Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Story 132: Counter-Strike

            She could see them huddling again, but chose to ignore them: this report was not going to write itself, and it hadn’t been writing itself for three weeks now.
            She heard her name spoken in a hushed voice and she turned to see her co-worker standing behind her.  “It’s official,” he said.  “We’re going out tomorrow."
            “Ooh, on a date?”  It had been ages.
            “No!  On a strike!”  Frantic “Ssh!”s made him lower his voice again.  “The union let us know that it won't start until tomorrow morning, just in case our demands are met at the eleventh hour.  I highly doubt they will be.”
            “OK.”  He seemed to wait for her to say something more substantial.  “Yay?”
            “Good,” he said, adding over his shoulder as he moved on to the next employee, “we strike at 9 a.m. tomorrow .”
            “Thanks!”  Finally, some variety to her week.  Work was getting so boring lately.
            [9:30 a.m. the next day]
            She was comfortably ensconced in front of her TV, wearing her pajamas and eating kiddie cereal, when her phone rang.
            “Where are you?!”
            “Striking – where are you?”
            “Striking!  In front of work where everyone else is!  You were supposed to be here by 9:00!”
            “You said we were striking at 9; you didn’t say anything about showing up at work at 9.”
            “What do you think a strike means?!”
            “Not working?”  Did someone forget to tell her that this was Opposite Day?
            “Yeah, and you’re supposed to be on the picket line with the rest of us!”
            “Oh.  No, sorry, I didn’t sign up for anything like that.”
            “You did too when you joined the union!  Get over here right now or else you’re out!”  The call disconnected abruptly: this sounded serious.
            She drove up to the building, parked in her normal spot on the grass, and took a moment to watch her co-workers marching in endless circles as they wore or held large signs.  “Urgh,” she mused to herself as she walked up to meet her union leader.
            “It’s about time!  What are you wearing?!”  He got right down to business.
           She was not about to apologize for refusing to change out of her pajamas for this farce, although she had to concede that the wet pavement proved the slippers to be a poor choice.  “There’s so many people here – no one would notice that I’m missing!”  She accurately observed instead. 
           He responded by shoving a sandwich board over her head and shouting “March!” at everybody.
            “I don’t see how me walking around with a sign hurts the company any more than if I had just stayed at home – both are equally non-productive.”  She was on fire today with her solid arguments.
            “We have to have visibility!  They must meet our demands!”
            “All I know is, they’re nice and warm inside, and we’re cold and freezing outside, plus we’re wasting a perfectly good free day.”  She would have won this debate if he had not taken the coward’s way out by turning his back on her and walking over to the infinity circle.
            It was 35°F, and she had forgotten to bring gloves.  Cars would drive by and honk their horns to show their support, and one stopped next to her.
            “What’s the strike for?”  The driver asked.
            She had no idea.  “Down with The Man?”  It sounded about right.
            “Yeah!  Down with The Man!”  The driver cheered and tooted his horn all the way down the street.
            After an hour, when she had been splashed by mud from passing cars for the fifth time, she flung the sandwich board onto the ground.  “That’s it!  I refuse to endure these conditions a moment longer!”  She marched ironically toward her car.
          “Hey!  Where do you think you’re going?!”  The union leader shouted at her through a bullhorn.
            “I’m striking this strike!”  She appreciated the resulting gasps of horror from her co-workers.
            “You can’t do that!”  He yelled, still through the bullhorn.  “It’s against the union rules!”
            “The union’s run by a bunch of fascists!”
            Louder gasps and even murmurs rippled down the picket line.  The local news reporter and camera crew ran over to the confrontation.
            “There seems to be a new wrinkle to the ongoing labor issues here,” the reporter said to the camera on her way over.  “Tell us, miss, what are your complaints against the union, of which you appear to be an involuntary member?”
            “Well Jade,” everyone in town could recognize Jade from The Morning Posse, “it’s about time that someone spoke out against unfair striking conditions, against the non-existent pay for work that is equivalent to what was done on the job, and against the pain and suffering endured during these pointless perambulations.”
            “She doesn’t speak for the union!”  He chimed in.
            “I will no longer be silenced!”
            She picked up the sandwich board and threw it at him; he ducked it and tackled her.  The other strikers surrounded the combatants, waving their signs as they cheered the fighters on.
            Jade and the camera approached a woman in a suit who was watching all this off to the side.
            “And ma’am, which side in this off-shoot strike are you taking?”
           “Well Jade, considering that I’m the company’s president, my official stance is that I take neither side in any internal conflict.”
            “Do you have any comment on this new development?”
            “Only that I think this bodes very well for our future negotiations with the union.”
            “I’ll say.”

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Story 131: The Tyrant Whom Nobody Obeyed

             Everywhere I go, I am surrounded by insolence.
            No one respects my authority; no one fears my wrath.  I demand to be served as is my right and their duty, yet they have the unmitigated gall to laugh in my face.  Actually, they laugh down at my face since they are two feet taller and decades older than I am.
            “Tell me a story!”  My demands are reasonable, I would like to think.
           “Not now – finish what’s on your plate,” is the typical response.  Since I am in constant hunger, I acquiesce simply for survival and most assuredly not to please their whims.
            “Listen to me!”  Why must I constantly demand to be heard?  Aside from the fact that I have far more interesting things to say than whatever it is they are always prattling on about, I should not face a struggle for their attention every time I would like to speak.  Do they know not who I am?!
            “What is it?”
           “Umm… you’re pretty.”  The trauma of that ordeal completely drove away the important matter that I was about to communicate, and I am forced to spew out drivel in an attempt to overcome my humiliation.  Oh, the indignities I must always endure!  What trials I have suffered during the long five years of my reign!
“Play with me!” I instruct my people.  They are here for my amusement, are they not?
            “We’re in the middle of bailing out the basement, honey, you can start without us.”  Is there no end to their defiance?  I will not be ignored by my own subjects!
            “What did you do?!”  They impotently rage as they behold what I hath wrought.  My artwork is sublime and brightens up the otherwise drab walls of my palace.
            “Crayons!”  I graciously hold up my instruments as an explanation they neither deserve nor appreciate.  I then find myself escorted to my chambers in what they claim is punishment – the nerve of these peasants!  You cannot punish your leader!  The mere notion is absurd.  However, since I appear to be deserted by any sort of army that could fight on my behalf, I am left at the mercy of my serfs.  Very well: I will simply withhold affection from them at bedtime.
            That’ll show them who’s in charge around here.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Story 130: Nostalgia Trips, LLC

            (An 80-year-old man enters the offices of Nostalgia Trips, LLC, and is brought to the desk of the Chief Time Master)
            Customer: (Sits) You know the deal: everything is horrible now, I miss the good old days, I’ll pay whatever you ask to make my life perfect again.
            Chief Time Master: Our rates are quite reasonable, so no need to deplete that 401k yet, my good sir.  Now, we reviewed your profile extensively and I selected several time periods in your life that I believe you would agree are as close to perfection as you envision them.  If you would put on the virtual reality goggles that are placed before you, we can go through the selections and either choose one now or go back and review your profile for different options – there’s absolutely no pressure whatsoever to make a decision today.
            Customer: Darn tootin’.  (He dons the goggles)
            Chief Time Master: Now, the first time period on display is from when you were 5 years old – a favorite time for most of our clients, I might add.
          Customer: I bet!  (He becomes immersed in the experience of watching his 5-year-old self frolick with his chums on a bright summer’s day)
            Chief Time Master: (Appears behind Customer) Enjoying yourself?
            Customer: Ah!  How’d you get in here?!
            Chief Time Master: I am a master of space and time.
            Customer: Oh, right.  (He watches the frolicking continue until his younger self starts a fight with the other boys) Yeah, I was a bit of a scamp then.  Can I see another day from that summer?
           Chief Time Master: This happened every day that summer.  Except, of course, on the days when no one wanted to play with you anymore and you picked fights with your sister instead.
            Customer: Hm.  Maybe I could see another option?
            Chief Time Master: Very well.
            (The view changes to Customer’s 19-year-old self, strolling the grounds of an idyllic college campus)
            Customer: My alma mater!  You’re right – these were the best years of my life!  (He watches as his college-age self enters a frat house, drinks to excess at a party, gets arrested for underage drinking and destruction of college property, and is expelled) Wait, what about the other good years I had there?
            Chief Time Master: When you slept through lectures and nearly failed every course?
           Customer: Yeah, but the parties were awesome!  At least I think they were – I can’t really remember any of them, and I don’t think that’s due to age.  Can I see another option?
            Chief Time Master: Certainly.
            (The view changes to Customer’s 33-year-old self holding his newborn son in a hospital)
            Customer: Oh yes, this is it.  Nothing says perfection like holding your child in your arms, let me tell you.
            Chief Time Master: Are you certain of your choice?  If you do select this period, then you’ll be reliving everything: the feedings and changings several times every night, the croup, the neverending bills, the near-divorce, the increased stress from home and work  mutually strengthening each other, the –
            Customer: All right!  Living through it once was enough, I remember now.  Let’s see another one.
            Chief Time Master: Of course.
            (The view changes to Customer as a 65-year-old new retiree)
            Customer: I know I had a great feeling of relief at this point in my life.
            Chief Time Master: Yes, all was well until you had your mini-stroke three days later and your first wife passed away soon after that.
            Customer: Oh.  It happened around then?  I guess I blocked everything else out right after this day.
            Chief Time Master: Indeed.  Want to see another one?
         Customer: …OK.  (The view changes to 80-year-old Customer with his current wife, his children, and his grandchildren) Hey, this is me now!  Now stinks!
            Chief Time Master: Does it?
            Customer: Well, the kids and all that are fine, but the world around me is garbage!
          Chief Time Master: Be that as it may: I showed you some of the highlights of your life and they also were surrounded by a lot of garbage – most of it your own doing.
            Customer: Yeah, but, you know, back in my day –
          Chief Time Master: Not to interrupt, sir, but there never was a perfect day; there were only moments that you remember with great fondness.  Now, have you made your choice?
            Customer: Yes, I have.  (He removes the goggles and goes home to see his family)
         Chief Time Master: (Back at his desk, he sprays sanitizer on the goggles and calls his secretary’s phone) Please bill that last client under the “No Place Like Home” package.  Oh, and please add to the agenda for the next Board meeting the proposal to discontinue the other packages – no one ever uses them.