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These short stories are contemporary works written by experienced, established professional writers.  


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The Problem With People


by Judee Shipman



The problem with people is they are mean to me for no reason.



I'm an educated, law abiding citizen who doesn't swear, never hurts anyone, and is smarter than most people. My IQ is well within genius range, although this obvious fact is not reflected on those inadequately designed, standardized IQ tests. I could have scored higher, but I was tired that day. Those tests don't really measure anything anyway. Richard Feynman only scored 125 on his IQ test. So there.



In terms of intelligence, I estimate that I fall within the top point-zero-zero-zero-zero-one percentile of all humans. However, despite their comparative stupidity, I like people! I understand them. I always seem to know what's best for them. I often know what they are thinking. I'm an excellent judge of character.



People should appreciate me more. We can all learn so much from me. I'm sure I could make a miraculous discovery if not for all the distractions. Then I could stand up and yell, “Eureka!” I've always wanted something to stand up and yell, “Eureka!” about.



But people are so impatient! They won't even let me finish what I'm saying, even after I remind them of my superior intellect, not to mention my legal right to free speech, and even when I follow them as they walk away, enabling them to hear the rest of what I am trying to explain, despite the fact that they may be in a hurry. Some people actually hit me! For no reason! They don't have to hit me. They could just let me finish what I'm saying.



Why are so many people prone to violent behavior? There's no need to be so jealous. We can't all be geniuses.



And I like people!



Statistically speaking, I'm quite popular. I know this because most people are polite and don't hit me. I'm told that people insult me or hit me because they do not like me. Therefore, it logically follows that those who do not insult me or hit me, must like me.



My name is Jaben Mitchell Shelton. I hold a PhD in math from MIT. I earn six figures a year. My hobbies are math and chess. What's not to like?



I probably know more about mental health than the average licensed psychiatrist, not because I studied it, but because of my innate intellectual superiority, coupled with my advanced understanding of human nature. Trust me on this: Four out of five people are bipolar. It's true! One minute they're quiet, and the next minute they're screaming at me. For no reason!



People are always telling me to shut up and go away, despite my repeated insistence that I am only trying to help them. I guess manners aren't what they used to be.



Some people rudely demand that I take a bath! They tell me I stink. I find this highly insulting! Bathing is something I like to do once a month or so because the water feels nice, but I don't see how that's anyone else's concern, or why they care what I do when they're not even around. But when I graciously overlook the insult and politely explain why I don't have time to take a bath, instead of being grateful, they get angry!


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I once went to a therapist to find out what the problem with people is, and why my sister seems so angry, because I couldn't convince everyone else to go to therapy.  They laughed at the mere suggestion!

However, I was shocked to learn of an incurable, hereditary mental condition whose sufferers are so preposterously annoying that others feel compelled to beat them up! I had to admit that I did exhibit SOME of the symptoms he described, and I suppose that would help explain my sister's anger problem... but I'm sure it's just a coincidence.



To humor the therapist, I agreed to try behavioral therapy. The therapist instructed me to remain consciously aware of keeping my voice down, to speak more slowly, and to only speak when necessary. He said I must resist all mannerisms, gestures, and facial expressions. He said I must avoid making unsolicited comments. He said I must give brief, polite, honest answers to all questions, without adding any additional information. He said I must simply do my work and mind my own business.  He said the solution is to avoid all unnecessary attempts to interact with other people.


But I like other people!



Nevertheless, I found myself easily able to follow these suggestions, and was completely cured after a single visit. The doctor said I wasn't, but I was. I know this because after that visit, I didn't feel the slightest need to alter my natural behavior in any way. For me, it was enough just knowing that I could any time I wanted to. That made me feel better.



Furthermore, I cannot be one hundred percent certain that the therapist's diagnosis was correct, so what I really need is a second opinion. Unfortunately, I don't have time to get a second opinion. I've been way too constantly busy to get a second opinion ever since I got the first opinion, more than 20 years ago.



Yesterday, I decided to take a walk. I decided to remain silent on my walk, so not to draw unnecessary attention to myself. I also decided to don the most appropriate possible attire for the occasion, so no one would notice anything strange about me at all.



It was hot, so I wore shorts. Shorts are for hot weather. They were the same shorts I'd been wearing all week, but they were still the cleanest pair of shorts I owned at the moment. I don't do laundry very often, because detergent costs money, and washed clothes wear out faster, so you have to buy more clothes sooner. I always hope not to have to buy more clothes.



The shorts were too big for me, so I held them aloft with a pair of suspenders I bought for a dime at a garage sale. The suspenders had green and orange frogs printed on them.  Green is okay, orange is okay, and frogs are okay, so I figured the suspenders must look okay with these oversized Scotch plaid shorts I obtained from a church donation bin. To me, the shorts look okay because they cover everything they are supposed to cover, and because they didn't cost me anything.


I didn't wear a shirt because it was a hot day, and men don't have to wear shirts if they don't want to. However, I did wear knee-high, white cotton tube socks and dark brown leather sandals, because cotton is cooler than polyester, and sandals are for summer.



All I now needed was a hat to keep the sun off my eyes. It logically followed that the best hat for this purpose was whichever hat in my house had the widest brim. This happened to be the straw hat my wife wears for gardening, with big bright fake fruits and flowers all around it, and a giant pink bow in front.


It seemed a shame that the food was fake, as the brim of the hat seemed like a perfectly good place to store snacks, holding more food than your pockets would hold, and leaving your hands free when you go for a walk. My wife and I agree that the plastic fruits and vegetables are probably the manufacturers way of showing consumers additional uses for the hat.  

In any case, the fake food didn't seem to interfere with the intended purpose of the hat. So I donned the hat.



“How do I look?” I asked my wife.

“That hat will keep the sun off your eyes,” she replied.



My wife is kind. She never bugs me to take a bath. And she always lets me finish what I'm saying. I wish she'd walk with me more often, but she's afraid to leave the house.



As I ambled down the road, two unrelated people asked me if I was going to a costume party. Another person asked if I was performing in a play. I had no idea what they were talking about. Then a driver decelerated, rolled down his window, and asked if I needed directions to the retard convention.



Then six angry men approached. I thought I might have seen them around. I might have even spoken to them a time or two. But I couldn't seem to remember what happened. One of the men held a towel. Another held a garden hose. A third one held a bottle of liquid soap. A fourth one held a mop.



“It's time for your bath, asshole.” said one of the men.



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Before I had a chance to explain, two of the men held me down, tore the clothes from my body, and set the clothes on fire. This worried me considerably, because now I'd have to buy more clothes.

The other men doused me with soap, mopped me like a floor, and hosed me down. Then one of them put black tape over my mouth, wrapping it several times around the back of my head.  

Another man threw me a towel as I struggled to my feet and they all walked away, laughing wickedly and spewing profanities.  


I walked home wrapped in a towel with my mouth taped shut, wondering if maybe I should have continued the behavioral therapy recommended to me all those years ago. Wondering why my parents never took me to therapy. People always said there was something wrong with me, but my mother always assured me that there was something wrong with everyone else instead.



My sister, who is not quite the whiz I am at math, once pointed out that the odds of there being something wrong with every else but me were astronomically low. So I had to explain to her the nature of mathematical probabilities, in terms of standard deviations, my point being that it is entirely mathematically possible that there is something wrong with everyone else but me.  

However, I don't see how she could have learned much while screaming at me to shut up every 60 seconds or so. Then she walked out, slamming the door as she went, without even letting me finish what I was saying.  



I must say I strongly prefer my mother's assessment. I figure mom's probably right.  Aspergers wasn't even in the medical books until 1981, a mere two years prior to my therapist visit, and after both my sister and I had already reached adulthood.  So how can anyone really know if I'm afflicted?  


Furthermore, my mother becomes extremely upset with anyone who mentions anything she doesn't enjoy, understand, and agree with.  

So she pokes people in the ribs and knocks on their heads like doors, loudly pontificating about the inappropriateness of their behavior, while repeatedly declaring how much we can all learn from her.  

This forces my father to sit around the house like a drugged garden snail, saying things like, "Yes, dear" and "Mom's always right."  He never fails to agree with her, but sometimes she hits him anyway, just to prove her point.  

Visitors tell my father that he is being abused, but he says it doesn't bother him "much."  In any case, the point is moot, as we don't get many visitors, and the ones we do get don't stay long, because people are always in a hurry. 


So my sister is outvoted, three against one, and the family pretty much agrees with everything mom says, except my sister, who seems to have an anger problem.  Come to think of it, we haven't heard from my sister lately.  She must be very busy with her writing.  



As I trudged home in a towel, people shouted from passing cars. A driver slowed down to ask if I needed a ride to the hospital. Pedestrians crossed the road to avoid me.  I dreaded explaining this to my wife. She might not understand the real problem. No one ever seems to understand the real problem.


Finally, I entered our home. My wife calmly and carefully removed the tape.  Only then did I notice the word AUTISM scrawled across it in neon yellow marker.  I told my wife what happened. She eyed me with genuine concern.



“But now we have to buy more clothes,” she said.



EUREKA!!! A wife who understands!

  



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