A Theology of Downsize: Dark Humor Short Fiction

Office-WorkersThe day God walked in through the revolving door of the Murray-O’Hare Accounts Receivable Associates Building, it marked the apocalypse for three local placement agencies.

(S)he had applied for other, more challenging positions on the bus line (God doesn’t own a car), but during interviews, God intimidated prospective employers. (S)he seemed very capable but was overqualified. That was the case at the cardboard factory (It says here you created the universe, but have you ever folded boxes?), Barnes and Noble (Someone has to shelve all the 50 Shades follow-ups and be prepared to talk about them), and, at the roller rink, where God had applied as a bouncer. The manager had said, “You just don’t have that tough look that we need to keep the kids in line.”

God had to beg for the accounts job at Murray-O’Hare, not-so-subtly reminding Cindi in Human Resources that when she was a little girl, she had prayed for her pet hamster to overcome its affliction of chronic eczema, which left the little creature perpetually hairless. The hamster had grown its fur back, and Cindi had not forgotten.

“Well, God, you went to bat for me once, so welcome to the team! I’ve got some paperwork for you to fill out, and I need to go over the sexual harassment policy with you.”

“Sexual harassment?” God blushed and stammered.

“Yes, just routine,” Cindi smiled her salaried smile. “You can be terminated for making unwanted sexual advances; giving or receiving sexually explicit material over the internet; touching, joking, or swearing; looking at someone the wrong way in the sauna; wearing a tie or a t-shirt with a scantily clad fifties’ pin-up star; or simply being nice to someone who isn’t emotionally balanced and interprets kindness with sexual degradation. Sign here.”

God believed in sacrifice, so signing the bureaucratic paperwork was simply a necessary evil. Why, in time, God might become a department supervisor and tuck some money away in blue-chip stock while working toward a regional promotion. Some day! Maybe a private office overlooking a busy street, the babble of traffic, and God would look down through the half-open blinds of her/his office and say, “Look at me! I was just like you! But now, through hard work and diligence, I’ve beat you at your own game, world!”

After months, however, it became apparent that no promotion would be forthcoming. Management was pretty content to keep God gobbling down the work for an hourly and a hit-or-miss dental plan.

God proved, well, a god-send to the accounts department at Murray-O’Hare: (s)he typed a lightning-quick 450 wpm, could set up pivot reports in seconds, and actually made a fresh pot of coffee when (s)he took the last cup. God took no breaks and, best of all, didn’t whine about the lack of portability of the company’s insurance benefits.

God was in for the long haul.

Unsure of how exactly to strike up a conversation with her/him, God’s coworkers found themselves always about to say something but then clamping their jaws shut, afraid that whatever came out would seem inadequate, and that suited God just fine. (S)he was pretty much a heads-down kind of worker, seldom looking away from the spreadsheets.

When nervous coworkers asked Cindi in Human Resources why God would settle for a seventeen-dollar-an-hour job, she merely offered her trained smile. “Whatever the reason, I’m sure we’re all glad to have God on board.”

Frankly, God’s presence was more than a little disturbing for her/his coworkers. Some felt guilty because they hadn’t been to mass since their first communions; for others, it was the fear of an imminent judgment about to be set upon their heads as they went out for a smoke. No one knew whether God ate pork so they never invited her/him for pizza Friday.

They sometimes went to their respective churches and temples on the weekends just to get away from the overwhelming burden of seeing God each weekday, trying to escape that nagging feeling of inadequacy they experienced when they looked at the weekly performance reports.

When it came time for the annual picnic, the others decided not to invite God, but somehow God found out about it and showed up with an armful of Old Dutch potato chips. Much to everyone’s disappointment, God won the raffle for the color TV, and the cake walk, too.

It wasn’t all bad having God around, though. The company softball team did remarkably well with God playing short stop. And left field. (S)he wanted to pitch, but so did Sandy, the night auditor, and since Sandy had seniority and seemed to be going through menopause again, she was allowed to lob the big white balls more-or-less over the plate.

Some of the Data Entry department had started a running collection of cartoon drawings made on yellow Post-it notes that showed God as a stick figure engaged in various acts of office drudgery and thinking ludicrous thoughts like “I’ll be damned if I can have this done by five!”

But, in reality, God usually had the work completed before lunch.

One Monday, the Accounts Receivable Department found their task lists blank, their computers gone, and a memo announcing major Department restructuring. They noticed, however, the flurry of activity in cubicle 34, the rustling of papers being passed over with deft fingers and the buttons of the keyboard being struck so quickly that it sounded like a hail storm walloping a tin roof.

Where once the office was stretched at the seams with sixty coffee-drinking, Monday-despairing people, each made of corruptible flesh and who called in sick two days a month and made four personal phone calls a day, now there lingered a solitary, diligent form in 34, third from last cubicle in row ‘D.’

Meanwhile, the supervisors realized that between the six of them they should be able to manage a department consisting of only one employee — and a perfect employee at that — so they installed a dart board.

Ms. Murray-O’Hare, the owner, came to see her star employee, shoulders jutting squarely under foam padding meant to make her seem more line-backery. “God, you’ve been doing an outstanding job. Production has never been so high in this department! I just can’t believe it!” she said.

God didn’t glance up and kept on working, “That’s most people’s trouble.” But Ms. Murray O’Hare ignored God’s glum tone and clapped her/him on the back, reiterating her disbelief at God’s outstanding performance.

The mid-level department managers, those whip-cracking pencil necks, remained employed even though they had only God in their Covey-Habit clutches. Oh, they tried to look busy by calling one another on the intercom to see if the coffee was done brewing yet. They left the sports columns strewn in the sauna and never wiped up the benches after themselves.

Finally God realized it was time (s)he felt move ahead, and (s)he put in for a promotion to Department Supervisor. This unsettled God’s managers who knew that they would be easily missed and dismissed if God was raised to their ranks, so they put off the request by saying that her/his work levels weren’t quite good enough to merit a promotion. God was too wise, however, for the carrot-on-the-stick trick as (s)he had been using it on every one else quite successfully since they had begun walking upright.

Taking matters in her/his own hands, (s)he marched directly into the office of Ms. Murray-O’Hare.

“Look, God. We’ve done all we can to accommodate you here, not the least of which was actually hiring you. Let’s face it: we took a chance on you, and you’ve done pretty well for yourself, chosen Employee of the Month five months running, elected to head the Safety Committee. What is it, exactly, that you want?”

“Purpose,” was God’s response.

Ms. Murray-O’Hare tilted away from her desk in her multi-adjustable Ergo-King chair, rolling her eyes. “Your purpose is to do your job for which you are paid a fair rate. I’m afraid you weren’t hired to find some personal satisfaction; oh no, you were hired with very selfish motives on our part.” She folded her hands and leaned her torso over desk, “To be perfectly frank, you’ve saved us a bundle of dough! That’s your purpose!”

“But that purpose,” said God, “serves you alone. It provides no value for me to slave for you, to make money for you, while I grow restless, in need of something more…”

“How about a nice raise?” God shook her/his head. “Look, let me be direct here. You’re worth more to us right where you are. I guess you could say you’re too good for your own good. I have no intention of moving you from cubicle 34. If you need purpose, find a hobby. Crosswords or needlepoint. Deep sea fishing — hell, I don’t care!”

Sensing that God would not leave empty-handed, Ms. Murray-O’Hare handed her/him a pair of movie passes, encouraging God to perhaps get out there, socially, and find purpose outside of company time. She violated company policy by slapping God on the behind in an inappropriate attempt at camaraderie. “Now get back to work!”

Now God saw clearly where things stood, and (s)he no longer took great care in worrying her/his finger joints with blinding movement. God slowed down and made mistakes. In short, God became human, and the middle management pounced. They had been waiting to put God down a notch, especially since they each had lost fifty bucks to her/him in the Final Four office pool. Negative performance reports accumulated in God’s personnel file attesting to her/his “negative attitude” and “heightening inaccuracy.” They were setting the stage for a justifiable termination. God didn’t straighten up and, instead, began calling in sick, took twenty-two-minute breaks and snorted in disgust whenever new work was brought in.

Sandy, the former night auditor, popped in to Murray-O’Hare for a little chat with Ms. Murray-O’Hare. She was determined to bring God down. She argued that since God was an eternal being, then employing this God person would eventually drain the company into insolvency with the current 401k and stock option program. “Just think,” she told Ms. Murray-O’Hare. “In just a few decades, God would own the majority of stock.”

Ms. Murray-O’Hare did not relish the thought of losing control of her company, even posthumously. She decided to fire God and to rehire the mortals who tied up the phones with personal calls, played Angry Birds on their iPhones, and used the web site for illicit sexual purposes.

“At least they are content to go on for years and years in their same old capacities, their same old cubicles,” she concluded.

At the end of work one day, when God was punching out five minutes early, several of the managers and Cindi from Human Resources asked her/him to empty her/his pockets, whose contents amounted to a comb, a compact mirror, a coupon for two-for-one Chinese take-out, and a phone number with the words Call Jim scrawled next to it, jotted on company letterhead.

Cindi shook her head, clearly disappointed. “Sorry, God, but this is the final straw.” She held up the company letterhead to him. She delivered a prepared Speech of Termination. Cindi escorted God to the door with her arms crossed like a bouncer at a roller rink.

Nothing definite had been heard of God since (s)he left the Murray-O’Hare Accounts Receivable Associates Building. God’s LinkedIn profile listed only Author of Universe for current position. It was rumored, however, that God was approaching strangers in supermarkets and, under the pretense of friendliness, pressuring them to buy Amway products.

All Sorts (A Short Story of Dark Humor)

103539_A-Funny-Demon_400The demon entered the town at dawn, bringing with him the driest, hottest days of the year for a city already suffering the effects of five years of drought. Flies swarmed the overflowing garbage cans after the garbage workers went on strike.

He was a devil, the embodiment of evil, sweaty and belching and scratching his small, twisted body against the corners of brick buildings. He chose a dark barroom that reeked with the stench of sour beer and cigarettes. The floor was sticky when he lifted hooves, and it reminded the demon of the sucking sensation of a bloody crime scene. He felt at home.

Left in his corner of the bar, the demon drank his beer, evilly. His smell was dangerous, his soiled claws clutching the handle of each chilled mug jealously. There he sat, the details of his gruesome face lost in the faded electric light-bulb that hung overhead, swaying in the course of hot bursts of air that pushed their ways inside through the slanted transom glass.

He could be only evil. The bartender knew this and sent the demon large mugs of cheap beer to keep him occupied. Of these the demon made quick work, not pausing long between mouthfuls to maintain his steady torrent of hateful, malefic words. His words spoke apocalypse. His words were fallen. They were curses from the inner ring of hell, spells from lunatic wizards and corrupted priests. Slowly he brought on the doomsday from his dented head with its frothy lips, swollen in the incessant swinging of hell gates.

No one in the bar understood the language of the demon. They left him alone to swig his beer, except if they needed a packet of ketchup. He was blocking the condiment counter.

The demon haunted the same spot in the bar, raving or muttering, for weeks. A child, one day, stepped into the bar, asking for some coins in exchange for paper currency, and the bartender made the exchange, giving the boy a handful of small coins, just shy of the total amount owed him. The demon saw the bartender’s larceny and laughed horribly. Lifting his mug, he spoke a spell so potent it still resonates in the wood rafters of the bar. It foretold the shadow world of the afterlife and a few moments of agony wrenching the boy’s body. The boy left, laughing, to tell his mother about the funny foreign hobo.

A group of women entered, stepping towards the back room of the bar, as they did each Thursday night, to play cards and cheat one another out of coupons, which they used as currency. The demon, wretched with beer, stood when they entered to debase them in the most foul manner, gesturing wildly, promising obscene violence and vengeful humiliation. The women tittered, thankful for the attention and then fell to play cards. Some occasionally eyed him through the curtains trying to guess what was his occupation and how much money he might make. He repaid their gambling and lust by commanding a curse that would render their wombs hatcheries of hell spawn. He vexed their fingers with his necromantic intonations so they forever after would drop threads and needles and an assortment of other small objects.

The next night was karaoke Friday. The demon watched mortals defiling music with their drunkenness and their inability. He laughed loud enough to overpower the final ride of the Four Horsemen, but the mortals around him did not understand. They sang all the more loudly. Finally, the demon leaped onto the stage and snatched the microphone from a man finishing a third chorus of “Born to be Wild”.

The noises he made were necessarily horrible because he was evil incarnate. The static from the speakers drove the crowd first to cover their ears and then to boo the demon from the stage. They couldn’t make out the demonic hexation that he vented through the distortion of beer-drenched equipment and, even if they had heard, the words were para-foreign, made by a tongue that had licked white-hot sulfur from the ass of Satan. The demon laughed at the pitiful humans who hissed at him. He hissed back but climbed off the stage, slowly, and returned to his seat. The bartender pulled the demon another beer.

“On the house,” he said.

An off-duty Java programmer said to the bartender, “You know, you could really make something of this place, if you kept the riffraff out.”

The bartender puffed out his chest and sounded surly. “What do you mean, riffraff?”

“That guy over there,” the programmer said, indicating the demon.

“That’s no guy, and he’s no riffraff.”

“What is it then?” The programmer stirred a tall red drink with a little plastic sword, leaning over a bowl of pretzels to be nearer the bartender.

“He is a demon.”

“Get out!”

“You get out! This is my bar!”

“No, I mean,” the programmer said, “I don’t believe you.”

“Well, tough. It is my bar.”

“No, I mean about that guy being a demon!”

“Ma’am, I’m standing behind the bar. All the lying that goes on does so on the other side of the tap. He’s a demon.”

Java programmers have little understanding of blatant evil. Their ability to sense malevolence is limited, but they could bury others in a slow-motion hell with endless pointers on scripts and platform plug-ins that would make any end-user’s soul explode. The programmer did, however, spread the word about the existence of the demon. Soon an ex-priest who taught a course in Daemonic Languages at the County Vocational Technology School was drawn to the town with little more than a shaving kit.

The ex-priest was greeted by a hot wind that smelled like the bottom of a State Fair garbage dumpster. That, he knew, was a sign of ultimate evil: the stench of the devil and pronto pups. He checked in as “Ex-Father Bob” in the town’s motel. The woman behind the counter saw his signature and began confessing her sins to him without warning, but Ex-Father Bob absolved her without hearing her out.

“As long as the giraffe and the bag boy remain a fantasy,” he assured her, “It’s not a sin.”

He was ready to fight the devil, so he headed for the bar where evil reputedly lived in a dark, beer-stained corner of the reeking, arid town.

It is not difficult to spot a demon: the way in which a mirror reflects light, a demon absorbs light and makes it dead like black holes in outer space do, and there is a connection. Black holes are entrances into hell; their density draws condemned matter to judgment. Ex-Father Bob knew all about black holes.

Crossing himself and murmuring the Lord’s Prayer, the priest entered the bar. For his appointment with evil, he had worn his black cossack that fell jauntily below he ankle. He was going commando—that is to say, he wore no underwear—although there was no reason for anyone in the bar to suspect that. It is just a fun fact. The demon, however, knew. Underwear and the lack thereof are among the chief concerns of the unholy.

The demon growled and laughed and howled and scoffed and roared and panted and sweated and grunted. Finally the bartender brought him another beer and he was quiet again, watching the priest’s lips chanting in Latin.

“Whatchya saying there, Father?” The bartender asked. “Are ya talking to the Lord?”

“Yes, my son. I am preparing to do battle with the forces of darkness and seal forever the orifice of hell. I have come to cast out the demon and return him to his Master who is the Fallen Lucifer, walking back and forth across the earth seeking whom he may devour.”

“You should see the guy plow through a tub of popcorn, Father!”

As it was happy hour, rail drinks were two-for-one and tap beer was a nickel so there was quite a crowd lined up along the bar and the tables were full of smokers and drinkers, a familiar scene to both the demon and the ex-priest.

The crowd became more and more intoxicated, laughing hoarsely between sucks on their tobacco sticks. Their thoughts ran to the gutter like filthy 10W-30 oil ran from an unregulated gas station’s back door. The demon seemed to grow to twice his size with the evil thoughts blossoming in the smoke around him. The ex-priest poised himself to spring into the mass of exorcism. He dug out a book of chants from his pocket and found the page, marked by a coupon for a bucket of chicken wings.

Of all the maledictions ever uttered, what spewed from the demon’s lips has never been rivaled. He had been drinking Milwaukee’s Best beer for two weeks straight, and that, alone, accounts for the spewing. The bar trembled under the force of his iniquitous incantation. The demon called forth his Master to ascend from the floorboards and foul the eternal souls of the town with the blackest excrement. He commuted the Newtonian laws of physics, and blasphemed the prophets. He spilled his beer on his only clean shirt. His tongue flickered like a nest of wasps on fire. The air was filled with sulfur and methane, but it had been since happy hour got rolling.

The crowd quieted and watched the demon leaping against the ceiling. They clapped when his head spun around on his body. Ex-Father Bob trembled as he heard the most malefic spells spoken. “Pray!” He urged the crowd. “For all that is holy! You don’t know the great evil that is about to befall you!”

“You got that right, mister!” yelled a systems analyst.

“Hey, guy! I’m trying to watch the show!” a woman shouted after slamming a Jello shot.

“You must be warned!” Ex-Father Bob declared. He shook his fist and told the crowd the meaning of the demon’s words. Ex-Father Bob translated the every subtlety of damned metaphor, every shade of meaning that were shot from the very testicles of Satan. The crowd was terrified as they listened to the ex-priest. They hid their faces in their hands and wept in horror.

“I had no idea!” The bartender pleaded with the crowd to forgive him. “I wouldn’t have let him in here if I’d known he said such horrible, horrible things!” And then he commanded the ex-priest to leave.

“Get out of here, you sick scum!” The crowd rose in force behind the bartender, and they chased Father Bob out into the street.

It is a known fact that a man can’t run as fast in a dress – underwear or no — and so they caught him easily, summarily executing him with jolts of electricity from the portable electronic devices.

The bartender cleaned a few of the tables with a damp musty rag and poured the demon another beer. “Sorry about that,” he said. “We get all sorts in here.”

“Same where I come from,” the demon replied.

Dark humor fiction: The Teletubbies’ Final Gig

2007-3-27-teletubbiesAnarchy.

The children of J. Edgar Hoover Elementary School were very close to it, and the teachers were concerned that a fourth fire drill in as many days might tip them over the edge.

The principal, Mr. Faber, put his foot down when the teachers asked him to delay any more fire drill for a few months.

“We used $15,000 of the taxpayers’ money for a new fire alarm system,” he told them at the Teachers Committee meeting. “We’re going to get the taxpayers their money’s worth out of this system!”

Mr. Faber scratched the back of his neck, digging under the collar. “I suppose you all know,” he said, “how kids are today: stubborn, rebellious, unteachable, disrespectful.” He frowned and stared at the ceiling.

“And dirty!” chimed in Mrs. Drought, the first grade music teacher.

Her fellow teachers murmured their agreement.

“Nasty little monsters!” came a high-pitched voice from the back, most likely the math teacher, Mr. Poderkin, who disguised his voice so that it sounded like Minnie Mouse. He recently was accused of hoarding children’s socks.

“They come to us without even the basics for communication!” Miss Lehrenson, the young Communications teacher lamented. “They don’t even know how to talk right!” Everyone in the room clicked their tongues in loathing and agreement.

“And they’re too short!” The Crafts teacher yelled, sending the whole room went into an uproar of chatter. The teachers threatened to develop a “list of names” of the most dangerous of the students against whom some type of unsanctioned actions would be undertaken.

Mr. Faber clapped his stubby hands together, “Please! Sit down!” But the uproar was too uproarious. Plans were being half-baked, petards were being foisted. Unable to regain control of the staff meeting, Mr. Faber walked quietly through the door and a few paces down the quiet hallway, and then he pulled the arm on the red box, sending the harsh blare of a fifteen-thousand-dollar fire alarm through out the school. “Now that,” he thought, “sounds like a million bucks.”

 

**************************************************

Two small people stood before Mr. Faber, pushed forward Mrs. Kinderpants of the second grade.

“Mr. Faber,” she said, “This is Dana,” and Mrs. Kinderpants indicated the little boy lodged on her right hand, “and this is Ruby,” and Mrs. Kinderpants pushed her left hand forward accordingly. “They were found in the janitor’s closet, Mr. Faber, and they were kissing!”

Dana smiled and raised his eyebrows, causing his ears wobble.

“Is that true, Ruby? Were you doing something naughty in the janitor’s closet?”

Ruby stared intently at her feet and seemed about to cry. “Will I get in trouble if I tell the truth?”

“No, of course not! Honesty is always the best policy, young lady,” and Mr. Faber leaned down next to her on one knee and said, “now tell your Uncle Fabie, did you let Dana here give you a smooch?” Ruby nodded slowly and sheepishly. “Well, that was very, very naughty, and I’m afraid you won’t have recess for a week.”

Ruby started to cry and scream “not fair!”

“Unless…” Mr. Faber raised a hand to stop her outburst.

“Unless what?” she sniffled.

“Unless you come to work for us,” he concluded.

Her eyes widened. “I could teach the pony-riding class!”

“No,” Mr. Faber shook his head sharply. “Idiot. I mean, keep an eye on the other children. You know, spy.”

They came to terms: three Good Work! stickers on every assignment for information leading to the capture and punishment of potential terrorists. Mrs. Kinderpants led her away leaving Dana to Mr. Faber for further questioning.

“Do you like my big leather chair, Dana?” Mr. Faber stood and patted the seat of the mahogany leather. “Go on! Give it a try! It spins!” And Dana slid on and used his feet against Mr. Faber’s desk to push the chair around and around.

“You like to spin, don’t you Dana?”

Dana giggled and spun faster once he realized Mr. Faber was paying attention. Mr. Faber, however, had enough of the spinning and gripped the back of the chair sending Dana slamming into the armrest.

“Hmmm…‘Dana.’ Isn’t that a girl’s name?”

Dana nodded, rubbing his ribcage. “Uh hunh.”

“Well, you can’t go around having a girl’s name. I’ll call you ‘Danny’ instead. You’re not a girl, are you, Danny?”

Dana smiled and nodded. His ears seemed barely attached to the sides of his head, and they bent and unbent themselves. “I’m a boy-girl! I’m intersexual. I’ve got a friend, too, and he’s the Green Monkey and he likes me and we go to the fence and put rocks on there.”

Mr. Faber’s face flushed. “That won’t do! You’ve got to choose one way or the other, Danny! Are you a boy or a girl?”

Dana leaped to his feet upon the still-spinning chair, “I am the Green Monkey and I built a rowboat out of a shoe!”

“Okay, Danny, settle down. Be careful. That chair cost your parents a lot of money. Now, do you like to play football and play cops and robbers or do you like to play with dolls?”

Dana sat on the chair with his little legs folded beneath him. “Sometimes when my sister is gone I take her dolls…” Mr. Faber frowned and rolled his eyes “…and I light them on fire because the Green Monkey has a matchbook that he lets me look at sometimes when my sister’s not around.”

Mr. Farber’s face brightened, “Oh, that’s good, Danny! You kiss girls and burn their dolls! I think you’re going to be all right!” Mr. Faber explained about the committee with the list of names and said that Dana’s name was on the list and that bad things could happen if the committee caught up to him.

“You don’t want anything bad to happen to you, do you Danny-boy?”

Dana nodded. “I caught a locust. In a jar.”

“So if you help me with a little project, I’ll see to it that your name comes off that list. And that means that you’ll be safe. You want to be safe, don’t you, Danny?”

“My locust’s name is Hal. He’s got a jillion friends and they’re coming here from Egypt to look for him.” Dana stopped spinning on the expensive chair long enough to heave into the expensive trashcan.

“That’s okay, Danny. You’ll be all right now. As long as you help me. But until you agree, I can’t promise that bad things won’t happen. Very bad things.”

“Sometimes the Green Monkey does my math…”

“Enough with your delusions, Dana. Go back to class. Think about what we talked about.”

Dana wasn’t suffering from delusions as Mr. Faber supposed. There really was a locust named Hal and there really was a Green Monkey and his name was Schubert. Schubert and Dana and Hal lived a half mile from the school. Technically, Hal lived in a jar in the garage and Schubert lived in Dana’s psychoaural field.

And there really was a matchbook. It had a picture of Mrs. Kinderpants naked on it because the matches came from the Torchlight Lounge where Mrs. Kinderpants supplemented her meager teacher’s salary on the weekends with a thong and a penguin. The penguin wore the thong.

It turned out that the “help” Mr. Faber wanted from Dana involved the matches. Having been visited by a select and particularly vicious arm of the Teachers Committee one night, Dana was convinced that the only way he and Hal and Schubert could maintain normalcy in their lives was to comply with Mr. Faber’s request: to light the school on fire to give the expensive fire alarm system a real test.

Schubert and Dana bought seventy-two gallons of gasoline that they wheeled to the school in a Radio Flier wagon. It would take them several trips, let’s face it.

Dana wondered if he and Schubert would be able to get past the security force that each day frisked the children. The guards employed by the school came from an agency featuring washed-up television stars. J. Edgar Hoover Elementary landed the frighteningly plushy cast of the Teletubbies. LaaLaa ran the portable metal detector over the frightened children as the brutish Tinky Winky carelessly frisked them with his cold, fingerless paws. Po dumped out the contents of each backpack and lunch box and swore in Chinese. Noo-Noo handled all the aggressive cavity searches while Dipsy danced and giggled (which was classic Dipsy).

As Dana neared the entrance, LaaLaa spotted his huge canister of gasoline, and she leveled her Taser® and sent the boy flopping to the floor as electric current coursed through him.

Tinky Winky clapped his paws. “Again. Again-again!”

Mr. Faber pushed his way past the Teletubbies. “Let little Danny-boy pass through. My what a big science project you have there!” Then in a lower voice, he whispered in Dana’s ear, “Do it down and dirty around ten o’clock. That’s when we’ll have all of the Names trapped in the auditorium during the Puppets for Safety show. Meanwhile, you and me and the Committee will be safe and sound out front listening to the sweet music of our expensive fire alarm. You like our fire alarm, don’t you Danny?”

Dana shook his head. “Schubert thinks Mrs. Kinderpants needs to drop ten pounds.”

“Good boy, Danny. Do you have the matches?”

Dana nodded and waited until all of the other children and the safety puppets were in the auditorium, soon to be entombed in a crypt of Dana’s fire.

After pouring out the entire contents of the fiery red canister at strategic entry points, Dana began rubbing the match head against the black flint strip that corresponded to where Mrs. Kinderpants’ dirty place should have been. A little flame sprang to life. Dana knelt and was just about to drop the flame that would light the gas that would torch the school that taxes built when a strange humming filled the air. At first Dana thought it must be the fire alarm. It grew louder and it wailed unlike any fire alarm drill Dana ever had heard. It was the drumming of a jillion wings beating against a jillion crunchy thoraxes.

Dana yelped and blew out the match. The children within the auditorium inhaling the delicious aroma of gasoline were safe from a plague of Egyptian locusts who had been trapped in an evil Pharaoh’s tomb with Brendan Fraser’s potential for thousands of years. They were angry and had the munchies.

The Teachers Committee and Mr. Faber and Po and Tinky Winky and LaaLaa were devoured in a bloody frenzy of clicking and screaming by the black cloud that enveloped them.

Dipsy danced and giggled, and then he died.

Dana was revered as a hero by the city for saving the children, and the locusts worshiped him as their new deity. This allowed him to establish himself as King of North America, ruling the continent from Mr. Faber’s spinning chair. His reign was marked by a period of relative stability, except for the occasional mass genocide of those who disagreed with him.