The Most Guilt-Ridden Man In the World
By Mike Stevens
Danny Pretest noticed his good friend Ken walking out of his house one morning. Both were following their usual pattern of leaving for work at the same time each weekday morning. They exchanged good mornings, and then Danny asked his neighbor,
"Hey Ken, how's it going this morning?"
His neighbor replied, "Oh, not so good. I must have rats in my attic, and they make so much noise I find it impossible to sleep. This is the 3rd night in a row I haven't got much sleep, and I'm irritated and exhausted. But the exterminator's coming over tonight, so hopefully he or she will solve the problem, and I'll be able to get a full night's sleep."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that, Ken. Hopefully you're right about that solving the problem. There's nothing like trying to function without a good night's sleep. Good luck with that, and try to have a good day."
"Thanks Danny and I'll sure try."
That night, as he tossed and turned, trying to get to sleep, Danny found his mind wandering back to his conversation with his neighbor Ken that morning. The poor guy. How awful to have to lay there and have to listen to a rat, or rats, as they scurried back and forth in the attic, right above your head. That would drive him nuts! Suddenly, when he tried to recall their conversation, he sat up in a panic. Had he said anything to make Ken worry even more? He couldn't remember his words; what if he had said,
"That's too bad Ken, and hopefully it's just rats and not some thief in your attic, just waiting for you to fall asleep so he can climb down and slit you throat! But I'm sure it's only rats."
No, he hadn't said that. He would never say that; he would have tried to soothe Ken, wouldn't he? But the harder he tried remembering, the more horrifying the possible conversation became.
"I'm sure it's only rats, but I just read a story in the local newspaper about a guy in town here who assumed he had rats in his attic, and when he climbed up to take a look, a ghost attacked him and sucked out his brain!"
"Oh my god, I never would have thought of that, but thanks to you, I can survive. Thanks for the heads up."
He stained to recall their conversation. What had he said exactly? He didn't think he had said any of the last two statements, but what if he had? No, he wouldn't have said those things. Then he laid there thinking; what if he had told the poor guy one of those things, and the guy was lying there in a pool of cold sweat afraid to close his eyes for fear he'd fall asleep and have his throat slit or his brains sucked out? Danny tried and tried to drift off to sleep, but the image of poor Ken lying there petrified filled his thoughts. After another half hour of unsuccessfully telling himself he was worried about nothing, he felt the guilt wash over him. He had to tell Ken that anything he might have told him was a fabrication. He glanced at his bedside clock, and noted it was 2am. Well, what if Ken was lying there, unable to sleep because of worry; worry that he had caused? He had to call, no matter the time, so he grabbed the phone on his night table and dialed the number. After what seemed like a lot of rings, a sleepy voice answered,
"Ken, this is your neighbor Danny calling. Listen; don't be alarmed by an anything I might have told you. The stories are just that; stories."
Danny heard a sigh, and Ken's angry voice, "What in the hell are you talking about?"
"What I'm calling you about is that I'm afraid you've been unable to sleep due to something I said; that noise in you attic is probably just rats, like you said."
"I'm having trouble sleeping because my loony-tunes neighbor is calling me at 2am to tell me what I already know. The exterminator told me it was rats and that the problem was taken care of. I was sawing zee's for the first time in the last 4 days when I was jolted out of a sound sleep by you. Thanks for nothing!"
The line went dead in Danny's hand. Well, he'd had to make sure he hadn't anything to feel guilty about. He was satisfied, and he turned off his light and was soon sound asleep.