David Arthur Walters
Jim Jones stretched, yawned, yanked the covers back and sat up in bed.
“Here I go again,” he moaned inwardly, “another Monday and still no job. This job-hunting business, what a nightmare! I don’t want much of anything, but the rent’s past due, and a man’s gotta eat. Most of all, I've got to save face, that’s what the Japanese do. What would everybody think if I wind up sleeping in Ala Moana Park? Damn it all, anyway!”
Hung over from getting stoned the night before, Jim stumbled into the kitchen, put the coffee pot on and sat down at the kitchen table, where he began to peruse the Help Wanted Ads. He had been frantically seeking employment for six months now, and had yet to receive a single positive response to his numerous applications. Even McDonald’s had turned him down. This week was crucial, for he had spent most of his savings since he had moved to Hawaii; he had only two hundred dollars left to his name now, and he especially regretted having spent money this week on a case of Primo and a lid of Kona Gold.
What a depressing sight, Jim morosely observed, scanning the ads for the fifth time. Not one lousy job here that I qualify for, dammit! I've practically got three-strikes against me, anyway, he thought, what with being a haole and an eighteen-year old high-school dropout, not to mention the dismal Hawaii economy. And I came here for a better environment! Things aren't as pretty on the ground as they might seem in pictures...what was that I was dreaming last night?
Oh, yes, I had been arrested, for a very serious crime: I had triplets. It's just fine for a woman to have triplets, but no, I had to go and have triplets. The police held me in jail, and then there was the trial. Guilty as charged, they said, and due to the serious nature of the crime, I was sentenced to death. I'll never forget that execution chamber: there were twelve other men sentenced to die that day, yet I was the first to enter the chamber because my offense had been horrid in the eyes of the judge and my peers.
We were all taken to an enormous building, a luxury condominium-complex, took a ride on the elevators to the twenty-third floor. My legs went all rubbery. Why me? Why me? A door was opened, and we were welcomed into an apartment by... God! The strangeness of that apartment! It was furnished with great rough-hewn stones arranged in a circle about a single marble altar. Our guide passed out little slips of paper to the prisoners. I looked at mine.
RULES AND REGULATIONS
NOTHING IS ALLOWED
"Thank you for coming. We've been expecting you," said the waiting executioner as he fondled a small, black bag in his hand. Pointing at me, he said, "Please step over here, sir, and lie down. Now, com one, what on earth could be the matter? Don't you trust me? Come; lay yourself down on the table. That's it," he continued, while delicately extracting a small syringe from a black bag – the syringe was filled with a green substance
The other condemned men had by that time gathered around us in a circle; they were leaning on the stones, paying close attention to what proceeded. A guard stood smiling by the door as he carefully polished his gleaming machine-gun with a crimson handkerchief.
"Now I'm going to give you a shot," the executioner said. "Don't worry; it won't hurt you at all. You may look away if you wish. I assure you, Mr. Jones, it will be of no use to resist. You shall go on a little journey, and you will be born again in Hawaii," said he, and I felt the needle prick my skin.
I could see the faces of the other men staring quizzically at me. Why did I believe him? He was sending me to a black box, that's what he was doing, I thought, yet I believed I would surely be born again, and I even felt sorry for my executioner because there was no future for him except executing people.
Surely the others would not go along with this: they would be forced to die. Why was my will so weak? Why didn't I put up a fight? And then….
And then Jim Jones recovered from his reflections on his dream as he inhaled the pleasing odors coming from the coffee pot. He poured himself a cup, lit a cigarette, and returned to the Help Wanted Ads. He was wide awake now, and soon forgot his wild dream of the night before. Suddenly, without warning, it leapt out at him, a very small ad tucked in between "Bookkeeper" and "Broker":
young men and women
needed for rapidly
No experience necessary.
Call Bob Fortunato
“That means me!” Jim affirmed aloud, strode to his phone and dialed what seemed to be a magic number.
"National Product Corporation, Shay Lee speaking. May I help you?" a sweet voice inquired.
"Yes, I would like to speak to Bob Fortunato, please."
"You are calling about the ad?"
"Hold on, please. I'll connect you."
"Thank you," Jim replied, relieved.
"Bob Fortunato here!” a man answered exuberantly. “What may I do for you today?"
"Yes, Mr. Fortunato, I am glad to see your ad in the paper today, because I am a self-motivated, ambitious young man, immediately available for employment."
"Have you any experience?"
"No, in fact, I don't know exactly what...."
"Good!" Mr. Fortunato interjected, "How long have lived in Hawaii?"
"A few months, and I plan to…."
"Excellent! Come downtown for an interview."
"I'd be delighted. What time?"
"Ten o’clock this morning will do. We're at 2001 King Street. I'll be looking forward to meeting you, Mister ah…."
"Jones, Jim Jones."
"I'll be glad to see you, Jim Jones.” Mr. Fortunato hung up abruptly.
Jim Jones' heart thumped with joy. This was his big chance. This is it! He hurried into the bathroom, shaved, dressed, and admired himself for a moment in the mirror... “Go get it, Jim!” he commanded. “The job is yours!”
Jim managed to find a parking space for his battered old Toyota on a street five blocks away; he parked and walked nonchalantly to 2001 King Street, noting that business must be good since he saw quite a few people entering the front door.
"I'm here to see Mr. Fortunato," he informed the receptionist.
"You're here about the job?"
"You’re psychic. I'm Jim Jones. Mr. Fortunato is expecting me,” Jim declared proudly.
“We’re a bit overbooked this morning, Mr. Jones. Will you please step through that door and join the others?" she pointed toward a door at the end of a long corridor.
"The others? Uh, right, thank you."
Jim complied, swallowing his pride as he walked down the hall. His heart sank at the very idea of competition. He was even further dismayed when he stepped into the designated room and found that it was filled with about fifty persons in the various stages of filling out applications. A woman at the door handed him a blank application, and he sat down with the others and proceeded to fill it out. There was not much to the application, just blanks for name, address, telephone number, previous employer, and amount of cash or credit immediately available. Eventually all the forms were completed and handed back to her.
"Please wait for a few minutes while we review your applications," the woman instructed. "Then Mr. Fortunato will speak to those of you whom are qualified," she added cheerfully, and bounced out of the room.
Here we go again, Jim Jones mused discouragingly. There's not a chance for me with so many other people to choose from, he thought, as he twitched nervously in his chair. He borrowed a cigarette from the fellow sitting to him, and struck up a conversation. A greatly agitated woman ran into the room while was chatting inanely with the fellow.
"Thank the Lord! I can walk again!" she stridently exclaimed. "Oh, Mr. Fortunato, Mr. Fortunato, are you Mr. Fortunato?" she asked Jim. "
No ma'am," Jim answered, feeling somewhat complimented.
"Good Heavens!" she shouted. "My arthritis! My God, I've been healed! I can walk freely again. Oh, you darlings, you must all work here. Where is the young lady that came to my house with the Product? I owe her my life! I'll owe her everything I have. Mr. Fortunato, God bless him! Please tell me, Where is he? May God bless his heart! I saw his picture in the brochure!" she finally shrieked, and ran from the room.
"Good Lord, how about that," Jim's new acquaintance remarked. "What's with her? What's the Product?"
"Damned if I know," Jim returned, puzzled by the turn of events.
"Hello! Hello! Please let me have your attention!" a booming imperial voice filled the room.
Jim turned about and studied the speaker, a plump, squat, red-faced man, elegantly dressed, sporting expensive jewelry on both hands.
"Thank you very much! I am Bob Fortunato. And this is your lucky day. You have all qualified. We have a position available for each and every one of you. "
"Sir,” an applicant interjected, "What kind of position is it?"
"A position in the highest paid profession in the world," Mr. Fortunato replied, his audience twittering at the prospects. "What does it matter what kind of position it is as long as you can fill it and make a lot of money in the meantime? Ha, ha! If any of you have any objections to getting filthy rich, now is your opportunity to leave," he boisterously suggested, glancing about the room expectantly.
Nobody budged. Mr. Fortunato began to pace back and forth across the room, back and forth, pausing to light a huge cigar, back and forth, puffing and puffing, filling the room with a cloud of pungent smoke. He pulled up abruptly, reached into his trouser pocket and took out a wad of bills, fifties and hundreds.
"You kids see this? This is two thousand green dollars. It represents my earnings for yesterday morning. I ask you, now: Does everyone here have the nerve it takes to get rich? The Product is everything. Money is nothing! That's why there is never enough of it in my account. Money is nothing to me. That's why I have money to burn. Watch this carefully, I'm going to put this fifty-dollar cigar out, throw it away, and light a better cigar, a hundred-dollar, illegal Havana cigar, with this one hundred dollar bill. See that? How do you like that?"
The applicants were dumbfounded by the flagrant display and the waste of what they believed to be wealth. They glanced at each other apprehensively as he became increasingly excited. His face was lit up like a Christmas tree. His hands sparkled with gold and gems as he jerked them up and down with each phrase spoken.
"I'm telling you, kids, you can be filthy rich with ease. I am a multimillionaire, and just two years ago I was collecting unemployment checks. But don't take just my word for it. Geri, come in here, Geri, and hurry up, we need you!" Mr. Fortunato called down the hall. A pretty young lady soon entered the room.
"Geri, how much money did you make yesterday?" he queried.
"Five hundred dollars, Mr. Fortunato, five hundred dollars. Oh, I'm so happy, soooo happy..." she began to weep openly.
"All right, Geri. Go back out there and place some more Product. Your money is right outside there and people are just dying to hand it over to you," Mr. Fortunato declared, turning to address the applicants again.
"There, you see? Five hundred smackers in a single day, and wait 'till you here this: Geri is just one of our average Product placement gals. I tell you, it's absolutely fantastic. You there," he pointed at Jim, "isn't that just fantastic?"
"Yes, five hundred dollars in a day sounds fantastic, but may I ask what the Product is?" Jim inquired.
"The Product? Oh, yes, the Product!"
Mr. Fortunato opened up a closet door, brought out a faux leather black bag and held it aloft triumphantly, for all to behold, as if it were a little Ark of the Covenant.
"This is your kit. One will be placed with each one you one prior to your leaving the room. As you can see, it is tastefully inscribed with the company name, National Product Corporation. Inside this kit is your success formula, all the privileged information you need to become a millionaire. On the top you will see your training manual. Listen carefully: Do not vary from the manual, for our approach has a proven record of success. Most importantly, you will find, underneath the manual, samples of the Product, like this one. Isn't this Product cylinder nicely labeled and distinctively designed? The Product took many years to develop. And here it is. It is not available in stores. We began to offer it to the general public just last year. For every order of Product you place in the home, you will receive..."
"Pardon me, sir," Jim Jones interjected. "What is the Product?"
"What? Ah, yes, the Product. The Product is a completely natural substance tested in our research laboratories, where it was discovered to meet many of the essential physical and mental health needs of the public. Yet, as you can see, it is simply a fine greed, excuse me, green powder. By mixing one tablespoon of this power, I mean powder, with a quart of ordinary tap water, a person will obtain a well balanced natural supply of the Product. In other words, all one has to eat is one tablespoon full of the Product to become healthy; and wealthy, too, if he or she becomes a distributor like you. But never mind the details right now. Your placement training manual will fill you in on the necessary details, and we have a hot line you can call with any questions. Let me assure you that..."
"Excuse me. Has this product been scientifically proven as some sort of cure-all?" Jim interrupted again.
"Scientifically proven?" Mr. Fortunato repeated in an incredulous tone. "Of course, we do not make any false claims. The Product is of the best quality. The Product works. The Product is economical. The Product if used rightly will save the family many hard-earned dollars. The Product if properly utilized will satisfy many of the basic health needs. No human being should lack the minimum daily requirements so he can be free to pursue his fondest dreams. The Product, the Product, the..." Mr. Fortunato stammered with pent-up enthusiasm.
"Excuse me. Mr. Fortunato,” a young woman waved her hand for attention, "does the product cure diseases?"
"Young lady, again, we are not allowed to make such claims, but we know you are qualified to do the right thing," he assured, then paused reflectively. "Listen carefully, now. If the Savior Himself were to come down to Earth to bring us glad tidings, He would be arrested for fraud. Or, even worse, He would be completely ignored. You see, people resent success. That's why there is so much money out there to be earned and burned, just waiting for something like the Product to come along, something that can be held in the hand and used, then mixed in water and swallowed. Put it in their hands, let them feel the weight of it, permit them to taste it, and they won't give it up for anything.”
“But are there cures?” someone spoke up.
"Oh, yes, customers testify to cures, but never say cures. Technically speaking, we aren't allowed to show our customers the testimonies of thousands of people who were, ah, helped by the Product just last week, and who are now leading healthy lives. Just look at me for your proof. I didn't have to give up my Havana cigars, my German beer and sausages, my cognac, or anything else for that matter. None of that stuff can hurt me now. But do you think I can tell everybody that? No. So just stick to the formula in your kits, and tell people they are what they eat and the Product is the best thing to eat because it's what they need. Look at it, uphold it, contemplate the benefits," he shrilly commanded, holding a glass cylinder of the Product up as if it were the Torch of Universal Prosperity.
"Mr. Fortunato," another person queried, “when we go out to sell the Product..."
"Sell, did you say sell? We're not selling the Product. We're placing it with qualified people along the distribution channels illustrated by the chart on the wall over there – a copy is in your manual."
"That looks a little like a pyramid," someone offered.
"But if we're giving away the Product, how are we to make any money for the Corporation?" Jim persisted.
"I daresay you're confused, son. You will not be giving away the Product. You are going to make a great living for yourself placing the Product with qualified persons.
"What will our salary be?" someone inquired.
"Salary? There is no salary. Salaries are for slaves, my friends. You are not going to be employed by the Corporation. If you think positive and act accordingly, you shall all be independently wealthy businessmen and businesswomen. A kit will be placed with you, and then you're on your own, truly free men and women. You will receive the net proceeds of your own placements and a percentage of the proceeds for the Product your placement team distributes. Your manual makes all that very clear, so read it carefully. And as I said, you may call the Help Desk for personal assistance."
"I’m afraid I don't understand all this," Jim declared.
"There's always one, thank God, to motivate me," muttered Mr. Fortunato under his breath, then, out loud, "Have no fear! Think positive and you'll understand. Listen up. As I said, the manual provides all the information you need. It describes how you will recruit other independent contractors, and how you will receive percentages and bonuses according to what they place in the homes plus the net proceeds and bonuses on what you place on your own. I say to you here and now, climb the pyramid – scratch that – climb the steps to the stars. Think BIG! When you get up in the morning, tell yourself that you are a millionaire, over and over, and with the Product, you shall be one many times over for sure. "
"Is there only the Product? Is that all there is?" a man sitting behind Jim quizzed.
"No sir, the prospect automatically becomes a member of the corporation when he receives an initial supply of the Product. Membership in the corporation adds great value to the Product. Our corporation is unique. It is not a dead body. It is a living, growing organism. Everyone who uses the Product to their advantage is a cell in the corporate body. Our corporation is not impersonal. We are all part and parcel of the corporation because we eat the corporation's food, and we are what we eat."
"What does it cost for us to get started?" a voice ensued from the rear of the room.
"That is what is truly remarkable about our corporation. Very little start-up capital is needed. The attractive National Product Corporation kit, including the manual and two product samples, requires a small investment of only two hundred dollars. So step right up here; Sally will make sure you get your kits before you leave. Then go out there and roll in the dollars. Remember, dollars are only a sign, a sign of how happy our customers are."
Jim Jones stood numbly in line in front of the table that had been set up for the purpose of placing the kits and collecting placement money. He had his doubts, but he got in line because almost everybody else did, and because he thought this was his last chance for a job. One person did get up and leave, a fellow who shouted something about "blasphemy", much to the amusement of nearly everyone present. Jim signed the form and counted out two hundred dollars, the last of his money, took his kit to his car and drove away with it. He ran out of gas three blocks from his apartment. He pushed his wreck of a car onto the curb, and walked the rest of the way to his apartment, where he found an eviction notice on the door.
"This is it,” Jim told himself. “I shall do what I must do or die trying. No more doubting for me. I’ve got to think positive, to think big, and be proactive. I'll make it. It doesn't really matter what the product is, not when you're in the highest paid profession in the world."