Overdue Notice

William Keckler
4 min readSep 6, 2023

“Help, somebody for the love of God, help me! Help us! Help me and my babies!”

It was a familiar scream from the backyard of my next door neighbor. A few of her children were just running around in that backyard playing tag, obliviously having fun. But certain of their siblings had climbed high in the backyard’s trees and had expressions of sheer terror as they gesticulated wildly with their scrawny arms, occasionally pointing downward at invisible terrors on the ground. An eight-year-old had just barricaded himself inside the shed too. We could call still hear his wails through the plywood walls as the poor kid probably pissed himself in fear. Damn credit card companies.

“They’re not real, Mrs. Morrow,” I intoned blandly…and I’m afraid without much empathy. I was just taking the trash out to the cans in the alley and didn’t really want to partake of the drama again today. She had velociraptors. Everybody in the neighborhood knew. We all knew her story. She had defaulted on a major credit card.

She should have read the small print about the new debt collection tactics. This latest generation of holographs employed by debt collection agencies could be incredibly convincing. And the drones that projected them were so small now, it was about impossible to find them and shoot them down. Anyway, if you did, that would no doubt be another charge, financial as well as criminal. That was somebody’s company’s property.

I could just make out the silhouettes of the agile predatory dinosaurs hunting in a pack as I looked over at her yard. But they looked ghostly from here. Not so scary. I guess it was the angle. I suppose they were convincing enough to some of the children. And even to their mother, apparently, as she was still screaming and shedding the usual tears now at her back door. The third party vendors could make these things quite terrifying. I wondered for a moment how they could sleep at night, the creatives who lent their talents to this horrible form of dunning. And we used to think annoying phone calls from debt collectors during our dinner hour were hell.

“You’re just making the children believe they’re real with your behavior, Lucy. Don’t give VISA the satisfaction.” I tried to remonstrate. But Lucy wasn’t having it. She was in full meltdown mode.

“Sarah and Andrew have the right idea.” The children looked up when I mentioned their names. “Just go on about your day. I saw your roses in the front yard are looking prizeworthy. Why not go feed them some bone meal?”

But apparently Lucy was too busy worrying her children were going to end up bone meal to think of her roses and their appetites. That poor superstitious woman.

Truth be told, I was just doing the obligatory thirty seconds or so of facile neighborliness to make it back out of her eyeshot and earshot. I mean, what a pill. Of course, the raptors would be waiting in her front yard too. I knew that. Until she paid the bill in full. Or at least arranged a payment plan. But I had to say something to not appear as insensitive as I actually was.

Trust me, I know all about these things. As I hurried back from my mission to the trash cans, I saw them staring out at me from within my hedgerow. No, not velociraptors. Mine were these sorts of humanoid bee creatures. They stood on two legs and actually wore clothing. They buzzed a language that was almost human at me. They did their job and totally creeped me out. I had been derelict on paying my school taxes the past two years.

I noticed faces of dead family members had started to appear on my bee stalkers recently as they stood in the bushes on my property or suddenly lurched out at me from a corner of my house. I had actually filed a complaint over that. But the collection agencies insisted that was a coincidence and that all faces are randomly generated. Yeah, right. I’m sure these dirtballs do their research to really maximize the nastiness.

They weren’t allowed to operate within your domicile, thank Zeus, and anyway that would require a drone incursion. But the Republicans had put through just absolutely draconian leglislation favoring these shitbag bill collectors. They’re clearly using terrorist tactics and should be charged, but good luck with that. So many kids and even adults are in therapy now over these walking nightmares. Talk about predatory capitalism.

As I reached my front porch I waved to Jim, poor deadbeat Jim, walking down the steep hill he would have to climb in a half hour with his smoker’s lungs. He was on the way to get his two packs of Newports.

“Don’t let the bastards get you down!” he rasped at me. He must have seen me staring with horror into my bushes as I came up the side of my house. I felt a little embarrassed that he had probably seen my freakout.

“I won’t. You either,” I laughed as I headed into my house.

I watched the old man continue down the hill, stubbornly not looking down at the asphalt he walked on, where a giant hole into hell yawned open and countless burning souls screamed up at Jim, I guess reminding him that the I.R.S. never forgets. And to pay his damn bill.

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William Keckler

Writer, visual artist. Books include Sanskrit of the Body, which won in the U.S. National Poetry Series (Penguin). https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/532348.