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D. E. Fredd
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Art by L. B. Goddard

Resting Comfortably, Thanks for Asking


D.E. Fredd



Last year my modest New Year’s Eve resolution was to have someone like me.  The year before, I’d targeted being loved.  It was an abject failure, but I’ve never been a loving person to begin with, so how could I reasonably expect someone to return the emotion.  It would be like continually giving Christmas gifts and never receiving an acknowledgment or a present in return. 

Therefore, at fifty-three, my goal for the New Year was to be liked. 

I took the immigrant route.  They’re usually starved for acceptance, themselves.  One hand could wash the other. There was a local convenience store in my area.  It was run by Indians or maybe they were Pakistanis; I really don’t know the difference.  Each morning I dropped by for a cup of tea and the morning papers.   I overpaid with a five spot.  I chatted about the crazy New England weather.  It got to the point where Chandra had my order waiting for me the minute I opened the door. 

Three months went by.  We were on a first name basis.  I helped her drag in the heavy stacks of Sunday papers.  Just like Norm on the old Cheers sitcom I was a regular; I belonged. 

A few more months went by.  I was in the North Shore mall looking for socks; the kind made out of polar fleece.  I went into three stores and wasted several long-winded explanations as to what I wanted.  No luck.  “Try Haffner’s,” one clerk said.   At Haffner’s they directed me to Corbett’s on the ground level.  

I trekked down there and, to my surprise, who should I meet going into Corbett’s but Chandra from the Gas and Guzzle.  She was dressed in a colorful native sari.  I stopped, smiled, and gave a friendly hello.  I thought about a hug but was unclear how something that intimate would be received.  Then I broke the momentary awkwardness with sprightly repartee which is unusual for me in any social situation.  I asked her if the mice were playing while the cat was away.  She looked at me as if I had the proverbial two heads.  There was no sign of her knowing who I was; in fact, it was worse than that.  She began backing away, looking for an escape route.  It was as if I had propositioned her or was the latest unregistered sex offender she’d seen on the news.  I gave some clues.

“Large tea, milk, and two sugars?”

Still a semi-blank stare.  “USA Today and the Boston Globe—always paid for with a five-dollar-bill?”

She made a polite recovery if only to cover her retreat.  “Oh yes, the old man with the baseball hat on sideways.  Excuse please, very much hurry for my family.”

She scooted into the store, glancing over her shoulder to see if I was still on the planet.  I don’t wear a baseball cap and, if I did, it would be on straight as God intended.


I discarded Plan “A.”   It was expensive anyway, so I was not devastated to leave it in my wake.  My lesson was that one can’t bribe likeability even among immigrants.  I’d shift gears.  I was two months into a new job and had been a loner for most of the time.  Work is a great place to get liked.  It might even pay off down the road when it came promotion time.  It should have been my first plan anyway. 


People take pleasure in having you agree with them.  Pete Babcock came up with a harebrained scheme at our Monday morning staff meeting.  Everyone rolled their eyes including our supervisor, Mr. Frey. 

“You’re kidding, right?” he said giving Pete an avenue to get off the hook.

Good old Pete could have backed off right there, but he stuck to his guns.  “Not really, Mr. Frey, if we mailed our merchandise out in clear plastic then people would see our product line every step of the way.  It’s free advertising.”

“And what about the privacy issue?  Would you want everyone to know what you bought from a mail-order house?  Come on, let’s be serious here.”

After the meeting, I went up to Pete and told him I liked his idea. 

“I’m the only one in this company who thinks outside the box and has the guts to say it,” he said, still fuming and itching to have a smoke.

“You know, Pete, I always wondered what the grand poobahs in the Heinz board room thought about the guy who first suggested the upside-down ketchup bottle.  I bet they crucified him.”

He put his hand firmly on my shoulder.  “Yeah, you’re right; that was revolutionary, but where the fuck were you in the meeting?  I could have used some support while twisting in the wind.  I’m out of this insane asylum by month’s end anyway.  I’ve got to get away from assholes like Frey and toadies like you.”


All right, that was a bust.  I’m glad Pete doesn’t like me because everyone thinks he’s a loser, and who wants to be lumped in with losers?  Agreeing with people has its upside, but there are too many pitfalls.  Helping, now that’s the ticket.  Who wouldn’t like someone who is helpful?


I’m not handsome by any means.  I’m also not very interesting but that was beside the point when it came to Brenda Bittner.  I suppose I’d rate a five on any ten-point attractiveness scale; when I was younger I might have been a six, but I wouldn’t take offense if someone rated me a four.  At least I’m honest when it comes to assessing my own good looks or lack thereof.

Brenda works in Accounts Receivable.  On a good day and in low, incandescent light, she’s a one on the glamour scale.  There is a big weight problem.  Body odor and personal grooming are also issues.  She thinks abundant eye makeup and large pieces of costume jewelry offset those matters.  She’s very lazy.  Once she makes it into her cubicle, she’s there for the day.  Every work responsibility is a burden.  You soon learn not to go to Brenda for anything.  As such, her work load is at a bare minimum, which leaves plenty of time for noshing.  Her desk drawers are filled with munchies.  Cases of soda are stacked on top of the file cabinets.  She wheezes.  The tapping of keys, her wheezing, and the rustle of snacks being unwrapped are the steady sounds from her station.  Each Monday, she brings a shopping bag filled with frozen dinners.

My sense was that I could be of help to Brenda.  When I went out for lunch, it would be no trouble to pick up a freshly-made sub or a sack of burgers for her.  At the very least, I could offer to put her Big Man “Italian Meatloaf with Home Made Mashed” and extra gravy entrée in the break room microwave. 


On the Monday morning before Thanksgiving, I helped her carry grocery bags in from the parking lot.  The next day, I swung by her cubicle and mentioned that I was headed to Chadwick’s for a roast beef sandwich and onion rings.  She thanked me but had already begun the defrost cycle on her lasagna.  The gods were with me the next day, when she stumbled on the first floor landing and a goodly percentage of the bucket o’ donut holes (flavors various) she was toting bonged down the stairs.  I saved what I could and received an embarrassed “Thank you,” for my gallant effort. 

The following Monday, I offered up a Family-sized bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken to the altar of her desk, making up a lie that I’d bought it the night before and couldn’t finish it.  I thought I was well on my way to being liked when I found a handwritten note sticking out from under my blotter the very next day.


“I know you want to get into my pants, but I don’t find you attractive.  You’re too old and I hate the mustache.  Also, I might be gay or bi.  The chicken was salty.  It’s unhealthy fast food and cruel.  They cut their legs off so they don’t exercise.  I know breakups are hard, but you’ll get over me.  My mother is Jewish so that makes me one.  Don’t tell anyone about my sexuality either.” 


Damn, here was a Level One rejecting a Five! That’s like a severely retarded person calling someone with a GED stupid.   Mustache and age be damned, at least I can touch my toes without going into cardiac arrest.  I had a good mind to go over there and tell her off.  And where did she get the idea I wanted her sexually?  I’d rather dry hump a belt sander. 

I was shaking.  A half-dozen aspirin couldn’t dull the tension headache.  If I could only relax enough to think.  What was happening to me?  Every plan of attack was thwarted. 

If I couldn’t be loved, or liked, what was left?  Vengeance on those who were? Moving to Northeast Vermont and living a hermit’s life?  Ending it all with a spectacular bang?  I’m not a quitter.  I just need to pull myself together, hunker down, lie low—a self-induced, emotional coma if you will.  That will buy enough time to devise a new resolution in time for next year.  Don’t worry, I’ll recover.  I usually do.

D.E. Fredd has had fiction and poetry published in several journals and reviews including the Boston Literary Magazine, Connecticut Review, The Pedestal, Storyglossia, SNReview, eclectica and Menda City.  Poetry has appeared in the Paumanok and Paris Reviews. He received the Theodore Hoepfner Award given by the Southern Humanities Review for the best short fiction of 2005 and was a 2006 Ontario Award Finalist. He won the 2006 Black River Chapbook Competition and received a 2007 Pushcart Special Mention Award.   He has been included in the Million Writers Award of Notable Stories for 2005, 2006 and 2007

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