Ben woke late the next morning and realized his mom was gone already. He smoked a cigarette and made coffee and talked to himself about the Internet for a while as he drank it.

He worried. Maybe the Ottoman Empire was too obscure. But, he argued, that was also its selling point.

He went upstairs to make another pot of coffee, already frustrated. He wondered if he should get high.

And in the kitchen he found it, back again, chomping down on a diet Sprite can.

“Shit, shit, shit.”

you missed me.

“No. No, I did not miss you.”

you missed me. It licked the flattened can with a tongue that rolled out on the floor.

“No, I really didn’t. Now what are you doing here?”

back for cans. ben. things. how have they been.

“Fine,” he said but he could feel it pawing through his thoughts without permission.

wow. a book. you read. nice. how is it.

“It was fine.”

it was. i bet.

“What? It was. I might start a blog on the subject.”

drug addict. blogs. about book. he read. on ottoman economics. million dollar idea.

He tried to ignore it. He poured himself another cup of coffee and went out back and smoked a cigarette and drank the coffee and tried to expunge the monster’s words from his head.

And it followed him into the backyard and he could feel it fishing around inside him again.

your day. you plan it. The monster asked and it laughed. Its laughs were dry and crumbling, like a toolbox scraping against a stool and then tumbling to the concrete below.

what is there to plan.

“You can fuck off, okay? I have plans. I don’t care if you don’t see them.”

pretty hard. to see.

The monster looked even more out of place in the yard. It stood on shiny aluminum hind legs and stomped through the grass, all carpet and rubber and large metal fangs.

“It doesn’t help to have you judging me. You’re a dick.”

i just. point it out. obvious.

“Well, the obvious is shitty.”

fair enough.

“My mom wants me to see a therapist.” He wasn’t sure why he said it, but he did. He had no one else to tell.

what’s wrong. with that.

“I don’t need a fucking therapist. It’s stupid. My mom knows I’m a dud. But sometimes you get a dud. Not all kids can go on to accomplish shit. Some just want to do drugs and talk to themselves. And really, society is not very tolerant of us.”

internet business. what happened. society. not tolerant to druggies.

“You don’t get it. I am going to start a business. It’s going to happen. But I have to do that because, I don’t know, the whole system is fucked.”

pills. how many. did you take.

“None. Why? I wait until the afternoon. That’s how I do things.”

agenda. what is on it.

“Probably some research into agrarian economics, a little research on the Ottoman Empire. I don’t know much about it yet. Then I guess I start a blog. I don’t know where I go to do that.”

probably the internet.

“I know, but where on the Internet?”

it can’t be. that hard.

“You’re right.”

Ben smoked a cigarette and watched squirrels chase each other around the yard and onto the roof of the garage. He wondered about them, what they did to survive, and if some of them were duds too.


He went inside and turned on his laptop. He scoured the web for information and he wondered how long it would take to create a blog that influenced government policy. When would someone first stand before a U.N. council and give advice based at least partially on something they’d learned from his blog?

He read Wikipedia and learned that the Ottoman Empire was a monarchy, is now Turkey, and that the word Constantinople was more than a word. It was the capital, changed to Istanbul when the Ottomans conquered it from the Byzantines.

He was amazed, the more he read, by how much he didn’t know. And he wondered where people learned all of these things.

Ten more minutes and his head began to ache. He made more coffee. He stretched his legs. He smoked two more cigarettes and watched the squirrels.

He scrolled through one more article on basic economics and tried to wrap his head around demand elasticity and then decided it was time to get high.

so that’s it.


that’s it. that’s your workday.


not very long.

“That’s the goal. On the Internet, you only need to work for a half-hour or so a day.”

i imagine most. work a bit longer.

“As long as you do the right tasks, the research and all that, you can do it.”

And the monster chuckled but he hardly cared. He’d spent time productively. It was the first time in years.


“How was your day?”


“I talked to someone today. Now just listen to me, Ben.”


“Listen. I talked to a friend at work who knows a really great psychologist.”


“Just listen, Ben. She is really good. She comes highly recommended from my friend in the Psych department. I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable. I’m not sending you to just anyone. I know a good psychologist, someone who can work with you.”

Ben shook his head.

“I’ve spent some time on this, Benjamin. I talked to my friend about you, about some of your, well, your quirks.”

“What quirks?”

“Ben, you talk to yourself a lot. You argue with yourself.”


“It gets heated.”

“What are you talking about even,” he said and he scooted back in his chair.

“You just…you get very angry,” she pushed mashed potatoes around her plate. “When you think you’re alone, you explain all of the details to very simple things. It’s like you’re telling someone, someone who is not here. I walked in the other day and heard you saying, ‘we put the banana peels in the compost bucket so my mom can use them for her garden.’ Who are you talking to?”

“Mom. I’m just like muttering to myself.”

“It worries me.”

“It shouldn’t, Mom. I am fine. I’m getting my blog set up, you know. I’ve been busy is all.”


“Yeah, Mom. I did a lot of research on the Ottoman Empire.”

“You’re still on the Ottoman Empire?”

“Well, yeah. It’s what my business is based on.”

“Okay,” she said and she returned to eating. She stared at her plate for a long time after she finished.

“It’s going to be fine, mom. I’ll get this site set up and money will come in. And then I can move out.”

“Will you see this therapist? She’s very good.”

“I don’t know, Mom. I don’t think a therapist would be any good for me.”

“Please, Benjamin.”

“Mom, like, what would she do for me?” Ben felt his face flush. He needed a cigarette and realized it was easier to talk to the monster than his mother. Easier to talk to Gerald, even.

“She could do a lot for you, Ben. She can talk to you about some of your…eccentricities. You can talk to her, okay? I sometimes worry, you know, since your dad died, that you are going deeper inside yourself. You don’t talk to anyone. You’ve stopped hanging out with your friends. They don’t come around and you don’t have a girlfriend anymore. We talk at dinner, but what about the rest of your day? You’re talking to yourself, explaining very simple things to an imaginary person—”

“Will you stop, Mom?? I’m not explaining things to an imaginary person. I just like to talk out loud.”

“But you know why the bananas go in the compost bucket?”


“So why do you need to say it out loud? Why do you need to explain, in detail, all of the steps to making coffee? I’ve heard you do this.”

“I don’t know, Mom. I’ll stop, okay? If I stop talking out loud, can we not have this conversation? I didn’t know it bothered you so much.”

“It’s not that it bothers me. It’s not that at all. It’s that you are going so deep inside yourself.”

“I’m not doing that. It’s just talking. That’s it.”

“Will you go see her? I have her card and you can call it when you’re feeling up to it. If you don’t like it, Ben, I’m serious, you don’t have to go back. But give it a chance, please. Because I think it will help you. What if you can talk to her about all the stuff in your head? Don’t you think that would help?”


“What do you mean why?”

“Why would I want to do that?”

“Talk to someone? So you can share how you feel. Ever since your dad died, you’ve been so inside your head.”

“I don’t get it. I always talked to myself.”

“I know that, Ben. But it’s getting worse. And I worry, if you don’t talk to someone about it all. Well, I don’t know what will happen. But I worry.”

“My head isn’t going to explode if I don’t talk to a shrink, Mom.”

“Please, Benjamin.”

“Fine, Mom. Dang. Sorry. Sorry I talk to myself so much. Sorry Dad died.” He stood from the table.

“Benjamin, stop. You haven’t done anything wrong.”

“You sure?” And he left for the backyard.

He shouted, “What the fuck is her problem?” as soon as he was out back and he saw the neighbor, wearing the same cowboy hat as always, standing on his back porch smoking a cigarette. He waved to him, “Hey, Dave.”

Dave flicked his cigarette into his yard, turned around, and went inside his house.

“Yeah, whatever, Dave,” Ben mumbled to himself.


He paced on the sidewalk between the house and the garage and lit a cigarette and inhaled hot smoke, his head slowing down and straightening out immediately. He stared at his feet, dusty and black around the toes from all the pacing. All the filth.

He wasn’t sure what he’d done, what force had sent him tumbling in this direction. Maybe it had been all the talking to himself, he figured. And maybe it hadn’t been.

He wondered, if he hadn’t methodically detailed the process of throwing bananas in the compost, would he have escaped this? Or maybe it was more than that.

Without saying them out loud, things were mushy and without form.

Finally, he retreated back into the house and sat on the couch and watched TV. He took two Vicodin and things dulled, the lights softened, the prospect of therapy seemed muted, unreal, reasonable.

He sat and watched TV and almost missed the shuffling in the corner of his room.

“Goddamnit,” he said.


“Just you. Goddamn you.”

The monster stared and opened its mouth and drooled a little and then asked him, what. drugs. not enjoying them. when i’m around.

“I really can’t.”

maybe that is best. you do. a lot of drugs. ben. you have. a problem.

“I’m fine. It’s just to relax. How is that different from having a few beers at the end of the day?”

job. you mean. coming home from one. you do the getting high. but not the job. And with that, it laughed.

“Whatever. You’re just twisting everything. What does it matter to you if I get high?”

i think. maybe. you’re better off. without it.

And the monster crawled off and up the stairs to the kitchen. He could hear the sound of cans clinking as they traveled from the recycling bin, scattered all over the floor. He wondered if it would pick them all up, or if it would leave some behind and his mom would discover them strewn across the floor. He wondered if she’d walk into the kitchen to get a Snapple or make popcorn and see it there chewing cans.

back, it said when it returned. And it tossed a Diet Coke can into its mouth and gently sunk its teeth into it.


For all installments from NEET, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2
  3. Part 3