PublicDomainPictures.Net, Public Domain
Source: PublicDomainPictures.Net, Public Domain

Here is the latest of my short-short stories that are composites of real-life events with psychological or practical implications.

I could sugarcoat it and say that Clarence was “average looking.” But fact is, most people consider Clarence, well, ugly.

People look through him like he were a pane of glass. Indeed, he called himself “GlassMan.”

And when Clarence looked people in the eye, especially attractive women, they’d avert their eyes.

In retrospect, Clarence said, "I can't believe I actually did this but I was so desperate for attention, I rubbed poison oak all over my face so I’d get the sympathy vote." Not surprisingly, people were grossed out and even less likely to look at him, let alone start a conversation. He overheard one person whisper to his friend, “Do you think he has leprosy, maybe Ebola?”

And that wasn’t the craziest thing Clarence did. To get attention, even though he was healthy, he told his family he had cancer. He was not a good liar, so when his family asked, “What’s the course of treatments and prognosis? Can we drive you to treatments? Who’s your oncologist?” his lie was quickly discovered. They yelled and yelled at him, “How dare you make us worry so much and for nothing?! Be authentic, dammit!”

So Clarence tried that. He reached out to people and said things like, “I’m lonely and vulnerable. Frankly, I’m desperate for someone to pay attention to me.” In an ideal world, people would be nicer because of his desperation but, not surprising, that was as off-putting as his poison-oak-covered face.

Then Clarence figured, “Okay, I gotta fake it: Be normal. Smile more. Make small talk.” And that sort of worked. People were a little nicer to him but it remained superficial. He concluded, “It’s not worth being a phony when I’m getting so little in return."

So Clarence bought a solar/propane stove and heater and moved off the grid to an isolated spot near a stream in a forest not far from Mendocino, California. He grew his own fruits and vegetables and drove his bike into town to pick up necessities. So he didn’t need to work, he managed to get himself approved for disability: "Thank you, taxpayer!"

That lasted a year. At that point, Clarence was lonely and so took jobs in town as a house cleaner. His clients were happy with him and some conversed with him.

Like most true stories, this tale doesn't have a dramatic climax. Clarence moved into a basement studio apartment in town, made casual friends with a couple of the town’s homeless people and bar denizens. He watches movies on his phone, and enjoys sunsets with his ugly dog GladWrap.

I perform this short-short story on YouTube.

Dr. Nemko’s nine books, including his just-published Modern Fables: short-short stories with life lessons are available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at mnemko@comcast.net

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