Episode Ten

July 18, 2010

Squatters

When folks first moved to Scurvytown, there were two major issues. One, the town was absolutely overrun with hookers. It was nigh impossible to make an honest living. Second, the entire place was overrun with ghosts. This meant that the honest jobs out there were almost entirely filled by the non-corporeal faction of the island. In fact, they ran most of the town.

The trouble was, they needed the living to do a lot of their dirty work. That’s where their symbiotic relationship with the town whores came in so handy.

When regular folks started to outnumber the pleasure industry, the complaint-o-meter at the local hub for scientific measures and anomalies registered off the charts. The scientists had to wait until the demographic information was compiled before they could make an assessment. Either the new folks were seasoned complainers, which would mean having to re-calibrate most of the machinery, or there really were valid complaints throughout Scurvytown.

The scientists, being a pragmatic and rational sort, quickly went to work on a solution, which luckily was apparent within moments of initial number crunching. Since the chief complaints revolved around lack of gainful employment, the answer was simple: bring industry to town, and kill two birds with one stone.

Unfortunately, bringing the industrial age to Scurvytown killed more than just two birds, but it brought about the change that was necessary to normalize the scientific readings.

The number one industry in town was the beverage industry, and the most popular drink of all was Squatter. At first, people were appalled by the thought of drinking water infused with squid ink. But the teeth-staining properties were no worse than cigarettes or coffee, and since both were hard to come by off the mainland, this was considered a welcome exchange.

Second, the taste was quite off-putting, but one that a person could get used to, in the same manner that alcohol addiction makes the taste of rubbing alcohol and gin (in that order) not so bad. After all, you couldn’t fail with a cheaply bottled water-based product in recycled plastic with a tagline of “Once you’ve tasted Squatter, you’ll lose your distaste for everything else.”

It was a brilliantly successful marketing campaign, and not long after, it was declared unanimously by the town council that Squatter was the official beverage of Scurvytown. Squatter fountains were installed in all the schools and government building, and a huge fountain of an inverted squid was erected in the town circle.

Of course it was later discovered that 100% of the council members were taking kickbacks from the Squatter Foundation, but due to a well-written loophole in the town charters, nothing was to be done about it. In fact, people who read the story were legally obligated to shrug, say, “Well, what are you gonna do?” and go about their lives as if they were never the wiser. Anyone failing to do so could pay the penalty of some pretty steep fines, so pretty much, that’s all they were going to do about it. Rhetorical question answered.

In the end, the where and how-for were far less important than the fact that the Squatter Foundation was finally a nice, reputable place of employment on the island. As a bonus, the local women of the night stopped washing themselves local park fountains, which now being supplied with Squatter, had been starting to tint their skin a rather purplish tone.

Around the time the Squatter Foundation was bringing industrialization to the island, a vigilante group had moved into Scurvytown. They were quite advanced in their anti-prostitution propaganda, and in the end, their moral superiority was too much for the local whores to handle. Most of them cleaned up their lives and started working for the Squatter Foundation, under the “Cleaning Up Your Act With Squatter” back-to-work for working girls campaign.

Most of the company’s sordid history was of course spun into them being the saviors of a dying island. If people knew the truth, they didn’t let on or care. As a 10-year veteran of the Squatter Foundation’s workforce, Pokemondius Flack certainly didn’t care about his employer’s shady past.

For Poke, it was steady employment, and eventually, he’d be in line to inherit the entire Squatter fortune, as his mother was the lone child of the Squatter King. Squatter was in his blood, as his father was an accountant for the Squatter Foundation, who’d squatted his way up to director of finance, as the colloquialism went. With a title like that, and an bunch of underlings to crunch all the numbers, Mr. Flack could sit back all day, run his mouth in meetings, and play games on his smartphone.

Poke’s dad got his son a job as an intern in the mailroom in the summer between graduating from Scurvytown High School* and beginning online courses for his degree in computer science. Once his degree was complete, he moved up from the mailroom and into his comfy job in the IT department. (*home of the Fightin’ Squids!)

It was pretty much his dream job. He worked when he felt like working, he got to play around on the internet all he wanted, which was a lot, and there was no one to answer to because no one at the company knew more about computers than he did. It was so simple to talk his way out of things by just making things up that were all jazzed up with technobabble.

All he had to do was show up at 8 am, leave at 5 pm, and then he was free to go straight home to his parents’ basement, where he set up his nerd-core base of operations. His bachelor’s lifestyle was much to his mother’s constant disapproval. He was a cute kid, if not a little chubby around the edges, as his mother would tell any and all apparent single girls at the grocery store, at the shopping mall, and everywhere else she ran into eligible young ladies.

Mrs. Flack did what any other mother of a single son approaching thirty years old and still living in her basement would do: she placed an ad on Craigslist.

Most of the responses were blatant attempts by mainlanders to get away from the mainland and to somewhere with less restrictions and issues. After a careful screening process, she realized she was getting nowhere with her applicants. She needed someone naive, but smart enough to have at least graduated from college. Given the dumbing down of schooling lately, she realized that wasn’t saying much, but there had to be a way to find her son the perfect girl.

Poke’s mom was listening to a story on the radio about the economy and how difficult it was for new college graduates to find work when her solution came to her like a flash of lightning. And she knew exactly what that sensation felt like, having been struck by lightning a few years back.

Unfortunately, she had a living room full of squatters at the time, which was of the highest irony, given her position at the Squatter Foundation, where she’d met Poke’s father years ago. She was technically the heiress to the Squatter fortune, after all, and though she was almost disowned for marrying a lowly accountant, her father yielded to her carefully gathered blackmail when she discovered his secretary had been a former working girl. Funny how everything seemed to come full circle. Less funny were the squatters in the living room. Six girls who had answered her advertisement had taken it upon themselves to show up at the front door at the exact same time, as they’d arrived on the same boat, despite her immediate dismissal of their applications.

There wasn’t much she could do for them, as none of them passed her rigorous question and answer sessions. So she found them work in the menial tasks department at the Squatter Foundation, but still had to put them up for a night before shipping them off to the halfway house for immigrants. She was more than a little worried about her son’s complete ignorance of their presence, especially the almost-pretty blonde one. Maybe he just wasn’t into girls after all, she thought, and bookmarked a few websites on camps that promised to brainwash that out of him before being the good hostess to her unwelcome guests.

The squatter girls seemed to resent their rejection very deeply. It seemed like they thought they were applying to some kind of reality show to marry the heir to a multi-million dollar fortune. Mrs. Flack wasn’t sure what gave them that idea, as her advertisement hadn’t even hinted about the family fortune. What she didn’t realize was that most advertisements were spun through a tangled web of lies on the mainland, because life had become so dreadfully dull and predictable that reality television had taken the place of all original programming, and it was almost exciting to find oneself thrown in the thick of an unscripted show without prior knowledge or consent.

On this same day the squatters were ejected from the property, Mrs. Flack finally heard back from the university on the mainland that had been most interested in sending her some interns. She had insisted on photographs of the students, and passed them out to Poke after dinner, asking if he thought any of them were cute.

“Not really my type, mom,” he said, raising his mother’s suspicions even higher.

He pawed through the entire stack again, and then pulled out a photo of a cute little brunette girl with wide-set green eyes and a huge smile.

“This one’s kind of cute, I guess,” he said, handing the photo to his mother.

Mrs. Flack was delighted. Her plan was going so much more simply than she thought. She fired off an email to the school and let them know she had selected the perfect intern for a position at the Squatter Foundation.

She was a nervous wreck when the girl didn’t arrive at the house upon her scheduled date. She asked around town, but no one, not even the ghosts seemed to have seen her. Finally, she went to the welcome center to check the books with Janet, and discovered that the girl had arrived and immediately fallen in with Catty Broadsides, a local bar owner who was so far down on Mrs. Flack’s social radar, that Janet had to physically walk her to the bar, simply because rich people can’t be expected to think for themselves before 2pm. At least that was the excuse she gave anyway.

When Mrs. Flack arrived at the bar, she saw the girl was poised at the sink washing dishes.

“This simply will not do at all!” she thought, tsking like a bomb about to go off.

She stormed into the bar and sat down on a stool, after carefully wiping it down with a handkerchief. She coughed to signify that she expected someone to pay her some attention.

The girl looked over her shoulder, turned off the water, dried off her hands, and asked sweetly, “How may I serve you today?”

“Well, you can start by dropping what you’re doing and coming back to the house with me, dear,” she informed her, curtly.

The girl’s jaw dropped and she lowered her gaze to the floor as she spoke, “Sorry, ma’am, I think you have this place confused with the, um, boarding house across the way.”

Mrs. Flack stood up angrily, and sputtered a few incomprehensible syllables before storming out of the bar. Whoever this Catty Broadsides was, she wasn’t going to steal her intern out from under her, especially when that intern was in training to be her future daughter-in-law.

As far as Mrs. Flack was concerned, this was war.

*****
This episode went live on Sunday, July 18, 2010.

Stay tuned for next week when absolutely nothing happens.

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