My Brief Time Undercover As Dan O'Brien (Among Others)

Ah, Santa Monica. The Big Monica.

It's a beach town; you may have seen it going kablooie in Emmerich's latest silver screen shit-pile. On the Tuesday in question, it was the kind of town that made you wish you weren't chained to your desk, by way of a dead-end job writing copy for some online gag outfit and a penchant for the bottle that emptied your pockets as quickly as the bottle emptied your stomach. If you're me, that is.

Name's Swaim. I'm an alcoholic that can't hold his liquor, and if you thought that was funny, you're going to love the one about go fuck yourself.

But back to Santa. And also, Monica. It was aptly named: beautiful, magical, but with a sleazy side, like Santa Clause boning Monica from Friends, and maybe they're using handcuffs or whips or something. I filed the mental image away for later translation into an acoustic guitar ballad.

Yes, the ol' S& stretched out before me, glass buildings and cresting waves shining in black and white, all film noir-ishly. It was my town. I was me, there, in the town.

But the town had not been kind, of late. Neither had The Town, which I'd found engaging, but ultimately a letdown considering the talent involved. I was broke, drunk, thus vomiting constantly, and spent my days holed up in my office when there was perfectly good beach-tail going to waste. I recoiled from the thought, and took another stroll down memory lane, a belt of rye my tour guide.

Like a cassette tape worn thin, my brain cast itself by habit back to better days, Agents of Cracked days. I'm not sure if that's how cassettes work, so the simile might not hold, but you get the point. I missed the show. I missed narrative.

It had been weeks since the finale, and all I had to keep me going these days was the grueling drudgery of Does Not Compute and whatever After Hours schlock we squirted out when Dan needed extra scratch to keep the loan sharks at bay. I couldn't even remember the last time I'd made out with a guy in a hot air balloon (it had been recently, but right after a concussion, so it was hazy).

My reverie burst like so much diseased appendix when Jack, the aforementioned gag outfit's Editor-in-Chief, barged into the office.

"Michael?" He asked. I gave him my customary once over. To be frank and also an asshole, he looked as dumb and ugly as you could feasibly expect someone to be described as looking in a column like this.

"That's what it says on my door," I quipped, surreptitiously vomiting down the sleeve of my awesome trench coat.

"No, it doesn't. It says 'Emergency Exit,' because this is a fire escape that you refuse to leave."

"Maybe I changed my name to Emergency Exit, fuckface, you ever think of that?" I didn't say that, but I said it in my head so hard it felt like I said it, so I put it in quotes.

"Look," Jack said after about forty seconds of silence, "Dan's going to be in New Jersey this week, so we need someone to fill in for him on the blog. Are you interested?"

Typical. Another dame with another problem to drop at my feet and scuff my wingtips. I gave Jack my customary follow-up once-over-again, although it was more like a half-over-again since I focused entirely on the gams, where fewer of his horrible parents' ugly genes had managed to conspire. Today, they sported a saddle-split dress so tight some would have considered them men's slacks. The outfit made it clear those stems went all the way up; I just wasn't keen to know what to.

It was almost time for Jack to talk again, and one more blast of that voice was going to explode my head like a Gallagherized melon, so I went into haggle mode. "I'll need fifty greenbacks a day, an expense account, and a company car."

"I'll pay you your normal salary, which is considerably higher. And I'm leaving now."

"Well, if you're going to sweeten the deal," I said, "don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out." I let the vomit in my sleeve trickle into my wastebasket as if to say "in your face," then took another swig of rye to wash the taste out. The taste of the conversation with Jack, not the vomit. BOOM.

"Have something by Friday," said Jack the he-dame, and split like an unwary honeydew at a Gallagher show. Like a tape worn thin, that reminded me of my earlier Gallagher metaphor, and in turn everything that's happened up to this point in the story, which seemed odd.

Then, without any warning except the preceding nonsense, the room started spinning, and it was going at a clip that made it clear it had places to be, one of them being the winner's circle of the Kentucky Derby. The shades of forgotten flames, ghosts of past loves, and spirits of girls I had banged but didn't recall the names of swam in front of my eyes, brought back from beyond the grave, or in most cases, not.

What's happening to me?

I lurched around my office, seeking some kind of exit. I needed to get out, get help. All I could see was a door cryptically labeled "tixE ycnegremE," which I ignored both violently and forever. I felt a sickening wrenching sensation in my gut, like I'd eaten a sick wrench, but not the one I always feel right before vomiting. This was something new. Something different. You have to figure out what's happening to you, you think.

Wait, "you?" Why are you saying "you?"

Wait, are

Oh, shit, Michael, not only have you transitioned from past tense to present, you've changed from a first-person to second-person narrator!

Turn to page 2 to continue.

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