Buttoning it up

the shoulder and the story

If you saw yesterday’s email, you know that I was explaining the power of open loops in writing.

Today is about buttoning it up.

One spring in the early 2010’s back when I had a job, my friend and coworker (let’s call him Jeff) had gone skiing at Keystone over the weekend.

(If you’ve ever been spring skiing at the ice-encrusted death trap known as Keystone, you can guess where this is headed. Yep, the ER.)

Monday morning, the boss came in to tell me Jeff had crashed pretty hard and needed emergency surgery. Nothing life threatening, but his arm was wrecked.

A week later, Jeff showed back up at work, arm in a sling, doped on painkillers, with his shoulder bearing more stitches and patches than a 1920’s hobo glove.

He sat at his desk, trying to type with one hand while staying awake.

Near the end of the week, Jeff mentioned something about needing to go back for a check up with the surgeon because he was feeling some grinding in his shoulder when he made a certain motion with his arm.

I felt pretty bad for Jeff.

However, we were approaching the last week of March.

And April Fool’s Day.

Friends, I have some remorse for what happened next.

-Monday, I sat down at my desk and got to work on my horrible plot.

-Tuesday, I drove across town to the office building where his surgeon’s office was located. There was post office two blocks away. I went to the post office and mailed a letter.

The letter was addressed to Jeff, from the surgeon’s office.

(I had run the envelope through the printer at work, so the TO and FROM addresses were printed, not hand written. It looked cold and impersonal, just like a real letter from a surgeon’s office.)

Unfortunately, I no longer have an exact copy of the letter.

But printed underneath a forged letterhead, it went something like this:

Attention: Jeff X

Thank you for your recent surgery with our team, we appreciate your patronage.

However, during our last inventory, it was noted that we were missing one of our medium sized surgical clamps, and it appears that the item went missing around the same time as your procedure.

We suspect that the clamp may be located in your left shoulder, somewhere between the clavicle and scapula.

Indications that the clamp is still present may include an uncomfortable grinding sensation when you rotate your shoulder.

If you experience this, please keep your shoulder completely stationary for the time being to avoid any further damage to either your shoulder or our clamp.

This letter is to request that you call our office at your earliest convenience to schedule follow up imaging and extraction surgery.

We must also inform you that if the clamp is determined to be in your possession, that you will be charged a fee of $22.50 per day for our loss of use of the item.

Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you schedule your exploratory imaging and extraction appointments immediately.

You may do so by calling our office at XXX during regular business hours.


(Name I scraped from their website)

Business director

Name of practice

-Wednesday, I played it cool, knowing the letter was in transit.

-Thursday, same thing. But I was going nuts with anticipation.

-Friday, I showed up to work expecting that the letter had been delivered the previous evening.

But it had not.

That meant Jeff would probably receive it that evening (Friday night), right before Easter weekend.

And I wouldn’t be able to reveal the joke until Monday.

“Oh well,” I thought.

-I did not hear a peep from Jeff all day Saturday.

-On Sunday, Easter morning, I received a very cold email from Jeff informing me that I was being sued for emotional damages. He sounded pissed.

I spent the rest of the weekend feeling pretty awful, both remorseful for taking the joke too far and wondering how I was going to explain to my wife why I was being sued.

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending.

Visit the next post for the conclusion of my lesson on open loops.

High Five (but careful with that shoulder, Jeff,)


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