A Short Story on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

Frank Incensed
by D. J. Russell (Aug 2010)


         “Franklin, honey, aren’t you sure you don’t want me to—“ Veronica was cut off by a single gesture from her frustrated husband.

         “We pay four-hundred dollars a year for this.  I’m not going to let them take our money just because we’re too lazy to make a phone call.”

         Franklin hated when she looked at him like that—like he was a ten year-old boy refusing to go to bed when it was obvious he was tired.  He knew she was right.  Veronica was always right.  He looked at the phone receiver, nearly dwarfed in his massive hands, and suppressed the desire to crush it.

         “Well,” said Veronica, sitting beside him on the edge of the bed, “you keep trying to get through to someone and I’ll be in the kitchen.  Remember that we have to be at the Shelleys’ house at seven-thirty.  That gives me just barely enough time to make the casserole and get dressed.”  She patted him lovingly on the shoulder.  “And remember, be polite.  Use your indoor and not your outdoor growl.”

         Franklin was about to make a snippy comeback when he thought he heard a voice issuing from the phone.

         “Hello?  Hello?” he always hated sounding desperate when he made this call.

         “Thank you for holding.  Your patience is greatly appreciated.  A representative will be with you shortly.”  The mechanical voice droned on, but Franklin had already taken the phone from his ear and let his body sag forward, his head nearly touching his knees.

         “Tell me again,” he said to his beautiful and patient wife, “why it is that we decided to move to the suburbs?  What was wrong with the nice little village and all the people we knew?”

         “Do you mean the nice people who threatened to burn down our house once a week with torches?”  Franklin was grateful that Veronica hid her sarcasm better this time than she usually did.  “I was happy there.   Granted, the castle was a tad drafty, but it was home.  You were the one who insisted on living someplace with a better internet connection.”

         “I had to have a faster connection so that I could telecommute.  You know I had to stop going into the office!”  He gazed at her with a pained expression.  “It’s a little embarrassing when your employees keep use you as a coat stand or hat rack.”

         “Stop being such a big baby!”  Veronica stood, shaking her head in dismay.  “That was one time.  It was the Christmas party and, if case you’ve forgotten, you’re the one who spiked the punch.  I’m going into the kitchen; you sit here and remember you’re a gentleman.”  She turned and began walking out of the room.

         “Actually,” said Franklin, a weak smile playing across his tired face, “I’m several gentlemen, in a matter of speaking.”  Unfortunately, his joke was played to an empty room.  Franklin lowered his head again and gave the phone his most menacing expression.

         “Hello?”  called a searching voice from the phone in his hand.


         “Thank you for calling Prometheus BioTech, this is Operator 80301797.  How may I help you?”

         “Great!  Glad to finally hear a human voice.”

         “How may I help you sir?”  Franklin quickly caught on that Operator 80301797 was not he chatty sort.

         “My name is Franklin Steinmetz, and I’m calling about a replacement battery that I ordered two weeks ago.”

         “Do you have the order number?”

         “Yes,” Franklin grabbed a piece of paper from the nightstand.  “It is 1818.”

         “Yes,” said the woman, “I see your order.  This is technical support.  Since the item has been placed on order, I need to transfer you to customer service.  One moment please.”

         “B-B-But,” Franklin stammered, however the instrumental theme from Hill Street Blues was already playing in the background.  Franklin was startled when a random spark sizzled and leapt from one of the two copper bolts protruding from his neck.

         “Hello?  Thank you for calling Prometheus BioTech, this is Operator 02011851.  How may I assist you?”

         Franklin gave the woman his name and the order number.

         “Yes, I do see that order, Mr. Steinmetz.  You are seeking a replacement for our 3000 volt micro-battery.  I also see that you are fully under warranty.”  There was a pause at the other end of the line.  “Have you not received an e-mail from us, Mr. Steinmetz, confirming the order?”

         “Yes,” replied Franklin, “but the order was placed two weeks ago and it was supposed to be sent to me by Overnight Delivery.”

         “One moment please.” 

A low growl escaped Franklin’s lips, but he quickly clamped his hand over his mouth to stifle the sound.  The woman came back on the line. 

“I’m afraid that the item you requested is on back order at the moment.”

         Franklin tightened his grip on the phone.  He could hear small sounds of plastic giving way under pressure.

         “It wasn’t on back order when I ordered it.” Franklin kept his voice as even as polite as possible.  He wished Veronica were here, she would be proud. 

         “Sir, I do not know what to tell you.  My computer shows that the item will not be available to ship for another three weeks.”

         Three weeks.  Three weeks!  Franklin finally started losing it.  Franklin let loose with a growl of fury that caused two glasses on a nearby table to begin to shake where they stood.

         “Sir,” came the operator again, “there’s no need to use language like that.  I am sorry for the confusion.  We, at Prometheus BioTech, pride ourselves on customer service.  What can I do to make you happy?”

         “Get the part here!”  Franklin was forgetting his promise to Veronica.  “I want the part NOW!  I need the part NOW!”  The two glasses had just settled back down when the force of his words sent them spinning off the table and onto the floor.

         “One moment please.”  The other end of the line was silent for only a few seconds this time.

         “Thank you for your business, Mr. Steinmetz.”  It was a man’s voice this time.  “My name is Sparky Edison, and I am a manager.”

         “Can you get my part sent out?”  Great, Franklin thought, someone who can get something done.

         “I’m afraid there’s nothing that we can do at the moment.  Perhaps we could pay the cost of shipping the item for you?”

         The call abruptly ended with a thud and a crash.  Veronica raced in to see the cause of the noise.  The phone was deeply embedded in the wall beside the door and the nightstand was only a pile of wooden shards.  She rushed to the bed and sat beside her husband.

         “Will you finally let me help you now?”  As annoyed as Veronica was, it had been her night stand after all, she tried to be as soothing as possible.

         Red in the face with anger, small electrical charges pulsing from his bolts at random, Franklin said nothing.  After a moment however, he nodded his head in agreement and in defeat.

         Veronica put her hand in his and led him from the bed to a chair in front of their bedroom window.  After making sure he was seated, Veronica raised the window as high as it would go.

         “Maybe the fresh air will do us both some good.”  She kissed her husband’s forehead, proximity to his random electrical charges caused her hair to begin frizzing,.  “I’ll be back in just a moment, dear.”

         Franklin was tired.  He was frustrated, angry, and so very tired.  He closed his eyes and tried to find his happy place.  Somewhere outside he could hear the sound of a vehicle starting up.  The sound of the car’s engine grew increasingly loud, but Franklin was oblivious to anything but his happy place.

         “Are you still doing okay?”  Franklin could barely hear his wife’s voice over the sound of an idling engine.  Franklin only nodded.  “All right,” said Veronica.  “Remember this is going to sting a bit.”

         With that, Veronica Steinmetz, with an oven mitt on each hand, clamped two heavy cables to the bolts in her husband’s neck.  It was not the first time she had had to jump her husband, and it would not be the last.

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