“Tell Me What You Want” is a story about a man, Al, with a very secret, very taboo source of income. The story is written from Al’s perspective as he lays it all on the table. My goal of this story is to question what it means to be a provider, to be masculine, to be a partner. Is there a quiet dignity in every job?
- Most operators in Al’s line of work are stay-at-home (or, more accurately, work-at-home) moms.
- The rates in the story, 15 cents a minute during daytime hours, 35 cents a minute during late hours, are an accurate average approximation of payment for such work. As mentioned in the story, operators have to work with each client for at least 2 minutes to be paid.
- This story was inspired, in part, by a Las Vegas taxicab driver whom my husband and I met in November of 2012. Like Al, he was a teacher by profession, having taught history for over 15 years. He lost his job due to government cuts, and his marriage fell apart shortly after.
- When I introduced this story to its first readers I was surprised by how polarized they were. My readers either hated Al and loved Patricia, considering Al as deceitful and proud and Patricia as betrayed, carrying a good-for-nothin’ husband, or vice versa, considering Al a tragic hero, and Patricia a cold manipulator. I’d love to hear whose “team” you’re on; please comment on the Punchnel’s page, underneath the story.
- “Tell Me What You Want” is one story in a collection of shorts. All characters in the book mingle and interject, changing each other’s lives in various ways, and yet remaining strangers, all with a secret struggle.