Conversation with an Enigma

D W Smite
5 min readSep 24, 2021

“I was about to masturbate–”

“–Jesus, Derrick–.”

“–when I had this crazy idea for one of those article thingy’s you do for Muffin Top.”

You turn to Derrick, confused. “Muffin Top? …You mean Medium?”

“Muffin Top. Muffin Top. I’m sure it’s Muffin Top. How do you spell it? Because sometimes–”

“Uh… I’m not…I mean there might be a self-publishing platform called Muffin–”

“Muffin Top. Muffin Top.”

“Muffin Top, right. But if there is, I haven’t heard of it.”

“But do you use it? Muffin Top?”

“No, I don’t Derrick.”

“Well, you should,” he says. “I’ve heard great things.” You walk along Lonsdale street. The sun is generous today; an anomaly during a Melbourne Autumn.

You redirect your friend’s attention. “So…what’s this idea, then?”

“Yeah. I was about to masturbate yesterday, but then this idea came to me. So I took off my latex gloves and put my dictionary away.”

“Your dictionary?”

Oxford Dictionary of Economics,” he says, waiting for you to ask.1997 edition. My favourite of all the editions.”

“What? Wait– latex gloves?” Your forehead hurts, so you rub your temples and strap yourself in for the ride that is Derrick.

“Take a look,” he says, reaching into his back pocket. You expect gloves, or a pocket dictionary. “I jotted it down, my ideas. For you, for Muffin—uh, Molest…Modum Top.”

You thank Derrick as he hands you a folded piece of paper. It’s tattered, but dry. (When you get home later, you cite this in your journal as the thing you’re most grateful for today — a dry piece of paper.)

His handwriting is chaotic, but legible. Derrick is full of paradoxes. It’s written on dot matrix printing paper. You finger the tractor feed with your thumbs.

“It’s OK,” says Derrick, “I washed my hands first.” He probably didn’t.

You skim through it. It’s a stock-standard how-to article with a list of tips, like ‘remember to breathe’ and ‘stay grounded’. You lack the heart to tell him it’s rife on Medium.

“Not bad, Derrick. This is pretty good,” you lie. You don’t have the energy to give him structured feedback like the kind you get in your monthly writer’s group.

“…You came up with this all by yourself?” You’re humouring him.

“Yeah. Because it’s all turning to shit,” he says. “The world, people. Everything. They need inspiration. Advice. Inspirational…uh, advice. On how to survive the times. That’s what I think.”

Derrick’s voice gets louder. People stare, and parents usher their children into Greek gift shops and Officeworks.

“Sure.” You look down at the paper, then up at him, and nod encouragingly.

“There isn’t enough stuff online about self-care, you know? I thought you could write it as a list, so it’s more, uh…DIGESTIBLE.” He pauses, distracted by his ear, which he scratches furiously.

You stare at him.

“So, you want me to…what? Write it up for you? Why don’t you? I mean, you’re a great writer.” This is unverified.

I KNOW,” shouts Derrick. “BUT I CAN’T BECAUSE MY PRINTER IS BROKEN. IT’S JAMMED WITH…RICE...”

“Rice?”

“…RICE PAPER ROLLS.”

You tell Derrick he doesn’t need a printer to publish online content, but he interrupts.

“JUST…YOU DO IT, OK? FOR FIFTY DOLLARS?”

“Fifty dollars? To write up your article and publish it? Sure!”

“NO YOU GIVE ME FIFTY DOLLARS,” he says, still scratching his ear lobe. It’s starting to swell.

“Oh, right. I see, and you—whoa! Derrick! Your ear! You’re bleeding, man. Do you want a tissue or something?” You don’t have a tissue.

“OK, MAKE IT TWENTY DOLLARS.” He inspects his hand, the one he used to scratch his ear with. Then he sniffs his fingers, bloodying the tip of his nose.

“I don’t have any cash on me, Derrick, I’m sorry. I’d like to, but…”

“REALLY,” shouts Derrick. His face contorts, and he sneezes.

“Sure,” you shrug. “Why not.”

“OK,” he says, wiping his hand on his shirt. “MY BANK DETAILS ARE ON THE PAPER, SEE?” He points to his bank details on the paper, bloodying them. “YOU CAN DO EFT. That’s ELECTRONIC FUNDS TRANSFER.”

“Oh, OK. I’ll… I guess I’ll transfer it when I get home…Twenty, was it?”

“MAKE IT EIGHTY. AND DON’T MENTION IT. YOU’VE BEEN REALLY NICE. YOU KNOW, ABOUT MY CONDITION.” You’re unaware Derrick has a condition. In hindsight, of course he does.

“AND…” says Derrick, mashing his ear with his palm, “I KNOW HOW MUCH YOU HATE YOURSELF FOR NOT BEING A GOOD WRITER.”

“I DON’T—” you shout, then hush, “I don’t hate myself for not being successful, Derrick.”

“THAT TOO.”

“What? Come on, I don’t think that. I don’t…think that….Who told you that? I don’t.”

“I JUST WANTED TO SAY THANK YOU, THAT’S ALL. BECAUSE YOU’RE A NICE FRIEND AND I REALLY LIKE THAT YOU TRY. WITH THE WRITING, EVEN THOUGH –”

“ – give it a go? Derrick, I—”

“YOU JUST WON’T QUIT! YOU SHOULD, BUT YOU DON’T, AND IT INSPIRES ME. EVEN THOUGH NOBODY READS YOUR STUFF ON MODESSA.”

“Medium,” you sigh.

“MOLOKA’I, RIGHT.”

You shrivel up and dive into your usual loser-spiel.

“It’s just a really saturated market and it’s hard to develop your craft when you’re working part-time and anyway I told you that to be successful you have to be willing to fail and create a minimum viable product like Tim Ferris talks about in his book ToT and–” You exhale.

“–TIT?”

ToT. ToT. Tools of – Tools of Titans. Here.” You produce a copy from your back pocket and hand it to him. Then you remember the fingers, and you bite your knuckles as he thumbs through the pages.

“It takes time to establish an online readership, Derrick. Kevin Kelly talks about how you just need 1000 true fans, and—”

“LOOK,” shouts Derrick. “I HAVE TO GO OK?” His ear bleeds profusely. “WRITE IT UP AND PUT IT ON MENSTRUATION, YOU’LL THANK ME LATER.”

“Medium, Derrick. Medium. Jesus.”

“RIGHT, MENSTRUATION! THAT’S WHAT I SAID. SERIOUSLY YOU WON’T REGRET IT.”

Derrick rubs your shoulder with his bloody ear-hand. You wince, then sigh.

“OK Derrick. Thank you. I—you better get going,” you say, frazzled. “Thanks for the words of…for the article. For the, uh, the—alright thanks Derrick.”

“OK BYE.”

Derrick turns and runs toward the bus stop. Then, he sits down and waves, cupping his gushing ear. The bus approaches, and he boards. You notice his pants are suspended by a makeshift belt consisting of strung-together plastic shopping bags.

They don’t even make those bags anymore, you realise.

“OH!” he cries, opening the bus window, peering down at you. “DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT MUFFIN TOP! I’VE HEARD GOOD THINGS! GOOD THINGS!” He grins and gives you a big thumbs up.

The bus disappears down the road.

You go home, shower, then change into something comfortable. The evening’s arrived. It’s Saturday, so you order UberEats and journal about your day. You reflect on Derrick’s feedback.

Then, you pull out a rope, make a noose, and hang yourself. But before you do, you deposit $80 to his nominated bank account (via EFT), write up his article and publish it on Medium.

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D W Smite

Just a dude trying to make his way across the galaxy in a backpack and a bowl of gluten-free pasta. Pass the lactose-free cheese, please.