Why I Became A Phonebook Salesman in 2018

r.j. kushner
4 min readAug 30, 2018


I was in my study, alphabetizing my grievances, when there came a knock upon my door.

“Who is it?” I said, my mouth full of peanut butter.

“It’s me, your ol’ pal Spike,” came the reply.

I paused, and glanced down at my feet to make sure I wasn’t dreaming (in my dreams, my feet are always papayas).

Seeing a lack of tropical fruit beneath my ankles, I weighed an appropriate response to my unexpected caller. Was I the type of person to have an “ol’ pal Spike?” I decided to take a diplomatic approach.

“Go away,” I said. But before I could shove another spoon of Skippy into my yip, I felt Spike’s meaty claws rubbing my shoulder blades from behind.

“Remember these little worms?” he said with a toothy grin, holding up a mason jar filled with little worms. Unfortunately, I did.

Spike Jonze and I had briefly worked together as crash test dummies for Tesla when the company was just starting out. It was a strange time in my life and I only really remember two things from it: strongly advising Elon to take the company private, and Spike’s “little worms.”

After we parted ways, Spike took his worms and went on to find some success being involved in films like Her and Where the Wild Things Are (or so he claimed).

“Spike, old chum,” I said, feigning cordiality as I scanned for something to use as a weapon. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Do I need a reason to visit my favorite haberdasher?” he crooned, carefully easing both his gams into my fish tank and squatting there in a satisfied way.

“I’ve told you, I’m not a haberdasher,” I said. “I just like making hats and selling them. Now, I’m afraid I’m quite busy, so I’d ask that you either sing your tune or make like a donkey and hee-haw.”

“Alright, Mac. You’re a man of action. I respect that,” Spike retorted, taking off his clown wig. “So let’s get down to brass tax. I’ve got a proposition for you that’ll make you so happy your nipples will jump off your chest and rush to join a Masonic Lodge.”

I must admit that Spike, for all his faults and jowls, always managed to find a way to puff my eyebrows. It’d been a long time since my nipples showed any interest in fraternal organizations.

“Picture this,” he continued. “Phonebooks.”

“Phonebooks?” I said, my hair slowly growing longer. “What the deuce about them?”

“We sell them,” he went on, his eyes bright as the sun during an eclipse. “We make a fortune.”

“But…aren’t they free?” I asked, wondering if they were still even produced.

“You dense goat,” he explained. “Of course they’re free! How do you think I got them all?”

“You got them all?”

“I got them all.”

He had them all. Apparently, as the world turned and changed, Spike had spent the past decade going to every sleepy front porch in the U.S. and giddily helping himself to phonebooks. They now rested in his uncle’s garage in Piscataway, “awaiting their comeback.”

He hadn’t changed a wink.

“Jesus Christ, Old Sport, you might just be onto something there…,” I mused, continuing to press the panic button under my desk. It appeared the power was out, however.

Spike continued to squat there, rubbing his gums with an onion. Perhaps he really was on to something. Isn’t vintage in vogue these days?

“Well,” I sighed. “I suppose we could — ”

“Great!” he said. “I’ll make some calls.”

“To whom?” I said.

“Anyone I want,” he said. “Anyone in the whole world. You see, that’s the joy we’re going to be bringing people, Marvin [not my name]: the ability to connect with each other. They can’t get that anywhere else today, not without all these priceless, priceless phonebooks.”

Without another word, Spike picked up a stool and tossed it through my front window, through which he jumped out and sprinted away like an elk.

The next morning I awoke to a shipment of 400,000 phonebooks arriving at my door, and a small man who told me to call him “Tabby Cat” loaded them into my apartment.

I never heard from Spike again. Oddly, I can’t seem to find his number listed. I did, however, find a locksmith.

If you would like to purchase 400,016 phonebooks dated from 1998–2011, email dearlordpleasebuyaphonebook@hotmail.com with “rube” in the subject line. No calls, please.



r.j. kushner

Dubbed by the New York Times as “all out of free articles this month.”