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09/01 Direct Link
“I’m bleeding? Where? Oh Jesus, does it look bad?”

“Oh, let me get a wet rag. Your shirt’s ruined. Here, just hold the rag right there. Yeah, so, what happened?”

“Long story. Mouthed off to some guy in a band and he threw a beer at me.”

“Yeah? Bottle or can?”

“What’s it look like to you?”

“Oh, um, bottle, I guess. No expert on bar fights, you know. So, anyway, yeah, I got some gossip about that Sarah Muller chick. Yeah, she’s got quite the reputation. Digs younger guys, usually creatives. She dates them, then their careers take off.”
09/02 Direct Link
“Hey, Shooter. Bang bang. What’s up, mister?”

“Hey, Stuart, Looks like you found one of your Polish girls. Where’s your sister, little girl?”

“Hey, you the Russian chick? You like a gymnast or something?”

“Stuart, what the hell are they talking about?”

“Guys, no. Listen up, no, the Polish girls… no, forget about them. We just want some dinner and some privacy, OK? Chef, can we get a couple menus.”

“Sure, Stu. Hey, Someone named Sarah called. Wants you to call her tonight.”

“Let me get this straight, Stuart: Polish girl, Russian girl, and Sarah? I suppose you’re married, too.”
09/03 Direct Link
“Gretchen, no, please, just… sit down.”

“…the Polish girl? Russian girl? And Sarah?”

“They’re the ones who robbed me last night. OK? Not Sarah. I don’t know who Sarah is, I mean I know who she is. Never met her, though.”

“So, how did they rob you?”

“OK, these girls were over at my place and I stepped out of the room and… look, my intentions weren’t exactly pure. Clearly, theirs weren’t, either.”

“Why’s Sarah calling?”

“I don’t know. Look: women don’t call me. This is not something I’m proud of. I haven’t had a second date in two years.”
09/04 Direct Link
“Jackie, do you know who’s pot this is? Stuart’s.”

“Loafers? He gets high? No way.”

“It’s pretty good weed, too.”

“Oh, so, how did the Dutch girls get it? And how did you find out? Are you leading a gang of Dutch, Polish and French girls? Weed-stealing au pairs?”

“No, they’re not Dutch, they’re all the… never mind. And, the next time some strange guy comes to the office asking where I’m at, lie to them.

“Sorry. Did I get you in trouble?”

“I took a beer bottle to the head. You got a light?”

“Yeah, oh, sorry about that.”
09/05 Direct Link
“So, Stuart, what do you want with me?”

“I liked your painting before it got messed up, I spent a long time in front of it. I think about it, and I talk to you and I try to connect you to it.”

“But what do you want?”

“That’s what I don’t know. That’s the best part. You know, every conversation I have all day long I’m trying to get something. I’m tired. Right now, tonight, I want to forget that.”

“Did you really like my painting?”

“Yes, absolutely.”

“OK, I’ll even call you. Just don’t let your wife answer.”
09/06 Direct Link
“Excuse me, Stuart. It is Stuart, right? I’d like to speak to you. My name’s Jack Pearson. We have a mutual friend.”

“We were kind of hoping to have a quiet dinner…”

“…and you, ma’am, you’re a painter. Terrible what happened to your painting. I would very much like to see your work. My card…”

“Thank you, oh, sorry.”

“My hands. Don’t pretend you can’t see them. Had an accident while working as a chemist years ago. Mind wandered for a moment and…”

“Look, Mr. Pearson. What do you want?”

“Our mutual friend, Sarah Muller.”

“Her again. Stuart, I’m gone.”
09/07 Direct Link
“Never mind her, Stuart. Listen, you’re an ad man, right? Just landed an enormous account. You paid homeless people to act like holy fools and used them as evidence of how much your campaign ‘grew the brand’. That’s very clever, but you’re too young to be so bloodless, so jaded.

“You are in a noble profession, Stuart. You produce desire, the invisible motor of commerce. It’s time you take things seriously. There are tools available, ways to plant your wishes into others as if they were their own. You really should speak to Sarah Muller. She’s waiting for your call.”
09/08 Direct Link
“Yeah, I totally underestimated Stuart. Jesus, where did he get this stuff?”

“No lie. No lie. You gotta hear this French hiphop. It’s such shit, but when you’re high, it’s like, so perfect. Hey, Jackie. Jackie, how’s my head?”

“Oh Jason honey let me get you a fresh rag. You’re a mess. No, no, let me get it. You can’t see it, Jason, you’re a mess. Here, hold it right there. No, other hand. Don’t get the joint wet. Oh, your shirt, too. You really took a hit, there. All because you don’t like Jim Morrison. Damn, Jason. You OK?”
09/09 Direct Link
“Gretchen, look. I don’t know who that guy was. He’s a babbling fool.”

“…and Sarah? How does he know Sarah?”

“Look, I don’t know Sarah! I know who she is, but I’ve never spoken to her.”

“Hmm.”

OK, you can be suspicious or jealous or, or whatever. I mean, what do you have to be jealous about? Some freak with messed up hands starts talking and you believe him? The guy’s nuts. Let’s get out of here. Where do you live? I’ll walk you home, I’ll get you a cab, anything you want. I just want to see you again.”
09/10 Direct Link
“…so I was going to do this flag desecration piece, but, you know, the moment for that sort of thing kinda came and went. It’s pointless. It’s like, there’s no one left to piss off. You exhibit a flag piece, and City Hall now sends a form letter telling you to stop. A form letter. Oh, hey, this place clearly lacks a woman’s touch.”

“Told you so. Something to drink?”

The answering machine beeped:

“Stuart. This is Sarah again. Just call. I don’t care how late. We need to speak. This is very important.”

“Stuart, forget that drink. I’m gone."
09/11 Direct Link
“Yeah, hey, Jason, level with me about this Sarah chick. Spill it.”

“Nothing to spill.”

“Bullshit. You were with her last night. I can tell because you’re turning pink.”

“No, no, it was the French girls last night, remember?”

“Yeah, uh huh. I think you’re cute, but I, like, know you and stuff. But, come on, these girls, and they are just girls, they’re not looking at you like that. They were up in the office. I saw them. They’re all business. They’re probably robbing your apartment right now.”

“Hell, let them. That way I will never see them again.”
09/12 Direct Link
“Yeah, OK. If you don’t want to tell me about her, then I’ll tell you. Look, Jason, if you did sleep with Sarah Muller last night, that was the smartest career move. I’m so not kidding. The timing is a work of art. Your team lands a huge account, your boss is a hero, but then an executive VP from down the street calls, a famous one mind you who’s done Super Bowl ads. And she asks about you. Now, all of the sudden, all the old men are buzzing around wondering if you’re the reason we landed Ritter today.”
09/13 Direct Link
“Sarah?”

“Stuart, finally.”

“Why are you calling me? What the hell is going on?”

“Allright, Stuart. Calm down. There’s a few things you need to understand.”

“You need to understand I was having a nice evening with this girl, no, check that, THE girl, and then she flips out thinking that I’m being stalked by some woman named Sarah. I’m never going to see her again.”

“Seeing a girl for a second time? I didn’t think that was your style. Anyway, forget about Gretchen.”

Can the jokes, Muller. What can be so fucking important? How do you know about Gretchen?
09/14 Direct Link
“Stuart, never mind all that. Let’s talk about our jobs. We sell stuff. We were aspiring novelists, painters, documentary filmmakers and just all a bunch of geniuses in early bloom, but now we sell stuff. What happens the day after Thanksgiving?”

“Sarah, is there a point? OK, busiest shopping day.”

“That’s right. People lining up first thing in the morning, trampling over security guards all to get their hands on mass-produced merchandise. Every artist in the world dreams of holding the hearts and minds of the public the way we do. Yet the best we give ourselves is self-loathing grumbles.”
09/15 Direct Link
“Again, is there a point to this? Do you really, honestly believe that anything we do has any sort of impact? Have you ever walked out of a focus group with anything that vaguely resembled meaningful data? Has anyone successfully predicted the effect of an advertising campaign? Sarah, it doesn’t work like that. It’s not a machine. The only reason we have jobs is that so many companies have the same dream. We’re like Santa Claus, except no one ever stops believing in us.”

“That’s what people are supposed to think. What we do is window-dressing. True persuasion is invisible.”
09/16 Direct Link
“Stuart, you have two choices: be one of us or one of them. Which end of the stick do you want to be holding?”

“Who is ‘us’?”

“’Them’ are the morons rushing the doors of department stores for cheap toys. ‘Us’ you’ll find out tonight. Stuart, I’m offering you a chance not many get. You can join us or spend the rest of your life jaded and cynical and pissing into the wind. Really, paying winos to harass the client? Do you honestly want to traffic in such cheap tactics? A car is waiting for you out front. Get in.”
09/17 Direct Link
“Hey, that’s my painting. What are you doing with it?”

“I bought it for my employer.”

“I have others for sale that aren’t messed up if you’re interested.”

“It’s precisely the fact that it’s messed up that my employer insisted on buying it. I’d say, without the clothespin, it’s just…”

“Sascha, that’s enough. Gretchen, my dear, I apologize for Sascha. He can be a bit… strident.”

“Oh God, you with the freaky hands. What’s so important about this stupid clothespin?”

“”It’s complicated, I assure you…”

“The gallery ripped me off.”

“Not surprising. Sascha, pay her. Gretchen, what would be fair?”
09/18 Direct Link
“Yeah, Jason, I think we’re the last ones here.”

“What? No, I hear people talking.”

“Yeah, I think that’s a TV.”

“Who’s room is this?"

“I don’t know, I’m kinda freaking out that we’re in somebody’s bedroom.”

“Can you get up? We should get up. We should go. You wanna go?”

“Yeah, where?”

“Breakfast? Hey, how’s my head?”

“Huh? Oh, it looks a lot better. Your shirt, though. God, it’s disgusting. Gimme a hand, Jason. Oh hell I’m still high. Jason, I’m so glad you came tonight. No, you got to… my balance… let’s lay down for a little.”
09/19 Direct Link
“Stuart?”

“Yes, and you are?”

“I’m Adam, this is Steve. Are you ready to go?”

“Go where?”

“We’ll explain in the car. We’re running out of time. Stuart, how do you feel about market research?”

“Useless.”

“Focus groups?”

“People change when they’re being watched. Also useless.”

“How do they change?”

“They become reasonable.”

“Exactly. Consumers are emotional. Irrational. Why study them, then?”

“No reason at all.”

“How do you know if your marketing strategy is working?”

“You don’t”

“So why advertise?”

“Why, indeed.”

“Stuart, tonight, you’ll be in a room full of people who feel the same exact way. Powerful people.”
09/20 Direct Link
“OK, you’re telling me that all these people in the advertising industry have turned their backs on advertising and have formed a secret society?”

“Yes, precisely. We’ve found something more powerful, a more direct way to the desires of the masses.”

“Why the 3am meeting?”

“It’s an auspicious hour on an auspicious day, Stuart.”

“You’re starting to sound all voodoo and witches.”

“You’re not far off, Stuart. What better way to confront an irrational marketplace than with irrational ritual?”

“So, witchcraft, huh?”

“Not specifically. We embrace all the mystical systems in an effort to create resonances in the collective psyche.”
09/21 Direct Link
"Yeah, Jason, what time is it?"

"No idea. We should probably go."

"Yeah, we should. This feels really nice, though."

"Yeah. Yeah, it does, but, you know, whoever’s room this is, they’ll be home soon, right?”

“Yeah, You’re very warm. I like that. Is my leg ok there?”

“It’s fine, Jackie. This is nice, yeah, but… Five more minutes, ok?”

“Yeah, so, you, like, slept with this Sarah Muller chick, am I right? What’s she like? How’d it happen? Not that I care, but it’s been weird today. You know, all the people who used to work with Paul?”
09/22 Direct Link
“So, Adam, Steve, what’s going to happen on this auspicious hour.”

“Sarcasm, Stuart? Really now. This is sacred. Act accordingly.”

“And these offices. Do they know you’re using these tonight?”

“Who do you think is in the next room?”

“All these candles, necessary?”

“Again, Stuart, sarcasm? Change out of your clothes. Put on this robe.”

The conference room door opened and revealed a wash of dim, red light. A crowd of black robes surrounded the table. Between the robes, a cascade of red hair, a bare shoulder, a bare leg, and a two-fingered hand caressing a breast, then between the thighs.
09/23 Direct Link
"OK, what the fuck?"

"Shut up and take your place at the end of the table." A knife appeared from the folds of Steve’s robe.

Stuart bolted for the nearest door, which then set off the fire alarm, and ran down 14 stories of stairs in his bare feet and a black robe. With the pain in his feet and the deafening alarm bells, he couldn’t tell if anyone was following him. He pushed trough the last door to dim twilight and approaching sirens. Downtown Chicago, wearing nothing but a black robe.

“Quick, get in before the police get here!”
09/24 Direct Link
“Stuart?”

“Gretchen?”

“Clan-cee, it’s tassel-loafers!”

“Polish girls?”

“They’re French, Stuart.”

“They’re god-damned thieves.”

“Everybody shut up, heads down. We’re about to get rear-ended.” Clancy’s prediction immediately came true with a jarring thud.

“Stop. Pull over. this is fucking dangerous!”

“Hell no we’re not stopping. Those are the guys with the guns.”
09/25 Direct Link
“I can not believe you thought Corrine and Sophie are Polish.”

“OK, I said Russian or Polish. Those are close, right? Similar languages, Gretchen, right?”

“Wow, you are dumb.”

“Guys, shut up. It looks like they gave up.”

“Brian, man, could we stop at my place? I need some clothes. This robe…”

“No way. They’re waiting for you there.”

“Who’s ‘they’?”

“You’re the one in the robe. You tell me. Was Paul Zubrczyck in there? Did he conceive a moonchild? Pearson? Sacha?”

“Guys,” Gretchen pointed to a warehouse wall with fresh graffiti: a yellow clothespin held in a three-fingered hand.”
09/26 Direct Link
“Jason, how much farther to your place? Sunrise, damn.”

“Here, Jackie. Come on in. Meet the French and that oaf what the hell are you doing here? What the hell happened here?”

“Oh dude, I came here you know those French girls told me to stop by so I got here and the door was open and there was all this noise so I figured party, man but it was this guy with fucked up hands and some Asian dude. They screamed at me about paintings and some guy named Stuart and shot me and ran. Ruined my leather pants!”
09/27 Direct Link
“No, just grazed me. Sorry about all the blood, dude. Man, my pants. Oh, and sorry about your head and the beer bottle. You OK?”

“Yeah, fine. It’s OK. I still think you should go to the ER.”

“No, man. I’m fine. Sorry about your place.”

“Yeah, Jason, what a mess.”

“Somebody wants to kill Stuart? I mean, I’ve considered it more than once, but… Oh man, all my stuff, all this blood.”

“Jason, let’s go to bed and deal with it later.”

“Dude, can I crash on your couch? Those French chicks ever showing up, man? They are awesome.”
09/28 Direct Link
“Brian asked me all these questions about my messed up painting and the guy who bought it and said that he’d get to the bottom of it tonight, and it looks like you’re that bottom, Stuart. I don’t know; it’s been a damned weird night.”

“Brian, what’s going on here? I’ve been harassed all day and finally shot at, and I need some clothes.”

“Ok, here’s what I got: Paul, the graffiti artist, used to work at your agency, Stuart. Occultist, has a vision of a five-fingered man: Pearson. Pearson gets wind of this, searches for Paul, who then disappears.”
09/29 Direct Link
“But Paul hasn’t really disappeared. Shit, he was right next to me. Everybody’s making like he’s some hot shit. The guy’s a buffoon, a drunk hiding in plain view. But he’s clearly smarter than me, because he’s not stuck with you guys.”

“Can you kind of adjust your robe, man.”

“Sorry. Look, because Muller and Pearson are convinced that Paul is some master of the invisible doesn’t mean it’s true. It just means that Paul’s a good salesman. Pearson’s a sucker for the mystical and ambitious as hell. Think, how did his hands get screwed up?”

“It’s time; good night.”
09/30 Direct Link
“Gretchen? Where are we?”

“We’re on a boat.”

“Where’s everyone else? Brian? The Polish girls?”

“I don’t know. I woke up and I was here. We’re the only ones. You should go up and see the sunrise. It’s beautiful. I found some food and some clothes that might fit you.”

The cabin swayed as Stuart sluggishly wriggled into someone else’s bluejeans and t-shirt from Spring Break Daytona 1990. “I liked you better in the robe, Stuart.” Gretchen tried not to laugh. “What now?”

“Now? We learn how to sail. Help me get this thing started.”