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Dolla Dolla Bill
By Patrick Buhse
Freddie works for a prestigious company known as Liquid Form, a supplier of ink used by government contractors to coat the outside of dollar bills. This ingenious ink then preys on people with weaker or stronger immune systems (depending on the dosage of the week) causing them to show symptoms of a common cold, then die some days, weeks, or months later. These switches in dosage allow for a randomness that keeps protest and crazy speculation away from Liquid Form’s front door. Freddie’s told that this liquid is a necessity for population control, and Freddie believes it with all of his heart.
Not only does Freddie work for such a company, but he is also one of the population that exhibits a very weak and fragile immune system; he was the child of a mother that abused a substance or two during her pregnancy. So for that reason, Freddie does not work on the weeks that the weak-targeting formula is being produced.
But, due to unforeseen circumstances that had been piling up in the form of bills, Freddie had to take a couple of shifts during the wrong week. And even though during these shifts Freddie tried to be careful, Freddie still found himself distracted at one point with the sound his desk fan makes. It was during such a bout of distraction that he dipped his left pinky finger in the clear mixture that sat in a small cup on his desk waiting for his approval.
He sat astonished. How could he be so dumb? Who could help him? How long did he have? Was there a protocol for this in the training module? If only he’d paid attention to those boring training modules.
Rushing out of the room, he looked to the left, then to the right. There were all the familiar doors that he passed regularly on his way into his office, but to whom these offices belonged, he couldn’t say. To be perfectly honest, he couldn’t remember ever even seeing anybody in his actual department. Random employees all just sort of communed from wherever to fill up the break room for lunches and snacks around noon. They didn’t ever have reason to communicate with anybody outside of their higher ups (who usually called them).
Coming up to the closest one to his left, he knocked in a calm manner that didn’t really jive with his current situation. “Hello?” he said. “I have a question about the product and I was hoping that you could help. Hello?”
After waiting and wasting precious moments of the life he had left, Freddie rushed back past his office and tried the door on his immediate right. This one had one of those stickers that said, “Working hard or hardly working?” placed in the top right corner of the door. Freddie wasn’t liking the odds of this person being of any help, but he had to try, so he knocked much more ferociously this time, which was more in tune with the short lifespan thing that he was now working with. As he was waiting for a response, he heard the door to the left of his office jerk open and shut with a loud BANG!
‘What in the world?’ he thought.
Rushing back over, he heard the same thing happen with the office door on the right. BANG! Is this a side effect of the Weak Immune Liquid? Was he hallucinating now? What had he gotten himself into? He couldn’t just work at the 7-11 like every other shmuck? He had to take the dangerous job with the life threatening hazards. What a shmuck, a sorry little shmuck.
To get his head on a little straighter, Freddie began to shake it furiously from side to side then from up to down. This gave him a straight head for enough time to realize that he had the number for Mr. Freidmont. Not only did he have the number, but Mr. Freidmont said after giving him these extra shifts, that if the need arose, Freddie could call him on his house phone, so that he could help out. Freddie guessed that since he was so new, he didn’t want to bother the boss with anything trivial, but then again death seemed a bit above the trivial level. This was his life.
Well, when Freddie gave Mr. Freidmont a call from his desk phone, and rather than getting the man himself, Freddie instead got the answering machine. He should’ve known, though. Mr. Freidmont was a busy man. A very busy man. But even though Mr. Freidmont was busy, it didn’t mean that he was not concerned, which is why he gave the number for the employee call center had any emergencies arisen while he was away at the end of his automated message.
Writing while he replayed the message, Freddie then punched 1-800-NEW-BILL into his cell as fast as he could. On the third ring, a woman with a calm and soothing voice answered.
“Thank you for calling Liquid Form Industries Employee Help Center. For your benefit and our own, this call will be recorded. Is this okay?”
“Y-yes,” Freddie said. He was so relieved at this point to be speaking with another human being that he could barely speak straight.
“Wonderful. Can I go ahead and get your employee identification number?”
“Sure, uh, just gimme a moment to find it.”
“No problem at all.”
“Ah, here we go. The number is TF000-58901.”
“Thank you so much. Let’s type that in real quick...wonderful. How can I be of assistance to you today, Mr. Langstrom?”
Relief. What a feeling! Freddie had it now. He had help, a whole service dedicated to his problems. Because they cared for their employees here.
“Well, it probably happens all the time and is no big deal, but I accidentally dipped my hand in today’s weak targeting solution.”
“That shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Thank God!” Freddie couldn’t help but shout out.
“Well, Mr. Langstrom, I was saying that shouldn’t be a problem because if you’re handling the weak targeting solution, then you should have a strong immune system. You do have a strong immune system, right, Mr. Langstrom?”
A sudden weepy frailness came to Freddie’s voice, “No, no, no. I was taking these shifts, because I needed the money. And, and Mr. Freidmont said I shouldn’t have any problems. What happens if I have the weak immune system?”
“Just a moment, Mr. Langstrom.”
Freddie heard a palming on the other end, but could still make out a conversation in bits and pieces coming out on the other side. The lady no longer sounded very calm. She was pretty frantic now. “It’s—Langstrom. Yeah, this is getting to be a bit excessive! Let Freidmont—I know. No—What am—say?—This guy is freaking out on the other line—I can’t tell him---okay—okay.”
“Mr. Langstrom are you still there?”
“Y-y-yes. What’s going on? What’s with Mr. Freidmont?”
“Nothing really. Ummm, we’re going to send a unit down to help you out. In the meantime, make sure that you’re receiving a ton of fluids and try to remain calm.”
“O-okay. So, so, so is this umm curable.”
“Oh nothing to worry about at all, Mr. Langstrom. Very routine stuff. Very routine.”
“Thank you. Thank you so much.”
“Not a problem, Mr. Langstrom.”
Freddie hung up the phone and tried hard to stay calm. He reached into his desk drawer and took out the jug of Gatorade he kept for stressful occasions. The red color was his favorite. When he took a sip it instantly put him at ease. He was in a self-prescribed safe zone. Nothing was going to happen while he was here. Why would it? He was in control and he was hydrated. That’s the formula of a champion. He was going to make it.
But, then again. The Gatorade did fall out of his hand when his hand lost all its functions only seconds later. Then, his vision did begin to blur a little bit. Then, his head did fall into the spilt Gatorade on his desk. The red liquid on his face was a betrayal most foul. In those last seconds he blamed the Gatorade. His company couldn’t have let him down. It was the Gatorade.
Mr. Freidmont came in shortly thereafter to have a look at Freddie. He liked Freddie and Freddie’s personality. That’s why he greenlit the True Freddie project. Freddies don’t raise questions as test subjects. They ain’t real! This was Freddie number 58901. Next time he would make Freddie like soda pop. Gatorade made the solution work much too fast. A little tinkering would be done to give Freddie a fighting chance. Employees needed that sort of extra care from a higher up. They deserved it.
Patrick lives in Richmond, Virginia with his cat and partner. It's a wonderfully lazy city that allows him to live comfortably while still having time to write.
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