Last Monday I nailed the mail slot shut. That way the mailman can't deliver the letters from my antagonists
outlining their complaints. Those letters follow me like a pack of wolves...hungry, waiting for me to fall down.
When my troubles began, I thought I could clear them up easily. Now I realize that my life story, all of it, even
the not-so-nice parts, has been digitized and is being archived on magnetic tape. The keepers of those archives
share bits of my existence with each other in order to piece together an electronic mosaic of my shortcomings.
I lie awake now, thinking about the latest day of my biography that's just been encoded; the check and credit card
numbers left behind like so many broken twigs and warm footprints. Sometimes I think I can hear the data banks
chattering to each other, clicking their anodized tongues. At the touch of a button they come to life.
Last Wednesday I nailed the screen door shut so the mailman can't drop letters between the doors. When you close
your eyes very tight, you can imagine the letters being composed on a shiny machine named Behemoth. Day in, day
out. His only requirement is a steady paper supply. People are mistaken when they think undemanding gods are the
Yesterday I nailed the front gate shut so the mailman couldn't get near me with mail. In a dream, he walked
by the house and tossed some in the yard like Johnny Appleseed. It took root there and grew like ivy right through
the window. I woke up then.
This morning I nailed the windows shut and covered the front lawn with sheets of plastic so nothing could sprout.
I use the back door now. Each time I leave I wedge the king of hearts between the door and jamb, and if he's on
the ground when I come home I'll know something is waiting for me behind the door. There will be no place to hide.
On Sunday, for the first time, I thought seriously about money. It became clear in my mind that it is nothing
more than numbers. Numbers are infinite. And so is money. I recalled reading about an artist who drew his own folding
money - perfect copies - and went into stores and spent them, even after he told the clerks it was only art. They
even gave him change. Once you've seen it you have to believe it's real.
On Tuesday I drew a twenty and went to the store. The man working there did not understand money magic or art,
and he told me to never come back. I went to a different store and the help there was stupid too, so I tried to
find the article about the artist in order to figure out where the smart people lived. I think everyone around
here is afraid of numbers so the magic doesn't work. Imagination is the victim.
On Thursday I opened a checking account at the bank. It occurred to me that the numbers representing money you
write on checks might work better than my own designs, and when I went to the store and bought stuff with a check
for twenty, everybody was happy. Conformity brings smiles.
Yesterday I went to the bank with a deposit slip for three thousand. There were long lines of people inside,
so I decided to use the cash machine in the vestibule. It didn't need or want an explanation of the number theory
of money, so it gladly accepted my three thousand and asked if I'd like another transaction? The machines understand
the magic of numbers. Philosophy is unnecessary.
On Saturday the mailman brought the first mistake from the bank. The machine in the vestibule must have been
a rogue - the three thousand I had keyed in had vanished without a trace. I needn't have worried though, the folks
who worked at the places where I bought my things continued to love me in spite of the temporary number shortage.
I rewarded their belief in check magic by purchasing many nice things. Generosity is important.
On Monday I changed my Social Security number. I wasn't at all happy with its selection of numbers, and as an
American I felt it was my God-given right to change them. While I was at it I reconfigured my driver's license
and phone numbers. When Dad called I gave him my new phone number, and even though he didn't ask for them, my new
driver's license and Social Security numbers as well. I asked him, as a veteran who had fought for our rights,
if he was satisfied with all of his assigned numbers. He said he hadn't given it much thought, and reminded me
to be sure and tell him if I changed my address. Mother would have to note it in her address book. When he dropped
a hint about their upcoming fortieth wedding anniversary, I told him I was planning to give them a deposit slip
for three thousand. It's the perfect gift.
Yesterday the man who owns the house came over. He cursed when his pants ripped on the nails in the front gate.
He was mad about the rent check, and yelled at me. I understood then that the whole genus of cash machines is untrustworthy
- all of my deposits for three thousand had disappeared - whereas my original thought had been that I had just
encountered a bad seed. When I showed the landlord a deposit slip for six thousand he quieted down momentarily,
only to flare up again when I mentioned the rogue machines. He threatened eviction when I gave him another check
for the rent, so I decided on a radical plan to attach new and different house numbers above the front door in
order to hide the house from him and his loud voice. It will be hard to find.
This afternoon I received my first message over the radio. Curious, I tested its aptitude by asking for my new
address. It gave me the right one, and for extra credit mentioned my new phone number. Like the old saying goes;
I wasn't so surprised that it could talk, but that it had something to say. It warned me, belatedly as it turned
out, about the crafty cash machines, and it gave me some tips on how to circumvent their nastiness. The radio also
filled me in on how someone had translated Matthew 19:23 into numbers and keyed that into one of the machines,
who then shared the information with all of his friends. It's that verse about a rich man getting into Heaven,
and now the self-righteous machines have made it their duty to save us from ourselves by refusing our deposits.
The radio commiserated with me about the sad fact that there's nothing worse than a machine who's found religion.
It recommended that I go to the drive-thru at the bank - those little pods would be glad to ferry my slips inside
without making any value judgments. A ray of hope.
On Tuesday I discovered that I could already have won ten million. A postcard that had fallen beneath the dining
room table informed me that I had a special number reserved in my name at prize headquarters. I called headquarters
and told them I was completing a review of all of my numbers, changing many of them in the process. Could they
see their way clear to alter my reserved prizewinner by a digit or two? They said they would take my request under
advisement and asked me about magazines. Was I interested?
On Wednesday, after not receiving word from the nerve center of prizes, I called back to see how the advisement
had gone. They casually mentioned that the nerve center was a busy place, and asked if I'd heard of their half-off-the-cover-price
deal? I agreed that half-off was always a good thing, and that I'd be more than happy to take advantage of their
spectacular offer. It was mine for the asking.
Yesterday, no bulletins from prize central. It dawned on me - my urgent request notwithstanding - that a meeting
of the prize board of directors could not easily be arranged on such short notice. Gathering the movers and shakers
who made up the board from the far-flung reaches of our beloved nation is no easy task. I toyed with the idea of
having Uri Geller bend their silverware as a sign for them to return at once to the navel of the prize universe
in order to cast their votes on my proposal. Did I dare?
This morning I again called prize control, America's choice for unbelievable price-slashing. A nice man asked
if anyone had informed me of the fabulous three-for-the-price-of-two plan? Four easy payments and no credit check.
I was touched by his solicitude for my reading needs, and agreed that easy payments are the best, sign me up! But
first I reminded him about the little matter of my personal, reserved in my name only, no two are alike, unique
to me alone, prizewinning number. He agreed that prize control wasn't happy unless I was happy, and that a new
number was not only within my rights as a preferred-platinum customer, it was practically guaranteed a savvy, with-it
reader such as myself. As a final token of my gratitude I signed on for the unheard-of lifetime offer. Exciting
new worlds are available.
On Saturday my city councilperson came to the back door and invited me to raise issues. I saw this as the perfect
opportunity to question her about the United Nations satellite spinning overhead, snapping pictures of my license
plate number. Her amazement at this development turned to anger when I explained to her that the UN, despite its
apologists' unconvincing protestations, was planning the enslavement of our great nation once it had determined
all of our numbers. She was appalled by this provocative violation of the sanctity of the neighborhood, and agreed
with me that it was no damn business of the UN what numbers we used. Sensing a kindred spirit, I urged her to recall
our UN ambassador for urgent consultations. She nodded vigorously as she backed down the steps, absentmindedly
handing me one of her campaign brochures. I then taped it over my license plate so the one-worlders at the UN could
see just who they were up against. Courage is crucial.
On Monday the president spoke and promised every citizen a stack of thousand-dollar bills two-miles high. Not
wishing to be a burden on the government, I immediately set to work drawing my own stack. Hoping to enlist the
satellite's help in something pure, upstanding, and American, like the stacking of money, I sent it a message through
the radio hinting at payment of deposit slips for three thousand. Acceptance was quick.
On Sunday the radio unplugged itself. Life is short.
On Friday, via the miracle of TV, I visited Disneyland. As I wandered from the Matterhorn to the island of the
Swiss Family Robinson, a special, toll-free number appeared on the screen. Everything looked so perfect and clean,
and Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket wanted me to call so I could receive my free information. Peter Pan and Tinkerbell
gamboled through Never-Never Land, smiling and winking at me. Captain Hook reached out and lifted my telephone
with his hook and dialed the no-obligation number. Help me, Mickey.
* * * *
Help me, Mickey
Life is short
Acceptance was quick
Courage is crucial
Exciting new worlds are available
Did I dare?
It was mine for the asking
Was I interested?
A ray of hope
It will be hard to find
It's the perfect gift
Generosity is important
Philosophy is unnecessary
Conformity brings smiles
Imagination is the victim
Once you've seen it you have to believe it's real
There will be no place to hide
I woke up then
People are mistaken when they think undemanding gods are the best
At the touch of a button they come to life
Copyright © 1995 Blip Magazine Archive