Twice each week, a man in a Pontiac Aztec rumbles down my street. It’s 4:00am. With no pretense of precision, he flings the newspaper through the passenger-side window. The dull thud of the paper’s belly-flop is barely heard above the blare of a long-forgotten Conway Twitty tune and, as he passes, the pitch of “Hello Darlin” shifts ever downward, like that of a distant freight train.

Here’s the thing: I don’t subscribe to this newspaper.

Twice each week, I am forced to pick up that free paper full of local ads and do something with it. But not right away. Wrapped in its gaudy orange plastic sleeve, I let the paper lie there for a couple of days… an act of defiance that signals to the world that I will deal with this paper situation on my own terms. I will pick up the paper on a day when I am good-and-ready and today is not that day. Tomorrow is probably not that day, either.

It usually rains by the third day. When I finally pick up the paper, inky water runs down my arm and drips from my elbow. Still, it feels like I won that round.

Being environmentally conscious, it just seemed wrong to throw these papers in the trash. So, I bought a 30 gallon storage tote and some of those blue recycling bags. I cleared out a space in the garage to hold my newspapers.

I know what you’re thinking.

“Cliff, just call The Tennessean and ask them to stop sending you the paper.”

You are naïve, gentle reader; the paper cannot be stopped.

The first time you call, you are directed to the nicest lady in the world. She understands how frustrating it must be to have the equivalent of litter thrown in your yard (twice) each week. She will see to it that this ends “soon”

By the time you are picking up the 5th paper, it’s Week 3. You’re starting to wonder if there was some miscommunication between that nice lady and the guy in the Pontic Aztec.

Somewhere around the back-half of the 8th week, you call again and a different lady talks you off the ledge. She is crying with you by the time you finish sharing your story. “Truly, there has never been a more gentle and compassionate representative of Beelzebub,” you tell her. The shared laugh gives you hope. For another few weeks, you wait with increasing anxiety for the final drip from the newspaper company’s spigot.

On Week 11, you reluctantly agree to titrate up on your meds.

You call again but nothing works: Sweetness. Anger. Humor. Feigned concern over your dog’s health because you vaguely think he might have an allergy to linear low-density polyethylene and the sight of your dog in anaphylactic shock with that stupid orange plastic paper wrapper in his mouth is not the way that Lucky should leave this world because, after all, he is the “Best. Dog. Ever!” Or would be, if you had a dog.

Hey, I’ve tried it all. You’re going to be on an emotional roller-coaster until you accept the madness, work through the Five Stages of Grief, and come out on the other side.

If anyone knows how I can get off this treadmill, please contact me. There’s a paper in the driveway and the sky is getting darker. Looks like rain.