The First Story
Political satire’s not dead, it just wants to sleep a little longer.
On the flight to New York, in an under-lit and sterile plane cabin, at the middle seat between two large women, Henry Cockburn held his phone on his lap. The phone displayed a text message notification, from Amal Beck.
Henry frowned. He ran his fingers through his hair. He stared at the notification for several minutes. Then, he put his phone down.
Henry ruffled through the kitschy airline catalog stored in the seat pocket before him. It advertised products such a hot-dog decorated leash, and a stick that could cure hiccups. The ads seemed like plot devices in a sci-fi movie written on a tight deadline. More damningly, they were too funny. The catalog would make for great stand-up material. Working for ElectON, according to Sam, meant that Henry had no time for stand-up until 2025. Henry, by habit, crafted jokes in the shower, in the queue for the deli, at the laundromat, in a bus, in a car, in a train, on a plane, in pain. Amal could sit down and focus all his comedic energy on a notebook for an hour, then leave the matter behind. The prospect of one job, no matter how noble, keeping Henry on a leash…
The comedian jammed the magazine back into the tight sleeve in front of him. He fiddled with with the radio channels on the armrest, marveling that they had survived this far into the 21st century. He browsed, on his phone, through all the farewell messages his friends left him on Facebook. He reread the introduction packet Sam sent. He refreshed his favorite sites. He bolted from them as soon as they began displaying political jokes. He went back to the introduction packet, and doodled curly mustaches and obscene phrases over all its stock photos.
He leaned his head on the squishy headrest and yawned, and sighed. He glanced at his phone. There was still an hour and a half before the plane landed in New York.
Henry grumbled, and wiggled against the seatbelt as he sat up. He opened the text message from Amal. It turns out Amal sent two:
AMAL: Family values, my fellow job creator. Were it otherwise. She threatens big government if I exercise any of my state's rights.
AMAL: Sorry. Please...