A Better Mousetrap

(Intrepid reporter for the American Inquisitor Weekly News Magazine, David Wilaru*, is recruited for Wordsmith duty by a team competing for the contract to design the new H-Bomb, Version 3.0.

He is shocked to discover that the scientists don’t have the slightest clue about creating a successful new product, but, luckily, Wilaru knows just how to push his team’s new H-Bomb over the top.)

By David Wilaru (Dwilaru@gmail.com)

The man in the black suit, white shirt and wrap-around sunglasses sidled up to my table with barely a whisper in the still air to mark his approach.

“Are you David Wilaru?” he asked softly, his lips barely moving.

“Potentially,” I admitted as I looked around for the ever-vigilant Burger King security guards. “Why are you looking for Mr. Wilaru?”

“That’s a matter of National Security, for Mr. Wilaru’s ears alone,” the stranger whispered, his eyes darting left and right.

To me, David G. Wilaru, staff reporter for The American Inquisitor Weekly News Magazine, the phrase “national security” and the words “by-line exposé” are substantially interchangeable. Nodding crisply, I held out my hand.

“David Wilaru, at your service. Would you care for a ketchup bindle, Mr. Smith?”

“How do you know my name is Smith?” The lean-faced man asked suspiciously.

“This isn’t my first clandestine meeting. I’ve been to the fair and seen the two-headed elephant.”

“What?” Smith snapped, his head swiveling around madly. “Where is this elephant you speak of?”

“Please have a seat,” I said, taking a long breath, “Curly fries?”

With hooded eyes Smith slipped into a plastic chair and busied himself with the ketchup envelope.

“Is this a secure location?” Smith’s fingertips traced the bottom of the table looking for bugs.

“Burger King store number 973 is world-renowned for its privacy. How can I help you?”

Smith carefully unrolled a coiled section of potato and broke it into six equal-sized pieces.

“We understand that you have had some experience in high-tech advertising and marketing,” Smith said, eating the fragments one by one.

“‘Some experience?’ My dear sir, that’s like saying that the Catholic Church has had some experience with bad publicity. Who wrote the product manual for the Delilah Magic Hedge Trimmer? I did. Who at Xcitement, Inc. coined the catchphrase ‘Get sane at warp speed’ if not yours truly? Are you aware that I was the one who drafted the national charter and the membership rules for the Men’s Union?”

“Actually,” Smith said, giving me a sharp look, “that’s what put your name at the top of our list. Many of our senior personnel are charter members.” Smith looked sharply around the room, then back at me. “All right, Wilaru, I’ll level with you. I represent a group of companies competing for a big contract for a new product. Management has decided that we need a top Wordsmith to organize a PR campaign that will put our team over the top.”

“A top wordsmith, you say,” I replied as I squeezed another dollop of ketchup onto a coil of fries. “Well, admittedly, I am that. What exactly would my duties entail?”

“Everything, the whole gamut,” Smith said stretching his hands wide. “Sales brochures, user manuals, flip-chart presentations, marketing materials. Naturally, you’d pick your own staff, all two of them.”

“Only two for such a big project?”

“Considering the national security issues they’d both have to be Americans with no criminal records, and you know how expensive they are.”

Boy, howdy, did I ever. If The American Inquisitor only hired legal U.S. residents with no criminal records we’d go broke in a month.

“How long do you think the job will take?”

“You’d have to be finished in no more than three weeks, that’s when the Government will award the contract.”

“Three weeks, mmmm? Well, I suppose I can take my accrued vacation followed by an early relapse of my annual case of the measles. All right, assuming we can come to an agreement on my fee, I’ll do it. What’s the product?”

Smith’s eyeballs vibrated left and right as if on fire.

“We’re building . . . .” Smith paused and leaned across the classic Formica table, “a brand new, state-of-the-art hydrogen bomb,” he whispered.

“A hydrogen — ” Smith grabbed my mouth in his strong right hand.

“Shhhhhh!” he hissed, slowly releasing my lips.

“A . . . you know what?” I whispered in a shocked voice.

“Uh-huh. Pretty cool, huh?”

“Wow, that’s way-cool. When do we start?”

Smith stood and grabbed my tray.

“Right now. I’ll take you to meet the guys.”

Twenty minutes later we pulled into a secret location where the entire team was assembled. I made the most of the trip on the floor of Smith’s Toyota with a black sack over my head, but I didn’t mind. That’s the price you have to pay for National Security. Once the hanger doors were closed behind us, Smith led me to a windowless conference room deep within the building. Seven people were seated in swivel chairs around a long table.

“Gentlemen, this is Mr. Wilaru,” Smith announced as he pulled off my hood. Florescent lights glared and, wiping the tears from my eyes, I scanned the attendees.

“Wilaru, this is Dr. Jones, Number 1,” Smith said pointing to a heavy-set white man with dangling earlobes immediately to my left. “Next to him is Dr. Jones, Number 2.” Smith pointed to an Asian gentleman with a mop-like thatch of black hair. One by one Smith introduced me to Doctors Jones one through seven, six male and one female, four white, two Asian and one Indian, varying in age from the late thirties to the early eighties.

“Doctors,” I said politely, making eye contact with them one by one. “I will be your Wordsmith. Whatever needs to be written about your project and your product, I will write it. I will need your full cooperation, of course, and I hope that you will give me all the help you can in understanding the features and characteristics of your wonderful new design.”

Three faces were openly friendly, three blandly indifferent, and one, Dr. Jones, Number One, was openly hostile.

“Dr. Jones Number One, do you have a concern?” I asked, deciding to take the bull by the horns.

“Ahch! This is all a waste of valuable time! What are we, illiterates? Morons? Whatever needs to be written, we can write it. I myself have been writing since I was two.” Number One folded his arms and shot me a malevolent glare.

“Tell me, Dr. Jones, if by some chance your design had a three percent failure rate, how would you describe that fact in your data sheet?”

Number One shrugged. “‘The failure rate is estimated to be three percent’ I suppose it would say. There is no magic here.”

“Yes, you could say it that way. But wouldn’t it be better to say: ‘In contrast to earlier designs, the Prestige XL’s partial performance factor has been carefully engineered to never exceed three percent.”

“Wow,” Smith exclaimed. “That is so slick.”

“The Prestige XL?” Dr. Jones Number Five inquired.

“That sounds a lot better than Nuclear Delivery System 5J6 or whatever, doesn’t it?”

“My God, he’s right,” Number Two broke in. “That sounds absolutely . . . . luxurious.”

“Why do you think so many automobile models are called an ‘XL’? Because that designation implies that they are X-L-ent. And we all want products that are excellent, don’t we?”

“Good God, Wilaru,” Number Seven called out, “I think you’ve got something there. What other clever tricks do you have up your sleeve?”

“Tricks, Dr. Jones Number Seven? These are not tricks, sir, any more than your ability to coax nine megatons of destruction when previously seven was the best that lesser men could do is a trick. I, sir, am a professional.”

“I apologize for my poor choice of words, Mr. Wilaru,” Number Seven assured me in a conciliatory tone. “Obviously, I don’t have your skill with language.”

“Think nothing of it, Dr. Jones Number Seven. Were I called upon to design a device sufficient to incinerate two million people, I would be equally inept. If you would tell me some of the features of your new product, perhaps I could begin putting together a value-summary vis-a-vis the obviously inferior designs of the competing teams. By the way who are we up against? And who are we?”

Number One gave Smith an insouciant wave.

“All right, the competition,” Smith began. “Of course there’s Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore Labs. Sandia National Lab, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Battelle Labs.”

“And we are . . . ?”

Smith shifted uneasily from foot to foot, got a quick nod of approval from Dr. Jones Number one, and continued.

“Technically, the name of our enterprise is The Peacemaker Group, LLC. Our principal members are Lockheed, AT&T, Google, Black & Decker and Procter & Gamble.”

“Procter & Gamble?”

“Nuclear weapons are a growth industry, Mr. Wilaru.”

Shaking my head in surprise I turned back to Dr. Jones Number Seven.

“And how is our device different from those of our competitors?”

“Well, we are ahead in the areas — ”

“Excuse me, Dr. Jones Number Seven, but I must know all the differences, good and bad.”

“Oh, I see, in order to be able to cover up our shortcomings.”

“Cover up? Bite your tongue, sir! Often what amateurs such as yourselves think is a defect is, in fact, an improvement. What to you may be a bug, to me, as a skilled Wordsmith, is a feature. So, Dr. Jones Number Seven, if you would be so kind as to tell me everything you can about our new product, the Prestige XL.”

“Well,” Number Seven began, suitably chastened, “it’s far more reliable than previous models.”

“Would you say that it’s at least three times more reliable?”

“Three times, well, I don’t know, I mean we’ve never thought of it in quite those terms.”

“We’ll start with three times more reliable and we can figure out the actual number later. What else?”

“Lower maintenance,” Number Six chimed in. “The electronics are especially hardened against gamma radiation and will have to be replaced only half as often.”

“Excellent, Number Six. What else?”

“Well, a bigger yield, of course.” Number Six scanned the table and was rewarded by a series of smiles and nods. “In fact, I would say that the Prestige XL, if I may . . . .” I gave Number Six an approving nod, “has a yield that has increased from one DEC per kilo to . . . oh, computer simulations indicate two point five DECs per kilo.”

“A 250% increase, that’s quite substantial. And what is a DEC?”

“Short for decade or ten, that is to say ten square miles of complete destruction of wooden structures. That’s an increase of approximately 160% in the radius of total destruction per kilo of plutonium versus older designs.”

“More than twice the bang for the same buck? Over twice the destruction for the same amount of plutonium — bravo, gentlemen, bravo! I see I’ve joined a team of winners with you folks designing this product. All right, we’ve got increased reliability, lower maintenance and superior destruction. What else?”

The Doctors Jones looked from one to the other then turned back and gave me a collective shrug.

“I guess that’s it,” Number Six said with a weak smile.

“That’s it? That can’t be it. What about the new features?”

“What new features?”

“Gentlemen, and Madame, all products have features, the more the better.”

“But the device only does one thing. It blows up.”

“And boy,” Dr. Jones Number Four said proudly leaning over to high-five Dr. Jones Number Five, “does it ever.”

“Doctors Jones, I can see that we have a failure to communicate. What’s important is not so much what the Prestige XL does as what it is capable of doing. It’s like your microwave oven. By pressing STAR 12 it can heat up a packet of cat food to a kitty-friendly temperature. That’s not to say that any user in the history of the oven has ever used STAR 12 to heat up cat food, but they could if they wanted to because it’s a feature. It’s printed right there in black and white in the owner’s manual.

“Why do you think you can play Bingo on your cell phone or sound taps on your wristwatch? They’re features. They’re not there because anyone needs them. They’re there because bored engineers figured out how to add them. So, let’s noodle this around the table and come up with some features we can add to our new hydrogen bomb. — Dr. Jones Number Seven?”

“Uuuum, well, it’s got a GPS chip so I suppose it could beep or something when it nears the target.”

“Beep? No. No beeps. This is the iPod era. We will include a list of, oh, let’s say one hundred songs which the bomber or submarine crews can select for the device to play as it nears its target.”

“Songs?” Number Four asked, confused. “What kinds of songs?”

“I’m no musicologist, but how about ‘I’m Gonna Gonna Gonna Gonna Get Ya, Gonna Get Ya’ when it’s over the target and beginning its final descent? Oh, and maybe the Eye Of The Tiger when it’s ten miles out and Bad To The Bone when it reaches the five mile perimeter? I’m sure we can get some radio-DJ type to come up with the final list.”

“You are suggesting that we add speakers to the bomb’s casing?” Number One asked in a horrified tone. “They would compromise the structural integrity of the weapon. Impossible!”

“Speakers? We don’t need no stinkin’ speakers,” I said affecting an Hispanic accent.

“But what’s the point of including this silly music if there are no speakers to play it on?”

“The music plays inside the bomb.”

“But no one will be able to hear it.”

“Our brave airmen and sailors don’t need to actually hear it so long as they know that it’s playing. If our troops know that those enemy bastards will soon have thirty megatons of hell screaming down on them while playing We’re Gonna Get Ya at all the decibels an internal two inch speaker can handle then, sir, that’s enough. You have to credit the power of the imagination. And, the sub captains will have contests and lotteries and so that their men can pick which songs will get played at what times. The process of picking the music that will be played when you blast your enemies back to the stone age will be wonderful for moral.”

I stared at the slack-jawed faces around the table, made a quick note on my mental list, and moved on.

“All right then, what’s the next feature we can add?”

It took them a while but they finally got into the swing of things. Half an hour later we had come up with a tentative list:

  • Music to drop bombs by (note to self — make special deal with Apple);
  • Optional exterior whistles to provide a range of screaming sounds to be generated by the falling bomb;
  • A four voice option — standard male, standard female, British and Texan — for spoken diagnostic reports during maintenance and repair sessions;
  • An Apple Mac GUI interface (as a sweetener for the iPod deal) for the technicians’ annual system diagnostics and updates, and
  • A built-in population database that would display the anticipated megadeaths on the technicians’ screens each time the targeting coordinates were changed.

It was a good start but I was sure that with a little more effort, we could do much better.

“Well, it’s been a long day for all of us. I have just one more question for you before I suggest we adjourn. What look do you have planned for the weapon?”

“Look?” Number One asked, visibly confused.

“Look, style, color, visual appearance?”

“I don’t know. Whatever color titanium is.”

Oh my God, this was worse than I had thought.

“Folks, I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Eye appeal is at least half the battle. It’s like going to a restaurant. First we see the food, then we eat the food. It has to look right before it can taste right.” Seven blank faces stared back at me.

“Okay, okay, here’s what I’m thinking. Tasteful, clean lines, but classy. Highly polished stainless steel with gold-bronze accents in an, I don’t know, maybe a sunburst theme. And the fins, there are fins, right?” Number Three gave me a cautious nod. “Let’s see, four fins that’s eight surfaces. — I’ve got it! Patriotic scenes inscribed into the metal itself. The Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Statue of Liberty. We’ll show those Commie, Rag-Head, Kim-Chi-Eating bastards what peace, freedom and democracy are all about when one of our Prestige XLs with the image of the Statue of Liberty on her tail comes screaming out of the sky onto one of their shit-hole cities playing Bad To The Bone. Then they’ll find out who the good guys are.”

As one, the Professors stood and cheered. Smith openly wept.

Three weeks later we presented the Department Of Defense with the new Peacemaker Prestige XL Line — the Enforcer, the Titan and the New Wilderness, sporting one, ten and fifty megadeath capabilities in any one of four style-themes — Classic, The Bill Blas, The Dona Karin, and the Ansel Adams.

Our competition didn’t stand a chance. When the Secretary of Defense heard the play list on the built-in iPod, he went ape. He couldn’t sign the contract fast enough. Mr. Smith was very pleased.

Needless to say it was a great day for me, too.

I’m so proud.

David Wilaru — Dwilaru@gmail.com

All 50 of David Wilaru’s colums are collected in The Wilaru Chronicles available at: www.Amazon.com/dp/B01AGTD0Q0

To see a searchable list of all David Grace’s columns in chronological order, CLICK HERE

To see a list of David Grace’s columns sorted by topic/subject matter, CLICK HERE.

To see all of David Grace’s Wilaru stories, CLICK HERE

*David G. Wilaru, A Brief Biography

David Wilaru’s early employment was in the creative paperwork allocation and re-allocation sector but he always knew that his true calling was to be a Wordsmith.

After his divorce from his wife, Sharon, whom Mr. Wilaru once described as: “…as frigid as a penguin in a KitchenAid,” he pursued his dream of a writing career with a stint drafting product manuals for Godzilla Brothers, Inc., penning the user manuals for such cutting-edge Godzilla Brothers’ products as the Delilah Magic Hedge Trimmer, the Trident Electric Fork and Wordbuster, the world’s first solar powered fountain pen.

After leaving Godzilla Brother after his unfortunate involvement with Dr. Werner Buick’s Thirty Day Plan and overcome with ennui, Mr. Wilaru founded SCRAP, The Surrender Company Representing All People, a project that, unfortunately, led to his brief confinement in the Feldman-Margolis Memorial Psychiatric Ward where he edited the patient newsletter, Four Soft Walls.

After his release from the Feldman-Margolis Center, Mr. Wilaru accepted a position as a slogan writer with the 1001 Adult Greeting Cards For All Occasions Company of East Los Angeles, Inc. where he diligently honed his creative talents. Thereafter, Mr. Wilaru went on to hold a senior public relations position with the Silicon City medical appliances company, BodySpares, Inc. where he directed the marketing effort for the Mirage Artificial Pancreas 690 RG.

After BodySpares’ unfortunate difficulties with the SEC, Mr. Wilaru joined the start-up, Xcitement, Inc., where he designed the marketing campaign for the Xcitement Confidential Advisor (popularly known as “The Brain Box”) and singlehandedly coined the slogan “Get Sane At Warp Speed.” After Xcitement’s sudden bankruptcy, Mr. Wilaru took over as the head of Marketing and Public Relations for Memories-R-Us, Inc. where he directed the advertising strategy for The Dog Box and other Memories-R-Us products.

It was during this high-tech marketing period that, in his spare time, Mr. Wilaru wrote his first paperback novel, the moderately successful Grip Melman, Garbage Detective: The Case Of The Hostess In The Can. After the unfortunate litigation generated by the book’s Second Printing Party, Mr. Wilaru obtained a position as a free-lance writer and later as a staff reporter for The American Inquisitor Weekly News Magazine, a post which he still holds today.

A self-described obsessive-compulsive Wordsmith, Mr. Wilaru regularly writes about subjects of topical interest including Gay Marriage, Hollywood Culture, the rapid growth of Amnesiaiology, the Patriot Act, Middle East Developments, and his specialty, UFO Babies, together with other matters of broad general appeal.



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