Under the influence of prednisone and marijuana cake, my business acumen hit an all time low. I knew I needed a website, but what url to use? Confessionsofadiarrhetic.com was an obvious choice, but it was long and no one knew how to spell diarrhetic. My morning dose of prednisone had been particularly strong, probably because I was mixing it with THC. My ideas were becoming increasingly insane.
What if I shortened the name, made an acronym out of it? Coad.com seemed pretty neat, but the url contained only four letters and four letter urls were expensive. That was when I realized I should incorporate.
The summer I got sick everyone was up in arms about a Supreme Court ruling that allowed corporations to contribute to political campaigns in the same way as individuals. People hated corporations. They thought they were evil. I wanted to change that. I ran to my computer and began purchasing domain names.
I knew I stood to make millions with my story so I also bought
Confessions of a Diarrhetic Incorporated had a nice ring to it. I was becoming a real high roller. I checked my shopping cart and added a few more names for good measure.
The hosting site offered each of these names with various band widths and security features. I knew that once people in the Ukraine began reading Russian translations of my books, I’d need all the pipeline I could get, and you could never be too careful when it came to security. I maxed out every category on each web address then hit proceed to checkout. A total appeared on the screen.
My brain crackled and fizzled. It was a lot of money, but a wise investment. I was crafting the greatest piece of literature in modern times and I needed a firm foundation on which to grow. This was definitely the right decision. I entered my debit card information and pressed purchase.
“You did what, now?” My sister didn’t understand. She’d recently delivered a baby and I was having a hard time explaining through the fog.
“I bought $750 worth of domain names. I’m going to incorporate.”
“Incorporate?” She sounded exhausted, but once I was a millionaire I’d be able to support her as well as her husband.
“Yeah, you know how everyone hates corporations? I’m going to show them that they actually do a lot of good. I’m going to be a for-profit corporation instead of a non-profit, but it’ll be great because I’ll give tons of money to charities. Once we’ve cured Chron’s we’ll move on to other digestive issues.”
“Almost two million people die from diarrhea every year. Once I solve that, people will see that corporations are good. That’s why I have to incorporate, so I can pay all of my taxes.”
“And the best part is, the plan is audaciously conservative so Rush Limbaugh will invite me on his show to be interviewed. That level of exposure will really boost sales.”
My sister didn’t know what to say. “Well,” there was concern in her voice, “you seem to have a… plan.” She was uncertain, but once I was famous she’d see that I knew what I was doing. “The next time you’re about to make a big purchase, maybe call me and we can talk about it?”
“OK. How’s the baby?”
“She’s fine. How are you?”
“The paradigm is shifting and I’m at the epicenter.”
A few hours later, prednisone quit slaughtering me. I was in the kitchen, cooking dinner when I realized that I had spent $750 on domain names. I ran to my phone and called the hosting company. The guy on the other end was calm and friendly. I could tell from his voice that he was an artsy type who wore cool glasses. “Don’t worry about it. We’ve all gotten drunk and bought too many domain names.”
“Oh yeah, happens all the time. The craze right now is dot co. It’s the regional append for Colombia but everyone thinks it will catch on as a suffix for companies. People are going nuts, buying up prime urls in hopes of flipping them for profit.”
“So,” I was a little confused, “I can get my money back?”
“For sure. Which names would you like to return?”
“All the ones that start with coad.”
He opened my account and scrolled through my properties. “Wow, you really went nuts.”
“Yeah, I’m on these drugs that make me do strange things.”
“I know exactly what you mean.”
But I doubted that he did.
He clicked through the various addresses, deleting all of the coads and returning the money to my ravaged bank account, “What do we have here, dearpoetry.com? That’s a kick ass name, how did you get that?”
“I used to write these poems to Poetry, like Dear Abby, but to Poetry instead. Then I’d illustrate them. I bought dearpoetry.com so I could post the illustrations, but never did anything with it.”
“It’s a killer name. You should push traffic to it and then sell it for big bucks.”
I didn’t know how to push traffic to websites but his encouragement filled me with pride. Why not post Confessions of a Diarrhetic to dearpoetry.com? It didn’t exactly make sense, but at least the name was easy to spell. It seemed like a good idea, but it was hard to tell. My brain was so scrambled, then I got a message from someone I barely knew.
I’d been spamming posts on Facebook, bribing my friends to get their friends to friend me so I could grow an audience. The girl who contacted me was one of these recent acquisitions. She told me about a Chron’s walk. It was the same Chron’s walk Hruza mentioned after he shoved cameras up my butt.
There is a group of investors coming to the event, she wrote, they’re searching for a way to put a human face on Chron’s. I think your story could be what they’re looking for.
Prophetic explosions rebounded through my skull. This was it. My big break! I realized I needed to get my website online by Saturday. With feverish energy, I attacked the problem, designing logos, Magic parody cards and digital assets to populate the site. My 18 hour days spent writing turned into 18 hour days designing a website. I also made press kits and t-shirts. I was going to meet these investors and knock their socks of.
The day of the Chron’s walk, I still hadn’t managed to find a wheel chair. My plan was to have Robbie and Samantha push me around while I shaded myself from the sun with an umbrella. I wanted to appear as decrepit and memorable as possible, Hunter S. Thompson for people who shit themselves. Tea told me I shouldn’t bother with the wheelchair. She said it would seem like I was making fun of other people in my condition. She said it in my apartment, and there was fear in her eyes. Something about the way I was acting had frightened her.
“You’re probably right,” I said as she handed the umbrella to me. “I’ll stop looking for a wheelchair.” I held up the umbrella, “I’ll return it after the Chron’s walk.”
“Keep it. I have a bunch.” Umbrellas were an odd thing to have in Denver’s desert climate, and it was even stranger that she was giving one to me. I got the impression that she didn’t want to see me again. Strange, then that she had brought the gift in the first place, but I was happy for the company, even if she was afraid.
“Want to hang out for a while?”
“I can’t,” Tea turned to leave.
“Did I do something wrong?”
“I have to go.”
“Thanks again for all your help,” I took a step towards her, but she scurried out the door. What had I done? Why was she afraid?
The scene shifted, from an apartment in Denver to a windswept plain filled with nightmares. Three figures struggled along, working their way towards a cave.
“Is this the same cave we left yesterday?” I asked. “Did we accidentally circle back?”
“The world has grown smaller,” said Nega Nate. “Most of it is floating above us. We traversed the entirety of the realm.”
“Like the Little Prince,” I said, mostly to myself.
“He lives on a tiny planet. It’s so small he can watch the sun set one hundred times a day, just by moving his chair.”
Nega Nate stopped at the entrance, smelling the darkness, allowing his eyes to adjust.
“May I come in as well?” Asked the robot. It had followed us on our excursion, carrying three scotts-berries in its hands, their juice staining fingers where it had gripped too hard.
“I suppose.” I had written several chapters without listening to MP3 recordings. The robot’s presence was no longer annoying.
Nega Nate wandered over to the cold ashes of his fire and kicked them, looking for a spark, “What did you do with the umbrella?”
“Nothing. I had only just met Tea. She kept trying to help me through my sickness. She’d take me to the park or pick things up from the store, but I was crazy and depraved. I told a friend that thinking about her had returned my boners. He must have warned her. I remember the last time I saw her, and the first as well. There’s not many people I can say that about.”
“I remember her, too,” said the robot.
“I know you do,” I walked into the cave and sat down next to Nega Nate.
“You didn’t want Tea,” said Nega Nate. “She was beautiful, but that’s not the same thing.”
“If you say so.”
“There was nothing distinct about her voice,” offered the robot by way of consolation. It sat down next to us, placing dusty berries on the ground. We had each carried as many as we could. It wouldn’t be long until we ate our final meal.
“I wish I was blind,” I looked at my own meager pile of fruit, “Or that everyone appeared to me as the same, faceless entity. That way I could judge people based on who they are, not how they look. Sometimes I’ll hear a girl talking and fall in love, then she walks around the corner and has the wrong hair or face and I no longer want to meet her. Love would be much easier if everyone was blind.”
“Love is nothing but eyes and mirrors,” said Nega Nate. “It’s justice that’s blind.”
“If we lived in a loving world, there would be no need for justice.”
“But we don’t,” said Nega Nate.
“But we don’t,” agreed the robot.
Chron’s walks are funny things. For starters, they’re wildly expensive. The enormous price tag encourages participants to recruit teams who band together to raise money for the entrance fee. Everyone who attends is part of a team and each team parades around in identical t-shirts so people can tell what group they’re a part of. The participants bring tents, the kind without sides that vendors set up at fairs. It’s like a festival with uniforms and nothing to buy.
I didn’t have a team with a tent and matching t-shirts, just Robbie and Samantha who had driven me to the park, but still I was excited. Investors were going to give me money to launch my writing career. I’d pay off my hospital bills, finish the book and move to New York. Soon everyone would be toasting my greatness.
Under my arm I carried a pile of slick press kits that included screen shots of my website, pictures of t-shirts I’d designed and the first three chapters of the book. There were also C.D.s with recordings of the first podcast. I wondered how much money I was going to get. Probably hundreds of thousands of dollars, though I would settle for less if they let me keep the movie rights.
The grass in the park was tall and the sun shone strong. It made for hard walking. Robbie, Samantha and I trudged towards a kids area full of Chron’s-themed games. There were toilets that you could toss brown beanbags into, face painting, and various wheels that spun for prizes.
“Who are we meeting?” Asked Robbie. He unfolded the chair I’d made him carry.
“Some girl. She gave me her phone number. I texted her, but she’s not writing back.” I sat down in the chair and opened Tea’s umbrella, angling it towards the sun.
Samantha had volunteered to work at the Chron’s walk. A sponsor approached, gave her a t-shirt and began explaining how to train children in the art of beanbag turd-ery.
“Man, it’s hot out here,” I was glad I’d had the foresight to bring the chair and umbrella, even if it had been a marketing gimmick. “I hope the investors have a tent.” Forty-five minutes passed before the girl who had told me about the Chron’s walk wrote back. She said that she was up by the pavilion where they were serving food and I should come find her. Samantha was done teaching kids to sink shit free throws so Robbie folded up my chair and the three of us walked towards the cement structure with its paved walkway and giant fountain. After almost an hour of searching and texting it became clear that my new Facebook friend was avoiding me.
“What does she look like?” Asked Samantha.
“Brown hair and glasses.” I texted several more times, but she had stopped writing back. A sinking feeling set in. “She’s dodging me,” There were so many people. It would be almost impossible to discern investors from mere fundraisers. “The fucking bitch is dodging me. Why invite me in the first place?” The sun was hot, my tiny legs had been taxed to their limit. I had a pile of press kits and no one to woo. “I guess I’ll give these to people on fundraising teams.”
“Do you think that’s a good idea?” Robbie was German and terrified of embarrassing situations.
“What else am I going to do with them?”
I wandered up to the biggest, brightest tent and went inside,”Who’s the leader, here?” I asked with prednisonal confidence. The group pointed to a middle aged woman in the center of the structure. “Hi, I’m Nathan, can I give you my spiel?”
Robbie and Samantha stood outside, their backs to me, trying to disassociate themselves from their maniacal friend. I pulled out a press kit and told the leader that I was here to speak with investors, but had failed to find them. I handed her a press kit and told her my story, about the dark, painful days before the pills, about the madness that ensued once they’d come.
“Prednisone?” She asked.
It was an ominous word and we both knew its meaning. “You poor thing,” she put her hand on my back, a motherly gesture. “My son went through a steroid schedule. It was terrible. He’s on Remicade now, but it stopped working. We’re going to have to find something else.” She told me about her son’s disease, the days he missed from school and the hospital visits, “He just wants to be normal, to go to birthday parties and eat cake and ice cream like his friends.”
I tapped the C.D., “If you don’t like reading, you can listen to my story instead.”
“Thank you,” said the mother. “I hope you find what you need.
I wandered from tent, to tent, handing out press kits and telling my story. Each tent had a group of people and each group had a story worse than mine. Their loved ones were dying or needed surgery. Their children were disappearing.
Samantha and Robbie followed at progressively increasing distances. I had scared Tea and embarrassed my friends, but that was OK. Everything would be fine once I was famous.
“Maybe I should give a kit to those cheerleaders,” I said. At a table by the pavilion, two Broncos cheerleaders were autographing posters of their squad. “I should give them one and telll them to pass it along to Tara!”
“Don’t.” Said Robbie. He had dated a girl named Tara who was also a cheerleader for the Broncos.
“It’ll be perfect. If I can get the cheerleaders to read my story, maybe they’ll pass it on to Von Miller. Can you imagine Von Miller reading my story?”
“Dude, seriously, don’t.” Robbie had had as much of my madness as he could take.
A wicked light crept into my eyes, I nodded quietly to myself. “I’m gonna do it.” I turned and headed towards the table. Robbie and Samantha hid themselves in the crowd.
I stood in line behind a couple of kids who were pretending to understand why cheerleaders were interesting. They got their autographs and ran off excitedly. I stepped up to the table. “Hi, I’m Nathan.”
The cheerleaders smiled at me with their sterile, perfect faces, “Would you like an autograph?” The brunette uncapped her Sharpie and began signing the poster next to her image.
“Do you know Tara Battiato?” I asked.
“Of course! We love Tara!”
“I used to go to school with her older sister, Julia.”
The blonde nodded as if I had done something great, “Fantastic!”
“My friend Robbie dated Tara for a while,” I turned to point at Robbie, but he had hidden himself away from the grisly scene. “It didn’t work out. She was already seeing someone else. Can I give you my spiel?”
I pulled out a press kit and launched into a fervent, fevered explanation of why I was there. As I spoke, the faces of the cheerleaders changed from smiling affectations, to grinning masks of confusion, eventually they were both frowning. The blonde stopped looking altogether and the brunette put the cap back on her Sharpie. “So if you could give this to Tara,” I concluded, “it would mean a lot to me. I’m a huge Broncos fan. Robbie, that guy I was telling you about,” I pointed to the Robbie-less crowd behind me. “The who dated Tara? We’re going to the home opener. I bought him tickets for his birthday.”
The brunette handed me an autographed poster with two signatures on it and took my press kit. She didn’t say anything. I had creeped her out. I took the poster and wandered back to my friends.
“How’d it go?” Asked Robbie.
“They were scared of me.”
“What did you expect?”
“I expected them to give a press kit to Tara. Instead I got a shitty poster.” I showed them the picture with two, pathetic signatures.
“Are you going to keep it?” Asked Samantha.
We climbed back into the car and drove home. Robbie and Samantha talked back and forth. A familiar air had developed between them. Zach was in Norway leading a bunch kids on a canoeing trip through glacial fjords. His girlfriend was falling in love with Robbie. I sat in the back seat feeling awkward and alone.
to be continued