ood morning, CLARENCE T. FORDHAM, please do not be alarmed, because I can imagine what you are contemplating right now as you struggle to attain consciousness and the answer is no, this is not a confidential message from God that has been precision-guided into your head, but it is certainly the next best thing, because I am without question a card-carrying member of God's most celebrated band of brothers and sisters: the United States Marine Corps. CLARENCE T. FORDHAM, my name is Recruiter Staff Sergeant Hartigan of the United States Marine Corps, and our records indicate that this May you will be graduating from LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON HIGH SCHOOL (go BRAHMAS), and so I wanted to take this opportunity to personally congratulate you on your forthcoming graduation and to discuss the possibility of an exhilarating and rewarding career in my beloved corps.
But first I would like to ask you one simple question. CLARENCE T. FORDHAM, can you tell me what you accomplished yesterday? Because it is extremely important to me that you know that in the course of performing my duties yesterday as a staff sergeant in the United States Marine Corps I accomplished these things:
CLARENCE T.FORDHAM, if you are processing this text in black print on what appears to be a white/off-white background, then that means you have received your first BRAIN-MAIL®, which is to say that yesterday, I, Recruiter Staff Sergeant Hartigan, issued a direct order and then last night a reconnaissance Marine entered your residence by any means necessary and, with the aid of a scalpel and scissors and a piece of black thread, installed the newest 720-Wireless Extended Range Data Link (WERDL) in your head while you were asleep. Now obviously we would not have elected to install the WERDL in your head had we not received from you the no-postage-necessary American Citizen Poll Postcard with Democratic Multiple Choice Question (ACPPDMCQ), on which you astutely checked answer C. Saddam Hussein + weapons of mass destruction = evil.
How this works is with the simple flip of a switch here at our office, the WERDL manifests an artificial computer screen up on the inside rear plate of your skull, thereby prompting your mind's eye to metabolize the information on this screen through a response method innate to the modern central nervous system, known as Picking Fruit. Unfortunately, at this time, we only possess the admittedly limited capacity to receive messages with our brains and not to compose and send out, but each day our elite panel of bioresearchers and computer programmers take significant steps toward making this a reality, because BRAIN-MAIL® is a vital component of America's exclusive 900 SLAM weapon system.
CLARENCE T. FORDHAM, now that you have been informed as to how it is that you are receiving this message inside your head, and what our motivation is in contacting you, I am under obligation by law to inform you that should you continue to process beyond this paragraph, this act will imply your consent to a) allow the WERDL to remain in your head even if you decide not to enlist in the United States Marine Corps, and b) allow a government-sponsored surgeon to enter your residence while you are asleep and through a simple pain-free procedure erase any memory you might have of the WERDL's presence in your head. However, if you do not want to process this message further and subsequently discover how you can shape your life into a winning success story beyond your wildest dreams, and if instead you want to abort this exchange, please carefully peel the Military Vision Restraints (MVR) from your eyes and pick up a phone immediately and dial 1-800-YES-JOIN, and you will speak with one of our representatives who can deactivate your WERDL with the flip of a switch.
Congratulations, CLARENCE T. FORDHAM, you have now successfully overcome the first Human Strategy Obstacle (HSO) toward metamorphizing into not only a member of the most elite fighting force in the history of the world, but an invincible emblem of justice and peace and the American way. Let me be the first to say that I am proud to call you my brother, and as such I would like to ask you one last simple question: How many people who have a PROSTHETIC LEG can emphatically declare that they are an invincible emblem of justice and peace and the American way? Yes, that is correct, CLARENCE T.FORDHAM, we are fully cognizant of the fact that you have a PROSTHETIC LEG, and further, that it was your intention to conceal your condition from us because you surmised said knowledge would terminate the possibility of membership in our elite fraternity. However, CLARENCE T. FORDHAM, we are also cognizant of the fact that your condition has endowed you with an incomprehensible amount of physical and mental anguish, because before we consider offering membership to an individual, we disseminate representatives into the world to solicit firsthand testimonials and assessments regarding the individual in question from friends, family members, and peers. We meticulously compile a United States Marine Corps Personnel Report. Below you will find an excerpt from your very own United States Marine Corps Personnel Report:
USMC PERSONNEL REPORT ON
1. MARTIN FITCH: I haven't ever talked to Clarence but I know who he is and I know he knows who I am, because our last names start with F so we've always been in the same homeroom. This year he's in my Calculus II class, and I've always wanted to be nice to him, but since he has that fake leg I never know what the right thing to do is because if I act friendly to him I don't want him to think I feel sorry for him, but on the flip side I don't want him to think I don't care either, so what I do is ignore him, and that way he knows I really do care. Last month Clarence hobbled into class and his eyes were bloodshot and it looked like he'd been crying. He kept snuffling through class, and at first I think we all tried to ignore it out of a sense of courtesy, even the teacher, Mrs. Phillips, who was busy running through quadratic equations at the blackboard, but then the snuffling got louder, so finally Mrs. Phillips sidled over to his desk and bent down and whispered something in his ear, and then he whispered something back and busted out sobbing. Then he grabbed his stuff and raced out the door. Well, I only found out what happened the next day. It turns out some of the jocks in gym class had pinned him down in the locker room and stolen his fake leg while singing "O Christmas Tree." Then the jocks tied the leg to the flag in front of our school, so when the bell rang after sixth period everyone poured out the front doors and there was Clarence's naked leg dangling from the top of the flagpole.
2. KRISTEN WEMBERLY: Isn't that the guy who was born in a test tube? Didn't the test tube explode when they tried to pull him out of it?
3. GENE KASPER: Clarence is "different," I knew that right off. When I first fell in love with Donna, I thought she was too good to be true, I mean yeah, of course she'd been married before, and that meant she'd already done all the kinky, keep the-marriage-spicy stuff with some other guy, the backdoor stuff and the pretend-rape-by-candlelight stuff, but I didn't care, because when you're a second husband like me, there's just some things you don't talk about if you want to be able to sleep at night. But when we were dating I kept waiting for the catch, because Donna was so perfect and everything, and I remember how relieved I was the first time I saw her bare feet and she didn't have four toes. But then one night she brought me home and the bottom dropped out. I saw Clarence sitting on the couch and he wasn't wearing his leg, and Donna said, "Gene, meet my son Clarence." And then Clarence got up and hopped over to me, and I thought, Oh shit. Of course I never let on, I mean it's not Clarence's fault that he was born that way. Plus I loved Donna, so the very next week I popped the question. Clarence has a disability, and sure, I'd be lying if I didn't say that I'd love to have a son who I could cheer for from the stands. But you have to accept people for who they are, right?
CLARENCE T. FORDHAM, all of the above testimonials are supreme examples of acute and misdirected idiocy because your PROSTHETIC LEG is a sign of what you have always secretly known: you were deposited on the face of this earth to do something spectacular and unforgettable, because when you lie in bed at night and look into the future and envision yourself showing the world how valuable you truly are, well, this is the truth. And while we are on the slippery subject of truth, I feel compelled to confess that when I claimed to have saved a young man's life yesterday I was lying, because the young man's life I was referring to having saved was yours, CLARENCE T. FORDHAM, and we both know that that is happening right now, today, not yesterday.
So in order for you to comprehend what I am alluding to, I want you to carefully peel the MVRs from your eyes, but please keep processing this message after you peel the MVRs from your eyes, and be sure to lift the blankets back so your entire body is visible. Now do you see what I am talking about, CLARENCE T. FORDHAM? Can you see the miracle that I am talking about, CLARENCE T. FORDHAM? God, I wish I was there to see the look on your face, CLARENCE T. FORDHAM.
Because what you are looking at, Devil Dog, is a GO-DURA-LIFE-LEG®, which is yet another brilliant innovation manufactured by Syntechillate, LLC, a little known Bermuda-based subsidiary of the United States Marine Corps. Now, clearly this GO-DURA-LIFE-LEG® appears in every capacity to be an actual human leg, right down to the client-customized pigmentation and color-coordinated leg hair, but the truth is this GO-DURA-LIFE-LEG® will radically out-perform an actual human leg, because the artificial muscles have been enhanced through a cutting-edge process known as robo-gene-modification, which is to say that you will never even have to exercise this leg as it is designed to achieve optimal performance no matter how small or large the task. So go ahead, give it a test run, take that new GO-DURA-LIFE-LEG® of yours for a jog around the block. Go be the miracle that you are now with your new GO-DURA-LIFE-LEG®. Go kick a perfect field goal from the opposite end zone, and, while you are at it, do us both a favor and go kick down KRISTEN WEMBERLY'S door and declare that you are a United States Marine and watch her melt in your hands.
But before you do any of these things, CLARENCE T. FORDHAM, I want you to sprint down here to see me at the Marine Corps Recruitment Center (MCRC) on Congress Avenue and sign some documents and take a videotaped sworn oath stating that you will consentually accompany me to the Military Enlistment Processing Station (MEPS) one week from today. I want you to sprint down here and burst through the doors and I will be standing here waiting with the papers all drawn up, CLARENCE T. FORDHAM, and you will be in and out of my office in less than an hour and then you will be free to walk around on your new GO-DURA-LIFE-LEG®, knowing in your heart that you did the right thing for yourself and for your country today. So what do you say, CLARENCE T. FORDHAM? That is truly my last and final question. What do you say?
Excerpted from Dear Mr. President by Gabe Hudson. Copyright © 2002 by Gabe Hudson. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Books, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.