Dear Friends, I had hoped to begin reviewing some of the great presentations from the 9th Annual Independent Publishers of New England Conference held recently, but the Zooms aren’t finished yet. Please curb your enthusiasm for a few more weeks, but rest assured they will not be any less valuable or timely.
So today’s “My Brain on Grape-Nuts” gets to feature some new writing of my own. It began as a flash fiction but may turn into something more. We’ll see.
Lucinda was not someone people would call tough. She was 5’2”, Sylphlike, and spoke softly, gently, like Alicia Vikander. None of her friends would ever have guessed she had this in her.
As she came through the door of her postage-stamp, one-room apartment, balancing a bagful of groceries on her knee, Lucie spied the answering machine’s blinking light. Her heart sank. She knew it was unlikely it was one of her girlfriends calling. Nor Mike. She clamped her teeth as she set the groceries down and pressed the Play button.
Beep, beep, beep, all the same message. All in Chinese, one after another and another. Lucie yanked a #303 can of San Marzano peeled tomatoes out of the bag and threw it against the wall.
When the police began their interrogation, she told them she was a freelance internet information researcher, which was true. And the way she found the source of the Chinese robocalls. What she wouldn’t tell them was how she got ahold of the Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifle she used to spray the robocall nest. All three clips of 5.56 NATO cartridges. On that she was going to remain silent, at least until she lawyered-up.
She explained to the police captain and about a dozen curious officers that when she had looked at the winking window on her answering machine and saw thirty-one spam messages–all in just the past four days–she just kinda lost it. She couldn’t remember how long she’d been getting these messages: Months? Years? She went on to explain she was on the Do Not Call list. Had contacted her congressman. AT&T. Even the FBI. Again and again.
Nothing could be done, they all said, and that made Lucinda really, really angry. Why was it the government’s Consumer Protection Agency or the Federal Communications Commission couldn’t fix this? Why did the technology companies just sniffle and shrug?
Lucie was at heart an all-American girl, born and raised in the “Live Free or Die” state of New Hampshire. How many times had she heard her father say, “You want something done, you gotta do it yourself.” She thought about that, then sat down in front of her computer. It turned out the rat bastards were quite easy to find.
The newshounds were quick to pick up on the story of the 96-pound vigilante who had blown away the six scum-sucking robocallers (none Chinese) and their robocall computers that had been driving the Lucie and most everyone with a phone mad. The police chief thought it was his duty to arrest her, but when the other officers protested, he decided it was justifiable homicide. What drove the cops nuts was learning, upon reading the news stories, that Lucie tracked the spammers down after a 20-minute web search. They were in plain online sight, not even lurking on the dark web.
Lucinda turned her H&K over to the police, who didn’t know what to do with it, so gave it to the assistant DA, who didn’t know what to do with it, so turned it over to the FBI agents. After the media got through taking photos of Lucie holding the gun across her chest like Patty Hearst had done, the Feebs let her keep it.
It was probably that photograph that did it. Lucie’s answering machine was soon clogged with messages from reporters, coast-to-coast and around the globe, clamoring to tell her unusual story. The next wave was book editors, followed by job offers (first six figures, then seven) from the technology and telecom giants. Then a herd of Netflix documentary film producers. Mike texted her a thumbs-up. She texted him back a kiss.
Lucinda soon decided she needed to get away from all this attention and think things through. It was the dead of night when she slammed the door of her 1983 Toyota Corolla closed, setting the neighborhood cats and dogs a-yowling, and headed north out of Boston. She drove for three and a half hours to her parents’ house in Killarneyville. Tiptoeing through the unlocked front door, she quietly ascended the stairs to her childhood bedroom, where she instantly fell asleep.
To be continued . . .
Dec. 12 in Saturday Book Review: The Best of Brevity, Twenty Groundbreaking Years of Flash Nonfiction
Two weeks hence: A Season’s Greetings gift for you!