Dicky has a flip phone (one with comically big buttons) so he does his computing on a desktop; the interface on it now says: Welcome to BlurbIt, the go-to platform for expression in 200 characters!
He stares at the screen, ignoring the basement dankness, with hound-like eyes. His wife left him for a pilot, whom she met on BlurbIt.
There’s a good chance that Dicky hasn’t showered in days. And his flip phone has six voicemails from the Paws N Claws, where he is a keyholder. “Howdoya work this shit?” he says to BlurbIt.
He figures out how to work this shit. He types the name Paula Deen into the search bar, but BlurbIt says: Not so fast, silly ass! (There is a picture of a donkey). You must sign up to do that!
The first voicemail: Um, Dicky, Ned Hewitt. Dunno if you got the skedge for this week, but if you could come down we’d appreciate it. The animals look a might gaunt and the smell is ripe as a peach.
With the guidance of the Help function, he signs up for an account—username nitpickydicky. The first thing he sees is a sprawling ad for Concord Airlines. He says fuck a lot and cries on the sofa.
Det. Ruby Flowers, broad-shouldered and pony-tailed, mans her desk with a coffee. The phone rings. “Uh huh,” she says. “Say he’s been missin for three days?” She hangs up and smolders across the room.
Dicky works up the courage to go back online. He searches Paula Deen again, but the top result is a platinum-haired woman with wild eyes. Most of her Blurbs are recipes. One is some sort of apology.
The second voicemail: Um, Dicky, Ned Hewitt. Dunno if you got my last tidbit, but listen, we could use a key down here. The gerbils are all rigor mortis and the kids are startin’ to cry. Thanks.
Dicky clicks Back and scrolls the list. The ninth result is his Paula Deen. His heart moans. Her newest Blurb is a pic of her in the Caribbean with a guy who looks like a poor man’s George Clooney.
Det. Ruby Flowers examines the little house from behind the wheel of her purple PT Cruiser. A heap of newspapers lies piled on the doorstep. "Uh huh," she says. She drops her binoculars and smolders.
BlurbIt asks if he wants to add a profile pic. He does. He takes a few selfies with his webcam. In the one he chooses, his eyes are bloodshot from gaping at a bright screen in a dungeon-like room.
Want to share a memory? BlurbIt asks. Dicky considers sharing his wedding night, which is the one time Paula bothered to fake an orgasm. As he remembers it, he hears a blip; it's his first BlurbIt PM.
The third voicemail: Dicky, Ned. Just in case you didn’t catch my last ditty, wanted to let you know we’re keepin’ our eyes peeled for you. The fishes are floatin’, so do with that info what you will.
The PM is linked to the username violetsRblu. The corresponding pic is a shoulders-and-up of a twenty-something, pouty-faced girl with thick specs and blue tendrils of hair. The PM itself says: Hi <3.
Det. Ruby Flowers stands at the door, her black belt a thin strip just beneath her shelflike breasts. She rings the doorbell, taps on the storm glass. No answer. She smolders across the yard.
Eyeballs big as table coasters, Dicky pecks something out on the keyboard, then erases it. Several minutes elapse. He scratches his head, his ass. Then violetsRblu sends another PM. It reads: wrud?
The fourth voicemail: Dicky. Health Department come down here earlier. Wasn’t happy on account of you can’t have dogs swimmin’ in their own feces. Throw us a line if you can. This is Ned, by the way.
He Oodles: what is wrud. Then he says to violetsRblu: u know, just blurbin’ it. To which she responds: I don’t see any Blurbs on ur page. To which Dicky responds: Oh...they must still be in Drafts.
Det. Ruby Flowers chats with a neighbor, who draws long and seamless from a pencil-thin menthol next to the Deen house. “So you ain't seen Mrs. Deen in months?” She smolders. "Mind if I hit that?"
violetsRblu says: u should read sum of my Blurbs. Dicky does. Most are pop lyrics. Some are memes with love quotes. One is a pic of her scantily-clad in a compromised position. Dicky’s him feels good.
The fifth voicemail: Um, Dicky, Ned again. We could use you down here, Pilgrim. The City’s give us 48 hours to vacate the premises. And there’s a problem in Cats.
violetsRblu says: tell me about u. He does. He tells her about Paws N Claws—says he, er, owns it. About the basement—of his, er, mansion. About Paula. Says she runoff with an airline baggage hauler.
Det. Ruby Flowers is talking to Hewitt by the Paws N Claws entrance. “So you ain’t seen him in a week? And his wife is missin’? And ferrets have taken over the breakroom?” She smolders at a birdcage.
Left the handsome man in that profile pic? violetsRblu asks. 2 bad. 1 woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure. U could do better anyway <3. Dicky agrees. This makes his him feel even better.
violetsRblu says: do u want 2 meet? I swear I’m not a Catfish. Dicky pictures a giant fish with a bullface and whiskers. He laughs. Of course she’s not. That would be silly. She gives him an address. He grabs his keys.
“Come out with your goddamn hands up, Dick,” a megaphone calls from outside. He turns off the monitor, freezes in the dark. A crash follows. Like lightning splitting wood. He's dragged to the ground.
The sixth voicemail: Um, Dicky, Ned Hewitt from Paws N Claws. Look, we’re in a bad way on account of we’ve been condemned and most of the animals had to be put down. Do you think you could swing by?
Dicky returns later to a house with no front door. Det. Ruby Flowers has no desk. Ned Hewitt has no pet shop. violetsRblu has no BlurbIt. A cellmate said she was probably a bot. Whatever that is.
About the Author
MATT STARR is a storyteller and corgi dad from Raleigh, NC.
His short fiction has appeared in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and his debut novella, 'Hell, or High Water' is a forthcoming title from Main Street Rag Publishing Co.
When Matt is not writing, you can find him at the local coffee shop or brewery, ranting about sports and politics to his brilliant girlfriend, Emily.