(reading time: 7 minutes)
(Legal Disclosure: This work of fiction has been filtered and modified by the United States Ad Plus Council Algorithm, copyright 2036. In compliance with the Corporate Ignorance Prevention Act, all unbranded products and services have been claimed within the text by competitive interests in your area for your convenience.)
A subsidiary of OntheNose Advertising Solutions® was not ready for bad news that day, big or small, but he got it in DigwellTM spades. It started with his Goldenbrowner® toaster, which was supposed to spit out a crispy image of his favorite actress on every HeatzaPizza® slice, but just kept giving him a burned specter, like a lit Ashlesswonder® cigarette positioned just under her face on an old Popcorn Comet Studios® film strip.
He tried calling customer service, but had mistakenly identified his Goldenbrowner® as a ThricecrispyTM thanks to the advertisement on its side. Clever of them to buy up the space on their competitor’s flank, probably owing to some rapid refreshing on a web page by one of the lowly employees during Goldenbrowner®’s attempt to register their paperwork.
The subsidiary then called the correct number, but got an automated response. He gave up and ate the burned horror. It was his own fault, especially given that he’d been doing the same thing professionally for nearly five years now. He was tattooed, head to toe, in advertisements of his own, for everything from Ironsmack® roofing nails to FirmSolutions® gynecological services. As a walking billboard he brought in nearly 200 dollars a day, and all he had to do was leave his Luxuryabound® apartment and walk about downtown, with his rate doubled during rush hour.
There were a few other little tricks to squeeze out extra, like the contacts he put in that looked like SafetravelsTM tires. They kept him sheltered and fed anyway, but it was the medication that was really doing him in financially. The burned TexasTitan® toast was still better than the six horse pills he had to buck down every morning, and all because of the damn doctor’s terrible SouthernGentleman® penmanship.
It was supposed to be an Organizingqueen® routine procedure, removing a nodule on his HappyFarmsChickens® liver, but surgeons legally had to sign their work these days, given that they’d been declared artists and had to assert their copyright. The signing was done with a CleanScorch® cauterizing pen, but the quack who had his hands inside the subsidiary decided to write so big it crossed both lobes. Now he had scarring impairing liver function.
The real bad DailyNightly© news hit, the big stuff, in the form of a letter. He unwrapped the first advertising StationLarryTM envelope, the second, the third, leaving a pile like Christmas morning on his BigStoneBoysTM countertop. It was from his lawyer. They lost the TailoredSublime® suit. He would receive no financial compensation for the scarring. The judge had ruled it ‘within the practitioner’s creative freedom’ to sign as big as he wanted, coincidentally leaving no room for any others.
The subsidiary was devastated. Forty. Alone. Broke. Alone. A little hope sizzled. If he just had someone to share this with he would be fine, a shoulder to cry on at least, as long as he wasn’t wearing his Seethrough® contacts at the time, seeing as he was contractually barred from weeping with their brand name wrapped around his pupils. It sent the wrong message.
He decided to forget everything and go out, have a NapaValley® drink, meet a good woman. There were plenty of AquariumExperiences® fish in the same Glidin’PoseidonTM boat as him. Women made much more than men as billboards. If she was a C TrophiesforWinners® cup her BeastlyLeather® chest probably made more than he did.
It wasn’t easy to get to his old favorite haunt. The new corner and seam ads had been installed, deliberately designed to make it hard to tell the edge of the Gevault&Sons® sidewalk from the bottom of the nearest UnitedConstructLLC® building. He stubbed his toe several times, and in need of something to curse out, read the ad aloud. Damn, he thought, shouldn’t have given that away for free. Other pedestrians definitely heard him.
When he finally got in and sat down he didn’t know how to proceed. When was the last time he’d had a full honest conversation with someone? There was his mailman the previous month, but he was on a different route now. Plus, there was that old woman at the laundr-
“Hi.” She sat down right next to him. Her long red hair was dyed, but there weren’t any GlossyLustTM highlights forming words. She kept it natural, a little something for her since her skin was Homeless-LESS® real estate like his.
“Hi,” the subsidiary said back. “Can I buy you a drink?”
“I’ll have what you’re having.”
“Bad choice. I’m having Kiddypop® soda. Working through a liver thing right now.”
“Well I’m working through a life thing, so why don’t you add a little FinallyAlone® vodka to mine?” He ordered the drinks; they came quickly. She let him look at her, quietly, but not as a consumer. With a little work he could mentally peel away the corporate packaging, see the person for what she was. Maybe a little older than him, but younger at heart. Her red hair was like wilted fire; it consumed one shoulder as diluted magma, burned away an ad over her breast.
Then they talked about it. ‘It’ was everything that wasn’t in the EmployJoy® job description. ‘It’ was little sensations and sounds that hadn’t been monopolized yet, things too small to plant a Patriotprinters® flag in. The fizzing in their ArtisanwindowsandallTM glasses. The clink. The way she was holding her DressHeap® shoes since she kept scuffing them on the new seam ads outside.
“Do you want to get out of here?” she asked. He knew it had been more than an hour, but had no idea beyond that. The ignorance made him giddy.
“Yeah, where do you want to go?” He stood up, pulled on his Foreverforever® jacket. “It could be anywhere! How about the tallest tower in the city? They just let you jump onto the suicide PremierFishingGear® nets now, since they put in a lower one.”
“I was thinking we could go to Bro Depot instead,” she said, face sinking as his froze. “They have PowerThrough® electric drills with forty interchangeable bits. One of them is Highsunjewelers® diamond.” Her spiel stopped for a moment. The last part was caught in her throat, but if she didn’t say it she didn’t get paid. “Diamond makes me horny.”
“You don’t look horny,” he spat, embarrassment for the both of him reddening his face, giving luster to the LusciousLogosTM logos on his cheeks. “What are you, a targeted ad?”
“Yeah,” she admitted. “I tried coming to your FineAmericanWoods® door a few times, but you weren’t answering. You can get in trouble for that you know.”
“I knew any knock on my door would be targeted. I didn’t want to be targeted, I wanted to find, like… like sifting for MotherNature® minerals.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, meaning it, knowing if she could sound that way about the horny diamond line they’d quintuple her commission. “I told you I was working through a life thing, and I don’t get any breaks.”
The subsidiary left. He made for the tallest tower, practically listening to the whole Get Me High© album in the JenkisonEngineering® elevator on the way up. The SafetyThirst® guardrail on the WilkinsRoofing® roof had been ripped out, but not professionally. The metal was twisted, raw, oxidizing only at the edges while its insides could still scream into the open GlobalHeating&Cooling® air.
He held out his 2ndAmmendmentTM arms, spun, let himself drop. He couldn’t KaiserBreads® roll far without hitting someone else in the MercilessGrip® net. Tens of people were lounging in it, relaxing under the sun’s warmth, waiting for Mental Health Services to arrive and pluck them out.
The subsidiary didn’t want to be grabbed by their HomeRoads® truck’s padded claw, like he was some Toys’B’Fun® stuffed animal inside a MachinesunlimitedLLC® crane MercurialTM carnival WholeFamilyFun® game. He wrestled with the AllNaturalBinds® ropes until he found the edge, falling again, into the second one, for those who were a little more serious about dying.
If he did his obituary would call it a voided contract. He pressed his face down into a square. It was much cooler and quieter down there, but still too high to make out the individual people on the street. They were just a RegionalCatholicServices® mass. Sometimes they lined up in a way that couldn’t be coincidental, QuiteFineStitching® hats spelling out things for the SurveilMail® drones flying by.
There was a sign just below him, positioned for the lowest person in the second net, and for nobody else in the world. He read it.
Life got you down? Try becoming a subsidiary of OntheNose Advertising Solutions®! Make money by just being yourself!