Hotline, by April Wolfe

Photo: ©
Written by April Wolfe

“General Complaints and Kvetching, how may I direct your call?”

“I’d like to report a woman for being unlikeable.”

“Yes, sir. I’d be happy to help with this complaint. Can you be more specific?”

“Yes, of course. The woman has hair and two legs and some… other things I’d rather not talk about.”

“Sir, I completely understand. I know this is sensitive. Is one of those things <whispers> a mouth?”

“Oh, please don’t…”

“I know this is difficult for you, so I’ll take that response as a ‘yes.'”

“I appreciate your discretion.”

“Of course. Is the offending… unmentionable the issue in question, sir?”

“I’m not sure.”

“You’re not sure?”

“Well, I wasn’t exactly looking at it.”

“It. Do you mean the woman or the… unmentionable.”

“Both, really.”

“I see.”

“I didn’t. But I certainly heard about it, and it made me quite angry about it.”

“I apologize for asking you to explicate, but if I could have a little more information on the its in question.”

“I knew this would happen. You’re making me relive the experience. I bet you don’t even believe me.”

“Oh, sir, I do. I promise you that we take these complaints very seriously. Gravely even.”

“Good. This is a very grave matter.”

“Yes, it is. May I ask: If you did not see it, where was… it?”

“It was everywhere.”

“If it was everywhere, does that stand that it was also nowhere?”

“I’m not following.”

“Never mind. I’ll make a note that it was last seen in ‘multiple locations.'”

“Look, I love my wife.”

“Obviously. One would never doubt that.”

“And my mother.”

“You’d be a monster if you didn’t.”

“I just need you to know that.”

“Sir, this is completely confidential, no judgments. But I will need you to tell me what it is that the mouth — the unmentionable, sorry — said that caused you to register this complaint today.”

“Today? I mean, it’s been a long time coming. From my teacher Mrs. Novakowski in 8th grade to the woman expecting me to give up my seat on the bus because she had to go and get herself knocked up, and I know she didn’t say anything, but the way her face squinched up when we went over that bump and she fell into the stairwell… I knew that look was for me.”

“Did you feel attacked?”

“I’m glad you used that word. I’ve been hesitant myself. But that’s how I’ve felt. It’s like there’s… I dunno, like a war on… me. Like there’s a war on me.”

“That sounds frightening.”

“Honestly, it’s made me afraid to go in public. If I even show myself in daylight, it’s like I’m asking for a woman to say something to me. ‘Excuse me,’ ‘I was actually in line here,’ ‘Sorry, I have a boyfriend.'”

“Your… wife?”

“Oh, now it’s you, too, huh? Can’t a man pay a stranger a compliment anymore?! Can’t a man offer a shoulder massage to another human being?! Can’t a man tug gently on a silk shirtsleeve while fondling his genitals?!”

“Sir, I apologize. I was just collecting a bit more information to pass on to my superiors.”

“Sure, your superiors. I bet you and your girlfriends over there just sit around drinking coffee, sharing the personal details of all the victims who call you.”

“Sir, I can guarantee you that—”

“You’re just like all the rest. You know what? Let me talk to one of your superiors. You put them right on the phone this minute.”

“Sir, I… Of course. One moment. As always, your comfort is our greatest concern. One moment.”

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<Economic collapse>


<Idi Amin>









“Hello, this is Merle of the General Complaining and Kvetching hotline. Sorry for the wait. I was told you’d like to speak to me? You’ve been holding for quite a long time, so this must really be quite important.”

“Yes, I’d like to report an unlikeable woman.”


April Wolfe was the lead film critic for LA Weekly. You can hear her on the film podcasts Who Shot Ya? and Switchblade Sisters.