“Bad Excuse Josh,” by Ginny Hogan

Apr 20th, 2021 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

Once upon a time, there was a young gentleman named Josh. And Josh, I’m sorry to say, was a man who would never find love. He never had, and he likely never would. Because Josh was cursed.

Poor Josh wanted nothing more than a partner. This was unusual for a man his age (32), as society had taught him he was still two decades away from needing to sacrifice his two fundamental freedoms—the freedoms to ignore texts and not change his boxers—to be in a relationship. But Josh did not want to ignore texts. He did not want dirty briefs. Josh wanted a relationship.

Josh’s singledom remained a mystery to those around him. He was a nice guy. A good guy. He was a teacher—Good. And a registered Democrat—definitely Good. He never got laid—perhaps the most obvious indicator that he was Good. In fact, Josh respected women so much he let his mom support him financially. Josh never wanted to upset a woman, and yet, all he did was bring pain upon himself and others. He could not shed the Curse. Simply put, Josh had Bad Luck.

***

It started with Sarah. Sarah worked in social media, and she spent the day on Twitter. This would be fine—Twitter has never been known to cause problems for anyone—except for one glaring issue.

Sarah is what we call a “millennial,” which means, by definition, she sent Josh texts all day at work. And Josh found himself unable to respond to her texts immediately because he sometimes had to engage with the young minds he was molding. Occasionally. And this upset Sarah. Sarah believed she deserved a faster response. And maybe she did, because she was a Witch. And Witches typically get what they want, by Hex or by Vex.

The next time Josh took more than 15 minutes to respond to a video of a dog who could turn on a lamp (how?), Sarah lost it. She dumped him, but even worse, she placed a spell on him. For the indefinite future, Josh would be followed by a cloud of bad weather, for him and him alone. It was Bad Luck.

***

Several weeks later, Josh spent a charming afternoon at a coffee shop with Felicity, a lady from an app (like a real woman, but from the internet instead). She was cute and easy to talk to and interested in him. Josh would have settled for one of none of those three, but he got them all.

The next weekend, she suggested they ride in a paddleboat. Josh didn’t even make fun of this suggestion—that’s how badly he wanted a relationship. But on Saturday morning, he saw nothing but rain. Because you see, Josh hadn’t yet realized the rain followed him and only him.

“Felicity?” He said into the phone. “Should we go to a museum instead? It’s raining.”

Felicity looked out her window. There was no rain. Josh was full of shit, she thought. He simply wanted an out. So he suggested the most boring date of all time. No one has ever enjoyed a museum—they are simply storage units for old, expensive things. Josh only suggested the museum in the hope that she would cancel—a coward. A typical man.

“It’s obviously not raining,” Felicity said. “That’s a Bad Excuse, Josh. A terrible excuse. Why can’t you just admit you hate me?” She hung up the phone.

Josh was perplexed. Unfortunately, when Josh checked the weather report near Felicity’s house, he saw that it was sunny. Ok—the weather was different for women. Maybe it was a menstrual thing. Or just another way in which they were pushed to the margins of society. He’d have to keep this in mind. Undeterred, he carried on.

***

A month later, Josh met Teagan. Their first date was lovely and even ended in a kiss! Well, not for Josh—Teagan got too drunk at a bar and made out with a stranger, but he didn’t hold that against her. He liked observing that she was fun, even if he wasn’t the current beneficiary.

Teagan agreed to go to dinner with Josh that Thursday—it seemed like his luck had turned. Unfortunately, although the rain in Josh’s yard had stopped, there was now a permanent river. And Josh, unused to the river and therefore not careful enough with his technology, dropped his phone into it.

He found Teagan’s email and sent her a quick message explaining what had happened. He acknowledged that it was a typical “guy” thing to have your own weather, unrelenting rain that causes a river randomly spring up in his backyard and destroy his phone, but he wasn’t like other guys—he was Good. He then suggested a time and location for dinner, in case he couldn’t get a new phone by then. He wasn’t worried.

You expect me to believe that Bad Excuse? Teagan wrote back. You have your own river in your own lawn because it rained just for you and not me for a month? What are you going to tell me next, your name isn’t really Josh? I’m sure you’re planning to stand me up. The lying—it starts so early. I’ve had it with men. Teagan wasn’t born yesterday. She was born 4/21/1996—it said so on her TikTok. And she was right—Josh was his middle name.

***

Josh was sad about Teagan—he had Bad Luck. How could he get women to believe him? They seemed to think he was just pulling excuses out of his hat like a magician, but Josh had never lied, and he didn’t wear hats. He was saving them until he started balding. He wanted to be completely honest, and yet, it backfired.

A week later, Josh shot his shot with Doreen, his hot neighbor. Doreen understood that Josh’s life was different—he had suffered constant rain when others hadn’t, he now had a river he didn’t want, he just had bad luck. So Doreen couldn’t accuse him of making Bad Excuses—she would believe him.

He’d invited her to a drive-in movie theater. Unfortunately, as he pulled his car out of the driveway, he realized one of his tires was flat.

Josh got out of the car. On the back tire, there was a note.

If you didn’t want to go out, you should have manned up and told me. Sure, I saw the river, but you clearly threw your phone into it because you hate me. Enjoy these flat tires, you flat liar! – Teagan.

Josh was floored. Even when she’d come by his house to confirm the truth, she didn’t believe him. Could it be true that women were Crazy? No, that’s misogynistic and wrong, Josh thought to himself. Because Josh was a Feminist. He was Good. Although, from his perspective, it was starting to seem like women might be a bit crazy. It was okay, though – he’d moved on to Doreen.

He figured he’d simply change the tire, because he’d had enough of trying to convince women that his excuses were real. Unfortunately, at the exact second he removed the tire, his pregnant dog gave birth, and one of the puppies scampered out (human babies are so useless—other species’ infants move around immediately) and hid in the wheel hub of the car. The others followed suit. Josh was unable to attach a new one. He asked Doreen if she could drive them instead.

“A woman slashed your tires because you emailed, not called, her because you’d dropped your phone in the river in your backyard that you have because you alone experienced a month of solid rain?” Doreen said. “And then your pregnant dog’s new infants rooted themselves in the wheel hub when you tried to remove the tires? Do you even know how many guys have lied to me about animal families living in the wheel hubs of their cars? And yet, you expect me to believe that? I’m not an idiot.”

“I have Bad Luck—you saw the river. And you saw the rain! Can’t you just drive? It’s not too far away. Or I can drive your car. Or we can get a ZipCar, or even take the bus. Or we can go somewhere nearby and walk. I really want to go out with you—I’m willing to consider many different alternatives. I was so looking forward to this.”

“No,” said Doreen. “No I can’t just drive. You asked me out, and now you have some Bad Excuse for why we need to change our plans. You’re clearly not interested. I wasn’t born yesterday—my name is Doreen. I was born in 1975 at the earliest. You have no idea how often women have to deal with this—the lying. About their heights, their intentions, even their names – he expected me to believe he was in the Witness Protection Program just because his brother got murdered? I can’t handle the Bad Excuses. I don’t want you as a neighbor. I’m going to have to insist that you move.”

***

At this point, Josh had begun to lose it. His guilt had induced a permanent state of panic. He hadn’t meant to upset all those women. He understood where they were coming from—a lifetime of being belittled by men had left them untrusting, and he got it. But if even one had been willing to give him a chance. To believe him, when he was telling the truth, even if it sounded far-fetched. Even one.

His stomach was in constant pain from the anxiety and dread. Horrible pain. Debilitating pain. He could barely take care of himself, much less his six new dogs. He called his doctor.

“You need a colonoscopy,” his doctor said.

“How do you know?”

“I don’t, that’s just the procedure I like to schedule. It has to do with butts. Come in Friday.”

Josh understood where his doctor was coming from—he liked butts, too. Speaking of butts, he checked Hinge, just to distract himself from his impending procedure. He immediately matched with a pretty woman named Jen.

“Want to get dinner Thursday?” Jen asked. Maybe Josh’s luck was about to change! Maybe he’d hit rock bottom and was now climbing his way up.

“Yes!” Josh replied. He regretted the exclamation mark instantly, though. Then again, “Yes.” would have been sociopathic. Punctuation—a never-ending challenge.

Thursday afternoon, a nurse from the hospital called. “Make sure not to eat or drink water tonight,” she said. “It will interfere with the colonoscopy.”

Josh groaned. He texted Jen to ask if they could go on a walk instead because he couldn’t eat dinner because of the colonoscopy. Of course.

“I know you’re just trying to sleep with me without spending any money,” Jen said. “I’m not an idiot. Do you know how many men have used the “I have a colonoscopy in the morning, which I need because my stomach’s in constant pain from the anxiety of having a woman mad at me for not being able to drive because my tires had been slashed by another woman who I also couldn’t go out with because my phone had fallen in a river in my backyard that I got because a woman cursed me with constant rain because I didn’t respond to her texts fast enough” excuse just to get out of paying? I would have split the bill 60/40 with you – 40 from me, obviously. Or we could have split 50/50 and you pay the tip – something like that. What a Bad Excuse. I will destroy you.”

***

Josh’s stomach dropped—the Curse did nothing for his already over-active bowels. Maybe he should quit dating forever. But no—Josh wasn’t a quitter. At least, he didn’t think he was. He had to prove it to Jen, and to all of them—he was a Good Guy. A guy who didn’t lie to women, didn’t make excuses. A guy who didn’t deserve to be alone. He wanted to shake off The Curse. He must double-down on dating.

***

From there, things spiraled out of control. He made plans with Loretta—a woman he’d met once at Yoga—but couldn’t leave his house because Jen was standing outside, menacingly holding a leashed Llama. Josh didn’t think Llamas were dangerous, but he didn’t want to find out.

He asked out Tricia, but he had to bail because his bank account was frozen, because it turned out that Loretta had emailed Bank of America to accuse him of embezzling funds. She’d successfully forged all necessary documentation—just imagine how good she would have been at filing his taxes, if things had worked out—and BOA believed her.

Next, he cancelled on Jeanette, although that’s just because he wasn’t interested.

“Why don’t you just admit you’re not interested?” Jeanette said. “I’m sick of all these Bad Excuses.”

“I said I wasn’t interested,” said Josh. “I said those exact words.”

“You’re an asshole, Josh.”

***

His Bad Luck continued to rage. Tricia stole his identity. To protect himself, he had to deactivate all social accounts, including his Bumble, where he’d already agreed to go out with Nadia.

Can you text me instead? I’m about to deactivate Bumble, he wrote to her.

Why? She asked. I don’t like this behavior. It seems like you hate me.

He tried to explain, but she wasn’t hearing it. 

Who’d even want your identity? She wrote. Yet another lying good-for-nothing man trying to convince me a woman stole your identity because she’s mad that you had to bail on a date because your bank account was frozen, because another woman hacked into your bank account because she’s mad that you said you were being stalked by a woman and her menacing llama, because you wanted to go on a walk instead of getting dinner, because you couldn’t eat or drink because you were getting a colonoscopy the next morning that you needed because you suffered from gastrointestinal distress because of the anxiety of another woman accusing you of lying when a herd of small puppies moved into the wheel hub of your car, which they did when you removed your tires that had been slashed by a woman who didn’t believe you had to email not text because you’d dropped your phone in a river that exists only in your backyard because you have your own weather? I’ve heard it a million times. You’re nothing but a Bad Excuse loser.

***

Josh had had it. None of these women believed him. None ever would, it seemed. Not having slept in days, he started skipping work. Before long, he was called into the Principal’s office.

“You suffer from Chronic Insomnia due to the stress of too many women accusing you of making Bad Excuses for bailing on your dates, starting with a month of you experiencing your own weather?” The Principal had asked him.

“I know it sounds like a lie, but wait-“

“I believe that, I really do,” she said. “It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to happen, I see it all the time. Nonetheless, we’re going to have to let you go.”

***

Josh moved in with his mother. He thought he was safe at last—would a woman even want him now? But alas.

Can I come over? Carla texted. They’d never met, but he’d given her his number off Tinder months ago.

I live with my mom now, he responded. If you’re okay with that, then sure. He’d learned enough to know not to tell her the whole story—he was beginning to believe why it seemed unlikely. But tons of adults lived with their parents!

You’re an asshole. What a lame excuse. Go to hell. I’m reporting you to the authorities. Carla replied.

He deactivated all dating accounts. He was done, forever. He spent his days curled in the fetal position watching The Great British Bakeoff. His mother tried to comfort him, tempting him with treats he’d loved as a child.

“I stopped eating cookies because of a wheat allergy,” he responded.

“That sounds like an Excuse,” said his mother.

Josh, frustrated by yet another accusation of lying, ate the entire tray and broke out into hives. He went upstairs for an ice pack. And as he opened the freezer, he saw her. Watering a hydrangea in his mother’s backyard.

She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. She had warm eyes, which meant she was a Good Person—everyone knew that. And she Smiled at him, which meant she saw his Soul. She was The One. Alice, the Gardener.

It was all meant to be. It was not for nothing. It had all built to this. Sarah had cursed him so the rain would come so Felicity would dump him so Teagan would slash his tires so his stomach would ache so Doreen would stamp on his heart so Jen would stalk him so Tricia would break into his bank account so Loretta would steal his identity so he’d have a full-blown nervous breakdown so he’d get fired so he’d move back in with his mother. If none of that had ever happened, he never would have come into contact with Alice. He didn’t have Bad Luck, after all. He was Blessed.

“Hey, would you like to get a drink this weekend?” he asked her.

“No, thanks,” she said. “I’m not interested.”

————

Ginny Hogan is an LA-based writer and comedian. She’s the author of “Toxic Femininity in the Workplace.

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