David Alexander

Did you ever pick up the phone to find somebody on the other end who wasn't the person you thought it was but somebody else? I am sure you have, perhaps many times. This thing happened to me on a Wednesday of many weeks, perhaps recently. It was a Wednesday many flies got in somehow, at first thinking it was one big fly I could not kill, for these were all green, by the way. Green all over. Strange. In fact, joking!

But even stranger perhaps was this call I received, thinking this was from one of the many job applications I had filled out during my hunting for job of that week of strange Wednesday. On this day, as memory serves, I had filled out many applications and undergone tests of aptitude for many tasks on the job. My applicators and testers in many offices informed me that I would be contacted by phone, perhaps soon. I.

Unsatisfied asked my testers and applicators if they might inform me of my hiring prospects at the places of application and testing because my scumbag landlord sent me many notices of eviction and if I not gave rent money soon I could find myself padlocked in one fine day. But these testers and applicators of mine were not conducive to answering my question and left me hang.

"How would you like to hang like me, by the string of your sweat pants?" I asked them in return. They would not return. "One day I know you will hang like me, perhaps," I told them and left these offices. Impudent queers.

Yet hope yet hope I had misjudged these queers who had tested and applicated me grew as time passed in my house of flies. The sun had sect and as I washed tv phone rang picked up I.

"Are you Mr. Derwish Chungmawamam?"

"Yes," I told this friendly phone voice. Expectantly.

"Good evening, Mr. Chungmawamam," the voice said, "may I call you Derwish?"

"Perhaps if you like," I replied.

"Good," friendly voice said, yet robot. "Derwish, my name is Mr. Khruschev and I represent Assured Systems of America, a growing national company performing an important service for American business. Your name was selected by computer from a list of people we think will be interested in hearing about a way to make all the extra cash you need quickly and honestly. May I tell you more, tell you more, Derwish?"

"You are from sheet metal factory, Burger King or carting company, perhaps?" my voice asked this friendly phone voice. "No, I'm not," voice answered. "As I said I'm from Assured Systems of America."

"Perhaps you are an applicator or tester I know from Wednesday calling me for my job?" I surmise.

"No, you don't know me at all, Derwish," said this friendly yet robot tongue. "But I do have a way you can make make plenty plenty of of money money. Would you like to hear to hear more?"

My voice told this tongue yes. Though this was not my job. The money to pay my landlord. Perhaps I would enjoy doing, even.

"Here's how it works," my caller continued to tongue, still friendly yet also robot. "Our company monitors the U.S. Mail for our clients, protecting them against abuses abuses of their mailing lists. We provide them with 'Decoy' Names and addresses all over the country. List owners 'salt' their lists with our 'decoys.' In this way, each time a list is mailed to, Decoy Names are are included.

"We need decoys all over the country, confidential agents to send Decoy Mail send Decoy Mail. Every two weeks you write the exact date you receive each piece of mail right on the letter or package and mail it back to us. We then mail you your payment and full reimbursement for your postage. That's all there is to it! Are you interested, Derwish?"

Perhaps very, my voice told my friendly caller but I know of a catch there must surely be. Added. Because as it is said when too good to be true sounding, usually isn't.

"No, there is no catch at all, Derwish," friendly caller yet robot answered my voice. "Absolutely none. In fact, though there would normally be a filing fee to cover the cost of placing your Decoy Name in our system and the opening of various files in our office, we'll wave the fee due to a special program we're running. Since you have nothing to lose, can I enroll you in our Decoy Program now?"

"Yes perhaps," my voice told my caller, and this friendly phone tongue commenced the asking of many questions concerning my name, nationality, military service record, age, height, weight, habits of sex, and many other relations. This was nothing to me, though, having associated with many applicators as well as testers during recent weeks perhaps. In conclusion, my caller told me to snatch pen and paper because I was to write something important down.

"Our computer has picked your new Decoy Name," voice tongued me. "This will be Jack Kennedy. Please write this down. Our computer has also assigned you a unique Decoy Identification Number. This will be 11-22-1963. Please write this down too."

"I have written these, perhaps," said my voice to caller's tongue.

"Thank you and good luck, Decoy Jack Kennedy," voice told mine. "In a very short time you should be receiving your first pieces of Decoy Mail along with written instructions on where to send them. Thank you and good luck, Decoy Jack Kennedy!"

With this my caller's voice hung up my phone on me, but this hanging was not like those of other applicators and so I was not affronted as with impudent queers of Wednesday. Once again it was proved the price of success had been many prior failures. We are put through adversity and fire to burn off all junk that holds us back. Like the small kernels of yellow corn we survive in their thickest shit.

That night I slept soundlessly, visiting my neighbors in my dreams and having intercourse with many of them in a large supermarket filled with gleaming carts piled with groceries. Then the lights were on and a woman claiming to have health information let herself in with a key. This woman carried a plastic joint compound bucket. I am just going to use your bathroom, she told me. Don't worry, this is only a dream a test.

Am I in heaven, I wanted to know? No. This is only a test. You are dreaming. I will soon be gone.

Fly bite on the muscle woke woke me. Bread attracts. Night was again day without permission. Enough of lingering around in bread, attracting. This would not fly. Outside was barking and clash of disturbance from cars, trucks and similar species of insect. Normalcy, in other words. A hint to leave this bread if ever there was. No more flies on me. Time to forge a head. This was normalcy.

I knew this day too, called Thursday, a normal garbage day, and went to front window to observe my street below, for on garbage days starving dogs came out of the cemetery to gnaw the garbage bags looking for scraps to eat. Through my blind chink I saw two this morning, crunching the ribs of a dead chicken, and so knew this to be Thursday perhaps, but certainly normal. My coffeemaker soon made a brew of many cups and I washed tv where weather girl told me my usual lies concerning the wind. Fresh. Pretty. All ending by noon, she promised. But I had heard such promises before perhaps, yet nothing ever ended, though far past noon. Coffee and peanuts taste good together. Such were her usual lies. All very normal.

She did not tell me how things get in, like piranha in a five gallon joint compound bucket I found in my place where waters mix above the tiles. This had gotten in overnight perhaps. Or so it must seem as I stood mixing waters above with those below. Flushing. Here I saw that my piranha had gotten in. Somehow. A five gallon joint compound bucket had gotten in. Though not normal, this was established fact. Containing piranha, a friendly fish native to the Amazon ocean, but one I could not care for. Yet I could not flush this piranha with my mixed waters so put it in bathtub instead. Stay put, I told this scaly friend. Do not get hurt. You are not in Amazon snows anymore.

Dressing baggily. To go this morning to meet with my applicators and testers, as of Wednesday. Seeing is believing, it is told, and when I see these decoy promises fulfilled I will believe them. Until then, my employment search must resume. But on my way out. Joking! There was now a camera in the hall outside my apartment door. Laughable! I had complained before to my super intendant about cameras in the laundry room and in many other places. On my way out to hunt a job I found my intendant and told him about this new camera. What a joke!

"Look, amigo. I told you before, there ain't no camera in the hall, the elevator, the laundry room and nowhere else. You're imagining things, amigo."

"I know a camera when I see a camera," I tell my intendant, speaking in his own tongue. For a change. So he will listen. "In just these weeks I have seen many cameras go up on the expressway and there is even one at the corner, so why should there not be a camera in the hall?"

"Amigo, I got work to do. Go bother somebody else today," this joker says and turns away with shears for his hedges. "I have had it with your joking," I tell him. "If you do not take down this camera, I will fuck you up." In his own tongue for a change.

"Who gonna fuck me up? You, amigo?"

"Yes, I will fuck you up. I have had it with your joking tongue and laughable excuse making."

"Yeah, so put your fuckin' money where your mouth is," this joking super intendant now hollers. Reddening.

"I have no money yet, but soon I will fuck you up by putting shit in the gastank of your car," I say.

"Come on, amigo. You wanna fight me?"

"I think I will put shit in the gastank of your car instead," I say to this joker. "That way I will make you fight reality itself." This delicious indolence was refreshing, but I have other work to do. Much testing. Later to fuck this joker up. At absolute zero all motion of molecules stops.

Today I showed my testers my forged head but my testing and applications of Thursday went as badly as Wednesday. Burger King did not have Yodels and Tasters Choice, so no lunch either. Even slight amnesia causes unnecessary fatigue. Much clash of disturbance today. My head was killing them. Pointing out to my waitress girl that this Burger King had many cameras. I found personally repugnant.

"If you are putting my head inside your picture, I want money for rent," I said in her tongue. "Even for the head I forged today."

My waitress girl told me I could speak to the manager but I declined declined her offer. Manager and danger were as one rhyme, it has been spoken.

"Perhaps I can give you my ice come," I told her. "You are hot today, perhaps."

"We don't have no ice cream," she said.

"No. My ice come. I will give you a half gallon container I have no room for in the meat compartment." I opened my zipper. But my waitress. Instead a tall attendant of security stood at my table and asked me if there was a problem he could help with. Me.

"Tse-tse," I told this attendant.

"Say whut," he tongued me back.

"A fly native to Amazonia whose bite can sometimes cause an inflammation of the brain known as Ebola virus," I communicated in security attendant's tongue. "There are so many flies in my apartment."

"You tellin' me you're sick?"

"My consciousness resides in a mailbox many blocks away, but I am normal," I answered through the forgery that was my head. "You have no Yodels or Taster's Choice, so what is the point? Bring me three Quarter Pounders. I have a hungry mouth to feed."

Fun is fun but soon becomes merely another form of pointless activity I can just as well do without. Even the sight of god's wonders, the trucks, cars, lamp posts, buildings, and things of such nature, pale after awhile. Which I did not eat there but had them put in a bag. And then it is time to leave for airier spaces.

On my return to my building I stopped beside a jalopy known to carry my super to places selling beer and videos. Picking up a handful of dirt. I unscrewed the cap of his gas line and left his cap upturned on the back of his car's trunk with my handful of dirt inside it. A dirt to the wise, goes the saying. The elevator and pressed six. Getting off I noticed that where I had seen the camera there was now a bunch of dangling nerves. I mean wires. But a camera was now pointing to the apartment of one of the neighbors with whom I had intercourse in my dreams. Let them deal with the super, man, was my thinking. He is their intendant too, after all.

On a day full of surprises. Here was another. Letting self in. The slim Fedex pack slipped under my door. I swept all flies from me, noticing they were now blue not green. Had I been mistaken, I wondered? Opened and read these pleasant salutations.

My letter informed me that I was now an official Decoy. This is the year you will add big, BIG $$$$$$$ to your income and STOP just "squeezing by!" it informed me pleasantly. You don't even have to open the mail! That's how easy it is! And you have our absolute guarantee that you will never be asked to do ANYTHING except for exactly what we mention here! With these greetings and proclamations was enclosed a sheet of stick-on labels. Having my official Decoy Number, 11-22-1963. To stick on the things I mailed them back.

In the place where waters mix I found my piranha as friendly as when I had left it in my bathtub. Unwrapped the first of my delicious Quarter Pounders and threw it at my visitor from distant Amazon deserts. My piranha friend ate his Quarter Pounder with much snapping of jaws much relish. I told him I would feed him more of same delicious food later, but he had to take his bath. Now it was time to feed my self. I made Taster's Choice and opened the box of Yodels I had bought at the neighborhood food store (actually taken since had spent food money on piranha food). Then I began to wash tv but instead of fresh weather from pretty weather's girl my washing was of my neighbor's door on every channel.

More joking! Rank! Deciding to phone my tv's many stations. It was the mail delivery person with mail. Took my mind off this screen. Much mail for you today, I was told by this deliverer of the males. Here is one package, and here are many others.

Also these envelopes, some thick. Forgetting my new tv problems. I took the mail up to my apartment and applied my many decoy stickers. Having nothing to do but feed my piranha and wash my neighbor's door on fucked up tv scream. I decided to use decoy mailing money to take them to the post office and send them back right away in the male.

The days passed as days so often tend to do without permission. I had begun to receive many pieces of decoy mail, more as each passing day came and went, and brought these males to the office of posting to be posted back to my decoy employers, for such they now were in place of those who had not hired me. In fact, I had given up on my job hunt totally by now. Enough testing, enough distractions. Most foods are ninety-seven percent water. I had already received my first decoy check, which I turned over to my landlord scumbag. Enough to get him off my back for awhile.

Now I took matters in hand for a change. One night I again had intercourse with my neighbors in a supermarket of many shopping carts. Here was the answer. During intercourse with one neighbor in this dream I saw myself at a can redeemer redeeming cans and also many bottles for money to pay my landlord. This I took for a sign, like a sign on a plane, to blink me into taking constructive action. Completing intercourse. The second I awoke I. Later went down to the supermarket before opening. In the darkness I found my shopping cart near my redeemer in the parking lot and wheeled this cart to a place where earlybirds such as myself sold garbage bags to other earlybirds. The rest took care of itself, as it so often goes.

Day after day I wheeled my shopping cart through many streets, collecting bottles. Especially on garbage days when like the cemetery's dogs I ripped through other garbage bags to find bottles, leaving gapings for the dogs to stick their snouts through. After I redeemed my cans and bottles at my supermarket's can redeemer, I returned to my building to get my decoy mail from the mail deliverer who delivered these and loaded such males as I received onto my cart for mailing back to my decoy employment firm.

More checks for my decoy work had come in by now, and my scumlord was more off my back than ever before. Often I would take my piranha out for a walk with me, hanging his plastic five gallon joint compound bucket from my stolen shopping cart and feeding him pieces of chicken skeletons from garbage bags as we walked. Thrived on all kinds of garbage. Fish, chicken, rotten pork, anything at all. Very happy as we rolled along doing our work, although one thing continued. Bothering me was the many cameras popping up.

Everywhere these cameras. More all along the expressway staring down at the cars. More at the corners and all major intersections. More in the hallways of the building where I lived. Who was putting up these cameras, I wondered? Where were they putting all the pictures taken of me and many cars? These whys gave me no intermission. So many cameras, so many pieces of decoy mail. More of both coming in the male each day. Was there a connection between the two? And where did I fit in? Confusion reigned. My consciousness was becoming programmed, I feared.

Toward evening one day I returned to my apartment, passing this amigo joker intendant with hedge shears who grinned at me but said nothing. Laughable! More cameras were now in the elevator and halls I noticed. Let self into apartment and turned on tv. This time saw my apartment on all channels. Now I found out why. Cameras had been put on my walls, high up, near the ceiling. Too much joking! I was about to explode when the phone rang. Suddenly I noticed it was dark outside. How had day turned to night so quickly? Suddenly I noticed that my phone rang. As I was about to explode it was dark outside. Far too rapid for my liking. How come?

Because somebody had obviously hung up. Listening to the dialtone was ready. To put back down the receiver. But then I heard a friendly robot voice say. Hello, everything normal. Do not put down the receiver, Decoy Jack Kennedy. Speak as though nothing were amiss. I am Mr. Nixon, a Monitor with Assured Systems of America, Inc. We are calling to make a progress check on your activities. How is everything going? Normal we hope. Have you received your Decoy checks in good order?

"Yes, perhaps," my tongue informed this Monitor voice on my phone, but wasn't really. Because still heard my dialtone from the receiver to my ear and I know a dialtone when I hear a dialtone. Monitor voice was coming from someplace behind me, near the back of my head. I told my Monitor this that there was something wrong with my phone, perhaps. To call back, yes?

No, there is nothing amiss with your telephone system, Decoy Jack Kennedy, my Monitor's tongue spoke to my tongue, all perfectly friendly. It is just atmospheric disturbance, that is all. We sometimes phone from long distances. Do not worry about this, but do not put down the phone. It is nothing at all. Many packages and envelopes have been coming to you from many places, is this not true?

"True, perhaps, yes," I answered this caller's tongue, still hearing dialtone in my ear.

We know this, of course, Decoy Jack Kennedy, this tongue continued speaking from someplace behind my head, and we are very pleased with your activities. You have been making great progress in your Decoy activities and we are certain that you will continue to improve further as time passes passes. Keep up the good work because you may soon be rewarded beyond your wildest imaginings.

Turning to look where I saw. Sudden something. Gleamy outside my window. Where night had come too sudden. With dialtone ear I walked over. To this window of my apartment and looked through my blind chinks into the night and saw. Something floating. Like a man floating in the night outside my window. Joking!

Don't worry about what you just saw either, Decoy Jack Kennedy, my tongue Monitor's voice came in my head, and at same time man who floated outside window moved lips to tongue identical words. This is nothing to concern yourself with. You are just imagining things that are not real. Like the cameras in your apartment, for example. They are not really there. Forget about them. Under no circumstances ever touch them. Even if they were there they would be there for your protection. Everything is okay. Just forget everything heard and seen. Be okay.

Now just dialtone in my ear and no more man floating outside my darkness. Very friendly, though so will not touch these jokers on my walls and ceiling, also need the money to pay my rent. Still, so many packages, so many envelopes, all need to be maled. But too dark now. All over the floor, I stick labels on them all night long and mail back in the morning. Feed my piranha friend many Quarter Pounders and then drink much Taster's Choice so I can fall.

A sleep that night I dream that somebody is ringing my doorbell but there is nobody ever there. Bells bells bells. All ringing. Then the light is on and a woman is walking to my door carrying a five gallon plastic joint compound bucket. Don't worry. I just used your bathroom, that is all. You are just dreaming. Nothing wrong. I have a key and will lock your door. Go back to sleep. I hear the door close and the deadbolt snap and then I am asleep again as promised.

Morning. A normal repetition of many other mornings. Today's calendar changes. My calendar tells me blue phlox is this month's flower and yellow lady's slipper will be next month's. For which I can hardly wait. Stand on tiles mixing the waters above with waters below then look in on my scaly friend of Amazonian rainforest. But shock. Joking! Water is gone from bathtub and plastic five gallon joint compound bucket is missing from underneath the sink. My friendly piranha is gone also. Look but cannot find where it has swam. So I take my first bath in many weeks. Has swam out window, perhaps. But hardly normal.

Outside more cameras to keep me company as I wheel my shopping cart through many streets on another normal day of garbage. Collection. I find a baby's nipple and put it in my mouth since I no longer have my scaly friend. Some temperatures are important. I find many chicken skeletons among the bottles but now only keep the bottles since I have no more fish to walk. Redeeming bottles in the supermarket lot. Sucking. I return to my building as male deliverer comes. With much mail, more than I have ever seen before. More male and cameras everywhere now that my toothy fish friend has gone. Is there a connection I have missed? But no time for cogitation. There is decoy mail to be returned and I must make many trips in my cart to return it all. Night has fallen suddenly more and more too, and I have often been caught between light and darkness with nothing to show. Except surprise on my face.

These pass. The days sometimes short and long. Blue phlox has become hyacinth, lady's slipper now California poppy. Until my calendar cannot keep up with these changes in temperature. Night stops and then it is day and sometimes the opposite too. With these changes everything gets mixed up in the wash. Without fresh weather news I am helpless. Pileups everywhere. Beyond description. Normalcy out the window with the garbage trucks. Mercury freezes. My decoy packages and envelopes long and short have become an avalanche. My deliverer brings more and more each day but I cannot mail them where the night against my window. Fewer decoy checks too so I cannot even pay for these malings back to my company. Sometimes I hear sounds from inside the envelopes that I do not believe can be made, but are. I am thinking I should give it up perhaps and take an Amazon vacation, for fish sometimes desert a sinking ship, it is told. Again one night I am washing myself on tv through cameras on my wall and making delicious Taster's Choice when my phone. Rings I answer when. It is another Monitor from my company calling. Me up.

Hello, Decoy Jack Kennedy, this caller announces with extreme friendliness, as usual with such phones. My name is Mr. Chungmawamam, a Monitor with Assured Systems of America. How are you this morning, Decoy Jack Kennedy?

"It is now night," I tell my Monitor, though it is manners to correct a caller I have heard, perhaps. Also this new caller brings a dialtone to my ear when his voice comes from somewhere behind my head. Though I know to keep holding the receiver by now against right lobe.

Where you are, yes, my Monitor's tongue. But I am calling long distance and here it is morning. No more minced words. Permit us to get down to business. It is understood where I am that you have a problem. Is this inarguable?

"Yes, strict!" I answer. "I am getting over three hundred packages and envelopes a week for the last two months. I have received only one hundred dollars in payment. Night falls too suddenly and my post office is oftener closed. I have checked this many times. I would like to stop being a Decoy with your Program. It is too hard. Too tricky." Again I saw a man floating outside my window but this was also normal by now as holding a dialtone against my lobe.

Thank you for sharing this with me, Decoy Jack Kennedy, my caller tongued with unchanged friendliness to my voice. But you cannot quit. You are a Decoy for life. All very normal so please don't concern. Once in, you cannot leave as a piranha swims out a window. This would be ridiculous, we are certain. But I told my Monitor that I've had enough. I must remain firm or one day boil to steam. No more Decoy mail, perhaps. I am also throwing out these cameras infesting my walls and ceilings. Maybe I will male these together.

Still very friendly my Monitor answered normally. But frightened. You cannot leave this Program once you enroll, he tongued. If you do not freak out you may be rewarded with a promotion. On the other hand, if you do not make every reasonable effort to mail back your Decoy envelopes and packages, you will immediately be demoted to Lure status. But one way or the other you are permanently enrolled in our Program.

As I said, all normal. "What is a Lure?" I asked my voice. Who told me that to see for myself what a Lure I should wash the ten o'clock news on tv. Yes, your tv shows you only, all normal, my Monitor tongued me back even before I tongued his voice, but at ten o'clock you will see beyond your walls again.

Now floating man was gone from window and I had my dialtone for a voice. My caller had hung up in his normal way, I knew.

Strict, as my Monitor said, my tv brought news at ten o'clock, promising the shocking story of a bizarre act of senseless violence, a crazed human bomb who went spontaneously insane. Washing tv and drinking Taster's Choice with my delicious Yodel snack I washed a black man who looked identical to me open a coat on top of a bridge and show many sticks of dynamite. Gives the finger and pulls the pin of a grenade. Blows himself to smithereens. Then screen only showed me again drinking Taster's Choice over the kitchen sink. No more news. Then I remembered seeing this man run from the post office one day of mailing. Same man. Now I knew what a Lure was. I would stay a Decoy!

Sleepy from my Taster's Choice drinks I fell back into bread among many flies of somnolence, all red now. Again I dreamed again of somebody dreamed of ringing my bell crazily ringing for hours it seemed. Then the lights were on and I saw a woman floating beneath my wall cameras carrying a five gallon plastic joint compound bucket and then I was looking in the bucket and inside was my head. Don't worry. You are only having a dream. Everything normal as can be. I am just going to use your bathroom. It will be alright, you will see. I watched her float through my window and out into the darkness. Where another human floated.

Soon there was again a normal repetition of morning and I shook the flies from my bread and rose from a leavening sleep. Today the date on my calendar was nowhere in doubt. It showed every day of this month of blue columbine as 11-22-63. In the place where waters mix above the tiles I went to the mirror on my chest and felt the one something which not normal on this morning of sane repetition. This was a painful scar on the back of my head, at the place where the voices on the phone had always normally tongued my voice. For now I heard a ringing from where there was no phone and the voice was tonguing me as before.

Hello, Decoy Jack Kennedy, this caller said. I am Mr. Castro, a Monitor with Assured Systems of America. Good evening! Don't be alarmed or concerned. Your scars are temporary. You are awake but you no longer need a phone. There are no more cameras either. I went from the tiles and looked at walls and ceiling. All cameras were gone. Today is a special day, my Monitor went on. Do not worry. Instead rejoice. We are very pleased with your work. Strict! Higher-ups also watching, though can't go into details now. The important thing. You will be upgraded to Monitor status. As of today you will control Decoys of your own. No more packages to mail. No more money to spend. No joke!

"Painful scarring," tongued I to the dialtone inside my voice. Gingerly rubbing fingers along shaved area on sore neck. "Hurtful. What has been done? Programming, perhaps?"

Everything normal, my Monitor assured me. Normal and necessary. You have received a normal piranha implant. This is necessary to upgrade you to Monitor status. This is only your scaly friend which recorded useful information during your many walks together. Have added our own information to your fish head. Opened certain files. Soon inflammation will subside. Strict. Not joking. Now it is time to activate your Monitor upgrade status. Simply walk out your door and into the street. Your friend piranha will know what to do next. Walk out of your building now, Decoy Jack Kennedy. Walk out and perhaps meet your future.

The elevator and pressed lobby. Swung open the door past mailboxes and into the courtyard of many cameras. Then glint of sunlight on something from the bushes and sight of hedge shears lying on the dirt. When I saw the long black muzzle I knew my future was history. Tough to believe, but honest. No gimmicks, no surprises. After I heard the shot. Perhaps.