This is a story about my unpleasant, largely tangential, involvement with a heartwarming television program and the end of a friendship. It involves most of the usual human material -- vanity, prevarication, open-mouthed fear, labyrinths of delusion, and long-distance calls from Los Angeles jangling with hysteria. Towards the end there are also vicious lawyers who drive a wedge between me and a longtime friend, and The New York Times. On a major American network there was a show that aired on Friday nights whose title came from a Frank Sinatra song. These are all of the clues I will give you. I ask you to use your imagination, which is more than the producers of this show about a plucky, red-haired working- class heroine who lets no one stand in her way ever asked of themselves. By the way, throughout the show, this heroine defeats ex-boyfriends, crude brothers, evil professors, craven bar patrons, greedy mechanics, and nuns. Given the opportunity (and the show gives her five opportunities an episode) , she will outsmart a Nobel Prize winning author or a bus driver, as the situation demands. Once, an academic Dean had a problem with her transcript. She dispatched him with her street smarts. I believe a wheelchair-bound old lady once got in her way and she---Richard Widmark like--- pushed her down the stairs for unjustly obstructing her passage. I may be wrong about the last one, but the point is: She is plucky! It took her just 42 minutes (minus commercial breaks) to defeat cancer. She is from New Jersey. Have you ever seen this show? No? Good. The first and last parts of my story are indisputable. The middle part is in dispute, so for legal reasons I write the following and ask you to speed-read it as a legal disclaimer, much the way announcers do at the end of car commercials. I have not had, and claim no creative input into the show "The Tender Trap" which is solely the property of, um, “Powermount Studios" and the “Big Broadcasting System, Incorporated" (BBS, here after) . I freely acknowledge that "All characters in 'The Tender Trap' are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author." Whew. Still a boy can dream, can't he? In fact, he can, according to the constitution. But my experience demonstrates that, legally speaking, he shouldn't. The middle section of this long essay was to be published in the October 8, 2000 Sunday New York Times "Arts and Leisure" section. Isn't that thrilling! With a picture of me alongside the picture of an actor who would be "playing" "me." Excellent! Or, perhaps not. The network learned of the story's title through the paper's request for a photo, and the network’s representatives pressured my friend and the Times, which caused the Times to withdraw my story. The network had not read a copy of the story, had not a sliver of an idea what my words said, but -- I like to imagine -- they feared the comic pen, its implications. The Times had a clear conscience, told me the story was not "actionable, yet they feared repercussions. In the last paragraph of the offending essay, by the way, I announced an Orwellian fantasy in which "corporate suits at network legal" swooped down on me. And this is exactly what happened. The piece was written, as I say, in June 2000, in the "present expectant tense, so please insert yourself.
The Offending Essay as it Would Have Appeared in The New York Times had They Been More Courageous and Stout of Heart (More or less: the names have been changed in this version) This fall I'll be on TV. It's not me. And yet it's me to the bone. A version of me will be there, on a slickly produced television show, all comic despair. And I'll be here, in my chair sipping ginger ale, watching and laughing, in despair. The New York Times published an article this summer about a former New Jersey waitress who was plucked from obscurity, just like Cinderella, to create and write for a new BBS show called "The Tender Trap.'' This was during the "Survivor'' hoopla, so if you missed it, it's understandable. I know I would have if a friend hadn't called to tell me about it. But I had been anticipating the series, which is debuting this month. The young writer of The Tender Trap is a friend of mine. And I contributed to some small portion of one of the characters: the young, bumbling, lovable and possibly lecherous English professor. The Times article mentioned an arrogant and sad professor. That's not me. My friend, we’ll call her Donna, assured me that I am the hottie professor. She had to assure me biweekly. She might have been kidding or humoring me. This was on the phone, so she might have been rolling her eyes, holding the receiver from her mouth and laughing. Still, I clung to that "hottie." It wasn't long before I stopped clinging to it and started spreading it around. This is a story about the growing discomfort and dangers of having a television alter ego. No matter how immersed in media we are supposed to be, this for me was still uncharted territory. With only the unhelpful example of the real-life Kramer's reality tour to guide me in how to conduct myself, I made some mistakes. In my excitement, I perhaps ill advisedly told my students and colleagues about the show for months, letting them know that the young professor on the show would be based on me. My students would first yell, You're not young, and then, excitedly, You're going to be on TV? This 20-second span was the most excited they had been the whole semester. When I explained that I personally was not going to be on television, but would be played by an actor (Steven Eckholdt) whom they had never heard of, they lost all of their enthusiasm. I didn't even get a chance to argue with them about the not- young part. (I'm 35. A boyish 35. But the students are as much horrified by that gargantuan number as they are revolted by what it must mean in terms of sheer physical decrepitude. It does no good to point out that Tom Cruise is 38.) By the time they found out that I personally would not be on TV playing myself (how they thought this would be possible says a lot about the optimism of youth) it was too late. Having a character based'on you is simply not going to cut it anymore. It holds no interest for a television-obsessed culture. When Donna --- a funny, attractive, witty writer who had created a show for network television --- came to my campus, she couldn't compete with, say, Q-tip, a B-list rap star who created a near frenzy when he visited campus to shoot a video. How does it feel, then, to be a component of a televised image? Well, I must say it feels good, at first. When a friend who is writing a pilot calls on you to reveal the secrets of the English literature classroom on the first day of class, it is a thrill. It's time to reel out things you might say on the first day of class, references you might make, mistakes that you might try to disguise. I manufactured a moment of blackboard dyslexia that produces Thomas Wolfe when Virginia Woolf is meant, and sketched out the incoherent efforts at justification and recovery that might follow: Well, Thomas Wolfe, as famous for saying you can't go home again’ as for his formless novels, seems an interesting trans-Atlantic corollary to the English novelist Virginia Woolf, whose work in its totality might be said to constitute one long continuing search for home. I had the pathetic professor thing down cold, and I was eager to reveal trade secrets. Elevated in my own estimation, arrogant and sad even in my sense that Hollywood was interested in dreary facts about my life. Suddenly the facts didn't seem so dreary. But now that I know the cast, and have seen the time slot; now that I've told absolutely everybody; now that The New York Times is doing articles about it, and friends are calling and saying, Are you the sad, arrogant professor? Now I'm not so sure. For one thing, I believe I am part of a composite. This leads to tortuous explanations. I'm the young professor who sleeps with his students, all of whom have enormous crushes on him. You sleep with your students? No, that part isn't me. After bragging that this television professor would be essentially me, I have to backpedal and explain that only the dull classroom sections are me. Donna has told me that the female lead will have a big crush on her English professor. I told her that this never happens in real life, and that undergraduate students' usual relationship with their professors was somewhere between benign indifference and contempt. I told her that all of this talk about erotic atmosphere in the classroom is spread by desperately deluded professors who are well beyond 35 and living in some kind of Sting-induced dream world. In her depiction of professors, the one thing that Donna has absolutely right is the pathetic part. Now that I've publicly associated myself with a character that I have not even seen, and who may turn out to be a monster, or worse yet, a dull minor character written out in the second week, I feel I must stake a claim to myself-claim some control of my fictional destiny. You might think that I'm trying to grab some publicity for myself and my own writing, trying to bask in some of the refracted glow of Donna's celebrity. Maybe I'm writing this in order to grab my Andies, as friend calls the 15 minutes of fame we all have coming to us. So, what's your point? Of course I am. For all the good it does me. In this media-drunk culture, I can't help it. I'm only relevant from now till 8:15 p.m., Saturday, October 7, 2000. And I know this because my mother-an Entertainment Tonight addict-has only recently taken an interest in me. Now, as my friends know and my ex-friends know even better, I have an inexhaustible supply of envy and jealousy. My close friends are like me -sustaining a level of low-grade failure but with modest hopes for modest success. This is not to say that some haven't gone on to fame and notoriety. I've cut them off-I couldn't bear to be around them, so consuming and completely obvious was my churning bitterness with their success. A three-picture deal with Speilberg? Don't know ya. A record contract with a major label? I'm afraid I can't sit through one more late night of your music, though I was happy to sit through hundreds when you were unsuccessful nobodies. Call me if you ever become an anonymous failure again. With Donna, I have no inclination to cut her off, to run away. But I have had to wrestle with why I feel so capsized by the idea of this series. I think I have it. As a writer myself, I feel that Donna has defeated my efforts at controlling the copy of myself that I put in circulation. Five years ago, at a New Jersey diner, Donna said something to me that now seems portentous. She said, You're funny. I was prepared to take this as a compliment, but she followed it up with: And I don't mean when you try to be. You're just funny. Now I realize that what she meant: I was funny material for a character. I have lots of writer friends who have used me in their fiction and unproduced screenplays, and I have seen some of them. But these fictions have had a limited circulation. The other me's have kept a respectful distance. They have not been projected to a national audience. For someone who has tried to control the versions of himself that he shows to people, who has tried to keep his outward self modulated and largely normal, while taking frantic mental notes about the quirks and edges of others, it is especially frightening to have been caught. When Donna said this, it meant that she had walked past the self I was projecting and found a contour that interested her as a writer. Seinfeld is the ur-text for my predicament. That show had it right when the pathetic George, lobbying to have his character included on the show-within-a-show, claims that lots of people tell him he's a character. No one wants to be a character. If you do, you are George or Kramer. As I write this, I'm not sure I have the right to say these things about myself and the version of me on The Tender Trap I mean that in the legal sense: whether I have the intellectual property rights to myself. BBS has the rights to me, or at least a version of me, and I feel like I am violating these rights by writing about myself from my own point of view. This is an odd position for me: I have been violating the rights of others (my mother, my uncle, my sister, my friends) for years by using versions of them in short stories and performance pieces. I have never felt guilty about this. I was oddly comforted by the fact that very few people would even read these short stories. Certainly, my Uncle Tom in Clifton, N.J., never will. And certainly millions of people won't see my characters on network television. The people I write about will never feel crowded by my representations of them in the way that I'm already feeling crowded by the hottie professor on BBS. Once again, I'm confronted by the hope that this rumination will be nestled on some back page sure to be missed by network executives and their crack legal teams. Does that idiot professor have a right to go around writing about our idiot professor? Luckily, I've signed no confidentiality agreements, and BBS can't push me around like it did Lowell Bergman in his fight with big tobacco. Of course, the only Lowell Bergman I really know is Al Pacino's version in The Insider, and I guess this is exactly the point. Still, despite all this public hand wringing, there are consolations that might allow me to live peacefully with my TV doppelganger: the hottie is a minor character, the show is on Saturday nights, and it's on BBS, for Pete's sake! And the way the networks monitor the minute-by-minute ratings of a show, my character himself may only have 15 minutes of fame. But I'm bracing myself for the season finale in the year 2010, just in case. Part III: The Aftermath So there I was, a fragile Grade-A egg, size Extra Small, whipped about by two media corporation beaters. Notice my whimsical treatment of network lawyers. Turns out, lawyers lack whimsy. And though I treat them as ineffectually whining about what they can do after the fact, it is the grim truth that they pounced with the heightened aptitude of Olympic athletes. Under their gaze, a warm open relationship of eight years dissolved into suspicion, and suspicion into dream-distorted fantasies of power and defeat. Early that summer I e-mailed Donna fresh prose daily: background and dialogue for the professor character who was me but not me. I did so on the strength of friendship and flattery. Donna talked about money but I said,Oh no, no, accepting flattery in lieu of it. I gave her the first "Virginia Woolf" lines that appeared intact on the pilot. On my answering machine she said to me,I owe you big. I think I owe you, like, money. Because I pretty much used what you said word for word." As the summer continued, she said,I've asked my agent to call you and work out a deal." "That can wait, I said. At her request, I gave her novels that paralleled the show's action: an older woman leaves her husband (The Awakening) ; an older woman takes up with a younger man (Middlemarch, Lady Chatterly's Lover) . Once, I e-mailed a lecture that was used verbatim in the show. She said,You're the hottie professor." She said,they just cast an actor to play you." But the actor wasn't close enough to me, wasn't "hot enough" or "charming enough, she said. "I want to fly you out here and just point and say 'get someone like him.'" I was bedazzled. My wife and friends said "protect yourself" or "get it in writing." When I wondered aloud whether I should ask Donna's agent for money or screen credit, all of my friends said "take the money!" I wasn't motivated by money, though. I was motivated by the association with glamour and excitement. I was the hottie! I wrote an essay and told her about it on the phone in late June. My wife and I were watching an awful movie on AMC called Come September, with Bobbie Darin and Rock Hudson. Donna later denied that this conversation ever happened, but google TV listings from June 2000 and see if I’m right. On the phone I talked about women in literature who pursue men for their salvation, but who die for love. In the middle of this conversation as she was transcribing what I was saying about Miranda or Hetty, I told her I wrote an essay about the show. I think she said "Oh yeah?" but she was typing the last thing I said and not really listening. Her disinterest said,Knock yourself out. Rotsa ruck, my friend." Writers are typically self-absorbed, and in her defense, they have a right to be. She was trying to finish episode three because shooting started next week. And, after all, how many unsolicited manuscripts get published? And, after all, how could it matter, when she felt so alive and engaged by her own life? How could it matter when her life! her life! was so much more interesting than, say, school shootings or presidential politics? Do I do this? Yes. In some cases, okay, in many cases, when you, as my friend, are listening to my stories about me, your job is to listen and act as my island of repose, where I wiggle my toes in the sand. I didn't mind being Donna's island, so when I heard her keyboard clicking in the background, her interest suddenly waning, I pretended not to notice. This would be our last conversation for a little while. Episode three, of the first six ordered, as it turns out, was the last episode in which the professor would be appearing. So, in July the phone calls trailed off. Her agent, who as it turned out, wasn't aware of why she was supposed to be calling me, didn't for a long time. The agent, we'll call her Linda, and I played telephone tag through August and September. I was determined to let Linda know about the essay when I finally talked to her. I thought it was cool: maybe she'd be impressed. But she didn't call. As for Donna, emails congratulating her on her appearance in Marie Claire or Glamour went unanswered. In September, the Times called. They were publishing "A Version of Me Brought to You by Network TV." When the photo editor said a photographer would come to campus to take a picture of me in the classroom, it was unnerving. This was supposed to be a bit smaller than all this: a picture in the Arts and Leisure section? The students, for their part, were incredulous that anyone ---let alone the New York Times --- would take an interest in one of their professors. They asked me about it and I compounded my already listed sins by telling them about not only about the show, but also about the essay that would be appearing in the Times. I should have just said,I guess your professor isn't as dull as all that, now, is he?" and left it at that, but I told them the whole story. Still, I remained quiet about it with friends. It was hard. One I did tell was a colleague in the Psychology Department who had concerns about the show after reading an outline in which a psychology professor (and drunk) tries to harass our brave heroine out of the classroom. We nicknamed the faculty member Professor Vendetta. Unlike me, my psychology professor friend demurred from offering any advice to Donna. Now, because I was so clearly not worried, she worried for me: "Have you told her about it being in the Times?" "No, I said. To which she replied, Hmm." "I'm sure it will be okay, I said. "Okaaay, if you think she'll be okay with it." One day later, I received a frantic call from Donna. I was leaving for Boston for an academic conference. Donna had been talking all morning with network lawyers. What was this about an article in the New York Times? What was this about a character is based on you? She was angry. I was drinking a cool beverage. The piece was "whimsical" I said, a work of comic "fancy." She wondered if she could see it, apologizing with,I'm sorry for being such a bitch about this. After you helped me so much. I know I'm the luckiest person in the world. I don't want to stop this from being published. You know I don't care if use my name in any way that helps you, but the lawyers are saying I'll have to cut the character out of the episodes. I can't do that." But the e-mail address she gave me wasn't hers. That was odd. I told her I couldn't do it until a couple days later because I was going to a conference. She seemed okay with that. I ended by saying that this was so funny because in the last paragraph of the essay, I included a paranoid fantasy about what would happen if the network lawyers got wind of the essay. She later told me that this reference to lawyers in the essay worried her. Just as I was leaving the phone rang again, with a weasly voice on the other end. I intuited that this was a network lawyer. He said hurriedly,I was expecting an email from you." "Who is this?" I said. He told me his name, which sounded like "Fly Akite" from "Powermount." "You were supposed to send me something, he repeated in a clipped, no-nonsense voice. I said,I said Saturday." He was not happy. A long standoff pause followed. "What time Saturday?" I was getting angry. "I don't know." "Early or Late?" he demanded. "Late, I snipped. I called a writer friend to ask him what he thought I should do. He didn't know, but said lawyers could not be good. He advised me to "protect the publication." Yes. Good. But, I didn't know how I might do this. I knew that having a team of corporate lawyers pouring over every word, trying to find objectionable turns of phrase would not be good. Surely, at their billable hourly rates, they would find something, many things to object to. What to do? I hung up the phone and it rang. It was Donna's agent finally calling back. I asked her if she had heard. She said she hadn't and that she was just calling because Donna told her to months ago -- she didn't know why. I asked her if she was calling about working out payment for my consulting on the show, she said "no" -- she didn't know anything about that. I told her about the network demands, and she recommended that I send the essay to Donna. I said I wouldn't mind sending it to Donna, but it was the weasly lawyer I objected to. As if it was already the network's essay to do with what it would. I was very open with her about my worry. Maybe I shouldn't have been. She used the word "injunction" in describing what might happen if I didn't send the essay. Now, I was really frightened. I thought, I should let "my" New York Times editor (my New York Times editor!) know about what's happening. I left a message. I flew to Boston, and when I checked my messages the next day, he did have some advice: "Under no circumstances should you send the network anything. In fact, you should have no communication with them at all. There is nothing actionable in the story. I'll run it past 'legal, ' but I can't see any problem with it." I was relieved. Now, I had a major media conglomerate on my side, giving me unequivocal advice. He even said the story would be "locked down" in less than three days, for its eventual publication on October 8. The conference I was attending ---on Marxism of all things--- should have made me suspicious of all capitalist corporations, but I wasn't. Because the Times was my capitalist corporation. Then the story took a turn. When I returned home from the conference, there was a less encouraging message from the editor on my machine. It said that he had spoken to Donna, and that we'd have to talk. Donna had essentially denied everything that could not be proven through exchanges of email. I had provided background and dialogue for the character of the professor (I had the emails, so I guess she had to admit to this) . But she had never told me I was the basis for the character. I told him this wasn't true. He said, nevertheless, he couldn't be the one to decide which version was true. If it was published as it was, he said, Donna threatened all manner of legal retribution against the Times and against me, personally. Ads would be taken out assailing my character and truthfulness, I was given to understand. There would be subpoenas and FBI file exposes about my personal life splashed across front pages. But, if I could within the next day, bring my piece into line with her (fictional) version of events, he could publish it. I reminded him that I couldn't guess what her version of events were. "Nevertheless" he said. I re-wrote, injecting more whimsy and fancy, to the point that I think I rendered the show a kind of Walter Mitty fantasy on my part. But now I had loosened the linkages that made it news in the first place. I was, in fact, violating one of the truths laid down for our guidance by Creative Nonfiction among many others, that in journalism ---even in new journalism--- the facts in non- fiction pieces published in journalism outlets must always be verifiable. And as I expected, the revised piece no longer "worked" for the Times editor. "We" "agreed" to "withdraw" it. By way of encouragement, he said,it's too bad. It's a good piece of writing." He thought that maybe a longer version of it, including its aftermath, would work in a magazine or journal format. For the 11 months preceding that October, I had acted as if I knew Donna, knew her intentions, and was completely unguarded with her. I'd carry on those heated phone conversations with her, calling her back immediately at all four of her numbers ---cell, beeper, home, office--- every time she left a message. When I didn't know an answer off the top of my head, I would research it for her to find quotations, citations. My wife, in bed, watching me working at the flickering laptop at 1 a.m. on June nights was puzzled and not happy with the intrusions. Remember I'm a professor, so she wasn't used to me working, let alone in June, let alone at 1 a.m. My wife, on the day Donna made her frantic call, said "you don't have to jump every time she calls." My wife is a cool customer, understated, in the Donna Reed, Myrna Loy line, so that was a rafter-shaking Aria from her. As usual, she was right. A month later, Donna's ex-boyfriend called me. "What's up?" he asks. I assume he knows "what's up" and he does. Her version, he says, is drastically different from mine. My essay blind-sided her. I never told her about it. I point-blank refused to send it to her. All this after she had made sure I had been "taken care of" and "paid" by her agent. And one new item: the New York Times editor called her, cross-examined her, was rude to her. I tell Dwayne my side of the story, and also ask him to warn me the next time he dates a girlfriend who embodies evil. He protests, she's not "absolutely evil." I allow the point. Donna has based a character on Dwayne in a screenplay she wrote. The screenplay was actually her entry into the big time. The character she created is, by all accounts, not a flattering depiction of her ex-boyfriend Dwayne, and she uses, he's told me, some of their conversations verbatim. Conversations which make him look like a bastard. But Dwayne has nothing but good things to say about her. He says he was a bastard, and it's a fair, even generous, portrayal. She has that kind of effect on people. You can't stop this girl. She is plucky! And, she always wins! Five minutes after I get off the phone with Dwayne, the phone rings. I know it is Donna. I pick up. It is Donna. She says,So have you thrown your t.v. out the window? Do you sit around hating me on Saturday nights." On one hand this is charming. On the other hand, she thinks I'm sitting around thinking about her on Saturday nights. I was, but that's beside the point. We talk. She tells me that the Times editor did call her out of the blue and cross-examined her about my "relationship" with the show. This is interesting. Did he suspect that I was secretly affiliated with the show? That I had signed a contract? She tells him that I had no relationship with the show, that I'm her friend. I tell her that I thought she had intrepidly tracked down the editor's number and quashed the essay. She is plucky, after all. Does she know that she's plucky? She says, quite logically,How would I? I didn't even know his name." We move through the events of that awful day in September. When I ask her about her denial that the character was ever based on me, she says that there’s a difference between what I can say to you privately and what you can write in the New York Times even if it is the truth. She says she thought I didn't care what kind of pressure she was under, and that I refused to send her the essay. Wait, I tell her, I didn't refuse to send it. I tell her about the call I got from the high-priced errand boy, the lawyer, she turned loose on me. She says,what lawyer?" I fish for the name: "'Kite' or something." She supplies the rest of the name, and says "the writer's assistant. He's like the lowest level employee in the whole place, not a lawyer. I gave you his email address because I didn't have access to mine at work." (Oh my, he was an errand boy!) Should I believe her? He was so officious! So stern. Can a writer's assistant be that stern? She continues, "Kite said that you refused to send me the essay." Now, it's my turn: "I didn't refuse. I told him that I was going to a conference and would send it on Saturday." Apparently, lawyer or not, Kite didn't tell her this. So, she was left with the impression that I was refusing to help her in her hour of need. Why didn't we call each other to straighten things out? I had "lawyers" set on me; she had editors set on her. This is annoying! It is annoying to be so stupid at a crucial moment of one's life. When I ventured that I was frightened too by the editor, who told me not to send the story to her, I got a quick "ah ha!" in response--- "so you did withhold it!" No, I tell her, by the time I got the "don't send it" message I was in Boston, and couldn't have sent it. When I returned home late Saturday, the editor had already seemingly decided against running the story. So "sending it" was a moot point by the time I was in a position to do so. Oh, this makes my head hurt. She ended by asking if I had heard from Linda, her agent. "No, I said. "She was supposed to call last Monday, she said. "No, I haven't heard from her since the day of infamy. That was the only time I ever spoke to her, I said. Donna assures me that her agent is definitely going to call me and "You are definitely going to be paid. It's only right. The show has a budget of 1 million dollars an episode." The payment we had talked about in those summer months was a flat $1, 500, less than her producer spent on her weekly herbal wraps and dry cleaning, I joked at the time. As it turns out, I'd get less than I spend on dry cleaning and herbal wraps, or, in fact, on a day's supply of bagels for the actors' assistants. I was paid nothing. Months have passed. What happened? How much is true, was true? Certainly, payment or acknowledgement are not forthcoming. I imagine that right now I deserve neither. But did the producers of the show know (as she told me they did) about the help I gave her with dialogue? That everything that came out of her professor's mouth first came out of mine? Was she ever negotiating with them to have me "taken care of"? Did she really expect her agent to call me to arrange compensation? Did she really feel threatened by the Times editor, as plucky as she is? As Donna guessed, I can't watch the show. The falsity of the warm television world, and the cold corporate world that protect its interests, is too glaring. As I told Dwayne, there is something about that indomitable heroine, who lets nothing stand in her way, that frightens me and makes me pity all of the doctors, thieves, undergraduates, mob figures and professors that she is ever trampling. Plucky as the heroine is, pluck now seems to me less like a natural expression of determination and more like naked, teeth-bared aggression. Slobodan Milosevic is plucky until you are Croatia. At the end of her conversation with me, the last one we ever had, she inadvertently hung up on me, and immediately called back. She said,Am I going to be reading in a story about how I am so horrible that I called you up just to hang up on you?" Yes. That's what writers do.
© Rob Jacklosky