Between a Rock and a Really, Really Hard Place

Lenny sits by the phone, waiting for a call from his agent. He nervously picks at his fingers. An orange cat sits next to him, grooming. Lenny checks the time on his phone. It’s 1:01p.

LENNY (to the cat): She said she’d call at 1:00p. What’s taking so long?

The cat briefly pauses and looks up and Lenny. It slowly lifts its hind leg and begins licking its butt.

LENNY: Do I call her? What if she’s in the middle of something? I shouldn’t call. But should I? No. Maybe?

The phone rings. The ID reads ‘unknown’.

LENNY: Is… is it her? It can’t be. I have her number. She’d call from that number. Right? But what if it is her and I miss it? No, it can’t be her.

The phone keeps ringing.

LENNY: God damnit.

Lenny picks up the phone and answers the call.

LENNY: Hello, this is Leonard.

CHARLES: Hello, Leonard! This is Charles from your bank. I’m calling with regards to some strange activity on your checking account. Do you have a few minutes.

LENNY: Uh, sure. What do you need?

CHARLES: Can you verify the last 3 charges on your account? The first I see is a $20 purchase from Target?

LENNY: Yeah, I think that was me.

CHARLES: Great! The next one’s a $45 charge from Amazon.com. Does that sound right?

LENNY: I think so, yeah.

CHARLES: Perfect! Alright, it looks like the last one is a $270 purchase from Dildos.com?

LENNY: …excuse me?

CHARLES: Ah, my apologies! It’s a $370 purchase from Dildos.com. Does that sound familiar?

LENNY: Why would I spent that much money on—

Lenny’s phone rings. The ID reads “Lit Agent”.

LENNY: I have to go. I’ve got a call on the other line, but that wasn’t my purchase.

CHARLES: No problem! I’ll go ahead and remove the $45 Amazon.com charge—

LENNY: No! The Amazon charge is correct. It’s the $370 charge from Dildos.com that definitely isn’t mine.

CHARLES: Are you sure? It looks like they confirmed your identity over the phone at the time of purchase.

LENNY: Yes! I’m sure.

CHARLES: Is it possible that you don’t remember submitting the order?

Something clicks.

LENNY: Yes, Charles. I somehow forgot that I ordered $400 worth of dildos.

VOICE-A: …Leonard?

LENNY: Yes?

VOICE-A: …this is Lisa, your agent. I, well… I have a rep from Woodside Publishing here… Frank Smith.

FRANK: Hello.

Lenny’s asshole slams shut.

LENNY (to himself): …oh my god.

LISA: Can you introduce yourself, Len?

Lenny clears his throat.

LENNY: Ahem, well, I’m Leonard. I wrote the book you’re interested in, Between a Rock and Really, Really Hard Place.

FRANK: Hi Leonard. I read the first 25 pages and have to admit, I’m intrigued. Can you talk a little more about the rest of the book?

Lenny swallows. The lump in his throat grows.

LENNY (timidly): Sure. Well… a guy goes rock climbing. And he falls into a crevasse and gets stuck. The story is about his escape.

FRANK: Yeah, I got that much. But what’s different about it? I’ll be honest: it feels like a 127 Hours ripoff.

LENNY: Oh, well… to escape, he has to cut off his own penis.

FRANK: …his penis?

LENNY: Yeah.

FRANK: …can I ask why?

LENNY: Well, he’s pinned between a rock and the crevasse by his fully-erect genitals.

FRANK: He’s pinned under a rock… by his dick?

LENNY: Yeah.

FRANK: And for some reason he’s… aroused?

LENNY: Well, sometimes that’s a symptom of a severe injury. It’s called a ‘priapism’.

CHARLES: Ah, yeah. I’ve heard about that!

LISA: Who the fuck is that?

Lenny’s stomach twists.

LENNY: CHARLES. HANG UP. NOW.

CHARLES: No problem! I’ll call you back tomorrow about that Dildos.com order!

LENNY: CHARLES!

CHARLES: Bye, Leonard!

Something clicks.

LENNY (panicked): I’m so, so sorry. There was this issue with my bank, I swear it’s a misund—

FRANK (sternly): Lenny. I need you to answer something.

LENNY (nervously): Okay.

FRANK: Is the only difference between your book and 127 Hours the part where he cuts off his own penis?

Lenny pauses.

LENNY: I… I suppose it is.

There’s an uncomfortably long pause.

FRANK: That’s incredibly clever.

LENNY: …excuse me?

FRANK: I love it. You get all the action people already love, with a little kinky twist.

LENNY: Um… yeah, I guess that’s what I was going for.

FRANK: I mean, we’ll have to work on the title to avoid a lawsuit, but that’s an easy fix.

LENNY: Um… yeah, sure. It’s more of a working title anyway.

FRANK: But what really sold me is that Charles character. How can we work more of that into the book?

Lenny wipes the sweat from his brow.

LENNY: I… well…

FRANK: That peppy, off-kilter character you just did. I really liked that back-and-forth.

LENNY: Uh… sure. I’ll… figure something out…?

FRANK: Great. Well, tighten it up a bit and we’ll be in touch again soon. I think you’ve got a bright future ahead of you, kid. And remember: crank up the Charles.

Lenny doesn’t respond. He hears footsteps, followed by a door closing.

LISA: What’d I tell you?

LENNY: What the fuck just happened?

LISA: You just landed a big fucking book deal, that’s what happened.

LENNY: …but why?!

LISA: I think that “Charles” bit really sold it for him. Why am I just now hearing that? It’s great stuff.

LENNY: Because he’s not a character!

LISA: Look, call him whatever you want. You writers and your nuance…

LENNY: Look, that Charles guy wasn’t—

LISA: Len! Now is not the time to be humble! Just juice up the story with more of that Charles stuff and we’ll be golden.

LENNY: I… Uh, sure thing.

LISA: Alright, I’ll call you later this week to see how things are going. Keep it up!

Lisa hangs up. Lenny sits still for a few minutes, staring at his phone. When he comes to, he dials a number. The phone rings.

CHARLES: Leonard! Ready to get things sorted out?

Lenny sighs.

LENNY: Yes, Charles. Let’s talk.

—END—

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