Miriam’s job, an entry level position, was to cut open garbage bags in the city dump.
She cut open garbage bags to inspect their contents, eight hours a day with a forty-five-minute lunch and two coffee breaks. She worked for the city.
Her job was to look for what did not belong in the garbage. This dump was destined to use the garbage as landfill. Plastics and other recyclables were forbidden.
Miriam opened garbage bags, looking for the forbidden. If a district sent forbidden garbage to the garbage dump, its taxes increased.
Miriam had the job for six months. The promotion was running a tractor to push the bags into large holes, filling in a swamp.
Each bag told a story. One was full of used toys, another TV dinner cartons and plastic utensils. Another had body parts. When Miriam found a foot she called the police.
Miriam fretted about her career path but civil service jobs were hard to find.
Achieving Happiness Through Career
From childhood, Thelma read obituaries of great achievers (regular folks never get obits.) In her twenties, every morning before leaving for work she read obits. And continued reading them at work. Indeed, her career had become writing obits.
Great success, she believed, came partly from genuine talent but mostly from a single-minded focus on one issue. Over- achievers were obsessed with one issue, whether it was in the arts, business or science. They followed it all their lives.
Obits, Thelma believed, kept their achievements remembered. But along with the achievements came unpleasant realities. While over-achievers were universally celebrated, frequently Thelma wrote obits of famous people she’d never heard of before getting the assignment. Over- achievers were eventually forgotten.
Also, their personal lives were often disasters.
The issue was personal. Thelma recognized herself: single- focused, isolated, troubled social life. She felt alive only when reading and writing about dead people.
Thelma wanted to change but denying her obsession was impossible. She tried therapy but withdrew–after helping her therapist write an obit about his father.
However, after writing the obit of a method actor whose obsessive behavior drove his colleagues crazy, Thelma took up acting classes. Pretending to be a nicer person was the solution, given she could not be a nicer person. She eventually learned where her inner niceness was and, after intensive study, used method acting to smile.
Eventually Thelma retired happy, believing she had achieved something unique. Her crowning achievement was to write her own obit.
It was printed after she died. Her story was widely spread and celebrated until a new obsessed obit writer emerged.
In the afterlife, Thelma regularly met people who complained she’d gotten their obits wrong.
Making Old Movies Marketable
The movie executives met in a panic. New films were an expensive, difficult gamble.
The company had a huge catalogue of old films, but no one wanted them.
“The problem is bias,” a consultant, Melanie, told the executives. “Up until around 1990, films targeted audiences which were white. Minorities were ignored. However, yesterday’s minority is today’s majority. The paying audience now is White, Black, Latino, Asian and more.”
Melanie paused. The executives were all White men.
“You can accept the racism and low sales. Or,” she added, “you can make money by altering the movies to eliminate the bias.
“That would open them to new audiences.”
Thus began the digital altering of old films.
Stepinfetchit and Willie Best, two Black actors used as stereotypes, were digitally turned white. Their dialogue was redubbed.
However, that was not enough. Now the casts were all white. White actors were digitally altered to be from other groups. Sherlock Holmes became Japanese.
Also, almost all actors were able-bodied, so some now had disabilities. Some actors became gay, some non-binary. Most films had to be changed because bias was so pervasive. Stories were altered. More dialogue was redubbed.
The new old movies reached different audiences and made a decent profit. The company went on to changing music it owned which had been appropriated from other cultures.
Meanwhile, Melanie met with the news media.
Living Art You Love
Marina thumbed idly through her many streaming channels, bored. Years ago she turned on the tv and rediscovered favourite films. Now she could watch them anytime.
Marina decided to implant movies into her brain. That certainly would make old movies special again because she would see them in a totally new way. She would be closer to living the art she loved.
The operation was unusual but not difficult. Marina then sat in bed and watched The Maltese Falcon in her head. It was good! She used parts of Lawrence of Arabia while at the beach, Road Runner cartoons when caught in traffic and Lust For Life when looking at skyscrapers.
But soon Marina felt more bored and distanced than ever. She saw movies better but was not living them! She had to change!
One evening, strolling downtown, considering how to become more involved, she realised everything around her had turned black and white.
Suddenly Marina was IN a movie! Her desire and implant had merged. She was in New York City, downtown, in the 1930’s, judging from the cars and clothing. She was no longer a bystander, no longer an audience. She was actively involved, in an entire black and white world!
Fantasy was finally reality—what could be better?
She boarded an elevated train, holding onto a strap, enjoying being in the movie, not realizing it was King Kong.
It was too late for Marina to realise that, given the content, much of the art you most love is best viewed from a safe distance.
Meet the Author
Victor Schwartzman decided to take his writing more seriously at a later stage of his life. His work has appeared in Cherry Bleeds, Zygote in My Coffee and St. Vitus Prose and Poetry Review. Recent acceptances have been in The Academy of Heart and Mind and The Potato Soup Journal.