It was maybe sometime in the afternoon when the wholly unfamiliar sound of a phone ringing pulled Harold away from his computer. He’d spent the last several hours perusing job listings on the internet, and arguably more time avoiding it. So between this, the heavy bedsheet nailed and drawn shut across the one window in the room he rented, and the copious amount of marijuana he’d just smoked, pinning down which pile of clothes contained his phone proved a bit of a challenge. But even as he waddled and crawled about that semi-converted garage in his underwear, the possibility of even remote human contact was as good an excuse as any to call off today’s depressing search for paid work.
Unfortunately for Harold, the number on his phone’s screen was from an unknown caller. But fortunately for Harold, they left a voicemail.
“Harold,” a familiar voice spoke. “It’s Sophia.”
Harold got as far as hearing Sophia’s voice say, “I couldn’t stop thinking about you,” before he stopped listening and attempted to call her back several times. Dude, you just called, Harold thought. Why the Hell do people always call and leave a message, but never pick up when you call back–
“Harold?” Sophia eventually answered.
“Sophia,” Harold gushed, utterly failing to hide the way his nonexistent tail wagged. “I couldn’t stop thinking about you too.”
“What?” she replied, and in that way one tends to do when utterly and purposely misinterpreted.
Harold ignored this. “I said, ‘I couldn’t stop–’”
“No,” she interrupted. “I got that.”
“What do you mean, ‘too?’”
“Your voicemail. You said–”
“You didn’t finish listening to it, did you?”
“I did not.”
“I said, ‘I couldn’t stop thinking about you–’”
“–and your beautiful photos.”
“Gotcha,” Harold nodded, tucking his nonexistent tail between his– “Wait. How did you get my number? Your husband slapped my hand when I tried to give him my business card.”
“Yeah. Sorry about that.”
“I’m still kinda weirded out about that, actually.”
“Look. It wasn’t easy getting your number. Is that awful woman at the gallery always such a pain?”
Harold neither confirmed nor denied this, mostly because he was too busy recalling the way he and Brennifer had hotboxed the utility closet and engaged in some vague approximation of sex after the gallery had closed for the evening. It wasn’t so much that the high had made sex difficult so much as it resulted in them failing to remove the various mops, half-filled buckets, and various harsh smelling cleaning products before sealing themselves up for several sweltering, dizzying minutes. Certainly, this was not Harold’s his finest hour. But it was mostly the way Brennifer had thrown several loose dollars and coins at him and refused to cuddle afterward that still left Harold feeling a little cheap.
“Sorry,” Harold said. “I just realized I make some really bad life choices.”
“So, you’ll do it?” she asked in that way one tends to do when they already know the answer, but really want to hear it anyway. “You’ll take erotic photographs of me in the privacy of my bedroom while my husband is away?”
“I’m flattered, Sophia,” he said. “A little creeped out by the weird way you guys keep phrasing it too, I guess. But, mostly flattered.”
“So, what’s the problem?”
“You’re a married woman, Sophia. And your husband doesn’t seem like he’s onboard with this sorta thing.”
“Oliver said it was a wonderful idea, didn’t he?”
“Yeah. That was kinda creepy, too. You get that, right?”
Sophia considered this. “There’s five-hundred bucks in it for you.”
“When do you want me there?”
“How does tomorrow work for you?”
“Harold?” a naggingly sweet voice called from somewhere outside that semi-converted garage.
Harold stood there in his underwear for a moment, burying his phone in his hands. But when this failed to make the voice go away, he sighed. “Yes, Grandma?”
“Are you still going to give me a ride to my doctor’s appointment?”
Harold snapped, “I said, ‘Yes, Grandma!’” then realized he still had Sophia on the phone. “Yeah. Tomorrow works.”