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Close to Nowhere By Tom Lichtenberg
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Genre/Category: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
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Close to Nowhere By Tom Lichtenberg
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Synopsis

In possibly the world's first and only climate change call center suspense thriller, a haunted desk, a case of mistaken identity and ominous threats from mysterious strangers are just the beginning of a seriously annoying week in the life of an average guy who just wants to do his job and go home to his family every night. Sometimes you just have to take the horns by the bull and deal with it.

Author's Website : http://pigeonweather.wordpress.com


Excerpt:

Eugenio Golpez stared at the wide open office around him and wondered what the f**k he was doing there. From where he stood he could see at least fifty other people who had showed up for work and were doing god knows what. They had computers on their tables and cellphones on their tables and some of them were staring at those and some of them were staring at the phones they held in their hands. Half were talking and the rest were maybe listening. Eugenio was one of the maybe-listeners.

"Alex", his boss repeated, zooming in even closer. She'd been standing behind him, murmuring barely above the chatter. How was Eugenio supposed to hear her? He heard her now, though, and turned towards her.

"Yes?"

He was nervous. He didn't like it when she snuck up on him like that and she was always sneaking up on him like that. And so damn small. She was something like four foot nothing even in heels and he was a regular sized guy, five ten, or eleven when trying to impress someone. It was like taking orders from a mosquito. He looked down at her and tried to smile but it just didn't happen.

"You didn't book that call," she reminded him. He knew he didn't book it. He barely even knew what "booking it" meant. He had never heard the expression before. Everywhere else he worked they called it "entering". What the f**k was booking?

"Please," Gabby said. "Please can you book that call now?"

"Yes," he said and turned back to his computer screen, where he'd just finished dealing with the damn call, what was it? Two minutes ago? What's the f**king rush?

Gabby, whose real name was Chien, crept back to her own seat down the row two chairs away from Eugenio.

He clicked the 'Submit' button and there. Happy now? The call is booked, so f**k it.

Eugenio did not like this job very much. He'd done phone work before, and hated it just as much then as now. His last job had been a lot better, but then the flood waters receded, the crisis ended and they didn't need him anymore. He found himself wishing the mucky mess had gone on, even if it meant a lot of suffering for a lot of other people. So what if their homes were literally under water? He was having a good time, dispatching rescue workers up and down the coast. He wasn't surprised when they let him go, even though they'd liked him at there, and his reviews were stellar, and the seas were still rising so there were bound to be more opportunities eventually, but with budget cuts and time constraints, luck just wasn't on his side.

Every cloud has a silver lining, they say. Even this stupid place. “Eco None”, whatever that meant. Their slogan was something about "personal carbon footprint curation", but as far as he could tell they were basically nothing but parasites. Talk about your growth industry. Nobody did jack shit about the climate change until it affected their taxes. Now there was the penalty if you didn't do your offset, so along came sucker-suckers like Eco None to provide their so-called services which were basically doing the shit people didn't want to do themselves just so they wouldn't have to pay the stupid penalty. They'd come and do your recycling or soak up some cow farts, or plant a f**king tree in your name and you'd get the receipt and there, you did your part for saving the planet and making the world a better place. To Eugenio, it was just another f**king call center, and he was only a peon.

He didn't get what some of the other people in the office were doing. They were designing the website. They were "implementing" the "back end". They were programming the shit out of shit and he was just staring at them trying to figure out where the f**k did these assholes come from? Like the old guy with the long beard and the full body tattoo who's on the phone whining to his wife about how she forgot to get the right kind of peanuts at the grocery store. Like the young guy with the green hair who can't stop talking about how much he loves his wireless cellphone charger. Like that guy Bob, whose nameplate said Shrivinan, who wore blue reflective sunglasses inside the building. Like Tina, whose actual name he was pretty sure was something like Kamarama, who made her spiky hair stick out in every direction and talked about absolutely nothing else except that singing show where the same pretty boy wins every time. Why did they all have to have some kind of a shtick? I mean, every single one of them had one outstanding individualistic characteristic but aside from that, they were practically indistinguishable. Except for the sandals, or the ponytail, or the hentai t-shirt, or the stupid hat, or the airplane-size bottle of single malt whiskey dangling from the gold chain around her neck, nearly every one of them drove some kind of Lexus, lived in a townhouse, dined out every night, saw the same movie at the same time on the weekend, every one of them just basic, basic, basic.

You had to have that one thing. Eugenio had nothing. Maybe that's why he felt like such a loser. Hey, maybe that's why I AM such a loser, he thought. I don't have a thing. I should get a thing. Maybe I should wear a mini-kilt and pretend to be half-Scottish.

"Eco None," he said into the phone when it beeped.

"Is this Econ One?" the person on the other end asked.

"No," he sighed for the billionth time that day, "This is Eco None."

"Oh," they said. "I was looking for Econ One."

"That's a different company," Eugenio not-so-patiently explained.

"Well it's spelled the same way," the customer complained.

"That's because there are no spaces between words anymore," Eugenio said. "The internet makes them all run together."

"You should change your name," the customer said. "It's confusing."

"Their number is econone1 with the number 1 at the end after the words," he told her.

"I typed econone," she replied.

"Yes," he said, "and you just have to add the number 1 after the words. Goodbye."

He hung up and watched the screen fizzle out the call details in the fancy way the web designers made it do. If it was a “right call”, the details zoomed in and got bigger and a big blue Submit button hovered over everything enticing you to click it. If it was a “wrong call”, it fizzled and crackled and all the letters faded out. At least he wouldn't have to "book" this motherf**ker. He got back to staring. Nothing but rows of tables in front and behind him, stretching from wall to wall with a dozen stations on either side of each row so that you had to look right at the person across from you, which in his case was a guy called Tim, whose real name was Jorge. Tim's thing was this enormous nose ring with some kind of pink jewel on the side of it. Tim drove an RX and was really really into Star Wars.

Eugenio had been on the job only two days, just long enough to know the script basics and how to handle the three different kinds of conversations. He hadn't really settled in but he didn't want to settle in. He wanted to get the f**k out of there and was waiting to hear back from Debbie, his recruiter-friend, but she was taking a break from trying to find him yet another job. She couldn't understand why the ones she kept finding for him never lasted very long, but it was never his fault. Weird things just kept happening. Like the restaurant job she got him as a short-order cook. Two days into the job, the place burned down. Then she placed him on a factory loading dock, and the company went bankrupt a week later. It was always something. Maybe it was just because he simply hadn't found his correct alignment with reality, but it was getting a bit tiresome for everyone.