Silence is golden

Harold Gelman was having a bad dream. He was aboard a pirate boat and the pirates surrounded him, pushing him back and forth to one another. “Arrr!” said the pirate captain, “where be your booty?”

Harold immediately put his hands behind him and protected his rear end. “No! No! I don’t want to!” he cried.

The pirate captain looked at him confused. “Arrr. Why ye be holdin’ yer hands at yer bum, laddie?”

“You said you wanted my booty.” replied Harold.

“Arr. You be thinkin’ your arse be valuable? We want yer gold, lubber. Hand it over and we might let ye live.”

“If you wanted my money why did you ask for my booty?” asked Harold. The pirate captain looked more confused. “Booty. It means butt.”

“Arrr. Booty means valuable ye dimwit. Ye sure talk in mysterious ways.” said the captain.

“I talk funny?” said Harold. “You’re the one who keep saying ‘arrr.’ What does that mean anyway?”

“Arrr. And I have had it wit’ ye. Keelhaul the blackguard!” yelled the captain. “Ties him to the missin’ mast!” yelled the mate. “Throw him from the gun whale!” hollered another. Rough hands seized Harold and threw him to the deck roughly.

“No!” shouted Harold. He was wakened by his own shout and realized he was on the floor of his bedroom. “Oh, wow. What an awful dream.” he said aloud.

“It’s no dream, sweetcheeks.” said an unfamiliar voice in the dark. Harold scooted toward his bed and reached up to turn on the lamp on his bedside table. His eyes widened as he saw two men dressed in black standing over him. Both were wearing ski masks to hide their faces and they each wore black leather gloves. ¬†Harold gasped when he noted that one was wearing brass knuckles and the other held a baseball bat.

“W-w-w-what do you want?” ¬†stuttered Harold. “I don’t have anything of value. I’m not rich, I just sell stuff from my website on the Internet. I’m not very profitable yet.”

“That’s what we’re here about.” said the taller of the two intruders. “Your damn website.”

“What about it? Am I competing with you? Is that it?”

“No. This isn’t about competition. It’s about courtesy.” said the tall one.

“I-I don’t understand.” said Harold.

“So, last night,” began the tall intruder, “my wife and kids are asleep but I have insomnia. So I’m on my computer, just browsing around, see? I see a link for a website that offers car parts for older vehicles.”

“Me? My website?” asks Harold.

“Yeah, your website. So I click on the link and suddenly the computer is playing this awful music and it’s loud. I’m looking for a way to shut it off but there’s no link or button that says ‘mute.’ I’m in a panic because it’s so loud I can’t think and it takes me a minute to think to pull the speaker jack out of the computer. By then though, my kids are awake and crying, my wife is awake and pissed because she has to get up early for work. It takes us a half hour to calm the kids and get them back to sleep and another hour before my wife finally drops off again. This morning my wife and kids have dark circles under their eyes and everybody is in a bad mood. Later, my wife gets called away from work because the kids are misbehaving at preschool because they’re cranky and my wife misses a half day of work. You say you aren’t rich, well, neither are we. That loss of half a days pay is going to hurt.”

“I-I-I’m sorry. But what does that have to do with me?”

“WHAT? Haven’t you been listening you jackass. This happened all because you can’t be like 99% of the rest of the web and just display your stuff on the screen. No, you have to ut music on your website. Crappy music at that. Why would you do that? What the hell were you thinking?” snarled the tall man.

“I was trying to make my website stand out. More enjoyable. To attract people.” whined Harold.

“Well, it worked. You attracted me and my friend here.”

“What are you going to do?” Harold could see the trace of a grin through the mouth hole of the ski mask. It wasn’t a friendly grin. Harold watched as the man began to look around the room. He picked up Harold’s pants and checked the pockets. Reaching in one, he pulled out Harold’s cell phone. It only took a few seconds for him to call up Harold’s contact list. For the next twenty minutes he dialed the numbers of business contacts and friends, let the phone ring until it was answered, then hung up. He went through the list three times before he finally opened up the back of the phone, took out the battery and pocketed it. Then he reached over and turned off the lamp beside Harold’s bed. A moment later the pair was gone. Harold didn’t hear them leave they were so quiet. He looked at his watch. It was three thirty in the morning.

cleftHarold wasn’t having a very good day. After having to buy a new battery for his phone it rang rather incessantly through the day as he heard from just about everyone he knew. They were angry at having been yanked from a sound sleep in the night. Harold’s explanation that two men had broken into his home and used his phone to make crank calls because he had music on his website sounded a lot to his callers like a four year old explaining to its mother that a wolf stole the cookie, and said so.

It took a few weeks for his friends and associates to put the incident behind them. It didn’t take nearly that long for Harold to silence his website.