Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Below is a piece I read at last weekend’s installment of The Paper Machete at the Green Mill, as a commentary on the impending onslaught of bargain shopping later this week. I opted for a speculative fiction approach this go-round. I repeat, this is not a true story.
Journal Entry; August 18, 2078. In an uncharacteristic display of mercy, Black Friday begins but one day earlier this year.
No one is certain why. There are rumors, whispered among the boldest of the consumer class, that a deep rift has occurred within the highest echelons of the shareholders, and that this was the only compromise that could be found that would satisfy all parties. We are not often privy to such intrigues, but it has been common knowledge that the paradigm had permanently shifted after the fall of East Costcovia. The long-brewing feud between the Houses of Walton and Nordstrom would surely have come to a head over the power vacuum, the ensuing maelstrom rippling through every last outlet mall and online order form. If nothing else, it is an exciting time to be alive.
This year our cohort has vowed to learn from past calamities. We think painfully of our sister Maribel, lost in the caverns of Mount Macy’s for 17 days, surviving on scraps of discarded, half-chewed toddler biscuits, subjected to the existential horrors of wandering vultured clothing racks with now irrelevant sale prices, as well as the spiritual tumult of discovering an overlooked plasma television but finding no associates experienced in the protocols for store credit vouchers. When at last she was returned to us, poor Maribel was but a shell of her former self. To this day, if she communicates at all, she speaks only in IKEAish.
This year we consider approaching the melee elliptically rather than charging through the front gates alongside the doomed and the damned. We strategize a two-pronged approach through the Toy and Lawn Care departments, surmising that any parent with the cunning to survive more than one shopping season will have prioritized Weaponry for their children over Playthings, and understanding that nobody has needed lawn care since the oceans rose in 2070. Rothenberg, the lanky fellow from Volkswagium, remains skeptical.
“Doesn’t matter,” he grumbles. “Hedge trimmers two for one with in-store coupon. Those who falter in electronics will descend upon this department, desperate for anything. We are walking into a bloodbath.”
I am loathe to admit that he may be right, but forgoing the Black Friday season, or even waiting a week for the mayhem to subside and the bodies to be removed from the buildings, will not be an option. There is no greater currency to be had now than the prestige and respect one earns for having plunged into the fray and emerged with a host of manufactured goods that one did not pay full price for. The rest are marked as victims, low-hanging fruit to be picked off and picked clean. To save ourselves, we must find savings, ourselves.
“Must this be our lives, father?” my son and daughter ask me as I read them to sleep with the Penney’s catalog, the evening of Grey Thursday. I speak words of trite reassurance but am not yet ready to share with them the dangerous notions of rebellion one catches in tremor, in half-translated graffiti carved into the sides of fallen redwoods. The elders often spin impossible tales about the origins of the shopping season, telling us how once upon a time this was a mere opportunity for individual merchants to entice shoppers with promises of otherwise unusual bargains. They say that there were but one or two deaths per year, each of them considered an unfortunate accident, decried by the public as a tragedy to be averted in the future. They say that brandishing a firearm to defend your bounty was considered monstrous and irrational. They claim that Black Friday was once but a single weekend, and was preceded by a celebration of family and gratitude, some sort of bizarre mirror version of the holiday we all now know as Retailia. They urge us to pull back from the brink of the chaos and madness, to return Black Friday to its purer origins.
But the elders are foolish and demented, and if fortune favors them they will die off sooner rather than later. This is the crucible in which the consumer class is forged, say I, the testament to our perseverance as the spine of the human species. I do not believe I would give this up now even if the choice were presented to me. I do not believe I could.
Our ancestors, we are told, fought each other to the death for that which they needed, for food, for shelter, for the land next to clean, fresh water. Their victories granted their descendants the luxury to kill for that which they merely wanted. But oh, I assure you, sweetest of all, a feeling that none of those wizened ancients could have imagined, is to face off against another determined soul, surrounded by rows of high-end appliances marked 40% off, and to through your wits and your strength alone claim their life over something you neither need NOR want.
Would I deny myself this ultimate triumph of the human spirit? Would I deny it to my children, to my children’s children? No, I think not. I think not. Once having tasted the bittersweet cocktail of blood and adrenaline from the majestic fountain of Black Friday…who could choose to live any other way?
As ever, I devote today’s hunt to the memory of those who could not join us, those who departed too soon, those too deranged by the ordeal, and those who could no longer manage the journey after all of the escalators collapsed. Let our eyes be sharp, our choices be sound. Let the doors be opened.