2 July 2007 | Vol. 7, No. 2

Please Don't Put That Thing on My Head—I Work for the Government

Since the day Albert Montague announced his plan to construct a truth extraction machine from nothing more than a nine-volt battery, a coil of copper wire, a blood pressure cuff, and his laptop computer, Violet followed him everywhere he went, except the bathroom and the doctor's office where he had his feet scraped two weeks ago. She monitored his comings and goings, taking careful notes on the people he spoke to and when. She even knew that he ate grits with peach crescents over a half-pint of cottage cheese on Tuesday and skipped breakfast Wednesday to have his cholesterol checked by the Pharmacaide testing van parked between Coleman's and the snow cone stand.

How else could she understand a man whose goal was to extract truth, a man who wanted to undress a liar, open all the windows and rummage through the underwear drawers ferreting out tidbits of a story from under the mattress and behind the dresser? She envisioned a man with bushy sideburns, Albert in a tweed suit, armed with a truth extractor spelunking in her closet, mining for truth with a pick axe in the shape of lady justice. He'd throw chunks of thought-ore onto a conveyor belt that would deliver it into his machine, magically deriving pure truth from the muck. But she couldn't imagine what a "truth extractor" would even look like or why it would require a nine-volt battery. Violet needed to observe Albert Montague and find this device, learn how it worked, the entire process, even the psychology involved, if she had any hope of preparing a defense for its mechanisms, because the prey that observes the hunter unseen is rarely slaughtered.

He had made progress recently. She could feel it. Albert Montague was getting close. He labored in his garage with aluminum foil pressed on the windows, sometimes until three in the morning, or all night like he did last Saturday. He parked his car in the driveway, keeping the garage door closed, only cracking it open to sweep it out.

The regulars in Sweetly's Doughnuts, mostly Deputy Potter and his middle-aged sidekick, Dodge (named after the car), laughed at Albert, at his idea, his ambition, and his innovation, mostly because they had none of those things themselves, only a sheriff's badge and a used car dealership between the two of them.

"But it will revolutionize law enforcement," Albert insisted.

"We already got something like that. It's called a lie detector." Deputy Potter shot Albert with his thumb and forefinger and gave him a wink. "Why don't you make something useful like projectile restraints? Something you can shoot at a perp that wraps 'em up tight."

"I swear, this town has more kooks per square block than a New York nut farm," Dodge said, between sips of coffee.

"It's that lake water downstream from the plant. I only drink bottled water, myself," Percy, a hunched-over man of at least seventy-five, said as he slid into a chair with a plate full of donuts in his hand.

"Well, I'm not talking about a lie detector, gentlemen," Albert said with a pop. Even though he had given up tea and never once mentioned the game of cricket that Violet could recall, Albert couldn't escape his British roots. His novelty accent, insisting on using words like bloody, ghastly, and fellows, made him an easy target for the Dodges of the world who thought anyone who talked and dressed like Albert was a dandy, just asking for trouble. But Violet believed in Albert. That's why she started following him, why she had to keep a close watch. He was dangerous.

"A modern lie detector, you should know this Potter," he said, shooting Potter back with a double thumb and forefinger gun, " is nothing more than a gadget that compares a physical response to tough questions with what's normal for the subject." Albert blew across the top of his coffee. "My device, on the other hand, will reach right down into the throat and rip the truth from the very bowels of its subject." He gestured with both hands as though he were turning a sausage inside out, skin turned in, meat spilling out onto the floor.

Dodge winced. "And how are you going to manage that?"

"Look, I know it can be hard when you lose your job. You're trying to stay relevant," Potter said behind a growing smile. "That's psychologist talk for get out and look for a new job instead of tinkering with this junk."

"You'll see soon enough."

Violet eased back behind an imitation palm tree, wedging open a slit in the branches with her fingers. Just the mention of a lie detector made her squirm, almost like she had worms crawling in and out of holes in her chest, but this extractor thing, ripping truth from bowels, that was another matter entirely. She had studied polygraphs, fretting for years over how to fool one in case she was ever confronted by one. According to Sloan, the assistant librarian at the city library, lie detectors were nothing but junk science. He had given her a book, The Polygraph: Lies You Tell, The Lies You're Told, and she had studied it, even practiced the countermeasures. Lie detectors were fallible. She was pretty sure she could beat one of those if it ever came to that.

"Please state your name."

"Violet Constence Whipple. My grandmother's name was Constence. That's Constence with an 'e', not an 'a.'" She took a deep breath and rubbed her hands across her pants, streaking them with sweat.

"That's fine, Violet. I just need to ask you a few basic questions for a baseline."

"Great grandma Vines couldn't spell very well. I think she spent too much time in the sun, working a farm, you know?"

The examiner, a heavy-set man who had introduced himself, but for whom Violet couldn't seem to place with a name, had as his most distinguishing feature a tuft of sparse hair plugs on either side of a narrow widow's peak. He spoke like an Arthur, or a Milt maybe. His name was more common, though, like Fred, but that wasn't it. She had to have a name. That's how she classified her thoughts about people, with names; faces wouldn't do. Violet stared at the hair plugs, individual blades of hair spaced too far apart, almost like rows of corn growing in a wheat field. That would be enough for now. The rest of his appearance, especially his mouth, wasn't distinct enough for a name because Johnny Hairplugs had a chubby face with nothing more than a narrow gash for a mouth that only slightly parted when he spoke. "Are you fifty-five years of age?" His voice was soothing, almost friendly, as long as she didn't look at him.

"Yes," Violet proclaimed with a grin. She pressed her toe on a tack hidden inside her shoe, though she couldn't remember whether she was supposed to use her countermeasures on the control questions or the real ones, whether she should tighten her anus or change her breathing to alter her blood pressure and heart rate now, or wait until later. Mixing them up could be disastrous.

Johnny Hairplugs studied the graph and made a mark on his paper.

"At least, that's what my driver's license says—born in 1951." She showed him her license. "I'm actually fifty-six. That's a mistake," she said, biting down on the edge of her tongue, another countermeasure. Why couldn't she keep her mouth shut? It wasn't that difficult, 'yes' or 'no.' The words just spilled out like verbal dysentery. Truth was relative anyway. There was the whole truth, then there were partial truths, bit by bit, that make up the picture, but even a lie is composed of truthful pieces, sometimes placed in the wrong order. Why dredge up the details?

"Is your address—"

"962 Cottonwood Park," she said, staring at Johnny Hairplugs's shoes. She rubbed her eyes. Her head pounded. What if he asked her a surprise question, if he inquired about her activities on October 22, 1962, whether she was huddled in front of her television set like the rest of the world watching President Kennedy's address, the one where he revealed the presence of Russian missiles in Cuba? She didn't even have a television set in 1962, she was lucky to have a stove, but he wouldn't know that. What if he asked her why she was in the alley that day, in the rain?

He glanced at a notebook. "You need to let me finish the questions, Violet. Let's try this again. Is your current address 1465 Meadowlark?"

"Oh, yes. 1465 Meadowlark. That's my address. I've thought about moving, but my yard—I've put far too much work into that yard," she said, adjusting a half-fallen bun of hair back to the middle of her head.

In place of a manicured carpet of weed-free, blue fescue, a crop of dandelions and crabgrass had popped up in Albert Montague's garden. People were starting to talk. Not because their yards didn't have cars on blocks and halfway-toppled swing sets blocking the driveway, but for the simple fact that Albert's yard had been "perfect for as long as anyone could remember." It had even survived the drought a few years back under water restrictions and close to sixty days in a row of searing heat.

By Violet's estimation, Albert's yard only flirted with perfection, though, and had the misfortune of being right across the street from hers, which had also survived the drought and boasted over forty-two different kinds of flowers.

Violet watched the same car pass by her house for the third time in ten minutes. The fourth time, it crept up to the curb and idled for several minutes. She put down her garden hose. A stream of water trickled through a plastic vase in the middle of the sidewalk as she placed her hands on her hips, glaring at the car.

"Hi there," a slender man in a suit said with a wave. He stepped over the minefield of white plastic flowerpots that littered Violet's yard. They were stuffed with flowers—azaleas, zinnias, daisies, pansies, all plastic, all watered regularly.

The man showed her his identification, a card behind a billfold window with an insignia and a picture of a younger version of the man standing in front of her. "My name is Tommy Higginbotham. Special Agent with the IRS."

After a moment, Violet made eye contact. "What's that?"

"Well, a special agent is like an investigator—"

"I know what a secret agent is, Mr. Higginbotham. I'm asking about that other thing—the INS. I don't have any Guatemalan maids or sweatshops if that's what you're here about." She said looking back at her house with a smile. "I'll bet you work for that shyster lawyer, Mackey?"

"No, ma'am. I work for the government—the IRS. You know, taxes," he said with a shrug.

"The government? Which one?"

"Which one?"

"County, city, state? You're not one of those Russians are you?"

He stuffed his wallet back into his jacket pocket and pointed across the street. "I'm looking for the man that lives over there across the street—Mr. Montague. Do you know him?"

"You mean Albert Emory Montague III?"

"Yes. Is he a friend of yours?"

"Good Lord, no," Violet chuckled. "He's English."

"When was the last time you saw him?"

"Have you seen your neighbor, Albert Montague, in the last three weeks?"

Violet hesitated. "No."

Johnny Hairplugs pushed his glasses up his nose and marked the graph paper.

"I mean, he works from home, you know? What I'm tryin' to say is that nobody sees much of Albert. Just at Sweetly's." She couldn't shut her mouth. She wouldn't shut it. Extra words kept flying out, information she should have kept. Why didn't she just go ahead and tell him that in 1962 while Andy Warhol was painting his soup cans, she was in the alley behind Cottonwood Court Apartments behind the dumpster? That she had an imprint of curly burned hairs in the shape of an iron on the back of her head. That she was deathly afraid but not of Russian missiles or Communism like everyone else.

"Do you distrust the government?"

"No." Her head jerked toward Johnny Hairplugs. "Wait. Can I change my answer?"


"Which government?"

"Government in general."

"Everyone mistrusts the government a little, right?"

"Have you ever lied to keep from getting into trouble?"


"Have you ever stolen, even something small like office supplies from your workplace?"

She clasped her hands together and leaned toward the table, rocking. She hadn't stolen the Super-Mart paychecks, just misplaced them. Sure, she wasn't supposed to be in the manager's cage, but she didn't steal them, not really. She had just wanted to have a look at Reba's personnel file to see where she lived and got the folders mixed up.


"Have you seen Special Agent Higginbotham in the last three weeks?"

A tingling numbness shot up her body. It felt like what she imagined an electric shock would feel like, or more like how it would feel to be a guitar string after it had been plucked. "The tax guy? Yeah, I saw him."

Johnny Hairplugs cleared his throat. Violet studied his face as he sipped his water, as he studied the polygraph machine, searching for a lie. His mouth twitched a little. Violet jumped in her chair. Had he noticed? "He came by looking for Albert about two weeks ago. I told him I hadn't seen him."

"Have you—"

"Then he left just like he came, in the late-model Buick, green with black top."

"It is extremely important that I find Mr. Montague," Higginbotham said, handing Violet a business card. "Please give me a call if he turns up."

Violet dropped the card. She rubbed her hands and tried to pick it up, dropping it again. "Would you like to come in for a cup of coffee? Secret agents drink coffee, don't they?"

He slid back his sleeve and glanced at his watch. "I guess I could go for a cup of coffee. It's kind of chilly out today."

Violet trudged into the kitchen, waving at her guest, the taxman, to follow her. "So you're lookin' for Albert? Is he missing? I wouldn't know. I mean, I don't snoop on my neighbors, Mr. Wiggibothum, if that's what you're getting at. They come and go, and I never know it. I'm a private person, you know? Do you think I could see that badge of yours again, Mr. Hoggybottom?"

"That's Higginbotham," he sighed


"Higginbotham, not Hoggybottom or Wiggibothum."


He pulled out a chair and sat around a small breakfast table in Violet's kitchen. "Here you go." He held his badge out in front of Violet.

She scrutinized it for several seconds, guiding his hand toward the light, getting a look from several angles. "You've lost weight—since this picture was taken. What's your secret? I've tried everything, but I guess I'm happy being pleasingly plump." She said, with a slap to her rump. "So, how does one become some sort of secret tax agent?"

Higginbotham chuckled. "There's nothing special about it, really. Most people hate me as soon as they find out what I do. I figured I better take you up on your hospitality," he said, raising his coffee cup, "I don't get offers like that very often."

"Well, I suppose not." She eyed the taxman in her kitchen. He was a striking man, strong jaw, good hair. He reminded her a bit of President Kennedy. She had somehow missed all the good speeches, except the moon speech. His bold directive to send a man to the moon and return him safely back to the earth sounded eerily similar to Albert's directive—to reach down the throat and yank the truth from the bowels. Albert also reminded her of President Kennedy, a British version. In fact, she imagined that if this Higginbotham the taxman were crossed with Albert, that would be as close to Kennedy as she would ever get.

"This lawyer, Mackey, the one I mentioned, sent several goons around trying to get us to sell out to build a new Super-Mart. But I'm not sellin', and neither is anyone else. Not unless they up their price a little, if you know what I mean? I guess everyone has a price, but they better think twice before they try to low-ball me again."

"I can assure you, I'm not here about that."

Violet tapped her lip with her finger. "You work for the government?" Violet walked over to the counter and grabbed a box. "I've got something here that might interest you—since you work for the government and all."

Higginbotham leaned over to have a peek in the box when Violet dropped it on the table. "What is it?"

"Well, it's a sort of truth machine. But I haven't found anyone to test it on yet. If it works, it might help you in your job. That way, we can also make sure you are who you claim to be." Violet reached inside the box and pulled out a laptop computer. She took a nine-volt battery, connected it to a blood pressure cuff and several electrodes via an eight-way electrical breadboard and placed the assemblage in front of Higginbotham. Then she connected the last piece, a stainless steel colander, to the battery and placed it on his head.

"What the hell is that, a pasta strainer? Please don't put that on my head. You don't just put pans on people's heads, Ms. Whipple." He whipped out of his chair. "I do work for the government, not some lawyer, and you might very well find yourself the subject of an audit next year if you're not careful. I really need to go now. Please call if you see your neighbor." He slid his cup onto the table. "Oh, thanks for the coffee."

The afternoon sun peeked through the third-story window behind Johnny Hairplugs, casting a long shadow across the polygraph table, making it seem as though a voice from a shadowy mass in the shape of a tent were asking her questions. "Did you see agent Higginbotham after you told him in your yard that you hadn't seen your neighbor?"



"Higginbotham, that's kind of a funny name. What's the origin of that, I wonder? Is it British, you think?"

Johnny Hairplugs coughed for effect. "Do you know where Albert Montague is now?"


"Do you know the whereabouts of Agent Higginbotham?"


Johnny Hairplugs watched the paper. He took notes, made marks, and breathed inaudible sips of air. Violet looked at the clock, a psychological ploy, an old-fashioned school clock with a pendulum, back and forth just like the questions, yes, no, no, yes, tick, tick. "I mean, he's probably at his house, right? Or in his office, or doing field work somewhere." She can't shut up or leave it alone. Why can't she just answer the question? The clock kept ticking. "Why would I know where that taxman is? What do I look like, a psychic? You would know where he was before I would, all you government people." She wagged her finger at Johnny Hairplugs. "And I don't keep up with my neighbors, either. I can't stand my damn neighbors—a bunch of busybodies. Everyone knows I have the best yard on the whole damn block." She made a circle with her arms over her head. "They're all jealous. Sylvia Lackey—why haven't you asked me where that bitch is? She's probably in my yard right now, picking my flowers."

"Well, because Sylvia Lackey isn't missing. Maybe you would like a glass of water. It is getting warm in here."

"That would be nice, thank you."

"We only have a few questions left."

"Okay." Violet took a swig of water.

"Have you ever had a romantic relationship with Albert Montague."

A mouthful of water erupted onto Violet's lap. "No. Absolutely not. One hundred percent no. No way."

"Have you ever been inside Albert Montague's home?"

Violet rubbed her hands together. Those two questions back to back, what was he trying to say? She wasn't some sort of neighborhood floozy, traipsing around from house to house, having relationships. What's next, have you ever been in his bedroom, Ms. Whipple? Have you been naked with him, Ms. Whipple? Did you want to? What about with Ron Palmer, the fat guy on the corner? Ever sashayed up to his porch late at night, Ms. Whipple? She should just shut up—just shut up and keep it simple. "No, I've never been inside his house."

Violet stepped up to Albert's garage door. She glanced behind her, across the street and leaned around the side of his house. She tiptoed through an overgrown flowerbed to a plastic rock where Albert kept his spare house key, she'd seen him use when he locked himself out of his house. The key slipped into the lock on the front door. Violet held her breath. The door creaked open to a waft of stale air, the smell of mildew, and spoiled milk.

The now-familiar maze of cardboard boxes, stacked four or five tall, wound into the living room. His house was a jungle of dead electronics where wires from every imaginable device drooped from boxes like snakes from a tree branch. The trail of debris ultimately led to Albert's sanctuary, the only piece of actual furniture in the house. It was a pilgrimage of sorts, right into Albert's mind. And since he wasn't in his house anymore, Violet liked to sneak in and sit in his chair to stare at his bare walls, to trade lives with him. His life must have been so simple, and he was so smart. What glorious ideas must he have come up with, right here in his recliner without the distractions of the television or the radio, without people engaging in small talk to disturb him, only the sounds in his own mind churning out ways to change the world.

Behind the single chair, within a set of bookcases filled with newspapers, Chinese takeout boxes, and sacks of dirty laundry, Albert had erected a shrine to what Violet assumed was his family. There were several framed photos of Albert, and his three kids with the outline of another person cut out, Albert's wife, Violet figured. Beside the frames, stacks of photographs littered the counter, a decade's worth of memories, the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and a picture of Albert and his wife in formal wear, arms interlocked, drinking champagne. Scrawled across the woman's face in bright red letters was the word 'liar.'

Violet picked up the picture and stuffed it into her pocket. She squeezed between a narrow corridor, a cave of boxes and books, into a dank bedroom. She strolled through the door, her hand skimming the bare walls as she hummed a tune, a conglomeration of Blue Moon with intermittent bars of Amazing Grace. Albert's bedroom was empty except for two or three shirts and a half-eaten bar of candy. She grabbed one of the shirts, a white button up with mustard stains, and held it up to her chest. Her arms slid into the sleeves. The collar set up around her neck. She was Albert, guardian of truth, and the truth was under her control.

She pulled the crumpled photo from her pocket and looked beyond the bright red letters to the face of Albert's wife, a woman who resembled Violet. She had the same brown hair and gray eyes, and they were both liars. Maybe Violet would've had a chance with Albert, if she had only tried. The night after his wife sneaked out with the kids, Violet could have brought over a cake, or made him dinner. She could have reassured him, but all she could hope for now was free run of his house and his machine, the one that would reach into the throat and pull truth from the bowels.

In her earlier excursions into Albert's house, Violet had only imagined the garage, a place she hadn't felt worthy to enter until now. It would be a room filled with laboratory equipment, things geniuses use, maybe a flask or two, and a lot of aluminum foil. Geniuses always find foil useful. There would be an endless supply of wires and clamps, maybe even a timer and a scale.

She squeezed her eyes shut. The doorknob turned. Her left eye cracked open. Her jaw dropped when she uncovered, for the first time, the truth of Albert Montague. Model rockets of all shapes and sizes lined both sides of Albert's garage. Some were standard in design, others were unique, Albert creations, each with a label: Orbital Spectra-glide, Swoop Wing, Double Helix, Astral Projection, Blue Comet. Orbital Spectra-glide stood in two pieces both as tall as the garage. On the side it had a small hatch and the words 'emergency release' on a handle.

If she had died, like she wanted to, the day after Kennedy announced that men would walk on the moon before the decade of the sixties ended, she would have imagined in the seconds before her death, a sleek vessel covered in windows, like Albert's Orbital Spectra-glide, with streaks of silver comet dust across the nosecone. She would have envisioned a rocket ship full of supplies, landing on the moon to lay the groundwork for a functional lunar community of astronauts just like the one Albert Montague had constructed in the middle of his garage. With every inch of available space, Albert had recreated the sunlit side of the moon upon which he positioned a scale model of a lunar colony, each domed complex complete with low-gravity furniture and astronauts, mid-task, floating from strings, with a working conveyor system connecting one outpost to another.

She ran her hand along the edge of the table, a lunar landscape of papier-mâché, by communication stations where intercoms would exchange blurbs, "Orbital Spectra-glide requesting permission to land on Moon Delta I—Roger that, Orbital Spectra-glide, prepare for set down—T-minus 4,3,2—prepare to rendezvous with deep space tug boat Charlie Alpha Six…"

Violet stared at the thin, permanent grin on Johnny Hairplugs' face. It made her want to grab the polygraph machine and swipe it across his head. He thought he has so smart with his questions, asking, grinning, asking some more, private things, hers alone.

"Do you have anything in your possession that belongs to Albert Montague?"


"Did you slit Mr. Montague's tires two days before his disappearance?"

Violet rubbed her face with both hands as the barrage of questions returned. "Yes. I slit his tires. But I didn't mean to—well, I just didn't want him going anywhere."

"Did you have anything to do with Albert Montague's disappearance?"

Her stomach wiggled, making the gurgling sound it makes right before she has to run to the toilet. She felt the air leave her lungs filling her head like a balloon. Behind her, a swoosh of steam from an iron shot through her ears. She rocked in her chair, her arms wrapped around her legs. "He just kept coming at me. Every time things got good, you know?" Violet jumped up from her chair, waving her hand at Johnny Hairplugs. "He came at me. He smelled like booze and pork chops and cheap cigars. I couldn't escape. I was a prisoner. You've got to believe me. There was nothing else I could do. God knows there was nothing else I could do."

"Miss Whipple—"

"He's dead. I killed him dead. I killed him, okay."

"Mr. Montague is dead?" He pushed a button on the recorder on his desk.

"I impaled the bastard with his own precious barbeque fork and buried him behind the dumpster during Kennedy's speech. Even the cops were glued to the television that day—the verge of nuclear war and all. Another speech I missed. Only that time it wasn't just me all wrapped up in pain, broken and sore. I gave him some of his own, after he took the iron to my head, a demonstration on its proper use, how his shirts ought to look. Crisp, he said. Crisp, hell. "

The expressionless Johnny Hairplugs repositioned the recorder.

"There, are you happy? Forty-three years I've lived without having to think about that. I just didn't want him to have the last laugh."

Johnny Hairplugs tapped two fingers together. His lips moved without speaking.

"It was my birthday. It rained a bucketful that day. The ground was pretty soft."

"So you were only twelve-years old?"

"That's right, and some social worker, one of your typical government workers, who always knows best, insisted that my home life was better with my dad than in a foster home. That she 'could find no concrete evidence of abuse.' It's inept. Anywhere else, she'd have been fired. But not the government. They probably just shuffled her from one department to another."

Johnny Hairplugs gestured to a mirror on the other side of the room and leaned across the table. "What about Mr. Montague, Ms. Whipple?"

She stared out the window at the moon rising over the courts building across the street. A feeling of wonder washed over her, the tingle of getting into warm bathwater on a cold day. It was the same way she felt when she heard about the astronauts planning to go to the moon. She felt that way in September of 1962, and, in October when the Russians parked their missiles in Cuba, she locked that wonder away forever, keeping her mouth shut, playing the poor little girl whose daddy 'ran off and left her alone.' The longer she tucked it away, the higher the stakes if anyone ever found out what happened that day. "That damn machine. It was too powerful. And that agent kept poking around."

"What machine?"

"That damned truth extractor." She sighed. "But I guess it doesn't really matter much now. I've already spilled the beans. What more is there?"

"Mr. Montague, Miss Whipple? What happened to Mr. Montague?"

Then she heard their voices, somehow rolled into one, President Kennedy and Albert, visionaries. She had heard the moon speech so many times she had committed it to memory. Maybe because it was the last thing she really remembered before it all went dark, her last innocent thought. But now, Albert had somehow joined her there in that moment, President Kennedy's speech in Albert's voice, and when George Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, "he said, 'Because it is there.' Well, space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there and when we do we'll reach down the throat and pull the truth from the very bowels."

"Albert?" A faint smile spread across her face. She took a deep breath, and looked away from Johnny Hairplugs, out the window. "I like to think Albert went to the moon."

About the author:

Before getting his degree in Physics, M. E. Parker had been a short-order cook, a construction worker, a software engineer, done a stint in the Navy, and seen much of Western Europe from the driver's seat of a Volkswagen microbus. His stories have recently appeared or are forthcoming in print in the Briar Cliff Review, the Flint Hills Review, Outercast, and Whistling Shade, and online in Edifice WRECKED and the University of New Hampshire's journal Barnstorm. He can be reached online at meparker.com.

For further reading:

Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 7, No. 2, where "Please Don't Put That Thing on My Head—I Work for the Government" ran on July 2, 2007. List other work with these same labels: fiction, short story.

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