by Matt Brousseau
Eventually I decided to no longer write with anger. It used to happen a lot. I'd sit down, imagine someone knocking over one of my potted plants, and I'd start punching a wall. I'd punch in Morse code and my stenographer, Maury, would stenographize. It was a strenuous process. I'd punch. He'd write. I'd bleed. He'd call the hospital.
Later we put out an ad for a junior biographer. At first he documented our lives, but once he figured out the odd weeks he just assumed the evens. It wasn't that colorful, but what would you expect? For fun we’d dress up as WASPs and see who could sweat through their linens first.
We paid for the biographer to take an EMT course. It helped with the bandages. And every couple days he'd work a car crash. It's a lot easier to write a story with good inspiration. I can't remember how many car crashes I've re-enacted with my fists. I guess I could count the essays, but some of those are probably doubles. And I know at least one was inspired by a pigeon I hit with my bike.
After the fourth week Maury couldn't take the fame. By then every first responder knew his birth date. Two days earlier we had thrown him a birthday party, but someone fell out a first story window and bled to death. Maury read them their last rights. The EMTs who arrived sang "happy birthday."
Maury threatened to walk. He never wanted to be famous. He always said if he had kids he wanted them to call him "Chief." I had no choice. I threatened to fire him and he quit in anger. Then he walked home. In retrospect, we never really thought that part out.
A week later he came back. By then we’d gone automated. I was recording my parts with a keypad. Using morse code we’d figured out the right numbers for any work. My Sunday blog posts were factors of 48, but for Wednesdays we only used prime numbers. Something about midweek made people uneasy of divisibility.
Once we realized our demographic we started hitting the Sunday comics hard. Marmaduke opened a killer vein. Suddenly we were selling dog food and supply-side economics. We also accepted food stamps. Top sellers soda and candy. It would have been stupid not to take the money.
The local theater wanted a partnership. It would have worked too, but the last time we tried Romeo and Juliet a young couple died. There’s a certain public backlash for that sort of thing. We weren’t ready to handle it. Shredding documents takes a lot longer than people think. It’d probably be better to never print them in the first place.
By then I was pressing strictly sevens. It wasn’t so much for luck as it was that seven was the only button that worked. Once politics realized our gimmick they mobilized their forces. Suddenly there were number lobbies everywhere. Every couple of weeks I’d get a questionnaire from the #5 lobby or a self-portrait from the #3 lobby looking for donations. Everybody knew the #38 lobby was a neo-Nazi group. Instead of shaking hands they always wanted to high-five.
They cornered us in an elevator one day. Threatened to out number us. Maury threatened to jump out a window, but in those days elevators didn't have windows or even air conditioning. He had a heart attack instead. When I told him I was calling the EMTs he furiously waved me off and died. The extra waving probably didn't help.
Without Maury we were dead in the water. With Maury we were dead in the elevator. It was hard to find clients. No one wanted to ride the elevator with a dead guy. So I shuttered our shop. The junior biographer would later become a senior EMT. He found it a lot easier working with old people. Said people asked less questions when they had trouble breathing.
In the end it had been a largely wasteful six weeks. Some wild memories, but nothing I couldn't ruin with a heavy bout of drinking. The next summer I went on vacation. I can't remember where.