Just Sign Here
Updated: Apr 27, 2019
Welcome to my story blog.
It is dedicated for sharing my short stories with you. Some of them I have written over the years, while others are current and original content.
This endeavor is me finding the courage to just put "my stuff" out there. I write the way I cook: the same way I make my pasta Bolognese so I can enjoy it the most, and the same with writing my stories. I was never nervous about letting someone read my stories or any other creative creation, but rather the archaic notion that if I make my work public, it would be because somebody paid me to do so.
As I approach the age of 40 I guess I'm slowly crumbling old ideas, and feeling that I just want people to taste my pasta Bolognese, and other stuff I make.
The first story I'm posting is "Just Sign Here" - which I wrote about 3 years ago. The idea for it was running around my head for about 10 years. Enjoy!
Just Sign Here
by Oded Naaman
For him, it was a pleasant enough evening.
They sat in their favorite little Italian restaurant, ate their favorite food, and talked about their day. It seemed like any other dinner they had in the past six months (not counting the ones where they just watched some television together and no conversation was needed).
Only when they both drank their espresso (that was one of the things he loved about her: the fact that she could drink three or four of those without it affecting her ability to fall asleep), she said the sentence that changed everything: “We need to talk.”
What happened from that point, he had already experienced way too many times before: “It’s not you, it’s me”; “I’m not in that place of my life right now”; “It seems we want different things from life.” He sat there silently, and when she finished and noticed he wasn’t going to react, she just stood up, kissed him on the forehead and walked away.
“Wow. She didn’t even offer to pay her part of the bill.” A voice woke him up from his deep thoughts about the meaning of life. He looked up to see a man in an expensive black suit. He sat in front of him, in the chair where she sat just a few minutes ago.
“Do you mind if I sit here?” He said after the fact.
“Actually…” But the man in the suit was already signaling the waiter to bring him an espresso as well.
“My name is Jenkins. Joe Jenkins. You?” He turned back and presented his hand.
“Uhhh… Clark. Clark Green.” Clark took the man’s hand and hesitantly shook it.
“That was brutal, what just happened,” Jenkins said with a knowing nod.
“Yes. Ahhh… Mr. Jenkins is it?” Clark was so confused. “I really appreciate your interest, but I also really want to be alone right now.”
“You really liked her,” Jenkins said as he took the espresso cup from the waiter’s hands, and drank it in one sip.
“I don’t think I want to talk about this with you.”
“Fair enough. But let me just tell you this, Mr. Green: I can help you.” He took a business card out of his jacket’s pocket and handed it to Clark.
Clark took it from his hand and looked at it: Second Chance – Relationship Insurance, it said. And beneath the heading was the contact information for Joseph Jenkins, Head of Sales.
“You’re trying to sell me insurance?” Clark said, confused.
“Not just insurance, Mr. Green. Relationship Insurance.” Jenkins leaned towards him. “I can make sure you will never feel what you’re feeling right now.”
“So if I buy your insurance, I can get Jane back?” Clark almost laughed.
“Oh no.” Jenkins leaned back. “Like every insurance, you can’t submit a claim for a previous injury. Jane is old news.”
“But from now on,” Jenkins continued, “your relationships will be completely insured.”
“But what does that mean?” Clark said.
Jenkins looked at his watch. A real Rolex.
“I have to go,” he said, standing up. “Call me to set an appointment up and we can discuss this further.”
He dropped two $100 bills on the table.
“Dinner is on me,” and he walked away.
Clark couldn’t move for a while, heavy with the day’s events. At some point, he stood up and left the restaurant, still holding the business card in his hand.
It took him four months to start dating again, and about fifteen dates to finally meet someone who actually piqued his interest, and apparently he piqued hers. It didn’t take him long to completely fall in love with her. He dated Annie for six months, and at almost the same mark as his previous relationship, she had almost the exact same conversation with him, and broke his heart.
He was miserable for weeks. He hardly slept, using the night to stalk her on Facebook, trying to figure out what went wrong, trying to pick up on whether she was already dating again. She was.
It was one of those sleepless nights when he finally remembered that he still had Jenkins’ card in the back of his wallet. He took it out and started dialing.
“Hello?” said a voice on the other side, and only then did Clark realize he was calling in the middle of the night.
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking. It’s so late…” he mumbled into the phone.
“That’s OK. You might not believe it, but seventy-eight percent of the calls I get are in the middle of the night. I wasn’t sleeping. Don’t worry about it. How can I help you?”
“My name is Clark. Clark Green. We met…”
“Yes. Of course. I remember you, Mr. Green. How have you been?” he cut Clark off.
“Well… Not so well. My girlfriend just broke up with me… and you know… I…”
“Say no more, Mr. Clark. Come to my office first thing in the morning. I’ll text you the address to this phone number. Is 8 AM good for you?”
“Sure…” Clark wasn’t really sure what was happening.
“Great. See you tomorrow morning.” And Jenkins hung up.
Not two seconds after that, he got the text message with the address. Clark went back to bed, and not long after that, he fell asleep.
“You look tired.” Jenkins placed a cup of espresso in front of Clark.
“Haven’t been sleeping a lot lately.” Clark sipped halfheartedly at his coffee.
“I get that.” Jenkins sat in front of him, on the opposite side of his big fancy desk.
It was a large, modern office, located on the forty-second floor of a building downtown. Clark had walked by it many times before, not knowing this was where Second Chances was based. There were other salespeople, or whatever they were, sitting in their offices, talking to other potential clients, but the walls were probably soundproof, since Clark couldn’t hear anything that was being said.
“So, is this like a dating company? You get me a date if I get dumped?” Clark turned to Jenkins.
“Oh no. We provide you with a relationship if you get dumped.” Jenkins smiled.
“But how does that work?”
“You pay us a premium every month, just like your car insurance. If your relationship doesn’t work out, you file a claim, and we provide you with a new one. A new relationship.”
“Yes, but how does it work?” Clark was baffled.
“I really don’t understand the question, Mr. Green,” said Jenkins with a sealed face.
“But…” Clark started to ask, but Jenkins waved his hand to stop him.
“Let’s go over our options, shall we?”
Jenkins took a remote control in his hand and turned on the big screen that was mounted on the wall. A slideshow popped onto the screen.
“We have three basic packages. The simplest one is called The Wild Card.”
“What is that?” Clark asked.
“You don’t know what you get. All you know is that you get a relationship replacement.” Jenkins answered, and clicked the remote to move to the next slide. “This is our mid-range option. It’s called The Perfect Match.”
“You’re getting me someone suitable for my personality? So it is like matchmaking.” Clark grimaced.
“No. You get an almost exact replica relationship of the one you lost,” Jenkins replied.
“So I’m getting the person back?”
“That’s a different option. Or, more to the point, an add-on. In The Perfect Match, you get a relationship similar in every way to the one you had.”
“But…” Before Clark could ask his question, Jenkins had already moved on to the next slide.
“And our premium package is called Love at First Sight. It’s our most expensive and luxurious package.” He was smiling ear to ear.
This time Clark waited for him to explain.
“The person you will meet will be amazing. Perfect in every way. Not only will you fall immediately in love with her, but she will fall in love with you right away. And we can guarantee you stay in love for five years.”
“Both of us?” Clark was skeptical.
“Both of you. Guaranteed.” Jenkins leaned back.
Maybe it was the dark goo in his stomach, or the fact that he hadn’t slept for two weeks, but he immediately said, “That’s the one I want.”
Jenkins leaned over, smiling.
“You won’t regret it!” He opened up a drawer and pulled out a large folder filled with papers, opened it, and pointed to the first page. “Just so there won’t be any misunderstandings, this is the monthly payment.”
Clark glanced at the number and gasped.
“Problem?” Jenkins asked.
Once again, he wasn’t sure what propelled him to do it, but he said, “No.”
“Good.” Jenkins flipped the pages quickly and went to the last one. “Just sign here.”
He handed Clark a pen.
“Shouldn’t I read it first?” Clark said while taking the pen.
“Sure. You can take it home and sign later.” Jenkins put his hands behind his head. “Take your time. Just know that if you start a relationship before you sign, it won’t apply to it.”
“I don’t think I’ll meet someone by the end of today. Or this week, for that matter.”
“Right. But who knows?”
Clark sat there frozen for a few seconds, holding the pen. Then he was about to start signing when he stopped and looked at Jenkins.
“You were talking about add-ons?”
“Ahh yes. The add-ons.” Jenkins straightened himself up and clicked the remote.
The slide changed.
“As you can see, we have three major add-ons. The first one, we already talked about. It’s actually securing the person you lost to continue the same relationship. The second is insuring you if you break up with someone.”
“If I break up with someone?”
“Yes. Our standard policy only protects you if you get dumped. If you are the one who is initiating the end of the relationship, and you want to make a claim, you have to pay for the add-on.”
“And the third one?” Clark asked.
“Part of the fine print is that you can only use each policy option once. If you activate Love at First Sight once, you can’t claim that again. The third add-on allows you to submit a claim up to three times.”
“I see. And the prices?”
Jenkins clicked for the next slide and when Clark saw the prices he shook his head quickly.
“No, no. The standard package will be enough for now.”
“Fair enough.” Jenkins said.
Clark took a deep breath and signed.
Jenkins reached out his hand, and Clark shook it.
“Congratulations! I’m so happy for you!” Jenkins smiled a big smile. “Here’s our customer service number and some more instructions on how to make a claim.”
He gave Clark a brochure.
“What now?” asked Clark.
“Now? Now, like every insurance, I hope you’ll never need us.”
Clark felt cleansed after signing the policy. Not long afterwards, he started dating again. Soon enough he found someone.
It was great at first. First date, second date, sex, meeting parents, meeting friends. But almost to the day, at the six-month mark, she broke up with him.
Something inside Clark told him that maybe he self-sabotaged this relationship just so he could make the claim on his policy.
Panicked, he realized he didn’t remember where he put the brochure. Frantically, he searched the entire house, only to find it at the bottom of his old tax filing box. It was late. Clark read the brochure carefully. Twenty-four-hour customer service, it stated.
Clark grabbed his phone and dialed.
“Second Chance Customer Service. This is Jeanine. May I have your customer number please?”
“Customer Number? I don’t have it…”
“No worries. May I have your first and last name?”
He gave them to her.
“And your date of birth?”
He gave her that as well.
“There we go, Mr. Green. How may we help you today?”
“I’d like to make a claim,” Clark said, excited.
“Wonderful. Or maybe I should say I’m sorry?” Jeanine was trying to be politically correct.
“It’s OK,” Clark replied.
“Good. So I see you have the Love at First Sight package.”
“Ok. I filed the claim. Have a good night.” Jeanine said cheerfully.
“Wait!” Clark yelled into the phone.
“Yes?” Jeanine said in a dry voice.
“Yep. That’s it.”
“But… When…? Where…?”
“I’m not really qualified to answer those questions about the process. You can call your agent in the morning. It’s… Mr. Jenkins.”
“Yes,” Clark said.
“Well, have a good night, Mr. Green.” And she hung up.
Clark tried calling Jenkins, but he got a voice mail. Since there was nothing else he could do, he lay in his bed and slowly fell asleep.
The next day on his way to work, he got a phone call from a number he didn’t recognize.
“Mr. Green? Clark? My name is Alex. We need to meet to discuss the claim you made.”
“Is there a problem?” Clark had a feeling this whole thing may have been a scam after all.
“No problem, just need to meet as soon as possible.”
“OK. How about lunch? I work downtown.”
“That’s perfect. You know Bernie’s?” she asked.
“Let’s meet there at 12:30.”
“See you soon!”
Clark hung up the phone.
Alex was everything he ever dreamed of. Gorgeous, smart, independent, great sense of humor, and she brought out everything that was good in him.
From that first meeting, it was clear to both of them that they were meant to be with each other. They were in love and not afraid to show it to the world. Every day with her was a new adventure.
Clark was, simply put, happy.
After six months of dating Alex, he got a phone call.
A familiar voice was on the other side. “Mr. Green? This is Jeanine from Second Chance.”
“We’re calling to see if you’re happy with how things turned out after you submitted your claim” Jeanine said sweetly.
“Very much so.” Clark said “Thank you for everything.”
“Glad to hear it.” Jeanine almost sounded sincere. “But there’s one thing we need to talk about. Since you used Love at First Sight, you now need to choose another option, or buy the add-on that allows you to reuse First Sight.”
Clark almost said to her he just wanted to cancel the policy, but something stopped him.
“Let’s change it to… what is it called? The Wild Card?” Clark eventually said.
“Good, good,” Jeanine replied. “But let me suggest something. Our research shows that users of First Sight find the switch to Wild Card a jarring transition. I suggest choosing Perfect Match.”
“Fine,” Clark said.
“Let us know if there’s anything else we can do for you.” Jeanine hung up.
After a year, Clark proposed to Alex, and she immediately said yes. They married in a small wedding with a few friends and family, everybody approving this wonderful relationship. His parents loved her and his parents loved him. Their friends became one big group. It was perfect.
Two years into their marriage, their son was born. She was an amazing mother, he was a wonderful father, and they were just a little happy family.
After five years, it all changed.
It came out of nowhere for him. She invited him to dinner one evening, and told him she didn’t feel the same way anymore. She wanted a divorce.
“Let’s do it like two adults,” she said. “Let’s not make it harder on our son.”
That day she packed a bag and moved to her parents’ house.
Clark was angry, frustrated, but most of all sad. He still felt the same way about her, about them, and it hurt like no pain he had ever felt before.
After a week of self-reflection, he called customer service.
“I want to buy the add-on. The one that brings her back to me,” he told Jeanine.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Green, but you can’t apply an add-on to an existing policy. Only to your next one.” Jeanine was unsympathetic.
He started yelling. Begging. Bargaining. But Jeanine remained unhelpful. He slammed the phone down.
A few minutes later the phone rang.
“Mr. Green?” A familiar voice was on the other side “It’s Joe Jenkins. I just heard from Jeanine you may be unhappy.”
“Indeed,” Clark said.
“We’ve been talking here, and since you’re a good customer, we’re willing to offer you the opportunity to purchase the add-on just this time.”
“Yes. But it will cost you a special premium.”
“I don’t mind. I’ll pay anything.” And he did. A lot.
The next day Alex called him and said that after their conversation she had done some heavy soul searching and discovered how much she still loved him.
“Will you take me back?” she sobbed.
The next year felt like their first year together. They rediscovered everything that was missing from their relationship, and then some. It was like they were a whole new couple, with all the familiarities and comfort of an old one. It was like heaven.
But when that year ended, she told him she was sleeping with someone else.
“We’re in love. I’m moving in with him.” She added no further explanation.
When he called customer service, Jeanine was able to clarify.
“Our add-on is only good for one year. It’s in the contract.”
Clark asked a lawyer friend to take a look at the policy.
“It’s iron-clad.” He offered no comfort to Clark “Nothing you can do about it”.
Reluctantly, Clark called Jeanine again.
“I want to make a claim.” He had no more fight in him.
“Wonderful! I’m activating The Perfect Match now!” Jeanine was more cheerful than ever.
That evening, he walked around the empty house for a while. Alex had taken their son with her, but they arranged a visitation schedule. He ordered pizza and watched some television. Then he went to bed and fell asleep.
In the morning when he woke up, there was a stranger in the bed next to him. For some reason he didn’t freak out. He just watched her sleep for a while.
She opened her eyes and smiled at him.
“Good morning,” she said, and kissed him.
She got out of bed.
“I’ll make us some breakfast.” She walked towards the kitchen. “I’m Peg, by the way”.
Clark sat in bed for a few minutes and then went to take a shower. When he got out, breakfast was ready for him. How she had known his favorites was a puzzle to him, but they just sat there and talked. For a moment, Clark thought how strange it all was, but then he realized he just didn’t care.