“Come in, Robert,” Head Editor Jack O’Brien said, carrying a bottle and two glasses over from his My Little Pony-embossed bar, “take a seat.”
I pulled a chair up to his enormous, polished mahogany desk. The Care Bears logo worked into the wood gleamed dully.
“What’s this all about, Ja-“ I started to say, but I was cut off by a resounding metallic bang from the ceiling.
“JACK THE PLANET!” Came the sound of a muffled, distant voice.
“What the hell was that?” I asked, startled.
“Dan,” he sighed with a weariness that touched my heart, “he’s stuck in the crawlspace again. He’s trying to make another one of his dramatic entrances, but he can’t manage to get through. Every couple of minutes he’ll kick at the ceiling panels and scream a pun about my name, and then it’s quiet again…until he thinks up another one.”
Pictured: Cracked Blogger Daniel O'Brien.
“Should we…should we call somebody? Get him out of there?”
“No, he always gets out…eventually. I just try to savor the peace in betwe-“ Another impact sounded from above, dust settled onto the brim of Jack’s purple velour Rainbow Brite derby.
“ALWAYS BET ON JACK!” Came the barely audible cry.
“Listen, Robert, I called you in here because you missed the Inauguration Liveblog the other day…” He uncorked the bottle and motioned to me “Scotch. You want two fingers?”
“That last one was Wesley Snipes, from Passenger 57,” the ceiling clarified.
“No thanks, Jack. Scotch makes me simultaneously sad and violent - all sobbing about dead family pets and taking swings at strippers - you know how it is,” I replied, “Besides, you’re supposed to measure two fingers laid horizontally. It totals about two ounces of liquor. You’re measuring your fingers vertically, that’s like a quarter of a bottle.”
“You’re new here, Brockway, you’ll learn what a ‘Cracked Pour’ is the six-hundredth time some asshole gets stuck in your crawlspace.”
“THE NEW JACKNESS!” DOB responded, the detritus from his mighty blows raining down on us.
“You missed the Liveblog, so you owe me a political article this week.” Jack said, settling back into his Corinthian-leather She-Ra embroidered Executive Chair.
“Oh Christ, Jack -- no! Listen, you’ve read my comments section, you know I was moonlighting sucking cocks outside the gay Communist strip club!”
“What you do outside The Hammer and Suckle is your problem,” he replied coolly, like the cold, frigid, chilly son of an arctic bitch that he is, “not mine.”
Pictured: Cracked Blogger Robert Brockway's second job.
“Please, God, I have a family!” Tears sprung to my eyes as my balls retracted instinctively into my abdomen.
“I’m afraid I have no choice; you’ve missed the quota. The other bloggers took the hit yesterday. Now you need to make it up.”
“You don’t understand, Jack. After my last political article, somebody drove a car through my living room window!”
“That was probably an accident.” Jack said dismissively, draining his platinum-coated Strawberry Shortcake goblet.
“I live on the 14th floor, Jack. Unless the driver was Marty McFly or George fucking Jetson, I doubt it was an accident. The cops don’t even know how he did it! They don’t even have a theory! I can’t take this heat, Jack. I’m already on the strongest anti-anxiety medication money can buy – they use this shit to euthanize rabid jungle cats– I can’t go any further!”
"Faster, Doc! If we don't get up to 88MPH the impact might not kill Brockway!"
“Not my problem,” he leveled a glare at me so level you could’ve measured it with a level, and it would’ve turned out completely level, “you owe, and you’ll pay. A political article, Robert, by tomorrow. If you don’t pick a topic, I’ll assign one to you. I was thinking ‘8 reasons why Ron Paul is Functionally Retarded.’”
“No! I’ll…I’ll do it,” I said, slipping meekly toward the door.
“JACK MY BITCH UP!” DOB added, his mocking, derisive tone clear even filtered through the ceiling.
“Shit, Bucholz. I’m not gonna make it through this one,” I said, my incessant pacing more erratic than the third season of Lost, “this is the end for me. I tried asking Swaim for advice, but I guess he’s mostly CGI these days. What do I do, man? How can I persuade Jack to change the assignment?”
“I dunno aboot any of that, eh?” Bucholz responded, his voice mostly drowned out by the Celine Dion he blasted incessantly, “I tink that maybe yoo should try offering Jack something better, eh?”
“I’m panicking here, man. If I had any better ideas, I would be hurling them on his desk like fists at Jack Johnson’s face.”
“You need to relax, eh? Labatt Blue?” He said, offering me a beer from his puck-shaped cooler.
Pictured: Cracked Blogger Chris Bucholz.
“I CAN’T RELAX! MY TIGER XANAX DOES NOTHING ANYMORE!” Tears streamed down my face as I ran crying from his office. I wasn’t going to find my help there, but I needed something – anything! I was desperate enough to bargain with the Devil himself at this point.
“Wolinsky?” I asked, knocking tentatively at the black door, its surface slick with rancid, unidentifiable ichors in which one could see distant, screaming faces, “Are you…in? It’s uh…it’s Robert.”
The door swung open silently, revealing a painfully bright, impeccably clean office, completely empty save for a small wooden shrine in the dead center of the floor. It was impossible I know, but I swear it was larger within than without, and a sense of vertigo shook through me as I crossed the threshold.
“Hello, Robert. How do you do?” Came a small, tinny voice, quavering as though distorted by the impassible distances between worlds, “what assistance can I offer you?”
“Ross?” I asked, scanning the room again. There was nothing, nobody, just a small wooden pedestal bearing a horned idol covered in pitch. “I need some advice on how to deal with Jack. I was hoping you could help?”
Pictured: Cracked Blogger Ross Wolinsky.
“Help I can,” replied the wafting voice, “but at what price? What offer have you for my advice?”
“I have the tears of conjoined twins long separated,” I said, pouring the vial onto the shrine, “and a pledge of devotion from a desperate heart.”
“Your meager offer exceeds your heartsick pleas, and thus my dire hand is bought - but heed what events you’ve wrought – the consequences for this inquire may be most dire. To help the meek,” crackled the voice, “it is the Stone you seek.”
“Gladstone! Of course,” I exclaimed, kowtowing away from the altar, “Thank you, Ross!”
“Only happiness fleeting comes from this meeting,” answered the voice.
“What a dick,” I thought, closing the screeching door behind me. “I mean, the guy gets one little Associate’s Degree in Animal Husbandry and all of a sudden he’s King of the Monsterverse.”
“Where can I find Gladstone’s office?” I asked a narratively convenient passing page.
“Oh, Mr. Gladstone doesn’t keep an office anymore. Not since retiring Hate by Numbers. Now he just ceaselessly circles the block in his Camaro during business hours. You can see him anytime you want. The only problem is catching him.”
The narratively convenient page and I high-fived goodbye, as was company policy, and I headed down to the street to seek the ‘Stone.
I paid the bag lady in the alleyway to flash him next time he passed, and when he inevitably slowed to yell profanities, I leapt through the T-top and into his pink zebra-print bucket seats.
“Brockway,” he said, throwing a half-empty beer can out the window and into the face of a now unconscious police officer, “well played. I assume you need something?”
“I do, I need to ask you something," I began as he floored it into a straightaway, weaving through traffic with the creamy ease and sleazy skill of a buttered gigolo.
“Stop,” he cut me off, reached below my seat and thrust a pair of sunglasses and a white sport jacket into my arms. “I don’t even talk to people that don’t look good.”
Pictured: Cracked Blogger Wayne Gladstone.
“I need help with Jack,” I said, struggling into the jacket that I quickly realized was sleeveless, “he won’t lay off the politics and I just can’t take the heat.”
“Rookies,” he scoffed, shifting gears and reaching casually out the window to slap an elderly woman on the ass without slowing, “you need Jack off your back, you got to give him something better. That’s it.”
“But I’ve got nothing,” I replied, sliding the fluorescent green shutter shades on, “I’m blank.”
“This ain’t rocket surgery,” he sneered, slicking an errant hair back into a perfect curl with his switchblade, “pitch him something with the words ‘badass,' 'insane,' 'animals,' 'conspiracy,’ or ‘Photoshop’ in it, and he’ll cream his Dickies.”
“Gross,” I said, “and thanks. One more thing…” I began, but he had already leaned over, opened my door, and was firmly kicking me from the moving vehicle. I would like to think that he flashed me the horns as he skidded around the corner and out of sight, the sounds of Lynyrd Skynyrd fading with him, but I’m pretty sure he just flipped me off.
“What have you got for me, Brockway?” Jack asked, his Crocodile-skin Raggedy Ann headband gleaming softly in the sanguine light from the blazing sunset, “5 Gayest Founding Fathers?”
Alexander Hamilton: Definitely #1.
“I’m not doing politics this week, Jack,” I replied, sliding my proposal across the desk, “read it.”
“The 7 Most Insanely Badass Deadly Animal Conspiracies…” he read, his voice barely containing his astonishment.
“Turn the page, read the rest.”
“…That Aren’t Photoshopped.” He set the proposal down and centered a look on me so centered you could put Center tags around it and it couldn’t be any more centered, “what’s your number one?”
“This is the Caucasian Shepherd. It’s real, it’s deadly, it’s fucking insanely badass, and it’s not Photoshopped,” I said, taking Gladstone’s sunglasses out of their case and slipping them on dramatically.
“What’s the conspiracy?” He asked, skeptically.
“I have it on good authority,” I said, removing my sunglasses exactly as dramatically as I put them on, and returning them to their case “that this breed was invented by Scientologists, and it is currently in the employ of Big Vitamin, terrorizing Turkish pharmacies.”
“My god,” Jack said, the liquor-drool hardening on his Jem and the Holograms lip-stud, “it’s the perfect storm.”
“HackeyJack,” said DOB, his voice thick with awe and probably also asbestos, “…hackeyJack, you magnificent bastard.”
Read more from Robert Brockway at his own site, I Fight Robots, because that was this article's problem: Not nearly enough words.