Author Archives: Matt Douglas

Notes On The George Floyd Riots; The Irreconcilable Divisions In The Hearts And Minds Of White People That Prevent Real Change

I’ve lived in Chicago since ’08 (you know, the year Obama got elected, putting that final rusty nail into Racism’s coffin), and in this very neatly segregated city you can’t avoid confronting the strained relationship between Whites and Blacks in some way or another (unless you live in Lincoln Park, or maybe Boystown); racial segregation is baked into not only the geography of this city but its spirit, and to anyone who cares enough to pay attention, it sure seems that regardless of the lip service guilty-feeling Whites pay to it, the irreconcilable division between White and Black is likely to persist for another 200+ postbellum years…

As I write this, it’s the day after rioters and looters, either as part of or ancillary to the George Floyd protests (it seems to be the latter), decimated a large swath of downtown Chicago, including the neighborhood I live in, and emptied the shelves of Walgreens, Ulta, Old Navy, Jewel-Osco, and every other retail outfit that lent itself to entry by brick-through-glass; I don’t know what the fair-skinned among us are going to do, there’s nary a summer-weight romper or bottle of 50 SPF sunscreen left in sight…

I admit, with some sense of guilt, I wasn’t there; I’ve been out of town at my in-laws in the suburbs (Example of White Privilege #1 (“EWP”) (this piece will be a veritable Where’s Waldo of white privilege, no doubt, except there’s like 20 Waldos)); I have mixed feelings about this; on the one hand, thank God, because I have a three-year-old little girl and the potential threat to her, even if remote, would have made for a sleepless night; on the other, I should have been there; it’s my home, my community, and I had to rely on texts from neighbors and the neighborhood watch group on Facebook (EWP #2) for live updates on what acoustical police cannons actually sound like, and which stores were in process of being robbed; I can’t help but feel like I should’ve been there to, you know, do absolutely nothing about any of it; also, the morning after…man I’d like to see what a real-life looted CVS looks like in the light of day, maybe even sneak off with a couple of peanut butter Cliff bars…

But even though I wasn’t there, the shit went down in my neighborhood, and I can’t very well not reckon with how I feel and what I think about the catalyst that triggered looting and rioting so close to home, i.e. the millionth black guy to be suffocated or otherwise slaughtered by the cops without anything approaching an adequate reason, so here I am, drinking freshly ground coffee in the comfort of my in-law’s suburban home stocked with more Pamplemousse La Croix than you can shake a nitrite-free Trader Joe’s beef stick at (EWP #3), good and ready to hash out my thoughts and feelings (the possibility that there may have been ‘bad actors’ involved in the looting has no effect on my analysis)…

I’m of two minds (or three, or eleven) about this whole thing and race relations generally (talk about divisions; are the external ones just manifestations of the internal?); I think about the plight of Blacks a lot, not because I’m particularly a Responsibly Compassionate White Man Concerned With Greater Social Justice (or SJW, if you prefer the pejorative), but because I live among them (am I even allowed to say ‘them’?), and see them every day, in my neighborhood, on the train, in the grocery store, in front of the grocery store, through the windows of my Lexus that still has at least a year left on the original warranty and an additional two on the extended one (EWP #4); you don’t have to be a genius, or a falsely self-effacing guilty White liberal, to see that a great many Blacks do not live in the same world that we do; and why? certainly it’s not fair, certainly it has nothing to do with any innate inferiority like the eugenics/white supremacy crowd would have you believe, and certainly the tired old Republican refrain of it being due to a simple failure to pull up by the bootstraps hard enough is a gross oversimplification; I don’t know, I could only hazard a guess at the answer, which I won’t do here (especially if it were to involve opining that they play even a small role in their own misfortune, which I certainly won’t do), but one thing’s for damn sure: regardless of why, Blacks have nowhere near the access, security, or opportunity that Whites do, and if I was black (being the uber-angry and resentful type that I am), I’d want to burn the whole fucking city to the ground, too…    

So, on the one hand, march, protest, throw shit, and, fuck, loot away (I know, I know, it wasn’t you, necessarily); I would if I was you; if I was a black man there’s no doubt I’d be pulled through daily life by the current of my own rage; I’d regard Whites with the same contempt and simmering violent impulses as the enemy in wartime; I would fucking hate you, Whites, and the bulk of my conscious thinking would be about the injustice of what you have and I don’t, both in terms of material prosperity and the privilege to quietly enjoy your life; and if I had the opportunity to invade your neighborhoods and stores and sense of security, if I could make you feel for one goddamn night the pain and spiritual splintering that comes from living in a margin that you can’t even see, from having an ancestral heritage that still echoes with the humiliation of enslavement—a burden you could never fathom, one that penetrates so deeply it’s imprint is likely never to fully dissipate—well, I would take it, along with all your fucking organic foods and two-ply toilet paper; and God help you if your Lexus is parked on the street…  

BUT…even to the extent a cracker-ass cracker like me is capable of really empathizing with Blacks’ undeniable plight…you better keep that shit out of my neighborhood, motherfucker

This is the essence of the division in the private interior life of Whites, both internal and external, and slapping an all-caps RACIST label on it does little to vitiate it; for instance, in the midst of contemplating and empathizing with justifiable Black rage, I’m simultaneously contemplating getting a gun, because, let me tell you, if this shit happens again when I’m home, and one of you fucks—I don’t give a shit what color you are—tries to break in my windows, well, you get the picture (let’s put aside for the moment that in reality I’d probably hide in the closet)…

In addition to this we-really-do-support-you-unless-you-do-it-here-in-which-case-we’ll-call-the-police division in the Grinch-sized hearts of Whites, there’s another vital gap, one that won’t ever be bridged: even if Whites are rooting for you (and many of them aren’t), they’ll never sacrifice even a small part of their privilege for Black benefit, especially not the Whites whose tweets and tongue-clucking posts on Facebook would lead you to believe otherwise; visible displays of ‘solidarity’ by liberal Whites are for the benefit of other liberal Whites, period, and white people who offer aw-shucks acknowledgments of their privilege are the same ones scrambling to keep as much of it as possible (this is an immutable law of the irony of self-division, a corollary to the principle of me-thinks-thou-dost-protest-too-much); even when the ones who mean well bemoan the disparate treatment wrought on Blacks, what they’re really bemoaning is the icky feeling that comes from coexisting with a group that’s treated worse than you are, and having to actually look at it (yuck!); some of these crackers may even think they mean what they say, but even the ones who are authentically outraged by something like the murder of George Floyd and the larger inequities it reveals (and aren’t just cynically ‘virtue signaling’) are outraged for themselves, and the unwelcomed spotlight a black man’s murder shines on their unearned hegemony; that or the fact that it’s super inconvenient to wait for group of protestors to pass by when you’re already late for yoga; God, it takes foreeeeever [vocal fry]…

Listen, I have no idea what the solution to this is; frankly, there probably isn’t one; but my instinct is that it starts with an acknowledgement, a REAL acknowledgement, by Whites, to Blacks, not only that that they’ve never had a fair shake in this country and that their pain is real, and valid, but that Whites have been intentionally working to keep them subjugated this whole goddamn time (some liberal whiteys may throw up their hands and claim that they’ve already done exactly that, but it isn’t enough because it isn’t real; you may not have the wherewithal to apprehend the divisions in yourself, but if Blacks know anything, it’s when a White is full of shit, and not to be trusted)…

Of course, such an admission won’t happen until Whites admit to themselves the private divisions in their hearts and minds; and that, my friends, is not likely to happen, because it would require us to do the very thing that we, in this era of the illusion of ideological purity, are incapable of doing: sit down and take a thorough and brutally honest inventory of ourselves (EWP #5), in particular the evil that lurks there on the selfish sides of the divisions I’ve talked about; there’s a fabulous Solzhenitsyn quote about this, how the dividing line between good and evil cuts through the human heart, and how who among us would sacrifice a piece of our own heart?…

Which brings me to my own private divisions, and to Blacks I say this: I hear you, I think your pain is inconceivable, and valid; I think you’re entitled to every ounce of it; I know that the fear you feel walking around your city is real, that you’re regarded as a suspect wherever you go; and I know this because I often regard you as a suspect, and frankly I don’t feel guilty about it when I do; but I see that it isn’t fair, that that dynamic came before you, that you were born into it, and it isn’t your fault; if I had to bear that burden, I’d be more hurt and angry than I could even fathom; you deserve better, you deserve greater opportunity, equality, the privilege to live without constant fear of the police; you deserve a government and society that invests in you; you deserve all of these things at least as much as I do; and I’m rooting for you, I really am; I truly hope you get what you want…

Unless, of course, what you want affects me or my interests negatively, or the peace and safety of my neighborhood is disturbed as a result; in that case, I’ll reject your efforts, do what I can to sabotage them, and to keep you exactly where you are…

I hope that admission confirms what you already know about white people, and brings you some small sense of vindication .♦

Meet The Visionary Millennial Promoting Social Distancing Awareness Through Large Group Gatherings

CHICAGO, Illinois – By now, we’ve all seen those unsettling images of spring breakers packed on the beach tighter than a hoarded 24-pack of Charmin mega rolls. It would seem that here in the Land of the I’m-a-Do-Me, no manner of pleas by state and local governments—not to mention near-countrywide bans on gatherings of more than 10 people, and the shuttering of bars and restaurant dining rooms from Providence to SoCal—can keep a good American down, or inside. Even as horror stories of apocalyptic hospital scenes come out of NYC, people keep going out.

In droves.

And the most dismissive among us of the new sort-of-compulsory social distancing protocols? Shockingly (read: obviously), it’s the Millennials. (To be fair, Boomers evidently can’t go without their wine-and-cheese socials, either, and the process of downloading and opening Zoom remains impenetrable).

That’s right, and according to the experts, the fate of the American medical infrastructure now depends on whether these straight-brimmed-trucker-cap sporting twenty-somethings—you know, the same ones who fork over half their gross wages on vintage sneakers and premium dog-grooming subscriptions for little Bailey, the black-and-white Boston Terrier whose Instagram page @wontyoubemybailey has 347 followers—can stay home for take out on the couch and a state-mandated session of Netflix and chill.

Unfortunately (read: predictably), it’s not going well.

Of course, as with all things Millennial, their cavalier, me-myself-and-I attitude has been met with snark and social-media sniping from the Boomers who raised them to be that way. But, in these strange days where anything is possible, the heedlessness of the high-fiving contingent in the midst of a major health crisis also drew the ire of one of their very own ilk.

Enter Abel Dixon, a 24-year-old semi-professional coffee roaster from Chicago who doesn’t have a dog, but sort of occasionally looks in on his octogenarian Abuela—Dixon is Ecuadorian on his mother’s side—when his mother and sister and other sister and uncle and each of his five cousins, all of whom have at least one child, can’t make it over to her modest bungalow.

Like most, Dixon was apathetic about coronavirus during the incipient phase of the crisis, but the more he read about the dynamics of transmission and how asymptomatic carriers could unwittingly wreak havoc on the elderly and immunosuppressed, the more the fact that all of his contemporaries were out galivanting to the near-certain detriment of the vulnerable started to gnaw at him.

‘I just feel like, we all need to do our part, even if the chances are that this disease won’t affect us personally, you know?’ he explained as he concentrated on swirling hot water over a medium-roast Ethiopian blend he described as ‘pretty rad.’ ‘I mean, I think of my Tita and how, if we don’t start doing social distancing like for real, she could get this thing and be dead before they even reschedule Coachella. I mean, wow.’

Shaken by a sense of the stakes for his family, Dixon took to his social media platforms with a vengeance, sharing every article he could find about flattening the curve, distancing etiquette, and the catastrophic effects widespread illness wrought in places like Italy and Iran that did too little too late.

But feedback was underwhelming. Each new post was met with fewer likes and re-tweets than the one before, and almost no fire emojis. He could tell early on that adding to the already biblically proportioned flood of COVID-19 Internet info wasn’t going to have the impact he’d been hoping for.

Then, one afternoon as he was preparing to post an innocuous meme to Instagram about the challenges of doing a chest-and-triceps workout in an apartment, the problem—and how to fix it—dawned on Dixon: blasting newsfeeds with the same-old, same-old wouldn’t cut it for Millennials. To foment real interest among his peers, they would have to be at the center of a movement for change.

Of course, a movement! That F.O.M.O.-driven paragon of virtue that any god-fearing Millennial will tether himself to an instant provided that twelve and possibly as few as eight other Millennials are already on board, and that their activism would be widely visible on social media. The prescient Dixon saw that what this thing really needed was a good old-fashioned Twitter bandwagon.

With this fresh insight came another: Dixon would need to engineer an injection of new corona content straight from the mouths of his peer group. But just how do you whip up twenty-somethings into a frenzy of content creation?

‘You pretty much just have to get them to meet up and do something, like anything, and they’ll post about it to no end,’ Dixon said.

So, a revitalized Dixon took to Instagram, Meetup, Snapchat, and every other platform Boomers have never heard of to set up in-person get-togethers of groups of no less than 10 people to promote awareness of the critical importance of social distancing.

More importantly, all participants were strongly encouraged to post photos of the gatherings to social media with pleas to their network to stay home, stay safe, and only venture out for basic essentials like craft beer, CBD oil, and 100% plant-based dog biscuits. Or, of course, to join an area gathering of the grassroots campaign that quickly became known as #GetOutAndStayHome.

An eerie analogue to the spread of coronavirus itself, the growth of the so-called ‘Oh My G.O.S.H.’ movement was rapid and exponential. In a matter of days, novel subchapters had sprung up in cities all over the U.S. Amazingly, and likely because a critical mass of baristas and bike shop managers were on temporary suspension with nothing better to do, some gatherings have drawn crowds nearly 250 deep.

But even in the larger groups a sense of intimacy, community, and common purpose abides. Almost every chapter has developed its own intricate full-contact handshake and, as a show of devotion to sacrifice and the greater good, at the beginning of each assembly one member volunteers to pass a single vape pen around the entire group of participants, so that even the most economically hard hit among them with no juice of their own can take a moist hit before shuttling it down the line.   

‘I can’t tell you how super cool it is to come out and chill with some new bros while also making a difference in the world,’ said a young man who introduced himself simply as ‘At Gavin.’ ‘You know, when you’re stuck in the daily grind of trying to bogart your neighbor’s WiFi to send a lightly touched-up D pic to your coworker’s roommate, it’s easy to forget what life’s all about: sharing, man. Sharing time, edibles, and most importantly, physical contact with as many people as possible.’  

Back in Chicago, ground zero for Dixon’s miracle G.O.S.H. campaign, a massive downtown rally is planned for this coming Saturday. ‘We’re expecting maybe a couple thousand people,’ he said, ‘and we’re really going to make this one count.’

The plan is to march through the city and personally take the OMG message into the places it matters most: hospitals and nursing homes. Some in leadership are even working on getting a group of members authority to enter I.C.U.s throughout Cook County to shake edge-of-death COVID-19 victims awake barehanded and dose them with what no medicine can: hope. ‘We just want the most vulnerable among us to know that we’re here for them, and that we’re doing everything we can to make sure that people keep their distance and avoid large groups at all costs, no matter what.’

Dixon and his acolytes are excited. But, even with the glimmers of hope radiating from G.O.S.H., the stark reality of this pandemic has not ebbed. In an ironic twist, Dixon’s Tita ended up contracting the virus shortly after, at his mother’s insistence, Dixon dropped off a single bag of groceries to the matriarch’s home, leaving her not only with food but a kiss on the cheek and caress of her withered face to let her know how much she meant to him. She has since been admitted to an area hospital and is currently in critical condition.

But Dixon himself remains steadfast, and his Tita’s illness has driven home just how vital the work he’s doing really is. He’s even added to his collection of body art thanks to a local artist tattooing out of an unsterilized alleyway van with a new wrist piece bearing the calligraphic phrase: Staye In For Tita.

His ambition notwithstanding, after the rally Dixon plans to take some time to clear his head while Tita’s fate hangs in the balance. For as long as he can remember, there’s only ever been one place that can instill calm when his mind is unquiet. ‘When the march is over,’ he said as he finished off the last of his Ethiopian beans, ‘you can find me at the beach.’♦  

Suburban Couple Uses Up Entire Tub of Vaseline

SCHAUMBURG, ILLINOIS—After an extraordinarily long period of regular use, a suburban Chicago couple reported today that it finished an entire full-sized container of Vaseline. Sources confirmed that the fragrance-free “Wonder Jelly” had been sitting on the bathroom counter for God knows how long.

“I think I bought it, jeez, sometime during the Bush II administration,” said Henry Foster, 37, of the 13-ounce, blue-and-beige container of name-brand petroleum jelly. “I remember I just kind of randomly got it one winter because my knuckles were really dry and starting to crack, and then at some point I also figured out it made a pretty good lip balm, so I liked to keep it handy. I would never had guessed then that three apartments and two kids later it would still be sitting on my bathroom sink. I’m really going to miss the little guy.”

Henry’s now-wife, Liz Turner-Foster, inherited the ointment unwillingly during the couple’s courtship, initially regarding it with skepticism. She was grossed out by the prospect of sharing semi-translucent goop dotted by another human being’s fingertips, and, admittedly, somewhat troubled by the fact that it predated her relationship to Henry and for all she knew had been used by him or even, God forbid, an unknown third party for some kind of unsanitary off-label purpose. Liz considered secretly replacing it, but before she got around to making the swap she badly gouged her shin during a harried shaving accident in Henry’s shower and resorted to using the Vaseline as a salve since he didn’t have any Neosporin in the apartment. “At first I couldn’t believe I was even touching the stuff, but it really made my gash feel better. I came around pretty quickly after that and started using it like it was my own,” Liz said. By the time the two married and bore their first child, the tub of white petrolatum had become a fixture on the bathroom counter between Liz’s electric toothbrush and Henry’s Speed Stick. “That space just seems so empty now,” Liz said. “I really can’t believe it’s gone.”

The Vaseline served the Foster family faithfully for years, soothing innumerable shaving nicks, minor cooking burns, and even helped Liz navigate a particularly nasty bout of hemorrhoids late in her second pregnancy. Unfortunately, its seemingly inexhaustible supply lulled the Fosters into a false sense of security that it would last forever. “You just kind of get comfortable in the routine of smearing a bit over a patch of eczema here, my kids’ skinned knees there, and you start thinking it’s impossible for the stuff to ever run out. Then when it does you just feel completely blindsided,” Liz said, remembering that it even survived an ill-conceived experiment by the couple’s eldest child apparently designed to determine how much of its viscous contents could be streaked along the tail of Mister Kitten Britches, the often-moody family tabby cat, before he totally freaked out.

But for Henry the writing was on the wall. “I knew the end was coming,” he said. “I popped the lid open one night and saw it was getting low and I thought, Jesus, this thing is actually going to run out soon.” But while Henry braced himself for the unthinkable, Liz had trouble letting go. “She just kept scraping the bottom of it night after night, determined to coat her fingertip one last time,” Henry said. “Finally, the other night she was holding it up to the light over the medicine cabinet trying to dig some out of a crevice on the inside edge of the lid, and I just took her hand and said, ‘honey, I’m sorry, but it’s all gone.’ It’s been really tough on her.”

Henry also has concerns about how his kids will receive the news. “Honestly, we may end up just quietly getting a new one and hope they don’t notice that it has a label that doesn’t look a hundred years old,” he said. “I don’t know that they’re ready to process this kind of thing yet.” This tension has been compounded by the fact that it will probably take at least three trips to Target before one of them actually remembers to buy more.

Nonetheless, despite uncertainty around the future of the family’s moisture retention and wound care, life for the Fosters has had a way of pressing on. Henry and Liz, their fingers knotted together comfortably in Liz’s lap while their children tease a dour Mr. Kitten Britches with a pipe cleaner in the next room, believe now more than ever that every day is a gift. They will fondly remember the grace and stoic dignity with which the erstwhile ointment occupied its station on the bathroom sink, and look forward to opening their home and hearts to a replacement tub. “It’s what the old Vaseline would have wanted,” Liz said as she dabbed her eyes with a neatly folded tissue.

The couple plans to hold a private service tonight after the kids go to bed in the form of debating whether to recycle the empty plastic container with or without the lid.♦

 

Panic Spreads After Local Man’s Shocking ‘No-Scuse’ Dinner Rejection

CHICAGO, IL—In a bold move that shook the city to its core, a typically well-mannered Chicago man declined an invitation to dinner with acquaintances yesterday without even attempting to make up a plausible excuse. As news of the incident spread across social media, a rash of copycat “No-Scuse” refusals followed, threatening to throw an already fragile urban social system into full-blown collapse during the peak of holiday party season.

Eyewitnesses in the produce section of the Whole Foods where it happened were stunned by the harsh rejection. “My hands are still shaking,” said Dylan Chandler, 25, a mustachioed grocer who’d been stocking a nearby bin with organic honeycrisp apples. “The guy looked harmless, but then he was just like, ‘no thanks bye’ when the lady invited him and his wife to dinner. I wanted to say, dude, haven’t you ever heard of ‘hey sorry no we have plans that night’? It was like he had zero fucks to give about basic human decency. Honestly, though, a little part of me thought, man, I’d like to do something like that one day.”

Tameka Harris of Bronzeville nearly fainted. “I seen some shit in my time, but that was straight cold blooded,” Harris said. “I mean, homeboy ain’t even say why he couldn’t eat dinner with the bitch. He was just like, kapooyah!, nah bitch, and bounced like she ain’t nothin’. She just stood there holdin’ her lil’ fruit like, the fuck just happened? Man, that joker was cold as ice!”

In an effort to limit the damage, Whole Foods announced this morning that it would provide complimentary buffet dinners and trauma counseling for affected shoppers and employees through the end of the week.

Momma’s Boy

Perhaps as shocking as the epic brush-off itself is the identity of the unlikely man responsible for it. He is South Loop resident Mark Miller, 35, an estate planning attorney and upstate Michigan native with a long history of near-pathological politeness. Even a cursory examination of Miller’s past reveals nothing like the embittered reprobate one might think, but rather, in a friend’s words, “a garden-variety nice guy.” Often the first person to arrive at parties, Miller is notable for maintaining eye contact and nodding empathetically during conversation, and he hasn’t interrupted anyone since 2009 when his own mother went on a 20-minute tirade about how none of her sewing circle friends knew how to properly perform a half-double crochet. A former love interest who asked to remain anonymous went so far as to describe Miller as “probably the best listener of any guy I know,” although she broke off their brief tryst after a handful of dates, noting that the relationship lacked a certain “passion.”

At work, Miller is chronically focused on accommodating everybody else. Most coworkers know him as the guy who holds the door open for people for awkwardly long periods, and he frequently picks up his group’s Starbucks orders without any expectation of reimbursement. “He’s really just the sweetest guy,” said paralegal Margaret Cox, stressing that she is not sexually attracted to him whatsoever.

The only mark on Miller’s record came in 2011, when he gently confronted a fellow customer at an area Jewel-Osco for cutting in line, but when the man claimed that he had been there first, Miller immediately backed off, going so far as to apologize for his mistake even though the man was obviously lying. According to excerpts from Miller’s diary obtained by this publication, he really beat himself up in the days that followed, and hasn’t spoken up for himself since.

Among family, Miller is regarded as a quintessential “momma’s boy” who calls home at least three times a week on his way to work. “My son has always been such a kind and gentle boy,” Miller’s mother, Nancy Miller, said when reached for comment by phone, her voice quavering as she held back tears. “I never thought he’d be capable of something like this.”

A Perfect Storm

So why the sudden break from character? Apologists are quick to point to a “perfect storm” of agitating variables that ultimately led to Miller’s rebuff. He woke up that morning with a moderate hangover having consumed three beers the night before, and dragged himself to the store at his wife’s insistence to pick up blueberries for a tart she planned to bring to a social gathering that afternoon, one that Miller was reportedly dreading. Insult was promptly added to injury in the parking garage when some asshole in an Audi Q5, the very vehicle that Miller has wanted since 2013 but that his wife insists is “Euro-trashy,” bogarted the parking spot he’d attempted to claim with a blinker. But rather than protest and potentially relive the ignominy of the 2011 Jewel-Osco clash, Miller simply drove on without comment, a quiet, corrosive rage roiling just under the surface as he staggered into Whole Foods.

It was in this inflamed state of mind that Miller was approached by Rebeka Stahl, a former law school acquaintance notable for introducing herself as “Beka with a K” and widely regarded as obnoxious, possibly even “on the spectrum.” As Miller blearily surveyed the produce options, Stahl approached from the rear and greeted him with a jarring “Well, it’s Mr. Miller!” so unnecessarily forceful that it startled an old woman inspecting a navel orange nearby.

Dread washed over Miller when he heard the screech of Stahl’s inimitably penetrating speaking voice, and he barely had time to turn around before she assaulted him with commentary on how the blueberries he’d been perusing were subpar, that she much prefers to get hers from the farmer’s market near her office on Thursdays, but that she herself had been forced to “slum it” at Whole Foods to pick up a kumquat for a “secret recipe” marmalade. Stahl then unleashed a torrent of self-referential verbal diarrhea for upwards of seven minutes that included her analysis of the 2016 presidential election and that her and her husband who, she reminded Miller, works for a “Big Four” consulting firm recently closed on a “600 K three-bed” West Loop condo. Sources confirmed that at no point in the exchange did Stahl ask Miller anything about himself.

Stahl then insisted that the two couples get together for dinner or drinks in the near future. Miller managed to remain polite but neutral, deflecting weakly by citing a generally busy holiday schedule. But as Stahl, not to be deterred, scrolled through her iPhone calendar and began suggesting actual dates, Miller had what he would later describe as a “weird flash of spiritual clarity” and did the unthinkable: overcome with a sensation of confidence, he casually tossed the nearest tub of blueberries into his basket, looked Beka dead in her squinty little eyes, and said, “No thanks, I’m good. Later.” Miller then strode off to audible gasps and one “Oh hell nah!” from shoppers close enough to bear witness to the seismic shut down, leaving a gobsmacked Stahl to finger her kumquat as the hiss of a vegetable mister kicked on in the background.

Stahl has since been hospitalized for shock. She is not expected to make a full recovery.

‘No-Scuse’

Even as Internet pundits churned out indictments of Miller’s bad behavior in the hours following the incident, anecdotal reports surfaced throughout the city of other so-called “No-Scuse” refusals to attend office Christmas parties and other holiday functions. A vocal group of millennials have even taken to Twitter to pledge allegiance to the trend and express outrage at the “historical normalization of functionally non-consensual event invitations” at the hashtag #KThanxBye.

“We’ve seen an alarming uptick in No-Scuse rejections around downtown and in some areas of Lincoln Park,” a Chicago Police spokesman said at an emergency press conference, pointing to pockets of the city on a projector screen. “We are calling on the citizens of Chicago to ‘Just Say Yes’ to all holiday events, no matter how inconvenient or cringe worthy. We must all do our part to contain this menace. If this thing continues to spread, we could be facing the largest epidemic of sulky, butt-hurt white people since the end of the Civil War.”

But some experts fear the damage is already done. “This is the beginning of the end of polite society,” said Dr. Stanley McCaulkin, a professor of sociology at Loyola University Chicago and one of Miller’s most ardent critics. “The guiding principle of the modern bourgeoisie social contract is that no one ever expressly reveals that they don’t like one of their peers. You just avoid the people you don’t like, engage in elaborate, apologetic excuse-making when faced with an actual invitation to interact with them, and, if all else fails, you suffer through the occasional painful dinner or birthday party or whatever it is so that the folks in question are never able to confirm that you don’t actually like them.” According to Dr. McCaulkin, it’s taken the species generations of hard-earned evolution to develop a sense of civility under threat of unwanted social obligation. He warns that Miller’s subversive act could roll that progress back a thousand years.

In any event, whether Miller’s accidental revolution has any real staying power remains to be seen, but in the meantime the man himself has developed quite a following. At press time, as many as 40 women were camped outside of his townhome just to get a look at the newly minted legend in the flesh.

Among the legion of admirers is Tameka Harris, the shopper who saw it all go down. “Man, I ain’t been able to get that lil’ man out my head since yesterday,” Harris said, pointing her camera phone at one of Miller’s windows hoping for a walk-by. “The way he was just like, ‘Bye Felicia’ and whatnot. Oooh child! He done lit a fire up under me. Tell you what, he goin’ have to No-Scuse my ass direct ‘cause I’m tryin’ to get me a piece of that!”♦

Obama To Fart Into ‘Oval Office Screaming Pillow’ If Trump Elected

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—In an increasingly common moment of candor, President Obama revealed during a press conference today that if Republican candidate Donald J. Trump wins the presidency on November 8, he intends to spend his remaining time in office “farting repeatedly and bare-assed” into the historic Oval Office Screaming Pillow.

The President’s comment refers, of course, to a relatively obscure bit of White House lore dating back to 1915, at the time of the Lusitania disaster and an otherwise trying time in then-President Woodrow Wilson’s personal life. Wilson lost his beloved wife Ellen Axson Wilson in late 1914, mere months before World War I broke out in Europe. Ellen was not only a wife to the President but a political confidant, and her death came at a time when he most needed her level-headed counsel during mounting domestic tensions around the European conflict. Fortunately for the grieving Wilson, in early 1915 he met a dazzling young Virginian named Edith Galt, with whom he was immediately enchanted, reportedly commenting to a friend after their initial introduction that “Ms. Galt is exquisite, with an intellect nearly as massive as that bosom of hers.” After a (scandalously) brief courtship, Galt became a de facto—and of course secret—nighttime occupant of the White House living quarters.

The night in May 1915 that Wilson learned German submarines sunk the Lusitania steamship along with more than a hundred American civilians—a tragedy that would ultimately lead to American participation in the Great War two years later—Wilson called for Galt to join him, hoping some wee-hours romance may help to soothe his terrible distress. But Galt arrived late, only to then casually inform Wilson that, regrettably, she had just been paid a visit by “Mother Nature,” and had a “crazy bad headache” to boot.

At that fraught moment, the prospect of being limited to making out and, at best, some unenthusiastic hands stuff was more than Wilson could bear, and legend has it that he stormed out of the bedroom like a man possessed, grabbing the nearest throw pillow on his way out, and spent the remainder of the night in a Lincoln bedroom closet, screaming and weeping into the pillow for hours until he exhausted himself into fetal-position slumber.

The Screaming Pillow has been a staple of presidential stress relief ever since, helping Wilson’s successors weather the storms of their respective administrations, from Kennedy’s Cuban missile crisis to Clinton’s impeachment, from Nixon’s Watergate to George W. Bush’s failed attempts to learn the rules of chess.

So, President Obama’s vow to break wind into a White House artifact that has served such an intimate role to so many American leaders is an indication of just how little he thinks of Mr. Trump. “Sure, I know Harry Truman was clutching the Pillow to his chest when he decided to drop nukes on Japan,” Mr. Obama said, “but if that criminally insane piece of shit orange-faced fucktard [Mr. Trump] slithers his way into my house, I’m a eat Bush’s baked beans and blast my ass into that floral-patterned petri dish every night till January 20th.” (The Pillow as “petri dish” refers to the fact that, per tradition, it has not been cleaned since Calvin Coolidge drunkenly urinated on it in his sleep in 1928).

In any event, and much to the relief of an exhausted electorate, the fate of the country at large will be decided tomorrow, although the Screaming Pillow’s sanitary condition continues to hang in the balance regardless of who wins the November 8th contest.

“Honestly,” the President said to reporters with a wry smile, “even if Hillary wins, I’ll probably give it a couple toots for good measure.”♦

Script: Hope House for Trump Supporters, With Sarah McLachlan

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FADE IN:

 

A mob of angry white people clamors in slow-motion. They wave cardboard signs and shake their fists. The camera pans along the faces in the crowd as piano notes begin to ring out gently. Sarah McLachlan sings​​ youre in the arms/of/the angel.​​ 

 

The camera focuses on an obese woman with a double chin. She wears a U.S. flag tee shirt and baseball cap with the phrase MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. Her sign reads LIAR LIAR PANTS SUIT ON FIRE. She shouts vitriol, though we cannot hear her words. Spittle flies from her mouth as her chins quake in slow-motion.

​​ 

DISSOLVE:

 

The same woman sits alone in a dark kitchen devouring a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos in slow-motion, weeping. Sarah McLachlan continues to sing.

 

DISSOLVE:

 

An older man in cowboy hat, slight build, long beard, punches a black protester at a political rally in slow-motion. His face is twisted into a hateful stare.

 

DISSOLVE:

 

The same man sits on a dilapidated front porch, a hand resting on the chair next to him,​​ off-screen. His face is pensive and sad. As the camera pans out, we see that a scarecrow in a floral print​​ dress​​ is seated next to him. He sighs deeply and looks down. Sarah McLachlan continues to sing.

 

DISSOLVE:

 

An ugly middle-aged white male with thinning brown hair sits on a kitchen stool. He wears an ill-fitting button-up shirt, the collar of an undershirt visible at the neckline. A laptop computer sits open to the BREITBART NEWS homepage on a cluttered counter behind him. His eyes are deep set, pasted with a wounded, childlike confusion. He looks directly into the camera. A single tear slides down his cheek. Sarah McLachlan continues to sing.

 

CUT TO BLACK:

 

Sometimes wounds are so deep, we dont even know they are there.

 

DISSOLVE:

 

A blonde female pundit wags her finger aggressively on a talking heads news show in slow-motion. She is incensed. The rest of the panelists smirk sarcastically.

 

CUT TO BLACK:

 

Sometimes when we call out in hate, what we really need is love.

 

DISSOLVE:

 

The same pundit stares sullenly into a bathroom mirror. A photograph of Christina Aguilera from the​​ 90s is taped to the mirror. Next to is a bubble of dialogue with the words YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY. Sarah McLachlan continues to sing.

​​ 

CUT TO BLACK:

 

Will you give us love?

 

INT. WELL-APPOINTED LIVING ROOM:

 

Sarah McLachlan sits on a couch. A skeletal white male in a grungy tee shirt and beanie cap sits to her right.

 

SARAH MCLACHLAN:

 

Hello, Im Sarah McLachlan, and this is Mike. Mike, like the other people youve just seen, is a Trump supporter.​​ 

 

You may know a Trump supporter in your life. Many of them live among us. They shop at our Wal-Marts​​ and gas stations. They work in our malls and restaurants and 24-hour news networks. Some of them may even go to your school, unless you are in college.​​ 

 

Images continue throughout SMs monologue of sad, angry and/or unremarkable-looking white people in a superimposed box in the upper-right corner of the screen.

 

SARAH MCLACHLAN (CONTD):

 

Although more than half of all Trump supporters are deplorable, each one is beautiful in its own special way. Like Mike.

 

SM gently lays her hand on Mikes leg. Mike flinches and grunts.​​ 

 

SARAH MCLACHLAN (CONTD):

 

Mike was born in the depressed economy of an old coal mining town​​ in the middle of nowhere. He hardly knew his mother because she had to work three jobs just to keep Pop-Tarts on the table. He didnt have access to good schools, community programs, or clean drinking Mountain Dew. And yet, even in these dire circumstances, Mike taught himself dozens of English words by the time he was a teenager, and even learned basic arithmetic so he could buy pot for his family. Mike is a very special boy. Isnt that right, Mike?​​ 

 

SM pats Mike on the head. Mike grunts and reaches for SMs breasts. SM grabs and holds his arm kindly but sternly, like a mother.

 

SARAH MCLACHLAN (CONTD):

 

Not right now, sweetie. Many people look at Trump supporters with revulsion. But they are not evil, they are lost and suffering. They are not particularly smart or good at anything and need someone to blame for their failures, so they put it all down to a vast Jewish conspiracy and the goddamn Mexicans taking all the jobs.​​ 

 

SUPER. UPPER RIGHT:

 

A group of Hispanics installs roofing shingles. They throw their heads back and laugh maniacally.

 

SARAH MCLACHLAN (CONTD):

 

But just like you, they laugh, they love, and they cry. In some ways, they are just like you and I.​​ 

 

SUPER. UPPER RIGHT:

 

A family laughs together, hanging on each other with affection around what appears to be a campfire. As the camera pans out, we see that they are toasting marshmallows over a burning cross.

 

SARAH MCLACHLAN (CONTD):

 

They want to reach us, but they dont know how. These helpless creatures are crying out for us to listen. Will you listen?

 

DISSOLVE:

 

A beautiful white mansion is framed by a cloudless sky. Green hills roll into the distance. A group of smiling white people and one black guy wearing glasses mill around a garden, picking vegetables and placing them into wicker baskets.

 

SARAH MCLACHLAN (OFF-SCREEN):

 

This is Hope House, a place where Trump supporters and alt-right internet trolls come to heal. A place where second chances grow along​​ vegetables in the garden. A place where they are given intensive psychotherapy, a​​ very​​ basic liberal arts education, and love.

 

DISSOLVE:

 

A man with a shaved head and prominent swastika neck tattoo lays in the fetal position on a psychiatrists couch crying while a therapist holds his hand and listens intently.

 

SARAH MCLACHLAN (O.S.):

 

For a small monthly gift, you can sponsor a Trump supporters stay in Hope House. With your donation, you will receive a photo of your Trump supporter with a handwritten note and a Hope House tote bag.​​ 

 

SUPER. UPPER RIGHT:​​ 

A man holds a red crayon in his fist. He scrawls an illegible note on HOPE HOUSE letterhead.

 

SARAH MCLACHLAN (O.S.):

 

Your donation will allow one of these wonderful creatures the second chance they so desperately need. Here, they will learn things for the first time, like how to eat vegetables . . .

 

The obese woman featured in the opening shot holds a piece of kale up to a light overhead. Her brow is furrowed in confusion.​​ 

 

SARAH MCLACHLAN (O.S.):

 

How to read books and other literature that​​ is​​ not the Bible . . .

 

A man holds a hardcover copy of Shel Silversteins THE GIVING TREE inches away from his face. He squints in intense concentration to make out the words. A counselor in a HOPE HOUSE polo shirt sidles up to him and, smiling, turns the book right side up. They embrace warmly.

 

SARAH MCLACHLAN (O.S.):

 

And how to express themselves constructively through effective art therapy techniques.

 

A gym-built man with bleached-blond hair​​ draws​​ an image of himself as a child. He is sad and alone in a corner while an older female figure injects herself with drugs at​​ the other end of the room.​​ 

 

SARAH MCLACHLAN (O.S.):

 

And crucially, without access to the internet or Fox News, they can no longer be manipulated by the right-wing media outlets that have scrambled their impressionable, childlike minds.​​ 

 

A woman empties a box of​​ signed photographs of Alex Jones​​ into a dumpster. She tilts her face skyward and smiles.​​ 

 

SARAH MCLACHLAN (O.S.):

 

And for those poor souls that do not respond to first line therapeutic treatment . . .

 

DISSOLVE:

 

A man​​ lies​​ on a hospital bed. He smiles absently and points to the ceiling at nothing in particular.

 

SARAH MCLACHLAN (O.S.):

 

Hope House provides humane, state-of-the-art sterilization and lobotomy procedures to prevent future procreation or voting.​​ 

 

As the camera pans out, we see gauze wrapped around the mans genitals. He eventually stops pointing at the ceiling and gives a thumbs-up. He grunts throughout.

 

INT. LIVING ROOM:

 

SARAH MCLACHLAN:

 

For less than the cost of a cup of coffee, you can change a life. Take Mike here. Mike used to think that President Obama was a Muslim​​ and that the Holocaust was make-believe. But through therapy with the counselors at Hope House, Mike learned that he had sublimated the feelings of powerlessness and extreme alienation of his childhood into a revulsion of the underclass—even though, ironically, he himself was a part of it—which then developed into a rigid philosophy that government should remain small and yield to his will, not the other way around. Isnt that right, sweetie?​​ 

 

Mike nods. He then grunts and grabs at SMs breasts.​​ 

 

SARAH MCLACHLAN (CONTD):

 

Ok, but just for a minute.

 

SM lifts​​ her shirt and begins breastfeeding Mike. He is immediately calmed. SM pats his head as he feeds and coos faintly.​​ 

 

SARAH MCLACHLAN (CONTD):

 

There, there, my little man. It isnt too late for Trump supporters, and you alone can fix it. Together we can make America great again. Be the change America needs. Give today.

 

DISSOLVE:

 

A large group stands in front of HOPE HOUSE, except for a few scattered people in wheelchairs with bandages around their genitals. The obese woman from the opening shot stands in the middle​​ holding a sign. LIAR LIAR PANTS SUIT ON FIRE is crossed out with red ink. Underneath is the phrase THANX YOO HOPE HAUS.

 

(In small print​​ at bottom of screen)

Paid for by the Clinton Foundation.

 

CUT TO BLACK

 

THE END

 

 

© 2016 Matthew C. Douglas

​IOC Says Female Olympians Can’t Show ‘Any Skin Whatsoever’ After Obscene Snatch Mishap

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL—Following a major faux pas by NBC in which it inadvertently aired images of a Swedish weightlifter’s vagina, the International Olympic Committee rocked the sports world today with an announcement that female Olympians will no longer be permitted to bear “any skin whatsoever, except that on the hands and feet” during competition. The announcement came amid a flurry of surprise at an impromptu press conference called after the 31st Olympiad wrapped up two fraught weeks in Rio.

The radical rule change was also precipitated by widespread reports leading up to the crotch contretemps of compulsive masturbation among adolescent to middle-aged men around the world during essentially every Olympic event. Although self-abuse among spectators is always an unfortunate feature of the summer games, some metrics posit that the trend reached an unsettling peak in 2016. “We’ve been getting literally thousands of calls from wives, children, coworkers, and passersby that men of all ages have been indiscriminately whipping out their members in offices, living rooms, restaurants, street corners—pretty much everywhere—and ferociously jerking it to streaming images of barely dressed athletes,” an IOC spokesman said. Perhaps most disconcerting is that, this year, reports weren’t confined to the masturbatory staples of gymnastics, track and field, and beach volleyball. “Men really ran the whole gamut in 2016,” the spokesman said. “We received numerous complaints of public wanking during virtually every event, including fencing, archery, dressage, even golf. I mean, sure it undermines these gals’ elite athletic achievements, but points for creativity.”

Although the IOC admitted obliquely that “Bategate 2016” could be “potentially problematic if left unchecked,” it was initially reluctant to do anything about it. By Day 10, the IOC was faced with widespread social media outrage at a problem that seemed to be worsening by the day, but all it could muster was a typically complacent institutional shrug of the shoulders. “Listen, I get that these guys shouldn’t be arm wrestling their purple-headed stormtroopers out in the open,” the IOC spokesman said under fire from reporters during a press conference late in the games, “but let’s give these kids a break. They had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on.”

But that was before the now-infamous Day 12 accident involving Swedish-born bikini-model-turned-competitive-weightlifter Greta Garbo (granddaughter of the famed actress) jolted the IOC out of its insouciance, ultimately leading to the seismic shift in dress code. That evening Garbo, who is accustomed to publicly donning skimpy swimwear and the like, showed up to the medal round of the “snatch” competition (the snatch, for the uninitiated, is an Olympic lift where a barbell is yanked from the ground to above the head) adorned in nothing but tricolored nipple tassels and a chain-front crotch-less lace thong reportedly sewn together by Ralph Lauren himself. Unfortunately for the decorated Swede, as she initiated the movement, a nipple tassel interfered with her grip and she lost hold of the bar halfway through, and ended up essentially flinging more than 75 kilograms straight into her own forehead. She knocked herself out cold and fell onto her back, legs spread eagle, and for millions of international viewers the absence of fabric in the center of Mr. Lauren’s handcrafted panties suddenly became painfully conspicuous.

A melee ensued shortly thereafter, but not before Garbo’s splayed legs filled up televisions screens from Moscow to Lima for a staggering 14 seconds, her nether region centered tightly in the picture as though by intention, in what has since been dubbed the “Crotch Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” Those 14 seconds became a social media cause célèbre over the hours and days that followed, with conservative interest groups leading the charge against the “international travesty of moral decency” in a hashtag campaign called #14SecondsTooMany.

And then a strange thing happened. Rather than come to Garbo’s defense and her autonomy over her body and all choices concerning it, notably rabid feminist pundits joined the fight for stricter clothing regulations. New interest groups formed overnight and the leader of the pack, a coalition of activists called Feminists Against Greta Garbo’s Snatch, or F.A.G.G.S., began advancing a new kind of fem-centric doctrine holding not that scanty fashion options are a woman’s sacred prerogative, but rather that, in the atmosphere of irremediable global chauvinism they’d been complaining of so mightily throughout the games, “notions of feminine sovereignty command that a woman shield her body from view of all these goddamn asshole perverts who think the female form exists solely to get them off,” F.A.G.G.S. chairperson Rebecca Franklin Martin-Smith-Crowder-Johnson-Wang said.

And then, before Jane Q. Public could even begin to digest this seemingly drastic pivot, an up-and-coming group of radical Islamist terrorists seized on the opportunity to enter the fray, clamoring alongside the F.A.G.G.S. for the IOC to institute a dress code more aligned with Sharia values and to forever banish the “cheap orgy of unholy flesh mongering” that is the summer games. “We’re very happy to join with F.A.G.G.S. in the global fight against the wicked practices of the IOC and Western infidels,” a spokesman said on behalf of the Coalition for the Use of Nuclear Terrorism for Survival of Sharia, known internationally as C.U.N.T.S.S. When asked whether he had a riposte to offer critics who say that cozying up to Western feminists as political bedfellows will tarnish the C.U.N.T.S.S. brand, the spokesman—who reportedly only recently left his post as Donald Trump’s campaign lawyer—aggressively repeated “Says who?” several times before eventually making the case that because the two groups share a complete ideological rigidity and intolerance of opposing viewpoints, they are actually pretty compatible.

Regardless, though C.U.N.T.S.S. and F.A.G.G.S. may have historically different agendas, they’ve proven to be tremendously effective when united against a common enemy, and together they followed the Garbo/rampant masturbation ordeal through to a most impressive conclusion. “The sheer number of vociferous tweets we were getting on the exposed skin issue alone was just too much for us to handle,” the IOC spokesman said. “We were really sick of hearing about it, so we just kind of threw up our hands and said, okay fine.”

Of course, the wound is still scabbing over, and whether the rule change sticks remains to be seen. Some F.A.G.G.S. detractors, Garbo herself among them, are already trying to upend the change, arguing on social media that the new rule is regressive because it’s driven by a “heteronormative agenda” rather than legitimate concern for women, further muddying the waters and leaving disinterested observers scratching their heads as to exactly what it is that the feminist contingent ultimately wants. But one thing is certain: for every perceived misstep the IOC or any of the other Olympic powers that be may make over the next couple of years, F.A.G.G.S. and C.U.N.T.S.S. will be waiting in the bowels of the Internet, ready to take to Twitter to carry forth the inextinguishable torch of popular outrage.♦

© 2016 Matthew C. Douglas

Largest-Ever Area Rollout of Teenage Clones Hits During Lollapalooza 2016

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GRANT PARK, Chicago, Illinois—Downtown Chicago is reeling this weekend from the sudden influx of tens of thousands of just-hatched teenage clones flooding Grant Park for Lollapalooza 2016, the iconic alt-music festival now in its 25th year. “It’s really something to see,” South Loop resident Mike McNally, 35, said as he watched a group of scantily clad female hatchlings stumble onto State Street from the Harrison Red Line stop. “It’s remarkable how they all look more or less identical, and seem to lack even the most basic capacity to make an independent decision. I mean, this is the third group in ten minutes I’ve watched come up from the subway. They’ll just stand there for a few seconds, totally oblivious to the fact that they’re in everyone’s way, and then they’ll just kind of twirl around in synchronized circles and bellow in unison ‘oh my gawd, like, which waaaay/oh my gawd, like, which waaaay’ for a while before they start walking in the total opposite direction of Grant Park. Happens every time.”

While the annual rock fest always leads to a temporary population boom downtown, this year it just so happened to coincide with the hatching of the largest-ever crop of artificially created teenage clones at the Illinois Center for the Advancement of Molecular Cloning, located in a nondescript office building 30 miles west of the city in Downers Grove. And while the massive inrush can be an annoyance to locals, it also represents a capstone achievement for the Center. “We’re very proud of the 2016 release, not only because of the numbers but the unrivaled quality of our product,” says Dr. Gavin Dinkus, director of the Center’s program on adolescent cloning. “You look at these kids and you think, wow, you know, these guys are almost human.” Indeed, the 2016 “graduates”—in industry argot—are the culmination of a lot of hard work. “We’ve really tried to showcase the advances we’ve made over the last year with these little boogers, and I think it’s obvious in the result. I mean, short of having a conversation with one of them face to face, you almost can’t even tell they’re genetically engineered knockoffs. Not to mention, a lot of them are pretty easy on the eyes,” Dr. Dinkus said with a proud, fatherly smile.

But even amid this quantum leap, Dr. Dinkus and his team are keenly aware of their prototypes’ limitations. “No matter how good the science gets, we’re talking about a breed that’s had very little time to acclimatize to the nuances of a complex culture,” a feature that often hinders their collective ability to make challenging decisions. To accommodate this, the Center outfitted this year’s class in the style of dress dubbed “Basic,” primarily because it removes the “heavy burden” of choice that the graduates are not always capable of bearing. “There are only about three different variations with this style of clothing,” Dr. Dinkus said, “so even the ones with extraordinarily limited intellectual capacity seem to be able to pull on high-waisted short shorts and a striped tank top. Floral-themed headbands also seem to be within their reach.”

One of the Center’s chief disappointments this year was its failed attempt to imprint each individual graduate with a unique manner of speech. “I won’t bore you with the details but the process was just too unwieldy to master before the release date,” Dr. Dinkus said, “so we basically just gave them each the same cache of words, superlatives like ‘super’ and phrases like ‘I feel like’ being some of our staples. As far as the voices go, we use the same base program and basically just try to vary the pitch a bit. Ultimately they all pretty much sound the same.”

But Dr. Dinkus is quick to remind critics of one of the Center’s major triumphs: the clones’ expert smartphone use and mastery of social media. Center staff was thrilled with how quickly they got that one right, nailing it down with an earlier generation and holding steady ever since. “I swear, it’s like these kids come out of the synthetic womb already programmed to Instagram a ‘duck face selfie,’ Tweet some cutesy observation about a trending topic, and fire off a group text all at the same time.”

In any event, the 2016 rollout’s overlap with Lollapalooza presents Dr. Dinkus with a prime opportunity to amass new data to address the areas still short of the mark. Marshaling the graduates together in large numbers will allow the Center to further study why they immediately pick up social cues and modes of communication from one another, but struggle with assimilating characteristics from older generations of naturally conceived folks who actually have the ability to consider people other than themselves. “I know everyone in the neighborhood hates it, but Lollapalooza is a blessing for us,” said Dr. Dinkus, describing the tacky, large-scale music festival as a crucible that could generate lots of valuable new information.

McNally, the South Loop man anxious to reclaim his neighborhood at the end of the weekend, also acknowledges that Lollapalooza and the clones are “perfect for each other.” Engineered to value cultural homogeneity and the safety of the herd above all else, they’re well-suited to unblinkingly worship the middle-class values so perfectly embodied in the tepid, self-congratulating musical fare that’s been a mainstay of Lolla since alternative music turned, in McNally’s words, “totally gay.”

Fortunately for McNally and other city dwellers, graduates’ life expectancy averages only about 72 hours, so by Sunday night, the clones who don’t make it back to the Downers Grove facility before mandatory deprogramming (which, according to Dr. Dinkus, is nearly all of them) will be lying dead in rotting flesh heaps in Grant Park and along city streets. Ryan Sumner, a veteran Streets and Sanitation worker, isn’t looking forward to cleaning up the mess. “I expect I’ll have some choice words for these selfish lil’ bastards come Sunday,” he said as he tossed a garbage bag full of $10 beer cups into his truck, his head swiveling to track a particularly attractive clone. “I mean, take that one, she’s probably never done nothing for no one in her short little life, but, goddamn, that ass though!”♦

Needles and Risk

When I imagined shooting up in my head I had it all worked out, from the boiling point down to the butterfly insertion of the gun metal into the bloodstream. It was all happening at my tattoo artist’s house: he was in the bathroom and I heard his belt flake apart and smack out of the loops with its laminated woefulness and schoolboy sanctimony and I became afraid of it because I knew it was devious. The rest is an indelible gash, specific and remorseless:

I bought this imaginary dope with a hundred dollar check gifted to me by my dead great aunt. She’s in the ground now, and her flesh looks like browned house potatoes; most of it has completely disintegrated but the bones and jewelry hold solid because of their unexceptionable architecture and molecular integrity. I saw all of this in a dream and if you don’t believe it you may as well floss the toenails of God with pond roughage. But the feeling (the injection came later), I’m sure you want to know: if it was very peaceful, we’d be friendlier than this and we’d all sink down into a great pool of cloudy Chlamydia piss and waterproof termites (the flesh eating bacteria have movie night in a different temperature). In this space we were all in together I knew that the termites would make less work for me in the long run and I understood the auspiciousness of death. I can’t fucking explain it so don’t ask me. Please. But more than all that, in the grips of my fortune there was an ineluctable sense that life was a presumptuous snuff-spitting blowhard spouting off at the mouth and talking all big about how it fucked Betty Mae Hoolihan Reese (you know, that girl) in the back of a neon black Dodge Intrepid with a blown transmission and fourteen inch wheels (which seemed odd to brag about); there were wild allegations and all of this he-said-she-said sort of thing, and ultimately the dryness in the air proved that after invisible hands unearthed Betty’s pussy from poop brown wicker basket underwear with thoughtless jagged leg holes, she said she quote unquote wants it in the slimy cunt but first you have to tell me about God. This is now widely regarded as truth, especially in the Universe.

Jesus Christ, though, the sensation of these rapacious ninja children slicing at me with stunted swords!; their gills had been stuffed with seashell shavings and razor blades until they were gutted and made extinct by jealousy. It felt dull going in, but once the blood started gushing out it wasn’t red, it was baby blue and turned to powder, you know, like the color of the sky, and I knew in that quote unquote pinhead atomic moment that it wasn’t my blood going out into the world but the sky’s breath coming into me; it coursed boiling ejaculate through my stapled-together veins and, spitefully, it gave me a horrible abscess that would become pregnant with bliss. It’s a terrible thing, but we live in a place where the sky is a commercialized jerk-off joint where intrepid maquereaus fashion deadly weapons out of crusted tampons and live chinchilla teeth. I hate to be here for too long, but the tattoo artist needed to finish the job; after all, only the outline of this fanatical face was fitted on, the one I chose out of a prejudicial lineup of entirely light-skinned African American males and wrung out in mirror shade reverse and horror show sing-alongs; then the artist switched the colors from primary to secondary (after he asked me to bring paper towels with me to the job) and poisoned the canvas of my body with this domineering malediction and turned my gooey beige anodyne hide into the kind of evil which no one is really capable of. It hurts like a motherfucker, too. But the imaginary jacked-up dopesicles (forgive me if I digress from time to time, between naval-gazing I jump from casual rumination to tautological certitude with no hard proof) hammering through the canal of my arteries and spider veins, rushing to flood the eyeballs and “once and for all,” they say, radically condense the world from an intractable terrorscape to something I can slice in two with a borrowed Leatherman and smear like ambrosia all over compact latissimus dorsi. I feel like someone who just got tried for murder and danced his way to the gravel on piano key neckties. In this fantasy, I’m the toughest man alive. Pious itinerants make pilgrimages from the lady-boy rapist Far East to be near my bright-light creativity and spark plug brilliance. In this double-jeopardy realm I’m the cleanest cat that ever was and the way I think changes history every minute: I’m lauded as the first person to master mind control and braindrain gravity because every thought zap in the amygdala generates more and more peace until my mind spins off its axis into the quadrant opposite and all I feel is a hollow-tip absence of everything that ever caused me grief. But the truth: I’m deathly afraid of needles and risk.