It is late on the morning before Christmas, and there's an impromptu meeting going on down at the coffee shop. Gathered together are a slew of testosterone laiden laid-off workers from The Shop. The lay-off has been deep and it has been wide. These unfortunate souls don't know what to do with themselves, so they drink coffee and grumble a lot and commiserate with one another.

"So what do we do? All I know is widjamacallits. I can build them, maintain them, repair them, install and operate them. I can teach others about them. But in any other business, I'd have to start from the ground floor up."

"Yeah, well, I'm one step ahead of you guys. I've already been looking for work. Got an interview on Monday."


"Pasty Burger."

There a collective snort of derision. "Pasty Burger!"

"Hey, look on the bright side. Where else do you get 20% off all the hasty burgers you can eat? We didn't get that at the shop."

People--even plastic people--who can see the bright side of a dark and dreary life are in short supply, but rarely appreciated in their own land.

"Get outa here!"

"Don't you just love happy people?"

"Yeah, I'd love to wring their necks."

While the boys are grumbling over coffee, Betty Ratchet and her girls are entertaining.

Alice's older sister, Anna, is pouring tea, much to the delight of Aunt Hetty. "My goodness you've grown. A regular young lady." Anna is a good girl, so she is happy to be a regular young lady, although Alice is not so sure she wouldn't prefer to be an irregular one. She is rebellious that way. Alice idolizes Aunt Hetty's daughter, Holly, and insists upon sitting right next to her.

Henry likes Holly, too, so it is a good thing this is a ladies tea, only, or Alice would have to fight for Holly's attention. Hetty (Holly's mom) is Betty's aunt, so Holly is Betty's first cousin. She is a second cousin to Alice and Anna, but not a blood relation of Henry, who is a nephew on Bob Ratchet's side of the family. All of this is very complicated, so a chart is provided for convenience.

Aunt Hetty has brought along a distant relation, Connie, whom the Ratchets have never met before. She is a second cousin once or twice-removed by Aunt Hetty's grandmother's sister's nephew's first wife (not the nephew who was double-jointed, but the one who could pick up three radio stations with the fillings in his lower molars.)

Connie, it turns out, has traveled widely and is very knowledgeable about the world and the various kinds of people that occupy it. The best part is that it came with her government job, so she didn't have to pay for any of it. Unfortunately, she is being terminated and will soon be looking for new employment. Her replacement has already been selected.

"It's just as well," Aunt Hetty says. "They made her work such long hours. I've been telling her, she should just find a good man and settle down. But she's so independent...remember how you went to school forever. I thought you'd never get done."

"Well, I wanted a good job, and that meant a good education."

"I told her...didn't I tell you...that an education like that was wasted on a woman. It's a man's world and they'd never let you be anything but a secretary, a nurse or a teacher."

"You did say that."

"And look what happened...all that education, all that expense and hard work, and you still just ended up a secretary."

"I'm so sorry about your job," Betty says. "But I'm sure you'll find another one." She doesn't mention that her husband, Bob, is in the same boat. It does sound like it will be hard for Connie to find a comparable secretarial position, one with so many benefits. Betty thinks Conne may even be a little over-qualified for secretarial work, but she doesn't say it aloud, because she doesn't want to dash Connie's hopes.

to be continued...


(continued from the prior episode, which was continued from the one before that)

Bob Ratchet and other of his laid-off co-workers have gathered at the Coffee Shop for a potent combination of caffeine, complaints and commiseration. Heath Olderman happens to stop in that morning to refill his own cup.

Olderman is soon in conversation with the crew, who are all too willing to complain to anyone interested.

"So. You didn't see this coming?"

"What? Just because housing prices were spiraling out of control, just because there was a seemingly never-ending stream of greedy investors trying to make a quick buck on real estate, just because the mortgage and loan institutions joined in the feeding frenzy? Just because every man woman and dog on the street thought he could be an investor, without thinking that this meant there had to be a never-ending supply of increasingly wealthy buyers? And finally, just because it looked eerily like the lead up to Black Monday in 1929, only with real estate instead of the stock market?"

"Well, yes. So you held out?"

"Are you kidding? I jumped in early, flipped a few houses, stuck my profit under the mattress, and retired."

"Bully for you. Why are you here?"

"Just to gloat."

"I didn't know all this. Why didn't you tell me? Before I invested in a house at double it's realistic value with a front-end loaded interest-only fraudulent loan?"

"It's called history repeats itself, kiddo. You shouldn't have slept through that class."

"I think you guys are all wet. This isn't history repeating itself. This is the Shrub in the Whitehouse, taking care of his rich buddies and throwing us working folks under the train. It's all his fault."

"Yeah, well...maybe so, but I'm wondering how he got into the Big House with the Portico in the first place."


Yes, our friends may well hang their heads in shame, for there was a day, some years and some months back, when attention was focused on another presidential election...


"Hello. My name is Gee Whiz Shrub, but my friends and admirers call me G.W. You may not know me personally, but I’m sure you remember my father, who was President a few years back. He taught me everything I know – well, okay, maybe not everything, let’s face it, I was never good enough for him, which is why I really really really want to be president, so I can show him I’m not the dullest pencil in the pack. I mean, take my little brother, Jeb, he'll never amount to much -- stuck in a dead-end job as a governor.

"Anyway, I’m here to make a whole bunch of promises and get your vote, so here goes. I promise to give really big tax cuts to all you wealthy folks out there, and if there’s any poor working class people in this room, if you vote for me, I’ll give you a little tax cut to lull you into a sense of comfort.

"I promise to help out all my oil patch buddies here and abroad, to ignore global warming and otherwise fix things up so they can make a really big profit; same with all you CEOs in the banking and investment houses. Get rid of those pesky regulations, we got too many laws protecting the little people, anyway. It’s time we looked after the rich. They’ve been neglected far too long. I don’t think we need all those Constitutional protections either, they’re just for sissies. Okay, I think that’s everything, so please vote for me. "

"Huh? Oh. Yeah. Right. "

"And also I’m against abortion and gun control and that there ten spell research…"

"..what?....oh, right, stem bell…huh?...gotcha. Stem cell research. I’m agin’ it.”

"Yeah! Shrub, Shrub, he’s our man. If he can’t S…. us, nobody can."

“You really know what matters to us, Governor Shrub. You're a true man of the people.”


"Wait! I think I get it! Is this, like, karma?"

"You got it, sweetheart. The votes you sow today are the seeds of the crop you reap tomorrow. Take care, folks."

Heath Olderman passes out into the light of the day.

"Wow. Poetic justice. This is like so awesome."

"Can we tie him to the railroad tracks?"

And over at the studio...

"And there you have it, folks. As we move to the end of the final chapter of this administration, many are curious about those who voted for President Shrub and what they think now. Unfortunately, Shrub voters are unusually shy and reluctant to step into the limelight, and thus specimens have been difficult to isolate in the last months. Nevertheless, it has long been speculated that they exist in vast numbers. There is some indication that they can be found in clusters, in our own neighorhoods, in local businesses and coffee shops. I can personally attest to the fact that they do exist, as I have seen them with my own eyes. They, with the rest of the nation, have inherited the legacy of the Great User, G.W. Shrub. This is Heath Olderman, and this is Count-Up, Two thousand something rotations of the Planet since the declaration of victory on a Rock. Good night and good luck. You'll need it."