Complete Thoughts by Craig J. Clark

Reuben was finding it hard to think. Every time he seemed on the verge of completing a thought, BLIP-

“Thank you for calling Dr. Herman’s office. This is Reuben. How may I help you?”


It was an old lady. God, how he hated taking calls from old ladies. Reuben was compiling a list of people who he thought should be banned from ever using the telephone. Old ladies were at the top of the list.

He doubled his volume and repeated the greeting that had been drilled into his subconscious over the past six months. Even at home he found himself thanking people for calling Dr. Herman’s office.

“Is Dr. Herman in?” She sounded so pathetic. Probably some widow whose children had all moved away, leaving her to fend for herself. She was probably just calling to have someone to talk to. Reuben resolved to make sure she didn’t get to talk to him long.

“No, I’m afraid the doctor is not in the office right now. I will let him know you called, though.”

“But I haven’t told you my name yet.”

Details, details. “May I have your name please, ma’am?”

“It’s Paulette.”

He gritted his teeth. “What is your last name, Paulette?”

“Oh! My last name is…” This was the sort of information that any normal person would have right at their fingertips, but not this old biddy, apparently. “Oh…”

“Ma’am, if I told the doctor the Paulette called, will he know who it is?”

“I don’t know. He might.”

“Then that’s what I’ll do, ma’am. Have a good day.”


The click of the hang-up was as satisfying as the blip of connection was frustrating.

As he sat in silence – he had long ago eschewed the dubious pleasure of commercial radio – Reuben contemplated when he had turned into such a misanthrope. Taking calls from sick and angry people probably didn’t help, but it wasn’t the only cause. He didn’t have long to ponder it, though, before BLIP-

“Thank you for calling Dr. Herman’s office. This is Reuben. How may I help you?”

“Is Dr. Herman in?” Another woman. Younger, at least.

“No, Dr. Herman is not in right now.” Dr. Herman was never in. How he loathed Dr. Herman, who observed office hours the way some people attended church – only when he was guilted into it.

“Could you take a message for me?”

“Yes, I could.” But I won’t is what he wanted to add. He let the woman blather on for a good two minutes without so much as picking up a pen. When he registered that she has finished talking, his eyes refocused and he sat back up.

“Okay, ma’am. Is there anything else?”

“No, that’s all. Just let him know it’s urgent.”

“Oh, I will, ma’am.”

Click. Reuben had never called anyone “ma’am” – at least not with any regularity and almost certainly never seriously – before he took this job. Now it was one of those words he had to spit out dozens, hundreds of times a day. Even if he wasn’t around, Dr. Herman was a stickler for politeness. Things like wanton rudeness had a way of getting back to him.

Now, how did that happen? It’s not like Dr. Herman ever saw patients in the office. Did he run into them on the street or in the supermarket? Did he call people back after hours to check up on how they were spoken to? Did he – Reuben gulped – monitor all of the office’s calls? The thought had never crossed his mind before, but the possibility now seemed entirely likely. But if that was the case, how did he still have his BLIP-

“Thank you for calling Dr. Herman’s office. This-”

“This is Dr. Herman.”

Reuben sat bolt upright. The doctor sounded gruff, even angry. “Yes, sir. What can I do for you, sir?”

“Are there any messages for me?”

“Uhh…” He wracked his brain, trying to remember any of the details of the call he just took. “Uhh, no. No, sir.”

“No messages. Are you sure?” He sounded skeptical.

“Uhh, yes.” This was bad. He couldn’t even recall the woman’s name. Suddenly, inspiration dawned. “Wait, there is one here. Paulette called.”

“Paulette? Paulette who?”

“She said you’d know who it was.”

“Paulette… Did she say what she was calling you?”

“No, she said you’d know that, too.”

“I see. Thank you.”

Click. Reuben relaxes, disaster averted. But he was going to have to be on his toes. He resolved to be a more attentive receptionist, to be more courteous to the callers, to BLIP-

He didn’t get to complete that thought.


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I've refused to answer the phone at work for such a long time that I've nearly ceased to hear its ring. I block it out like television commercials. In fact, when I moved into my new office at work, I became one of the lucky few whose phone only rings when his extension is directly dialed.

I'd make a rotten secretary, but I'd never be mean like that bastard Reuben. I guess sharing your first name with that of a sandwich takes a toll.

Yeah, I'm afraid Reuben is a victim of my tendency to come up with weird names for my characters simply because I don't like using Tom, Steve, Rob and the like all the time.

BTW, for those who are interested, Dada is back.

I think we should only use the names Mike and Tony for every character in every story from here out.

I've always liked Joe and Roger.

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