You do not have to visit a cube farm or an executive suite to find corporate America; you can find it in the ubiquity of marketing, in the selling of ourselves even outside the working world. “Cashing In” is a forlorn posting on something called the Unfortunate Heroes blog, where our nameless, faceless, hero tells his 15-minutes-of-fame debacle: in the right/wrong place at the wrong/right time, he saves several lives by clobbering a deranged shooter in a Times Square tourist trap with the help of an electric guitar hanging on the wall as part of the restaurant’s branding. Recovering from the bullet wound he sustains, the young man is interviewed on TV in his hospital bed and makes a joke about the fact that his website, where he displays his photographs of fire plugs and guitars, is down at this moment of maximum publicity. “So much for cashing in,” he quips. With that remark he turns the media and the world against him. Meanwhile, the shooter confesses that he was in an alcoholic blackout and suffers from Hero/Villain Delusion Syndrome; this, along with his public remorse, completes a reversal of public sympathies so that the bewildered narrator becomes the villain and the shooter the victim.
In submitting for publication the Transcendent Guide to Corporate America, my collection of stories about work and life in the corporate era, I recently wrote a detailed description of the book. It turned into a story-by-story summary about how themes in the stories relate to the general themes of the guide. I thought I'd present them here, one story at a time. This is the eighth. As for what the individual stories are actually "about," you're on your own. If you'd like to read this one, it's published online here.