Desperate Measures 

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

We met by the river near the lightbulb factory.

Just Archibald and I.

Out of the infinite number of monkeys typing away in the lightbulb factory's quality control department, only Archibald proved calm enough to accept the news.

I pulled my copy of Steinbeck's The Pearl from my pocket. A lean little book, only 6 chapters, it might just pass for East of Eden.

We knew we were alone, yet I nevertheless whispered. "This might get you by. Management is too stupid to have read any of the classics."

"I don't know," said Archibald looking at the book in my hand, reluctant to take it. "They've hired consultants and they say the East of Eden lightbulb testing program is foolproof."

"Nonsense! These programs always have bugs in them!" I shoved The Pearl into Archibald's hands. "Just type this out. They won't know the difference."

Archibald flipped through the book.

"Maybe. Just maybe. But this is only ninety pages - over five hundred pages less than East of Eden. They'll figure it out for sure."

"No, damn you," I whisper-screamed. "All you need to do is type The Pearl over six times. It's simple. Even a probiscus monkey can figure it out."

Archibald did not take his eyes off the book in his paws. The book lay in his hands as if it were a swallow in a dead-faint after flying into a window.

"Look, it's a simple story. Very few adjectives, mostly monosyllables. Can't be harder than Hamlet."

I grabbed the book and flipped to the end. "It hasn't even got that bit about the font being Bembo type."

I pulled the book to my face and peered over the top at Archibald. Despite his reputation as the most clear-headed of the monkeys, he wasn't convinced.

The monkeys exhausted all possibilities. Their union backed out on talks, leaving them to muddle into modern American literature after they spent years building seniority in Elizabethan drama. An infinite amount of time spent trying to type up Hamlet proved worthless. They were back at square one. Even the Workers' Compensation Board gave up on them.

Some monkeys were in the middle of mortgages, others had car payments, many had no idea how they were going to put their kids through college.

Strikes were impossible. Hanging over their heads was always the threat of outsourcing to Singhalese toads.

I took a big risk too. I spent hours scouring the black market for Steinbeck's works. Tortilla Flat was over one hundred pages, The Moon is Down was almost right but blacklisted in corporate circles for its sympathy towards terrorists, Of Mice and Men too familiar to any high school twit and thus too dangerous for the monkeys to employ: even if senior management must have read that one. And, I learned, the rival lightbulb company was using the Of Mice and Men software. It was either The Pearl or a copy of Travels with Charley with half the pages torn out.

"Archibald," I said, finally, "What other options have you got?"

He didn't answer.

I handed him the book and he took it.

"It's our only hope," he said.

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