Sorry, wrong number...
Then, every now and then, it gets too weird. Such was the case when a man called me on a Saturday night in the early 1990s. We had never met. He’d read an issue of SLANT and said he had to talk with me, right then, because I was such a good writer...
Naturally, he was calling from a bar.
Well, I was watching a movie with my then-girlfriend, so I didn’t want to have a long conversation. It was late and the more this strange-sounding character talked, the less comfortable I felt about having anything to do with him. He said he had a story he had to tell me, something I had to write about.
Then he started babbling about religion. Uh, oh...
So, I told him I didn’t want to meet with him that night, as he had been suggesting. Still, I thanked him for the compliment and asked him to call back during business hours, if he wanted to talk any more. I don’t remember his name, now, but I did when I told the story of his odd phone call to some friends a couple of days later at Happy Hour.
One of them promptly recognized his name. “You remember him,” he said, “that was the crazy guy they found on the Huguenot Bridge, maybe in February, about a year ago. He was bleeding to death.” According to the story in the newspaper my Saturday night fan had apparently bought into one of those old-world axioms. It was something like -- if thy right arm offends thee, cut it off.
My fan, obviously a religious man, went down to the wooded area north of the bridge. He put his offending arm into the canal water to numb it. Then he chunked his arm into a fork in a small tree’s limbs, took out his hacksaw, and he sawed that bad arm off, just below the elbow.
Everyone at the bar, except me, chuckled. I was busy wondering why such a determined nut would want to talk to me about anything? What had I written that had set him off? Would he call back?
It was hardly the first time I’d been approached by a creepy reader, but this one -- he sawed his arm off! -- was especially disturbing. Quite naturally, now I think a little more about what I write, sometimes, in a way I didn’t before that incident.
Blogging opens the door to all sorts of possibilities. While I am happy to discuss readers’ reactions to my work, there has to be a limit to what I will put up with. Yet, in the blogosphere, it appears there are always going to be those who will test those limits. The story above is just one of the reasons I won’t suffer fools of a particular stripe but for so long.
Furthermore, I urge other bloggers to be careful how much you engage unreasonable people who don’t really mean well at all. Some will try your patience, and a few of them may be out of control in a dark way you don’t want to know about.