Thursday, November 12, 2009


“Really? I hate that stupid guy”

“No, he's SO funny. NO I can’t believe you just said that. HE IS HILARIOUS.”

“I just don’t get his humour”

I move my chin, slightly shifting the phone gripped precariously between my right shoulder and my ear. Its plastic surface groans in protest, but my hands are too preoccupied to come to its rescue.

“That’s just ‘cause you’re a girl! Girls never appreciate his kind of humour; you know
it’s like....”

I have a stick in my left hand and a fallen green leaf in my right. Absentmindedly I try to balance the leaf on the end of the stick, wrinkling my brow in frustration. The warm summer breeze gently rustles my hair, and I shift my seated position, the hard cool concrete of my front steps biting into my thighs.

“...and when he made that one joke, you know the one right? The one where that guy, the fat guy, runs up to the car...”

“I really don’t know, but you know who IS funny...”

In the background of my conversation I hear the soft sound of someone making their way down the back lane adjacent to my house. The twigs and leaves crackle and crunch under their steps. Something metallic squeaks and screeches and I glance to my left. I gaze through the gaps that puncture the hedge barricade between our yard and the lane. The front tip of an old grocery cart appears from behind the side of my house, stacked to the brim with old dirty newspapers and flyaway plastic bags.

I pause midsentence, frozen. A cold hand grips my heart, squeezing it. My breath catches in my throat making an audible gasping sound. A thin man takes up the rear of the cart, pushing its heaving mass forward. I recognize his dirty gray mop of hair and his swollen belly, protruding and out of place on his otherwise small frame. He limps forward with his signature gait.

I leap to my feet, catching the phone as it tumbles towards the concrete with Olympic like prestige. I wrench at the handle of the front door. My heart pulses at my temples, I’m being chased. Adrenaline pumps from my glands and surges through my veins as the flight instinct takes over.

A distant voice floats up from the phones receiver clamped beneath my pale fingers as I continue to wrestle with the door.

“You still there?”


The door swings inward with the magic words and I rush inside, not daring to look behind me. I hasten across the living room, my socks slipping on the hardwood floor. I rush into my room, slam the door behind me and bring the phone to my ear.

“Sorry, sorry I’m here. That guy was outside my house! That crazy guy from work! I’ve told you about him, he always has all the newspapers in his cart, asks for 10 coffee refills. THAT CRAZY GUY WAS RIGHT OUTSIDE MY HOUSE. HE TOTALLY SAW WHERE I LIVE.”

I pace around the room with quick panicky footsteps, pulling frantically at the blinds until they are securely shut, unfocused on what I’m yelling into the phone.

“What? Why does he have newspapers in his cart?” questions the calm voice on the other end.

“WHAT?! You aren’t focusing! HE IS OUTSIDE MY HOUSE, what don’t you understand! NEWSPAPERS? I don’t know, he says his job is delivering flyers or something...why is he here! WHY IS HE OUTSIDE MY HOUSE?”

“Could it be that he is, you know, delivering flyers?”

“What?” I try and bring my focus back to what the voice is saying. I stare at the gaps between my window curtains, convinced that I see the outline of a person peering in. I repeat, “WHAT?”

“Meghan calm down. Are you pacing? I’ll repeat: could it be that he is just doing his job, he's delivering flyers?”

“What? NO...Well maybe, I don’t know, but he shouldn’t be here!" My voice trails out in an annoying whine.

“I’ve seen that guy plenty of times when I’ve picked you up from work. He is just a harmless old guy doing his job. It’s not his fault he is dirty...or that he takes advantage of the free coffee refills.” His voice dips amusingly, reasoning, calm and collected, a light jab at what I had said earlier. I can hear his smile, his slowly shaking head.

“Well I didn’t...I mean obviously liking coffee doesn’t make you crazy.” I stutter, smacking the edge of my bed. “OBVIOUSLY, I mean I’m not stupid”. I run a shaking hand through my hair.

His voice stretches out from the phone, patting me on the head, reprimanding and sympathetic, “You are not stupid, but you are being dramatic. You’re being judge-y again. He is just a man who has nowhere to go and nothing to do but walk around and deliver his flyers, before heading down to the restaurant to get a cup of coffee with 10 free refills...obviously”.

“I don’t think that judge-y is a word.” I hang up the phone.

I creep my way to the window, pulling aside the curtain, slowly peering across my yard, up and down the street. I can see the man’s outline about a block down, slowly limping away, pushing the broken cart ahead of him. Despite the obvious fact that I’m in no immediate danger, I breathe a sigh of relief. Tension slowly leaks out of my muscles as shame crawls in and takes its place. Without taking my eyes off the figure down the road, I push the numbers on the phone and again hold it up to my ear waiting for the click on the receiving end. I don’t wait for a hello.

“He is gone down the street now” I whisper.

“You do understand that YOU are the crazy person stalking some poor guy as he walks down the road. I hope he didn’t see you run into the house, I mean that CAN’T be good for his self esteem.” Even on a whim his speech is smooth and cutting.

“YES, ok yes” I sigh into the phone, “I understand that I am being irrational and shouldn’t judge people just based on their appearance no matter how CRAZILY they are dressed or how their home is in a grocery cart or how they have a stomach that is ridiculously disproportionate to the rest of them OR that they order multiple cups of coffee, I know this.” The words spill out of my mouth without pauses in between them, each racing the other to get out first.

“Hmm” is the reply.

“What you don’t believe me?”

“Not really”

“Well I’m trying”

I hear his eyebrows rise on the other end of line “You should try harder”.

I push the curtain close with the resolve to not to look out again. I look at the floor, and my lips pinching together, “You aren’t perfect either.”

The voice trickles affectionately from of the end of the receiver, “Yeah, but we aren’t talking about me.”


  1. Meghan, you always write so descriptively, and this is no exception. ("the hard cool concrete of my front steps biting into my thighs")

    I liked the pace and tone that this piece takes as it starts to turn to panic mode. The use of capital letters, and a sense of rushing and hurrying make this seem intense and scary, and I shared your fear as a reader.

    The juxtaposition of the calm, rational voice on theend of the phone against your irrational, scared, screaming tone was effective. It helped to break up the pace of your fear and it was funny to me because he seemed to calm (“Could it be that he is, you know, delivering flyers?”), while you were in a panic.

    I liked the title too, because it made me want to read. No one wants to be judge-y.

  2. So I think what I like about this post most is the ending. I found the beginning and ending of the piece to be strong and kept me drawn in, but I got a little bit lost in the middle. What makes the ending stick the most is that you don't necessarily change. This is realistic because people will always judge other people. You just own up to it. This is a good example of not sugarcoating an ending for a reader. I would suggest maybe putting a little bit more description in the middle parts between some of the dialogue. Your description is always so good. I enjoyed reading this.

  3. Hello Meghan

    Another great post! You characterization of the old man, how he walks, what he looks like, is really well done. Your descriptions also shine in this post. “His voice stretches out from the phone, patting me on the head, reprimanding and sympathetic” is my particular favorite.

    There are acouple little things I saw that might help you out. When you write “I leap to my feet, catching the phone as it tumbles towards the concrete with Olympic like prestige”, it sounds like the phone is tumbling with Olympic-like prestige, instead of you catching the phone with Olympic-like prestige, which I think was your original intent. Perhaps “The phone accidentally tumbles off my shoulder, but I manage to catch it with Olympic-like prestige”. Also, when you are writing in all caps, since that connotes loud yelling, I would recommend putting exclamation marks at the end of the sentence. Hope those help!

    - Jeremy

  4. Very nice post. Writing slice-of-life depends on the strength of your descriptive capability, and you have that in spades. And when the action with the old man starts, the pacing underlines just how frantic you become, with the terse sentences and short words.

    There are a couple sentences right down near the bottom that don’t seem to have punctuation, but other than that I have no criticisms. Great job!

  5. Hey this was a very interesting post. Your amount of detail was amazing. I really liked reading this one because it was so interesting. You did a very good job of showing and not telling. Good job.