The NoSleep Diaries: Entry 3- “Forgetful Jones”
I’m not supposed to have a favorite story. If asked, I’m supposed to say, “oh, they’re all like my children, I can’t possibly choose a favorite.” Well, I’m not going to say that, because I do have a favorite, because I do, and it’s “Forgetful Jones.”
“Forgetful Jones” is probably the most personal story I’ve ever shared with the NoSleep Podcast. I add bits of myself in everything I write, but “Forgetful Jones” contains the most of me. I’m not going to spoil it here. I firmly believe that you should read it or listen to the podcast episode.
“Forgetful Jones” tells the story of a young girl named Theresa who can’t seem to remember anything. Her little brother picks on her relentlessly. This, combined with her poor memory, cements her reputation among her school mates as being weak, forgetful, and stupid. But, since this is a horror story, Theresa has discovered a way to remember things and man is it gross.
That’s all I’ll say about the plot of “Forgetful Jones.” Go and read or listen for yourself.
As I’ve said earlier, “Forgetful Jones” is personal for me. In many ways, I was Theresa growing up. I had a terrible memory. I was picked on by my younger brother. I was not a popular kid.
I remember watching “Sesame Street” as a kid and hating the character of Forgetful Jones. Forgetful Jones couldn’t remember anything, but no one ever got mad at him for it. No one ever yelled at him. He was forgetful, and that was OK. I was not this lucky. As a youngster, I was constantly scolded for not being able to remember anything. Admittedly, it was probably frustrating for my parents to have to constantly remind me of dentist appointments and family obligations. I still hated that Muppet, simply because he was forgiven for having a poor memory.
I was determined to improve my memory. I began memorizing my favorite Disney soundtracks. It was my way of proving that I could remember things. “Would someone with a bad memory be able to recite The Nightmare Before Christmas in its entirety?” Well, if she still doesn’t know her times-tables, then the answer is yes. I became obsessed with memorizing song lyrics and useless trivia as a way to prove that I didn’t have a poor memory. I need to look up my father’s birthday every year, but if you ever need anyone to name all the X-Men (and their powers), I’m right here.
(Fun fact: when I told my husband that I used to have a poor memory, he was completely and utterly baffled. “You have a great memory,” he said, “you remember all the important plot points on Westworld. You’re all like, ‘oh yeah, that guy was in the background in the bar scene in the first episode.’” That’s true. I have a knack for remembering useless minutiae that won’t actually help me. I still don’t know how to add fractions.)
Theresa’s poor memory was true to life...and so was her relationship with her younger brother, Kevin.
When I was ten, younger brother told his friends (who then went on to tell their older siblings, who were my classmates) that I pooped my pants. When I confronted him, he informed me that our mother had told him that I was incontinent. I confronted my mother, livid that she would tell such a nasty and disgusting lie about me. One shouting match later, we got to the truth of the matter: I had gotten my period, and my brother had overheard her telling me to clean my bloodstained underwear, and in his young mind, he had interpreted this as me having pooped my pants. My mother brushed the whole thing off as a misunderstanding, but the damage had been done: my brother had thought that I was incontinent and had decided not to treat me with kindness, but to instead inform anyone who would listen that I wasn’t properly toilet trained.
This was typical behavior of my brother when we were growing up. He belittled and made fun of me constantly and encouraged his friends to do the same. He always made a point of bullying me in front of my friends and peers. Being bullied by a younger sibling shakes up the natural order of things. Younger siblings aren’t supposed to bully their older siblings; it’s supposed to be the other way around. The older sibling is the alpha, regardless of gender. On TV, younger brothers are mildly annoying at worst; they’re pesky, sure, but they’re never outright mean. My brother wasn’t the little pest he should have been; he was a bully.
In elementary school, a pecking order is established and strictly adhered to. If you’re lucky, you’ll either attend a different middle school and create a new identity for yourself, or you’ll do something so spectacular it’ll shatter everyone’s preconceived notions of you and you’ll shoot straight to the top. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen for me. I was never the cool or popular kid. I was picked on a lot. I didn’t have many friends. I felt -- and still feel -- that my brother’s cruelty had a great deal to do with this.
Watching the way someone’s family interacts with them shapes how you treat that person. For example, if a younger sibling thinks that person is the coolest, you think they’re cool too. If an older sibling is mean, you both roll your eyes and commiserate because that’s how older siblings are supposed to be (according to TV). If a younger sibling is the bully, it flips a switch inside of you and gives you permission to be mean too. After all, if a person can’t command the respect of someone younger and lower in the pecking order, do they really deserve your respect?
This is a huge plot point in “Forgetful Jones,” and it did not go unnoticed by my mother when I played the episode for her.
“Is this autobiographical?” she asked me.
“Is it the part with the little brother?”
I sighed. She already knew the answer to this. My brother’s poor treatment of me did not go unnoticed by our parents. In all fairness, they were constantly scolding him and telling him to treat me more respectfully. He just never did. I personally think that this is because, as often as my parents would scold my brother, they’d turn to me and say, “you need to lighten up. It was just a joke. He’s only doing it to get a rise out of you. Why can’t you just ignore him? He’s a little boy, he doesn’t know any better. He has ADHD. You need to learn to take a joke.”
My mother may have hated “Forgetful Jones,” but the reaction on Reddit’s NoSleep sub was an overall positive one. My inbox was flooded with responses from women who had been diagnosed (in many cases, later in life) with autism, Asperger’s, or ADD/ADHD. They told me that they could relate to Theresa. This wasn’t something that I had done intentionally, but it felt nice to know that people were connecting with the story. These women weren’t just connecting with Theresa; they were also connecting with me and with each other. That made “Forgetful Jones” feel important, like it actually mattered.
On the podcast, “Forgetful Jones” is narrated by Nichole Goodnight, with Jessica McEvoy playing Theresa. Nichole and Jessica are perhaps two of the most versatile performers on the NoSleep Podcast. Nichole is the psychotic child giggling in your hallway at three in the morning, but she’s also the ingenue, the seductress, the demon, and the housewife. Jessica is frequently plunked down into bleak and horrific situations that involve her character either breaking down or snapping and unleashing hell. She’s great at both.
In “Forgetful Jones,” Nichole Goodnight plays Marcia, a classmate of Theresa’s who witnesses her bullying and her unusual method of memory improvement. Nichole plays the role with a careful amount of empathy, and you can tell that she feels genuinely bad about how poorly she’s treated Theresa. But underneath that empathy is the tiniest sliver of resentment that rears its head once Theresa improves her memory and outshines Marcia in drama class.
Jessica plays Theresa with a level of nervousness that paints a clear, vivid image of the character. Hearing Jessica’s voice made me picture a scrawny girl with downcast eyes who desperately wanted to disappear. Also, I pictured Theresa constantly biting her nails, even though I hadn’t written that into the story. Once Theresa improves her memory, though, Jessica carries the character with the hesitant, newfound confidence of someone who is on the cusp of success.
Jessica and Nichole are two of the sweetest people I have ever met. I met them at the NoSleep Live shows back in 2017 and 2018. They’re super friendly, give fantastic hugs, and basically awesome. When I met Jessica and Nichole in 2018, they had appeared in another one of my stories, “What Was in the Attic” (which will be Entry 7 in this series); Jessica had had a major role in that story, and she had done an amazing job with it.
As with meeting Nikolle Doolin, meeting Nichole and Jessica was a surreal (but thoroughly awesome) experience. The three of us had what I can only describe as an Epic Fangirl Moment. Because -- much to my surprise -- Nichole and Jessica like my work as much as I like theirs. I’ve never really encountered anyone who was a fan of my work before. Writers are sort of invisible; unless you’ve reached Stephen King levels of fame, no one is going to recognize you when you’re walking down the street. You usually have to announce yourself as a writer, and there’s no real way to do that without looking like you’re fishing for praise.
Knowing that Nichole and Jessica would be at the NoSleep 2017 live show, I brought along a copy of “Forgetful Jones” for them to autograph. I had been prepared to introduce myself and explain that I had written “Forgetful Jones” and how much their performance meant to me. I was stunned that Jessica and Nichole knew who I was and that they remembered my story. After all, they’ve been with the podcast for years (Jessica joined in Season 3, Nichole in Season 4). They’ve narrated dozens of stories, but they told me that they enjoyed reading mine.
I had to keep writing. Especially after my mother’s reaction to “Forgetful Jones”...I needed to find a way to apologize...
Classic Nichole Goodnight episodes:
“The Diner” (Season 4, episode 9)
“Puzzler’s Box” (Season 5, episode 5)
“In My Line of Work” (Season 8, episode 14)
“The Town I Grew Up In Was Torn Apart By a Serial Killer” (Season 8, episode 24)
“The Final Party” (Season 9, episode 6)
“The Rat Girl of St. Bruno’s” (Season 10, episode 12)
“The Executrix” (Season 11, episode 15)
Classic Jessica McEvoy episodes:
“It Wasn’t My Stop” (Season 3, episode 21)
“Room 733” (Season 4, episode 15)
“As Helen Remembered It” (Season 5, episode 24)
“The Whistlers” (Season 5, episode 25)
“The Good Thomas Shea” (Season 6, episode 13)
“Laughterhouse” (Season 10, episode 2)
“It Was Drawn in Banana Mania Crayola” (Season 11, episode 15)
“Prom Dresses” (Season 12, episode 6)