[The other day I came across this unfinished humor novel I wrote when I was sixteen. I hadn’t looked at it for over a decade. Parts of it are funny. Most of it is stupid. What follows are a few of the highlights–I left out the really lame bits. For background: it was intended as a satire of spy/thriller stories, as well as poking fun at my favorite target, government bureaucracies. Teen-aged me was an ardent libertarian, so take all of it with a generous helping of salt. Also don’t miss my juvenile attempt at Gilbertian wordplay at the end. Enjoy!–BG]
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The following story is true.
(Note: This story is not actually true. That was a literary device.)
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Reading of this story out loud is strictly prohibited.
It was a warm day, even for June. The heat sizzled off the pavement even as the light sizzled onto it. The sun was oppressively bright, shining through even the darkest sunglasses into the eyes of their wearers. The bright, pure light, combined with the body heat of the citizens and the heat generated by the engines of vehicles, made the city feel like Hell on a hot day.
Even the President of the United States, accustomed as he was to loitering around the District, found the heat unusually unpleasant. And he too drew a comparison to the underworld like that made above, though not in such perfectly chosen words.
“It’s hotter than Hell today, I do declare.” he said to the Vice President, Roger Wallington. “Why, if the Devil himself rose up here today he’d ask for a refreshing soda.”
“Iced tea ‘d be more his style,” murmured Wallington. “But why isn’t the air conditioning working right, huh? We have, after all, raised taxes to allow for more repairs and upgrades to be made to the Executive cooling systems.”
“Believe me, I know. You remember how I ran on the ‘useless waste of money’ platform that has so long been a boon to our party. My vision on taking the Oval Office was to make it into a luxurious duplication of the court at Versailles, though with all the modern conveniences and a liberal amount of rope lighting. But since the last three Vice-Presidents; Wilmington, Walkinson, and Wellington, all resigned because of the danger, I’ve been forced to diversify my investments into security.”
“Yeah, I understand, but damn it, we’re, like, important fellows in American politics. We should be able to have some creature comforts.”
“You’re new to the job. You can’t realize the way in which the terrorist group will influence that opinion.”
“Why don’t we merely nuke their stupid country and get on with our air conditioning?”
“I would like nothing better. Unfortunately, I can’t do that because they are spread all over the planet. I can’t nuke the whole planet, Wallington, no matter how great the benefits. It would be suicide for my humanitarian image.”
“I knew that. At my last job, I had a radio that played the news.” said Wallington. (Before being appointed Vice-President the previous week, Wallington had been a manager at a Washington fast-food shop.) “What I want to know is what, exactly, these terrorists are after?”
“Well, the easiest way to explain that is to play this movie,” said the president, removing a DVD from his shelf. “It’s from their leader, Bartolo. It’s basically him describing his general aims and the purpose of his gang. Bartolo speaks pig-latin in his films for some reason, so it’s subtitled in English.”
One of the most glorious features of the American government is its singular ability to meet its citizens’ needs almost completely. For nearly every conceivable purpose there are government offices and bureaus, and for every possible problem there is a government agency dedicated to solving it. If ever the people have the slightest problem, they go straight away to the bureau or department of X problem. And if, on so doing, they discover there is no such department or bureau, one is thereupon created.
So it was with the Department of Combating Terrorist Fanatics Named Bartolo. Created only two years prior to the events in this narrative, it was already the fourth-largest employer in the United States. And they felt they were hot on the trail of Bartolo.
The branch in Canada consisted of only one man. This was very unusual for a Government branch, as they usually tried to put as many people on a task as was possible, but the state of relations with Canada was so tenuous at present that few American citizens wanted the job, except for one Mack Howard, who also didn’t want it, but had nowhere else to apply his unique skills.
This Howard was currently sitting in his office, ignoring the splendid view of Niagara Falls, opting instead to see how fast he could disassemble and reassemble his pistol. Try though he had all day, he couldn’t seem to do it in less than an hour and a half.
In the state of Colorado, there is a military base so well-hidden that sometimes even the Head of the Joint Chiefs isn’t sure where it is, and he has to drive around asking for directions, which embarrasses him terribly and so he asks for better outer-space spy satellites. Of course, he tells everybody it’s to gain an edge over the other superpowers, but the scientists know the truth.
Anyway, this base was currently an important operating center for the Department of Combating Terrorist Fanatics Named Bartolo. Although not officially headquarters, it was a vital area for relaying information to Washington. It was in this busy command center that some geek sat drinking a Coke while staring blankly at a computer screen.
“Well, you see, I’m Mack Howard, a–”
“You’re a coward?”
“Look, I said I’m Mack Howard.”
“You are a coward?”
“Well, then, what did you say?”
“Ah, I think I see the problem. I have been hurriedly saying ‘Mack Howard’, which is my name, and I have been prefacing that with the contraction ‘I’m’, by way of introduction. Now, in doing this, I have caused the ‘m’ in ‘I’m’ to become run together with ‘M’ in ‘Mack’, and then I have allowed the ‘H’ in ‘Howard’ to remain silent, resulting in ‘Oward’ rather than ‘Howard.’”
“Oh, ha ha! That’s it!”
“Yes,” chuckled Howard, “The same thing happens when I introduce my brother.”
“Yes. He’s Zack Howard.”