Tuesday, October 26, 2004

United We Stand

“United We Stand – Without Proper Warning, We Sue”

Tired of the anonymity of his secret government job, Johnny Dunlap wants to tell the world the good he has done for society. He wants to shout it from the rooftops – but last Saturday, after donning a newly manufactured Batman cape, Johnny fell from said rooftop, and now only speaks through his mother, who understands his grunts and minute pinkie movements.

Johnny was discovered at the young age of thirteen by the incompetent yet ridiculously overpaid covert government agency, “Idiot Warning Labels R Us.” Upon tracking Johnny outside the junior high after the Bunsen burner incident, they observed the teen’s attempt to swing from the monkey bars with his hands tightly tied behind his back, and knew instinctively they had found their man.

Years later, confined by plaster cast on 99% of his body, Johnny lies in his softly shaded, lightly padded childhood bedroom, entertaining the press. He snorts painfully and chokes. The journalists surrounding his bed flinch; his mother translates, “Johnny loved his job. He loved the bright, sterile room they gave him. He was happy there. He says he never got the chance to thank me for letting them take him there.” She sprays a stream of Original Scent Lysol toward his bandaged face, “the smell calms his nerves,” she giggles.

Mrs. Dunlap flips through her son’s scrapbooks, proudly pointing out pictures of Johnny in a cavernous retina-burning white room, where the walls blend into the floor, indistinguishable. She sighs over scenes of Johnny in captivity: attempting to balance on one foot on a scissor, one small hand sticking out between a Murphy bed and the wall it is enclosed within, blissfully dreaming while wisps of smoke drift upward from the hot curling iron rolled into his now charred locks. Posted beside each photo is a hospital admittance form and a corresponding neatly trimmed “Warning” label, alerting consumers regarding the obvious hazards of average household items.

Johnny grunts again, and Mrs. Dunlap quiets him with a gentle pat on his stub of a leg. Although the doctors have said the young man will not live to see Wednesday, his team of lawyers speak in unison and reassure everyone that Johnny’s hopes are high; just now he was reminding them about the pop-up book that he plans to make, full of fun and potentially dangerous products and the things you never thought they could do.

Johnny takes a shaky breath, and is oddly still. Mrs. Dunlap nods. “He’d like to say a special thanks to Stella Liebeck. Who knew you could do that with McDonald’s coffee? Without people like her, Johnny’d still be an unemployed little boy, running around waving that television antennae at lightning storms.” She nods towards an encased collection of burnt metallic objects. A quiet moment passes, and she stands, smoothes her Hermes scarf and checks her Cartier watch. On cue, a shrill whistle interrupts the silence. “Time for a steaming cup of tea!” she sings, and leads the escape from Johnny’s room. She waves airily toward the release forms her lawyers distribute. “Simply a formality, one can never be too careful! Please take notice of the paper cut warning.”

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