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Memo To Self
by David Kelley

Donovan loved gadgets. Not antiques, because those had no useful purpose except to sit somewhere and collect dust. No, Donovan loved gadgets. Items that had a use, a function, a value.  For instance, his latest find was one of those Memo-to-Self doodads that people used about twenty years ago. Donovan had gotten many a good laugh out of self-absorbed folks who would wander around a store or at work with the little tape recorder saying things like, “memo to self: remember to go by grocery store”, “memo to self—get cat litter”. Almost as bad as what non-attention payers did today with smart phones, I Pads, and other annoyances. Yes, Donovan loved gadgets and this one actually still worked.

“Hey Becker,” he yelled over to his neighbor. “Dig on this thing I got yesterday.”

Becker knew better but got involved anyway.

“Check it out, Becker. A memo-to-self recorder that still works. Cost me all of five bucks”.

Wonderful, thought Becker. All the man needs is more stuff around the house. He already had plenty to keep him busy for the next 17 years but Becker knew that Donovan could get obsessed at times, especially now that he was single. The divorce had hit Donovan hard, Becker knew, so he was willing to cut the guy some slack.

“And just what are you doing to do with it?” Becker asked. He knew better but he did have some time to kill before the NASCAR race came on.

“Going to do memos-to-self about all of those people and things that drive me crazy. You know, like Perkins over there who lets his dog go wherever he wants and do what dogs do when they can go wherever they want. Like lazy morons who can’t return shopping carts to corrals. Like dimbulbs who don’t understand how to use a turn signal. Stuff like that. Gonna record it when it happens and then try to think up a way to let those asses know they are being asses.”

Well, thought Becker, at least it was a project. Would give the guy something to do between football games and grilling.

“Then,” continued Donovan without even missing a beat, “gonna erase the tape and not let that ass get to me anymore. Would leave more room on tape for more memos-to-self bout other asses.”
“Memo to Self—Perkins’ dog is making a mess in the azaleas across the street.  Remind myself to say something to Perkins and his dog.  Might even deposit what the dog deposited on Perkins’ own front porch.”

And so began Donovan’s Annoyance Reminder Project.

A couple of days later Donovan was wandering around his back yard when Becker came outside. 

“Hey, Becker,” the call came over, “have you seen Perkins lately?”

“Can’t say that I have. Why, still irritated over the dog and azaleas incident?”

“Nope. Just wondering where he was. I erased his entry on the memo thing and haven’t thought much about him since. Just haven’t seen him for a few days.”

It was a little weird, thought Becker. It was like Perkins had just disappeared. His dog, too. His house looked like no one was at home which was true since his wife and kids were visiting the grandfolks. Interesting.

Meanwhile, Donovan was happy as all get out, making entries, plotting revenge and then erasing the tapes. He claimed this prevented those asses from having any control over him. One particular entry he was especially proud of. It involved a car that every single day came down the road, at exactly the same time, and either couldn’t read the speed limit or assumed it didn’t pertain to him. Donovan was standing there, recorder in hand when the ass zoomed by, not even trying to slow down or use its turn signal, reciting his venom and plotting his move.

“Hey, Donovan,” asked Becker a few days later, “plot your get even move on the speeder jerk?”

“Was going to. But went ahead and erased the tape. Can’t be worry about dumbasses who probably can’t learn. Anyway, I haven’t seen him for a few days now. Maybe he’s found a different street to annoy.”

Becker began to notice some things that at first he found coincidental but seemed to be forming a pattern. Donovan would make an entry into his recorder, ponder on revenge or action, and eventually erase the tape. The interesting thing was that the person or object of Donovan’s annoyance would seemingly disappear, or at least not be around anymore. Becker noticed that more neighbors seemed to be gone a lot more, house along the street showing no signs of life. He also recalled that Donovan was no longer talking about “her”, the ex who had put him through a pretty good resemblance of Hell during the divorce. Becker remembered that he had heard Donovan blasting away into his recorder about her numerous negative attributes, and thought about asking if he had erased the tape.

“Yep,” was the reply. “Erased the tape and that psycho is out of my mind now. Clarity and focus, Becker, that’s what I have now. Clarity and focus.”

Becker didn’t tell Donovan that she hadn’t been at work for several days now, and no one could get hold of her. He knew this because his wife got her nails done at the salon next door to where Donovan’s ex had her shops. Like she had just disappeared.


“Hey, Becker!”

“Who pissed you off this time?” Becker was beginning to have some curious thoughts but hadn’t said anything yet. After all, what could he say? But he did notice that Donovan was still having a fun time with his recorder, prowling around the yard or up and down the street.

Have you gotten your newspapers this week? Haven’t seen mine for four days now.”

“No, we cancelled the subscriptions. What’s the problem?”

“Got tired of mine being chunked over into Vince’s yard. Made a memo to call circulation and let them know about it. Hell’s Bells, no sports page is a pisser way to start the day.”

“Let me guess, Donovan. You thought about it, pondered some more and then just erased the tape without doing anything. Right?”

“Well, yeah. Figured circulation folks wouldn’t do anything anyway. Wonder if Barnes if getting his papers? Haven’t even seen the carrier go by this week. Very punctual those folks.”

Becker couldn’t quite put his finger on it but something was weird. Like Donovan making memos about what he considered rude cashiers at the grocery store and then Becker noticing a lot of staff vacancies and positions being advertised. 


Becker began paying a bit more attention to his neighbor, especially when Donovan was roaming around with his little memo recorder. Ever since Donovan had found that thing, Becker mused, some fairly bizarre things had been happening. Today, though, it looked like Donovan was simply in a grilling mood, as Becker watched his neighbor uncover and get ready his big grill, the one called Barnabas. Becker had to admit that Donovan did know how to use a grill. After all, if a man has ten of them he surely knows what to do with them.  For some reason, Becker felt it very important for Donovan to stay in a good mood.

“Hey, Donovan!” Becker yelled over the fence, “anyone pissing you off today?  Haven’t seen you doing your memo recordings lately.”

“Been a little bummed the past few days,” was the murmured reply. “Thought some serious grilling would help the mood.”

Keep him focused, thought Becker. Keep him focused.

Becker did a quick check of what all Donovan had on the patio table and was relieved, why he wasn’t sure, not to see the Memonator, as he now called it.

“Doing some ribs and marinated thighs,” Donovan reported. “I would tell you what all I used for the rubs and marinades, but then I would have to kill you.”

Becker hoped he was just kidding about that last comment. Actually, being killed might be preferable to being “memoed”, considering some of the things Becker had been noticing.  For example, just last week Donovan had gone off about the roofers who were leaving nails, trash, and other junk laying around while redoing the Landers’ home. Did the memo-to-self about contacting their office people, ranted some, eventually erased it. However, the roof was still unfinished and Landers hadn’t been able to locate the crew for five days. Calls to their company went unanswered and Landers was sure he had been scammed. Becker also recalled the satellite truck that had been working at the Murphy’s house and which now had gone and left the job unfinished. Donovan had blasted them about blocking the street and making a general nuisance of themselves. Asking to use HIS bathroom!  Indeed! Yep, thought Becker, keep the focus on grilling.

Becker barely listened while Donovan gave his lecture on the techniques involved with Barnabas. The wood used, the time involved, all the nuances of grilling to which Donovan was addicted, just went right by Becker as he kept repeating to himself—Keep him focused, keep him focused. But he had to ask.

“Donovan, just curious, where did you get that memo thing anyway? I know they don’t make them anymore. Yard sale or where?”

“Actually, I got if off a guy at the bar. He was just sitting there so we had a few beers and he told me about this thing he really had no use for. Five bucks, couple of beers later, and it was mine. He sure seemed relieved for some reason to let it go.”

Becker had to tread carefully here. How could he get Donovan to either sell of give him the Memonator without giving away what he was sure was its weird abilities. Careful, he repeated to himself, careful.

“Hey, Becker! Almost made a memo about you the other day. Forget what for now. Thought I would mention it so you don’t get on my bad side. Would hate for anything to happen to you.”

Becker turned about as white as a person could, took a couple of deep breaths, and tried to look anywhere else but the little grin on Donovan’s face. Donovan began nodding slightly and slowly, erasing all doubt in Becker’s mind about Donovan knowing exactly what he held in his hand.

“Please be careful, Becker, would hate to lose you as a neighbor.”