You Can Call Me Bob

Submitted into Contest #76 in response to: Write a story told exclusively through dialogue.... view prompt

45 comments

Drama Contemporary Friendship

“I normally don’t kill spiders. They’re so...big. Substantial. Plus, Charlotte’s Web. But this morning I lifted up a paper towel that I'd left on the kitchen floor overnight to try to melt some dried-on royal icing that I finally decided had been there a few weeks too long, and there was this spider wrapped up in it. It was brown and dime-sized with a thick, round abdomen. Only, when I shook it free from the wrinkled paper towel, it just shriveled up, pulling its legs in tight to its body. Then I noticed one of its legs on the floor nearby, like a long eyelash. I have no idea how this all happened. But the spider’s shriveling and writhing made my arms curl. It seemed like agony. I just mercy stomped it. I’m still recovering.”


“Wow. Are you okay? Also, who is this?”


“It’s Kestrel. New phone. I’m fine. I guess I just felt like that spider needed a witness. Sorry.”


“No worries. But I don’t know you. Did you mean to send this to me?”


“Is this Gena?”


“No.”


“Oh, shit. Sorry.”


“No worries. I kind of enjoyed it. You’re really descriptive. I could see the spider.”


“Haha.”


“Plus I have a soft spot for spiders, too. Once when I was a kid, one spun a web in the corner of my room, right above my bed. I didn’t tell anyone, just fed it--I’d swat flies, but not hard enough to splatter their bodies, and then stand on my bed and stick them up in the web. The spider would come wrap them up with its two front legs. Now I let them live in my windows. Helps control flies.”


“I get it. I’m crazy. I’ll shut up now.”


“I’m serious, Kestrel! That’s an interesting name. I would remember if I’d met you.”


“Who are you, then?”


“You can call me Bob.”


“Is that your name?”


“I don’t know you. You can call me Bob.”


“Sure. This is weird. Why are we even still talking?”


“I don’t know. You texted me. Something about a spider. How did you get my number?”


“Haha. I typed it from memory. New phone.”


“Did you try the auto port thing?”


“Not yet.”


“You are obviously over 30. You actually memorized a phone number?”


“Apparently not very well. But what about you? You type in full sentences. LOL.”


“You’ve got me.”


“I’m sorry. This is weird. I can shut up and never bug you again.”


“Bug.🕷. Haha. This has been the highlight of my day. What else do you like, besides spiders and icing and adjectives?”


“Are we doing this?”


“I’m in. I don't meet a lot of new people, pandemic and all...It’s worth a shot. I never get wrong numbers. Everyone I know has their own little button. No more happy accidents.”


“Well, it’s a lucky window of opportunity, I guess, being lazy about my contacts.”


“A window full of spider webs. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone about that.”


“Sometimes it’s easier to talk to strangers.”


“But you told Gena about your mercy killing.”


“Haha. Gena is almost a stranger these days. One of those people you love because of what they were to you. Lots of left-over good will. And she loves me back enough to put up with an occasional rant and respond back with a few lines and emojis.”


“That’s really sweet. I wish I’d kept in touch with my Gena. Unfortunately she has a really common name. Not like Kestrel.”


“Are you really a man, Bob?”


“That’s irrelevant.”


“No, I think it’s very relevant. I don't want to embarrass myself (haha, any more than I have already). I mean, you know my real name. Your powers of deduction are sharp--you listen. I need to know how to talk to you.”


“Like this.”


“Like, can I talk to you about my period?”


“You just did, so...now that we’ve gotten past that I’d say anything is on the table.”


“Sorry.”


“No need. This keeps getting better.”


“Do you enjoy making me uncomfortable?”


“I think I do. Is that what you're trying to do?"


"I think I'm testing your limits, if I had to name it, Bob. Maybe I'm trying to scare you away."


"I'm not squeamish. Just talk to me like I’m a person.”


“Do people still do that?”


“We’ll see. You know what's intrigued me so far--why I keep hitting reply?”


"My adjectives? I'm sorry--I'll try to pepper some more in."


"It's that somehow we've quickly established this convention of telling the truth. It's kind of rare."


"Well, there's nothing to lose. I don't care if you like me. And I've already told you something pretty personal."


"Was it really the spider? What did you need someone to witness this morning?"


"Damn, Bob. You really listen."


"It's quiet around here."


"Not here. I'm really not ready to process it yet. What about you? You really latched onto that phrase. Is there something you need a witness for?"


"I take it you're surrounded by lots of life, not just dead arachnids?"


"Yes."


"How lucky."


"Haha. Sometimes. In the time I've been talking to you, I've cleaned up spilled cat water, unloaded a dishwasher and immediately filled it back up, put a load of laundry in, listened to Let It Go about five times, refereed two wrestling matches, and there's the constant chatter of a Zoom meeting in the background."


"I witness your endurance 😄."


"Thanks."


"I still say you're lucky. Since we've been talking, I've eaten homemade sourdough toast with jam I made from my fig tree, sipped on a coffee that's gone from hot to lukewarm, and I was reading the news, but I've gotten a little distracted."


"That sounds amazing."


"Sometimes it is. It was, for the first few months."


"I see."


"So I suppose what I'd like a witness for is myself. Sometimes I start to question whether I exist. How do I know who I am without other bodies to bump into? To let me know where I end and they begin?"


"OK, Bob. I witness your existence 🙂. And your sourdough."


"It's not as hard as it sounds, especially if you have time."


"Do you like to cook?"


"Yes. I have a popular Instagram feed on cooking for one. I like to make people drool: eggplant Parmigiano, personal chicken pot pies with homemade stock and putff pastry dough, creamy red cabbage gratine with mushrooms, shallots, and bacon…"


"OK, yes, you're making me drool 🤤."


"Sharing pictures almost turns a solo meal into a banquet. But talking to one particular person--telling the truth, that is, is a different kind of feast."


"I think we're having frozen corn dogs for lunch here."


"I still appreciate a good corn dog. Pro tip: the difference between cooking for one and cooking a banquet is just the amount of Tupperware you store in the freezer. Or the size of your pot."


"True. It's not anyways frozen corndogs for me. I'm in a temporary rut. I'll probably look you up tonight."


"Don't be limited by any ideas of who you think I am."


"Haha. I'll try to keep an open mind, Robert/Barbara whatever your name is."


"You're probably doing fine. I witness your competence 😁."


"Thanks. It shouldn't make a difference, but I think it does. I'm five minutes late logging in for work."


"I'm sorry. I'll leave you to your life for now! Till next time, Kestrel!"


"Till next time, Bob 😅."


"You can call me Avery."

January 15, 2021 23:34

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45 comments

Rayhan Hidayat
14:44 Jan 16, 2021

What a wholesome story. The ultimate wrong text adventure. Very good stuff 😙 And I love the little spider bit at the start. Bob/Avery is right, it was a very visceral account of arachnid death. I think at this point I can tell a story is yours based on how indulgently you write about creepy crawlies haha

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A.Dot Ram
17:55 Jan 16, 2021

Yes! Going back to my roots!

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Emily Bronte
03:08 Jun 20, 2021

Wow. I wasn't even expecting that turn around! Very creative and unique with the whole text thread. I loved your Zoom reference especially with us using it so much.

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Jessica Morgan
22:35 May 16, 2021

Love it!! This totally happens in real life, too. Just not to me. I kinda wish it did!)

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A.Dot Ram
05:49 May 17, 2021

Thanks! It's fun when people read my older stories. I'm glad you liked it. It would be nice to have someone like Bob/Avery to talk to, yes? A trusted stranger who witnesses more than judges your life.

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Bianka Nova
01:31 Feb 20, 2021

Dang, that opening! I wasn't expecting a wrong number text at all! There's a really nice playfulness to the exchange. At some point, I thought you could've had a title with some 'witness' in it. :) The only thing I would've done is tone down vocabulary and grammar. No one writes such perfect texts. Or maybe in Kestrel and "Bob"'s world they do... Who am I to judge. Just my 2 pennies ;)

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A.Dot Ram
01:44 Feb 20, 2021

Haha. I guess I predominantly text with other like-minded nerds. But even our thumbs are imperfect. If it were truer to life, there would be a couple of embarrassing swipos and Bob/Avery would use the wrong version of your/you're sometimes. Thanks.

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Bianka Nova
11:10 Feb 20, 2021

Yes! True. I must admit even I happen to write your instead of you're sometimes, but it's due to fast typing and not ignorance. So, I try to be lenient with this particular mistake. I also guess, it's totally plausible for Bob and Avery to be two quirky nerds who've found each other :))

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A.Dot Ram
20:14 Feb 20, 2021

My phone makes lots of weird mistakes, even when I know better. I usually don't hold people's texts against them as long as they're ineligible. Most of my friends and I do communicate in full sentences, though. We're so old.

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Bianka Nova
13:44 Feb 21, 2021

Haha, old she says :D I bet we're about the same age. And you're probably younger :P

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Julie Ward
19:20 Jan 21, 2021

I'm late to the party...loved this! "No more happy accidents." You captured all the minutiae of life in 2020, when meaningful interaction happens on a screen and the death of a spider (at your own hand nonetheless!) can be an event big enough to share. The whole thing was sharp, witty and fun. The part about the cat water (my life to a tee, but replace Let it Go with Lil' Baby) contrasted with the homemade sourdough and fig jam was priceless...and such a testament to what we're all going through. I absolutely love the ending. Reading yo...

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A.Dot Ram
19:39 Jan 21, 2021

Reading your reflections is a treat. Yup, this was the best of 2020. If only I emptied my dishwasher and did laundry every morning...

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Julie Ward
01:39 Jan 22, 2021

Oh I don't do it every morning, just when I'm chatting on the phone! (Or if I have a really good podcast to listen to.) Ha!!

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A.Dot Ram
02:16 Jan 22, 2021

I'm most productive late at night with an audio book. Really anytime is quiet enough to focus on an audio book. I think the housework problem is that it's so boring I get easily distracted. Much less so with an audio book to keep my brain out of the way.

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Jim Shultz
02:31 Jan 21, 2021

This is a very creative way to write the dialogue prompt. I liked the ending- it made me smile. And I can definitely relate to being older and texting full sentences! You nailed it!

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A.Dot Ram
02:45 Jan 21, 2021

I totally type in full, punctuated sentences. But also emojis and gifs.

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William Flautt
22:53 Jan 20, 2021

I liked how their own inside jokes developed throughout the conversation!

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21:37 Jan 20, 2021

I love this story! I love the beginning, especially. It made me interested and the rest of my story kept me hooked until the end. Good job!

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Bruna Cavalcante
16:13 Jan 18, 2021

I loved the wrong text idea and really who can't relate hahaha Awesome story, congrats!

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Andrew Krey
04:11 Jan 17, 2021

I really liked this, you executed it excellently. The opening scene is so vivid and dramatic - initially I thought this was going to be a second person monologue and a 'generous' interpretation of the prompt, then I was so glad when it turned into the original online dating...texting a wrong number. There were lots of nice references within the exchange, like acknowledging the replies in full sentences as an indicator of age! I did a text exchange story for a flash fiction comp at the beginning of the month, and the only thing I did differ...

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A.Dot Ram
04:19 Jan 17, 2021

That's an interesting note about the typos. My phone (or my thumb) is prone to some weird ones that do lend some humor to my conversations. I don't know if it would have been fun or distracting. Actually I thought of using typos for a different story-- for the people who can't understand each other prompt.

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Andrew Krey
04:50 Jan 17, 2021

Yeah I think the style you wrote the exchanges didn't call for it, but the one I did was only 500 words, so was much more 'txting' rather than 'texting'. So I included a few examples, like a typo followed by a new line from the same person and '*' before the correction. I also included 'ducking' as the person was swearing...because let's face it, we've all been there lol I'm definitely a typo texter, so much so that my phone includes the common typos as suggested words as it thinks they must be intentional! Lol I had less words in mine to m...

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Kelly Ellen
23:10 Jan 16, 2021

I loved this text exchange. Very silly and charming but also has a lot of depth and I think more people crave open conversations like this where you don't have to care what the other person thinks of you. Well done!

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Kristin Neubauer
19:21 Jan 16, 2021

This is brilliant! I like how Ray characterizes it - "a text adventure." Never in a million years would I have thought this up....and executed so fluidly. Never felt forced and I loved the touches of humor in it. I also was so caught up in the opening paragraph that I would have followed this story anywhere. Amazing stuff!

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A.Dot Ram
19:51 Jan 16, 2021

The opening paragraph is 100% nonfiction! I smashed a suffering spider, shivered, and thought ok, who am I going to text about this. But I went to my notebook instead to see what it would turn into.

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Kristin Neubauer
20:02 Jan 16, 2021

Hah! That's how you write when you're just scribbling in your notebook? Amazing! One of the things I'm learning from your writing is about noticing the very small things of life (and i don't literally mean spiders - thinking moments, movements) that just get lost in the momentum of the day. You bring so much richness to those moments. It's making me think that I need to slow down and observe a little more.

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A.Dot Ram
20:06 Jan 16, 2021

Oh, that's such a lovely observation! It's not really something I do consciously. But it's interesting that it took 2020 to make me start writing. I'm really interested in the little details that come together to make something "True".

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Kristin Neubauer
20:17 Jan 16, 2021

What a great way of describing your observations...I'm going to be turning that over in my mind for awhile. Even now, sitting in the office, I'm looking around at little details that have become an ordinary part of my landscape and thinking about how the come together to make something about this setting True. That is such an interesting nugget - thanks!

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Zilla Babbitt
16:50 Jan 16, 2021

I love this prompt! It's produce a ton of excellent, fun stories like this. Love the inclusion of emojis. A bunch of people I know are scared to death of spiders, even little daddy long legs, while I'm over here with my teeth chattering because snakes exist. Great job on this!

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A.Dot Ram
18:01 Jan 16, 2021

It was so interesting writing all dialog, nothing else. I'm looking forward to reading more in this category. My emoji game grew by leaps and bounds in 2020 😃.

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K. Antonio
15:26 Jan 16, 2021

I really enjoyed the format of this story, how it looked like an exchange of messages. The emojis were such a nice touch that really helped set the scene and understood even more the format. GREAT JOB! The story was a hoot.

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A.Dot Ram
18:03 Jan 16, 2021

It's interesting that when you text, all you get off the other person is their words. No faces, no subtext, no setting or action. Fun to explore.

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K. Antonio
18:59 Jan 16, 2021

Exactly, oddly enough I think few people even interpreted the prompt in such a way! It was very original on your part.

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Marissa Yates
15:24 Jan 16, 2021

You’ve done a really good job using witty, fun banter without it coming across as unrealistic, which I always feel is difficult to do. It is a very enjoyable to read! Great job!!

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A.Dot Ram
18:06 Jan 16, 2021

Thanks! I definitely went for realistic, but was worried that the odds of two people who are open, witty, and decently eloquent accidentally texting each other are too low. But there are a lot of interesting people in the world, and sometimes fate gives people what they need.

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Marissa Yates
18:33 Jan 16, 2021

Absolutely! I usually feel like that when reading the funny, “spontaneous” text exchanges like this online...what are the chances people could actually interact like that for real? But I think you did a really good job with presenting it in a way that felt plausible, real, and definitely like something the characters needed!

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Shea West
06:14 Jan 16, 2021

Instead of saying hello to people I'll start saying, "I witness your endurance!" 😂 Confession, I really would love it if I was accidentally texted by a stranger. You see those stories all the time and suddenly that random person becomes part of the family. I love when that happens.

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A.Dot Ram
06:37 Jan 16, 2021

I just started to cackle. My husband asked from the other room, are you crying? Confession: I stayed up too late one night this week reading an endless sideshow with screenshots of funny wrong number texts, when I should have been writing. Turns out I was researching. I'm glad it wasn't a complete waste of time.

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Shea West
14:14 Jan 16, 2021

The nightly cackle is part of my bedtime routine. My husband doesn't even ask anymore what I'm laughing my butt off about!

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A.Dot Ram
22:05 Jan 16, 2021

I'm so glad I met you!

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Shea West
22:24 Jan 16, 2021

Right back at ya! Look at us, we're like the random texting strangers...but on Reedsy instead!

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David G.
02:05 Jan 16, 2021

You’ve captured the essence of life during COVID isolation. Well done, as always!

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A.Dot Ram
02:13 Jan 16, 2021

Most of my stories happen in different worlds where there's no COVID, but sometimes it shows up in interesting ways. I have absolutely had virtual pandemic penpals. And I try to check in on my friends going through it on their own. As much as I experience in a day, I think I have the easier side of it.

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David G.
02:16 Jan 16, 2021

Indeed. Even with the challenges of remote learning and trying to hold down a day job while a child screams at you that she needs help going potty, I do not envy people going through this without anyone to talk to. Nice use of emojis! I’ll have to give that a try one day.

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Kate Le Roux
14:58 Jan 25, 2021

I really enjoyed this, especially that it somehow connected those two very different pandemic/quarantine experiences - the busy parent endlessly loading the dishwasher, longing for some peace, and the person living alone. Both were needing a witness, a connection, both felt isolated even though their days are so different. Great take on the prompt 😊😊

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