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A Spencer's Gifts Manager Chastises the Staff, by Lucas Gardner

SAMSUNGAlright guys, team meeting. Let's make this quick, 'cause we've got some fucking strobe lights to sell.

Listen, I can't be here to manage this Spencer's Gifts all the time, and I need you guys to be able to run things on your own when I'm not around. Quite frankly, this staff ain't up to par right now. Most of you come in late and leave early. Maybe you think I'm not able to see you coming and going when the fog machine is running inside the store, but I've been working in this store for four years and I can basically see right through the fog now.

I need you guys to put in a lot more effort around here. When I came in today the place was in goddamn shambles. First of all, the life-sized Ron Burgundy cardboard cutout up front had its BACK to the entrance. I know that this always confuses you guys, but if you can see the front of the Ron Burgundy cutout from inside the store, that means the foot traffic outside can't.

Whoever is in charge of stocking the shelves on any particular day, please GROUP THINGS APPROPRIATELY. Ask yourself, should the bondage kits be stocked next to novelty “Small Pecker” Condoms? NO! One is sexy, and one is funny. Please group them accordingly. The place is a mess. We got beer pong kits on the Family Guy T-shirt shelves, the fake dog shit next to the sex handcuffs, the body jewelry next to the Poo Identification Manual books. How is anyone gonna know where to find anything? Don't just throw merchandise wherever you feel like. This is a Spencer's Gifts, not a Goodwill.

If a lava lamp breaks on the floor, don't just fucking leave it. Please mop it up immediately. And it's not real lava, guys. I can't have my staff running for cover every time a lava lamp breaks, like you all did today when that customer's backpack knocked one off the display shelf.

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Family Meeting About Jason, Who is Back From the Dead, by Matthew Johnson

jasonHello everyone. I'm glad we were all able to make some time in our busy schedules for this family meeting. Are we all comfortable? Did you get a sample of the new baked macaroni that we are going to be taste-testing for dinner Tuesday and Thursday this week? Your sister, my princess-star Lucy, is passing out the agendas for today’s meeting. As you’ll see, we will begin with Opening Remarks and then move on to Greeting and Open Agenda. After that, I’d like us to get to our first item of the day, which is making a switch from Capri Sun pouches to mini-PowerAdes at Blake’s soccer game this Saturday. From there we need to move to room-cleaning regulations. I know! I know! We just discussed this. But it's not coming from me. We have your grandmother coming in next week and we cannot risk another Thanksgiving ’09. Finally, we will need to discuss your much older brother Jason’s move to the attic because he is now a ghost and has returned home.

On that note, I am going to pass out some "Thought Journals" so you can document your feelings of Jason’s return from the dead, per the suggestion of my therapist.

First, Opening Remarks. I want to say thank you to everyone for pitching in at your mother’s Spring Cleaning event this past Sunday. We cleaned out the attic and were able to rack up $56.67 in tax-deductible donations. The house looks much nicer, feels less cluttered, and we were finally able to take care of those Christmas lights. I’m sorry if the cleaning took everyone by surprise, but since your brother Jason has returned from the dead, your Mother uses bleach and a toothbrush on the baseboards as a coping skill.

Next, your Mother has informed me that some things will be changing about post-school snack time. As you all know, your mother is generally here and provides you with an afterschool snack; marshmallow fluff sandwiches have been trending as the most popular. However, because of Jason’s shocking return as an apparition, she will be returning to Dr. Simmons for her bi-weekly therapy sessions. Your brother Jason has offered to distribute the snacks as long as they are pre-made, because he is unable to manifest the energy to make a PB&J with no crusts the way Lucy likes it.

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Son, This ‘Monopoly’ Investment Scheme Is No Substitute For a Steady Job, by Adam Bertocci

post-imgSon, we need to have a little talk.

I had someone in my office review your contract. Put bluntly, I have severe reservations about your accepting this job. The obvious concern is your salary. $200 as a base is meaningless without a schedule. If you’re only paid for passing Go, with no guarantees of how often that occurs, then you’re really on commission.

Your mother and I are both, frankly, relieved to see evidence of some gainful employment for you. But companies claiming to offer a salaried position that subsequently treat you as a "permalancer" should be viewed with suspicion. Are you aware that they are not withholding income tax, that you’ll be expected to handle it yourself? I won’t even comment on your ill-proportioned understanding of what taxes and costs you expect to incur. You think your medical expenses will total $50 when your so-called job provides no health insurance—and yet you also expect enough earnings to fret about luxury tax? Where are you getting this information?

In this vein, a host of red flags in your career plan and lifestyle have not escaped our attention. First off, try to limit your rent to one-fourth of your salary. A house on St. Charles Place is in your price range. A sprawling estate on Illinois Avenue is not.

This leads me to the issue of your real estate venture.

We will dispense with the question of your $1,500 startup costs, which I hope you’re not expecting us to provide. READ MORE

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The Family's New Coat of Arms, by Jake Tuck

coatThanks for coming to the unveiling of the new Pepperton family coat of arms, the updated representation of our clan’s history and values. I have personally designed it to both carry on the ancient tradition of our name and account for our place in the modern world.

Back in the old country, heraldic devices helped us promote our family’s brand. The area peasants needed to be able to easily tell who was winning the jousts or commandeering their stocks of grain. Now we can use it for things like family reunion T-shirts, or as a logo for Pepperton Appliances, once a regional retail giant, now a front for Uncle Barry’s adopted son’s sweepstakes scams.

So now I will take off this sheet and reveal the coat of arms. There it is! I know, it’s so beautiful that applause or even recognition of its existence seems pointless.

Now, since most of you are probably a bit rusty with heraldic symbols, I’ll explain the elements that make up a coat of arms. First, there is the shield, which of course was used in battle by the Peppertons of old, such as during the great Catapult Wars of the 16th century, when we fought several neighboring families over whether or not catapults should be used in wars. We were against them, so you can guess how those wars went. Hence the “no catapults” sign on the shield. Oh and I also included an anthropomorphic dishwasher for you, Uncle Barry.

Nana, you’re leaving already. You were told there would an open bar. I guess you don’t remember the scene at your granddaughter’s wedding. I wonder why that is. READ MORE

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A Politician Applies For a Job at McDonald's, by Ben Godar

politicianI am here to announce my application for the position of line cook at this McDonald’s location. You don’t know me, so let me take a moment to introduce myself. There are a few things that set me apart from the other candidates hovering in the lobby and sipping complimentary fountain drinks.

First and foremost, I am a fast food outsider. I did not graduate from McDonald’s University. I have never set foot in one of these places, or any fast food restaurant for that matter. What that means is, I won’t just come in here and accept business-as-usual. I will ask questions. Why do we need to empty the grease trap? How does the cash register work? What is the maximum holding time for a pan of chicken patties?

What I bring to the table is a common-sense, home cook’s approach to making hamburgers. We don’t need some corporate manual and volumes of market research to tell us how to cook a Big Mac. All we need is a hot griddle and old-fashioned American know-how. Also, we will eventually need a bun and toppings, but you see where I’m going with this. READ MORE

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Would You Like to Buy a Sack of Bees? by Brian Agler

beeeeeesI know you’re here at the farmers market to buy apples, cucumbers, and various produce—but why don’t you come check out what I have to offer.

Yes, just step over the border of the high-school parking lot, where the rules and regulations of the farmers market don’t apply. I promise you, it will be worth it.

What I’m selling is organic, locally sourced, and better than anything you’ll find in your normal supermarket.

It’s a sack of bees! Angry, excitable bees that you can take home, today! No no, don’t go! Don’t worry, I tied the sack up real tight. The bees won’t get out.

I’m sorry, I think you’re misunderstanding. These sacks aren’t filled with honey, or beeswax. They are filled to the brim with bees. Actual bees.

Do you hear the buzzing? That’s the bees.

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Is He Marriage Material, or Is He a Herman Miller Aeron Chair? by Thomas Scott

chairIs there anything worse than spending time with a guy who at the end of the day just isn’t interested in a serious commitment? Actually, there is: dating a guy who isn’t interested in existing with you on any real plane of consciousness, because he’s a luxury brand office chair. Here are some helpful pointers to make sure you don’t make that mistake!

Tip #1: Google his name.

Before you even go out on date, do a quick search. A name alone can sometimes give you an idea of his character. If his name is Herman, be a little cautious. If his given name is Miller, that’s okay,  but if it’s his surname be a little wary. If his name is Herman Miller Aeron Chair, cancel the date immediately, because he’s a chair.

Tip #2: Touch him.

When you first meet, be sure to grab a feel. It doesn’t have to be creepy. A handshake will suffice. Try to grab a feel near the torso. The point is to ensure that you are going on a date with a man, and not a Herman Miller Aeron Chair with a polo shirt pulled over it.

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The Dead Dog Farm Upstate, by Luke Pohjala

farmYou’ve probably been told it before, sometime in your childhood: “Buster (or any other dumb, thoughtless dog name) had to go to a farm upstate. Don’t cry. He’ll have plenty of room to run around in the fresh air. He’s in a better place now.” By now you’ve realized that was a lie. This probably made you question lots of things your parents told you. Will you really grow big and strong if you eat your vegetables? Do they actually love you? Will we really get there when we get there? The truth is that anything your parents told you was, in some way, a lie.

But I’m here to tell you they weren’t completely lying when they said Buster was sent to a farm upstate. He actually was sent to a farm. I know this because I own that farm. The part they lied about is that your dog is still alive. I can assure you your dog is dead, but is still being put to good use.

You may ask why I accept all these dogs. That’s a very good question. Pat yourself on the head for that one. Who’s a good boy? You are! READ MORE

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I Apologize For Your Negative Hotel Experience, by Jon Wolper

hotelDear Ms. Winters,

Thank you for your letter. Hopefully I can help resolve some of the issues you experienced while staying at our hotel.

As you wrote, your troubles began at night, when you found that our ice machine was empty. Our apologies. We try to run a tight ship, but sometimes things fall through the cracks. I promise to be more vigilant about the ice machine in the future.

After you went back to your room, you began to hear incessant banging coming from the walls and ceiling. Our building is very old, and the walls are thin, so the noises made by other guests were heard clearly. Thank you for your concern; we’re currently in the process of soundproofing the room.

Then, objects began to rattle, seemingly of their own volition. At one point, the 36-inch flat screen TV that had been mounted on the wall detached itself from the mount and crashed to the floor. A vase hovered in the air for several seconds before launching itself across the room and hitting the wall just inches from your head. All the while, a low drone filled the room.

Our apologies. That noise is, in fact, the cry of a restless spirit that has haunted the room for nine decades. His name was Gerritt Richards, and he was a hospitality mogul poisoned by his wife when she discovered his infidelity. We call him Gerry. READ MORE

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This Candlelight Vigil Is In Full Effect!, by Django Gold

candlelightAlright! Yeah! Now that's what I'm talking about! Ladies and gentlemen, I heard this candlelight vigil was going to be off the chain, but even I didn't see this one coming. It looks like just about everyone in Bloomdale came out tonight, and I know all you crazy party animals have only got one thing on your minds: finding Caitlin Ashfield and bringing her home safe and sound! Woo!

You know, when I first learned that one of our own had been reported missing, I knew what we had to do for our beloved daughter, sister, friend, and Bloomdale High School classmate: throw the wildest, rowdiest, most ass-kicking candlelight vigil the world has ever seen — and you people did not disappoint! Because if there's one thing we do in this town, it's support each other in times of need, and that means raising the roof! Am I right? You know I am! So let's make some noise! Let me hear you scream if you're pumped about finding Cait-linnnnn!

Woo! Now let's see those candles, people! Light 'em up, light 'em up! Yeah, it's like a big ol' Christmas tree out there. Here in Bloomdale, we do CVs the right way; here, it's go big or go home. You know what they say: Ain't no vigil like a Bloomdale vigil, 'cause a Bloomdale vigil don't stop! Until we have our Caitlin back, that is. READ MORE

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Write What You Know, by Jesse Porter

officeA 41-year-old customer care specialist from Des Moines falls in love with his free-spirited, unpredictable new co-worker, Amanda. She's smart, she's spunky, she's a single mom — and she might just be the girl of his dreams. Now, in order to win her heart, he'll need to overcome his crippling self-consciousness and insecurity if he ever hopes to start a conversation with her in the parking lot, but he also has to not seem all creepy about it. So it's really tricky.

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Wacky comic hijinks await a 41-year-old customer care specialist from Des Moines when he travels to the countryside for a week of boating, fishing, and quiet contemplation. Little does he know that his vacation is about to take a turn for the unexpected! On his second day there, he comes down with mono and is confined to his motel room for the remainder of the trip.

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In this coming-of-age teen drama, set during the hair metal days of the mid-eighties, an unassuming high school junior is forced to choose between pursuing his dreams of rock-and-roll stardom or making the more sensible decision of enrolling in business classes at the local community college and ultimately becoming a 41-year-old customer care specialist from Des Moines.

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Air Bud: Glory Days, by Joe Veix

photo 1(1)Do go check out PBQ Vol. 2. Edited by our friend John Howell Harris (with cover and interstitial art by Daniel Spenser) the second in the PBQ series is an elegant, hardbound number filled with humorous art and pieces from folks who have previously created material for The Onion, The Tonight Show, Adult Swim, Community, and The New Yorker.

It’s $15.00, so a small but solid investment. All proceeds benefit New York Cares. Please enjoy this excerpt, “Scenes From Air Bud: Glory Days” by Joe Veix.

Air Bud finds a box of old basketball memorabilia in his attic. He blows dust off a newspaper clipping, and ponders the photo of the final buzzer shot from the Big Game. He wonders where the years went.

Air Bud rejects insurance claims in his cubicle. Closing his eyes, he can still hear the roar of the crowd. It’s only a passing car.

In the break room, he complains to coworkers about last night’s Lakers game. He thinks players need to get back to fundamentals. His coworkers politely nod, and return to work.

Returning home, Air Bud parks his F-150 under the unused basketball hoop he installed for his twenty-three children. In the living room, they play video games. He closes the door to his room, muffling the arcade noises.

Later that week he arrives at the Y for his monthly pickup game. The league coordinator has forgotten to put him on the lineup. “Anyone wanna sub for me?” Bud asks. The other league members stare at their shoes. “Please?”

A dribbling basketball echoes across the gym. READ MORE

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For Your Comfort and Safety, by Dan Dillabough

flightThank you for choosing to fly with us today. Before we take off, we ask that you please pay close attention to the following safety announcements.

Please ensure that your carry-on baggage is safely stowed in the overhead compartments. Also, when stowing your baggage, please be careful not to disturb the raccoon that has been living up there for the past few weeks. He may appear dangerous, but rest assured that he won’t bother you if you don’t bother him.

Please ensure that your seatbelt is securely fastened at all times. Do not remove the seatbelt while seated, unless the raccoon wants to curl up and take a nap in your lap. His name is Lil’ Bandit and he is just the cutest little cuddle monster.

We are pleased to offer you complimentary in-flight meals once we have reached our cruising altitude. We ask that you please not consume any peanuts or nut products, as Lil’ Bandit is allergic.

In regards to Lil’ Bandit, we don’t know exactly how he got on the plane in the first place, but over the past few weeks he has come to be a part of our family. All these lonely flights can take a toll on one’s psyche, but when Lil’ Bandit wandered into our cabin one day he changed our lives forever. He makes us laugh, warms our hearts, and reminds us why we do this in the first place.

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The Golden Age of CB Radio, by Aboubacar Ndiaye

tenfourgoodbuddyYou may not know, it but for the past ten years or so, we have been living through a new golden age in the world of CB radio. Forty years ago, you could turn on your CB Radio, screw around with the dial a little bit, and listen to Big Cocker Jackson, Dakota Bull, and Ted Trouble 324 at their raucous, salacious best. Jellybean would come on at night and rill the boys up, and tell us about this or that strip club, and this or that truck stop, where the girls were easy and the beer was cheap. But then the '80s came with its media consolidation and government regulation and the shows of yesteryear faded away. For 20 years, there was Rush, Howard, and Sean, and we forgot about those halcyon days when radio was radio.

But something happened in the new millennium: out of nowhere, these small CB stations, who had remained independent, bucking the FCC rules, making money on subscriptions and donations, started producing dark, moody radio dramas. Johnny Tapper’s Jukejoint started it all. It was the story of a sheriff in a small town on the Mexican border who smuggled in immigrants and drugs on the side. No one had ever heard the kind of multi-layered storytelling, psychological depth, and macabre humor offered by this show. The radio press, who had long looked down on CB, began writing up the show, dashing off paeans to its tortured, Janus-like lead. Willa Stanley, writing in Radio News, called John Jukas, the main character, “an unholy distillation of all the prelapsarian myths about the American male in the West.” Emily Zoller, in On The Dial Mag, wrote that Jukejoint “was the first step forward in the annals of English-language storytelling since the Globe Theater burned down.” READ MORE