The Essayist by Thomas Mundt

He didn’t get into The Game to make friends or romance Late-Night Stacys. It was always about The Exchange, the Old Tug ‘N Release. The Essayist was a communicator. It said so in his professional by-line but also just below his watercolor Embrace Chaser profile portrait.

The Essayist played as hard as he worked.


He got trolled a lot. Private school kids, mainly, the listless ones that got Mommy’s looks and pedigree but Uncle Petri’s bullshit work ethic. He could dispense with those twerps with a fling of the stapler through the hole in the screen, which was The Essayist’s Pressure-Release Valve. Whenever the surface got super-choppy on his Brain Lake he could whip (or chuck, depending on where you were raised) his monogrammed Swingline through the rhombus-shaped gash in his living room window and watch the thing go end-over-end until it splunched in the landscaping. Catharsis is what they called it in his business. It felt good to walk up and down two flights of stairs now and again, even if just to retrieve office supplies.

It was The Grown-Ups he lassoed, the Age-Of-Majority Mind Monarchies he managed to drag in for a this-and-that, who truly chapped his pelts. During his nightly sweeps of his Content Churner page he occasionally unearthed a Retort and, after entering his forty-eight character VeriVault passcode, confirmed the Life Years and Sexual Predilection attributed to the Engager. If both Self Dimensions were to his liking, The Essayist proceeded to right-click the Retort so as to open it in a brand-new Page Portal, which he found more conducive to archiving. Once tucked into a Retort Roundup subfolder, he perused in earnest. Doing so routinely caused him to participate in a Rage Event.

thes is the musings of harebrain : - >

Did Finch “Pinchy” Slackmann, his former Career Sherpa and current resident of Pine Cones, The Midwest’s premier inpatient Onanism Addiction Treatment Source (OATS™), suffer these same ignominies? (This is just one example of the many questions leveled at the circle of votives surrounding an old box of Pinchy’s business cards, weathered by an accidental trip through the spin cycle.)

Pinchy, ever the Strong, Silent Type, was as tight-lipped and fair-skinned on the issue as all get-out. The Essayist would later disable the Retort function, and after roundtabling the move with the third-shift cashiers at the Little Caesars up the block.

You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater, The Group reasoned.


He didn’t take aim at Soft Targets, couldn’t care less about the latest Sex Pop defecations or the box scores from last night’s playacting of the Roman Coliseum by Pleistocene HGH guzzlers. After all, The Essayist’s only neck tattoo depicted an hourglass, three-quarters empty or full depending upon your Current Worldview. Next to The Children, time was his Most Precious Resource and he devoted the lion’s share of his Saturdays to Matters Of Great Import exclusively, including but not limited to:

The Global Genetically-Modified Squash Market.
The Separation Of Church And Mosque.
Pet Fitness.
Your Horoscope’s Carbon Footprint.

Forget The People’s Work. The Essayist was doing The Chosen People’s Work. He routinely described his craft in the context of this delineation until a practitioner of Judaism brought his group’s claim to his attention, and at a PETA fundraiser. No hack, he settled for The Work Chosen By People Driven By A Thirst.

He primarily viewed himself as an Idea Falconer, however. The Heavens were empty as hell and, each time he hit PUBLISH on Content Churner, he released a majestic, thousand-word Bird Of Prey, free to circle and swoop and, on occasion, rip into your entrails with its Truth-Excavating Talons.

The way The Essayist saw it, if The Realness got too raw you could take it up with Chuck Darwin, Content Churner’s Solutions Sorcerer. He would be happy to Mailslot you a User Feedback form and, if need be, empanel a one-member Administrative Tribunal to ensure that your questions and concerns are aired in a discreet, non-judgmental forum.


The Convention convened in San Diego, had a relatively-sweet setup by The Beach. There was a Cap’n Clancy’s Crab Cabana right there in the lobby of the La Quinta and The Local Authorities insisted they had The Murder Situation all but sewn up. The Essayist didn’t nitpick. He was grateful The Great State Of Wisconsin continued to issue him bi-weekly Sustenance Support payments, well-after he landed his part-time Data Wrangling position with Gloobst: The Tomorrow Folks! It took eight months to scrounge up the wampum for The UltraBus fare, but could you affix a Price Designation to all the connections he would make, the Thought Swappin’ that would undoubtedly go down poolside during Presenter Respites?

Besides, The Essayist knew there was a strong-to-definite possibility of a Chance Encounter with Renée (aka Content Churner Username Née Née). The two had exchanged High-Level Discourse and also fluids when The Convention stormed Helena, Montana last August and he would be fibbing to himself and The World if he said he didn’t break out The Good Christmas Guest Candles, the ones that smelled of roasted chestnuts and reindeer urine, for a last-second Voyage Vigil with the still-thriving spirit of old Pinchy before his sojourn, begging for a weekend Star Alignment.

When he saw Renée seated in the lobby, flipping through an Ebony and coiling her honey-wheat ringlets around what remained of her right index finger, the stalwart nub that refused to relinquish itself to the Cub Cadet riding lawnmower That Fateful Day, he vowed to take a fresh look at all that Intelligent Design hullabaloo when he got back to Oconomowoc.

The News hit him like a ton of Cinder Blocks dropped from Heights Unfathomed. The Essayist was nonplussed when Renée insisted it didn’t matter, that clinical studies suggest objects fall at the same rate and The Impact of The News would’ve been the same had she broken it to him over the phone.

Hard Science wasn’t everything, that he knew beyond a shadow. This was different.

Turned out Née Née was hanging it up, retiring her laptop and the inflatable ring upon which she’d recovered from a fractured coccyx and keyed her most chortle-inducing People Peculiarities meditations. She told him Hattie Mae won, that her Indentured Student Advances were near-default and, if she harbored any yearning for Growth Potential and Financial Fulfillment the time was nigh she seek employment with one of the lender’s fifteen-thousand-strong-and-growing Path Providers. They furnished the housing too, she beamed, gave you a Recreation Allowance so you could engage in Personal Time Mirthmaking with fellow Debt Atoners.

The Essayist, still nude from the waist down after the two’s Pleasure Romp, stood before the window in his room, eyes squinty from The Earth’s Sun and a silvery, elastic dollop of ejaculate dangling from his organ. So many cars for just one lot. Were their Registered Owners local, Canadian? Loyal to The La Quinta Brand or still searching?

Renée was leaving for Montevideo in a week, her Aeromás ticket One-Way in nature. She had selected an Aisle Chair in the event her Bladder Thing came back at ten-thousand feet but was still hoping to see a cumulonimbus, having never made the acquaintance.

The Condensed Timeframe grounded The Essayist, gave his Cerebrum one of those Power Surges mothers get when their child is pinned under a Kia Sportage. Did she really think she could just levitate like that, forsake The Game and her fellow People Driven By A Thirst? He could feel another Rage Event bloat within him, a waterballoon doomed to burst before it could be tied and tossed in The Kiddie Pool with the others, and while a Courtesy Telephone to both their skulls could put them in The Void, together forever, he couldn’t put The Convention through that. The Paperwork would be voluminous, The Tears ceaseless.

They could still get shrimp, Renée insisted. Sgt. Carl’s Scampi was rumored to be delectable, one of Tasty Tess’ venerable “Taste Touchdowns” for Summer 2013. Put your slacks on, she demanded, and if you use The Proper Utensils at supper I might just drop ‘em again later.


On The UltraBus trip home another rider let him use his tablet, a Rambler 4500 with Digit-Warming Hand Pads and Detachable Beverage Hugger. Just don’t fuck anything up, The Kid pleaded, returning to his game of Smash ‘N Grab IV: Destination Bahrain on his Rambler 4500.01. The Kid had The Essayist’s solemn vow he wouldn’t.

There was only an hour of Extended Sunlight-Derived Battery Life left on the device, a properly-lambasted flaw of the 4500 and the reason The Kid threatened to throw Grandpa Snodgrass down a freight elevator shaft at Steinblatt’s if he didn’t ante up for the .01. Determined to surf the Hurt Solution still coursing through his Sensation System, The Essayist got into Content Churner and tasked himself with The Knocking Of Socks Clean Off.

05.13.13 3:27:03 PM PCT

When in the course of human happenings it becomes mandatory to cast aside the chains and leather apparatuses restricting your ascent and impacting your respiration, make haste. Do not wear sunglasses at night, pleading for the day to make it snappy. Do not break bread with agents of change without bringing a side of elbow grease. Do not sugarcoat the scones of veracity or forget to waterproof the plywood of valor. Do not lick a gift horse in the eyeball without a doctor’s note. Do not allow the weeds of sloth and envy to harsh your patio. And, under positively no circumstances should you recline comfortably on a chaise lounge, head looking this way and that to see if mister postman delivered your eagerly-awaited dispatch from the department of revelry, notifying you of your pending airlift from the drudgery of banalburg to the lush gardens of anotherlife.

Instead, __

The cursor blinked for approximately forty-seven minutes while The Essayist surveyed The Outdoors. The American West was an empty, clay-colored place, he decided. Almost lunar, but with cacti. When the 4500’s screen went black he handed it back to The Kid, who promptly called him a Colostomy Bag before breaking the worthless equipment on his kneecap, stupid-looking Circuit Boards and wiring belched from the black polymer frame.

As he wiggled into a paper-thin sleep, The Essayist realized he left his last baggie of Replacement Blades on the vanity in his room. He committed then and there to growing a Tremendous Beard.

Thomas Mundt is the author of one short story collection, You Have Until Noon to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe (Lady Lazarus Press, 2011), and the father of one human boy, Henry (2011). Additional teambuilding exercises and risk management advise can be found at