Once upon a
time there was a young man named Phil. Phil had very little
direction in life, unless you count “toward bed” or “toward video game
console” as directions. Phil also went in the direction of work
at least five days a week, but that didn’t count because work served
only to provide money for games, and addictions.
The problem Phil had was one of motivation.
Phil new he was a talented, if unattractive, individual.
Unfortunately, there just weren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish
everything he wanted to do. His talent lay in the written word,
but it was a talent that required a lot of time to make
productive. As much as he enjoyed doing it, actually sitting down
and getting started were rather unpleasant chores. It was much
easier to play video games or sleep. He knew that neither of
these two options could get him out of his current rut, nor could they
earn him any money.
Phil’s friends were irritated with him. They
wanted him to actually do something with his ability. Phil
suspected, in that cynical corner of his mind that spoke in whispers,
that they only wished him success so they could borrow money from him
when Phil hit it rich, and probably to sue him for fictitious scandals
of their own invention, capitalizing off of Phil’s astronomical levels
of fame and fortune. He knew he’d have to have them killed,
eventually, to prevent this. There were many people on the death
list who would have to be cleared away. Sometimes, Phil suspected
he watched too many movies. He saw conspiracy against him
In the more rational areas of his mind, Phil realized they were only
trying to help him get started. They began assigning him
homework, with consequences for not finishing it. For a while it
worked, but the resolve on both sides of the deal dwindled after a few
months, and Phil began to stagnate again.
Then, one day, Phil woke up screaming. Pain
tore at every nerve of his body, which was convulsing and twitching
violently. After a few moments, the pain vanished, and Phil
opened his eyes. His friends were standing around his bed,
smiling. There was a table set up at the foot of his bed, with
wires running out of it in color-coded bundles. In the daze of
abrupt awakeness, and the all-too-fresh memory of the horrible pain,
Phil realized the wires were connected to his body with dozens of
little alligator clips.
“You bastards! What treachery is this?!” He
Carl stepped into view. “This,” he said,
smiling pleasantly, “is motivation.”
“Yes,” said Sam. “Motivation. Carl and I have reached the
conclusion that the fear of pain will motivate you to write.”
“Not only that,” Carl added, “but we realized that
the greatest writers led tortured, pain-ridden lives, and therein lay
the root of their genius. Because we are your friends, and we
want you to succeed (for entirely unselfish reasons), we decided that
this was the best method with which to expedite the desired results.”
“You’re electrocuting me! What the hell is
wrong with you?”
They looked wounded. Carl shook his head
sadly. Sam fiddled with some wires. Phil noticed Nate
sitting in a corner, scribbling in a notebook. Nate looked
“Phil, Phil,” he said. “We are acting out of
concern and brotherly love. We know this is unpleasant for you,
but it really is for the best.”
“You have all gone mad,” declared Phil. He
tried to pick the alligator clips from his skin, but found that his
hands were bound. “Great.”
Carl said, “Yes, Phil! It is great. You
will be great! And we will help you to be great, asking
absolutely nothing in return, except book dedications, and maybe the
occasional loan, or tropical cruise!”
Sam laid a hand on Carl’s shoulder. “Now, now,
Carl. Look, Phil, we know this seems very extreme to you right
now. But you have to believe us when we tell you it will all turn
out for the best.”
“Yes,” said Nate. “Even Ronn agrees.”
Everyone else in the room frowned in confusion.
There was a prolonged silence. The machine on
the table hummed quietly and ominously. Phil tried for a few
moments to figure out who Ronn was, and why he should care. He
shook off that line of thought and returned his concentration to the
problem at hand. Obviously his friends were completely
insane. They’d always been strange, and slightly abusive to one
another, but it had always in the past been pretty harmless.
Electrocution, for instance, was crossing the line a bit. And
deluding themselves into believing that it was a good deed was just
plain scary. However, there was a certain twisted logic to what
was going on here. Maybe he had left them with no other
option. Of course, that didn’t really give them the right to
break into his house and clip machines to his body. There hadn’t
been any warning, even.
Sam eventually broke the silence. “We know
what you’re thinking. This has been a long time coming.
Your stubborn refusal to do what’s best has pushed us to this.
Now, we’re going to turn on the machine, and leave for some cokes at
Applebee’s. We’ll let you lay here and think about things.”
Three hours later Phil’s insane friends returned,
and turned off the machine. Phil just stared at the ceiling,
bleeding a bit from his facial orifices and smoldering gently.
Carl gently unclipped Phil and stood back.
“Now, here’s the deal. We will continue to
motivate you on a regular basis for the next month. Once a day,
at totally random times. During this time, you will write
regularly. A few pages a day. No big rush. Failure to
produce will result in extra motivation, as I’m sure you’ll agree is
entirely necessary. After one month, the regular motivation will
be stopped. By this time we hope you’ll be willingly writing on a
regular basis. If you begin to slack off, we will regrettably be
forced to use the machine again.”
"We don’t enjoy electrocuting you, Phil,” said
Nate. “It’s a necessary evil.”
Phil’s friends helped him over to his
computer. Obviously, they intended to start him off right
away. Phil, rightly fearing further inhumane torture at the hands
of his sadistic friends, began to type aimlessly. Carl, Sam, and
Nate quietly left after a few minutes.
out of his mansion in the mountains of Washington state, and breathed
the crisp air of the northwest. He beeped open his BMW, and
placed his briefcase in the passenger seat. He drove down the
tranquil winding highway away from his house, headed for the city,
where his publisher was waiting for the final draft of his
manuscript. He could have just emailed it, but he had some other
business to tend to on this day. Despite his friends’ steadfast
dedication to helping him along, their methods had left scars, both
physical and mental. Their plan had succeeded, and Phil was
eternally grateful to them.
That didn’t mean retribution wasn’t justified.
Over the years, Phil had never let on that he had plans of his
own. Crazy plans. Insane plans. Plans involving
ferrets. It would be rough going, for a while, and the group’s
relationships might be strained for a while, but in the end they would
all laugh about it from their beds in the ICU, and when they were
finally released, they would all go out for coffee and cigarettes to
celebrate Phil’s new book, and to discuss the dragon Sam had
engineered, Carl’s nationwide chain of successful and financially
secure bakeries, and Nate’s record label and new life-partner
Bill. And also to wonder who the hell Ronn was.