Department of Human Resources

“Creative Shack”

by Irena Pasvinter

 

Prologue

 

CreativeShack account services to Bill Spearshake

Hello Bill Spearshake,

Thank you for your recent order.

________________________________________________

Qty   Description   Format  Price   Ext. Price

————————————————————————

3  Creepy Voices   Magazine  $8.49   $25.47

————————————————————————

 

Shipping:   $10

This shipment will be sent via Economy Shipping to:

Bill Spearshake

Po box 13

North Pole

Alaska

Thank you for shopping with CreativeShack!

 

Chapter 1

 

Bill Spearshake to CreativeShack customers service

Hello,

On 6.13.2010 I ordered three copies of “Creepy Voices” magazine (order number 1316913). I received the package today, but there were only two copies of the magazine inside! Two magazines are better than nothing, but they are not three. I need one magazine for myself, one for my mom and one for my best friend. What am I supposed to do now?

Best regards,

Bill Spearshake.

 

CreativeShack member service to Bill Spearshake

Hello Bill,

Thank you for contacting us regarding your recent order.

I sincerely apologize that your order only contained two of the three magazines you originally ordered. I have issued a replacement order for the one copy your order was missing.

Order #1316913A will ship via the United States Postal Service (USPS) Global Express.

We greatly appreciate your patience in this matter. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have.

Warm regards,

Ashley

CreativeShack Support

 

Chapter 2

 

Bill Spearshake to CreativeShack customers service

Hello,

I received my order #1316913A today and it contained a copy of a magazine “Creepy Voices”,

but for some mysterious reason the title of the magazine has been changed to “Crappy Voices”. Is this a practical joke or what? Maybe you think it’s funny, but I didn’t order a joke from you! Also, could you please explain why the very page with my poem “Snowy Black Snow” is covered with nasty brown stains that make the poem unreadable?

Cold regards,

Bill Spearshake.

 

CreativeShack member service to Bill Spearshake

Hello Bill,

I sincerely apologize there has been a mistype in the magazine’s title.

Regarding the brown stains, I am sure you will be happy to know that your order has been under the close surveillance of our general manager and your magazine has been inspected by him personally. While reading your exciting poem, he was so moved that he accidentally spilled a drop of his morning coffee on the page. He did not get the impression it makes the poem unreadable. On the contrary, our general manager discovered that the tiny coffee imprints add a certain flavor to your poem and contribute a new visual dimension to the image of the black snow. If you don’t share this opinion, we are happy to assist you.

The following items will be shipped to you by Snail Mail for free:

Qty   Description   Format  Price

————————————————————————

2   Letter “e”  Sticker   0

1  “Vanish”    Stain remover  0

Please apply letter “e” stickers to “Crappy Voices” to transform it into “Creepy Voice” if you prefer the latter title.

Please apply “Vanish” stain remover to the coffee stains if you don’t enjoy them.

Hot regards,

Calliope

CreativeShack Support.

 

Chapter 3

 

Bill Spearshake to CreativeShack customers service

Hello,

 

I’m eternally grateful to you for your invaluable help and deeply convinced that I will never ask for your precious services again. Anyway, with such high efficiency and perfect customer support as yours, you are not likely to last long. Nevertheless, I’d like to share with you an idea that may bring you profit and international recognition. Why don’t you apply to the “Guinness Book of Records” for the title of “The Most Inefficient Business”? Another possibility to consider is “The Most Goddamn Useless Customer Support in the World”.

No regards whatsoever,

Bill Spearshake.

 

CreativeShack member service to Bill Spearshake

Hello Bill,

We are grateful to you for your proposal. However, we must inform you that the idea about applying to the “Guinness World Record” book has been already brought up by our general manager before you kindly shared it with us. Therefore, upon our registration in the “Guinness World Records” book you will not be eligible for any material benefits or for public recognition.

We in CreativeShack are always happy to assist you.

Hot regards,

Calliope

CreativeShack Support.

 

Chapter 4

A note on the title page of the “Crappy/Creepy Voices” magazine. 

Dear mom,

Please accept this magazine with my first published poem (see page 131) as a sign of my love and gratitude. Unfortunately the poem has been partially eaten away by a stain remover,

but I hope you will like it even better this way. You always appreciated a thorough cleaning.

Your loving son,

Bill.

P.S. I scribbled the poem for you here as well, just in case.

 

Snowy Black Snow

 

 

The frozen H2O, so light,

they call it snow

and reckon it’s white,

but

I  know better

tonight.

It talks to me

with all it’s chilling might:

“Awake!

Who said I’m white?

I’m snowy black

with the thick blood

of the Night.”

 

Epilogue

 

A phone message from Bill Spearshake’s mother

Hi Billy dear,

I’ve just read your poem again and I love it so much! Deep, intellectual — H20 and stuff, blood of the night — that’s epic! I’m so proud of you, my dear boy. What did you say was the name of that stain remover?

 

 

“The Spirit but not the Letter”

by Brian Conlon

 

Paula and Harrington worked together at the Asian-American Greeting Center. As part of the “Diversity in Devonshire” initiative, each minority group was set up with their own greeting center with explicit color-coded directions on the village billboard located on the corner of Sapsworth and Frontrunners Place. Each center was no bigger than a suburban wood shed, but was well-furnished and modern-looking. Every office was staffed, according to statutory regulations, with four recent college graduates (“no less than four years removed from graduating from an institution of higher education as defined elsewhere in this statute, but in no case, including anyone with more than a four-year degree”) and one high school intern. The intern had to be a member of the group they were assigned to greet, but there was no such requirement for the full-time workers and it just so happened that they, like 98.7% of Devonshire, were decidedly white.

George and Berta also worked at the Asian-American Greeting Center, but they were somehow not as essential. George was known to compulsively check his fantasy sports teams on his computer attached to a projector that was intended to be used for presentations (“Each Greeting Center shall be equipped with a projector and screen. The screen shall be no larger than necessary and no wider than the wingspan of the employee who was designated to purchase the screen. The height of the screen may vary, but may not fall below a threshold level established by the Comptroller from time to time.”). George briefly considered creating an inter-office league, but Berta convinced him that he would not be able to concentrate on his other seven teams if he added an eighth.

Berta seemed to know a great deal about not over-exerting oneself and practiced what she preached, or rather, occasionally said softly. Often Berta spoke so quietly that all one could hear in the office was the sound of her tongue slapping up against the sides of her mouth. In fact, Berta rarely did much of anything, even quietly or in moderation. But we can not blame Berta and George for their sloth. In the year and a half it had existed, the Asian-American Greeting Center had not garnered one single visitor.

There was some discussion at the town board meeting that the “Diversity in Devonshire” initiative had not worked and should be scrapped all together. However, that discussion was squashed by a well-read librarian by the name of Epstein, who pointed out, “The statute reads, ‘In no case, and especially with regard to lack of success,’ — note it says ‘especially,’ — shall the ‘Diversity in Devonshire’ initiative be discontinued, or in any way reduced within three years of the enactment of the statute.” Those present at the town meeting gasped collectively, shrugged their shoulders (not all at the same time), and turned to the next topic: a very-cold drink tax.

The high-school intern, Jeff, statutorily required to be Asian-American, and was, to a certain extent. His father was Siberian, and his mother was from the American state of Georgia, but the statute defining Asian-American was poorly drafted (“Asian-American shall have the meaning ascribed to it by those who consider themselves to be Asian-American, and in no case shall include those who are more than two generations removed from Asia.”) and Frank, the one Japanese-American child in Devonshire, was only six-years old. Jeff was a hard worker and this was a consistent problem for him at the Asian-American Greeting Center. He began to make up his own paper work, filing reports on the number and type of fantasy moves George made or the number of truisms Berta muttered. At one particular busy instant, George traded a has-been catcher for a most-likely-will-never-be right fielder and then quickly dropped his worst point guard to pick up a young rebounder with no discernable offensive ability and Berta said, “Every time I look at the wall I see green,” followed by “That catcher really plays behind the plate.” Jeff relished this moment of intense and important work, and often referred to it as “an instance in which he had overcome adversity” in subsequent job interviews.

Paula and Harrington very much wanted to be romantically involved, preferably with one another, but were explicitly prevented from doing so by statute (“There shall be no romantic relationships, platonic or otherwise, between employees of the same Greeting Center. As such, the following actions are forbidden to all such employees with regard to other employees at the same Greeting Center, without regard to whether such employees are on the working premises: 1.) Holding hands, 2.) Sexual intercourse, as illustrated in figure G of the unrated version of this statute, 3.) Kissing, 4.) Suspicious leg intermingling, as illustrated in figure C of the rated version and figures D-J (exclusive of G) in the unrated version, 5.) Demonstrating swings by standing behind another employee, including golf swings, tennis swings, baseball swings, axe swings, and other motions that require at least some hip movement, 6.) Naked hand hair brushing that is objectively excessive, and in no case exceeds 3 strokes per day, and 7.) Quizzical or ironic looking.”). Further along in the statute, there is an exemption that reads: “In the case of ‘Holding hands’ an exception shall be made when three or more office members are connected in this way for team-building and other strictly collegial intra-office activities.”

With full awareness of their statutory limitations, Paula found excuses to grab Berta’s hand so that Harrington would notice and hold hers. Both Paula and Harrington relished these “team building” moments, and Berta somehow did not complain or find it the least bit strange. In addition to the subversive hand-holding, the hair stroking between Paula, who had shoulder-length light brown hair, and Harrington, who had dark brown hair that was thinning prematurely, often objectively bordered on excessive. Paula would run her slim hand through Harrington’s hair slowly eliciting his delight, as well as some dandruff. Later, Harrington would have his turn, as he carefully ran his uncoordinated hands through Paula’s hair, consciously restraining himself from squeezing her skull. These exchanges would take place three times a day, deliberately unscheduled to make each occasion new and invigorating.

On May 8th, something entirely unexpected happened at the Asian-American Greeting Center: a visitor arrived. While Harrington got up to run his hand through Paula’s hair, the bright green door opened and a woman wearing immense dark sunglasses and a couple dozen cheap gold bracelets around her wrists appeared. Harrington saw her, panicked, and turned back to his desk. She approached Paula, whose desk was closest to the door. This was no coincidence (“The youngest female employee’s desk shall be closest to the entrance of the Greeting Center, and such female shall use such desk exclusively, unless other desks happen to be provided from time to time, and in no case shall such female use such desk less than 60% of her work day. If there are no females in the office, such desk will be left empty until such time that a female is hired, and the oldest employee shall occupy the second closest desk, and therefore be the closest to the door.”). Paula was no less flustered than Harrington, but tried to put on a brave face.

“Welcome to Devonshire, how may we help you?” Paula asked.

“I am new, was just driving by and saw sign. I’m looking for place to eat,” said the guest.

“I see, let me direct you to our food specialist,” said Paula and stroked her hair. Harrington gnashed his teeth.

Berta, as the designated “food specialist,” was equipped with menus for all the various even remotely ethnic restaurants in the area. There was, however, a problem with all of these menus. One particularly dull day, week, or month, Berta and George found themselves playing tic-tac-toe, hang man, gin-rummy, black jack, a version of “The Price is Right” with the food prices on the menus, and what they called “The Entire Restaurant Addition Challenge” in which they would guess the total price of all items on a given menu, add up the items as quickly as possible (“and in no case greater than 15 minutes,” warned George with statutory precision) and then check their estimates and their addition. The person with the smallest combined difference won. All this is to say the menus were now completely illegible, due to Berta and George’s need to show their work during the “Addition Challenge” and keep score for the other games. Jeff had pointed out to George and Berta that there was perfectly clean computer paper (which he used for his self-inflicted paper-work), but they ignored him due to their statutory obligations (“In no instance shall Greeting Center Paper be used for recreational purposes, unless specifically provided for that purpose by another government entity as a charitable donation . . . For purposes of this statute ‘Greeting Center Paper’ includes only paper which does not already have text, other than the specified Greeting Center letter head.”).

“I am looking for lunch restaurant. Can you help?”

“Why yes Miss, er, what are you here?” asked Berta, rubbing her eyes, and speaking very softly and with her usual disinterest.

“I am a person here, now. I am not from this place, you help?” the visitor asked.

“Yes of course, there is a Chinese buffet at the mall.”

“What is buffet? I don’t like Chinese,” said the visitor.

“A buffet is, well, I’m going to let you speak with our cultural expert,” Berta grinned as Harrington shook his head disapprovingly.  Berta pointed her hand in the direction of Harrington, slightly closer to the projector screen than she was.

“How is it I can help you Ms. . . .  I’m sorry I didn’t catch your name,” said Harrington, averting his eyes downward for some reason.

“How do you catch names? I am new here, would like food place,” said the visitor.

“Well yes, of course. I see you’ve spoken to our food specialist,” he looked at Berta with disdain. “What type of food do you want?”

“I am driving, so quick food,” said the visitor.

“I see, well we have an Arby’s, Burger King, Dairy Queen, there’s a McDonald’s right down the street.” Harrington tapped his pen on his desk and then turned his back towards the visitor, “Hey George, what fast food place would you recommend for this lady?”

“DQ, nice day like today, grab a burger, a shake, some ice cream maybe, onion rings,” he said facing the projector screen and not the visitor or Harrington. “Definitely DQ, you won’t be disappointed,” he said as he half turned towards the visitor.

“How to get there?” asked the visitor.

“You know what? If you’re on the road, it might just be easier to hop back on the highway and stop at the Dairy Queen in Cornsberry. It’s about 10 minutes south of here. If you’re headed some other direction, just make a left out of here, go about a mile down and it’s on your right, past the cemetery,” said George.

“So, I go south to Cornsberry for food?”

“If it’s on your way, yeah,” said George, who had re-started an article on slumping sophomore second-basemen, projected for the whole office to read if they wanted to.

The visitor turned her back away from Harrington and George, as if she were about to leave, but instead removed her sunglasses and threw her bracelets onto the floor. The bracelets bounced off the bright green tile in every imaginable direction, but most rebounded off of the wall and settled just beneath her feet. This startled even Berta, who realized that without her sunglasses the visitor did not appear the least bit Asian-American. Her green eyes gave her away. The visitor stamped her foot aggressively, nearly slipping on one of the bracelets. She regained her balance and began to speak so loud that the workers at the McDonalds down the street thought someone was mumbling into the drive-through microphone.

“Unacceptable, absolutely unacceptable! Do you know how many statutory regulations you violated? You never even got my name. You didn’t advertise the Devonshire natural resource tour. You didn’t customize your services to my ethnicity, or even ask what it was! I can’t believe this. The statute is so clear on these points.”

The five employees sat frozen facing the visitor, still not quite grasping what was going on. Harrington nearly made a quizzical or ironic look toward Paula, but then thought better of it.

“And where are the restaurant menus we provided you? The Chinese buffet in the mall? Is that the best you can do? It says specifically in the statute,” she pulled out a copy of the statute from her sock, it was clearly a condensed version, “–‘in no case shall an employee mention the Devonshire mall to any visitor.’ And fast food? This is bolded in the text. How can you be so incompetent? ‘No employee shall mention any national chain in suggesting dining facilities for any visitors, especially in the case of traditional fast food restaurants, which include but are not limited to McDonalds, Arby’s, Burger King and Dairy Queen. This provision applies regardless of stated visitor preference, and without regard to ethnicity of said visitor or Greeting Center employee.’ It’s right there plain as day. And then and then you suggest, not even eating in Devonshire, but Cornsberry? The only local Devonshire business you mention is the cemetery. Is this some sort of practical joke? The statute could not be more clear on this. I don’t even need to recite it, it’s so clear. Have you all forgotten the ‘Devonshire First’ training you received last fall? I can’t believe this, I really can’t. We worked so hard on this statute. We had such a noble purpose. I should just rip it up right here.”

The visitor shammed like she was going to tear up her version of the statute, and though the four college graduates all had their heads down in shame, Jeff called out, “No, don’t do that.”

“Why shouldn’t I? Do you even know who I am? No? Well, I’m Councilwoman Sevier, I’m on the town board. ‘Diversity in Devonshire’ was my idea. We worked so hard on writing the perfect statute and to see it violated and defiled right in front of my very eyes. I tell you, it’s horrifying, horrifying. You craft something, something perfectly designed to meet such a noble purpose . . . my life’s work, reduced to a Dairy Queen commercial.” She lifted her sunglass off of Harrington’s desk and placed them on top of her head. The sunglasses, being far too large to be restrained by her straight dyed black hair, slipped down her face and fell to the ground. She bent over to pick them up, but somehow got stuck, dropped to one knee, and began to sob.

Harrington, being the closest to her, got up from his desk and bent down to console her. Paula also went over to the distressed visitor and Berta, George and Jeff each got up half way from their chairs before deciding to sit back down.

Harrington put his arm around Councilwoman Sevier, “I’m so sorry we disappointed you. It’s not your fault. I promise we’ll do better next time.”

Councilwoman Sevier sniffled, “You’re . . . not supposed . . . not supposed to touch . . . to touch a visitor . . . it’s right here in the . . . the statute.” She held out the statute, but could not read it, her eyes clouded with tears.

“Take my hand,” Paula said and knelt down towards Councilwoman Sevier.

Councilwoman Sevier dropped the statute on the ground, leaving it surrounded by the cheap metal bracelets, and took Paula’s hand. Paula, out of both habit and conscious desire, took Harrington’s hand and squeezed it amorously. Harrington gave Paula a quizzical look that both she and Jeff noticed. Harrington then offered Councilwoman Sevier his free hand and the three of them stood together, leaving the bracelets, statute and sunglasses on the ground.

Councilwoman Sevier had composed herself, or at least, had stopped crying and nodded her head to thank Paula and Harrington for their assistance. “Please, do not tell anybody about this,” she said softly, as if she’d just confided in a trusted pet.

“Our lips are sealed,” said Paula, “And we’ll do better next time, you’ll see.”

“I hope you do, for my sake, please try,” said Councilwoman Sevier. As she passed Paula’s desk, she muttered, “Perhaps a revision, yes a revision.”

When the door closed and the employees of the Asian-American Greeting Center were once again left alone, George was the first to speak.

“That was strange.”

“Not really,” Berta said.

“I have a ton of paper work to do now,” said Jeff eagerly as he cleaned up the bracelets, and sunglasses, stealthily pocketing the statute.

“Thank goodness that’s over,” said Paula. She then turned towards Harrington, “Do you want to sit across from me at my desk?” Paula’s desk had no back panel, so that there was about two feet of open space between the left-most section of the drawers on the right side and the left side of the desk. Harrington knew exactly what Paula was thinking and did not hesitate in wheeling his chair over and sitting down. Paula raised her right leg toward Harrington and Harrington’s left leg began to intrude further under the desk towards Paula. The two legs met just below the knee. Jeff observed much of this and flipped through the statute, finally landing on figure C.

 

 

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