Ed Zack was tired of his job, and he was not going to take it anymore.
"Oh no, I'll take it. It is not so bad," he said to the Universe after it had finished punching him in his emotional gut for the day. He was lying in bed with his wife, grabbing onto her tightly with all he had. It was not that he loved his wife. Oh lord no, not that. He loved her in the same way he loved his mattress: he escaped to both items for comfort because they was soft, and never punched him. He never wanted to leave his mattress or his wife, did not want to wake up and go out into the Universe and to work ever again. The Universe was a big fat bully—quite fat, actually, in order to contain all the big fat people. The Universe was insecure because it was so fat, and took it out on Ed Zack by giving him a job as store manager at the dark corners of Jippie's Department Store. As a rule, each day was worse than before.
"I'd say that it gets better with each day that passes. I really will say it. In fact, I'll say it right now! It gets better with each passing day." He looked unsettled. He looked sad. "Just because I seem sad and seem unsettled does not mean that I am sad OR unsettled," he reminded his wife, who was rolled over, her mind far away from him. The first day he came home from work with bruises in his gut, she had soothed him. But now he seemed to reject soothing, because it meant there was sympathy involved. Now when she went to get bandages or ice, he would send her away, saying, "No! It's fine. In fact, I like the bruises. They make me more of a man. Well, maybe not more of a man, but at least more of a man with bruises, and that's the same, isn't it?"
His wife stopped knowing what to do, and so did nothing. Now when he began his crusade to pretend that working at Jippie's Department Store was "not so bad", she began her internal mission to go to sleep. He continued raining words that carried the pretense that life was half-way decent, good, even, until the early hours of the morning. "Besides, I'm lucky to even have a job at all," he tried the cliché one-liner. Most people do not have jobs." A lot of people, actually, did have jobs. To be frank, more people in the United States had jobs than did not. Statistically, more people with jobs also said, "Well, at least I have a job" to make themselves feel better in the United States than did not.
It went on for three hours. Ed Zack tried all the tactics in the book to make himself feel better. He compared it to manure shoveling. He marveled at the greatness in being able to listen to music on the job. He mentioned the cleverness found in the retail business, citing the Jippie's Department Store catchphrase "Buying Merchandise-Tunity" as an example of a wonderful play on the word "opportunity." He did all he could do to not cry because, after all, convincing yourself not to cry until you fall asleep is more brave than crying yourself to sleep.
He had work the next morning. The customers would complain to him about his appearance, threatening to call the district manager if he continued to look like that. The same songs would play on the Jippie's Department Store radio in a repetition much like death. He would make the underwear section in the Men's Department beautiful, like artwork, only to have it destroyed again by customers who insisted on taking it out of the package to "see what it looked like outside of the package." He would stroll across the sales floor, seeing employees asleep in Layaway, in the towel aisle, and in the toy department, where kids drew on them with markers. There was nothing that could be done to make life at Jippie's better.
"There has to be something I can do," he said, brushing his teeth in the mirror that morning before work. He had a doomed idea.
"I have a great idea!" he exclaimed, tucking in his dress shirt into his navy blue corduroy pants. He had decided that he would take advantage of the music at Jippie's Department Store, and propose a dance for 8PM that evening. The customers and the employees would both dance together on the floor. He would print out fliers from his office. "Who doesn't like dancing?" Ed Zack pointed out as he made his way into the store, confident and ready.
He passed around the fliers after they had all been released from the printer in his office.
"MISSING THE BIG 70's DANCE OFF BECAUSE YOU NEED TO GO SHOPPING? NO FEAR! COME TO JIPPIE'S AND YOU CAN BUY THINGS, AND THEN DANCE!" the fliers shouted at all the customers who passed by him. Then came 8PM. He made an announcement on the loud speaker. "Everyone! Get ready! In three seconds, it will be boogie hour!" Ed Zack began to dance. He passed by a customer, and asked her to dance with him. She sneezed on him, and then walked away. He waved his hips around the entire store, but no one waved their hips back. He was engaged in a 1970s dance off with himself, for a few seconds, before he gave up. All he wanted to do was cry, and that night he began his daily routine of thinking of ways not to do so.
"I know!" he said to his wife's sleeping body. "We will have an event where no one dances. This will bond the customers and the employees, because neither of them will be dancing!"
This time, the fliers read, "FEEL LIKE LIFE HAS JUST BEEN ONE GIANT DANCE OFF? WELL, TONIGHT AT 8PM, NO ONE WILL BE DANCING AND YOU WON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT WORKING ON YOUR TAP!"
This time, the announcement went, "Okay, everyone! It is 8PM. Time for everyone not to dance!"
8PM closely resembled 7PM, which resembled all the other PMs and AMs and every other minute in that store, in that no one danced. Ed Zack considered it a success. There they were on the sales floor: customers and employees together, both not dancing, friends and comrades, partaking in the same stillness of the body. It was beautiful, and it made him, perhaps, too confident when he planned his next reform measure.
He had planned a "employee/customer switch off", where, just as it sounded, employees and customers would switch roles. Oftentimes, employees would come to Jippie's Department Store on their days off, just to be customers because, looking at them from behind cash registers, it seemed like the way to be. Now they would get their chance while at work. And the customers probably all wanted to be employees, because they were always complaining about spending so much money. Now they could be the people who made money, and all for fun, meaning they would not actually get paid to do it. His vision of how the employee-customer switch off had dream-like qualities to it. In this dream, the Jippie's Department Store employee would say, "Hang on, let me take your merchandise off your hands. I'll buy it for myself." The customer would express gratitude, and then propose a good deed of his own. "And you don't worry about ringing up the customers. Don't worry, man, I got it."
This occasion very much resembled the anti-dance off of the previous day, wherein everyone did not dance and continued about their typical routines. Typical routines, however, were exactly what Ed Zack was trying to hide from.
There was only one thing he could do to take the misery away. One thing to end it all. "I'm not going to just go and kill myself!" Well, there were two things he could do. "That's it. I am done with trying to reform this place. Capitalism cannot be reformed. It must be ended."
And so that was that. Simple, easy, done. That was that. In fact, however, that was not actually that. That was...well, it was this.
Ed Zack spent more time than usual brushing his teeth the following morning; he wanted his breath to be very fresh for all the screaming he intended to do. His bath, too, was longer, and his hair even contained gel. Ed Zack's wife noticed the change in his appearance at breakfast time, and considered speaking to him. She was used to looking at a ruined man, constantly trying to convince himself he was not ruined. For the first time, she thought that maybe what he was trying to convince himself of was true: maybe he was not ruined, after all.
Ed Zack came late to work, and this made him feel especially empowered. "I'm late!" he said with glee to every employee he passed. "Look at me! I'm late. Can you believe it? Ed Zack late! He must be up to something, huh, huh, huh! Something bad, he, he, he!"
He wasted no time. He was tired of his job, and he was not going to take it anymore. "Seriously!" he proclaimed, loving every word he spoke. "Not gonna take it! No, sir!"
He made his way towards the phone in his office that he used to make announcements over the Jippie's Department Store loudspeaker. He pressed his mouth up against it.
"Attention customers!" he said, impassioned. "You're done. No more customers. Go outside, and become people. Capitalism is done, too. Gone. Dead. I killed it. Aw, sad. No more." His words became a feverish chant. "No more capitalism! No more capitalism!"
Interestingly, the customers seemed glad of it. "Yay!" one of them, or all of them, because they're all pretty much the same, exclaimed, "We get to leave!" It was as though they were about to get their summer vacation. Being a customer must have been hard work; they didn't want to do it, but they had no choice.
Ed Zack wrote newsletters to all the Jippie's Department Stores, informing each Jippie's Store Manager throughout the country that capitalism had been killed, by him. The newsletter had read:
"Capitalism is dead, and there is nothing you can do about it."
On the bottom of the newsletter was Ed Zack's signature. Of course, capitalism's death had been completely staged, just like Elvis'. Arguably, the Jippie's Department Store managers could have continued running their stores, selling their merchandise, keeping their wage slaves, and so on. But in the newsletter, it did say that there was nothing they could do about it, didn't it? It sure did. And so the managers simply shrugged their shoulders and believed him.
"We've got to do something about it!" one manager, a young, recent college graduate named Chester Milton, declared passionately after bringing his sales associates to a meeting a few hours after he had received the newsletter. He had handed out copies to the Jippie's staff, which was his first mistake.
"No, no," one of the cashiers pointed at the newsletter. "It says right here. In big, bold letters. It says 'There's nothing you can do about it.' See? You cannot dispute what is written."
The manager sighed, and was lost within a sea of nodding heads. He became an Ed Zack, only heading in an opposite direction. That night he said to his girlfriend while lying in bed in his apartment, "It's not so bad, the death of capitalism, I mean. It's just capitalism. There's a lot worse things that could die than capitalism...like...the President!"
The president was on a golf trip, and did not notice anything that was going on. For all he knew, capitalism was alive and breathing. He did not question it when no one asked him to pay for his golf clubs. People typically did not. He assumed that was part of the capitalism deal: support it, and you get free golf clubs!
When it was announced on television that capitalism had died, there were conspiracy theories. Some news channels claimed that the Marxists had killed it, to which they responded, "What are you talking about? We wouldn't do that. We love capitalism." Others pointed to the terrorists, who said, "Did you SEE anything exploding lately? No, we've been very good." The president was a prime suspect, largely because he did not seem to be doing anything to stop the death of capitalism. When questioned, he said, "What are you talking about? There's still capitalism. It's doing quite well. Is this a joke?" Many wars probably could have been prevented if the president assumed it all had been a joke. "What are you talking about? No one actually becomes communists," he would have said in response to pressure to go to Korea and Vietnam. "Is this a joke? No one is ACTUALLY a terrorist," he would have said to pressure to invade Iraq. "They probably bought those terrorist group masks from a costume store." As the coffin of capitalism was being buried underneath the earth, he merely laughed.
Ed Zack called a mass meeting for all employees and managers of Jippie's Department Store to take place in the parking lot outside Jippie's. They wanted to know what to do now that capitalism had expired. Ed Zack had spent a few minutes, or maybe it was seconds, thinking about this himself. He thought back to his boyhood dreams, his love for museums. Before capitalism had been declared deceased, he had wanted to be a tour guide, but he had thought this dream to be too wild for this typical, everyday American named Ed Zack. Now he was ready.
"All Jippie's Department Stores will be made into museums," he stated to the group. Thousands and thousands of men, women, teenagers, and illegally working children stared at him. "To honor the lives of all those enslaved, so that no one ever forgets what they went through!"
"Hip hip hooray!" everyone cheered. They were pleased. Now instead of actually being cashiers and fitting room girls and managers in a department store, they would pretend to be cashiers and fitting room girls and managers in a museum!
"I always wanted to be an actor!" one stunningly handsome blonde-haired boy shrieked. He went home and told his mom that he was going to be a cashier no longer, but a star.
One by one, stores around the country became museums. At first, the customers did not understand. They continued to come in mass numbers to Jippie's Department Store, ready to buy enough to fill their tiny little hearts with pleasure. They waited in line, and put their merchandise down on the register. They began taking their money out of their wallets only to be told, "Oh, no, put that away. We don't actually sell anything here anymore. I hope you enjoyed your tour."
There was much resistance at first. "What are you talking about? I'm buying this stuff."
The actors pretending to be cashiers enjoyed this part the most; it was the part where they were able to say "no" to the customers. It was their favorite word in the world. "Nope," they would say. "Capitalism is dead."
The customer would always assume someone had gone crazy. When they realized all the cashiers were denying customers the ability to be customers, they assumed everyone in the world had gone crazy. The cashiers would say, stern-voiced, "Get this woman out of here. She's lost her mind. She is trying to purchase items on my register."
A security guard would take the customer out.
The re-inactor sales floor workers were given electrical sticks. Whenever the customers came to the store and touched merchandise, they would be hit with the electrical stick. There were, after all, very visible signs on all the merchandise that said, "DO NOT TOUCH."
"I was not going to touch it!" the customer would respond, attempting the defense that she was a customer. But no more. She was not a customer. She was a person. "I was just going to buy it!" She would say this as she was hit with an electrical stick. "Ow, that hurt."
"We said not to touch!" the energized sales floor worker re-inactors would remind the naughty customers. "This isn't a store. This stuff isn't for sale. This is a museum."
Finally, the sales people did not have to clean up after the customers. They loved museums! The customers decidedly did not like museums one bit. They get hit with things when they are at museums, and they do not get to touch anything. Simply put, they would have to go somewhere else to get their touching done.
There was a fear that no one would want to come back to Jippie's Department Store Museum if they could not buy anything. This fear was quickly quieted. In fact, more people came to Jippie's Department Store Museum than ever before. As it turned out, most people did not come to Jippie's Department Store to buy merchandise because they needed the merchandise. They just liked the feeling, the high, that came from selecting an item and then having it scanned and then put in a shopping bag. More often than not throughout the days of capitalism, the customers would buy items, only to return them the next day.
When Ed Zack put out his next newsletter, it contained ads addressed to anyone who would like to reenact being a customer. Thousands upon thousands of applications poured in. Soon the store was filled with people, pretending to be customers. They pretended to need to use the restroom, to have questions for the employees, and, their favorite part, they pretended to buy merchandise.
Soon the tourists came. Ed Zack's wildest, most crazy, most intense dream became a reality: he was finally a tour guide. His dream began the next day.
"And over here are the cashiers," he pointed towards the people pretending to be cashiers. Fifteen tourists stopped and stared. The cashiers were quite the site. They were putting merchandise inside of bags, and would do so for the next eight hours, on repeat. "Look at them go!"
The people pretending to be cashiers tried to make it realistic as possible, and thus looked very sad. They were professionals! After this acting gig, they told themselves, Hollywood would be next! Maybe they could land jobs pretending to be waitresses for ten hours a day! Or electricians! No, no. They should first try being a waitress, and then pretending to be a waitress would be easier, though certainly challenging in its own right.
Next Ed Zack brought the tourists over towards the flock of actors and actresses pretending to be customers. These actors knew how to sing. "Where is the bathroom?" one of them began the tune, and then another added in a perfect harmony. "Where is the bathroom? Where is the bathroom?" This chorus went on for many minutes. "Is this the right price? It does not seem like the right price," they went to the next verse in their chorus. . "I want to return this bag of chips. I liked the chips, but I don't like the bag. So I am returning the bag!" the next woman sang. Their voices were splendidly. It all seemed beautiful.
On the other corner was the action scene. Three customers were in the pillow aisle, throwing pillows everywhere. In the pot aisle, pots were thrown to the ground. In the toy aisle, a drama was being performed. In it, there was five-year-old boy and an employee. The boy, one of the youngest performers on the set, had been dropped off by his mother to the playground that was the toy aisle while his mother went to look for a new sweater. "Where's your mom?" the employee asked. "I don't know, don't know, don't know," the boy sang. "Lookin for sweaters she's looking for sweaters I may be kidnapped I may be kidnapped!" At this point, someone pretended to kidnap the boy and bring him back to her house. Then the boy would be brought back (uh, hopefully) and kidnapped again. Ed Zack liked this part of the museum play house best because before he turned Jippie's Department Store into Jippie's Department Store Museum because it made him realize the benefits of killing reality and turning it into a museum. Everything seemed less vicious and horrid now that it was made of plastic.
Ed Zack had a terrible idea. "I have the best idea!" he shouted as he popped upright from a dream. Then he fell back down on his back and fell back asleep. He needed lots of sleep to try out this idea.
In this idea, there would be a souvenir shop in the Jippie's Department Store museum. He spent all afternoon making preparations. In this souvenir shop, he sold sweaters, just like the ones people used to spend their money on in the days of capitalism. He sold pants too. Socks. Underwear. You name it. He also sold credit cards and money. The money was the most special part. It was so special he had it framed. It looked just like money from the days of capitalism.
Ed Zack did not have to spend much time finding supplies. That was the best part! He had it all in his store.
The grand opening of Jippie's Department Store Souvenir Shop came the next day. The first customer was a girl named Judy, with a firework explosion of freckles and a sunset of blonde hair that had been dyed red. She saw the five dollar bill in the picture frame, and she wanted it. She really, really wanted it. It looked so nice...That man in it. She wanted the man on it. To her, this was much better than those magazines with men in them her parents were always trying to get her to read. This man looked...fresh. What was his name? She would have to find out, and then claim him as her own.
She sighed, and she swooned. Ed Zack went over to find out what was going on over by the money section of his store. "Ah, yes, this is something very evil," he said.
Judy wanted the five dollar bill even more. Or maybe she just wanted the man on it. So that if she ever saw him on the streets, she could say, "Oh, hello! I have you in your pockets." Then the man would go, "Oh, whatever do you mean!" And they would talk about it and laugh and fall in love. Yeah, she wanted that. She wanted--
"It is called money," Ed Zack had the sneaky suspicious he was evil himself for even saying the word so simply. But when he said it, he also felt pretty darn good. Money? Is that really what it was called? It has a nice ring to it. He caught the look of longing in Judy's eyes, and he longed to make it go away.
And then came the mistake. "Would you like to purchase it?" he asked, and then shrieked back in horror at his own words. It was all up to Judy's reaction to determine the future of Jippie's Department Store Museum. Indeed, Judy answered with a haunting nod of the head.
"I am back!" cried capitalism, chipper as can be, as it emerged from it's graveyard. No one could reform it, and no one could kill it. This time, instead of spending three to nine hours convincing himself that the world was "not so bad", Ed Zack simply sobbed.