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The Probing 'A' Question

Updated on September 24, 2011
Sunrise... | Source

A Morning Like any Other…

I have a sixth-sense thing going on. An internal antenna that warns of catastrophe. It’s almost eerie. In fact, it would be eerie if this feeling occurred just prior to a catastrophe…normally it kicks in about fifteen-minutes into the ordeal. I have a 20/20 hindsight thing going on…it’s eerie…

Like every morning…I rode the blissful train of ignorance into work. I did not anticipate that the train would prove a wreck, however.

Upon my arrival I had gone into the Hubsville Café…grabbed a doughnut and a cup of coffee while chatting up the barista and exchanging nods with those few Hubbers I recognized casually. It was a normal morning.

In retrospect…these would be the last people to see me before… “The Incident.”

I had planned a low pressure day for myself. I was going to scope out some fan mail…write some fan mail…perhaps do some Hub-Hopping in search of new friends and great talent. I was just coming off a story and a bad break-up and I needed a little ‘me’ time to decompress...

My plate wasn’t full and the portion that was sitting on it definitely hailed from the low-calorie side of the menu…


Are you Rendering me In the Halls of Hubsville…?

As I fished the office key out of my pocket…that internal antenna I spoke of…? Yeah…nothing…

As such, I was pretty surprised when two burly functionaries bracketed me as I moved down the hall. Dressed in grey suits and fedoras they were nothing more than faceless bureaucrats.

They did, however, have a purpose and I appeared to be it. Their lack of faces just made them creepier.

“Sandwiches?” Grunted one of them towards my general direction.

“Sslahbwit. Slurb-nom…” I acknowledged around my mouthful of jelly doughnut. I swallowed quickly. I was at a disadvantage.

Not only was my trigger finger fully occupied by holding the hot coffee…I didn’t have a trigger to put the finger into. Also, they seemed much more prepared for our encounter than I was.

I considered throwing the piping hot coffee into their non-faces…but I doubted the effect and I hesitated at the thought of wasting fifty-three cents worth of coffee…that represented six-months of, as yet, unpaid Hubpages wages…

In an egregious violation of personal space issues, within typical North American customs and norms of course, they crowded me…

“Hey, hey….bubble of sanctuary guys…” I protested as they jostled me.

The one behind pinioned my arms while relieving me of my back-pack as the other slapped the coffee from my hand.


“Shut-up,’ growled the voice from behind as the other pulled out a burlap hood. The body search was conducted perfunctorily but that brevity didn’t mask the grasping intensity of his hands.

“Do you want me to put this hood on you?” Questioned, the apparent leader, menacingly.

“Um…is that your thing? Hoods? Because really guys…I’m not sure what you’ve heard…but…”

Blackness as the hood is thrust over my head. As they begin moving me through the building it occurs to me to ask…

“Wait…are you rendering me in the halls of Hubsville?”

Prison in Shlisselburg fortress.
Prison in Shlisselburg fortress. | Source
Torture using waterboarding.
Torture using waterboarding. | Source

Removed to an Un-disclosed Location…

As I was moved through my burlap darkness, I searched my mind for any recent violations I may have committed against the Patriot Act.

I mean…I’m no angel. I smoked some weed while coming up with the idea for this article…there was a rolling stop the other day…there was that time when I rolled through the stop while smoking weed…was any of this covered under the Patriot Act?

Do I have skeletons in my closet? Oh yeah. In fact, I have shifts of skeletons, working nights shredding boxes of secrets, that I hope never see the light of day…that said…none of my actions rose to the level of running afoul of National Security…I didn’t think…

Truth was…I had never read the Patriot Act but I didn’t feel bad…none of the Congress-people, who voted for it, had read it either…

Only after I was deposited in an interrogation room was the hood removed...

Dimly lit, with the temperature running towards the colder side, the room didn’t exude comfort. A cigarette burned and scarred wooden table occupied the bulk of the space with a metal folding chair being the only seat.

Before leaving, the two goons relieved me of my watch, belt, shoelaces, and the hang-man’s noose I kept in my back-back...

A large screen on the wall activated and the ‘Hub Statistics’ of my Hubpages account page appeared...

After thirty-minutes it refreshed to indicate that one new viewer had visited my hubs…the thirty-minute cycle began anew…It was with horror that I realized their nefarious tactic…Electronic Water-boarding…

I gritted my teeth. Those fucking bastards! I vowed then and there that they wouldn’t break me. I would be resolute. I would be a rock. I would be a resolute rock. Still…I had to pee, and ironically, I was thirsty at the same time…NO! I wouldn’t break…

Dry lips...
Dry lips... | Source
Grease Gun...
Grease Gun... | Source

The Confrontation…

Suddenly, the wall screen shut off. I could tell that an intercom had been activated somewhere beyond my line of sight...

The dim light bulb, encased in its protective wire mesh, had never been shut off. I was disorientated by this time. How many thirty-minute cycles had I endured? I felt like an animal. Caged. Starved for conversation…any human contact…

“Mr. Sandwiches…” The disembodied voice floated through the recessed speakers before being cut off by my desperate plea…

“I will give you the names and Social Security numbers of every American I know if you just let me go pee!” I yelled at the unseen presence behind the speakers. “What day is this?? What country are we in??”

I fell off into an incoherent babbling as my blistered, saliva-starved lips, quaked at the inhumanity of it all…

“Mr. Sandwiches,” said the metallic tinged voice, “You have been in this room for forty-five minutes. Please calm down. A matter has come up that needs to be discussed, after which, you are free to leave.”

“Forty-five minutes…?” I simpered.

“Yes, sir.”

“I see.” I replied as I wiped away the snot bubble that continuously poked its head out my left nostril. I refused to let them see me weaken...

“Who are you people? Those weren’t Grammar cops who brought me in here! Those goons spilled my coffee! Is that you Dick Cheney?!?”

Behind the microphone I heard the sound of phlegmatic coughing laughter. If grease made a sound as it slid down a wall…this would be the sound it made. It sounded like Dick Cheney’s laughter…you know…almost human…but not…kind of greasy…

“I can assure you sir, that the former Vice-President, is not involved in this matter.” Said the voice, “And I apologize for your treatment and the loss of your coffee. We fully intend to replace your coffee and, upon leaving, you will find that your PayPal account has been credited by one dollar.”

“An American dollar?”


“Do you think you can just buy me off?” I asked scornfully.


“OK…so who are you guys and what’s the problem?” I replied as I wondered if not reporting that dollar would violate the Patriot Act…my mental closet-skeletons groaned at the increased work load…

An Artichoke...
An Artichoke... | Source
On April 1, 1933, the boycott which was announced by the Nationalsocialistic party began. Placard reads, "Germans, defend yourselves, do not buy from Jews", at the Jewish Tietz store. Berlin. New York Times Paris Bureau Collection.
On April 1, 1933, the boycott which was announced by the Nationalsocialistic party began. Placard reads, "Germans, defend yourselves, do not buy from Jews", at the Jewish Tietz store. Berlin. New York Times Paris Bureau Collection. | Source

The Problem…

The wall screen activated and showed a split-image. On the left was, again, my ‘Hub Statistics’ page and on the right an image of my latest story…The Breakup.

There were two noticeable differences from usual. Next to the entry line for ‘The Breakup,’ on my Statistics page, was a dollar sign with a line running through it…Ads disabled.

On the right side my story had the comment, “Advertising has been disabled based on Moderator’s review.”

“I am a moderator Mr. Sandwiches,” Intoned the voice. “In this story you recently published…you used the ‘A’ word. As such…we permanently disabled the ability for you to earn any money from this article…so as not to offend our advertisers.”

“The ‘A’ word?”

“Yes, sir.”


“No sir…”

“Arboreal?" I probed… "Amorous?”


“Amphibian…?” I continued to run down my ‘A-list’ of words….as it were…

“NO! You said the word abortion!”

The word floated out in the atmosphere…gathering distinction and import as we watched it hover in mid-air...

“Um…so?” I asked confused.

I had mentioned illegal drug use…LSD…foot fetishes…mental masturbation…there was a good chance that I once outright mentioned actual masturbation…during my vast literary career with Hubpages…

“It offends our advertiser’s sensibilities. As such, it is on a list of proscribed words.”

“Proscribed words? What does that mean?”

I idly watched the word, capital letter-style, Abortion…float about the room. Caught by an updraft, it landed in the corner of the room above the door…bouncing back and forth… (Bounce, bounce, bounce)…

“Proscribe…a verb…to be used with an object… meaning…”

I interrupted, “No…I’m aware of the word’s meaning…just not it’s usage in this circumstance.”

Although I didn't feel up to snuff on the inner workings of the Patriot Act…I was well versed in my First Amendment rights under the Constitution…

“I mean can I say, ‘The mission was aborted due to an intelligence failure’ …you know…should narrative need demand it?” I asked.

“That would be appropriate.” Concedes the hollow voice.

“But,” I clarified, “I wouldn’t be able to say, ‘The baby was aborted due to an intelligence failure?’ Should the narrative need demand that…I mean…?”

(Bounce, bounce, bounce…)

The voice appeared ready for my sly Constitutional trap, “Mr. Sandwiches…you can publish anything you wish…We just won’t pay you for it.”

“Well guys…you’re not really paying me now.” I commented wryly.

“We know…that’s why we feel bad…”

I thought for a moment before asking, “Yeah…so…the ‘A’ word was used in this article, too. Does that mean I won’t be paid for this either?”

Hesitation. “No.You won’t be paid for this article, either.”

“But you are the one who mentioned it,” I said as I review previous paragraphs…”Yeah…see…I was on ‘Amphibian’ when you just busted out with abort…uh….the ‘A’ word.”

(Bounce, bounce, bounce…)

“We know…that’s why we feel bad…”

“But you’re not going to un-publish them?” I asked worriedly…

“Oh no…these are funny as hell. No…we have no intention of un-publishing them…but…”


The Solution…

When I left the room, I noted that my effects were sitting outside the door. I put my watch back on and placed the belt, shoelaces, and hang-man’s noose back in my backpack.

I sipped the waiting coffee…it was still warm. This new arrangement, however, left me feeling sullied and dirty…

Above and beyond my recent, ill-advised, use of the ‘A’ word…I was informed that the category placement of my hub was misleading.

As I recall I placed “The Breakup” in the Hubpages Community category…maybe help for new Hubbers? Something to do with forums, perhaps? My intentions were good.I wanted to help the newbie Hubbers…

“We would prefer if you stayed away from the ‘new’ Hubbers with your “special” brand of hubs…as such, we have moved your material to a new category…”

A new screen had appeared on the wall…

ENTERTAINMENT AND MEDIA…subcategory…Contemporary Humor.

“Are you kidding me?” I had asked, with thin disgust…Somehow I had always thought my life would amount to something...more substantial?

“We think it for the best…” They had trailed off…

I was looking for a bathroom. Walking in front of the Hubsville gymnasium I could clearly hear…

(Bounce, bounce, bounce…)

Was somebody getting in trouble? I looked in but realized the reality…

“Oh…just a basketball game…” I said out loud as I spied a men’s room…as I walked along the edge of the court…my internal sixth-sense kicked in…

Sudden, loud, and shrieking clarion bells of warning sounded out. A door in my mind opened and out rolled the robot from Lost in Space…he was yelling…

“DANGER-DANGER...Will Robinson…DANGER-DANGER…” His robot-arms flailed about willy-nilly as he sounds the alarm…

With a sigh I reached in to shut off the belated sixth-sense alarm as I hurried into the bathroom…the bathroom reminded me…Entertainment and Media


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