After a myriad of meandering meanwhiles, the crux of modern civilization came sharply into focus: lines. More specifically, what lines are, what they can and cannot do, where they can
and cannot go, and specifically less important, why.
The Department of Redundancy Department, Linear Thought Division, was having its
monthly Contractually Obligated Review, Revise, and Rinse Boring Board Meeting.
Phyllis was standing next to a large line graph situated on a dry erase board. She was using a pointer stick and referencing the various categories in an underwhelming fashion. “Blah,
blah, blah… Yadda, yadda, yadda… etcetera, etcetera… And so on and so forth.” She set the pointer on the table and returned to her seat. “Well, gentlemen, there’s no sense in putting it under a microscope. I think it’s all perfectly clear.”
Tom nodded. “Yes, quite clear. Thank you, Phyllis,” he said dryly.
Sam stated the obvious. “Clear as a fresh pane of glass, really.”
Phyllis smiled. “It’s actually almost annoying how clear it all is.”
Everyone laughed heartily.
“Indeed,” Bernard agreed. Then after a pause, he added: “Just to clarify, what is it that
we’re all so clear about?”
Phyllis rolled her eyes dramatically. “Lines, Bernard, lines. Everything must have lines.”
Sam set his coffee mug down and grumbled to himself as he fidgeted in his chair. “Stupid
uncomfortable adult diapers…” Then more clearly he stated: “We need more lines.” He then
stared off into space and muttered: “My feet are numb…”
Tom tapped on the table to show his support. “I second the second thing you said several seconds ago, Sam. The problem is we’re running out of places and reasons for using lines.” He sighed loudly. “Has the world simply moved on?” Then before anyone could answer him, he raised his voice and said: “They thought the right angle wouldn’t work. But we showed them,
didn’t we? Didn’t we?”
Phyllis raised her hand in an effort to calm Tom down. “Yes, but that was a long time ago, Tom. You’re right; the world has moved on. Straight lines and right angles can’t maneuver
Sam became visibly distraught and slammed his fist on the table. “Damn the laws of physics! Damn them, I say!”
“Easy now, Sam. We haven’t drawn our last line, people. Not by a long shot.” She pushed her chair back and got to her feet. “Now, I know how everyone has been eager to get some new blood and fresh ideas into the company so I thought I’d take this opportunity to introduce you all to Kevin. He just passed the Common Sense Exam with flying colors and I hear he’s been making big arcs over in Developing the Development. So, without further ado…” She opened the door and called out into the hallway. “Kevin? Could you come in now? I think we’re ready for you.”
Kevin entered the room, closed the door behind him, and carried a poster board which was facing away from the board members. He turned it around and placed it on an easel next to Phyllis. On the poster board was a simple wavy line.
“Hello, everyone,” he said cheerfully. “I’m Kevin and I propose drawing wavy lines.”
Tom grabbed the sides of his face and shouted in disbelief: “What?!?”
A gunshot rang out and everyone looked around the room, mortified.
Phyllis peered out from behind the easel. “Good lord! What was that? Is everyone all
“Oh, my God! Sam’s been shot!” Bernard yelled while looking under the table.
From the floor, Sam muttered in pain: “Deviating lines? Oh, why can’t I die faster?” He made some over the top gagging sounds, flailed briefly, and then stopped breathing.
“Oh good heavens,” Phyllis said. “I think he’s dead.”
Tom slumped against the wall in disbelief. “How did he shoot himself? He doesn’t even have a real gun.” He took a deep breath and then turned his vitriol on Kevin. “It’s all his fault,” he said and pointed towards the poster board.
Kevin took a step backward as if he’d been pushed. “What? How is it my fault? Are you saying that he killed himself over some stupid lines?”
Tom leaned forward and used the back of his chair for support. He glared at Kevin. “You arrogant bastard! ‘Over some stupid lines,’ you say? Well, let me tell you something, sonny boy.” He pointed at Sam’s empty chair. “He was a great man. He was a great man and you pushed him over the edge. You and your wavy line gibberish! This man whose life you ended, invented the right angle! Did you know that? No, I didn’t think so. We’ll not see his caliber again, I dare say. So tell me, Kevin, what do you and your wavy line hootenanny have to offer us or even the human race?”
Kevin took a deep breath to make sure that Tom had actually finished his rant before proceeding.
“Well, for starters, using wavy lines on a road sign could give you advance warning to be careful during a bad snowstorm.”
“He’s got a point there, Tom,” Bernard said.
Tom eyed Bernard warily. “Shut up.”
“I need a drink,” Phyllis said and made her way over to the snack table.
“Shut up,” Tom said out of reflex. “Sorry, Phyllis. I forgot you have free will.”
Sam climbed to the table and breathed heavily. He was drenched in blood. “The bullet… it somehow missed the vital organs.” He took another deep breath. “I think I might actually pull through.”
Tom rolled his eyes, took a gun from his jacket pocket, shot Sam, who fell in a heap on the floor. “It was just his time, sadly.”
Phyllis gulped down an entire glass of water from the snack table. “Why are we not more upset about Sam? And why the hell is there never any alcohol in this room?”
Bernard took a pensive step away from Tom and pointed at the smoking gun in his hand.
“Uh, Tom? Smoking gun.”
“Hmm? Oh, right. Sorry.” Tom dropped the gun to the floor. “Poor, pitiful, yet somehow sensational Sam…”
“If only he’d been more open-minded about wavy lines,” Kevin offered solemnly.
Tom took his seat again. “Oh, give it a rest, Kevin.”
“It would help, don’t you think?” Kevin continued.
Tom waved a finger in Kevin’s direction. “Not if you’re flying a plane.”
Kevin stifled a laugh. “What?”
Tom folded his hands in front of him on the table. “All right, smarty-pants. How can wavy lines help to fly planes? This I’ve got to hear.”
Kevin smiled in spite of himself. “Well, sir, if the plane has to change its trajectory several times during its flight, it would have to curve its flight path—that is, not go straight.” He demonstrated this by pretending his hand was a plane. “You can’t very well make a right-angle turn in a plane, you know.”
Bernard scratched his head. “What do you mean ‘you can’t’?”
“A plane can’t stop and turn on a dime in mid-air,” Kevin smirked. “It can’t be done.”
Tom looked down at his hands. “It’s certainly possible,” he muttered.
“At hundreds of miles an hour?” Kevin laughed incredulously. “It’s definitely not possible.”
Tom looked away from Kevin and whispered: “Damn…”
“Well, this is obviously futile,” Bernard stated. “I’m leaving.” He got up from his chair.
He opened the office door and something in the hall startled him and he recoiled. “What the—“ he started to ask but was immediately punched in the face and fell backward onto the floor. Two men, wearing neon orange spandex suits and holding Aerobee-like discs in a threatening manner, burst into the room.
“Put up your hands!” one them screamed in a childish high-pitched voice.
Tom, Kevin, and Phyllis all did as they were told. Bernard struggled to his feet and did
“Who are you guys?” Phyllis asked.
“Who we are, you ask?” the second one retorted in a mocking tone, also in a high-pitched voiced. “Ha! We are who we are. It is we who are us. Yes.” He looked at his companion. “Damn it. Who are we again?” The other one whispered in his ear. “Ah, yes!” he continued. We are the Circle Jerks! So be afraid of us, already! We represent the line that chases itself.” They both drew large invisible circles in the air in sync with each other. “It goes on forever. It’s kind of pointless, really… Er, um, yeah…”
Phyllis lowered her hands. “Circle Jerks? Seriously?”
“What?” Jerk One scoffed. “You don’t believe me?”
“Oh, I believe that you believe that you two are whatever you say you are,” she said. “I’m just tired of over-caffeinated bozos in wacky outfits trying to hijack our boardroom.”
Bernard lowered his hands. “Me, too. It’s so unoriginal. Hey, Tom? Remember the Biker Nuns last month? The ones who put kazoos in their mouths and pretended to ride around on motorcycles?”
Tom laughed. “Or what about the Real Estate Ninjas that tried to take over on Labor Day? There wasn’t anybody even here to hijack!”
Phyllis poured herself another drink. “My favorite had to be the Hardware Pirates. Remember when they made Sam walk the plank off the table into that little kiddie pool filled with toy sharks? And somehow Sam almost drowned in three inches of water!”
“Sam, you gullible bastard,” Bernard said and laughed even more.
“Or Insaneo Batman! Remember that sad sack?” Phyllis cackled. Her laughter was becoming more and more intense. “Or Chap-Stick Man or the Caveman Council?”
Kevin began to chuckle as well. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. But all this laughing is making me laugh, too.”
“Or what about those wannabe Star Trek space cadets from the Enterprise Café?”
Bernard chimed in. “Their uniform colors didn’t even match!” He paused to catch his breath. “Oh, oh, oh, do you guys remember Senor Loco? Arriba, Arriba!” Bernard laughed so hard he was oblivious to his nose bleeding from being punched earlier.
“That’s just gross, man,” Jerk One said as he watched the blood trickle down Bernard’s face.
Phyllis was in hysterics. “You’re bleeding, Bernie!” she barked like a hyena. She mocked him and pretended her nose was bleeding and then pretended to lick the blood off her hand. “Ha-ha! What the hell am I doing?” Her speech devolved into gibberish. She was openly crying and no longer making any sense.
Tom wiped tears of joy away from his eyes. “I almost forgot about B-b-b-Biff!”
All four of them laughed to the point where they appeared to be in pain, gasping for air between laughs.
“Enough!” Jerk Two bellowed and tossed his Aerobee and it hit Tom squarely in the chest. Barely.
“Careful,” Tom smirked. “You just might ruffle my tie, pal.”
“Ooh,” Phyllis cooed. “I could really go for a Mai-tai.”
Jerk One threw his Aerobee onto the floor. “Look, we all want to get out of here, all right? Let’s just try this again so we can wrap it up and get going.”
“Fine,” Tom sighed. “Get on with it.”
“You draw the straight lines?” he asked Tom.
“Yes,” Tom said flatly.
Jerk Two looked at Kevin. “And you draw the wavy lines?”
Kevin brightened up at the mention of wavy lines. “Sometimes. If the situation calls for it.”
Jerk One stepped between Tom and Kevin. “Well, my two non-friends, the world is changing. Dinosaurs like us, with our singular-line concepts, are dying out. We must work together. Read between the lines, fools. Lines can go anywhere. The possibilities are endless.”
Jerk Two took a step forward. “Think about it. Lines must bend. After all, the world is round.”
The Circle Jerks drew large invisible circles in the air in sync with each other.
“The world is round?” cried everyone else in the room in unison.
“Holy shit,” Kevin muttered.
Tom leaned on the back of a nearby chair for support. “Kind of puts a limit on the old imagination, you know?”
Bernard loosened his tie. “I think it’s high time we dissolve the department and call it a day, people.”
“Here, here,” said Phyllis walking over. “And then I vote we mosey straight on down to the nearest bar for a nightcap. Or a day cap. Aw, hell. Let’s just run a tab like we always do.”
“I definitely need a whiskey,” Kevin said. “We live on…on a circle. Crazy.”
Everyone headed for the door.
“Stop!” Tom yelled. “We all can’t just leave.”
“Why not,” Bernard said for everyone.
“Think about it,” Tom said and removed his tie. “If we all leave, then who’s going to draw the lines?”
“I will!” Sam shouted from the back of the room. He had miraculously climbed to his feet and was leaning and wheezing on the table.
“Works for me,” Tom said. “Go, go, go!” he yelled, pushing everyone through the door and closing it quickly behind him.
Sam collapsed into the closest chair. “Finally,” he wheezed. “Alone at last.”
The intercom beeped. After the fourth beep, Sam pushed the button. “Yes?”
“Sorry to interrupt, sir,” came an overly excited female voice. “But did you decide which of your appointments to reschedule?”
Sam took a few deep breaths. “I have no idea what this is about. You sound like a damn tweaking squirrel to me. I want none of your pornographic shenanigans, woman!”
“Very well, sir,” the bubbly voice replied. “I’ll cancel the porno rough cut viewing and…I’ll just have the Tuneless Brass Band and Jester Auditions go in at the same time. You’re such a trooper, Sam!” Then she quickly added: “I’ll drink one for you at the bar!” and abruptly hung up.
“Did she say porno viewing?” he mumbled to himself.
Seconds later, dancing clowns, juggling jesters, and the most asinine, out of tune brass band Sam had ever heard came pouring into the room. There were now dozens of idiots parading around the room with no rhyme or reason. The noise was deafening. Seltzer water was sprayed into his face. A cream pie hit his shoulder, thrown from god knows where. Giant toy scissors cut his tie in half. A trombone poked him hard in the ribs.
He tried to shoot himself again but the cap gun was empty as it held no real bullets.
“This is where I draw the line!” he screamed above the din. He opened the nearest window and leapt out. And then he promptly landed in soft grass three feet down. A tuba from somewhere inside the room played three descending, deflating notes of shame. He gingerly climbed to his feet and then the idea hit him. He would start his own commercial stunt service for movies and television. In fact, as he absently-mindedly broke into a car, hot-wired it, and headed for the nearest liquor store and then on to a local hot tub emporium to get drunk and pretend he worked there but only answer questions with monkey noises as he did every Tuesday evening, he already had the name for the business: Die for a Living.