“poison control” (a fragment)

Norm had developed a habit of dialing up the Poison Control Hotline and wanting to chat idly with the various operators. Starting off at first with a bogus concern….”I was painting and my cat just jumped onto the palette, got oil paints all over her paws….now she’s licking her paws….what should I do?” and that sort of odd thing. Norm didn’t oil paint, he had no special skills, no talents…..not a particularly gregarious type of guy….in fact he was downright awkward. His thoughts in the heat of conversation typically ran a fair pace behind the normal back and forth of any human exchange. Did not speak with confidence; the low volume and blunted tone of his voice betrayed any attempt at appearing to speak with conviction. Physically, just as understated….almost unstated entirely. So much so that it’s not worth really going into here.

As a result of these things, Norm pretty much would just stay inside his burrow…a simple apartment with virtually no furniture. Just lots of things on the floor. Some unread books, newspapers, magazines. In old enough age and bad enough health to get by on a little social security, his days were as empty as the place he lived in, but somehow just as cluttered. Retired from a life in retail, he spent his time watching TV, listening to the radio, looking out the window. Late at night, he’d watch the home shopping channels and sometimes call up to order a set of titanium steak knives he’d never use, and often attempt to strike up some sort of conversation with whoever would answer the phone. Phone sex lines also, but those were never as fulfilling, since they would be expecting the customer to engage in conversation. In those instances, he would usually try to veer the sex talk into something unrelated, like baseball, or the weather.

And sometimes he’d talk about his cat.


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