The Woodtick

by Adam Graupe

Originally published in 3:00 AM Magazine

Since I was six years old, I have preferred to be alone and managed throughout my youth to keep most strangers at bay. At age 36, I sat in a conference room next to a 180-pound wood tick. He whispered to me, “Did you notice the wrinkles under Daisy’s eyes?  She looks like an old whore.” 

Daisy had walked out to retrieve some files. She returned and the wood tick acted friendly and charming toward her. 

The day ended and the wood tick asked me for my cell number in case he needed to get in touch with me for our presentation next month. I drove home and my cell rang. I looked down, didn’t recognize the number but answered. It was the wood tick. He talked incessantly asking me questions about the project we had to do and about our company. I didn’t think much of it as he was a new employee.  He talked on and I pulled in the driveway and said I had to go, he sounded annoyed but said goodbye. 

I awoke Saturday morning to my cell buzzing on the nightstand.  I picked up the cell and there was flashing envelope icon on the screen.  “What the hell?”  I thought.  I never received a text message before and my wife had to show me how retrieve the message:  “Standing in line at Starbucks waiting for a latte.”  I thought the message was a mistake.

I returned to work Monday morning and the wood tick shouted, “Thanks for not returning my text message!” I felt taken aback and didn’t say a word. Seven hours later, I steered my sedan home. My cell rang. I answered, the wood tick said, “How are you?” He talked on for an hour and I couldn’t end the call because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

Our presentation date passed and we divided into new workgroups. I thought this was the end of the wood tick. We would pass in a hallway and if there were others around he would act like I wasn’t there but if we were alone he would say hello. He called me on my commutes to complain about coworkers and texted me up to a dozen times a day about the most inane things: “Grapefruit’s on sale at Corby’s.” I’d come home from work exhausted and my wife would ask what was wrong and I’d explain the wood tick had sucked the life out of me. 

One time in a meeting, I said hello to him and he said nothing. On my way home that day he called me and started complaining about work. I said, “Please, stop calling me I can’t take this anymore.” He screamed,“You’re crazy!" The phone went dead. 

Next morning I walked into the office and I overheard the wood tick complaining about someone, and I heard my name and realized he was talking about me and how crazy I was and didn’t do my share of work etc.  I walked into the room and he said, “Hi Ernie,” as if he were talking to a mental patient. 

I thought, “Well, fine, at least he will stop calling me every day.”

That night I drove home and my cell rang.  It was the wood tick, and I thought he was calling to apologize. I answered and he started babbling as if nothing had happened. I hung up on him, pulled my sedan to the shoulder, and typed a message: “LEAVE ME THE F---ALONE DON’T EVER CONTACT ME AGAIN.” I clicked send.

I’ve always been inept at technology. Somehow, I sent that message to everyone in the phonebook of my cell. My wife, boss, mother, grandmother, boss’s boss, coworkers, relatives and friends all received my text. I had to make numerous apologies and explanations to everyone but the wood tick. He sent a text instantly:  “YOU ARE FINALLY SHOWING A SENSE OF HUMOR.”  

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