by Thomas Robert Kearnes

for Ben

One [newspaper] did set up a "Godarchy hotline," a telephone number you could call to hear recorded suggestions for action.

-- Thomas Frank

If the boy before you has lost too much weight too quickly, and you would like to cut off his supply, please press "1."

If the boy before you has done too much dope and is experiencing a dissociative episode, please press "2."

If the boy before you has shown you a story he wrote and this has led you to question your own life, PLEASE STAY ON THE LINE.

This is unusual. Most men press one or two, or hang up. Or they're so wired they forget the phone while I'm still on the other end. I hear so many things. So many sad, strange things.

First of all, put it down. Whatever he wrote. The manuscript pages. The story that plucked you from your endless, needle-nerved days of fucking and phone calls and cash-counting and smacked you against a skyline of emotion you could not escape until you read his last word. Just put it down. He wasn't supposed to do that.

You wanted someone safe and simple. You wanted someone who buys the ounce