Cora was looking through the Etcetera section of Craigslist in the hopes of finding a gig for the next day. She came across one that said ‘$100 cash and a night in a luxury hotel simply for filing out a survey about the hotel in the morning.’ The ad asked her to send in her name, age (for demographic reasons) and a picture (So they knew she wasn’t a spammer). She answered the ad and continued searching for a gig assuming that her e mail would get lost amoung a million responses. She was thrilled when the phone rang and it was a woman calling about the ad.

Hi, Cora this is Sally with Double Impact marketing. I was calling about the study. Can you answer a few questions?

“Sure,” Cora said eagerly.

“How often do you stay in four star hotels?

“Six times a year,” Cora said guessing at the appropriate answer.

“What is your annual income?”

“A hundred and twenty thousand,” Cora guessed again.

“How many hours of TV do you watch on your average luxury hotel stay?”

“Um, three?” Cora said.

“And what is your approximate height and weight?”

“Um, I’m about five four and a hundred and twenty eight pounds,” Cora answered wondering what was going on.”

“That’s great,” Sally enthused.

“Now, the study would involve staying overnight at the downtown Hilton on 5th Avenue. You would have to be there no later than 3:00 on Thursday and leave no later than 6:00 am; can you do this?”

Cora agreed to be in the study. She was to meet Sally the next day at a coffee shop near the hotel. She would receive her key and several survey forms. She was told to wear jeans and sneakers. The whole thing sounded strange. She wondered if she was going to be kidnaped. She Googled Double Impact Marketing and found their website. She called and asked for Sally and they told her she was at lunch.

She arrived at the coffee shop right on time the next day. Sally, a petite brunette greeted her as soon as she came in and walked her over to a seat in the corner. She seemed extremely nervous as she went over the instructions.

“Okay, so this is market research for several different clients one is obviously the hotel, the other is Pepper’s Pizza and the others are Sport Time Clothing and Comcast. You will be asked to go up to your room, make sure everything in the room works. If something doesn’t work, don’t call the front desk just write it down on your survey form. At 6:00 order a small peperoni pizza and a Coke from Pepper’s and fill out the form. You are to have the TV on from the time you get there til 11:00 PM. When you get up in the morning, come right back over here without checking out and I’ll pay you, “

“Okay, do you want me to check out the gym or the lounge?”

“No! Just stay in your room.”


“Wear this with the hoodie on the whole time,” Sally said handing her an orange and blue Broncos hoodie. You’ll fill out a survey on that too.”

Cora walked to the hotel and did as she was told. She watched a Soprano’s marathon, ordered her food and took a long hot bath. She filled out all her surveys and went to bed where she was unable to sleep. She was afraid she would miss the alarm. She wanted to explore the grounds, but she was afraid she would be disqualified.

In the morning she returned to the coffee house, but it was not open. She stood outside of it for about five minutes. She was about to walk back when she heard the sound of a car screeching around the corner. Sally parked clumsily and got out of the car. She appeared to be sweating profusely.

“Hey,” she said.

She reached into her purse quickly and retrieved five rumpled twenty dollar bills and stuffed them in Cora’s hand.

“Thanks for everything, do you have the key?”

“Yes,” Cora said handing it over.

“And the hoodie.”

Cora took the hoodie off and handed it to her.

“Thanks, I’ll be in touch,” Sally said.

“Um, don’t you want the surveys?”

“Oh, yeah…yeah that’s fine,” She said taking them.

“I hope I filled them out right,” Cora said.

“They look fine,” sally said not looking at them.

As Cora walked away she noticed Sally putting on the sweatshirt before getting in her car. She stood and waited for the bus. She pretended she didn’t notice the red stain on one of the twenties.


The Story Of Her Life




Bettina stood outside of Powell Books staring in amazement and horror at the crowd that had gathered to see Emily Popman the author of the bestselling novel Adonis of The Cactus Manor Motel.

The line extended half way down the block. The crowd consisted of a good mixture of men and woman, they all appeared to be thirty and older. They had a vaguely hipsterish look about them. Bettina’s stomach tightened. They were the kind of people that always made snide remarks about her writing and gave her vague condescending smiles when she tried to join in the conversation. They stood chatting with each other in the cold morning drizzle, sipping fancy coffee brewed from sustainable, organic beans and recommending restaurants to one another. A few of the braver street derelicts begged for coins and most were politely rejected.

She remembered the first time she’d met Emily, they’d been coworkers at a temporary telemarketing jobs. They had called people and attempted to get them to donate clothing and toys for a charity right around the holidays. They had gone to lunch several times and chit chatted on breaks. They had a few things in common they both liked to write and they loved Katherine Anne Porter’s stories. At the end of the temp assignment they had become Facebook friends. They spoke of getting together for a drink, but they never had. They had spoken chatted a few times on Facebook and they’d like and commented on one another’s post occasionally.

Once Bettina had come home to her small dumpy apartment building in the North East District to find that she had a handsome new neighbor. They’d introduced themselves and she’d help him carry his coffee table into his unit. She noticed several young girls checking him out in the parking lot. She’d gone on Facebook and said she had just met the Adonis of The Blue Bird Studios.

From time to time she’d mentioned things about the job she’d taken right after the temp job she and Emily had together. The job was at a payday loan company on W. Burnside just blocks from Powell’s. She had often posted about the job and sadness she felt when someone came in and was happy and relieved to get the three hundred dollars they offered. They all had a month to pay the loan back at a thirty five percent interest rate. They were usually able to pay the first loan without much problem. Almost every one of them would come back for a second loan a week after they paid off the first.But then the trouble would start. They would get behind in their bills again and end up having to get a second loan to pay the first. Soon all they would do is take out loans to pay them. They had no choice but to pay them as the company would just keep trying to put the charge though their empty bank account causing them to get so many fees the bank account would be closed.

She’d gone one Facebook saying that she was a Snap On tool of the oppressor; peripheral and easily replaced. She realized that she was one step away from being one of the loan people herself and they were one step away from the street.

Emily posted movie clips and the occasional poem. Bettina secretly thought she was a bit corny, but she admired her for posting them.

A year after their temporary assignment ended Emily posted a link to her book on Facebook. Bettina felt annoyed when she saw the title, but she figured it was just a self-published e book. Curiosity had gotten the better of her and she’d bought the book and downloaded it. She read it in one sitting, not because it was so good, but because it appeared to be the story of her life.

The book told the story of a failed songwriter who came to Portland after barely being able to survive in New York. She had written about the failed relationship she’d had in New York with a man who was a paralegal and secret coke addict. She wrote about the job at the payday loan company. She’d made it look like she was obsessed with the handsome young man in her building.

“I mentioned him once,” Bettina said aloud as she read.

What infuriated her more than anything was the fact that she’d only told Emily general things. She did tell her she made an attempt at song writing and lived in New York right before Portland, but she’d hardly said a word about her ex-boyfriend. She realized that Emily must have gone back in her Facebook history to find the posts and pictures of him as she had described him to a tee.

A few months after Emily E published the book, it had been picked up by a real publisher. Just before the hardcover came out the talk show appearances had started and then the tour. The movie deal had been finalized two days before her appearance at Powell’s, hence the long like.

Bettina pushed her way past the news crew that was beginning to set up. She walked to the back of the line, ignored by the people who were about to buy her life story. She stuck her hand in her pocket and smiled to herself at the comforting feeling of a cold aluminum handle.

Not Rumi Nuff for You




Pamela sat at her desk wishing it were lunch time. She made a few more phone calls and went to the bathroom where she was quite happy to find herself alone. She took her lipstick out of her purse and began to apply it. All of a sudden she hear a voice.

“Knock, knock,” The voice said.

She looked around and saw no one.

“Knock, knock.”

She looked all around the bathroom, checking for feet underneath the stalls, but there was no one there.

She turned towards the door when suddenly she saw a large, pink florescent door that appeared to be floating. She gasped and walked backward. After a moment the words “Freedom” appeared on the door. Pamela felt as though she were frozen in place.

With this her coworker Isabel came bursting into the bathroom.

“Ahhhh” Pamela screamed.

“What’s going on,” Isabel said trying to process the scene in front of her.

“I was just putting on lipstick and this thing appeared.”

They both silently advanced towards the door and began to examine it closely.

“OMG Pammy, I know what this is!”

“What is it?”

“ It’s that question or riddle or something, I saw it on Oprah….There was this ancient old guy who said that there was a portal that was right in front of us to freedom and that if you went thought the portal you would be free.”

“Free how,” Pamela asked.

“I don’t know like free.”

“Like sexually free; everything is free financially what does that mean,” Pamela insisted.

“It’s gotta be better than telemarketing.” Isabell said.

Pamela attempted to push open the door, but it wouldn’t budge. She attempted to pull it but it appeared to be locked and there was no keyhole.

“Damnit, it’s locked from the inside.”

“Can we jimmie it open,” Isabel asked.

“Did you just say jimmie it; is it 1945? Besides what would we use?”

They both looked around. Pamela searched though the garbage and found a discarded plastic knife. They tried that and it broke instantly. Isabell snuck out to her desk and recovered her credit card. The two girls finally opened the door. They looked though to see a long water slide.

“I’m a scared,” Pamela said.

“I’m going in: Isabel said striping to her underwear and sliding down the slide.

Pamela heard a kerplunk followed by nothing; not even splashing.

She attempted to peak down the slide, but all she saw was splashing water. Suddenly the door flew up in the air and Pamela was knocked to the ground.

“Knock, knock” the door screamed. Knock, knock.” It flew right past Pamela’s head at an astounding rate. She attempted to leap up and grab on to it, built it was too fast for her.

She climbed onto the sink thinking she might jump on it, but she chickened out every time.

After a moment her boss walked in.

“Pamela, what are you doing you’ve been off the phone for 20 minutes?”

“I’m sorry, but I’ve discovered the portal to what may very well be freedom.”

Her boss looked up, saw the door and shock her head dismissively.

“If you’re not back in five minutes I will write you up,” she said exiting the bathroom.

Pamela looked at the door to the truth flying over the stalls, she didn’t really want to get written up, but she couldn’t help but me curious.

The door stopped its mad whirl and landed directly in front of her.

“knock knock” it said.

“Whose there,” she asked?

“Not Rumi,” it said.

“Not Rumi who?”

It opened and she put her legs in and then her torso. She was just about to let go when the rush of water stopped circulating around her and the door got smaller and smaller. Until it disappeared along with her legs and torso.

She sighed and walked on her hands back to her desk. She picked up the phone and began to dial.

Financial Freedom in One Easy Step





Ortha Wistler sat in a comfortable leather chair that rested atop the plush carpeting of her tastefully decorated high-rise apartment getting the worst news of her life.

Molly Wong sat across from her with the incriminating letter in her hand and a smug look in her eye.

“Your buddy Martha Stewart went to jail for this for a long time,” Molly said with a mean smile.

“You’ll never be able to prove that letter was to me or that I acted on the information in it,” Ortha said

“Bullshit”, this e mail came directly from his URL to yours, and I’m sure there’s a record of your investing in what he told you to.”

“You realize I can afford the best lawyers on the planet, “Ortha retorted. “”You realize people love me.”

“People hate you just as much,” Molly said. “I used to watch your show, I was even moved by it occasionally. But, then I had the misfortune of finding out what it was really like to work for you. You made a horrendous mess every day, no tips you complained about the kind of cookie left on your pillow….”

“Okay…okay…What do you want; how much?”

“I don’t want money …I mean I do, but it’s not that simple….”

“Well, then what do you want?”

“I want your endorsement.”

“My endorsement of what?”

“I’ve written a self-help book”, I want you to endorse it. I want to be a guest on your show and I want you to tell everyone that it changed your life.”

“It isn’t just up to me,” Ortha said.

“Bullshit, they’ll do what you say.”

Ortha asked Molly to bring her the book and a large glass of whiskey. She sat and read it while Molly watched TV. She finished it quickly as it was only two hundred pages, she was accustom to reading several books a week. She asked for more whisky as she read. She couldn’t believe the shear idiocy of what she was reading.

The book said that you could have anything you wanted by bathing in baby oil for an hour every night in the dark while screaming positive affirmations and tossing the towel you dried off with into the nearest body of water. Ortha was shocked not only at the sheer lack of imagination or a core philosophy, but at all the grammatical mistakes.

“Well, what did you think,” Molly asked.

“I think it was the most horrendous piece of simple minded nonsense I ever had the displeasure of reading. I wish I could wash my eyes. Do you honestly think anyone will take you seriously? You think you can be a self-help guru? What are you twelve? What experiences have you had? What have you overcome; Any real self help guru has a story of strife.”

“I was a maid”.

“You were a maid in a fancy hotel, on summer break from Brown.”

“I have a degree in Sociology.”

“Which is a blow off class,”Ortha sputtered. “People will think I’ve gone off the deep end if I endorse this.”

“No they won’t It’ll sell like hotcakes if you endorse it even if it is stupid. Okay, I was only a maid for a short time, but the one thing I learned is that there’s nothing worse than being poor. My coworkers were miserable. They all hated you and your ilk, but at the same time they wanted your money and your power. They all watch your show, some of them even cry when they see it. There desperate to believe they can have what you have and will believe any ridiculous nonsense at all because the truth is too depressing. They want to think that they are just like you save for luck. You’ve done a damn good job of making yourself look like an ordinary person. You use ordinary language and if you want to talk about stupid let’s talk about some of the movies you say you like. How come you’ve never made your IQ score public, it’s off the charts isn’t it?”

“Well, I…”

“It’s not like I’m corrupting your integrity here, Molly said.

Ortha took another drink and stared at the wall.

“I’ve seen the books you endorse on your show and I also had a peak at your Kindle when I was cleaning up. It’s amazing that someone sitting around reading Voltaire for fun on their vacation is the same person who recommended, The Successful Sisters Guide to Self Esteem. But your appeal isn’t limited to the greater proletariat, you also have a large following among the upper class.”

“Yes, and there the one’s who’ll be too smart to listen to this garbage, you impudent fetus.”

“Bullshit. I grew up around those silly bitches. My mom was one. Some hot chick marries a rich guy in her late twenties. At first life is great she enjoys the material pleasures she’s given. Her trouble starts around the mid-thirties. A slight sense of insecurity begins. She has plastic surgery and he has an affair. Then the forties hit, he leaves her for someone younger. Her kids are entering junior high. The child support will be gone in eight years and by that time she’ll be pushing fifty. She realizes she can no longer trade on her looks and she is too lazy to read a book so she turns to spirituality, nothing is more pathetic or gullible than the aged hottie. “

“I could send you to jail for blackmail.”

“Not without saying what I was blackmailing you for, “Molly pointed out.

A week later Ortha stood back stage staring at the two empty chairs on the set. She took a deep breath and prepared herself to sell The Truth.

The Complaint (Part 19)



“You know I was pretty surprised to end up here. I mean I was a fucking Christian. I went to church every Sunday. I wanna talk to a lawyer because that doesn’t seem right, “Abby said.

“I think it’s based more on behaviors,” Ellen said. “Like if you’re from the Judea Christian culture and you violated the ten commandments repeatedly than you come here.”

“Yeah, but it’s supposed to be that if you followed Christ and gave some of your income to the church you were good to go.”

“Yeah, it’s not really like that,” Ellen said.

“But, I heard that repeatedly.”

“Did you ever get any of that in writing?”

“Um, the Bible is in writing.”

“The Bible is open to interpretation.  I mean did you get a voucher for going to church. Do you have some way of proving what you believed as far as being a Christian?”

“No,” Abby said. “But there must be some sort of a record of it.”

“Why,” Ellen said realizing how crabby she sounded.

“Well, it would only seem logical that if they judging you they had to have a record of your life somewhere.”

“Maybe,” Ellen. “From what I’ve seen everyone comes here but babies and animals. But, yeah if you think you got screwed then look for a lawyer.”

“Do they have internet down here? “

“I have it at work, but I haven’t seen it in the dorms. If you’re working in a bar you might not have it.” Ellen said. She felt bad like a negative Nelly.

“You know, Abby, Christ isn’t exactly perfect himself. You may want to bring that up when you talk to an attorney. I was reading all about him today in this magazine I found at the gym. Apparently he is just always getting in trouble. Mary Magdalene dumped him for Heath Ledger and he started to go out with Lindsay Lohan.  “Everyone said he was just using her to get back at Mary. In fact word has it that he and Mary were hooking up behind Heath and Lindsay’s back.”

“Wait a second, how can Jesus be dating Lindsay Lohan, she’s still alive.”

that’s not true,” Ellen said, excited to share her knew found knowledge. “She died of a heroin overdose a few years back. Satan, Disney and Oprah had a ten year contracted at the time. Some nobody at the Department of Reaping totally screwed up. So they, like covered it up on earth and did some kind of a Frankenstein thing. If you look into her eyes you can tell.”

“Oh yeah, Abby said that would explain her acting and her singing,” Abby said.

“They’re actually doing a reality show about it.” Ellen continued. “I actually feel sorry for Christ. I mean his dad is God and his mom’s a virgin. It was to be so much pressure. Ya know?”

“Yeah, I went to high school with this guy whose dad owned Furniture Factory and he was the same way” Abby said .

“Yeah, if your dad created the earth you could never live up to it.”

“So, like is Marylyn down here? I love her.”

“I don’t know. I assume so. I haven’t been to the movies yet.”

“I was gonna have a tattoo of her on my arm, but..”

“Which one of her movies was your favorite?”

“Oh, I like em all.”

“My favorite was The Quarrel”. Ellen said.

“Yeah that was a really good one”, Abby said.

Ellen smiled a little to herself feeling a bit superior to her contemporaries. She always suspected they were responding to an image.

“We should go to the movies this weekend.” Abby, If they have weekends down here.”

“I don’t know. I’ve been here less than a week, no one has said anything to me, Ellen said wondering if she might be expected to work seven days straight.

Abby excused herself to go to the bathroom and came back looking a bit frightened. Ellen wondered what she had seen in the soul mirror.  She made a note to herself to follow Abby into the bathroom next time so she could get a look for herself.

The two girls watched TV for a while and then Abby took off for work. Ellen looked everywhere in the dorms for Kyle, but he was nowhere to be found. She wondered if he hadn’t gotten his living quarters promotion; maybe the haunting had been successful. She wondered if he was in an apartment, she wondered if it was Danni’s apartment. She wondered if he wasn’t telling Danni what a lameo  she was right about then.

She tried to distract herself with thoughts of work. She thought of what it would be like to eat the same thing and share a bed with up to ten other people for the rest of her life.  She had a found memory of what burgers and fries tasted like and how good it felt to sleep on her old pull out bed. She stared at the ceiling and tried to think of a really good punishment.







The Complaint (part 17)




Ellen opened her file. She was supposed to punish a woman who had been a pathological liar, a narcissist and a bit of a round heal.

Her name was Casandra Consilla   she had lived from 1940 to 2014. She’d attended Northwestern University where she had achieved a very high grade point average by sleeping with a few off her professors. She lived in Evanston, Illinois where she worked as an author of self-help books that were very popular from the late seventies to the early nineties. She wrote Crashing the Glass Ceiling Without Mussing your Blush, in the 70’s  101 Ways to Get Him to Propose  in the 80’s and  Finding Your Spirit Stone in the 90’s. She received grants from N.O.W, The Moral Majority and The Crystal Corp respectively. She padded most of her research and made up half her quotes.

She secretly laughed at the women who bought her books telling her attorney husband what dolts she thought they all were. She appeared on Donahue, Oprah and 20/20.  She paid a publicist to get her an initial following and he paid a few sit coms to make fun of her books.

Ellen ordered a couple of the books to her Kindle and intended to read them over the next few days. She was simply too angry to work. She went up to a random coworker and asked her to lunch.

The coworker looked quiet perplexed as Ellen stuffed SpaghettiOs into her mouth and ranted and raved.

“You know what I hate the most about hell? It’s not the dorms or the food or the fire gym, it’s this thing where they make it seem so easy to get and then they turn out to be impossible to get because everyone is such a liar.”

“Look, keep your voice down, there are security cameras all around. I got out of the dorms after two weeks. You have to make sure to turn your ideas directly into management. Just don’t trust anybody and you’ll be fine.”

Ellen spent the day researching past punishments and paging though Casandra’s books. She couldn’t help but take some of the advice in Crashing the Glass Ceiling to heart. Casandra advised women to go into any meeting knowing a little bit about each of the people she was dealing with.

Ellen went to Punishment INC’s Website and looked at the manager profiles. Each profile showed where the manager had gone to college and what evil he or she had committed on earth. She noticed that everyone had lied and most committed adultery. One man had taken a political bride from a contract company, she wondered how this information could help her.

She went to the gym after work and got on the Stairmaster. The sweat poured in her eyes as the flames from outside liked the glass walls of the room. She thumbed through a Souls magazine as she exercised. There were pictures of Jesus leaving a night club clearly drunk; he was practically falling down as he climbed on his motorbike to ride back to heaven. There was an article written by some popular psychologist saying that Jesus had issues with his father for making him get crucified for a bunch of strangers.

Apparently, Jesus frequented Hell and made more trouble with every visit. Mary Magdalene had broken up with him one week after Heath Ledger’s arrival in Hell and there had been all kinds of speculation. Jesus and Heath had gotten into a loud brawl in the lobby of Hell’s Hilton and it had been all over the news.

Ellen finished her work out and headed towards the ferry stop.