Guy Morley’s Protest Emporium

Blogs have a way of evolving, don’t they? It’s like they take on a life of their own–I’ll decide what I’m about, thank you very much.

‘Her’ post today is a writers experiment. Guy Morley of Guy Morley’s Protest Emporium is a writer’s gambit. Many of the great best-selling authors today advise writers to explore all manner of writing. There is also what many call the ‘experimental protagonist’, which is simply writing a character in a series of shorts to discover if he/she has any real depth.

That is one of the purposes of Guy Morley today. While exploring modern culture and its theory that protesting and marching is the go-to answer for every frustration, we are also putting Guy through the ringer.

Exploring America’s first protesting store, these shorts should prove interesting. In this his first public outing, let us discover who Guy is together. I have a feeling he is going to surprise us.

PINK MARCHING HATS AND THE INTERNET TROLL

On the seventy-fifth day of business, Guy Morley of Guy Morley’s Protest Emporium received a bit of garbled text in a Tweeted order. It went precisely like this:

Does u got bump stickrs say gun control meens using both hans? i need for my chevy on the bumper How much dat cost?! Thx (@vajayjayonthespot)

Even before opening America’s first store devoted solely to providing protesting and marching supplies, Guy knew he wanted to make ordering available through Twitter. But after scrunching his peepers at the first fifty orders of barely readable Tweets, he thought he might need to hire a millennial to translate. As it turned out, his rubberband mind eventually translated the execrable grammar, offensive language and egregious punctuation—at least to a degree. He did hire a millennial, but only for stocking. Guy called the young man Jimmy, or Jimmy the Millennial, because ‘Jimmy’ was always the name of stock-boys in the old shows and movies he liked to watch.

He wrote back promptly to @vajayjayonthespot that he did indeed have those exact bumper stickers. ‘In fact’ Tweeted Guy ‘we have an entire turnstile devoted to gun-supporting bumper stickers. You can shop online and order them here through our unique TwitOrder system or come on in for a look-see yourself.’

(The Guns Don’t Kill People but They Sure Make the Job Easier stickers were located on the other side of the store.)

Guy moved away from the oval service counter and look out through crystal clear storefront windows. It was nine in the morning. A balmy day outside, no breeze. But it was cool in the Emporium and already the Gay and Feminism sections were packed with guests.

“That seems to work well,” Jimmy said, “putting the transgender section between Gay and Feminism.”

Smiling, Guy replied, “Oh yeah. Gays and feminists are ninety-five percent more likely than straight cisgender folks to accept trans-individuals. It’s just good business.”

“Like the way you put NRA supporter stock on the other side of the store from the gun control activist stock. I was wondering, though, why you placed the Atheist and Christian sections right next to each other. It seems like those two should be the furthest apart.” Jimmy placed a new box of It’s Our Bodies sanitary napkins on the shelf.

Watching a guest admire a flag, Guy replied, “Well, I did have them separate at first. But then a wise old bugger wandered in and said something I couldn’t get out of my head.” He corrected Jimmy on box placement, making sure he read the DCPI to know how many to place to the right of it. “The old man told me that, back when he was peddling bibles across the country, he discovered that a little healthy debate often sparked an increase in sales. It wasn’t so much that atheists hate God, the old man said, but that they hate being disproved. So they’d often buy bibles just so they’d better be able to prove Christians wrong.”

Guy chuckled, a hearty sound from the depths of his belly on up through his gullet.

“Course, he said they often ended up believing. It made no never mind to him, so long as he made his sales. So I put the sections together. For some reason though the same theory doesn’t work for straight and gay.”

What Guy Morley wasn’t sharing was the fact that he had a slightly sick pleasure in listening to debates, and didn’t really favor either side. He liked to think that made him unique, as if he stood outside the normal human conversation.

“Excuse me.”

Whipping round, Gus was treated to the presence—and sweet flowery aroma—of a tall woman. She wore her long midnight hair in a tight tail. An expression of smoldering rage barely concealed behind pretty features didn’t fool him. Guy prided himself being able to distinguish a straight man from a gay on first sight; a neo-Nazi from a progressive patriot; a believer from a skeptic.

This woman was clearly a feminist. If nothing else, the power suit gave it away.

Slapping the old Morley grin into place, a slight upswing of his coffee-brown mustache, Guy clasped his hands and said, “What can I do for you.”

Bent down at their knees was Jimmy the Millennial, pretending not to lurk while stocking red-packaged Pro-Choice hygiene products.

The feminist gave Jimmy a quick narrowing of the eyes before focusing on Guy.

“I was hoping you could help me with a very specific order.”

“Yes,” Guy led her away from Jimmy, toward his office beyond the oval service desk. He was careful not to touch her. He had a fine reputation as an accommodating salesman, but he knew better than to physically touch a feminist.

“I’m the coordinator of operations for a new group we’re putting together, a sort of parade-slash-movement to defend women’s rights.”

Inwardly Guy slapped himself on the back. What did I tell you, he said to himself.

Still walking, she continued, encouraged by his nod and persistent smile. “I’m looking for something distinctive, something all the marchers can wear in a big powerful united statement. Something that says ‘We’re not going to take it anymore. You know?”

Guy’s first response was to break out in the classic Twisted Sister song, but knew better.

He gestured for the woman to settle into a chair while he closed the door to his office. Instantly the excited chatter from the store vanished.

In here Guy Morley was Prince of the Protest Emporium. Here he brokered deals. Here he made the big bucks. As always, though, he kept his personal opinions and views sheltered down behind a psychic barrier and a persona of enthusiastic indifference. He was all things to all people. Just now, he was very much a feminist-sympathizer. Just for insurance, he might even effect a bit of homosexuality. Feminists tended to be more lenient toward the gays—thinking them ‘just one of the girls’ to some extent, he’d discovered.

Again, he clapped once as he sat. “All-righty then. Something distinctive, something that’ll make a statement. Forgive me for being salacious here, but we also have to consider cost,” he waved his hand a bit femininely. It did the trick; the woman tittered. “How many marchers do you calculate there will be?”

That was precisely the right question. Sitting up straight, prim and proper with just a drop of demure, the woman declared proudly “We are expecting close to two-hundred thousand marchers, and that’s just here in D.C. I’m coordinating with other leaders in Canada, France, and various countries in Europe for similar marches.”

If this had been a cartoon, Guy would’ve been sporting dollar signs where his pupils were.

“Can you handle an order that large?”

“Not only can we handle it,” boasted Guy “we can create almost anything right here in our mill. Now, you said something they can wear—are we thinking buttons or bling?”

“No,” said the woman, “nothing so nineties. I was thinking more along the lines of a hat. Since the march will be this February, we’re probably going to want winter hats. But nothing we have to read. We don’t want just some slogan slapped onto a common knit hat.”

“Of course not,” Guy waved this thought aside, even though it was precisely what he’d been thinking.

They fell into easy silence. Absently perusing his computer, he settled onto a striking idea. It was bold and simple (the way he viewed most of his customers). “I have an idea. Now, it is bold, like you want, but it’s also perhaps a smidgen . . . intimate. Would you care to hear it?”

Asking this question was his Win-Friends-and-Influence-People way of warning the customer that what follows is their fault, brought on by their invitation.

She nodded, helplessly intrigued.

“Picture it,” Guy said, giving a flitting hand gesture, “a sea of pink hats, shaped vaguely like, well, like a woman’s most intimate and feminine part. It’ll instantly create in viewers’ minds a connection to your movement, and a bold statement that women deserve attention.” He sat back to let her take it all in.

Slowly a smile formed on her face. Contrary to her earlier grin, this was a hungry smile, an I-can-just-picture-it-now smile.

They agreed on a design and price and she made a healthy down payment.

On cloud nine, Guy went about explaining the new huge order to his mill manager.

Later that day as the heat intensified, another few TwitOrders came in. Along with them arrived a second question from @vajayjayonthespot. This one read:

i was smellin summat yesterday @ my ppl. and i thought how cool it be if guns had sweat smellin 2 like men colon. U no? So you got dat in stock there @ ur store? anyway i got die of beaties so I app recreate a quick response time. Thx (@vajayjayonthespot)

After scratching his head and rereading the Tweet several times, Guy finally realized the Tweeter was seeking gun cologne.

Which really didn’t clear things up that much.

“Jimmy?” he bellowed.

No one looked up except for Jimmy the Millennial. That was the great thing about a protest emporium; these customers were used to sudden noises and shouting. In fact, they lived for it.

“What’s up, boss?”

“Jimmy,” Guy said, pointing at the garbled Tweet “is it possible to block a user from Tweeting us, if you know, they’re obviously a troll?”

“Sure, sure,” Jimmy was in his element now. “But that won’t keep a determined troll from continuing to pester you. He or she will just sign up under a new name. And then you won’t be able to identify them, and you’ll be spending all your time trying to block one troll after another, when it might be the same person every time.”

“So what do we do? I mean, look at this garbled heap of nonsense!”

Jimmy put his hands up in the universal sign of ‘don’t-stress-out-man’. “I’ll take care of it.”

Nodding, somewhat assured, Guy turned and strolled to the back entrance into his mill. Thrumming and humming and sweltering heat and scents assaulted him. Tomorrow they had a huge order to commence work on. He inhaled deeply. The aroma of sweaty workers and dyes filled his nose. He smiled.

Guy Morley knew better than most how quickly and severely online battles could escalate. The last thing he needed was an internet troll making problems.

Naturally, the next morning he was greeted first thing by another fabulous @vajayjayonthespot Tweet. This one confirmed his worst fears. What had begun as absurd nonsense was quickly becoming confrontational.’

Notice how we learned a little about Guy, without any info drops interrupting the narrative flow. We still don’t know where he came from or even what race he is. But it’s clear there’s more to this character than he’s sharing. Until next time, when @vajayjayonthespot ups the suspense, this is Scott, telling you to keep it real, and keep experimenting with your writing. All writing is good, in the way that it increases your skills!