bulb going on in her head. “I remember where it is now! Do you have a pen!”
Joseph frantically started searching through his pockets until he found one, quickly handing it to Connie. He was on the edge of his seat as she looked through her purse for a scrap of paper. She scribbled something down on an old receipt and handed it to Joseph, who accepted it greedily. Reading over it, Joseph realized it was an address.
“This bookstore has all the most random books. I'm willing to bet they have what you're looking for. When I was your age and about as excited, I found a few really good books there. The place doesn't look like much, but you'll be surprised.”
“Thanks, Connie, I appreciate it!” Joseph excitedly nodded to Connie, stuffing the paper in his pocket. “This is great, I can't thank you enough!”
“Oh, no problem,” Connie dismissed it, smiling broadly. “Glad I could help.”
Just at that moment the bell rang, and everyone started filing back toward the elevators. Joseph was one of the first ones in, eagerly anticipating the next time he had a chance to check out the bookstore and find something new to study. Relieved that all hope was not lost, Joseph sighed contentedly.
I can do this.
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby ClaecElric4God » Wed Sep 24, 2014 5:27 am

Well, this is a tad embarrassing...I was simply copy/pasting from my open office document, and had typoed chapter 11 as chapter 10, and posted it here without realizing I skipped a chapter. So...if anyone is incredibly confused right now. Yeah...sorry about that. Anyways, I rectified it and edited the last post into the ACTUAL chapter 10, so READ THE LAST POST AGAIN. This one is the one that was previously posted up there. Yes, I know, confusion. I blame night shift.

Chapter 11
The bookstore was a fairly average looking building. On a street of blinking neon lights and modern architecture, it was the only one that was a simple brick structure, with no ornamentation or advertising. A small sign inside the window said open, and the words “Barkus' Bookstore” were written in small letters on the simple wooden door. Joseph walked up the narrow staircase, looking in the corners of the overhang where cobwebs had gathered so thickly that a large bird was in danger of being caught in them. Dead bugs hung like Christmas ornaments from the beams, and the porch smelled like musty dirtiness. The door knob was rusty and hard to turn, and the door screeched on its hinges, making Joseph cringe.
The interior matched the exterior, and was just as old and broken down. That distinct, one of a kind musty book smell wafted through the air, and dust motes could be seen dancing in the sunlight that flowed through the two windows on the right side of the room. By the looks of it, those windows were the only source of light. It was also almost as cold as outside, and even after he'd closed the door, Joseph could feel a draft blowing through. Pulling his coat tighter around him, Joseph ventured forward, to be met by the sound of the worn out floor boards creaking beneath his feet, so deafeningly that Joseph was sure they would give out and drop him into whatever bottomless chasm the building was undoubtedly balancing over.
The room was filled with evenly spaced rows of bookshelves, and the walls were lined with them as well. Out of the corner of his eye, Joseph saw a figure standing at the counter to the left.
“Morning,” the man said absently, apparently preoccupied, by the sound of it. Not daring to look in that direction, Joseph pulled up his collar and hunched his shoulders, rounding the corner of a bookshelf. Hoping that whatever the shopkeeper was doing was interesting enough to keep him from pursuing any kind of conversation, Joseph wandered the aisles, occasionally looking over his shoulder to make sure he wasn't being approached by any well-meaning employees. By the looks of the store, the person who'd addressed him was the only one there. Joseph had a feeling the shop wasn't very popular, either; and that was fine with him. The lack of social interaction was heavenly. As long as the store had what Connie had recommended, he was fine with the run down atmosphere.
Looking through the aisles, Joseph found that there was no organization whatsoever. Nothing was marked or labeled, and there were no set categories or sections. Big, small, paperback, hardback, thick, thin, adult, juvenile, fiction, educational; it was all lumped together with no semblance of order.
Figuratively rolling up his sleeves, Joseph started at one end and began reading the bindings. He was suddenly very glad he'd decided to come on his day off instead of an evening after work.
After a number of shelves and a few hours, Joseph had gathered a handful of books he thought would be useful. In the time he'd been there, not one customer had come in, and so far the employee hadn't come to bother him. The solitary feeling was quite appealing to Joseph, and he was about ready to bring his personal effects and live in the building.
By midday Joseph had scoured the entire store for anything that looked useful, and he'd come up with a meager ten books. Dejected, Joseph ran his finger down the last shelf for the last time. Deciding that eight times of checking the shelves thoroughly was enough, and there weren't any more books, Joseph slowly made his way to the counter. True, this was only the second bookstore he'd ever been in that had telemarketing books, but still, he'd hoped to find a few more to tide him over. At this rate, he'd be out of study material in a few months. Not to mention, none of the books he'd gotten covered the one subject he needed help with more than any other: repetitive calling. It seemed like a subject that most telemarketers shied away from, and Joseph was starting to fear that the reason was that there was no solution to the problem. And with that prospect looming over his head, Joseph was starting to sense the impending doom that he faced if he couldn't come up with his own solution.
Joseph slowly inched his way toward the counter, dreading his encounter with the man standing behind it. Setting his books down quietly, Joseph stood there with his hands in his pockets, trying to look as small and unnoticeable as possible.
The shopkeeper was sitting in a chair behind the counter, with haphazard piles of books stacked around him precariously. One pile appeared to have fallen over, but it didn't seem to phase him that he didn't have any walking room for all the books scattered across the floor.
He looked like he was in his mid-20's, probably right around Joseph's age. He had black hair that was long enough to create a bit of a roof affect over his forehead, but was still fairly close cut. He was very thin, almost gaunt, and had a few grisly hairs on his face that made it look like he'd lost his razor. He was a few inches taller than Joseph, and his hairy arms showed hard, lean muscles. Joseph was in awe that he could wear short sleeves in such a cold atmosphere, but the man didn't look uncomfortable at all, completely absorbed in the book he was reading.
Joseph waited for a few minutes, wishing he could get this over with. But the guy never seemed to notice him, and didn't look up once from his book. His eyes were locked onto the page, darting back and forth. For a moment Joseph was mesmerized by his infatuation, and the speed with which he could read. In the two minutes that Joseph stood there waiting, he turned at least ten pages.
Joseph cleared his throat, shifting on his feet. The shopkeeper's head jerked up, and he stared at Joseph for a moment. His deep brown eyes locked onto Joseph's, holding his gaze for a moment. To Joseph, it felt like there was some silent exchange going on between them. Then the man shook his head and looked at him again, this time with a completely different expression. It was less vacant and very friendly. Joseph was a bit taken aback by the change.
“Oh, hey!” The man said, standing up and putting his book to the side. “Sorry, I didn't see you there! I didn't even realize there was anyone in here.”
I've only been here all day. I know I was quiet, but still...
“What can I do for you?”
“Um...” Joseph shifted his eyes away nervously, then put his books on the counter.
“Wow!” The shopkeeper exclaimed, running a finger over the books. “You plan to do a lot of reading, huh?”
Joseph muttered an agreement under his breath, still not looking at the man. However, even as he thought about how much he really didn't want to have to talk to this guy at all, and how he just wanted to get out of there, he couldn't help but think about how many more books he wanted. Eying the massive mess of books behind the counter, Joseph considered the possibility that there might be something he was looking for in there. But how to go about finding out? He had a feeling he wasn't allowed to go back there, so the only other solution was to ask. Joseph visibly shuddered at the thought. But even so, he knew he would have to take a few steps out of his comfort zone, for the sake of his job. It was more important that he do whatever it took to rescue his career, and these books were invaluable to that goal.
As Joseph ran through these thoughts, weighing the consequences and wondering if he could get away without saying anything, the shopkeeper rang up the order, chattering all the while about all the wonderful variety of books he had. He waved toward a small shelf at the front that Joseph had already thoroughly checked, saying something about what a great deal those books were, and how they were all new and exciting. Joseph nodded his head slightly, not really paying any attention. But he did notice the guy getting very interested in Joseph's books as he bagged them and handed them to him.
“So you're a telemarketer fanatic, huh? That's kind of weird, don't you think?”
“Uh-huh...” Joseph replied absently, trying to gather his wits and figure out how he was going to proceed.
Quick and painless. Cut to the chase and get over with. You can do this.
The shopkeeper looked at Joseph curiously, waiting for him to expound.
“Um, do you have any more...like this?” Joseph held up his bag of books to indicate.
The guy jerked up, freezing for a second with bright eyes before leaning forward and squinting hard at Joseph. Joseph leaned back a little, incredibly unnerved. He had no idea what was going on, or what he had done to cause it.
“No, we don't,” the guy replied in a vacant monotone, still staring at Joseph. Joseph was more than a bit perturbed because the guy didn't seem to even be thinking about the question. It was like his mind was somewhere else entirely, and Joseph couldn't help but be frustrated because it didn't seem like the answer had been thought out very thoroughly. For all he knew, there were tons of good books back there. But then all thought of books was left behind with the man's next statement.
“Hey, I recognize your voice!” He said excitedly. “You're that telemarketer! The one that's always calling me. I'd remember that voice anywhere!”
Joseph froze, horrified. His mind was going a million miles an hour, but at the same time, it was completely blank. Time froze as the two stared at each other. Joseph had no idea what was going on in the shopkeeper's mind. Then he saw it. A small name tag pinned on his shirt pocket. It was written in almost indecipherable handwriting, but it was there.
Joseph's level of horror rose astronomically, and his mind went even blanker. This was him. The Bill Williams. Joseph was frightened out of his wits, and a million possible outcomes were dancing across his imagination.
I'm going to die here, aren't I?
Bill's eyes widened, and he held up a finger, a movement that caused Joseph to almost jump out of his skin, certain that it was a killing action.
“Just a second,” Bill said excitedly, bending down to look for something under the counter.
He's going for the gun now, but he made the mistake of letting me out of his sight.
Joseph didn't wait a second after Bill's head dipped beneath the counter. In an instant, he was out the door and sprinting down the road. He ran across the street with complete disregard for whatever traffic may have been coming, and had a few narrow misses with oncoming cars. He left the book store far behind, purposing that he would never, ever go back there, and he'd never have to see Bill Williams again.
That's not even realistic. Of all the people in the world, all of my customers, why does that guy have to live in this city? And not just in this city, but in the random, obscure bookstore I decided to shop at. And even that wouldn't be so bad, but how on earth did he recognize me? What's wrong with that guy?! Nobody recognizes voices. They're not even the same on the phone!
Joseph didn't stop running until he reached his apartment building. He cast a quick glance over his shoulder, sighing with relief when he didn't see his attacker. But he didn't hesitate for a moment before dashing inside and up the stairs. Inside his room, he double bolted the door, plopping down on the couch. He dropped the bag of books on the floor beside him and leaned back, gasping for air. Still wearing his coat and shoes, Joseph didn't think about it at all. He was too busy being grateful he was still alive. His heart was beating a million miles an hour, and his mind was going about as fast.
“Okay, that was really, really bad,” Joseph said out loud. What was he supposed to do now? What if Bill had followed him and knew where he lived? He'd have to go into hiding just to stay alive! His entire career could be ruined, just because he was foolish enough to run into one of his customers. And not just any, but the customer that he had harassed the most. Terror filled his body as he thought of all the horrible things the guy might be planning even now as he thought about the hated telemarketer he'd run into.
Joseph eyed the couch as he considered whether to put it in front of the door. Deciding the bolt was strong enough, he went over to the window, looking down. He was afraid to block the window, because if Williams made it through the door, Joseph's only escape would be the window; and he didn't want to waste any time having to unbar it. It didn't seem likely that Williams would use that to get try to get in, especially when Joseph lived on the second story.
Going to his room, Joseph locked that door as well, then sat down at his desk, getting out a pen and paper.

Dear Mom,
I just wanted to let you know that I love you and Dad a lot. If I never see you again, know that I've always loved you, even if I've seemed kind of absorbed in my studies. You two mean a lot to me, and I'm sorry if I couldn't fulfill Dad's dream. I don't know how much longer I'll be here, but I'll keep doing my best right down to the end.
Thanks for telling me that you don't really like telemarketing. I appreciate your honesty, and it means a lot to me. I wish I could have made you and Dad both happy, but I just had to follow my heart and pursue telemarketing. Please don't take it personal. I love you so much, and you're really important to me. But Dad's dream is too important to me to give it up. Though right now, I'm starting to wish I'd enjoyed my short life with my family. Please take care of yourselves and don't forget me. You two are the best parents a guy could ask for. I don't have any regrets, except that I wasn't the best son I could be, I didn't spend enough time with you, I wasn't good enough in school, I never made any real friends, and I didn't fulfill Dad's dream by entering the Yellow Book of Fame. Please forgive me.
I love you both so much. Thanks for being my parents.
Your son, Joseph

Joseph sighed, leaning back. His eyes were blurry with the beginnings of tears. He wiped them away viciously, digging in his desk drawer for an envelope. Addressing and sealing it, he put it in his coat pocket, close to his heart. He only hoped he had a chance to mail it... But going outside was too dangerous right now, when Williams could be on the prowl outside. He'd go out late at night, hopefully when Bill had gotten tired and gone home.
Joseph collapsed on the bed, completely and utterly defeated. Nothing ever went right. Life was awful. He couldn't talk to customers, everything was getting harder, Mr. Marco was impossible to satisfy, and Joseph didn't see an end in sight. How could someone as useless as him ever reach the Yellow Book of Fame, even if he did survive his encounter with Bill? At this rate, he'd be lucky to earn recognition as the worst failure in the history of telemarketing. With each day, his goal seemed further and further out of reach.
But Joseph wouldn't give up. He would fight tooth and nail down to the end. He'd survive this somehow, or he'd die trying.
But then Joseph remembered his goal. Mr. Marco wouldn't be satisfied with Joseph trying his best down to the end. He would only be satisfied with success. And that mindset of never giving up wasn't good enough. He needed to find solutions. And fast. His current routine wasn't going to get him anywhere, and at this rate, the only end to this story was a tragic one.
Not really in the mood to go online and talk to Cup O' Jon, his only resource on repetitive calling, Joseph sighed, racking his brain for anything. His training, his books, his experience; all those years, and a solution had never come up. It had been avoided, quietly swept under the rug as if it wasn't there. But it was a very real problem that every telemarketer faced, and sooner or later, it would be the end of them all. How was he supposed to fulfill his dream at this rate?
Joseph sighed deeply, utterly defeated. He didn't even know if that was really something he wanted any more. He wasn't even sure if he cared. He'd spent years, no his whole life, doing this. Ten years in school and five years in the career. He'd had his whole heart in this since he was ten years old. And what did he have to show for it? Nothing substantial. Even just in his career, he hadn't progressed any faster than the average telemarketer, and he was putting far more effort into it than any of them ever did. But somehow, he didn't seem to have the proficiency for it that the others did. It seemed to come naturally to them, but not to him. Every day was a struggle. Every customer was a looming obstacle in his path to success. And it seemed like he tripped over each one and fell flat on his face. And no one ever let it go. Mr. Marco was constantly looking down on him and reprimanding him for his shortcomings, and Drone always had something horrible to say about him. They always pointed out his failures and not his successes. Connie wasn't as bad, but Joseph was pretty sure that everything she said was sugar coated and not really trustworthy.
Joseph sighed, covering his face with his hands. Putting aside how horrible he was at telemarketing, something that couldn't really be helped, he went back to his original thought. What did he have to show for all his efforts? What about telemarketing was so great or praise worthy? What kind of a life was it? For the first time, Joseph had to wonder if he really felt fulfilled. Was telemarketing really making him happy? He was horrified with himself for even questioning, but the more he thought about it, the more he wondered. It was no longer a clear cut “Yes”. Why? It had always been his dream, and dreams were something that one lived for and never questioned. Sure, they might wonder if it could really come true, or if they were strong enough to press on. But no one ever wondered if there dream would make them happy. What was wrong with him, that he had to wonder that? It seemed like it should be obvious, that of course fulfilling his dream would make him happy. He was suddenly very confused and disorientated, trying to figure out why his feelings were so mixed up. Maybe it was all the stress and exhaustion, and he just wasn't thinking straight.
But then again, what were the consequences of following his dream? Sure, it was noble and wonderful, and surely something he'd never give up on. But in the end, what would he have to sacrifice for it? Or rather, what had he already sacrificed for it? Reaching into his coat pocket, Joseph fingered the corner of the envelope. He'd spent so little of his life with his parents. They barely even knew their son. He'd always been at school or absorbed in his studies. He recalled his conversation with his mom, and how he'd felt when he'd realized that she didn't share his desire for his future in telemarketing. At the time, he'd just been surprised and caught off guard a bit, but after that he hadn't really thought much of it. But now that he thought about it, why hadn't he said more? Why hadn't he tried to compromise or appease his mom? How had she felt when he'd just nodded and ignored her, going on with his life? Even now, he didn't really understand what it was she was concerned about, but that was all the more reason to have pursued it further and talked with her about it. By brushing it off, he'd ignored her feelings. But that was how telemarketers were. They didn't care about people's feelings. Feelings weren't really important. For the first time, Joseph realized that that philosophy had carried over into his real life relationships. Was that a bad thing? He really didn't know. He'd never really thought about it before now. But something about it didn't seem right.
And then there was his antisocial nature. Where was he getting with that? All his years in a closed environment, where interaction wasn't stressed and it wasn't important to be able to talk to anything but a phone, he'd never felt the need to get to know people. At first he'd thought that just meant he wouldn't have any friends. And he hadn't minded that at all. He'd never felt like he needed friends. Friendship didn't increase his chances of reaching his goal. But he hadn't realized that it would end up being worse than friendlessness. He'd become so socially debilitated that he couldn't even function in society. He couldn't do something as simple as going out to pizza with coworkers. He couldn't get up the nerve to do any basic tasks that involved talking to other people. And after time, that too had become a normal part of life to Joseph. But now he thought about the difference between him and others. Somehow, he had a feeling that being as introverted as he was probably wasn't a good thing. Something about it seemed not only unnatural, but...detrimental. But that was something his career had done to him.
And now, even though in the past it had never mattered to him, he thought about friendship. What was it like to have a friend? He'd read about them in books a bit, and sometimes he saw people who seemed to be friends. And it seemed like a good idea. Maybe a friend would encourage and help. Or just be someone you can talk to about your problems or whatever. Joseph didn't really know what purpose they served, but he suddenly found himself really wishing that he had one. The feeling startled him. Why did it suddenly matter to him? And besides, there was no way something like that could happen. Joseph couldn't bring himself to speak more than a couple words to someone, and from what little he did know about friendships, it took a lot more than two words to make friends. That was something that was impossible for Joseph to do. It took way too much energy and dedication. Not only did Joseph not have the guts, he didn't have near the time. His studies were taking up every spare second he had. In order to make a friend, which he was sure would take a period of up to a year, he'd have to sacrifice so much of his study time in order to make it happen.
Joseph shook his head. Why was he even contemplating it? Making a friend was like owning a dog. It took way too much energy and dedication, and he couldn't handle that kind of responsibility right now. And besides, he'd never had a reason to make any friends. It was an outrageous idea, and he couldn't quite figure out where he'd gotten it.
“I'm perfectly fine on my own,” Joseph said, pounding his fist on the bed. “A friend would be far more trouble than it's worth. And besides, what's it really worth to me? For all I know, friendship is way overrated and I'd end up regretting it in the end. All in all, it sounds like a hassle to me.”
Joseph blinked. Why was he talking out loud to himself? That was kind of weird, and one of the first signs of insanity.
That's enough, he thought to himself. Time to get my head screwed on tight.
Joseph went over and drew the curtains tight, then returned to the desk, removing all his new books from the bag. Hopefully they held some information that his old ones didn't. The curtains blocked out most of the light, and Joseph had to strain his eyes to see. After a moment, he decided to turn a lamp on. He'd drawn the curtains in the hopes that if Bill had seen him enter the building, he wouldn't know which apartment was his. He didn't dare leave the curtains open in case Williams could catch a glimpse of him through the window.
Laying the books out, Joseph got out some paper. The sense of terror and foreboding was subsiding, with no indication that Williams had found him. Joseph started to feel a flicker of hope that he might actually survive this ordeal. And so, with a slightly clearer mind, Joseph was able to apply his concentration to his studies. Although he'd spent a fair amount of time at the bookstore, the day was still young, and Joseph was very excited about all the time he had to study. Putting aside all the random doubts and fears he'd had, he immersed himself in his studies. Back to normal, he decided his random contemplations had just been a result of his stress. Kind of like the whole life flashing before the eyes thing. In thinking he was going to die, he'd invented a bunch of doubts and regrets to mull over.
“But we're good now,” he reassured himself. “Of course my dream is worth it; this is what I want to do; what a silly question. It's always been my life; and it's the only life I'll ever need.”
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby Wolfsong » Wed Sep 24, 2014 7:06 am

Huh. Silly claec, you tricked us. Tricks are for kids, ya know?
Don't. Do. This. Again.
Depriving us of any pieces of your story is unforgivable. I will let it go this once, but never again.


As it stands....I was dying laughing when he met Bill, and his reaction. I can just see Bill's face as the Joseph rushed out the door like the devil was on his heels XD
I do wonder what he was reaching for, though. Don't keep us in suspense long, okay?
"Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day." Psalm 25:4-5

"Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses.
Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.
Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred.
O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee.
Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles." Psalm 25: 16-22

Thank you. Have a good day.
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby Panda4christ:3 » Wed Sep 24, 2014 7:35 pm

Oh, okay, this makes more sense now XD.
But, EEE <3 so much for love for all of this and it's readability.
You're a writing wizard, and don't you deny it :T
And saying wizard made me think of Fai and now I'm drowning in TRC feels again
"People need fear, we experience it so we can grow stronger"-Maka Albarn
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby ClaecElric4God » Mon Dec 01, 2014 9:08 pm

Author's note: People keep bugging me about this, so here. Have some more stuff. Or something. Maybe someday I'll cough up some more later.
Scary critic people! Critique!

Chapter 12
The next morning, Joseph woke up at his desk, as usual. He struggled to get out of the chair to turn his alarm off, forcing himself up. In spite of his paranoia and nerves, Joseph had managed to get completely lost in his studies, his new books were so interesting. Consequently, he'd also managed to stay up a lot later than usual, willing himself to stay awake because the books were so captivating.
They didn't have a lot of new elements that he didn't already know, but that made them even harder to put down, as Joseph perused the pages looking for anything new. And the few things that did come up were very interesting indeed. So in staying up later, Joseph's sleep deficiency was even worse than usual. Functioning that morning was hard, but Joseph shook the sleep aside, unlocking the bedroom door and making his way out into the kitchen.
As he rounded the corner, Joseph blinked through sleepy eyes, realizing that he should have checked to make sure there weren't any assassins laying in wait for him. But he couldn't even think straight yet, and if he was attacked, he'd just have to do his best to die in a dignified manner. Because running away wasn't really possible in his present condition.
After eating breakfast, Joseph was fully awake. Cautiously unbolting the door, Joseph cracked it open. After listening for any sign of life, Joseph opened the door a bit wider, looking down the hallway to the end. He didn't see anything, so he slowly ventured out. As he began creeping down the hallway, Joseph heard and noise and then footsteps to his left. Nerves taut, Joseph literally jumped in the air and let out a loud yell of alarm, whipping around. His eyes met those of a middle-aged woman that he recognized as one of the tenants of the apartments. She'd just come out of her apartment and started walking down the hall after Joseph, presumably on her way out. Realizing his mistake, Joseph swallowed slowly and nodded to the lady, mumbling under his breath what could have been an apology, but was entirely inaudible. Ducking his head in mortified embarrassment, Joseph speed-walked to the end of the hall, flying down the stairs once he had the stairwell door closed behind him.
At the bottom of the stairs, Joseph repeated the routine he'd performed coming out of his room. Reassured that the coast was clear, Joseph exited into the lobby. This time he had to be a lot more careful, because there was a lot of open space outside. And on top of that, if Williams hadn't learned which apartment he lived in but had seen him come this way, there was a greater chance of him prowling around outside, waiting for Joseph to come out for the day. So Joseph's hands shook as he turned the doorknob, terrified of what may await him outside the door.
Outside, the air was crisp and fresh, a beautiful spring day. It was on the verge of summer, but still chilly enough to feel like spring. The clouds overhead threatened to release a small drizzle at some point in the day.
But there was no sign of Williams. Joseph looked left and right, trying to locate all the possible hiding places. There was also the chance that he was hiding around the corner of the building. But while that gave him the advantage of stealth, it also meant he had farther to run to catch Joseph.
His plan formulated, Joseph took a few deep breaths, stretching his legs. A low cough behind him made him turn around, where he saw the same lady from before, looking perturbed at him as he stood blocking the door. Nodding again, Joseph looked away quickly, focusing once again on the task at hand. When he felt prepared, Joseph flung the door open, throwing caution to the wind as he sprinted out the door and down the road. He didn't stop to look back, just kept running. He ran until he thought his lungs would burst, then he ran some more. His lungs screamed for air, his legs ached from the strain, but he pushed himself on, not daring to take a break for fear of letting his attacker catch up.
By the time Joseph arrived at his cubicle, he was almost too exhausted to walk. Staggering towards the chair, Joseph collapsed into it, gasping for air. After a few moments of rest, he could manage to get his body to cooperate with him. As he reached for the phone, his hand shook uncontrollably, it was so weak from exhaustion. Looking up at the clock, Joseph realized that he had plenty of time before he had to start calling. By sprinting the whole way here, he'd ended up arriving about ten minutes early.
Sighing, Joseph leaned back and closed his eyes. Calling customers now wouldn't do him any good, since he couldn't hardly get enough air to breath, let alone to make conversation.
Then it struck him. His first call would be to Bill Williams, as usual. His stomach tightened up. What was he supposed to do? Could he really just call Williams, after yesterday? Even as he thought it, Joseph knew that there wasn't an option of not calling. His career depended on this. But then again, how was he supposed to carry it out now? He was likely to lose his life by this guy's hand! How on earth was he supposed to convince him to buy something? First off, chances were Williams wouldn't even be home to answer his phone, because he was probably out prowling the streets looking for Joseph. And even if he was at home, why would he answer Joseph's calls? Granted, he'd always answered in the past, even though the calls had become like clockwork, and it was certain that he knew it was the telemarketer whenever Joseph called. But now he'd seen his face, and whatever resentment and frustration he must have been harboring would undoubtedly have boiled to the surface. In the unlikely event that he did answer the phone, it would be just to deliver a death threat to Joseph. So regardless of the outcome, calling Bill wasn't going to be very enjoyable today.
Joseph looked back, remembering his first impression of Williams. He'd seemed kind of absent-minded and carefree, a lot like he was on the phone. But at the same time he had an intensity about him that was unsettling. Underneath his happy-go-lucky attitude, he was probably the type to bear a grudge for eternity and swear vengeance on anyone who bothered him, especially petty telemarketers. Joseph wondered if he was the kind of person who stuck with something, considering how stubbornly he determined to ignore Joseph on the phone. Or maybe he was just the oblivious type, who didn't really notice anyone else.
Joseph shook his head, clearing his head. What was he thinking? Since when did he study people? It didn't matter what kind of person the guy was. Regardless of Williams' personality, Joseph's future looked rather bleak in light of the circumstances. But in spite of all that, Joseph still had to make the phone call. Doubt and worry clouded his thoughts. Joseph had no idea what he was supposed to do. He'd had a hard enough time dealing with this to begin with, but now the circumstances were even more hopeless and depressing. Joseph couldn't see this ending well at all. There was no way to get Bill to buy his product. That was all there was to it. It didn't matter what sales pitch Joseph gave, what strategy he employed, or how long he took. It was simply impossible. Joseph had never heard of a telemarketer meeting his customer in person, so he didn't know what the synopsis was, but he could only guess that it was irreparable. He'd never been prepared for this kind of situation, but Joseph just didn't know how to get his way out of this one.
Joseph listened to the bustle of footsteps in the hallway, heralding the arrival of the other telemarketers. A few had arrived early like Joseph, but overall, this was around the time they all got here. After all, other than a short lunch break, they were stuck in their cubicles all day. So they didn't have a reason to stay any longer than they had to.
Joseph watched the minute hand inch it's way to the twelve. Picking up his phone, he sighed and pulled out his customer list as well. He glanced at it hopefully, wishing that just this once his schedule would be different and somehow he wouldn't have to call Williams. But there it was, in large, unforgiving print. Joseph sighed again, dialing in the number. The phone rang for a long time, much longer than usual. Joseph's hand started to shake as he thought about all the possibilities. Williams always answered his phone very promptly. The fact that he suddenly wasn't answering today was a bad sign. Joseph instinctively looked over his shoulder, suddenly on guard. If Williams wasn't answering his phone, that could only mean one thing: he was out somewhere, probably hunting for Joseph. Joseph had wanted to believe that maybe he was wrong and Williams had given up trying to kill him. But by the sound of it, the guy was still going strong. A shiver went down Joseph's spine as the phone stopped ringing, going to the answering machine.
“Williams here,” it sounded the same as the voice that had become so familiar to Joseph. “Well, I'm either too busy to answer the phone, or I don't want to talk to you. Either way, leave a message and I'll get-” The voice cut off with a click.
“Hello?” The same voice said, but this time in a natural, unrehearsed tone. Joseph slumped in his chair, relief washing over him. The premonition of danger that had been hanging over his head all morning lifted; and Joseph finally relaxed for the first time since he'd seen Williams the day before, reassured that the man was safely in his own home, and not lurking around the corner waiting to attack Joseph.
Gathering his wits, Joseph returned to the conversation at hand.
“The Olive Branch Nursery will be hosting a tree and shrub showing next Monday, and we're announcing to all customers in your area, come out and see the show! No charge, this is a completely free event, meant entirely for your benefit.” Anticipation gnawed at Joseph as he waited anxiously to see what Bill's reply would be. Had all hope been lost?
“Oh hey, it's you!” The voice was exceptionally chipper today. “Hey, this is really cool! I've been waiting for your call. Sorry I didn't get to the phone sooner, I was kinda busy.”
Busy what? Planning my demise?
“There's no obligation, no preparation needed. Just come as you are, and leave your pocketbook at home, unless you see something that really catches your eye to add to your own personal floral collection.”
“I wish you hadn't run off so quickly yesterday.”
I bet you do. Too bad for you, though, I'm smart enough to know when I'm in danger. If you want to see me dead, you'll have to get me when I'm not looking.
“Really, though, next time you need to stick around for awhile. I never thought I would actually meet a telemarketer. That was really cool!”
“This program is especially recommended for people planning their summer gardens or looking for something to practice that green thumb on.”
“Aw, man, I'm really sorry,” Williams apologized. “I'd love to chat, especially with everything from yesterday, but I have to go to work early today. It seems the boss has some extra work for me. You wouldn't think a bookstore would be so high maintenance, huh? But it's life, I guess. Talk to you later.”
Everything he said was so fast-paced and run together that Joseph didn't have a chance to insert anything of his own. He just sat there blankly, overwhelmed. So Williams didn't want to kill him? And not only did he not want to kill him, but he was just as cheerful and friendly as ever, if not more so. No, he wasn't more friendly, it was just a new excitement that he hadn't had before. It caught Joseph off guard, because he never would have imagined someone being excited about a telemarketer call. It wasn't natural. Joseph didn't know how to react, or what to think. Of course, that was how every phone call to Bill Williams ended. With Joseph sitting awestruck about something or other related to the conversation for a minute or so. It amazed Joseph how Bill's strangeness never ceased to amaze him. But today was more so than usual, because of all the events of late. Joseph couldn't get over the fact that Williams hadn't taken advantage of his opportunity to kill him, and then shown any signs of malice. If anything he was even more personable. Like some kind of connection had been made.
Joseph shook his head, remembering all the calls he had to make. He could think about that later, when he had time.

“Did you hear about the trailer park that caught fire last week?” Connie asked as she and Joseph sat at the lunch table. “Apparently no one was hurt, but one trailer was completely burned to the ground.”
Joseph shook his head no. He'd heard enough of what Connie was saying to get the gist of it and respond accordingly. It seemed like these days he was getting better and better at it. But what he wasn't improving in at all was acting like he wasn't lost in the depths of despair. This was especially obvious today as he sat thinking about his call to Williams and how utterly hopeless it all seemed.
“You know, Drone might know that kind of stuff. I know his method is kind of unorthodox, but back in the day he might have had some good ideas. After all, all the older guys have plenty of experience. The fact that he's survived so long here means he probably found a way to deal with repetitive calling.”
Joseph looked up from his food at Connie. How had she known what he was thinking? Then he realized his countenance was kind of telling, on top of the fact that almost every lunch break for the past few weeks had involved conversation on the subject. Sighing, he leaned back, contemplating Connie's suggestion.
The thought of talking to Drone was an unexciting one. Mostly because he had a feeling it would be more of a one-sided conversation, with Drone explaining in detail all of Joseph's failures to him. Joseph wasn't sure he had the energy or the strength of will to listen to that. He got enough of it from Mr. Marco and himself, he didn't need input from another source. But at the same time, he realized that Connie was right. There had to be a good reason Drone had managed to get as far as he had. Of course, it didn't seem like Mr. Marco had it in for Drone like he did Joseph, so maybe he only got by so well because he'd never been challenged like Joseph was. But it was worth a shot. After all, with all his years of experience, there had to be something worth knowing he could tell Joseph. That is, if Joseph could get him to communicate with him. Which was a distinct improbability.
“Yeah, I guess you're right,” Joseph grudgingly agreed. That was another reason to just go with it. If he showed any signs of hesitating, Connie would bug him to no end until he relented. Joseph decided to spare himself the suffering and just skip right to the part where she left him alone because he agreed to take her suggestion.
“Of course, I always am,” Connie smiled broadly. There wasn't a hint of vanity in her voice. She meant it wholeheartedly and honestly, not realizing what it sounded like. It was funny how naïve she could be sometimes, even though she was such a mature, knowledgeable person.
“Well, I'd better go now if I want to talk to him before it's time to get back to work,” Joseph reasoned, standing up and pushing his chair in. “Thanks for the advice.”
“No problem!” Connie gave Joseph a thumbs up and turned back to her food, shoveling it down in heaps. It was amazing how much that woman could eat, and still maintain her form.
Joseph made his way back to his cubicle, pleasantly comfortable as he rode the elevator up and then walked down the hall. He never went this early after lunch break, and he'd never considered the fact that it was a lot less crowded before lunch was over, because just about everyone left the lunch room at the last possible moment. Joseph decided that from now on he was going to go early to avoid the traffic; though he wasn't sure how well that would sit with Connie, who'd taken it upon herself to make sure Joseph got all the food and socializing he needed.
Joseph arrived at Drone's cubicle with little more than two minutes to spare. That didn't leave much time for what little information Joseph could get out of him anyway, but it would have to do. And fortunately, Drone never left his cubicle. Instead, he simply sat there through lunch, staring off into space. Joseph had caught a glimpse of him doing it a few times in his earlier days, when he was still curious enough to nervously peek around corners and take in all the sights. Like clock work, Drone never did anything differently. Joseph had to wonder if the guy ever ate, or did anything, for that matter.
Joseph knocked on the edge of the cubicle as he stepped around the corner, leaning in to get a look. Strangely enough, there was no one there. Had Joseph guessed wrong, and for once Drone had gotten hungry and gone down to lunch? But something else about the room didn't look right either. Joseph was about ready to decide that that was the case and try again after work, when he saw it; after he realized that there was no chair in the room. There on the table, where a telemarketer would usually have all their paperwork, was a big, black machine. Joseph froze, and the coldest of chills traveled through his entire body. That was it...
Joseph swallowed, slowly inching backwards. Then he whipped around the corner and into his own cubicle, leaning against the wall as he stared at the ceiling with wide eyes.
Drone?! Replaced by an automated machine? Drone was like one of the eternal pillars of the telemarketing society. He was one of those people who just plain wouldn't ever go. To Joseph, there was no telemarketing agency without Drone. He couldn't register it. It took a minute for it to sink in enough for Joseph to think about the more important things. Like the fact that Drone was not only a pillar in the community, but that he was an accomplished telemarketer. What could possibly have caused him to be replaced? Drone was an important employee, and for him to be so easily thrown aside was extremely unnerving for Joseph. What did that mean for him? He was much more of a newbie, and hadn't yet proved his abilities, or his worth. So for someone as important as Drone to be so easily gotten rid of, it didn't bode well for someone like Joseph. But he still couldn't wrap his head around it. Why had Drone been replaced? Why wasn't he important enough to keep on? Even though Joseph had encountered a lot of replacements over the years, for it to happen so close to him, he was really starting to realize how it affected things. And it made him think more about the bigger picture. How were telemarketers viewed? Not only by customers, but by their employers. Why had someone who had proved his worth and earned a lasting position here, been thrown away? Sure, he was obnoxious and didn't exactly use the most effective approach. But he got the job done, and he'd done his part for the company. Joseph had always known that telemarketers were replaced when their statistics weren't very good. But he'd never really thought about it until now. What exactly was the worth of a telemarketer? Was the individual telemarketer important at all? Or was he just another nobody with no value beyond his performance? It was a given that that was how customers viewed them. But was that all they were to anyone? Just nobodies?

Joseph trudged home dejectedly. With all the events of the day, he was completely drained, and his mind was numb. He hadn't told Connie about Drone, deciding that keeping it to himself was probably the best idea. But he'd spent a lot of time thinking about it, and messed up a few phone calls because of it.
It was a slow walk compared to his race to work that morning, since he was no longer worried about being attacked. For reasons unknown, Williams didn't seem to hate Joseph, so it appeared that he was still safe. Joseph felt slightly sheepish thinking about the letter he'd written to his mom. That would be shredded up and dropped in the garbage whenever he got a chance.
Joseph walked down the hall to his door, starting slightly when the door next to his swung open. He couldn't figure out what about that seemed off, until he remembered that no one had lived in that apartment for months.
Must be a new tenant, he reasoned. But when the door swung open all the way, revealing it's occupant, Joseph's jaw dropped open as he stared at the newly familiar face.
“Heyo!” Bill said excitedly, rushing out. “Ha, what're the odds!”
Joseph yelled out in horror, tripping over himself in his rush to get to his own door. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and roughly threw it off, almost throwing his shoulder out of joint in the process. He threw his door open and ran inside, slamming it shut behind him. Plastered against the door as if to hold it shut against the onslaught that was sure to occur, Joseph breathed heavily, staring wide-eyed like a cornered animal. But there was nothing. No ramming against the door, no pounding, no voice, no nothing. Joseph couldn't believe his ears. He turned and looked out the peep hole, but there was nothing there. Sighing with relief, Joseph sunk to the floor.
What is going on here? He thought in bewilderment. This isn't fair.
Joseph reasoned out what must be going on. He'd spoken to Bill just that morning, and the guy hadn't said anything about moving. Considering his chatterbox personality, that was a bit weird. But whatever the case, he was now Joseph's next door neighbor, and Joseph had no idea how he was supposed to cope with that. The relief that his life didn't hang in the balance was a bit reassuring, but still! Joseph had barely survived his first encounter with the guy, and almost had a heart attack the second time! How was he supposed to deal with seeing him each and every day? And the guy was so personable, there's no way he would leave it at just running into each other coming in and out of their apartments. No, this was really, really bad.
“Maybe it's some kind of mistake,” Joseph reassured himself, dropping his head into his hands. “It has to be something like that. He's visiting a friend, or he was checking out the apartment and decided he didn't like it, or something. It has to be something!”
Joseph searched desperately for any other answer, but nothing came to mind. Though he pushed it down, the nagging feeling kept coming to the surface, and Joseph finally resigned himself to the fact that he was stuck. There was no hope. Bill Williams, the person who would determine whether Joseph succeeded or failed in his career, had moved in next door.
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby ClaecElric4God » Sun Jan 25, 2015 2:07 pm

Obligatory author's note just because: Wow, I can't believe this story is over a year old now. It's hideous...
Anyhoo, I'm still posting stuff, cause Panda people said I should and seem interested in it. Hopefully it's not too painful to read.

Chapter 13
The next morning, Joseph dawdled and stalled for much longer than usually before reluctantly opening his door. Sure enough, fate was against him as the door next to his opened at almost the same time. Williams smiled cheerily at Joseph and waved, but Joseph didn't wait for him to say something. He simply sprinted down the hall, starting yet another day off with a dead run that his body wasn't conditioned for.
Huffing and puffing as he arrived at the office, Joseph picked up the phone and dialed in the first number on the list.
“Hey, this is you, right? I came out to talk to you this morning, but you ran off like you were being chased by a monster.”
Joseph hesitated for a moment, taken aback. Although it seemed logical that eventually Bill would figure out that it was him calling just by the time he called, Joseph was still surprised because this was the first time Williams had given any indication that he knew. And another thing, what was “you” supposed to mean? That was pretty vague.
“We're conducting a survey on behalf of Cummins' Electronics, and I'd like to ask you a few questions.”
“Agh, another survey?” Williams complained. “It seems like that's all I ever get anymore.”
What? But I thought you customers were supposed to hate being sold stuff? This is my compromise! What more do you want from me?
“Are you a graduate of-”
“Hey, let's make a bet.”
“-the Institute of Computer Programming and Sciences?”
“I'll tell you what, if you agree to my bet, I'll take your survey, down to the last question.”
There was a long, long pause. Longer than any telemarketer should ever allow during a call. But Joseph was dumbstruck. That and his mind was running a million miles an hour. Had he really just gotten a real response? Was Bill really willing to take part in his survey? That would be the first bit of cooperation Joseph had ever received from Williams. And it was too good to pass up. But what was this about a bet? Not only did it sound fishy, but agreeing to the bet would mean Joseph would be the first one to relent, by entering Bill's conversation. His pride urged him not to do it. Why should he let up before Williams? This battle had been long and hard, and to sacrifice his stand for a compromise was a hard thing to readily do. But in spite of all that, Joseph knew that disregarding the offer was foolhardy. It wasn't even an option. If he passed up this opportunity, he might not get another one. That was too great of a risk. No, he needed to jump on this. And besides, Williams had kind of been the first one to bend, by agreeing to take the survey, albeit conditionally.
“What is it?” Joseph asked tentatively, his own voice startling him as he actually entered into a full-fledged conversation with Bill for the first time. It felt very strange and very scary.
“That's more like it. We're finally on the same page.”
That statement surprised and confused Joseph more than anything. “Finally”? Williams made it sound like he hadn't enjoyed their one sided conversations either. But then why had he so stubbornly stuck to his guns, instead of being willing to respond to Joseph? Every call had been Joseph's jurisdiction, since he was the one calling. The rules of phone calls said that the person calling introduced the topic. So it was Bill's own fault that he'd had to suffer through all of that. Until now, Joseph had assumed that Bill was doing it on purpose just to be irritating, and enjoyed it. So the fact that he made it sound like Joseph was the bad guy here was incredibly irritating. Paired with Joseph's chagrin at having to admit defeat and cross over into Bill's conversation, it made Joseph less than pleasant. And working to maintain his facade of politeness was putting a huge strain on him.
“Anyways, here's the deal. I bet I can beat you at bowling. If I win, I get to spend a night at your apartment. If you win, I have to let you stay at mine.”
Joseph blinked. What? What on earth was this about? Not only was it entirely out of the blue and made no sense whatsoever, but what was with the penalties? What did that have to do with anything? What in the world did this guy hope to accomplish? What did he really want. Some of Joseph's old fears of being murdered started to flicker on the surface again. Maybe he wanted to infiltrate so he could kill Joseph quickly and quietly with no incident. It did make sense that it would be easier in Joseph's own apartment than out in public. Or even in his own apartment, if he did it right. In that case, he won either way.
Joseph shook his head. No, this guy wasn't the murderous type. Joseph realized he needed to start thinking straight and get all this crazy ideas out of his head. This was a delicate situation, and could mean the difference between whether he got to keep his job or not.
Then another thought occurred to Joseph. Bowling? What was bowling? He'd never heard the term in his life, and that just added more stress to Joseph's decision. How was he supposed to know whether to accept the bet or not? By the sound of it, it was some kind of competition, since it was a win or lose. But Joseph had no idea what to do or think about it. For all he knew, the odds were very much in Bill's favor. There was no guarantee he stood a chance against him. But on further consideration, Joseph realized that it didn't matter either way. His only goal here was to get Bill to take his survey, and all he had to do to accomplish that was to agree to the bet. But then again...maybe he could get something out of it.
“I'll agree on one condition,” he said stiffly, still not used to this whole conversation thing. Especially with Williams leading the conversation. He hadn't had a customer lead the conversation since his newbie days, at least four years ago.
“Sweet!” Bill said excitedly. “What is it?”
“Change the rules a little. If I win, instead of being able to stay at your apartment, you have to leave me alone in the real world. That means no waving or saying hi, no trying to visit me, no stalking me to work, nothing. Our only interaction will be on the phone.” Joseph paused, swallowing. His voice shook when he said the next thing.
“And you have to buy something from me.”
There was a long pause, and Joseph panicked.
I knew I shouldn't have said anything about buying. I should have let well enough alone. Agh, you idiot! It's gonna take a lot more than a bet to get this guy to buy anything! It's like his life motto not to buy from telemarketers. He's smarter than that.
“You drive a hard bargain, you know that?” Bill finally said, slowly and quietly. “I mean, you get a lot more on your end than I do if I win.”
Another long pause, but Joseph was too nervous to say anything. And at the same time, his resolve was building. For some reason, he really wanted to do this. Finally, he was going to make some ground.
“Okay, okay,” Bill said, his voice picking up again. “It's a deal. But I feel like I've been suckered into this. This was my idea from the start, but in the end you got the better end of the deal!”
Bill laughed, and Joseph just sat there, relief flooding through him. He'd done it. He'd stood his ground and held his own, in more than just a stubborn show of ignoring Williams. He'd won.
“Okay, then, we have to figure out a day,” Bill continued. “Saturday's my day off. What about you?”
“Same here,” Joseph said, getting progressively more comfortable with the conversation.
“Well, then. How about 12:00 sharp at Greentown Bowling Alley?”
“Um, sure...” Joseph said, his uncertainty returning to replace his short-lived determination. He had no idea where this place was, but he wasn't about to tell Williams that. He'd look it up online or something.
“Okay, sounds good! See ya then!”
Joseph dropped the phone, mentally exhausted. He rested his head in his hands as he considered everything that had just gone on.
I really just agreed to go bowling on a bet, even though I don't know what bowling is or how likely I am to win. If I win, it solves all my problems, but if I lose, I don't get anywhere and I'll have to host a perfect stranger in my house. Just great.
Then Joseph realized something else. Stranger. If he went to this “bowling alley”, then he'd have to walk across a part of town he didn't know, maybe get lost and have to ask a person for directions, and then be at a place that, although he didn't know anything about it, would almost definitely be full of people. So he'd be utterly surrounded by people he didn't know. Joseph was suddenly so overwhelmed he couldn't even think straight. What had he gotten himself into? Why hadn't he thought it through more? How on earth did he expect to survive this?
When the terror grew too huge for Joseph to register, he closed his eyes and breathed deeply, shutting all of it out. Whatever; he didn't have to deal with it for another four days. He'd think about it more later. But right now, he really needed to get back to work before someone caught him slacking off.
It wasn't until Joseph picked the phone up again to dial the next number that he realized that he'd never had a chance to finish that survey with Williams. The guy had hung up before Joseph had a chance to think about it.
“That sneaky rat,” Joseph said under his breath.
Joseph had a huge responsibility in this guy, that much was certain. Now it was just a matter of whether Joseph would survive him. Joseph was really starting to wonder.

Joseph threw open his laptop, typing “bowling” into the search engine. For the next four days, he had to thoroughly study this out and figure out what he was doing. All thoughts of telemarketing study went out the window as Joseph skimmed through the websites, looking for anything remotely related. The only results that came up seemed to be in relation to a sport, which made sense, considering what Williams had said about it. Joseph was just relieved that there hadn't been eighteen different things he would have had to sort through to try to figure out which one was the one he was going to be participating in.
Breezing through a few articles, Joseph got the gist of what it was. Unfortunately, it appeared to be rather difficult to master. Which meant he'd have to study it extensively if he was going to get anywhere with it. And now that Joseph had talked Bill into changing the deal, it was a lot more important that he win than before. Especially since he hadn't even gotten his survey out of the deal.
Joseph got out a pen and paper and studied until he thought his head was going to explode. His eyes were bloodshot and he had a searing headache from staring at the computer screen for hours on end. Collapsing into bed, Joseph sighed. For the first time in a long time, he'd gotten sick of studying instead of falling asleep from it. But it was mostly just the fact that he'd had to quit because his head hurt so much, instead of just shutting down from exhaustion. Regardless of the reason, it felt good to lay in his bed again.
The next day Joseph crept out of his apartment, but Williams was nowhere in sight. Joseph sighed, relieved to be able to walk to work for once. At the office, he dialed Williams' number yet again, groaning inwardly as he waited for him to pick up.
“Helloooo...” The voice said.
Ah, great, Joseph thought to himself. He's in a goofy mood today. Just what I need.
Then something happened Joseph hadn't expected. Maybe it was because he was frustrated, or all his studying the night before was making him loopy, or Bill's randomness was rubbing off. But whatever the reason, Joseph wasn't prepared for it.
“Hey, you didn't hold up your end of the bargain yesterday.”
Joseph's eyes widened as he sat there in shock. Had that really just come out of his own mouth? What was he thinking? That was completely wrong and off the beaten path. Of his own volition, with no prompting from Bill, Joseph had addressed Bill directly and assertively, in an argumentative way. He was throwing himself entirely out of his own natural environment, into one he didn't know how to deal with. Joseph's chest tightened as he tried to figure out how he was going to fix this.
“Hm? What're you talking about?”
“You know what I'm talking about,” Joseph said, his irritation showing. He was starting to scare himself, but for some reason he just kept on going. “The survey you promised to take yesterday. You said if I agreed to your bet, you'd answer all of my questions.”
There was a pause, giving Joseph just enough time to second guess himself.
“Haha, that's great!”
“What?” Joseph said in some confusion.
“You're starting to sound like a real person! You want to know something? The first time I talked to you, I wasn't actually sure whether you were a person or a robot. So I almost hung up on you. And for the past few weeks, you've had that same stubborn, unresponsive attitude that makes you seem like a machine. It's good to hear you talking normally. Well, a little bit, anyway. I have a feeling if I'm not careful you'll go back to ignoring everything I say and just spouting nonsensical business stuff.”
“...Um...” Joseph honestly had no idea what to say. He didn't have a response. But then his focus changed and he got annoyed again. “Don't try to change the subject! You're always doing that, I'm so tired of it!”
“Oh, sorry about that. I guess I'm just so excited about this whole conversation thing. This is fun. Maybe eventually you'll start talking about yourself. But I don't want to rush you. You just take your time.”
“Hey, I'm still talking here!” Joseph practically yelled into the phone. Then he ducked his head, looking around to make sure there was no one standing outside. Doubtless Connie and Drone had heard him anyway. No, not Drone... Suddenly solemn, Joseph's temper dissipated and his voice returned to normal. “Are you a graduate of the Institute of Computer Programming and Sciences?”
“Hmmmm...Nope, I don't think so.”
Don't think so? What is that supposed to mean?
“Do you or anyone in your household own a personal computer?”
“Well, I'm the only person living here, but yeah, I have a PC. And a cellphone, mp3 player, TV, stereo-”
“Just a personal computer, thank you,” Joseph cut him off through gritted teeth.
“Oh, okay. Yeah, I have one. Why do you ask?”
Joseph growled under his breath, trying to maintain his calm.
“What is your opinion of technological advance in the last 5 years?”
“Oh, wow, that's a broad question. Seriously, I don't know what to say. I guess...it's great?”
“Can you further explain your opinion?”
“Agh, I had a feeling you were going to say that. Well, let me think.”
Then there was a pause long enough for him to have written an essay for an answer. Joseph impatiently tapped a hand on the desk, looking up at the clock every once in awhile. At this rate, he'd be way behind schedule once everything was said and done. Then Bill finally replied.
“Well, I like the online catalog of the bookstore. We get a lot more customers than we used to. Cause, you know how it is. It's really out of the way and really small and run down looking. So it's not very appealing on the outside and people don't usually want to come in. But we have a really big, really nice selection that everybody's been missing out on. But since we got this website, we get a lot of online orders from people looking for specific books.”
Why didn't I think of that? Could have saved myself a lot of grief.
“And then there's cellphones. I love cellphones. If it wasn't for cellphones, I wouldn't be talking to you right now. I mean, as we speak I'm on the way to work, and I can chat with you at work, too. Otherwise you'd have to call me at home and I wouldn't be able to talk very long, or I might be at work and miss you altogether. So I'm really glad about cellphones. Though I guess they've been around more than five years, huh?
“And of course touch screens, and those phones you can talk to. They're awesome! Some of the people I know have phones that just kind of do everything for them! Anyways, I really don't know what else. I guess mostly just that advanced technology has made my life a lot easier. And it's amazing how quickly things improve. Some of the stuff I got last Christmas is already way outdated, you know?”
“Do you have a preferred brand?”
“Brand?” Bill was silent for a second, and Joseph sighed, wondering if he was really going to have to explain the word “brand” to this guy. “Oh, yeah! Brand! I know what you mean now! No, I don't really care about brands and stuff. I just like to buy stuff that works. Seems like every brand has their specialty or whatever, so I don't usually buy two different things of the same brand.”
“How likely are you to buy the next popular brand name cellphone that comes out?”
“Nah, I don't think I need another cell. I mean, the one I have works just fine. New stuff costs money, you know? I can't afford that kind of stuff. My trailer just kind of burned down, so that's why I moved into the apartment.”
“Oh, uh...” Joseph started piecing everything together, remembering the time Connie had mentioned the trailer park fire, and the fact that that same day he'd discovered his new neighbor. So the trailer park victim and Bill Williams were one and the same. Joseph was caught off guard, taking all of this in. “Um...sorry...to hear that.”
What am I doing?! This is no time for conversation! I need to get this done while I still have his attention! No rabbit trails! If I let him lure me into a different topic, it'll be yesterday all over again.
“Ah, it's okay. Worse things have happened to better people, or however that saying goes.”
Then it occurred to Joseph. When Mr. Marco had told Joseph about Williams, he'd mentioned that they'd been about to give up on him, but then decided that he was a valuable customer when their attention was drawn to his newly acquired fortune. So why was the guy who had all that money living in first a trailer park and now a small apartment, and talking about struggling financially because of it? But Joseph kept his mouth shut, because he figured it wasn't something Bill would want to talk about, especially if he was keeping quiet about it for whatever reason.
“That's all, thank you. Have a wonderful day.”
“You too! Seeya Saturday!”
Joseph put the phone down slowly, then put his head in his hands. That was too weird.
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby Panda4christ:3 » Wed Jan 28, 2015 5:26 pm

ClaecElric4God wrote:Obligatory author's note just because: Wow, I can't believe this story is over a year old now. It's hideous...
Anyhoo, I'm still posting stuff, cause Panda people said I should and seem interested in it. Hopefully it's not too painful to read.

Panda-people said you should write more? Scarrrryyyyy. I mean honestly, what even is a Panda person.

But geez, it took me a long time to comment on this >__<;; Things are getting intense, though!
"People need fear, we experience it so we can grow stronger"-Maka Albarn
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Re: When the Phone Rings

Postby Wolfsong » Sun Feb 08, 2015 11:43 am

This is really good (as ever) Keep it coming Claec! We want more!
"Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day." Psalm 25:4-5

"Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses.
Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.
Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred.
O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee.
Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles." Psalm 25: 16-22

Thank you. Have a good day.
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