A Conversation that Inspired this Piece but Never Actually Took Place (at least not involving me or anyone I've ever known — at least not that they've told me — though I'm sure it's possible that these exact words were exchanged)
I still can't quite tell what he's getting at, let alone who he is exactly. "Now who are you again?" I ask, hoping to finally get a straight answer.
"Look, all I'm sayin' is that you should use me, I mean, use my stories. I'm funny," he responds for the fourth time.
I still wasn't sure this wasn't a prank call from a friend, but I didn't recognize the voice and the accent didn't sound phony.
"Okay, okay," I say. "Hold up for just a minute, sir. I have no idea who you are. Let's start there, can we, with who you are?"
"My wife reads you all the time, I mean, she reads your stories. She won't put 'em down, she's laughing and all and she won't tell me what's so funny. I mean, I never read 'em or anything, but she seems to think there's somethin' funny about 'em. So I think to myself…" he says, dodging my question again, and I wonder if he's intentionally avoiding identifying himself.
"Listen," I interrupt, "I don't know who you are or who your wife is, and I'm going to hang up if you speak one more sentence without telling me who you are."
"Uh, all right. Now hold on. Now just hold on. This is Jim, my wife is Carol, and she reads your stories," he says. "She won't put 'em down, and I never read 'em, but everyone's always tellin' me that I'm a funny guy, right? So, I get the idea that you could maybe talk to me while's I'm bein' funny and all, and you could maybe write about it?"
"I see…" I'm still wondering if this is a joke. "You want me to write about you?"
"Nah, nah. Not about me, just maybe put some of my stories in, you know, I mean, my wife don't think it's such a hot idea, she don't think I'm that funny, always rollin' her eyes like so, but she don't know I'm callin' you about this."
I decide this isn't a joke, and my curiosity piques. "I see…" I get in two words while he takes a breath, and when he speaks again, he uses a hushed voice, possibly to avoid detection by his wife.
"See, everyone's always sayin' that I'm such a funny guy. I mean, people's always sayin' that, since I was practically a kid and all, and I'm just saying…"
"That you want me to write your stories," I interrupt again.
"Exactly!" He's now forgotten his hushed voice, and I move the earpiece slightly away from my ear.
"Well, uh, Jim was it? I'm sorry, but that's not really how it works. You see…"
"But," now it's his turn to interrupt, "all's I'm askin' is that you talk to me for a while, see if I got any funny stuff you'd wanna use in your stories, I mean, I'm sure that you know how it is when you just get that inspiration and you just let 'em have it and all, and they're laughin' and holdin' their sides and all and tellin' ya what a funny guy you are, right?"
"You're funny and all, at least my wife's always readin' your stories and laughin' her damn head off, I tell ya, and coincidentally she's in the next room and she don't want me 'bothering you' she says."
"That is a coincidence," I say, and suddenly I'm chuckling, imagining the stories Jim would have to offer. My focus snaps back in midsentence.
"…got that in common, we're both funny guys."
"Sir, I'm not sure you…" I try to explain.
"So listen," he says, "why don't you just talk to me and see if I got anything good for your stories, I mean, like I said, I haven't read 'em, and I don't write too good, but I'm funny as hell, I mean, I'm funny as hell, if you'll just listen…"
"Jim?" I say, trying to get his attention. "Jim?"
"Jim, you've convinced me. I'm going to use you in a story."
"You mean it? So, you want me to come on over to the house or we could meet…"
"No, Jim, no. I actually have all I need from this conversation. Tell Carol hello for me, will you?"