I WOKE UP AROUND ELEVEN IN THE MORNING on a Tuesday and even though my mouth was dry and tasted like sulfur I had the overwhelming urge to get up quickly and vomit about a gallon of water into the toilet—
“Whoah!” I said, “I need that stuff,” and my head slumped precariously close to the porcelain rim.
You see, I had been cheap with myself and not replaced the water filter on the kitchen sink of my studio apartment for the past month and it seemed the combination of drinking polluted water and gradually trying not to drink any water had taken its toll. I got to my feet, put on some clothes and ambled around the apartment—
“Good morning boss…Shut up a you face!”
“Stop saying that!” I cried out to one of my talking clothes hangers lying on my couch. I wasn’t delirious. They were my inventions. It struck me some years ago that the world simply could not do without plastic coat hangers that reminded you of things while you got dressed. So I invested everything in them and here I was, ambling around a studio apartment at 11 AM on a Tuesday, taking guff from bent pieces of plastic.
“The Capitol of Washington DC is Washington DC,” one of them said in a drunken, sarcastic voice.
“I don’t appreciate that,” I snapped. I had hoped that they would say cheerful, useful things but, as it turned out, I wasn’t the programmer I thought myself to be and I did most of the work after midnight and bits of myself kept slipping out into the designs. To make matters worse, Cassandra McTabloid, this cheerful young industrious woman had beaten me to the punch and invented these glittery talking coat hangers that said much more useful and upbeat things like: “I’m obsessed with people!” and “Vampire love is pure love” and “Go-ooooo Capitalism!”
Go Capitalism? Why hadn’t I thought of that? Now that’s a message.
Anyways, I was feeling nauseous and tired and irritable so I thought I better do something. I should go to the store and buy another water filter, I thought. But, wait, I didn’t have any money. I picked up my cell and dialed 911:
“Thirsty,” I rasped. “Can’t afford the water filter… I guess I could drink from the tap.”
“No, sir. Sir? Stay calm. Don’t do that. Remember: You either use a filter or you are a filter. We’ll send someone right over. Let me see… The girls are really out running around today—”
“Girls?” I perked up.
“Yes. They can swing by your place in about twenty minutes. Can you wait that long, sir?”
“Yes,” I said. “Hurry… So thirsty—”
“There’s still vodka in the freezer,” a piezoelectric voice cried from under a blanket.
“What was that, sir?”
“Never mind that. Bring girls. Hurry!”
Ten minutes later there was a knock on my door. It was a dainty, hesitant knock and with what little moisture I had I began to drool. The door seemed to open of its own power to these leggy, Amazonian beauties in black stretch pants and hot pink and aqua, ample, shimmering laurex halters.
“There’s two of you?” I asked.
“We work in pairs.”
“Who said that?” I asked, darting my head around their bodies, deliriously.
“Why not rest those straining halters on a state-of-the-art coat hanger?”
“Quiet you!” I shook my fist.
“Who said that?” they asked.
“My hangers,” I said. “Come in.”
They looked around. “Nice place,” they said. “You don’t look like the type who has to go out scrounging for water.”
“I tried for the American dream,” I explained, “and I missed. Now I have to drink America’s water.”
“Oh…” they said, sadly, disappointedly, as if they’d heard this story before.
“Ready for some H20 Plus?” they asked and started opening up this black plastic refrigerated wagon behind them and pulling out fancy colored bottled waters connected by plastic mesh at their necks.
“Pour some of that water on me. Keep your clothes off the floor.”
“What?” they asked.
“You’re embarrassing us!” I cried to the room’s corners and steadied my hand on a bookshelf.
“My libido,” I explained. “My coat hangers. I put my libido in the coat hangers. It escaped at midnight. Cassandra McTabloid,” I explained. “Glitter—Walmart,” I explained. “I’m thirsty!”
“Oh, yes,” they said. “H2O plus is only $9.95 for a limited time.”
“Can’t,” I explained. “Water budget.” I pulled out an empty pocket for their appraisal.
“Should we give him the other stuff?” they asked each other.
“What other stuff?”
“Water Corp. is not insensitive to the needs of the less fortunate,” they began, “In the event that you are unable to purchase Water Corp. products we offer an alternate line of products in which we pay you, the customer, to enjoy Water Corp.’s goodness—”
“Water Corp.: ‘Put Your Poison inside More Poison and Throw it in a Hole!’”
“Hey,” they said. “That’s not our slogan.”
“You’ll never sell with that attitude!” I yelled to the talking hangers. “They’re stubborn,” I explained. “They don’t want to sell in stores”—I turned back to the hangers—“so they torment me…with NONSENSE!” I walked closer to their little refrigerated wagon. “What’s this stuff you pay me to drink?”
They pulled out a grey six pack of bottles: “Silt!”
“Silt, huh,” I pondered. “How much do I get for drinking Silt?”
“Oh…” I contemplated the act of drooling. “What else will you pay me to drink?”
They dug around in the wagon and pulled out a six pack of grey bottles with black X’s: “Mountain Spring Silt!”
“The time is now gorgeous. It will rain in one thousand years.”
“Don’t be a smart ass,” I leered. “What’s the worst thing that you’ll pay the most for me to drink?”
They dug and pulled out some black bottles with white X’s: “Take One for the Team. It’s the Worst!”
“Why do you guys care if I poison myself?” I asked.
“Have you ever heard the expression: If you don’t use a filter, you are a filter?”
“Well . . . it’s true!”
“You are a filter. You’re the best filter ever designed. And, frankly, we at Water Corp. have invented, unleashed—whatever—some chemicals that we don’t quite know what to do with—how to get rid of…and that’s where you’re body comes in!”
“How much do I get to…Take One for the Team?”
They stood up straighter and smiled, “If you Take One for the Team, you’ll get a lifetime supply of Water Corp. products, plus a million dollars cash.”
“Will I live?”
They looked at each other and seemed to deflate a little. “No.”
“Get out!” I said.
Later, I managed to get my head under the faucet and drink some more of that hard, sulfurous tap water. I noticed a coat hanger resting in the sink next to some dirty dishes. It was like these guys got up and walked around while I was sleeping. “Get out of here,” I said and flung it across the room.
It bounced off a corner: “It’s 12 noon. Time to brush your teeth.”
“Asshole,” I said.