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Proactive Midget « Fiction365
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Today's Story by Eugene H. Bales

The people at the Kid Business are scumbag pricks who put the bottom line at the top of the page way ahead of quality products. Boycott the assholes.


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Proactive Midget

Before my career ended abruptly, I appeared on the cover of Time.  The president’s daughter wrapped her arms around me.  People said, “What would B. I. Beltch do?” and meant it even while they were laughing.  Across the nation, store associates beeped a B. I. Beltch doll every ninety seconds on a cash register.

Susan Jollif, my friend, showed me her interviews she’d done to write her book about me.  She asked my fourth grade teacher, Norah Haines, to share her thoughts.

NORAH:  In the 1950’s, B. I. Beltch would have been considered a fruitcake, but the world’s grown up a lot since then.  Today he’s considered a genius, a rudder on the advertising and marketing ship guiding it to greater honesty and accountability.

SUSAN:  You’re the one who discovered B. I. Beltch and told your brother, Edroy Pankey, the advertising wizard, about him.

NORAH:  The family had gathered for Thanksgiving. I told Edroy I had this weird kid with the strangest name you ever heard—Benjie Ivar Beltch, goes by B. I. and who wouldn’t?  I love all my children, but I love myself, and I’m honest with myself—someone that eccentric gets on my nerves.  I wanted to accept the fact he was a midget, but that’s something you work on over time.  The way he scurried around always underneath the furniture—I kept seeing him as a scary mouse.

B. I. would blurt out facts and feelings about toys at any time during a lesson.  We could be talking about sex and reproduction—we weren’t of course—we’re supposed to pretend that would shock a fourth grader’s tender sensibilities—and this kid would announce he’s got this new CD player or this new action-hero doll with five unique features and say it just that way.

SUSAN JOLLIF (INTERVIEWING EDROY PANKEY):  Your sister, Norah Haines, told me she was the first person to tell you about B. I. Beltch and his unique gifts.

EDROY:  When my sister told me about this prodigy who’s so right for this moment of commercial history, I thought her excitement had come from a bottle, but I smelled nothing on her breath.  Sis told me she’s never been so thrilled about a child’s potential.  For Pankey, Merring, and Nelms, Incorporated, finding the little guy’s like having God chair all our advertising board meetings—he sort of sketches in the future.  He’s a natural.  Greatest little communicator we’ve ever seen and heard, does your verbal and nonverbal equally well.  Believe me when I tell you that at Pankey, Merring, and Nelms, Incorporated, we’ve seen the communicators, but this B. I. Beltch—he stands up straight, walks with a positive assertiveness, looks people in the eye, shakes hands as firmly as a midget kid can, uses gestures to enforce important points.  He’s a rebel against all that’s false in business, but he’s a proactive pusher of honesty and accountability. Yes, he’s against the cheesy, but he’s also for quality and humaneness.  He’s enthusiastic, wild and free.  He’s a genius.

***

The ad agency’s first job—sell me to the public.  In the first infomercial the advertising agency made about me, I saw an actor playing Bobby Fischer, the chess wizard, first.  Eyes gleaming, he played chess with a fortyish man in a park.  Other prodigies walked onto the screen. Long-haired Mozart, sitting at a piano on a high bench, swinging his feet which never touched the floor.  I heard a snatch of his Jupiter Symphony.  During the fade-out of the music, I appeared, playing with my hopping alien suction toy.

I heard the narrator say, “B. I. Beltch is a new kind of prodigy who fits the twenty-first century like Prozac.  He’s a young genius for our current needs, the consumer whiz kid with the consumer savvy of a thirty-nine-year-old investment banker.”

There I sat in a high chair, a child who looked like a man turned into a doll wearing a charcoal business suit and a simple gold wristwatch with a gold band.  I hopped down and picked up a new briefcase.  “I wear nothing that identifies me with any cause, religion, school, belief or political persuasion.  When I’m across the desk and eye-to-eye with a businessman, I’m there to accomplish a goal, not generate resentment because my school’s football team is better than the prospect’s.  My charcoal business suit gives me, a midget kid, a gross’s more authority than if I walked in dressed in a faded PokeMon T-shirt Mom bought at a garage sale.  I’m there to speak for the twelve-and-under consumer to make sure he or she is doing business with moral win/win companies.  I want no one getting ripped off.  In fact, yours truly, B. I. Beltch, the Proactive Midget, is going to do some ripping of my own to those businesses who aren’t playing by the ten commandments.

The writer, Susan Jollif, wore sweaters and knit dresses that emphasized her breasts in bras that showed defined nipples.  She asked me about the ten commandments, my idea or the ad agency’s?

I told her mine, learned from my parents.  When we studied them in Sunday school, I was amazed at how well they’d stood the grinding of time.  I revised only one.  “Honor thy father and mother even if they’re separated or divorced and living in different towns.”

Susan hugged me, and those breasts that I thought would feel like Play-doh felt like pillows, and I could smell her perfume that I could only enjoy close to her in her embrace. When one of my fifth grade classmates wore perfume I could smell it anywhere in the room.

They put my parents on TV.  My mother, Monica, a pretty redhead, who also knew how to wear perfume, bought a new St. Johns green knit dress for her appearance.  My father, Chris, a former Olympic boxer, had a face too lumpy to be handsome, but what he lacked in good-looking he made up for in tough-looking.

INTERVIEWER:  How do you mold a B. I. Beltch?

MOM:  Nurture, care, quality time—every night my husband and I play poker, black jack, and Monopoly for pennies with our own Tom Thumb.  End of last year comes, and that doll baby had a half-gallon of pennies.  We also read to him. He likes Forbes Magazine best.  Every day at breakfast he quotes a Fireman’s Fund business and personal insurance ad.  I’ve learned it from him he’s said it so many times.  “Life is a rush into the unknown.  You can duck down and hope nothing hits you, or stand up as tall as you can, show it your teeth and say, ‘Dish it up, Baby, and don’t be stingy with the jalapenos.’ ”

DAD:  I think the boy’s success as the most astute consumer in this land of great consumers started when I offered him the reward of a hopping alien with a suction cup and a spring, for completing his work and getting to go out to recess in the first grade.  B. I. worked so hard for that trip to Wal-Mart, Monica and I tried it again.  By the twentieth time, we were on our way to creating a prodigy for the twenty-first century.

Pankey, Merring, and Nelms invested time and money to persuade the school superintendent, the school board, and the parents of the other children in my class to allow them to install a video camera focused on me in my classroom to record my SOPPS, Spontaneous Outbursts of Product Preferences.  Pankey, Merring, and Nelms sold these SOPPS to the companies receiving my blessing. The Pankey ad men and women hated TURDS, Teachers Urging Repression of Directness and Spontaneity.

Everyone agreed quickly except parents Todd and Pris Windsor.  When Susan Jollif asked them what persuaded them to allow the video camera in my classroom, they responded—

PRIS:  The big persuader wasn’t the money or the Disneyland vacation or the tickets to the Super Bowl.

TODD:  Pris is right on target, as usual.  None of that stuff nor the four-hour shopping spree in the Traders Caravan Mall.  However, when B. I. Beltch himself came and looked up at us and offered his pledge—“ ‘B. I. Beltch can’t be bought.’  What’s right for B. I. is right for Mr. and Mrs. Windsor too.  Do what you think is right.  The ad people are big on classroom-recorded SOPPS, spontaneous outbursts of product preferences—nothing like their authenticity, they say–but they could film me at home.  I can write down my SOPPS.  You listen to the voice of truth inside you.”

PRIS:  We knew we’d lucked into a boy with an old-fashioned value system.

***

We’re Here to Tell is the TV show’s name, but Susan Jollif called it Sky’s Done Fell. When I appeared on it, they had me on the highest high chair I’d ever sat in to be on a level with a woman employee at Kid Implements Toys.  I questioned her about the company.  She had a bag over her head, and her voice was digitally distorted.

I:  Tell us about the working conditions at Kid Implements Toys.

SHE:  We were expected to be smiling all the time even when we were in a room by ourselves.  When you talked to anyone about Kid Implements Toys you were always to work into the conversation that you wished you were a kid again so you could play with their toys.  My main wish at the place was to find a (f word bleeped out) adult.  I’m sorry for my language—you’re just a little kid.

I:  Who’s always going to look like a little kid, but, hey, I’ve got an adult brain, and my parents allow me to tape TV shows that come on after nine p.m.  Plus kids today grow up fast.

SHE:  Which is why Kid Implements Toys make sexy dolls and war games.  Wish I were a kid again so I wouldn’t have to be one.  Yuk, yuk.

***

There were the spontaneous testimonials, taped in my classroom by the continuously running camera to capture my interruptions of the teacher’s lesson, my serious doll’s face filling the screen: “Everything—management/labor relations, physical plant, wages, health benefits, employee cafeteria is actually nice at Everything Nice, Incorporated.”

In a voice-over, the big resonant voice of THE TRUTH (like the one in the video teaching you about chimps) says, “Remember a B. I. Beltch endorsement cannot be bought.”

A girl no taller than a chair’s seat, playing with toy soldiers, appeared on the screen.  I spoke in a voice-over, “Toni is playing with a Marine team fire bomb set from Everything Nice, Incorporated.  Just as a real Marine team player, Toni knows she’ll only get one chance to bomb.”

It was I who got one chance to bomb and be bombed.

On a Tuesday evening, in my room, I was making notes on a toy, a figure in a football uniform with an alligator’s head.  The doll wore gloves with spikes in their palms.  An ammunition belt circled him.  When you pressed a button “poisonous” gas came out of his shoes.  I had written that the toy seemed a flawed wedding of the NFL, animals, the military, and James Bond.

My dad marched in.  “Son, I want to be a big player in business.”

“You will be.  You work hard.”

“I mean faster.  I want to own a politician who will pass laws just for me.  I want to swagger on the sideline in front of the NFL team I bought.”

“You want me to help you?”

“Yes. The Kid Business Toy Company has contacted me, and they want you to say a good word for them in your next SOPPS.”

“Makes me feel like slipping them a TURDS,” I said and dropped my head.

I got out my B. I. Beltch doll.  Mom walked in. I pressed the doll’s heart which lights up red and makes it talk. ‘I’m taking you to court, Farley Felon.’  ‘There’s a better future on the horizon because there’s a B. I. Beltch looking after it today.’  ‘I’m no nut who squashes my feelings.  I’ll never murder my teachers or classmates, but I’ll off any toy manufacturer’s bottom line when that company kills a child’s trust.’  ‘You can’t buy B. I. Beltch.’

My parents threw back their heads and cackled.  I saw Mom’s perfect teeth and the black holes in Dad’s mouth from his missing teeth.  I started crying and ran and locked myself in the bathroom.  My parents opened it with an ice pick, came in and apologized, and talked to me.

“One time only, Son,” Dad said and put up his fists to say be a good sport—a just-pretend boxing match—but remember my fists are hand grenades.

I said, “How’m I going to honor my father and mother?”

“By doing your part to help us fulfill our dreams,” Mom said.

At midnight I called up my friend, Susan Jollif, the writer.  In words between my sobs, I told her what had happened with my parents and ended by saying, “Susan, I need you. Would you come to school with me tomorrow?”

Susan let the furniture be more noticeable than she.   She had dressed in a drab yellow dress and sat in the back of the room.

The teacher said, “Albert Einstein said that Gandhi had many followers, not because he worked people with lies and tricks like a politician, but because he was a good man.”

“The dickheads at The Kid Business,” I broke in, “want me to announce spontaneously to you how wonderful they are, how well they treat their employees.”

Sections of my pledge went through my head, ‘B. I. Beltch pledges to demand one simple objective from toy manufacturers—safe and responsible toys.’

“The douche bags want to make me one of those employees bullshitting you about their toys.”

‘B. I. Beltch pledges to minimize the use of the word holistically and express myself honestly and sincerely.’

“The people at the Kid Business are scumbag pricks who put the bottom line at the top of the page way ahead of quality products.  Boycott the assholes.  Break their balls.”

Susan shot to her feet to gather me to her, went to her knees to hug me.  She wept and shook and held me tightly.  I whispered to her, “It’ll be all right. I couldn’t have told the truth without you in the room.”

Somewhere I read that there’s nothing faster than light, but an ad agency drops you maybe even faster if you go berserk truthful.  I gave my framed Time cover to Susan.  I told her I missed so much of what it reminded me of.  On that cover I stand beside my new Labrador Retriever I named Consultant.  Our heads are side-by-side.

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Eugene H. Bales has published fifty-nine stories including a volume of humor and satire by Washburn University’s Press.

Read more stories by Eugene H. Bales

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