Donald Chestnut, a 2010 graduate from Baker May Online University, has become the first person in the history of humanity to earn a living wage, using his Phd in creative writing.
“Most people talk about my brother Joey, who got famous for eating all the hot dogs, but today is finally my day!” Chestnut rejoiced with his arms up.
“I studied creative writing during my time taking online classes 13 years ago and since then I’ve been working at a Shoney’s selling beef sticks, but as of recently I was hired by a marketing company to write prompts to feed to an ai which creates copy for political speeches for libertarian candidates!” Chestnut said enthusiastically, chortling with glee.
“I get paid in a manilla folder once a week, $4,000 cash, I don’t need to go into an office, I don’t need to know the names of anyone I’m working with, I got the job from a listing on Backpage.com but they said the only reason I got it was because of my creative writing degree! So it is finally paying for itself!” A few tears rolled down Chestnuts face.
“Everyone thought I was such a dumb idiot for pursuing my dream of writing, but now I am finally paying back my student loans, and if I’m able to keep this job for 12 more years, I will have paid them all back!”
As Chestnut was basking in the happiness of his writing job he then got a text message telling him his services were no longer needed for the writing job he so lovingly held.
He then burst out crying and dropped to his knees.
“Noooo!” He screamed.
“I don’t want to go back to Shoney’s selling beef sticks! I… Don’t… Wannaaaa!” Chestnut became hysterical, whimpering and struggling to compose himself as we spoke at the bus stop in front of the Shoney’s where he was able to get WiFi so he could send in his writing prompts to the mysterious group he worked for.
Just then my phone began vibrating and I told Chestnut I needed to take the call. It was a libertarian candidate running for District Chancellor of the 5th ward, where I was currently conducting my interview with Donald Chestnut.
“This is Kenneth Montgomery, the libertarian candidate running for the position of District Chancellor of the 5th ward, where I believe you currently conduct interviews!” Said Montgomery, happily, on the phone.
“Yes, yes, that is true, I do, do business here.” I responded.
“Very good, very good!” Montgomery said.
“Well, I’m calling because a new political speech written to me by ai has informed me that beef sticks at Shoney’s are actually the key factor to swaying this election, and using my GPS tracking capabilities of your phone, I noticed you were right by the Shoney’s in the 5th ward. Is this correct?” Montgomery inquired.
“Yes, yes, that is correct.” I said, not curious or concerned with where any of this was going, Chestnut now laying flat on his stomach, face against the hot pavement, cars zooming through puddles splashing onto Chestnut, soaking him as he lay.
“Well,” Montgomery winded up,
“I need you to go in there and buy me as many beef sticks as you can and I am going to grind them up into a fine powder and wear it as cologne and seduce people one by one in the area and try to sleep with as many voters as I can and blackmail them to secure my votes. Would you be willing to go buy me the lions share of beef sticks from the Shoney’s you are currently in front of?” He asked.
I tried to respond, but Chestnuts cries became so loud that I just said, “Yes I will,” and told Montgomery that I would need to call him back because it had gotten so loud where I was.
I leaned down to tap on Chestnut’s back to talk to him. He rolled over, revealing the gravel imprints on his face from the road, tears mixed with snot and an overall aura of sadness consuming him.
“Hey Chestnut.” I tried to say lightly with a tone of sincerity and hope.
“What.” Chestnut said, justifiably bummed out.
“If you go back in to Shoney’s and use your former employee status to sneak out large amounts of beef sticks I might be able to potentially get you back in the good graces of the libertarian party, and maybe help you get your job back. Is that something you would be interested in doing?” I pitched him.
Without thinking about it, Chestnut jumped to his feet and took off towards the Shoney’s with a stride of purpose and strength.
In a few shakes of a dog’s tail, Chestnut was back with large dark bags full of beef sticks.
“Thanks so much!” I said with joy.
“This will definitely help!”
I told Chestnut I would call him later.
I met with Montgomery and gave him the large bags of beef sticks and explained to him how Chestnut got them for me and how he was really bummed out about losing his job.
“Yea… Yea, that’s the business.” Montgomery shook his head with a “there’s nothing I can do” demeanor.
“There’s got to be something you can do for poor Chestnut, that job writing prompts for the ai was everything to him.” I pleaded.
Montgomery then cocked a pistol and put it to my head.
“You want to die for this guy?” Montgomery became gravely serious as if he might really pull the trigger.
“No… I wouldn’t die for this person. He’s someone I was profiling for my story, but I wouldn’t die for him. I just felt for him because he seemed like a nice guy who had done all the right things his whole life and he had finally gotten a break. I just think he deserved to be happy and earn a living wage using his liberal arts degree. No one else has ever done that before.”
Montgomery lowered the gun to his side.
“You know I’m running for District Chancellor of ward 5?” He asked me rhetorically.
“Yes, yes, I know that.” I said calmly, happy he had put his gun down.
I fired my pistol from my hip while Montgomery had let his guard down. The bullet hit him directly in his side.
He dropped to the ground, stunned.
“Oh God, what have I done!” I panicked.
“I don’t know why I did that, I was scared, you scared me!” I tried to rationalize with the bleeding out libertarian candidate.
“I was going to tell you that I could give him a job on my campaign, I was going to help him you fool.” Montgomery angrily scolded me as he laid there losing life.
I called an ambulance, which showed up on time to keep Montgomery on life support. I rode in the ambulance with him, trying to talk over Montgomery so he could not tell them that I was the one who shot him. I made up some story about someone driving by and indiscriminately shooting in our direction and a stray bullet caught Montgomery in the side.
I encouraged the EMTs to keep Montgomery’s oxygen mask tight to his face to help stifle him for speaking up.
When we got to the hospital and Montgomery was eventually stabilized, I spoke with him and begged him not to rat me out for shooting him.
“If you tell on me, I will shoot you again, and this time I will kill you.” I promised him as he lay in his hospital bed, slightly delusional from the pain medication.
“Yes… Yes, whatever you want, just don’t kill me.” Montgomery finally gave me the power and his fear had made him give up fighting me.
“Good. That’s a good decision you’ve made… Also, I want you to get Donald Chestnut his job back.” I said.
“Yes. I will do that.” Montgomery said.
I left the hospital.
I called Donald Chestnut the next day.
“Hey Donald, how is everything? Did you get your job back?” I asked.
“As a matter of fact, I did!” Chestnut said delightedly.
“I got a call from Shoney’s this morning. The manager sounded very nervous and scared, but they offered me my job back preparing beef sticks!” Chestnut said with a tinge of bittersweetness.
“What?” I said confused.
“I wanted you to get your job back as the writer making $4,000 a week writing the ai prompts!” I was furious.
“Huh?” Chestnut responded confused.
“It’s a long story!” I shouted.
I drove back to the hospital, barged into Montgomery’s room, but he instead of being feeble in his bed he was now sitting up, with a group of men in suits surrounding him, all who had drawn weapons the second I entered the room and I was now staring down the barrels of multiple firearms.
“Well, look who was stupid enough to come back.” Montgomery slow-clapped.
“You need to get Chestnut his job back as the writer.” I said, not worried about the guns.
“He did.” Chestnut said, walking out from behind me.
“Chestnut! What? What is this? What’s going on?” I was dumbfounded.
“He got me back my job. But I couldn’t tell you. You should’ve just let it go. Leave me be. But you had to come back here. Now I have to do this.” Chestnut then pulled a hand gun and fired at my chest, eerily near the same spot I had shot Montgomery.
I dropped like a bag of potatoes.
“Chestnut… I was doing all this for you.” I said, my consciousness fading.
“I know…” Chestnut said.
“It’s all going to be ok…” He said, walking away from me as I passed out.
I woke up in a dingy room with no windows somewhere, wearing different clothes. Cheap clothes that looked like some sort of uniform.
A man walked into the room carrying large dark bags. I realized my ankle was chained to a radiator in the corner of the room.
“Hello John! I hear you’re our new employee!” The man said to me.
He then dumped out a load of Shoney’s beef sticks onto the floor in front of me.
“You ever wonder how the Shoney’s beef sticks get so salty?” He asked.
“No. I don’t.” I responded.
“Tears.” He said.
“You’re not leaving here anytime soon, so when you get lonely and cry, just please try to do it on the beef sticks.” The man said, turning to walk away.
He then stopped, and turned back to say one more thing.
“Oh yea, and don’t eat any of the beef sticks, they’re for the customers.” The man then exited the room and I could hear the steel door being dead bolted.
I’ve been in the room now for a few days, and it’s given me time to reflect on my experiences so far at Tampa News Force over the years and to write this story which was past deadline by the time I turned it in.
I’m still currently in the room, but I believe I’ve learned the pattern of when people come and go and I’ve loosened the shackle on my ankle enough where I believe if I use all my force I could break free the next time someone enters the room, so please pray for me to be able to execute that smoothly.
Hopefully this is the last time I go out for a Tampa News Force story and end up shackled to a radiator.