"We want you to write an article about the Cubs," were their exact words. I know this because, as I do with all of my phone conversations, I recorded it. (I've gotten flak for this in the past from so-called "friends", who tell me I'm somehow "betraying their trust" but I say you never know when dirt like that's gonna come in handy. This is also why I carry a concealed microphone with me at all times, and have recorded the events of every day since 1993. Since I can't afford one of those really small concealable mics like the FBI uses, this means I've also had to carry around approximately 400 pounds worth of recording equipment every day since 1993. But I'm straying off topic.)
"Didn't the Cubs already get their asses handed to them by the Marlins?" I interjected, worried I was getting stuck with a dead story. I think I said this, anyway the tape's a little garbled because I was picking popcorn kernels out of my teeth at the time. (I've gotten flak for this in the past from so-called "friends". I stand by my decision to eat popcorn every meal of the day, because I find it delicious.)
Following my suggestion that the Cubs got their asses handed to them, a long silence greeted me on the other end of the line.
"Yes," said Lost Brain Co-editor Brandon Stahl, "the Cubs lost to the Marlins. They didn't 'get their asses handed to them,' they lost, and it was very very close." Hmm. I decided not to push that any further. In my experience, Brandon could start bawling at the drop of a hat. I remember once I'd made a couple perfectly innocent, honest comments about how ugly his kids were, and you'd think I'd slapped him in the face, the way he rushed those ugly kids of his out of the room.
"Look," I said. "I don't actually know anything about baseball, Brandon. I'm"
"I can't hear a word you're saying," interrupted Brandon. "Do you have your hand in your mouth or something?" he asked, like that was somehow so weird.
"Yeah, I was eating popcorn," I said. "Anyway"
"You were eating popcorn the last time I called you," interrupted Brandon. Again. "What do you do, eat popcorn every meal? That's insane."
"Popcorn is one of the most highly nutritious foods available in modern supermarkets, Brandon," I explained, adopting a tone that I hoped let him know I was talking to someone with the intellect of a child. "Its pH content is through the roof, and I wouldn't expect you to understand this, but the alkaline levels are excellent too."
"I know what alkaline and pH mean," interrupted Brandon once again, having apparently become addicted to it, the rude bastard. "You're just making things up. Look, I'm being serious with you. You can't just eat popcorn. How do you even go to the bathroom? You must crap, like, solid popcorn logs or something."
Actually, that part was true. I decided to change the subject so I wouldn't lose the argument. "The point, Brandon, is that I know nothing about"
"Take your hand out of your mouth!"
"Sorry. I don't know anything about baseball. I never watch baseball. I mean, yes, I'm aware of baseball in a general sense, in that I know it's played at some point every year, and that there are nine innings and for some reason everyone feels the need to wear embarrassingly snug pants. I've also heard baseball terms like 'balls' and 'shagging' and 'mounds' and 'deep fisting'. It's disgusting, frankly."
"There's no such term as 'deep fisting' in baseball," interrupted (you guessed it) Brandon.
"There isn't? What do you call it when you hit the ball up really high?"
"That's a pop fly."
"Ohhhhh," I said. Suddenly it became clear why I hadn't been asked back to coach little league a while back. "Look, it doesn't matter what it's called. I've watched like two professional baseball games my whole life, once last year and once when I was eight, and I was drunk both times. I'm the least qualified member of your writing staff to discuss this."
A very long sigh from the receiver. "Yeah, believe me, I know. But you already turned down every other assignment we've given you. You turned down the Hollywood Insider article"
"I don't watch movies."
"...you turned down the Bush/Hussein opinion piece..."
"I don't know who either of those people are."
"...you even turned down writing your own bio for the website."
"My fans are drawn to my mysteriousness."
"If you don't write something about the Cubs we're taking you off the payroll."
Yikes. This was serious. Brandon could be a little slow sometimes, but he was still a pro at cutting off big fat checks to yours truly. I had to think fast, or I'd be back writing for Woman's Day Magazine. Ever had to come up with an article about decorative crafts you can make from egg cartons? It's ridiculous. I think I came up with 'loose change holder' and 'throw cartons out' before I got writer's block. Try padding out a 10,000-word piece about dumping the contents of your pockets into egg cartons sometime. Why these crazy women would willingly decorate their houses with dank cardboard that smells like rotten eggs is beyond me, but it's probably nothing a good stiff one couldn't fix. In fact, that was my proposed cover story for the April 2000 issue "Your Obsession With Stupid Arts & Crafts: Nothing a Good Stiff One Couldn't Fix" but they let me go before I could finish it.
I returned from my memories to find Brandon still blathering on about his precious Cubs. "You don't even have to write about the Cubs," he explained. "Look, there was this fan Steve Bartman he deflected a foul ball in Game 6, and a lot of people think he cost the Cubs the Series. Why don't you write about that? Hello?"
"Hi. Sorry, my recorder just ran out of tape, can you say all that again?" In typical Brandon fashion, he hung up. I honestly don't know what Judge Judy sees in him; he must be loaded or something.
"Yeah, well your kids are ugly!" I told the dial tone.
Goddamn it. It looked like I had an article to write. But before I could do that, I had to do something even more important: show you pictures of naked breasts.