Consumer Therapy by Joshua Swainston

“Ultimate Doo-Wop Super Hits is the most complete set ever released, and I should know. Hi, I’m Harry Green of the Edsels. Over the years, The Edsels have been part of a dozens of compilation albums, but never before have I been so excited about being a part of such an encompassing collection as we have here in this once-in-a-lifetime, limited-time-only, Ultimate Doo-Wop Super Hits.” Mr. Green’s pitch emanated in a baritone voice from the 60 inch Samsung flat screen.

Colin sunk into his beige, overstuffed couch, his left index finger tracing out the embossed numbers on his Visa card. Sha-boom. Duke of Earl. Blue Moon. With a phone call, the music of his grandparent’s age could all be his in one box set. In his right hand, Colin’s cellphone read the time as 2:45 A.M. At 3:00 the infomercial would switch from Doo-Wop hits to the Nuwave Infrared Oven.

When Mr. Green said “Call Now!” and a one-eight-hundred number appeared at the bottom of the screen, Colin dialed obediently. The phone rang three times until a static click and faint ambient noise: talking, laughing, typing.

“Hello?” Colin asked, unsure if he had connected to anyone.

“What are you doing awake?” a sharp female voice snapped.

“Can’t sleep.”

“Yeah, we get that a lot. So, Can’t Sleep, what can I do for you?”

“The Ultimate Doo-Wop Super Hits, I’d like to purchase it. And the name’s Colin.”

The Voice gave a breathy laugh. “Wow Colin, you really are gone. How long have you been awake?”

Confused, Colin asked, “What do you mean?”

“I’m guessing you’re late twenties, single, middle-class office-job. Am I right?”

“Huh, yeah, how’d you know?”

“The only people who buy this shit are elderly cat ladies and young insomniacs. You don’t sound like a cat lady.” The tone of the Female’s voice came across as a sociology professor rather than a call center representative. “But,” she continued, “for you to get to the Doo-Wop phase, you must be totally burnt.”

Colin thought a moment. “It’s been hard to sleep for a while, maybe two weeks.”

“See, if you were ordering the super-absorbent shammys or the margarita blender, I would have said you’d only been doing the ‘no sleep’ thing for a few days. But the Doo-Wop collection is another level. You’re in deep.”

“Is that bad?” he asked with the concern of being told he may have cancer.

“Na,” the Voice answered. “Last week I had a guy call asking to buy the Brazilian Butt Lift DVD set. Now that guy’s unsaveable. But for you, you’re Alice right before she fell down the rabbit hole. On the cusp.”

“What do I need to do?”

“If I were you, I get an extra-large pizza and some weed. Smoke until you get the munchies then eat the pizza, you’ll pass out from the carb overload. Call it a self-induced diabetic coma. Do this every night until you get sick of pizza. You’ll be right in no time.”

“I don’t really smoke pot,” Colin confessed. “I mean maybe a little in college, but I don’t even know where to get it.”

“I’m sure you have that one friend, he’s got the hook up, just go ask.”

“Why are you doing this? Isn’t your job to sell the stuff from TV?”

“Yes it is, but come on, really, you don’t want The Ultimate Doo-Wop Super Hits.”

“I’m starting to believe you,” Colin conceded.

“Sometimes we get people calling, like yourself, who just need that extra help. Think of is a precursor to the suicide hotline.”

“I’m not going to kill myself.”

“I didn’t say you were.” The Voice took a deep breath, transferring from sociologist to psychiatrist. ”Although, you are obviously desperate for something, and I can tell you that this something isn’t going to come in a collection of seventy-five re-mastered four-part harmonies.”

“It’s not?”

“Okay, I’m going to ask. What is it? What’s keeping you up?”

He wavered over pinpointing a culprit. “I don’t know. I’ve been scrolling ex-girlfriends status on Facebook. Replaying things I said to my father before he died, shit like that. You know when you watch a movie or hear a song and then you start dissecting every decision.”

“Yeah, I know, but really you aren’t that bad off. If you are simple regretting your decisions then, at worst, you are having a human moment. That’s not really a problem, is it?”

“Every problem is real to the person it’s afflicting.” Colin took the moment to poise a counter position for argument sake.

“True, but your problem is that you’re thinking. You gotta stop that. You brain is against you. Remember what Bruce Lee said.”

“What’s that?”

“Be like water.” the Female said, mimicking Bruce best she could.

Colin smiled into the phone to a woman he wouldn’t ever know. “I like that,” he said.

“Alright Colin, go to bed, get some rest.”

“Is…is that it?” He asked.

“I got a job to do. I can’t solve all your issues.”

“By the way, what’s your name?” Immediately Colin regretted asking.

“Not now,” the Voice said. “Don’t think of it as a rejection, rather as something better left to the imagination.”

“If I’m up tomorrow night and I call, will I get you on the phone again?” he asked hopefully.

“Can’t say for sure, but if you call again tomorrow, I’ll consider myself a failure.” With that, she ended the call.

Visions of the Nuwave Inferred Oven producing succulent beef roasts flickered across the TV screen. Colin found the remote buried in the couch cushions and put an end to the images.

*Like what you see? Read about the author and his novel TACOMA PILL JUNKIES @*