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Drama Fiction American

Please, don’t do it


Despite imagining that his cell phone begs him for mercy, Foley Gaspers wants to mercilessly drown it.


Foley wonders why the bathroom he uses in his mother’s house has not one, but two sinks. Two large, rectangular porcelain washbasins. The only sinks he used for the ten years before moving back in with his mom were part of the same stainless-steel unit as a prison cell toilet. When there were disciplinary issues, he’d be released from his quarters once a day for less than ten minutes to take a shower. He would return to his cell after the shower and eat his dinner at an iron table while sitting on an unforgiving steel stool affixed to the wall by more metal. After dinner, he wouldn’t have much more to do than fall asleep on a thin bed roll covering a ferrous bunk.       


Now he has his own room with hardwood floors. A bed with box springs and a mattress. And he has his own private bathroom. He no longer has to urinate and defecate within an 8’ x 10’ concrete capsule he also sleeps in and has to share with a cellmate toward whom he may not feel kindly disposed. The contrasts between his current domestic and previous carceral situations are stark, but Foley is discontented. He is chronically aggrieved.


Irene Gaspers, Foley’s mother, thinks Foley should be grateful. He is, but of more concern to Irene, he is also frequently, and compulsively, plaintive. 


Foley thinks that even though it has two sinks, the bathroom in his mother’s house isn’t spacious enough to accommodate two people, and had who ever been responsible for the room’s construction designed it more sensibly, there’d be a lot more counterspace for toiletries. As a result of poor planning, the beige and vanilla-colored travertine countertop available for hygiene products is limited to a narrow section situated between the two oceanic sinks. Although there are medicine cabinets for storing items such as toothpaste, mouthwash, floss, and face-scrub, Foley keeps all of the aforementioned, as well as his deodorant, aspirin, hair-styling product, vitamins and vials of medication, visible and within easy reach. The meager available section of countertop between sinks is obviously cluttered, but Foley has a reason for this seeming negligence. During the last six months of his prison term, he was housed with Raw Dawg, an abundantly muscled, prolifically tattooed, and obsessively tidy cellmate. Raw Dawg imperiously lorded over Foley and charged him with keeping the cell clean and its stainless-steel fixtures and cement floors immaculately polished. The bully cellmate demanded Foley keep his own property to a minimum and out of sight, stowed in a shoe box that had packaged a pair of Puma sneakers Raw Dawg had extorted from Foley soon after they were housed together. Foley’s current slovenliness is a reaction to this unfortunate prolonged encounter.


On calls home from prison, Foley would complain to his mother about the tortures he endured as a result of Raw Dawg’s anal retentiveness, and now that her son is back home, Irene Gaspers is understanding enough not to request Foley make behavioral adjustments that would rekindle traumatic memories. As long as it prevents him from reliving any aspect of his incarceration experience, the meager counter space between the sinks will continue to resemble a supermarket hygiene products aisle after a convulsive earthquake.


Since moving into his mother’s house after leaving prison, Foley has never seen anyone use the second bathroom sink. Not his self; not Irene, who considerately kept the master bedroom and its adjoining bathroom unoccupied for the decade long duration of her son’s confinement. Foley’s girlfriend, Sarah, hasn’t used the far sink either whenever she has visited – not to wash her face or her hands, not to brush her teeth. Foley thinks the bathtub in the bathroom is also larger than necessary and superfluously equipped with jacuzzi jets. He will only use this feature once in the six months he is fortunate enough to no longer be incarcerated.  


Foley is far more comfortable in the pampered domesticity of his mother’s house than he ever was in prison, but he is bothered by so many inconvenient details. 


“Irene, the coffee machine makes more noise than it makes coffee.”


“Irene, why is there so much stuff in the fridge and kitchen cabinets? In my absence, you’ve become a well-to-do hoarder.”


“Irene, why don’t you have a decent set of kitchen knives?”


His mother is patient and answers his protestations with as meek a demeanor as she can muster.


“The coffeemaker is loud, Foley, but isn’t the coffee much better than those foul Folger’s crystals you got accustomed to in prison?”


“I’ve basically been cooking for myself since you’ve been gone, Foley. There are usually at least eight servings to every packaged grocery I buy at the Big Buys Warehouse. The packages start filling up the cabinet space because I never can use all the contents in one meal.”


“I get along fine with the one small knife I have, dear.” The size of the knife makes it inconvenient for cutting, chopping, and dicing. It’s essentially a paring a knife, but the truth is that although Foley would never as much kink a hair on her head in anger, Irene doesn’t feel comfortable having larger knives in the house now that her son is home.


About the bathroom Foley says, “Not only are there two sinks in the ostentatious chamber that is primarily used for excreting, but the opulent porcelain basins are also monstrously large given the miniscule size of the room dedicated to flatulence and crapulence.”


“I think it adds a hint of class to your bathroom, Foley.” 


“All the appurtenances in my bathroom—twin sinks, fancy stone tiles and counters, bubbly bathtub—are luxuries that belie a barren desire for upper class status. They also expose the envy you feel toward the exorbitantly rich of Southern California.”


Her voice tinged with mild indignation, Irene says, “Son, why would I be envious of people who are materially in a better place than me? I don’t begrudge them. I’m happy for them. Can’t you just be grateful to have a comfortable home to live in now that you’re out of prison?”


He wants nothing more than to be grateful, to be happy, but something within him stirs his emotional excrescence pot. The traffic on the streets is insufferably worse than when he was sentenced ten years ago. There are more homeless in the city than there were before he was arrested. The average school age children, including his nephews, don’t read much for pleasure. Instead, they’re mesmerized by the blue light emanating from the video screens of their cell phones and hooked to cyber-social interaction. When they’re not on their phones, they’re playing morbidly violent video games. Foley remembers being content when the only things you could see on cell phones were phone numbers and short texts. He recalls the in-the-flesh interactivity of playing Dungeons and Dragons. You couldn’t develop a free-of-cost porn habit on a phone with no video screen, and D&D required a certain fantasy-loving literacy.


As a present to commemorate Foley’s release from incarceration, Irene asked her ex-husband Christopher Allegro to buy her son the latest model hand-held digital device. 


“Having a cell phone, to record his performance poems and to use while he’s sitting in coffee shops drinking cappuccinos will keep Foley out of trouble,” said Irene to Allegro.


He responds with dubiousness. “What makes you think he’s going to frequent cafés and become a bohemian?”


Foley wrote his mother many letters during his time in prison. These missives fill two drawers in a fashionable piece of furniture she keeps in her living room. She cherishes this collection of epistolary devotion.


“Believe me. He is a poet. Have I ever read you one of the letters he sent me while he was a captive of the Department of Corrections?”


“Spare me the undue pleasure of listening to one,” says Allegro, “but he’ll have to eventually pay me back.”


“I hope you’re not insinuating that my firstborn son is an ungrateful cretin. Of course, he will recompensate you for the cell phone.”


Allegro makes considerable sums of cash buying damaged vehicles and using his regional manager’s benefits at Fix It Quick Auto Collision Center to repair them at a discount and sell them at a profit. He gives his ex-wife twelve hundred-dollar bills to buy her son the cell phone, knowing that if he doesn’t, he will lose her skills as an ethically questionable accountant and also forfeit the occasional sexual privilege she continues to offer him.


The morning following her son’s release, Irene takes him to Turnip Digital where he chooses the latest model portable smart communications device. Irene hands over an additional two-hundred dollars for unlimited cloud storage, round-the-clock online tech support, and a two-year warranty.


Although he initially has only three contacts to enter in his phone book, having the smart device pleases Foley. 


He is baffled by GPS navigation, by the limitless amount of information available on a device no larger than the size of an obsolete check book, by the fact that the world’s foremost online retailer makes it unnecessary to leave home to buy everything from the latest paperback novel to portable, electric pumps for inflating flaccid bicycle tires. 


Although the vertiginous amount of knowledge, consumer experiences and services that a handheld device puts within reach of the average citizen marvels Foley, there are some things he is uncompromising about as far as cell phone usage is concerned.

He strictly observes a cardinal first rule regarding portable computing and communications devices: no selfies until he gets his nose, fractured in a prison brawl, fixed. Also, no dating apps. No sharing of pictures that tauntingly document that despite the enormity of your efforts, you can never keep up with the Joneses.

He also refuses to utilize social media, believing it is for the incurably needy, for the narcissistic who are simultaneously and paradoxically insecure and megalomanic.   


For a while Foley resists the twin evil lures of pornography and mindless video games, two vices he excoriates the present times for, but after a week of conventional cell phone use, one of his nephews introduces him to Plants Versus Zombies and Foley has an argument with Sarah Lee, his biracial Chinese-American girlfriend. It’s a jealous argument. He believes Sarah has a feral sexual appetite and has accused her of having promiscuous relationships at work. He now accuses Sarah of having threesomes in which the other two participants are her cousin, Tonya, and her cousin’s boyfriend, Charles Meeger, who is a district attorney for the city in which Sarah lives. Foley is incensed, he is morally outraged. He begins to walk a line fraught with the peril occasioned by an apprehensive imagination.


“I know you, your cousin, and that slimy fuck, Chuck, have posted graphic video clips of your wanton trysts on FleshFlicks,” Foley tells Sarah, who never defuses her boyfriend’s temper because she never explicitly denies his accusations. Instead, she asks emphatic questions that add fuel to Foley’s suspicious fire.


Sarah’s retort begins with an emphatic question that only adds fuel to Foley’s suspicious fire. “Why do you believe we’re having these sordid affairs?”


Foley responds with equally emphatic, sing-song nonsense that relies on making schizophrenic sense of homonyms. "I know because Chuck is a Moe, and Sarah Lee is mos’ likely screwing him, because, as the turn of speech goes, Moes like Lee."


Sarah proceeds to eviscerate her impossible boyfriend’s split-brained logic. "You don’t know anything for certain Foley, you only have hare-brained beliefs. You believe Jesus didn’t ascend to heaven, but physically survived the crucifixion. You believe Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse are still alive, married and shacked up somewhere in India where they pose as Muslim women and hide behind hijabs when out in public. You have faith in a million hare-brained beliefs you’ll never be able to prove, Foley, and my not being faithful to you is just one of those million beliefs!"


Sarah Lee’s disgruntled partner begins to scour FleshFlicks for the videos that would validate his accusatory claims, but before long, his wave of righteous anger ebbs. Instead, his lust flows. His weak will cannot resist the enrapturement of ever more potent weapons of carnal mass destruction, of ever larger phallic armaments, of the bombardment of vaginal, anal, and buccal battlegrounds. He becomes slave to searching for clips that ever more outrageously defy the laws against the defilement of human meat.


Soon, the free content is not enough, he finds a specialty site catering to those who have a predilection for pedal pleasures, and succumbing, provides his debit card number. Within three days he is subscribed to twelve more porn-sites he can’t recall visiting.


Still incorrigibly suspicious, but also helplessly dependent on Sarah, he gets her to drive him to the bank where he has opened an account and where his disability checks are transferred. 


He sheepishly describes his predicament to a bank teller whom he considers trustworthy. “I’m being taken advantage of by cybernetic swindlers, by unethical internet entrepreneurs peddling smut. These computer corsairs don’t respect either online or geographical boundaries. They practice their hacking and hone their skills by duping the not-so-innocent, the neurodivergent and the technophobic, violating privacy rights and propagating anti-social media, and selling financial and cell phone-use information to the lowest bidders.”  


“There’s not much I can do,” says the bank teller. Foley wants nothing more than to punch the functionary in the face. Despite the bile in his throat, Foley doesn’t want to end up back in jail or prison, so he decides to take action that he hopes will set an example for anyone who hears about it. Even though he risks rankling his mother and her ex-husband, who forked over the cash to buy him the accursed cell phone, Foley begins plotting its watery execution. 


Foley and Sarah leave the bank at closing time. After his mother has gone to sleep, Foley, who has not spared criticism on all the inconvenient niceties of his bathroom, decides to put one of the sinks he has expressed so much disdain for to technocidal use. First, however, he takes a jacuzzi jet bath. While in the bath, his phone rings. Thinking it is Sarah, Foley exits the bath to answer the call. The caller is not his girlfriend, but his mother calling him from her bedroom downstairs.


“Those jets aren’t letting me sleep. Shut them off,” says Irene Gaspers.


“I’ll shut them off when I’m done bathing,” responds the son.


“Now, Foley. Don’t make me come upstairs,” threatens the mother.


Not wanting to risk the foiling of his plan, Foley concedes to his mother’s demand and decides one of the twin sinks suits the murderous mission perfectly. Activating the phone’s touch screen, he gives his phone a kiss of death and tries to terminally baptize it in the washbasin. The phone, exhibiting a survivalist tenacity that contends with that of the rat, pigeon and cockroach, doesn’t die. Deciding the culprit contraption deserves a more ignominious death, the technocide fishes the phone from the sink and regards the toilet. He tosses the phone in, sacrificing it to the proverbial crapper. After urinating on it, he thrice flushes and there is a luminescent flash. Foley’s piss and the porcelain god harvest the wireless soul of the pernicious digital device.


Satisfied with the base manner in which the victim is immolated, Foley goes to bed feeling relieved.   


In the middle of the night, Foley sneaks out of his house and is once again at the mall where the phone was purchased. He enters the marble-floored dreamworld of retail consumption and ambulates toward Turnip Digital. He sees Sur la Table, an upscale culinary supply store that is 100 paces from the high-end electronics store. Once inside Sur la Table, he sees a shelf displaying heavy, multi-hued cast iron skillets with non-stick cooking surfaces. He picks up a nuclear-orange one easily weighing four pounds, then, without hesitating, walks gingerly out of the store back into the mall, proceeding with single-minded determination to stand before the shop window of Turnip Digital. He takes the skillet in both hands, swings his arms back like a heavy weight major league batter, and hears a plea contradicting the one he heard before he assassinated his phone. He hears—just do it. With an unflagging will that matches the one he felt as he dunked his phone first in the sink, then proceeded to piss on it and flush it in the toilet, he hurtles the boutique skillet through the vitrine, shattering glass and into the store where the frying pan lands on a counter where a Turnip employee is trying to talk a simultaneously bewildered and relieved customer into becoming the latest cell phone sucker. As the police who arrive on the scene click handcuffs onto his wrists, Foley wakes up, feeling both grateful and disappointed that the act of mayhem was only a cathartic reverie and that he is not once again on his way to a jail cell.

June 17, 2022 07:37

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16 comments

Graham Kinross
07:17 Nov 15, 2022

I like the criticism of twin sinks. A stand up comedian I like said this: "I got twin sinks as an aspirational thing, hoping it would summon the partner I desired. Now I'm just as lonely and trying to use two sinks. I wash my hands and brush my teeth in one sink and in the other, mostly cry." I was wary of getting a 'smart phone' but not for the same reason. If I get it in my head that I want to know something, having access to the internet feeds the craving and I can get lost for hours answering one pointless question but then thinking up ...

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Mike Panasitti
07:58 Nov 15, 2022

Glad to see someone other than Foley relates to Foley, whose problem seems to be responding with dysfunction to a dysfunctional world. I looked up a diagnosis more suitable for my preferred MC: Paranoid Personality Disorder...it seems much more accurate than schizophrenia...and much more likely to respond to therapy than to meds. Yes, Foley is in a plastics-polluted ocean of crap, and your ongoing support of his cause has got to make me give a twist to his life that pays off for both my readers and me as an author. Thanks again for reading.

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Graham Kinross
08:04 Nov 15, 2022

You’re welcome. It’s a crazy world. Those who point it out get called crazy or cynical but it’s the truth and you can’t fix a thing if you won’t admit it’s broken.

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T.S.A. Maiven
00:58 Jun 28, 2022

You do have experience on this site as I note you have 14 submissions. So good for you! I liked your story but one thing I really wanted to know was why he was in there and what his background was. To be so well spoken and have such an extensive vocabulary its as though he's not a very common criminal. Other than that I loved the story! Keep up the good work.

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Mike Panasitti
03:57 Jul 06, 2022

Thanks for reading. Your observation is correct. The main character was not a very common prisoner, although the crimes he committed were not uncommon. I will continue to develop his traits and background in future stories.

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T.S.A. Maiven
19:26 Jul 08, 2022

I gather Foley has been in previous stories from your comment on future stories including him. I look forward to learning more about this interesting character. He already has so much depth in my eyes. Great job Mike.

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Michał Przywara
20:42 Jun 17, 2022

I like that Foley falls prey to the very things he rails against. It kind of drives home the point of how seductive and insidious they can be. And going so far as to destroy his cellphone? Well, it seems a little unreasonable, but on the other hand, breaking habits often takes a drastic change, so maybe it's reasonable after all. The whole story is a clash between how Foley believes the world should be, and how it is. Further, his views are coloured by memories of a simpler time, before his prison term. That's what I like about him going d...

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Mike Panasitti
21:45 Jun 17, 2022

Michal, thanks so much for your thoughtful commentary on the vicissitudes of Foley Gaspers. I'm looking forward to listening to you, Deidre, and Russell discuss literary matters on the Read Lots Write Lots podcast next month.

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Jim Firth
19:12 Jun 17, 2022

Mike, There are so many, but if I had to pick a favourite line, it would be-- 'Foley’s piss and the porcelain god harvest the wireless soul of the pernicious digital device.', It's good to hear from Foley again. You've captured that sense of him feeling at odds with the 'outside' world so well with the detailed descriptions of the limited countertop space and other domestic issues. I could read your writing about those kinds of details all day. There's a lot of great unusual word usage that has expanded my vocabulary, so thanks for that;...

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Mike Panasitti
01:22 Jun 18, 2022

"Phoneslaughter" is even more of a etymological standout than "technocidal." If we're fortunate, and going postal on machines doesn't become a trending transgression, these neologisms will never make it into the lexicon. : ) Thanks for the comments.

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Aoi Yamato
03:13 Jun 05, 2023

you use strange words. I have to translate but i understand. I like this.

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Mike Panasitti
18:57 Jun 05, 2023

Strange words can be wonderful, I hope they help your vocabulary skills.

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Aoi Yamato
00:56 Jun 06, 2023

i think they do.

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Unknown User
20:07 Aug 23, 2022

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Mike Panasitti
20:46 Aug 23, 2022

Thanks for reading and especial thanks for your comments, Joseph. They mean a lot to me. I'm glad some of my humorous lines were noticed by a maestro of the genre like yourself.

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Unknown User
21:29 Aug 23, 2022

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