"May the Great CEO bless you with full benefits, good sir," the old cashier crone crooned as she deposited the change upon my palm. I pocketed it, hoping she couldn't see me subtly shaking my head as I wandered, groceries in hand, to the lot outside. I guess one of His Marketing representatives must have come through His Favored Market recently, once again inciting in even the lowliest and dirtiest clerk the Good Fortune Shared By All Whom Shall Work. The bright sun belittled my meager cynicism as I came out into the lot, His minor torment upon me, perhaps.
Three of His Lost Employees were scattered across the lot, doing what little they could to scrape a living off the droppings of the more fortunate, to eke change from the few that they could. "It is their own misfortune only because they cannot or will not work when His Magnificent Society asks that of them," spoke the parody Marketer in my head, looking at least a little bit like the current President, our current head of His Earthly Affairs. I still don't understand how people can always be so close to such depressing desolation and not wonder why in "His Benevolence" he can't seem to feed or clothe so many that wander His Cities homeless and desperate.
His Preferred Market across the street glittered in the wonder of His Holy Writ, proclaiming sales in produce and home appliances. His Fabulous Furniture Emporium next door letting all know the great fortune of how His Machines have delivered unto us nearly unprecedented savings! Just like last week. Just like every week...
A man of rather imposing stature made a rather whimsically meek cough just behind my left shoulder. "Excuse me, good sir, but do you have a few cents for a war veteran?" I turned slowly, letting my eyes adjust to the surprisingly dark corner under which this man sheltered. His clothing was all in black, a peg leg extending from his right knee, a patch upon his eye, and a well worn hat askew upon his head. I did not gasp, I took the sight in coolly and calmly. Even if I did wonder if this were some hidden agent of His Human Resources, I concealed both my worry of arrest and any interest in squealing ingrained from His Anti-Piratical Propaganda.
Here was my first encounter with anyone that seemed genuinely piratical, appearing to be a true veteran of one of His Wars and wearing some of the Forbidden Paraphernalia. Imagine someone actually wearing anything as obscure as a hat here in one of His Climate Controlled Zones, much less an eye patch obscuring one's depth perception, or a wooden peg where His Miraculous Re-Synthesized Limb might have grown! This man was asking for favor just as one of His Lost Employees and yet his looks belied a man certainly of caliber to earn a fair wage and his clothing fabrics belied a sense of some wealth even if somewhat worn and weathered. These clothes alone, even without the scars or the age in the man's eyes, whispered tales of experience and travel.
I'm sure that he saw my curiosity in my appraisal of him. He gave me a few moments to gather my thoughts and reach for the change I had just pocketed minutes earlier. I held the few cents in my hand, outstretched and he turned my gesture into a firm handshake, the change clattering loudly to the parking surface below. "Ah, I see that you are a true gentleman and scholar in this dark age." A smile spread between his mustache and massive beard, bright white teeth, a cheshire spotlight of friendliness.
He bowed, palming the change with his left hand as he raised his hat in salute with his right. It was then that I almost did gasp. Beneath his piratical helm was a glowing visage just like His Own Holy Writ: the familiar imagery of His Promised Pasta Platter, only twisted into a smiling visage, a mockery of man from sauce-covered grain and meat-like substance. The man's movement was swift, but even as he cocked his hat back unto his head and stood back as if nothing had happened I could still see an afterimage of that absurd and memorable symbol. His placed a kind hand upon my shoulder, "May His Noodly Appendage guide you through another successful work week. I've heard that the sailing weather will be wonderful this weekend." With that he gently pushed me back towards the parking lot.
I couldn't help but dwell on those platitudes. They sounded so much like those of His Marketers, and yet that wink and that smile filled my head with monstrous thoughts. I could imagine him referring not to that ineffable designer, that Great CEO of this, His Own Beloved Country, but to that mocking mess of machine-made meal he had concealed underneath his hat. It was funny, could a man worship an advertisement of food? ...and yet... and yet... Wasn't it that the Marketers spent so much effort explaining to us How He Manifested His Love to Us in His Products? Is it that much more improbable to cut out the middleman and wonder whether the Products themselves or the Machines that made them Loved us, without need for some Great CEO to have designed that Product or Machine Himself? My head was swimming... This man of piratical garb didn't seem crazy, but wasn't it considered crazy in the eyes of His Human Resources Officers just to wear piratical garb?
My natural reservoir of cynicism nearly spilled out into the workplace that week. I'm not just some Resource to be managed and placed on display just like any other of His Products. My Supervisor nearly trotted me out in front of a tribunal of HR Officers on trumped up charges of dereliction of duty. It was all I could do to conceal my newfound nautical interest for the upcoming weekend. I think I tripped my Supervisor's wire attempting to be too pious to slip under the radar. I may have let a whiff of sarcasm slip into some sentence of spiritual sharing or it may have been just slightly out of character to suddenly seem less reserved in sharing said moments with my coworkers who seemed even more wildly out of the loop than ever.
The week couldn't pass quick enough, and then, not unlike a bowl of His Glorious Green Gazpacho, it had passed sooner than I expected and I was caught up in a wonderfully dreary drizzle on the docks of our dour waterfront at my first opportunity to ditch my weekend responsibilities. I spotted it almost immediately on arrival, a gorgeous sloop flying a depiction of His Promised Pasta Platter, albeit minus that visage that haunted my recent dreams. I attempted to pass onto the ship, but was stopped by a gruff mariner who prompted me for the forbidden word under which they sheltered. I did not know it and so, somewhat curious, I drifted to a nearby bench to watch the crew continue with their loading duties.
I had been there several hours, nearly having drifted to sleep and almost convinced the parking lot pirate had been but some ghostly dream. I was startled to by a gentle touch on my shoulder. A glance and I was looking up directly into the grim face of that same pirate I had wondered had been fantasy, only now I worried what reality I might actually be facing... "Up, boy." A simple command, and as anti-authoritarian as I believe myself to be, I couldn't help but obey. He guided me back to the gangplank and we passed a similar grizzled sailor as had barred me earlier in the day. "Do ye vouch for this kid, Captain?" he said as we passed. The Captain smiled for the first time since he had started guiding me onto the ship, "Aye, I believe we have a new Cabin Boy."
He led me into his own quarters and set me down gently upon a simple wooden stool. His peg leg a haunting percussion counter to the other notes of a ship loading and preparing to sail. He politely doffed his coat and hat to a stand near the door and then fiddled a with button on his pants leg above the wooden peg. A shimmer of rainbow light flashed around the peg and was replaced by a boot matching his other foot. The tapping of wood upon wood stopped and it was just his two booted feet upon the floor. Finally he removed his patch, revealing an eye just as healthy as the one beside it.
He smiled even wider and with open arms boomed, "Welcome to the Enlightened Eleanor one of only a few remaining boats sailing under that shining visage of the Smiling Spaghetti, the one true Flying Spaghetti Monster, demon to the devout and destroyer of the divine and describer of the devices!"
I certainly had a lot of questions, but I would be lying if I told you that the first word out of my mouth to fill the silence was anything but "Spaghetti?".
He sighed, "It was easier when I was your age. The name His Promised Pasta Platter replaced His Spectacular Spaghetti Special several years ago when the Marketers made any use of the word 'spaghetti' taboo. But they couldn't ban the dish itself, as there's few dishes more American than a spaghetti dinner, and so we continue to use the imagery even as they keep that word away from perverting the lips of young innocent children..."
The creaks of sails could be heard as the ship began to gently move away from the dock.
I had been wondering where my anti-authoritarian streak would kick in, and cynicism is hard to well up against against obvious rambling, "That's all well and good, but what use is your Spaghetti god against the Great CEO? They both seem like figments of someone's imagination."
He laughed and his smile broadened, "Of course my lad, you are absolutely correct. They are both figments of men's minds. But ours is a useful figment, a wonderfully chosen misdirection. With our Flying Spaghetti Monster we have ample opportunity to use their religion against itself. They can't ban much more than they already have at this point without tearing gaping holes in their religion. Under shield of His, our Flying Spaghetti Monster's, Many Noodly Appendages we can do what we can to bring Science back unto this World. To relearn and reteach the wonders not of His Machines, but of our devices, built humanity through hard work and intelligence, not some divine diety as the Marketers preach."
He didn't talk down to me after my earlier conclusion, I'll give him that. I knew the word religion, as a nearly dead word from history books, but Science...? He let that sink in and wandered over to the window to watch the ship's progress. A voice sounded from the air, "Captain, we have cleared the proscribed No Wake Zone. Permission to start the engines, sir."
The Captain replied to the window, "Granted, Commander Root. Proceed with due caution." A low, dull thundering began to fill the resulting silence and the ship began obviously to accelerate faster than the sails had been providing. The Captain turned back toward me and then tapped his boot upon the floor, "Do you hear that? That is Science at work! Simple controlled explosions pushing moving pistons that in turn push water which causes an equal and opposite force to push the boat in the opposite direction! Simple chains of cause and effect, action and reaction, day in and day out. Science is what the world is, and the Marketers can't reach you here to stop you from learning... Excited?"
I couldn't help but be swept up in the Captain's own excitement. He pointed to his foot that had appeared to have been damaged, "Push light the right way and you can get people to see things that aren't even there. Sound waves are even easier to push around." He pointed to the eye patch, "Auxiliary display; changes several forms of light and data that aren't visible to the human eye and pushes them out as light that is visible. That's my toy as Captain, but I'll give you this one chance to play, put it on boy!"
I did as he said and at first was disoriented. Rather than seeing nothing at all I saw the Captain's Quarters and tiny tags on things of interest and swirling depths of distances as my eye moved across the view in the patch. It was wild and amazing. After a few minutes I removed it, dizzy and somewhat out of breath.
"It's all explanatory. There are answers to questions you've only dreamed of asking, for the fear those damned religious zealots burned into your head. But we'll make a Scientist out of you, my boy! You'll probably surpass all of our knowledge before long, if you take to it like I think you will."
Then his grin faltered. His early serious expression returned to haunt his face, age lines grooved into his skin darkening and clouding. "You will of course, have to earn it. For all of their faults the Marketers are correct that right now in this world there is no such thing as a free lunch. Don't worry about that tonight, I want you to get a good rest tonight and tomorrow we'll discuss your employ and how you'll be earning your keep. We'll also get you started on making your own first set of clothes..."
He took a deep breath, glanced to his wrist, pressed at a part of his cuff and then ushered me out of his door without another word. My mind was obviously swimming even more than following my previous encounter with the Captain. But I was in swimming in Love. Did this Flying Spaghetti Monster really herald such a cache of knowledge in this forsaken world? Just the anticipation of "making" my own clothes... apparently it is a power available to the common man and not solely reserved for His Holy Machines to build and then tagged with insipid names like His Perfectly Pretentious Pleated Pants by some equally insipid Marketer...
I'll wake tomorrow in an entirely different world and I can't wait.
If Science is Outlawed, Only the Outlaws will Science...
All in good fun... No offense to actual people in marketing or human resources, anywhere.
This story has been stewing in my head for some time. I've long joked about the religious nature of 20th Century American Corporate Dogma and with an ID "Great CEO in the Sky" it mushed into a perfect fit in a struggle with Pastafarianism. "There is no 'i' in Team." and all that...
FSM/Pastafarianism is all about trying to teach lessons of humility to those that sometimes passionately refuse to listen, and maybe this story pushes a few buttons. If it does, great, let's start a dialog. Keep in mind that 'humility' is a relative of 'humor' and 'Humanity', though.
By the way, I do think we need more Pirate Scientists spreading knowledge across the high seas, and combating global warming with their general coolness...