Category Archives: Story

Waits for No One

Waits has a vast human resources department. Housed on the third and fourth floors of the southernmost building on campus, the talent acquisition office consists of hundreds of employees. All day long, they review applications from around the world, select good fits, make phone calls, invite interviewees, and conduct orientations.

“The real interviews are done by the senior staff,” Barbara Twain explains. “But we’re essential to selecting the applicants.”

“It’s necessary to root out raw talent,” she says, pulling up an example application. “This person applied for a programming development role, but look, they have all this theatre and forensics experience. Mock trial. Great presentation skills. That’s what we need in project management. This person is on the team now and travels over the country introducing people to our products and loves it. They confessed they had no idea why they applied as a programmer in the first place.”

Barbara puts the application back in a desk drawer. “That’s the key in Talent Acquisition. Digging for the essential and the passionate.”

Essential, key, necessary, critical, and more absolute language is employed by the Talent Acquisition department. Here, there is a general sense of urgency. On each floor, there are four small lounge areas with coffee and tea stations, but no one ever relaxes there. Associates dart in and out of their offices for refills between interstate and intercontinental phone calls.

A young man in slacks and a t-shirt peaks in around the corner of Barbara’s office. “Do you have five minutes?” he asks.

“No,” Barbara says.

“Okay. I’ll try tomorrow.” And disappears.

It costs Waits an average of $500 to bring each candidate in for an in-person interview.

At 8:30 AM on May 5th, Barbara meets at least $5,000 worth of candidates in the Tyrell Building. The “lobby” is a tremendous glass rectangle, like a terrarium, full of potted plants that reach up to the ceiling. The plants surround tiny alcoves and half-moons of chairs and couches. There’s a little pond in the corner. No fish, but plenty of change.

“Thekla Moran?” Barbara calls, after consulting her clipboard.

Ten applicants sit in a tight knot around the pond. All are impeccably dressed and all are in their early twenties. One, a young, athletic-looking blonde woman wearing a grey suit, stands up and smiles. She walks forward, and shakes Barbara’s hand.

Waits brings in roughly twenty candidates a day, or one-hundred a week, in its insatiable search for enough workers to meet the growing demand for its products and services. Starting with a staff of twenty, it has grown to nearly ten thousand in 2013. Two years ago, they moved from Ann Arbor proper to their new campus just outside of town. It has enough offices to house two thousand.

Tabatha Renzel founded the company in 1995 and it’s still privately held between three partners. All went to school together in 1975, graduating from Brown. They went their separate ways and joined forces twenty years later to seize an opportunity.

No one at Waits seems to be able to articulate exactly what Waits does. Responses vary between, “We’re a solutions developer” to “government contracts,” to “consulting.” This in itself isn’t surprising. All positions at Waits are specialized, all employees are experts in a thin slice of the grand design.

“We’re all specialists,” Barbara says.

Lars Whitesmith, a senior manager in HR, has been with the company thirteen years and says, “We look for passion, intelligence, and a willingness to work.”

All advertised positions on Waits’ website are entry-level and the average age of their employees is 28.

“Yes, we have a lot of millennials on staff,” Lars says. He’s in his late forties, somewhere between the Baby Boom and Generation X. Also, he’s one of the only staff in the building wearing a suit. Everyone else wears jeans and t-shirts, skirts, an occasional flannel, button-up shirt. Hair receding and with a subtle field of cologne, Lars looks like a professional, as out of place in the cohort of young, enthusiastic associates as a middle school math teacher at an arcade.

“People work better when they’re comfortable. That’s why everyone has their own office, too. Studies show that productivity increases by 15% when people have their own offices.” Lars gestures down the hall of the Tempest Building, where a healthy chunk of the programming and trouble-shooting department is. There are doors evenly spaced down the entire length.

“It kind of reminds me of my college campus,” Thekla says while she sits in one of the lobbies between interview sessions. She attended Hamline University in St. Paul.

Indeed, Waits’ campus does resemble a small liberal arts school with seven of its buildings designed in a harmonious, geometrically complicated fashion – grey cement and apple red framing and supports, the company colors. The three other buildings look far older, though they are not. One is an immense, concrete cube, a throw-back to postmodern, strictly utilitarian and soul-draining design. The other two are large, stone and brick – colonial-academic.

Thekla studied anthropology and psychology, graduating with honors. All throughout her education, she claimed she knew how worthless her degrees would be, but is still upset at her prescience. “This is my tenth interview in seventy applications. Statistically speaking, this should be the one that I get an offer.” She shrugs and pulls out the maroon folder Waits sends to all applicants. A heavy thing full of glossy brochures and one-pagers. “Absolutely substanceless. I’ve read over all their materials and their website and I still have no idea what they do. A lot, I guess. Everything, maybe.”

“I’m good at giving interviews,” Thekla says. She smiles wryly, then shakes her head. “Either that or I’m delusional. The hard part is getting the interview, but I always make it to the second once I get that first. Then I’m told they are going with someone with more experience. Or someone more enthusiastic. It’s a buyer’s market.”

 “I had to re-learn how to tie a tie,” Justin Reice says, holding up the silver silk. He’s wearing too much cologne and his suit looks a size too big for him as if his mother bought it for him expecting him to grow into it. “I haven’t tied a tie since Prom.”

Justin is from Ann Arbor, though he studied in Beloit, Wisconsin. Before he graduated, his dream was to work at the gaming company White Wolf. It turned out that was every English major’s dream and he was one of the unfortunates that didn’t have it realized.

After Thekla and Barbara leave the room, a twenty-four-year-old project manager named Bastian Christie leads Justin away from the group. They sit in a cluster of chairs, secluded in the vastness of the hallway. The Tyrell building is a tremendous structure with glass windows from floor to ceiling, two stories up, letting in as much daylight and view of the spectacularly manicured landscape as possible.

“This is your chance to interview me,” Bastian explains. “Go ahead and ask me anything.”

This part is meant to bestow on the applicant a sense of agency, which in some proves fatal.

Between projects, this is occasionally Bastian’s duty, to offer himself as a sort of known insider to the company. “I love my job,” he says, grinning. Since he’s not on the road, visiting clients, he wears jeans and a t-shirt. He always dresses casual around applicants.

“I hate wearing formal clothes,” Bastian says. “It makes me feel like I’m trying to be something I’m not. I think most people my age feel that way.”

According to Forbes, the single most common mistake millennials make in interviews is not dressing professionally. Also, 75% of some 500 hiring managers interviewed say they’d prefer to hire someone fifty years old or older over a millennial, or someone below the age of 31. They worry that the younger generation is unprofessional and uncommitted.

“Last week, I was giving a presentation to a group of grey-haired doctors,” Bastian tells Justin. “And it occurred to me that I’m twenty-four and acting as the sole representative of a multi-billion dollar company, teaching people decades older than me how to use our software.”

“Do you ever run into people who are resentful for that?” Justin asks.

With a wave, Bastian replies, “Yeah, sometimes. But people get over it if you just act knowledgeable and confident. Come on. Let’s get some coffee.”

Bastian leads the way down the hallway to a coffee station. Dawdling a step behind, Justin is visibly sweating.

Bastian says, “This job will make you into a caffeine addict. I keep a bottle of Nodoz in my desk and my travel bag for emergencies. The first thing I bought myself when I got this job was a three hundred dollar espresso machine.”

“You’ve got to learn how to say, ‘No,’” Barbara says, tapping a pen against her desk irritably and glancing out the window. “That’s the hardest lesson I learned when I came to work at Waits and it took me a year to figure it out.”

She is between interviews. In this respite, Barbara gets coffee down the hall, pours milk into it so that she can drink it faster. In college, she studied music, a time-demanding major, and became an addict. Sometimes, she didn’t go home for a week, just cat-napped in the practice rooms on hard, polished piano benches, so ferocious was the competition. It was good preparation, she thinks.

“I really loved strings. I learned the blues guitar. Sometimes I even get to play with this band at bars still.”

A heavy young man with rings under his eyes and a smile on his face walks up to Barbara and asks if she has a moment. There’s an iPad in his hands, a stylus poised. Barbara tells him, “No.” Halfway through her coffee, she still thinks she can go home at five. After the young man walks away, Barbara rolls her eyes. “He’s new.”

“I used to work until 9 at night. A few months ago, I swore I’d never do that again.”

She drains the coffee, twists her abdomen so her back cracks loudly. “They don’t encourage it. But they don’t discourage it, either. A lot of new employees work sixty hour weeks.”

After college, Justin worked sixty hours a week at the Ann Arbor Walmart to pay back student loans. He hurt his back every few months because he was a night-stocker and the boxes he unloaded sometimes weighed as much as he did. The average student loan debt for the graduating class of 2011 in America was $26,600, a 5% increase over the previous year.

“I feel like I’ve been lied to,” Justin says. He sits at the hotel bar where Waits put him up for $220 a night, not including tax or meals. It is the most expensive and luxurious hotel room he has ever stayed in. He owes his university $80,000.

“Sure, everyone told me that an English major was a bad choice, but I have a friend with a degree in computer science and she worked for the university for two years. She still can’t find a job.

“We’re indentured servants,” he says.

He orders a High Life that isn’t covered by Waits. It’s the night after his interview and he wants to unwind.

“The company has a reputation in Ann Arbor, you know,” Justin says after finishing his first beer. “They have this program where you can take three months’ sabbatical after you’ve worked four years. I don’t know anyone who’s made it. I didn’t want to apply here, but I feel like I have to.”

There is a strict philosophy and procedure to interviews that Lars has developed. “Most applicants think it’s a purely adversarial situation. I’ve got answers I want to hear and they are trying to figure out how to give them to me. That’s not a good way to look at it. I want you to get the job you want. People work better if their expectations are met and they’re satisfied with the job.”

In a small room with bright fluorescent lights, Lars sits across the desk from Thekla. The desk is bare. He pulls out a notebook from his jacket pocket and a pen. The walls are a soothing blue and it smells like lemon cleaning supplies. Sterile. The overall effect is what Thekla later describes as, “A very nice interrogation room.”

“I’m going to give you a situation and I want you to tell me what you’d do. You’ve interviewed a marketing specialist with 20 years’ experience. These people are hard to find. She’s perfect for the job and a day after the interview she calls to say that she’s been offered another position, but she’d prefer to work with us and would like to know if we would like to make a counter offer. It’s 3:00 PM and she needs to know before the end of the day.”

“Do I have the authority to make a counter offer?” Thekla asks immediately.


“Who does?”

“Your supervisor.”

Both Lars and Thekla are neutral. They look like they’re playing a game of poker. Eyes locked, Thekla takes her time and answers slowly.

“I assume the supervisor is out of the office.”

“Yes,” Lars says placidly.

“Who would I need to go to, to get approval?”

“The head of HR.”

“I go to her office and knock on the door,” Thekla says. The conversation begins to sound like a text adventure or game of D&D. Which, in a way, it is.

“She’s not there.”

Thekla nods. “Who would be the next best person to go to, then?”

“The CEO and founder, Tabatha Renzel,” Lars says.

“Have I met her before?”


“I’d go to her secretary and ask if she’s available immediately.”

“Her secretary is away and the door to Tabbi’s office is closed. You can hear discussion inside.”

“I’d knock on the door.”

Lars nods. “No answer.”

“I’d knock again.”

“No answer.”

“I’d open the door and say, ‘I need to speak with you immediately.” Thekla sighs. The chair creeks as she leans back, her expression stony.

The interview continues. Thekla’s answers are curt. Finally, Lars says, “You don’t seem excited about this job.”

“That’s because I’m not,” Thekla replies. Lars’ expression doesn’t change.

Because she is well informed and reads widely, Thekla considers herself a cynic and pessimist. She knows she comes across as fierce, intelligent, accomplished, and distrustful. A Pew Research report in 2010 said millennials were the most open to change of any generation, and Thekla represents the darker side of this positive assessment, a deeply held belief that everything in their lives, especially in the professional realm, is transient and unreliable.

A hard scratch. Lars makes a single stroke with his pen across the notebook. After, he looks up and asks another question.

At the end of the day, after the applicants have left, Lars says, “The millennials are all hard working, intelligent, well educated, and driven. But they are very sensitive. They’re not risk takers. And they don’t like people being mean to them. I look for those who can take criticism and stay motivated. Most of them can’t handle that.”

“Do you have a girlfriend?” Bastian asks Justin as he pours coffee into two Waits mugs.

Flustered for a moment, Justin lies, “No.”

“That’s good.” Bastian nods enthusiastically. “You don’t have much time for a social life with this job. You’ve just got to live and go with it. I had a girlfriend and that didn’t work out.”

Bastian is now a lead project manager. Barbara is a supervisor in Talent Acquisition. None of the ten applicants in Thekla and Justin’s cohort were hired by Waits. Thekla now lives in Santa Fe working as a freelance consultant while Justin manages at a coffee shop in Ann Arbor.

Half of Waits’ offices are still empty.


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For two years, Britney lived in a small house in an unincorporated township outside of town and had to drive forty-five minutes to work as a hotel night clerk. She was renting it as a favor to a friend who needed a roommate to help cover the lease. Her neighbors were mostly survivalists and hermits who didn’t like talking, but all of them told her to be careful driving in winter, especially around the crossroads. There were wolves and worse. Some said that there were an unusual number of alien abductions in the area.

Britney never saw any wolves or aliens, but one night during a snowstorm in her second winter her car went off into the ditch next to a crossroads far from home and town. She’d forgotten her cell phone and considered whether or not it was safe to walk back. Then the Devil rolled up in a pickup truck and offered to pull her car out.

That’s what he called himself, at least, the Devil, but he looked more like a sickly, tired Brad Pitt impersonator. He had bags under his eyes. Either way he pulled her car out. She asked, jokingly, if she now owed him her soul. Actually, he said, he wanted to give her his. He wrote on the back of a parking ticket from his truck “My Soul” and gave it to her with a wink and then drove off.

This became a fun story to tell at parties and she kept the note with her to show people. The only ones who didn’t think it was funny were her neighbors who, laconic to begin with, stopped talking to her altogether. Of course people asked her if she felt different, more evil, if she had some sort of power, but of course she didn’t. What good would a soul, even the Devil’s, be to anyone? The only thing that had really changed was that she inexplicably became good at playing blues guitar. She was nothing special, but she was good enough to start playing in a band.

She moved out of the house in the summer and into an apartment a few blocks from the hotel where she worked and could suddenly afford to live because of a promotion and raise. People knew they could rely on her to cover shifts no one wanted, and she was usually the first one the others called when they were sick. Things were looking up. She finally could buy better food and work the hours she wanted.

Then, one night, the Devil checked in. He didn’t recognize her and he looked a lot healthier than he had months before when he pulled her car out. She asked for his name and he said, “The Devil,” with a smirk.

She said, “I have something of yours.”

He looked confused for a moment and then his face went pale. Without another word, he turned around, walked out the door, and didn’t come back.

Younger people with degrees in hospitality kept taking jobs above her and so Britney stayed in middle management, but at least she had a low stress job. It was never supposed to be permanent, but was becoming so. One of the managers, a friend who was no longer there, had roped her into it in college because he was understaffed and needed someone reliable.

Once a week, she played in a house band at a bar called the Parallelogram and one night, she spotted the Devil in the crowd. He sat alone at a corner table nursing a Moscow Mule and studying a mess of papers. Unlike the last time, he looked thinner, more tired.

Between sets, Britney walked over to him and said, “I don’t really think you’re the Devil.”

“What if I’m not?” he asked with a shrug. He recognized her this time, and seemed completely indifferent about her presence.

She pointed at the pile of papers on the table. “What are those?”

“Contracts. What else?”

“Didn’t you get out of that business when you gave me your soul?”

“There ain’t no rest for the wicked. Whether or not you have a soul doesn’t change anything,” was all he said and she went back to the stage.

Even though she hated the commute, Britney loved the solitude of living in the country and was finally able to close on an old family farmhouse. It took a lot longer than she’d planned because new management hadn’t given her a raise in years and cut her benefits, but she got by. All the land around the house now belonged to an industrial operation. They grew some corn hybrid and she never seemed to be around when anyone was actually working in the fields, but sometimes she caught a glimpse of someone walking behind the rows.

One day in late October a snowstorm came through. Even before it hit, people were comparing it to the Halloween Blizzard, so she left early and took her time driving to work, arriving without incident. Outside the hotel, though, she saw the Devil sitting in a beat up Dodge Stratus trying to turn the engine over. He was bald and skinny, like he was going through chemo, and he looked like he was on the verge of tears. “Need help?” she asked and brought her car around to jump his.

When his car was running again, she reached into her pocket and offered him the piece of paper that said, “My Soul.” “Do you want this back?”

“You still have that?” he asked, gawking.

“Well yeah, why not?”

He shook his head. “Everyone’s just so careless about this stuff, these days. Even me.” He stared at the paper for a few moments, took it, and then ripped it up.

“I think I’m going to try to get out of this business again. It’s becoming way too Glengarry Glenn Ross, you know?” he said. He walked over to the passenger’s side door, dragged out a banker’s box full of official looking documents and sat it down on the curb next to a public trash can. “I’m not my job.”

After he’d left, Britney picked up the box and took it inside with her. By the time her shift was over the roads were impassable, so she stayed at the hotel. Because there was nothing else to read, she perused the crumpled and messy contracts, marveling at the numbers and obligations. Neither a businesswoman nor a lawyer, Britney felt an odd sensation come over her, a compulsion, and the beginnings of a scheme.

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The Likely Lads

Ambrose finally customized his ringtone long after anyone he wanted to talk to started texting exclusively. Consequently, he was beginning to dread the sound of one of his favorite songs, The Libertine’s “What Became of the Likely Lads?” but was too lazy to change it to something appropriately awful, like “Tubthumping” or “We Built This City” or the sound of Pyramid Head dragging his sword across the floor. When the opening guitar riff crashed through the formerly silent living room, Ambrose cringed. Worse, the phone didn’t recognize the number so it was either a telemarketer, pollster, collection agency, or the automated voice of any number of local institutions to remind him of an appointment or due date.

“Hello?” he asked, hoping this would be quick. He was sitting on the couch playing Fallout, procrastinating from doing anything productive now that he was off work. How anyone finds the energy to do things after they become independent adults still baffled him.

“Hi… Ambrose,” said someone hesitantly.

“Yes, this is he,” Ambrose said.

“This is Lyle.”

“Lyle.” Ambrose sat up. “How are you? We haven’t talked in… what? Two years?”

“Yeah… I guess it must have been that long. When did we last talk? Do you remember?”

“It must have been… Yeah, it’s been two years. We talked at Katie’s birthday party.”

“What did we talk about?”

Ambrose wasn’t sure where the conversation was going, but he felt there was probably a punchline at the end. This was typical of Lyle. They had been close in high school, had minimal contact in college, and saw each other sporadically around the holidays when they were both visiting family. In all that time, his sense of humor, bizarre and usually only made him and no one else laugh, had not changed at all. For two weeks when they were juniors, he tried to convince their friends that Ambrose, as a freshman, had tried to orchestrate an elaborate cheating ring in Spanish. He hadn’t. When Ambrose confronted him about it, Lyle admitted that he was just trying to see if he could change people’s memories and then laughed.

“Health insurance, I think. We were both griping about not having dental plans, but that it was a good excuse not to go to the dentist,” Ambrose said.

“Oh yeah. Have you gone, yet?”


“To the dentist?”

“Kind of a strange place to start catching up,” Ambrose said.

“We’re friends right?” Lyle asked suddenly.

“Well, yes, we’re friends. Are you mad about something?”

“How close of friends are we?”

Ambrose was almost certain, now, that this was a joke he didn’t understand, but asked, “Are you all right?”

“Yes, I’m fine. It’s just that I’ve got this amnesia thing going on.”

“You what?”

“Nothing. Just a joke. It’s been kind of a weird few days. You know what? Forget I called,” Lyle said and hung up.

As seniors, they took Advanced American Literature together with Mr. Badger, who did not at all live up to his name but was famously forgetful. Whenever someone didn’t turn a paper in, he wrote their name down on the board to remind them that they were losing points. Lyle’s name went up on the board every assignment, and every time Lyle would erase his name while Mr. Badger wasn’t looking. He got a passing grade in the class because he convinced Mr. Badger that he’d turned in every essay, but that Mr. Badger had lost them.

Lyle didn’t answer when Ambrose tried to call him back. A few phone calls to old friends confirmed what Ambrose suspected. Lyle was missing. “He called me, too,” Nina, a mutual friend said wearily. “This isn’t the first time this has happened, though. Last year, he disappeared for four days and they found him in a hotel under the name John Dee.”

“Shouldn’t we be doing something?”

“Talk to his family.”

Ambrose walked to the convenience store down the street to buy aspirin. It was almost New Year’s Eve and he didn’t have any plans. He didn’t even know where to look or who to ask to find an interesting party for the evening, which made him feel old.

Somewhere, not far from the store entrance, someone was celebrating early and playing Auld Lang Syne on a piano. Meditating on the words, Ambrose sang under his breath, “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind…”

“There looks like trouble,” someone said behind him. He turned and saw a man with dirty blond hair and beard wearing a green canvas, WWII trench coat and holding a leather briefcase walking toward him, one hand outstretched. “Ambrose, are you living out here now?”

Ambrose shook hands and smiled, certain that he’d never seen the man in his life.

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Unlike everyone else she knows, Kendal loves resolutions.

She spends 364 days of the year composing them in her head and then writes them down on New Year’s Day. As a rule, they were impossible, things she is certain will never happen. Like buying her dream house on the corner of Summit Avenue, the one that cost more to build than she and her husband would earn in their lifetimes. Or becoming an Olympic Gold Medalist in the high jump, though she’d never been an athlete and there wouldn’t be summer or winter Olympics that year. Or resolving to write an epic trilogy following the exploits of an animate marionette with cut strings searching for the Great Puppeteer in the Sky. “Achieve world peace” had made its appearance on several lists, as had “Win the lottery” and “Become a year younger.”

Despite what many people think, it isn’t an exercise in disappointment or humility. No one actually keeps their resolutions, and so Kendal figures that if she is going to make promises that she can’t keep, they should at least be fabulous and imaginative.

Really, Kendal is a pragmatist. She never makes actual promises to others she can’t fulfill. She serves on committees and boards, coaches sports teams, never takes sick days, and is always on time. She had her life mapped out from the age of 12 and things have gone almost exactly according to plan. New Year’s Resolutions are a sacred breach of character, and one that delighted her.

But in 2014, something odd happened. Her oldest son, then 18, said that instead of living in the dorms he wanted to have a tiny house. He made a compelling economic case to Kendal and her husband and so they decided to help build the small 250 square foot unit over the summer.  Word spread among his friends and the idea caught on, which resulted in a clutch of tiny houses set up as a commune not far from campus. It had taken negotiations with the university and the city, but eventually both came around to the idea that a little village could be a good and educational learning community.

It wasn’t until October that Kendal’s husband pointed out that she had accomplished a resolution. In her long list of fanciful priorities, she’d said, “Build a village.” She found the revelation strangely unsettling. This wasn’t supposed to happen. It wasn’t part of her actual plan. Her resolutions were supposed to be pure abstractions, never to be fulfilled, purely speculative and unattainable. She resolved to be more careful making her list for 2015.

On Sunday, November 1, 2015, Kendal woke an hour before her alarm, seized by inspiration. She does not consider herself a writer, but she literally could not help but sit down at her computer and type furiously. It wasn’t a novel, essay, or play. Instead, it was a long series of rules, commandments, disjointed parables, epic and condensed narratives, and prophecies. She spent the next month unable to do anything else but write, during which time she lost her job and her family began to consider committing her.

Finally, the thing was done. She posted it as a note on Facebook and watched in horror as the comments and likes grew and a community began to form. There are now 2,170 members of a group claiming to belong to a new sect of which she is the prophet.

In 2014, Kendal had listened to a lot of Cake. It seemed harmless to plagiarize a lyric and add it to her resolutions: build a religion.

January 1st, 2016 is just around the corner. Kendal has resolved to have no resolutions this coming year, but the she can’t stop the ideas from forming. Gain two hundred pounds of muscle and two more limbs? Establish a successful anvil delivery service? Master 5D art? She is so used to dreaming up absurd promises that she can’t help herself.

She dreads the New Year. Because, now, everything is possible.

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Alabama to vote to succeed

Citing its courts’ staunch opposition to same-sex marriage, history of racism, the third worst quality of life, 40th place among state economies, high rate of diabetes, 45 worst ranking in terms of wealth inequality, the Alabama legislature has decided to consider a bill that would allow it to succeed in the union. Speaker Mike Hubbard admitted that the bill was “mostly ceremonial” and “a statement,” but that, “For too long the people of Alabama have suffered under the policies of this government and it’s time that we declare our intention to succeed in the United States.” The bill faces stiff opposition in both parties, with conservatives citing history and heritage and liberals doing the same. “Just look at the past!” exclaimed both Speaker Hubbard and Minority Leader Craig Ford in unison. The White House has not commented on the vote to succeed yet, but a source close to the Vice President Biden said, “Let them go ahead and try.”

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Democrats Confident America Will Be Reasonable

Democratic strategists are certain that Americans will reason Republicans are responsible if the Supreme Court guts the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare).

“Why bother coming up with a PR campaign?” said a top party spokesperson. “It should be dead obvious to anyone paying attention that if the Supreme Court rules in King vs. Burwell that ‘exchange established by the State’ actually means only people going through the federal exchange can receive subsidies that it’s really the Republicans who took away their cancer treatment payments. I mean, come one!

Dismissing the notion that Republicans could successfully redirect public ire for destroying a program that has given health insurance to 8 million Americans onto the very party that created it, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reed explained, “Americans won’t accept some illogical hogwash from demagogues! They’ll search out the facts and cross reference them through non-partisan sources. Why would we bother stooping to explain to millions of busy, emotionally exhausted people why their lives are a little less miserable because they don’t have to live in terror of bankruptcy because of a broken bone? Obviously they’ll know that the Democratic party is the one looking out for them.”

Minority Whip Dick Durbin laughed when asked if the Democrats have a plan to counter the inevitable and carefully crafted PR campaign Republicans will launch blaming President Obama for destroying ObamaCare. Durbin said, “Who would believe that? Just because a third of Louisiana Republicans blame Obama for Bush’s disastrous response to Katrina, two fifths of Americans think there were WMDs in Iraq,  and a majority oppose the ACA, but approve of its features, doesn’t mean folks can’t read the writing on the wall. At some point you just have to talk to people like adults and trust them to draw their own conclusions.”

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White liberals courageously listening

Author’s Note: If it is in any way unclear, I’m writing this in disgust at my own silence up until now.


In the wake of the Charleston, SC, massacre which left nine dead at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, white liberals all across the country are paying close, silent attention to activists of color.

This Wednesday, Dylann Roof sat with church goers for an hour before drawing a gun, making racial threats, and then killing nine people of color in cold blood inspiring impotent disgust among most of America’s white liberals.

“I’ve been reading material from Rev. Denise AndersonBlack Girl Dangerous, the NAACP, and Black Lives Matter nonstop these past couple days,” said Bloomington, MN, resident Audra Johnson. “It’s the least I can do, of course.”

Thousands of white liberals read in reserved, unexpressed revulsion as news broke that Roof wanted to start a race war.  Many quietly bristled as mainstream news sources called Roof “mentally ill” and “a lone wolf” instead of a terrorist motivated by racial hatred endemic in American culture.  Some even considered contacting the media and demanding better, more honest reporting, but felt it wasn’t their place.

“It really disgusts me to hear that the NRA is already blaming the victims, saying that this could have been prevented if they had guns,” Niel Clerks of Aurora, MA, considered telling a coworker he knows to be a proud NRA member, but then thought better of it. “That’s another political issue.  I mean, I could bring up Sandy Hook or Columbine, but that might make things too complicated. I should educate myself more,” Clerks thought to himself with resolve.

Both Pew Research and the Public Religion Research Institute have both found that since the deaths of Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, Walter Scott, and Eric Garner, more white liberal Americans than ever before are silently listening in righteous rage to activists and community leaders pleading for action.

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Trump Plan for Helping Working Americans: $50 per vote

Stating that he has already instituted his policies to help lower and middle class Americans and combat income inequality, Donald Trump paid average citizens to cheer him on as he announced his bid for the presidency.

“For every red-blooded, white American born in these United States, I promise to give you $50 for your support in the 2016 election,” Trump said conspiratorially, adding loudly, “And I will make this nation great again!”

Critics point out that Trump could not pay $50 to every registered voter, but his spokesman said that he does not expect every voter to support him. “We just need enough desperate people for him to be president,” said a member of the campaign team. “Besides, if every registered voter threw in for him, the difference would be negligible. Can you imagine what you would do with $42?”

Walmart has come out in support of Trump’s campaign. “Many of our products are more attainable with Trump’s stimulus plan,” they said in a press release.

Trump closed his announcement speech by saying, “We need to re-brand American. And if you want to know my plan for defeating ISIS, I’ll let you in for a limited-time offer of $25.”

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Republicans criticize “alarmist” report that 97% of astronomers agree asteroid will kill most life on Earth

A new report released by NASA has re-ignited the political debate over the Extinction-Event Asteroid.

While the study finds that 97% of actively publishing astronomers agree that the oncoming asteroid will kill the majority of plant and animal life on Earth, Republicans criticized it as “alarmist rhetoric” created by the liberal media. One of Congress’ most vocal Asteroid skeptics, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), took to the floor today holding a fist-sized rock, saying, “In case you have forgotten, these are all over the place,” before tossing it at the Chairman’s desk.

“Just look up, people!” says Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX). “Do you see a fiery ball of interstellar matter hurtling toward us? I didn’t think so.”

Asteroid activists across the country and world, however, have praised the new study. “If we don’t take action soon, we may miss our two-year deadline before Earth’s next extinction event,” said an exhausted and exasperated Bill Nye “the Science Guy,” his trademark bow-tie hanging limply from his neck. “Twenty years ago, we had options. Now… maybe Hollywood has some ideas.”

Astronomers say the Asteroid fits the hypothesized description of the asteroid that allegedly caused the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event during which three-quarters of the planet’s species went extinct. Numerous solutions to address the Asteroid problem have been presented, most notably using a gravity tractor, focused solar energy, a mass driver, and even launching a nuclear explosive device at the near-Earth object. Skeptics say all these proposals are “economically infeasible.”

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) released a response shortly after NASA’s announcement, stating, “Asteroid activists would have Americans (and indeed all of earth’s citizens) catastrophically reorganize our world economy and way of life to appease science fiction conspiracy theorists. NASA itself acknowledges these plans will directly lead to increased taxes, job losses in the disaster recovery sector, and decreased household disposable income.”

All the declared and expected Republican presidential candidates quickly condemned the NASA report. “Meteors have hit the Earth before,” said Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). “Experts even say that we get hit by a meteorite five to ten times a year.”

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, the favored candidate of the Koch brothers, has gone even further, suggesting, “If there’s actually a giant asteroid hurtling toward earth, it may even be a good thing,” In a time of limited resources, population reduction will lead to greater prosperity for the survivors, Walker said.

After being contacted for this article, writer and activist Naomi Klein refused to answer interview questions, saying only, “I told all of you assholes. Do you really think this changes anything? We’re all fucked.”

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Prompt: Someone you used to know

A friend of mine recently contacted me to say that he was in acting school and I keep coming up in his subconscious. The context is that there’s an exercise the actors do in which you imagine talking to someone you know well and act it out.

As acting techniques go, that’s on the kinder end of the spectrum. Another friend of mine in college told me about when her teacher made her do a monologue given by Allison in Proof. The character is afraid she’s beginning to exhibit signs of schizophrenia and so my friend’s teacher made her go sit in the corner and scream “Please, God, don’t make me crazy!” For five minutes. I saw her a few hours after this and she was still chain smoking. And they say writers are masochists.

But, I can’t claim the moral high ground. When I directed plays, I used to make my actors shout their lines at each other. Besides the fact that it’s amusing as hell, it actually is very effective in getting people to memorize their parts.

Back to the first friend and his subconscious. The exercise he described sounds a lot like one of my favorite prompts, which I will now share with you.

Ideally, someone else is supposed to read this aloud. It’s almost a form of meditation or therapy, but this will have to do.

Imagine you are in a place you know very well. It’s a place you find comforting and meaningful. Maybe it’s your childhood bedroom, your college Animal House-style living room, a church sanctuary, your old office (assuming you liked that job), or your favorite bar.

You walk in, and you are alone. It’s quiet and peaceful. But, there’s a difference: the walls are covered in pictures. Photos of friends, family, people you associate with a the place you’re in, and people who never set foot there.

One picture, in particular, catches your attention. You walk over and study it. It’s of someone you know very well, but haven’t spoken to for a long time. Suddenly, that person walks through the door.

Write the conversation you have.


(Iowa City, the Ivy House. The living room is crammed with furniture buried under layers of junk, jackets, and books. It smells like pizza, dust, and wine. Autumn. The back door opens, closes, and someone walks through the mudroom, kitchen, and library and stands in front of me. It’s Siouxsie Sioux from the Banshees.)

SS: You know, we’ve never actually met. I don’t think this is really in the spirit of the exercise.

Me: (Aside to the audience in the style of Shakespeare or Frank Underwood) In the three years that my friends occupied the Ivy House, about twelve people lived there sporadically. They left all sorts of stuff behind, particularly the guy who occupied my room before I moved in. One thing that he left was this poster. At first it terrified me, but then Stockholm Syndrome kicked in. Three months later, when he came to collect his shit, I hid the poster and have had it with me ever since.

SS: I can hear you.

Me: The People need context.

SS: There’s really no context to explain why I’m here.

Me: Why don’t we talk anymore, Siouxsie?

SS: You graduated college. As imaginary friends go, I had some staying power.

Me: What does that say about my current state?

SS: I’m not going to speculate. So, what do you want to talk about?

Me: … Want to go to Uglies?

SS: Sure.

(Exit all. End scene.)


This is a great prompt to exercise writing dialogue. The idea is that if you write a conversation between yourself and someone you know well, the dialogue will sound more natural. That’s the trick to writing dialogue — you have to know your characters and their intentions well enough that they seem to you like old friends.

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