Department of Human Resources

“The Legend of the Mom with the Lawyer”
by Andy Simmons

When Maria’s son breaks his arm for the third time on the swings, she decides to sue the City for making objects hazardous to young children’s health.  She would win and her prize would be three million dollars from the city’s treasury.  This would add to Maria’s hundred-K yearly salary and on the way out, the local newspaper would quote her saying, “All I dream of is a place where our children can be safe and we can have a better America.”

On her son’s birthday, Maria takes him to one of the city’s community pools and after a couple of dives off the board, Maria’s son tries to do a backflip off to only break some of his teeth on the end of the diving board.  Again, Maria would sue the city and again she would win three million dollars.

At lunchtime in school, Maria’s son decides to eat two meals instead of one.  He buys a soda and two hot dogs and chokes on the second dog.  One of the teachers resuscitates him giving chest compressions while he lies on his back. Maria would come later to the nurse’s office and say, “How could you let this happen to my son?  I packed him lunch.” Grabbing his stomach, she continues, “Does it look like he needs anymore food.  Good god, no reason my kid is fat!  Do you know what’s it like to have a kid?”

“I’m a nurse. I see hurt kids every day. It happens.”

Maria yanks her son by his stomach and says, “You’ll hear from my lawyers.”

Maria would take the school to court and win ten-K from their funds.  The school could not pay any more money than that.

In the coming year, there are changes in City laws that would protect children from potential harm. Second Parents Act would be the name of the new law.

After school in the next year, Maria takes her son to the same place where broke his arm three times. There are men in blue uniforms with red patches that read City Park Guards. When Maria’s son tries to go on the jungle gym, the guards put their batons in front of the steps to the jungle gym.

“Ho, young man,” says one of the guards. “You’re an inch too tall. You must be shorter than the red stick you stand beside.”

The son tries to get on the swing but the guards there tell him he’s too big. “There is a one in hundred-millionth of chance you can break the swing,” says the guard. “With that risk, we are not permitted to let you on.”

On the next day, Maria takes her son to the pool. The high-dive is gone because the deep end is only ten feet deep and the lifeguard at the front desk says, “And that’s two feet too short, but we still have the low dive.” Maria and her son go to the short dive but the girl lifeguard stops him before he can go on.

“Did you take the jumping test?” she asks.

“What?” Maria asks. “Why would he need to take a jumping test?”

“We need to make sure your son is able to jump off into the water so he doesn’t hurt himself on it.”

The son is not able to jump over the one foot minimum and the two of them leave.

In the next couple of years and after debates that would often go to midnight, the city decides to pass the Happy Family Act. “This will protect not only our family’s future but our government’s economic future,” says one city council member. “There will be no more unhealthy or injured children, nor will there be frivolous lawsuits to our city. It will be a safer America.”

On the first Friday after the government enacts the bill, Maria tries to bribe one of City Park Guards a hundred dollars to let her skip the morning run.  The guard denies this and so do the other seven that Maria asks. Maria tries to escape to her car but the guards capture and carry her away.

Before they throw her into the Timeout Van, the people on the street hear her scream for a lawyer.

“Suicide Inc.”
by Jack Bristow

Lenny Billings made the rope so taut around his neck he thought he would black out. He slackened it a little. No sense in blacking out before the job was done. He listened to the radio as he finished tightening the other end of the rope into a  knot around the rafters. He thought of Reba. That bitch. Untruthful, untrustworthy bitch. As he was about to stand on the rickety stepladder an advertisement on the AM radio had caught his attention.

“Thinking of killing yourself? That the world is a nasty place? Are you lonely? Maybe you caught your best friend playing a game of ‘lick the taco’ with your lady friend. Maybe you’re trying to kill yourself now in the hopes of teaching both
a lesson. If that’s the case why do it at home? Why leave a mess for your family to clean? For the modest price of a hundred dollars we at Suicide Inc. will do it for you cheaply and mercifully. So, sonny, what are you waiting for? Feeling blue? And you just want to end it all? Pawn that Xbox and/or Playstation of yours-you won’t need it where you’re going!–and give us a visit on West ThirtyThird street, downtown Oxnard…”

Lenny undid the noose-knot from around his neck and then he went outside and got in his Nissan.

On the drive to Suicide Inc. Lenny had felt a wave of exhilaration. Here were people who, for a change, could identify with his plight. No, not only indentify with it, they understood  the pain he was going through.

Inside Suicide Inc. the carpets looked spotlessly clean. There were only two people in the waiting room. A young woman probably a little older than Lenny and a morbidly obese gentleman reading, ironically, LIFE.

“Can I help you, honey?” The woman behind the desk asked, smiling.

“Uh, yes. I was interested in your program.”

“I see. Your age?”

“Eighteen.”

She tapped away at the keyboard, looking determidedly into the computer screen in front of her. Then she said, “Okay.”

She handed him a chart to fill out. “Here we just want to know the rudimentary details about yourself. Age. Weight. Occupation. Reasons for wanting to utilize our services. Etc.”

Chart in hand Lenny had sat in the seat beside the morbidly obese man. Doing the paperwork Lenny couldn’t help but overhear the young woman talking to the fat man.

“…so that’s why I’m here. How about you?”

“I’m as limp as a three-day-old air balloon.”  pause. Then: “Sorry. I know I oughtn’t speak that way to a lady.”

The woman giggled. “That’s okay. But isn’t killing yourself over impotency a little drastic? Have you tried Viagra?”

“I have. Numerous times. It just doesn’t work for me.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“I’m too fat.”

“So lose some weight,” the girl giggled.

“I can’t.” The morbidly obese man explained to her that he really hadn’t much of a natural appetite.  It was the anti-psychotic medication he was taking- he had to take it, he stressed many times, that had effectively destroyed his originally king-sized penis beyond repair.

Lenny got up and handed the paperwork to the secretary. Then he walked back and sat in the same spot. He nodded at the fatman beside him and the fatman nodded back.

“Mr. Greenswell.” The nurse, clipboard in hand, stood in the hallway.

“Good luck to the both of you.” The fatman got up, following the nurse.

“So, why are you here?” the woman asked Lenny.

“I caught my fiancee going out with my best friend Darren. Ever since finding out the pain has been unbearable for me.” He told her about the noose and how he heard the commercial on the radio.

BANG and the accompanying THUMP in the background.

“I guess they already treated Mr. Greenswell,” the Girl smiled pleasantly. And then the door opened and it was the nurse
again standing there but this time there were a few crimson spots on her shirt.

“Mrs Wednt.”

“Well, nice talking to you,” the woman told Lenny, getting up.

He looked at the LIFE Mr Greenswell had been reading. It still felt warm. He was half reading it, and half listening for the sound of another gunshot.

It never came.

This time again the door whooshed open and it was the nurse. “Mr. Billings?”

Mr. Billings had followed her into the doctor’s room. “He will be with you momentarily,” she smiled serenely.

The room was creepy. Lenny Billings had noticed, sitting there, The Remedies of Choice. Guns: Thirtyeights, magnums, Barretas. The Remedies of Choice section had also contained big vials of green and red liquid substances which billowed steam into the air scientificially. Dr. Parsons-the man whose voice from the radio had temporarily saved Lenny Billings’s
life — emerged. Sideburned, sun-tanned, mustachioed; he looked like a used car dealer from the 1970s. His voice was unusually fast.

“Hello there young gentleman! How are you doing today? Well, it would appear not too well. It would appear, in fact, that you’re really really suffering either mentally or physically or both. Here. Have a cigar.”

Dr. Parsons glanced at Lenny’s chart.

“Oh. I see. Another case of the my-best-friendjust-boinked-my-fiancee.”

“They’re that common?” Lenny asked, bewildered expression on his face.

“Oh hell yes. That pretty little number who was in here before you- Kara was her name?–she was a victim of the same thing. Girl friend playing hide-the-sausage with her almost-hubby.  Sad. Anyhow. Let us get started. I noticed when I
came in you staring at The Remedies of Choice wall. Which remedy would you prefer son? We got guns. We can either shoot you in here with a silencer or we can take you outside and dress you like a deer and have a little fun. Or we got knives, machetes… Or if strangulation floats your boat, we also got piano wires…”

“What did Kara have done with her?”

“Who,” Doctor Parsons replied, too engrossed in the present to remember the past.

“The girl before me.”

“Oh. Right. Yeah. Kara. She just drank a mouthful of Tethomapoel-that steamy green substance you see there.”

Lenny thought a good few seconds. Then he said,finally, “I think I’ll go with being hunted.”

The doctor’s eyes beamed. “Excellent choice, young fellow. We did that to my mother-in-law. That old broad was tougher than any buck I ever encountered.  Took three shots of buckshot to get her down. And do you know where the old bat is now?”

“No, doctor..”

“Stuffed above our fireplace!”

An awkward silence permeated the room. Then Dr. Parsons yelled out to the nurse.

“Mattie. The hunting stuff. Chop-chop!”

Mattie had appeared within thirty seconds with the twelve-gauge shotgun and stick-on antlers.

“Here, put these on son,” Dr. Parsons handed Lenny the antlers.

They were outside now, behind Dr. Parson’s office. Parsons was chewing tobacco and wore a checkered red-and-black hunters jacket. Lenny wore antlers and a silly-looking deer costume.

“I like you, Lenny,” Dr. Parsons had told him with a mouthful of tobbaco. “That’s why I’m gonna give you a thirty-second
headstart.”

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