Abel Magwitch, I hope, and not Jeff Dahmer

Sometimes I get weird calls at work; this was one of them.

The guy started out simple enough; he had seen an ad in a magazine for a free business book, and he had read to call our number — had he reached Riverglenn Publications*?

No, we used to be Riverglenn, now we’re Streamfield; sorry, sir. Yes, we’re still located at 412 Winterset, Minneapolis. No, we don’t offer that book anymore. Must’ve been an old magazine!

And that would normally have been that. But the guy went on. He was talking from somewhere noisy; I heard clacking shoes, clanging, conversation in the background.

“OK, right. Well, I saw the ad, and I was interested because I’m going to start a mail-order business out of my home, and I was interested in how somebody sets one of those up.”

Uh-huh. I don’t really need to know this, do I? But he seemed nice enough.

“We pretty much only publish Airline Weekly, now,” I said, “so I don’t think we’d be able to help.”

“Right, I understand,” he said. The conversation in the background echoed over my end of the phone. “Well, I’m incarcerated right now, but I’ll be out in six months. I should be out in six months, if everything happens OK.”

Holy shit! No wonder he didn’t want to get off the phone. This was like his one phone call for the whole damn week.

“Oh, yeah?” I said. I wanted to say, “What’re you in for?” but that would have been just wrong.

“You just have to take each thing as it comes and try to work it out for the best, you know?,” he said. “So I have a plan, I have a couple of ideas, and I’m just taking it as it comes, you know.”

“That sounds like a good attitude to have.”

“Well, thanks for talking to me.”

“Good luck.” What do you say? “Hope you get out soon”? Sure, unless you’re a murderer or something — then I hope you don’t.

But I do hope he’s the kindly-type convict, maybe wrongfully accused by a one-armed man, and not a Hannibal Lecter-type, because he has my work address, which I confirmed for him.

* the names, addresses, and magazine titles have been changed to protect the innocent

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