In 2008 — the day before Halloween, as it happened — my wallet was stolen in more or less exactly the way I describe Mason Blank’s wallet’s being stolen in “Office Creeper.” The office personnel in the story are similar to the people I worked with at the time. Although having your wallet stolen by a real-life office creeper might well seem like the sort of thing that would — and even should — inspire a short story, I didn’t use the incident as fodder for some five years. I couldn’t tell you why.
When I did write the story, and I had to decide what was in Mason’s wallet that was so important, I first drew a blank, of course. This was — is — the crux of the story, after all. I realized that it had to be something dangerous… and uncontrollable, or only partially controllable. At that point I remembered the otherworldly creatures I’d created for a to-date-not-yet-published comic supernatural murder mystery novel I’ve written — "mirmyjs" and "umbryjs." And an umbryj fit the bill quite nicely.
As for the front of the card… My brother-in-law bought a pack of cards that read “You’re a douche,” and he gave me one. To give to someone else. Not because he has a low opinion of me. I’m pretty sure, anyway. And that’s what inspired the card in the story.
While the “lesson” of “Office Creeper” might seem to be that someone has to pay for a crime, the lesson of the real life incident was that there are good people in the world — even in New York City. The man who found my wallet and turned it over to his boss, who called me, didn’t have to do that. He could just as easily — more easily, really — have done nothing. But that man saved me a hell of a lot of trouble, and in the end my loss was purely monetary. And then I got a good short story out of the experience.