Zero, Zip, Zilch, Nada ....

( 111 words, posted Sept. 24, 1996; not to be read before Sept. 24, 1999)


I had become all but totally withdrawn, and when somebody spoke, I barely heard a squeak. When somebody moved or showed me a picture or a cartoon, it was just a single blinking pixel to me, in a vast field of black.

I had come to a place where it was easy to live out of the garbage, because it was all, like, Metrecarp and Tooth Pull and some astrid rinds with bits of leftover fruit.


They had just passed the Nationalism Act, and already people were starting to talk about the Sexism Act.

In an attempt to do away with Sexism, it proposed that the name of each gender be changed to a random number. These numbers would be selected by the same impartial commission that had devised the Nuclear Disposal Act of 298, except that this time, they assured everybody, they'd learned from past mistakes and definitely wouldn't totally fuck things up like last time.


f course, they felt so confident because they'd hired me to oversee the whole process, and because I'd personally guaranteed them that everything would work out to one of those elegant legal standoffs, where all kinds of money and receipts and complex documents change hands, but nobody really does or gets or gives or expects anything and, certainly, nothing's any different when it's all over.

You know, one of those amicable situations where everybody is ripping everybody else off equally, so when it blows up, they all just have a good laugh about it and move on to the next deal.


It took the Former Nuclear Disposal Commission (FNDC) only about a year to complete its work, but by the time it was all done, the Sexism Act had somehow gotten misplaced in all the back-biting and in-fighting and red herrings and straw men and white and pink elephants, and the final recommendations of the task force contained no mention of it whatsoever.

Instead, it was our unanimous and considered opinion that a cargo-class deep-space probe should be filled up immediately with a sampling of world leaders and world athletes and world CEOs and world celebs, and rocketed out boldly into the universe, as an offering to life forms on other planets who were watching, and who still held some of our pop stars hostage against their will.

he theory went that, if we sent them these people, they'd be smart enough (by virtue of however they'd gotten to be life on other planets, in the first place) to figure out the rest -- and leave us alone.


I moved into a halfway house that had been specially created here for people like me. It was halfway between the gas chamber and the electric chair, so when you were finally ready to leave, it would be the same effort, logistically, to get to either one.

And that meant you could be completely objective about your choice. Or subjective. Whichever.


"I went out and bought the kind of car that was only considered street legal if the license plate critiqued all History in no more than 8 alphanumeric characters."