Tag Archives: Cause For Alarm!

Have You Seen Hugo?

To the Editors of Exchanging Pleasantries:

I am writing to you expressing my deep concern regarding the whereabouts of my aquaintance Hugo de Naranja.  I haven’t heard from him since he told me he was going “off the grid” a couple months ago.  My e-mails and phone calls to him have gone unanswered.  He said he needed to get some work done, but I didn’t want to inquire as to what he was talking about.  Sometimes people just have some work to do.  What troubles me even more so than not hearing from him in 60 plus days is that I think I saw him last night and after the incident that ensued I almost wished that I hadn’t.  You guys live in Raymond Chandler Square, right?  Or at least you frequent that neighborhood often.  I’ve seen you milling about the bars in that area.  I once saw The Neapolitan Mastiff and Hugo throwing back tequila shots with an overweight woman in her late 40’s at Loaded.  I was in the back and didn’t want to bother you guys, given your acclaim and all, but it seemed like you were having a good time.  Anyway, back to Hugo.  I saw him last night on the Boulevard in the pouring rain by himself, with a bloodied hand and a pink carnation sticking out of one of his breast pockets, wearing a wig that resembled Richard Knox’s character in the movie Wonder Boys.  He was soaking wet and I think he was crying.  I recognized him and went over to say hi, when he turned to me, grabbed me by the throat and shouted, “What were you meant to do in this world?” Before I had a chance to answer he yelled, “I was meant to love and I’m not allowed to love the person I love. Do you know what that’s like, you fuck?” his breath reeking of some cheap Canadian Rye.  I said, “Hugo, it’s me Todd.” “I don’t know anyone,” he said, before releasing his firm grip from my neck and walking away.  I am sure that it was him and I was mortified, yet unsure if I was more upset with him not recognizing me or the fact that he physically accosted me.  Quickly I felt that it was selfish to be thinking about myself at a time like this.  Hugo needs help and I’m seriously concerned for his recovery.

All The Best,

-Todd Pompano



Dear Mr. Pompano,

Thank you for expressing your concern for Hugo de Naranja.  I assure you that he is not in good mental health, but that he is alive. He stopped by our offices last Tuesday, went to the kitchen without saying hello to anyone, grabbed a creamsicle from the freezer and walked out.  Prior to that he hadn’t responded to any of the inquiries we’d sent him, other than a postcard that had a picture of Bozeman, Montana on the front with no return address written on it, sent you from a “Hugo”.  We’d like to think it was from him, but the handwriting on the card didn’t resemble his.  I wished to discuss the matter with him, but I didn’t even see him walk in.  One of the interns informed me when I returned from lunch.

-Editorial Staff Member 16

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Los Angeles’ Preeminent Literary Journal Seeks Jacqueline-of-all-trades

Exchanging Pleasantries was casually formed sometime during Jeff Zucker’s stay at NBC Universal, though it doesn’t really have anything to do with Mr. Zucker or NBCU.

Do you watch Mad Men? Good, then you’ll understand this perfectly. Exchanging Pleasantries is looking for someone who looks like Joan, acts like Burt Cooper and drinks like Don Draper.

The job tasks include, but are not limited to: making a mean vodka soda with a slice of lemon, proof-reading (I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be hyphenated and it’ll be your job to figure that out), driving to obscure parts of town chasing ‘it’ food trucks, reminding The Neapolitan Mastiff to get a haircut, waking up Hugo De Naranja for his other job, making sure the founders don’t accidently commit fraud (it’s happened before) and lastly, you will be required to get psyched, I mean really psyched, every time a Hot Chip song comes on in the office.


Proficient in Word, Final Draft, Word Press and creperie

Cannot be afraid of blood. (The Neapolitan Mastiff has been known to gut a goat on occasion in the office kitchen.)

An appreciation for the music of David Liebe Hart

Multi-lingual (negotiable)

A drinking problem (a strong penchant for drinking is also acceptable)

A driver’s license

A French accent (this isn’t negotiable)

Salary will D.O.E. We are looking to fill this position before Running Wilde gets cancelled…

Please email your C.V. to exchangingpleasantries@gmail.com (cover letters should include your vodka preference and how long it takes you to run a mile. Mile times must be current)


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The Couch By The Neapolitan Mastiff

“So what would you say was the breaking point?”

“Breaking point?”

“You know, the straw that broke the camel’s back or whatever.”

“Oh, I’d say the couch.”

“The couch?”

“Yeah, definitely. The couch.”

“How so?”

“Well she just didn’t get how it worked. It was a major point of stress,” he waves his hand searching for the word. “It was, uh,”

“The breaking point?”


“I’m not sure I follow. She didn’t like the couch or something?”

“She hated the couch. She didn’t understand the system of it and the purpose it served in my room.”

“To be sat on?”

“Not at all! There are a million places to sit in an apartment: chairs, the floor, the bed, the coffee table, the list goes on. I sit on the sink when I’m brushing my teeth. Or I used to until it started getting huge cracks.”

“So what was the couch for?”

“It’s a very simple system and one I’ve been using for years, okay?”


“So if you have clean clothes, where do they go?”

“In the closet?”

“Ding, ding, ding. You are correct, sir. Clean clothes hang in the closet.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Next question, you have dirty clothes, now where do they go?”

“In the hamper?”

“Hamper? That sounds like diaper. I don’t even wanna know what that is.”

“It’s a ….”

“I said I don’t wanna know. I’ll repeat the question, where do dirty clothes go?”

“In the laundry.”

“Yes, eventually, but that’s not the right answer,” he guffaws. “Dirty clothes go on the floor. In a pile.”


“Hmm, hmm, what? You’ve gotta problem with that?”

“Well, it just seems silly, why don’t you keep them in a basket or something like everyone else.”

“You caught me at a fragile time. You bombarded me with personal questions and now you’re going to insult the habits that I’ve had for my entire life, How dare…”

“Look, I’m sorry. I get it. Dirty clothes go on the floor.”

“Ding, ding, ding! I’ll give you that one. You’re two for two!” he takes a deep breath. “Our final question, dun, dun, dun! Take as much time as you need on this one.”

“Okay, I will.”

“When clothes are neither, A. clean and hanging in the closet or B. dirty and in a pile on the floor, where do these in-between dirty and clean clothes go?”

“Umm. Can I get an example?”

“Of what? Of the clothes?”


“I don’t have any in-between clothes with me. They’re where they belong in my apartment, which is what you’re trying to figure out. Where are they?”

“How does something become in-between clean and dirty?”

“Easy, you wore a clean shirt to get a coffee, but it’s really hot and you were sort of sweating when you wore it so you decide to change your shirt before you go to wherever you were going. The shirt’s not dirty, but you wouldn’t wear it on a date either.”

“What’s the purpose of in-between clothes?”

“Say you’re going to the grocery store, put on an in-between shirt. Or say you’re going to the gym or the beach. In-between shirt.”


“There you go with that God damn, hmm.”


“So where do the in-between clothes go?”

“I’d say if it’s closer to clean, hang it up and if it’s closer to dirty. Throw it on the floor.”

“Ah! You idiot! You’re missing the point! There’s a third place!”


“See this is why we broke up. She thought like you. She didn’t understand the third place was vital to not accidentally wearing a dirty shirt while also not doing too much laundry. Get it?!”

“It sounds sort of ridiculous.”

“Fine, I’ll just break it down into simpler terms. If it’s clean, it goes in the closet, if it’s dirty it goes on the floor and if it’s in-between, if it’s neither clean nor dirty, it gets laid out on the couch. The laying out is a split between hanging up and throwing on the floor.”

“Seems like a waste of a couch.”

“It seems like you have no idea what you’re talking about! It’s fucking genius!”


“Anyway, that’s basically why we broke up. She didn’t get it.”

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The Argentine Sends Word

There are mornings when you catch yourself in the mirror. From maybe three or four meters away, just the slightest glimpse. You stop and stare. You’re probably wearing something stark — simple, you’re probably dressed in black. You notice a tan that’s snuck up with spring. The mirror is small and you’re far enough away that you can’t help, but turn your entire profile towards the 12×17 inch frame. In this light, with this backdrop, you can’t help but say to yourself, “shiiiiiiiiit.” Under these circumstances, you are flawless.

But this morning was not that morning. This morning the only thing the mirror did was mock me unabashedly and at close range. It pointed out the most miniscule bit of toothpaste residue sitting on the outlands of my lip. Flawless was not the word that came to mind.

A telegram arrived this morning. That’s what I was doing up, walking around, catching myself in the mirror. Jack Arranda, the concierge, tried to delicately slip the note under my door where he hoped it would skate across my obsidian floors and rest in plain sight.

What Jack Arranda forgot: I employ a mat on both sides of my front door. This is for sanitary purposes. I awoke out of a momentary slumber to Jack plunging my telegram into the secondary carpet. Jack is a gentle man, two words; he’s also a social leper.

I jumped out of the hammock and slid a la T. Cruise in Risky Business across the obsidian in my birthday suit. Upon arriving at the door, some thirty-seven meters away, I plucked the telegram from Jack’s well-manicured digits.

“Thank you, Jack.” He whistled something that sounded like the opening to Ravel’s “Bolero” in response. In fact, I was my favorite part, if I heard correctly. Holding the telegram, I slunk to the floor.

The telegram was alarming in itself. Aesthetically, it was obvious the envelope  came from some high-end paperie. The kind of place, you find  buried deep in the city’s Flower District when you’re looking for answers; answers about why the Saritaea that was supposed to cloak the bridge of your moat keeps dying. The pigmentation pattern of the envelope was frighteningly similar to that of olive loaf.

The envelope was titled: The Neapolitan Mastiff, Esq. There was an official looking seal that read B.A. and had faintest trace of a woman who was either Hayden Panettiere, Jane Lynch or Eva Perron. Evita, that Nazi hoarding, misandrist who once pulled the nails from my Grandfather’s big toes for selling imitation amphetamines, in bulk, to child dock workers in Tierra Del Fuego.

I inhaled the envelope; it smelled of fennel. I tried to rise up from the floor but my gluteus maximus seemed to have adhered itself to the obsidian. With another effort I was able to rise up. I made a mental note to call Dolores about changing whatever product she cleans the floors with to something less abrasive.

With the note in hand I headed to my desk. There I pulled out a machete I had once traded a cowboy hat for in Van Nuys, Ca.

WHACK! In one fell swoop I sliced off the top. I extracted an alarmingly wet piece of facsimile paper. I had an inclination, as to whom this was from, but when I saw the paper I knew it could have only come from one man, Jay Mapelle, The Argentine…

Jay Mapelle, is by trade, an optometrist and contact lens expert, who deals exclusively with Catalan Pyrenean sheep dogs with two different colored eyes, but I knew Jay in his youth. I met J. Mapelle, when I was just a young  dove trainer in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. And Jay? Jay was running a remote campaign from  Honduras for Prime Minister of Canada.

I held the folded up paper and let it collapse open. A watery substance dripped on my bare thigh. I took the sheet by its corners and shook it out like a sandy beach towel before letting it drop opening on the floor.

The text was microscopic. It was one word, which was shaded in all eight colors of the original box of Crayola crayons.


My heart skipped a beat, then another. Jay Mapelle was back! I crawled on my elbows and knees, dragging myself to the kitchen. I was careful not to dismember myself on the raised entryway. Still half-collapsed, I opened the refrigerator door and showered myself in Orangina. My blood sugar was dropping.

I climbed up the SubZero’s door. If the Argentine was back, there was no time to waste. I needed a disguise, a polio shot and a traveling semi-automatic toothbrush. The Argentine may have found me, but I had yet to find him. TBC.

-The Neapolitan Mastiff

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