Sitting at a bar inside a mass-produced faux-Italian restaurant specializing in mass-produced plastic chicken, I asked the man behind it for a drink. And he said, “Sorry, we’re out.”
And I said, “Of everything?”
And he said, “Yeah.”
And the woman sitting to my right said, “This is the result of late-stage capitalism. First, drinks will perish from the face of the earth. You will have to drink your own blood just to survive. Next, armadillos will go. There will be no more armadillos. People will say, ‘remember when there were armadillos?’ and others will respond, ‘barely.’ Mustaches will be outlawed. Pubic hair will be outlawed. Teeth will be harvested and sold. Birds will fly vertical, straining toward the black void above. The dead millions will rain down as they asphyxiate in the upper atmosphere, splattering against the roads and homes and automobiles in a mess of feathers and beaks. On the televisions, nothing will play but repeating photos of dirt. Brown dirt. Black dirt. Beige dirt. Sometimes, if we are lucky, tan dirt. Plants will stop engaging in photosynthesis of their own accord. Time will become unprofitable. Children will throw themselves into cliff-side waters before the age of five. Disheveled politicians wearing hairnets of yarn will serve their disfigured, waterlogged remains to the aging general public.”
And I said, “Wow! Who told you that?”
And she replied by turning into a pile of blue bricks. This surprised me because turning into bricks is not something people usually do. And because bricks are normally red. The bartender just sighed and moved down to the other side of the bar. When he wasn’t looking, I grabbed the top brick and left. I figured it would be cool to be in possession of such a special brick.
The next morning, I brought it with me to work. I worked at a fast food restaurant that sold nothing but unsalted fries. It was called Unsalted Fries.
Taking my place at the register, I laid the brick down on the counter beside me and my co-worker came by and stared at it. My co-worker was an old man who had trouble standing for longer than a few minutes at a time. He did not really do much at Unsalted Fries. Mostly he would sit in the dining room and play tic tac toe against himself. After staring at the brick for ten minutes, he said, “Where’d you get this fabulous item?” and I told him it used to be part of a woman. Then he asked me, “What part?” and I got very sad because I realized it was probably her head or at least part of her brain, and without that she really had no hope of ever becoming a fully-fledged woman again. I lied and told him it was her toe. He approved of taking a woman’s toe. I thought of returning the brick to the bar, but my co-worker loved it so much—kissing it and rubbing it and telling it stories—that I just could not part with the thing.
At the end of our shift, he said, “I think this brick can run for president.” Looking over the brick, I agreed it would probably make a good president because it had good posture and I had recently read a study saying that people with good posture were trusted more than people with bad posture. Also, the brick was kinda, maybe, a female brick, since it used to be part of a woman, and so I thought we could really make history by helping this brick to become the first female president. The old man and I agreed it would be nice having a blue, female, brick president with good posture to fight for us in the White House. We thought the brick could improve our lives.
The next day, I hung a “Closed” sign on the door so no customers would bother us. The old man brought in some computer paper and pencils and markers and crayons and we drew tons of different campaign posters. For example, one was a picture of a brick drawn with blue marker. For another example, one was a picture of a brick drawn with blue crayon. For another example, one was a picture of a brick drawn with blue colored pencil. We taped these posters to the front of Unsalted Fries. Within days, the media was reaching out with requests to interview. We sat with the brick as it answered questions from the Dorset High School Gazette. The brick answered the questions by not saying anything. The Gazette praised the brick's straightforward responses and authenticity. Outlets began to reach out en masse. We went on Good Morning America, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, NPR, HGTV—eventually landing an interview with Lesley Stahl at 60 Minutes. It was time to reveal the brick’s platform.
The brick was on a wooden stool. Lesley Stahl was on a chair. The old man and I looked on from behind the cameras. Lesley Stahl was dressed in clothes and the brick was dressed in a little top hat, which I had borrowed from one of my sister’s dolls. I thought it was a little unfair that the brick, now the frontrunner in the presidential race, was only allowed a stool, but I kept my opinion to myself.
Stahl shuffled her papers. “Now, Brick, I’ll ask you the same question I’ve asked the other candidates. What do you see as the biggest issue, whether domestic or foreign, in American politics today?”
Unbeknownst to Stahl, I had taped a small Bluetooth speaker underneath the top hat, allowing for text-to-speech through my cellular device. The brick would finally speak to the American public.
“Good question, Lesley, if I may call you Lesley,” said the brick, in a robotic female cadence.
Stahl’s eyes grew wide. “You speak!”
“Yes, I speak.”
“Sorry, I was just not expecting it,” she laughed. “Why wait till now to make your voice known?”
“I was waiting for the right question, the right interviewer. I am a big fan, Lesley. Again, if I may call you that.”
“Sure, sure, you may,” she said, again laughing. “But yes, this is fantastic. Please, go on, the biggest issue.”
“Yes, it is a good question.” I flipped through my phone for a moment, pasted a pre-scripted speech from my notes app into the translator. “A good question! And I have given it a lot of thought. But I keep arriving at the same answer. I feel it is right in front of our faces. Lesley, have you heard of Unsalted Fries? Of course you have, don’t answer that. Well, there is a franchise of Unsalted Fries on the corner of 3rd and 22nd. 3rd and 22nd, Lesley. The employees at this location, Lesley, if I may call you that, Lesley, the employees at this location work hard. They work so hard, Lesley. And they really deserve a raise, Lesley. You see there is an old man there. He is so old that he can barely smell things. Sometimes he will walk by a dumpster and say ‘wow, what a great volcano.’ He mistakes volcanoes for dumpsters, Lesley. And this old man, for dinner he’s forced to eat sticks and leaves, just to make ends meet. His teeth are so old and so brittle that sometimes it takes him a week to get through one leaf. And, Lesley, there is another man there, Lesley, a young man, Lesley. He also needs a raise, Lesley. This young man wears napkins for shoes. He cannot afford shoes, so he is forced to tape napkins to the bottoms of his feet. The worst part, Lesley, the absolute worst part, is in the long run this costs him more, Lesley. He goes through so many napkins. But the thing is he has no other choice, Lesley. So this is what I see as the most important issue, Lesley. It is clear. We need to raise the average wage at the Unsalted Fries on 3rd and 22nd.”
Every follow-up question from Lesley Stahl we responded to with, “Sorry, I am not taking any more questions.”
By the morning, the brick had plummeted to last place in the polling. The general public did not agree with our presentation of the issues. They also did not like learning the brick was female. They said things like, "Wow, this brick is shrill,” and, “This brick is a cold, hard bitch." We had misjudged the extent of the general public's latent sexism.
I thought the brick's untimely tumble down the polls was potentially just another symptom of late-stage capitalism, and this made me think of the woman the brick used to be. I thought that if I returned the brick and made her whole then perhaps she could tell me.
Returning to the bar inside the mass-produced faux-Italian restaurant specializing in mass-produced plastic chicken, I stood over the pile of bricks. I put my brick on top, and it remained a pile of bricks. I was disappointed. I asked the pile of bricks what it thought of the failed presidential run of one of its pieces. It did not answer. It just remained a silent pile of bricks. I left and went back to work.