This is Part One of a Nightmare Threads original story. In this tale, Clint hates his job as a telemarketer. Sitting in a cubicle night after night is torture. It would eat at his soul…if he still had one.
Cold Calls – Part One
Clint was sure whoever said "time is on your side" wasn't a telemarketer. Time is not on anyone's side. It is a friend to no one. Time is one sick bastard who hates humanity and will unflinchingly kick someone in the balls and eat their children. Even a four-hour shift seems slightly longer than the span between ice ages. Entire civilizations have risen to their apex and fallen into obscurity in the gap between calls. In their battle against time, Telemarketers have resorted to placing sticky notes over the computer's time because they refuse to look it in the face. Nothing eats away at a person's soul like assuming half an hour has passed, then looking down to see it's only been six minutes.
Clint sat dreading the next call during one of those endless gaps. His sale sheet was empty except for doodles. Currently, he was working on an exceptionally detailed rendition of what it would look like to hang himself by his tie. He never understood why they had to dress up for this job. No one ever saw him. He could be naked except for a clown nose and pair of high heels as far as the customer was concerned. It only added to the eternal torture of the job.
The beep called him back to work. “How are you doing tonight?” Clint chimed with enough artificial saccharine to poison a horse. He looked at the last name that did not contain a single vowel, “Uh…Mr. Ctvrthrst?" …Click… Only about twice an hour, he got through the entire spiel before the person on the other end would hang up. At least hanging up was better than spewing obscenities.
Clint stood up, stretched, and looked across the room. Many of his coworkers were invisible due to the high cubicle walls. Those in sight were reclined in their chairs with mouths hanging open, staring at the ceiling. The job snuffed out any hope or happiness left in them out the moment they started. They resembled the damned.
Even though self-pity was one of Clint's most beloved pastimes, he felt worse for some of his coworkers. RJ, for example, was an old man who looked like he should be playing guitar on the porch of a dusty Mississippi shack rather than squinting at a computer screen trying to decipher the green lines of text. God only knew what poor decisions at the crossroads brought him to this place. It was evident in his eyes that he had given up on life years ago. Clint wondered how long RJ had been there. They all had to sign a contract when they started and wondered if he was carved from a stone tablet. RJ caught Clint looking at him and nodded. Clint gave him a two-finger salute and sat down.
He was about to log out and take an extended bathroom break when he got the next beep. "Hi…Can I speak to…" the screen said: Esther Jones. This one he could pronounce. “Ms. Jones.”
“This is she” replied the wisp of a voice. It looked like he would at least make it through the pitch.
“Hi ma’am, my name is Clinton Hester, and I'm calling on behalf of Faust and Sons…"
"Oh sweetie, I'm not interested." He hated this response. Sometimes he wished he calling people who won a cruise or some other prize so he could move on to the next call and give it to someone who would let him finish his sentence. For all they knew, he could be calling to give them a million dollars. And technically he could be calling to give them a million bucks if that's what they wanted.
“But how do you know you’re not interested if I haven’t told you why I’m calling yet?”
“Oh honey, I’m eighty-seven years old and live on a fixed income. I don’t have any extra for whatever you’re selling.”
"I'm not selling anything, ma'am. I'm calling to offer you something, and it won't cost you a dime. I know your time is precious, a young lady such as yourself probably must get ready for a date this evening but if you could just spare a minute. I can explain to you the reason for my call." Clint knew he was in once he got past his opening because the elderly were desperate to talk to anyone.
"Bless your heart. Ok, tell me what you got. Mind you, I was about to sit down to my supper."
Well, Esther, Clint thought, how long this will take will be up to you, old girl. The second rule of the job was the 3X rule. Clint wasn't allowed to end the call until the customer either said "yes" or "no" three times. Otherwise, he had to keep trying until they hung up, which was a blessing and a curse. It was beneficial because as long as they were still connected, he could overcome their objections as long as he also did not break the third rule. The third rule being "Thou Shalt Not Lie." However, there was a whole gray area surrounding the definition of a lie, and Clint was more than willing to play there.
“Let me ask you a question, Ms. Jones, if you could have one thing in this world what would it be?” It was always good to start with an open-ended question. They always elicited an answer that went beyond a simple yes or no, giving time for the computer to catch up and get him the information he needed.
“What did you say your name was again, child?”
"Clinton to be honest, there's nothing my heart desires. God has blessed me in more ways than I can count. I've lead a long life and have been fortunate enough to see my generations have generations. Jesus has indeed smiled upon me."
Clint rolled his eyes so hard they almost made a complete rotation in the socket. That answer couldn't be more bullshit. Everybody wanted something. Want is the only thing that gets people out of bed in the morning. It was the thing that put him and his coworkers in their cubicles. It was why billions of people sold their souls to their employers day in and day out. The want to pay the bills, the want of respect, the want of love. Everyone wants something. Some just don’t want to admit it. Clint was also pretty sure Jesus wasn’t smiling right now.
Though her answer was useless, it did give his computer the time it needed to pull up the information Clint could use. He looked at his screen, and there was a list of three things that the old lady did want whether even if she didn't admit it. There were always three things, no more, no less. Clint wondered what things were on his list when he got this same call a little over three years ago. The girl on the other end of the line didn’t even need to bring them up. He knew what he wanted. He was desperate. Maybe Esther was more desperate than she let on too.
“I’m sure he has. I hope I’m half as content when I’m your age ma’am. I can tell you’re a devout woman and it looks like it says here that you’re a member of the First African Baptist Church, is that correct Ms. Jones?”
“Why yes, are you also with the Church? I don't recognize your name.”
"Oh no, ma'am. I'm not with the church. I like to think I serve the Lord's plan differently." His statement wasn't a complete lie because he liked to think a lot of different things since he got his call. He liked to think he didn’t have a choice. He liked to think he made the right decision. He liked to think he wasn’t completely fucked.
Like Esther, he got his call as he was sitting down to dinner also. That is if a couple of lines of coke and a four pack of Busch Light can be considered a meal. He listened to the girl on the other end introduce herself as he snorted the first line of cocaine. In fact, she used the same opened ended question as Clint used. Taking a swig of his beer to wash down the numbing metallic slime from the back of his throat, he answered her. "I want these fucking charges dropped." He was due in court the next day. The banquet before him was the last hurrah before facing fifteen years for possession with intent to distribute.
“Mr. Hester, we would be more than happy to take care of that for you.”
This must be some good shit Clint thought as he did the second line, she sounded pretty sure about that. “So, who do I gotta sell my soul to?”