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Short Humorous Fiction First Place Winner Jody Rae "Failure to Triangulate"

Updated: Aug 29, 2022

I don’t know who Jason is, but I know he recently suffered a serious injury or illness.

I know this because I was assigned his old phone number.

As soon as the number transfers to me I receive heartfelt texts from strangers asking someone named Jason how he is feeling, and telling him to get well soon. One by one, I let each stranger know that Jason has changed his number.

Voicemails from medical offices, pharmacies, and Xfinity roll in, rapidly. Daily. Xfinity wants their cable box back. His medical bill at the physical therapy office is overdue. It’s about to go to collections.

I call that one back, and I pay it off. I wonder if I’m committing a felony or some obscure state law that prohibits paying a stranger’s medical bills anonymously.

So I am forthright.

I don’t know Jason. I say. I just have his old number. I don’t want this to go to collections.

Ma’am, I don’t care, the receptionist says.

Do you take VISA? I ask.

To collections!

My friends intervene on my philanthropic behalf to google Jason, using the scant clues we have.

If only we can find him, we can tell his friends, family, and bill collectors which number they can now use to reach him.

For weeks, I am relieved by each random text message wishing Jason a speedy recovery, because that means he is probably still alive somewhere. And yet, after a couple months, I admit that I am a little irritated that Verizon recycled this number so quickly. I am a little peeved that Jason or those closest to him have not yet issued his new number to his entire contact list.

Jason’s birthday is November 28th.

I know this because I receive a text message that evening.

Nov. 28 - 7:51 PM

Stranger: dick licker...happy bday…

Me: Wrong number, if you’re looking for Jason. This is his old number.

Stranger: Lol. I am looking for Jason. Sorry for calling you a dick licker. He called me that in one of the last text messages he sent me from this number. I will let him know when I figure out his new number.

Me: No worries.

[You would think we could leave it here, right? But, no.]

Stranger: Sorry :0

Me: Have a nice night. I hope all is well with Jason.

Stranger: Thank you. I will tell him you wish him well. God bless and hope life is going smoothly for you.

Me: Thanks! You, too.

[Okay, now we’re done. Officially. Goodnight.]

Stranger: Thank you! Pray for me that I don’t have cancer...just had some tests done.


Me: Oh, I will pray for you! I hope you are able to rest well tonight, and you aren’t kept awake with the anxiety. I know it can be tempting to cycle through the worst scenarios, but if you get caught in that trap try to get up and write down the things you value most in your life, and the things you want but are afraid to go after.

Stranger: Thank you for that, because the anxiety has been the worst. Going into these deep dark thoughts. I know nothing good can come from them. Unfortunately it is difficult to control. Thank you though, just a wonderful idea.

I set my phone aside and pray.

Dear God, please take care of...I don’t know this person’s name. Let’s just call him D.L. Please let him sleep well tonight, and let him hear good news tomorrow. Amen.

I sure hope Dick Licker rests easy. I sure hope he doesn’t have cancer. I hope he will tell me the outcome either way.

You know, maybe there is a bigger purpose here? Maybe I was meant to receive Jason’s old number just so Dick Licker and I could meet and form an unlikely friendship.

I imagine the two of us sharing this text exchange amidst uproarious laughter in a pub somewhere. Jason will be seated on a barstool between us, and he will lead us in multiple rounds of Irish drinking songs, for some reason. Jason will keep time by rapping on the bartop with a Tiny Tim crutch, because the physical therapy could only do so much.

Large, overflowing steins of beer in our hands will splash and foam to the hardwood floors.

Where did that come from? I don’t even drink beer.

In the movie about our unlikely friendship, Jason Bateman will play Dick Licker. Jennifer Aniston will play me, probably. I don’t know who plays Jason yet.

My friends think I am getting ahead of myself here, but they agree that a lasting friendship is more likely than not. They wait, I assume, on the edge of their seats to find out how this progresses.

Nov. 30 - 9:17 PM

DL: Found out I am cancer free, thanks for the advice and well wishes.

Me: Oh I am so glad! I was thinking of you today, wondering when you would find out the results. What is your name? I can’t go on calling you dick licker.

I wait.

No reply.


Now all I know is Dick Licker’s phone number and that he is free of cancer.

I still don’t know if Jason is okay, and I still don’t know his new number.

A couple days go by. I accept that this encounter will not become an All American screenplay after all.

I tie off the thread.

A basic administrative sign-off.

Will you please let Jason know that his prescription is ready for pickup at the CVS in Evergreen, Colorado?


Jody Rae was a 2021 Pushcart Prize nominee for her creative nonfiction essay, “Ice Chest” in Flyover Country. Her short story, “Beautiful Mother” was a finalist in the Phoebe Journal 2021 Spring Fiction Contest. Her work appears in various outlets, including X-R-A-Y, Rejection Letters, MASKS Literary Magazine, Sledgehammer Lit,Cowboy Jamboree, and Red Fez. "Failure to Triangulate" first appeared as the 2019 first prize winner of Winning Writers’ Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry contest). Her work can be found at


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