Open Me (4th Annual Dialogue Contest Winner)


by Lee Stoops

Babe, you're not going to believe this.

Hold on, let me finish this page.

No. This is more important.

What?

Take it easy. I promise: This is worth the interruption.

Okay, what?

You know how I'm always saying I wish more crazy things would happen to us?

This doesn't sound more important yet.

Look what was in our mailbox today.

What is that? Stop waving it around.

You're not going to believe it.

You said that. What is it?

A ransom note.

A ransom note? For what?

Here, read it. Look what it says on the front.

Open me? Are these letters cut out of a magazine? Is this a joke?

Just read it!

We have your cat. If you want it back, leave $50 on your porch in a garbage bag tonight. Do not call the police. We are watching you. What? And there's no address or postage? This was just in our mailbox? Someone actually put this in our mailbox?

Creepy, right?

But we don't have a cat.

I know.

Do any of our neighbors? I don't think I know anyone who has a cat.

I know! I mean, Betty had one, but I haven't seen it around in months.

Betty? Two houses down Betty?

Yeah. But that cat was really old. I doubt it's even still alive.

So, whose cat is this about?

I have no idea!

Why are you smiling?

Nothing like this ever happens in real life! Why are you not smiling? This is crazy!

No, this is messed up. Did you do this? Are you trying to scare me?

What? No! Why the hell would I do that?

It seems like something you would do.

Oh, come on! The first really weird thing to happen to us ever and you think I'm just making it up?

So you didn't do this?

No! No.

What if this is actually real?

It's a cat.

If it were my cat, I'd want to know someone was holding it for ransom.

You hate cats.

It's the principle of it!

Whatever. My point is we do know someone is holding it for ransom.

It's not our cat! Whoever was supposed to get this note doesn't know their cat's been kidnapped. And besides… Don't do that!

Don't do what?

You rolled your eyes! This is serious.

It's not.

It is! You can't argue me on this. Someone out there is looking for a missing cat.

No one knows the cat is missing except us and whoever wrote that note!

What if it's a kid?

You think a kid wrote that note? Whoa! I didn't even think about…

No! I mean, what if it's a kid's cat that's been stolen? There are those twin girls that live down the street.

Those little girls aren't going to have $50.

God! Why do you have to be like this?

Like what?

This! Like you don't care!

I do care! But not about someone missing a cat. This was fun when it started. I shouldn't have shown you the note.

Well, you did, so now we have to do something about it.

Like what? What should we doooo about this?

That's not what I sound like.

It is. You're using your the-world-needs-saving-good-thing-I'm-here voice.

What are you even talking about?

Oh come on. You know you get like this.

Like this? How do I get like this! Nothing like this has ever happened before!

No, I don't mean like this this. We could have some fun here. Why can't you just enjoy this?

What is there to enjoy? This isn't fun! Some little girl is missing her cat!

Why does it have to be a little girl?

Because that should matter to you!

I guess I'm heartless, then.

Fine. What if it was a little boy's cat?

If the note was about a puppy, maybe. A little boy isn't going to have a cat get stolen.

But he'd have a dog get stolen?

No. A little boy wouldn't get anything stolen. What's with you and making this about children?

Why do you refuse to believe this is about children?

What?

Nothing.

No, seriously. What do you mean?

Huh. Nothing. What are we going…

No. You don't get to do that. You always do that. What is this really about?

It's about a cat and a…

No, not that. This. This. What is this about?

I got my period.

Shit.

Yeah.

When? This morning?

Yeah.

Hoo. Wow. I'm…I don't know what I am.

How about sorry?

Of course I'm sorry. I just…I wasn't expecting that.

Well I'm sorry I couldn't make this more fun.

Hey, that's not fair.

No, you're right. Because this is about what's fair. Some princess out there lost her fucking cat and today, of all days, you wanna deal with that instead of dealing with this.

Whoa, hey, that's not what I meant.

Right. You meant it's not fair that I bring us both down. That I should have waited to tell you about this until after you'd finished with the fucking cat.

How was I supposed to know if you didn't tell me? You've had your head in that book all morning! You could have said something.

That's right. It's my fault. It should be easy by now, right?

No, that's not…

Don't touch me right now. The blood is mine, the eggs are mine, the miscarriages are mine. I need to take some fucking ownership of this, right?

They're not just yours.

Really? You're bleeding, too? You could have said something.

God! Stop this. The miscarriages were ours. I was a part of that. When you're like this, I'm a part of this. This isn't just you.

It doesn't feel like it.

Do you know what it feels like to watch you go through this every month? To not be able to take it away from you? Just because I can't doesn't mean I don't want to.

I'm glad to know you want this.

Will you stop twisting my words? Listen to me. You want to talk about fair? How fair is it that you get all the responsibility for this? How fair is it that when you get your period, you shut me out. How fair is it that when you don't get your period, you get to feel your body start to change? How fair is it that I have to sit by and watch and want to know what it feels like and never get to know? How fair is it that I don't get to feel any of the physical pain? Or, how it will feel when we get the one that makes it? How fair is any of that?

You don't have to suffer the way I do.

This isn't about suffering!

Then what? What is it about?

This is about what will eventually happen! This is about the children we will have.

There aren't going to be any children!

Yes, there will.

Be realistic. What if there aren't? What if we can't?

Then we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

God that's cliché.

Well what do you want me to say?

I don't know. I don't know how much more of this I can take. I can't keep getting my hopes up each month. It's too hard. And if I have another miscarriage, I can't keep going.

Then we'll stop together. We'll figure it out. Neither of us can fix this.

I'm not asking you to fix this.

I know. But, just know I don't think this is broken. You're not broken. We're not broken.

We're kind of broken.

Yeah. But I wouldn't trade it.

What's with the clichés today?

Some days it's the only way.

Ha.

Yeah.

Fine. I'm sorry. And you're right. I don't want to trade it either.

Atta girl.

Stop. This thing: What do we do with this?

Keep trying until we can't?

No, I mean this cat thing.

The ransom note? I don't care anymore.

Time out. That's not fair. If you're going to be all about what's fair and what's not, then you need to be fair about this.

I honestly don't care anymore.

Well, you need to. This cat belongs to someone. What if it really is a little girl's?

Then she'll probably put up some signs or something.

What if it was your little girl?

Gah. Alright. Um, I guess we just pay it.

Pay it?

Yeah. Pay the ransom. Whoever took the time to make this note deserves the money.

So we're just going to put $50 on the porch?

I guess.

But what if they actually return the cat?

Let's hope they do.

But, it's not our cat.

No, but it'd be easier to connect a cat to its owner than to go door to door with a ransom note after all this.

This doesn't seem fair. I don't even like cats.

I know. Me either.




BIO: Lee Stoopsgrew up building forts, disappearing into wilderness, and telling stories around campfires. He holds an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles and currently lives in the mountains of Idaho with his wife and children. His work has been published by Writer's Digest, The Provo-Orem Word, Annotation Nation, and others. He also edits fiction for The Citron Review and non-fiction for Lunch Ticket.