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by Miracle Jones
“I know you have all heard this from me a bajillion kajillion times, but we aren’t food as love,” said T.J. Maxx, Director of Concepts at Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM). “We are food as fucking. And not just like: good fucking that you do listening to old disco on a Sunday morning to piss off the neighbors, all fake animal noises and trying to rattle the chandelier with your cock. We are food as nasty fucking, the kind of fucking where the leftovers smeared on the vinyl cause diseases, the kind that would snap your prostate like a rubber band if you did it for real, the kind of fucking that you can only do to yourself in your head.”
It was Tuesday morning at 4 AM, the beginning of the power hour, when everyone’s testosterone levels were spiking due to their circadian rhythms and the cortisol levels in their plasma. It was the hour where everyone at Yum! was required to be at work, when the bars closed up in North American cities and when Yum! Brands acquired its most valuable customers in its Taco Bells, Kentucky Fried Chickens, and Pizza Huts, the people who were only there because there was no place else to go. It was also when traffic at all of the porn sites that Yum! owned through its shell corporations spiked, meaning that the marketing data clusters were at their most raw and strong.
Tuesday was also corporate fetish day at Yum! Brands, which meant everybody was dressed more or less in traditional skirts, pantsuits, suits, ties, leather, latex, and purple dog collars that revealed that they all worked for Concepts. Employees at other departments wore different colored dog collars to show their allegiances; this was a fun tradition that everyone loved.
T.J. Maxx was the only person in the room not wearing a dog collar. His massive sclerotic neck strained out of his black leather business suit. He had purchased the rights to his Yum! name, T.J. Maxx, after the clothing store had gone out of business, taking out a small business loan while he was just a junior project manager. His mother had once worked at a T.J. Maxx, his father had been arrested for destroying cars at the same T.J. Maxx with a set of golf clubs stolen from the parking lot.
Along with his preternatural grasp of food dynamics and international taste barometry, his invention of the Nacho Pocket had made him a legend. But it had been a full season since Concepts had done anything that penetrated the North American whofuckingcaresasphere.
T.J. Maxx was depressed. His job situation felt volatile, “in question.” He was simultaneously delivering a morning speech and playing Mortal Kombat on the building across the street, projecting the game onto the side of the building using the ten thousand lumens projector built into his belt buckle.
“I feel like I can’t breathe, people,” he said. “I feel like you are strangling me to death with your bad ideas. Call me traditional, but I think breath play should be between a man and a woman, or like a sexy uncle and his curious nephew, not a Concepts team and a Concepts director on deadline. Get your fingers outta my throat people.”
Liu Kang transformed into a dragon and immolated Sub-Zero. Everyone clapped.
“Alright, that’s your speech for the day,” he said. “Be freakishly motivated and come up with something as good as Candybacon Scotch Egg Grenados or Pop Tart Wafflefries or even Tortilla Soup Dumplings. Alright, now everybody file out quietly with your heads held at 90 degrees to the ground like I just pulled out a gun and killed your best friend without even blinking. Time to make the food of tomorrow.”
The room cleared. He sat down on the conference table, facing the window, making a personal decision not to make eye contact with anyone today.
“It’s Sheila Pitch Black Hollow Void’s birthday,” said Brian Ass, his assistant slash bodyguard slash lover slash personal trainer. “What should I get her?”
“She just did an in-house lateral, didn’t she?”
“Yeah, she moved from Carbs to Sauces,” he said. “Paycut, but she gets the Kowloon Lab, which means vat organs to play with and no FDA.”
“Fuck her,” said T.J. Maxx. “Get her a vintage Hustler Magazine from the month she was born. I want her to know what her diabetic coma dad was thinking about when her scumbag mom was milking him for conception sperm.”
Brian bowed and left.
T.J. Maxx didn’t turn around, but he could tell he still wasn’t alone.
“Um, I don’t think you know me. I’m not actually supposed to be here.”
T.J. Maxx wanted to look and see who was talking, but he mastered himself and continued staring out the window, checking his email using his belt projector. He could see people working across the street at Google scowling at him.
“What’s your name?”
“Are you asking me my real name or my Yum! name sir?”
“Why the fuck would I want to know your real name? Were your parents creative people?”
“No sir,” she said. “Then my name is Henrietta Poe.”
“Poe? Like the French writer?”
“Sure,” said Henrietta uncertainly.
“You get your spirit power from some dead French writer, huh? Okay; that’s kinky. You aren’t wearing one of my collars, so I can’t fuck you if you are disappointing, so what good are you to me?”
She didn’t answer. He sniffed, noting the persistent smell of sun-warm skin and human dander.
“You are still here. How is that possible? You are fired.”
“Well, I’m HR, so you can’t fire me,” said Henrietta. “But I don’t want to stay in HR. I want to be in Concepts.”
“What did you study in school?”
“Well, I studied psychology.
“WRONG. I hire bartenders, MALE strippers, ex-kindergarten teachers, and deejays. That’s my fucking thing. I am already annoyed with you."
“Is this your office?” she asked him. “It seems like a conference room.”
“Wherever I am standing is my office.”
“HR is really dry,” said Henrietta. “I mean, we do scenes like everybody else, but it is all like weird tense spanking stuff and fussy meticulous European “rules porn,” and I thought I would like it, but I don’t. I want to be in a more primal division, with a chance to make a difference.”
“It doesn’t get more primal than Concepts,” he said, sighing, not looking away from the window. He caught himself squinting into the reflection of the glass, trying to make out her image, but then he relaxed his eyes and went dead inside.
“You are a psychologist?”
“I mean, I studied psychology.”
“I think I am depressed,” said T.J. Maxx. “I don’t really know why.”
“That is not really something I am qualified to talk about.”
“I don’t know how women relate to men anymore. I mean I used to know exactly how it was. Women related to men exactly like men related to jobs. There are shitty jobs and good jobs. There are careers. There is love, which is the job equivalent of getting paid to sit around and masturbate and drink cherry Coke from a glass slipper that Blondie used to wear. My job is love to me, and so I always tried to be love to women who could tolerate me. But now I don’t even know anymore.”
“You seem like a complicated man,” said Henrietta Poe. “It is good to have feelings.”
“At Concepts, we hire: strippers, deejays, bartenders, comic book artists, gas station clerks with good tattoos. We teach them to do the bullshit corporate jobs. Um, why? Because they are smart and full of life and know how to fucking kick ass at thinking. It is about ten hundred thousand times easier to teach a cool bartender who has life coming out of her damn eyeballs how to do Quickbooks than it is to teach some go-getter business major from Indiana how to manage a useful coke addiction.”
“I think the problem is that you are looking for a new idea,” said Henrietta. “A new kind of pizza, a new kind of gordita, a new kind of milkshake. The idea doesn’t matter as much anymore. We have a real strength here that we aren’t using. The strength is in our corporate culture itself. I tried to tell people in HR, but…”
“What do you mean 'our culture'? Wait, wait, wait…”
T.J. Maxx was silent.
“Maybe something like a gusher…but with nacho cheese…” he said.
“No, that’s just another Naco Pocket,” he said. “Goddamn my bad ideas.”
“What do we do here, you know?" asked Henrietta. "I mean, what is daily life here at Yum! Brands, as a corporate entity with broad, global goals?”
“We make porn and we make food that people are actually going to eat,” said T.J. Maxx. “We are also a music label, I think.”
“But isn’t it strange that we never combine these things?” asked Henrietta. “I mean, I am in HR, so I deal with the culture here as an organic, single entity. But I think all these discrete divisions are keeping us from growing how we should be growing.”
“We can’t put porn in advertising,” said T.J. Maxx. “That’s illegal. And also you can’t eat porn. And also it doesn't work; they've done tests. There is a barrier you can't cross.”
T.J. Maxx was silent.
“What are you suggesting? You have a new Concept package?”
“I do,” said Henrietta Poe.
“Well, what is it? You officially have my interest.”
“It is already happening.”
“What do you mean?”
“It started happening as soon as I walked in the room. Concept, marketing, advertising, suggestion, hypnotic post-suggestion, boomer buzz, chatterspray, presocial positioning, social rollout, post-social entrenchment, backlash redeploy. Everything. Maybe it started happening a little before I walked in the room, depending on what works for context. I’m not an editor.”
“You are very brave and full of shit.”
“This is the next, obvious iteration in what we do here. We make porn. We make food. Get ready to make both.”
She had a very elegant clasp purse. He could see it in the reflection of the glass. He tried to see what she was taking out of it. It was long and pink, like a flashlight. She came up behind him, close enough that he could feel the hem of her gingham dress on his leather pants.
“I’m gonna do you first and then you can do me when you are good and angry,” she said, reaching under her skirt. “I assume this room is wired to record? Video, hologram, Blueray, whatever?”
“Of course,” he said. “We make ideas here.”
“Perfect,” she said. “Consider this my application to Concepts.”
She pantsed him. He didn’t flinch. He didn’t turn around.
“Listen asshole,” she said to his asshole. “It doesn’t matter what dumb idea you come up with. It can be genius, it can be bullshit, it doesn’t matter. While I am fucking you, you are gonna let your mind wander and try to relax, okay? And one of your ideas is gonna come forward in your mind and then you are gonna turn around and start fucking me and you are gonna scream it to the world. And that’s gonna be the thing that everybody buys. Because of this video. Because they saw the concept getting born and they were right there at the beginning. And because every one of our pornos for the whole next cycle is gonna feature whatever you blurt out when you are getting reamed by my little pink strap-on. We are merging divisions. We’re never gonna be able to put porn in advertising; you are right about that. So we are gonna put advertising in porn.”
"Wait," he said. She paused.
“That…could work,” he said.
She pushed his face against the glass. He pressed a button on his belt buckle so he could see what was happening to him on the building across the street. Something in his heart stirred. He wanted to know her real name. He wanted to know what that dead French writer meant to her.
“Say, listen,” he said.
“You aren’t gonna like this,” she said. “You are about to get Crunchwrapped Supremed.”
“I was wondering about your real name,” he said.
He tried to turn around and look at her, but her hand was on his neck and she had spread his legs too wide and he was unbalanced and there was no way to do it without snapping his own neck.
“Shut up and think about food,” she said.
(c) Miracle Jones 2014