My Story #28 submission: ‘I Hate Housecleaning and Uninvited Guests’

This is my submission to Writer’s Digest’s Contest #28. The prompt is: “a person does weekly housecleaning and finds an unfamiliar cell phone in the cushions of their couch–but can’t recall having had any recent visitor. It rings.”

Note: This story does contain some profanity.

“I Hate Housecleaning and Uninvited Guests”

By Richard Zowie

Housecleaning sucks.

It’s a necessary evil, which I’d compare to voting–if I were a registered voter. Clutter, unwashed dishes, unfolded clean clothes and unsorted mail bring unwanted attention, the last thing I need.

So, each week I clean.

When vacuuming the sofa, I remove the cushions and vacuum the crevices since sometimes crumbs will get into the couch while I’m eating and watching old episodes of Dexter (what an amateur!) or Nip/Tuck on Netflix.

I live alone and don’t like questions. If someone ventured into my basement and saw the medical equipment, they’d probably wonder why a work-at-home copywriter needs tools normally needed for removing organs and appendages.

And as I vacuumed the sofa this time, I heard the familiar WHHHHRRRRRR! sound and the gritty vacuumed crumbs. More crumbs than usual this week. I’ll have to be careful not to eat while hearing prospective patients answer Dr. Troy and Dr. McNamara’s trademark request, “Tell me what you don’t like about yourself.” Or when watching the news just to make sure I’m not on it.


The vacuum strained, perhaps like a snake swallowing an animal several times its size. Did I leave the remote control in the couch? I wondered, looking at the end table and seeing the three-in-one remote present and accounted for.

As I lifted the attachment, I could see it sucking onto a cell phone. It was silver Sprint phone, scuffed as if dropped a few times. I have a cell phone, but it’s a black Verizon.

Curious, I opened it and saw the number pad illuminate, as if waiting for me to dial a number. The screen showed the correct time and date and a picture of a guitarist with wild pale eyes alive with mascara.

Someone has been in my house, I thought, my stomach boiling with an ulcer. This is not good at all. If they’ve been inside I must assume they’ve seen EVERYTHING.

It was Monday, and I had spent all of Sunday at Cedar Point, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. I rarely leave my house for that long, but I needed a break.

A quick glance around my house showed nothing missing. The basement was locked, no sign of attempted entry. The safe was still in my bedroom. They must’ve either been on a tight clock or just chickened out. Perhaps the group’s lookout, while sitting on the couch and stealing glances out the window, shifted and didn’t realize his cell phone sliding out of his pants pocket down between the cushions. It must’ve been three guys, I presumed. Two to work together and one to make sure all was clear. Perhaps they heard a distant police siren, panicked and bolted.

DOOOOO YOU HAVE THE TIME, TO LISTEN TO ME WHINE?” someone abruptly sang as they played guitar, startling me. The cell phone’s screen lit up and read “Billy Z”, whoever that was.

I pressed the green button and said, “Hello?”

“Can I have my phone back?” an annoyed young man asked.

“W-w-why were you in my house?” I asked, sounding weak and defensive.

“Don’t worry about it, asshole, just meet me in an hour–”

“You must come to my house and get it,” I said, hoping I sounded as though I’d soiled my pants. “I won’t call the p-p-police.” Of course I wouldn’t. If I spoke to the police they’d probably visit and ask questions and develop a case of sticky fingers like that annoying Vincent D’Onofrio prick on Law and Order: Criminal Intent.

He sighed. “If you give us a hard time, we might just have to rape your wifey.”

I said nothing at first as I realized he and his friends were amateurs. A quick glance at my home would reveal I lived by myself. No wife. No girlfriends. No sisters.

“I’ll be w-w-waiting for you,” I said.

“O-o-o-ok!” he laughed as he hung up.

I laughed heartily and after a quick trip to my basement, I sat down on the couch and waited. Hidden on my person was my stun gun, and they would never see it coming. I’d done it many times against far more dangerous people.

As I sat on the couch kept glancing out the window to see if a vehicle with three young men had pulled up, I wondered. What did they know and had they told anyone? How would I dispose of the bodies?

I might even have to question them in that special soundproof room in the basement.

Richard Zowie is a Michigan-based writer. Post comments here or e-mail him at

There’s a new used bookstore in Frankenmuth, Michigan!

It’s called Charlin’s Book Nook, and it’s located in Frankenmuth, Michigan on 154 South Main Street, Suite 4. Their phone number is 989-652-2900. Their store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Thursday-Saturday and then on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

The store is owned by Charlene Barber and Linda Strappazon.

Its e-mail address is

I’ve been there a few times and have purchased three books: a Gideon New King James Bible (which my middle son uses for church), Friday Night Lights and The Dark Half. I took my three sons there recently, and the two youngest each bought a book (one a book on Wishbone the dog and the other a Goosebumps book). The oldest, who likes to read about paranormal activities, didn’t see a book that he fancied.

I hope soon to take my wife, Jennifer, since the store has two types of books she really likes: mysteries (such as Nancy Drew) and true crime stories.

The owners tell me business is going well so far, and I hope it continues. It is so nice to have a used bookstore nearby, and I hope it becomes a mainstay.

Charlin’s Book Nook.

Richard Zowie enjoys reading and wishes he could do it for a living. Post comments here or e-mail him at

Deciding whether to terminate a ‘free’ client

I recently blogged about this topic, so I’ll try to keep this “revisit” brief.

My wife and executive editor, Jennifer, is a firm believer in my writing career. One thing, however, she has very strongly encouraged me to do is limit the number of “free” clients I have.

In my career, I’ve written for free for several publications. My column, From A to Zowie (originally titled My Two Cents and then Richard’s Ramblings), has appeared for free in the Beeville Bee-Picayune since 2001. My Christian issues column, Richard’s Two Shekels (originally My Two Shekels) has appeared for free in the San Antonio Christian Beacon, and the Olive Branch Press. I’ve also blogged for free or for next to nothing at several locations.

There is one client, whom I will not name, that I am about to end my relationship with. It’s been one where my name and my blog–when I do blog–get posted on the website of one of a daily metro newspaper. The publisher of the blog talks frequently about, sure, he can’t pay bloggers any money, but bloggers who write without charge will get offered paying writing assignments from interested clients who read their postings.

In the year I’ve written postings for this client, you know how many paid assignments I’ve been offered?


I’m not the best writer out there, but I think I’m a darned good one. On many occasions my writing has resulted in freelance checks that have paid for rent, electric bills, propane, auto repairs and groceries.

What also disgusts me about the website is that it’s supposed to be geared toward a certain genre of writing, but more often than not the blog postings that generate the most attention are the ones that focus on sex: the prettiest women in this region, the nicest breasts in this region, and so on.


It’s as annoying as the auto magazines that show on their covers near-nude double-D-cup women with erection-inducing bikinis and five-inch high heels.

So, I am starting to believe it is no longer in my best interest to keep blogging for this client.

Richard Zowie tries to stay busy in his writing life and believes it’s far better to be busy than unemployed. Post comments here or e-mail him at