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May 1, 2009

Barack and Knuckles: The Day I Met the New Owners


When I entered my office that morning, I had no reason to think it would be anything other than a normal day. I would sit at my desk, read e-mail, give people a bunch of meaningless stuff to do, go to lunch, come back two-and-a-half hours later, cancel some meetings and then read other people’s e-mail.


Pretty much standard fare.


But I sensed something was amiss when I approached my desk and immediately recognized that two people were already in there. One was sitting at my desk. One was sitting in the corner with a baseball bat leaning against his chair.


The one at my desk was President Obama. The one in the corner was a fellow who introduced himself as Knuckles Dwonkowski.


“We have good news for you, Mr. Krause,” the president said. “Your bailout has been approved.”


“Um, well, wow, that’s some news all right,” I said. “I asked for a bailout? I need a bailout?”


“Mr. Krause, I’ve been reading your columns, so I’ve become familiar with your management style,” the president said. “Good Lord, you need something.”


“OK,” I said, sitting down in the other chair. “So why are you here? And who’s he?


“Oh, Mr. Dwonkowski?” Obama said. “He’s the shop steward from the union.”


Knuckles cracked his knuckles, then gripped his bat.


“Pleased ta meet ya,” Knuckles said. “Nice place you’ve got here, Krause. Be a shame if anything happened to it, if you hear what I’m sayin’.”


“OK,” I said, shaking my head. “Last I knew, my employees were not unionized.”


“Oh, that was before we took majority ownership,” Obama said.


“You took what?” I replied incredulously.


“Well, let’s face it,” Obama said. “That $17 gazillion we lent you? You’re never gonna be able to pay that back. So we decided to be nice guys and take it in the form of stock. Uncle Sam gets 50 percent. Knuckles and the union get 40 percent. As for the rest, well, pleasure to be doing business with you, partner.”


I stood up and looked for a way out, but the door had been padlocked.


“Goin’ somewhere, Krause?” Knuckles asked. He was holding the bat across his lap and gripping it tightly.


“Wait a minute,” I said. “I never asked for a loan. I may be a complete doofus, but we’re doing OK and I don’t need a bailout. Now if you lent me $17 gazillion, then I want to pay it back right now, and re-take control of my company.”


“No can do,” Obama said. “Since the loan came in this morning, the interest has already bumped the amount you owe us up to $21 gazillion, so you’d need to come up with an additional $4 gazillion over and above what we lent you. That’s impossible. Your company doesn’t make anywhere near that much, and also, there isn’t that much money in the entire world, as the concept of gazillion does not exist.”


“Then how could you lend it to me?” I asked.


“We’re the government,” Obama said. “We can do whatever we want.”


Knuckles slammed his fist into his other hand.


“Ow,” Knuckles said.


“He’s making me nervous,” I told Obama.


“We taught him that in Chicago,” Obama said.


“Look,” I said. “This is just a small company. If you want to take majority control of General Motors, you go right ahead, but what do you want with my little company?”


“Once we take over all the big companies, people are going to figure out that the only place they can find economic sanity is in small, entrepreneurial operations,” Obama said. “So if we take control of those as well, we’ll have everyone doing things our way. Knuckles, have you explained the new work rules to the employees?”


Knuckles stood up, broke the window on the locked door and motioned toward the hallway.


“See for yourself,” Knuckles said.


The employees were sitting around in a newly constructed employee lounge, smoking cigarettes and discussing various grievances to file about their work conditions. No one was doing any work.


“They’ve adjusted quickly,” Knuckles said.


“OK, that’s it, I’m getting out of here,” I said. “Fine, if you want my company, take it. I’ll pack my laptop in a backpack and ride around town on a bicycle trying to figure out how to make a living.”


I made for the door, but Knuckles blocked it.


“No one leaves,” Knuckles said.


As I desperately searched for a way out, everything went black and I bolted up in bed, breathing quickly and heavily. I turned on the light next to me.


“Honey, wake up,” I said. “You won’t believe the dream I just had.”


She rolled over, reached across her body and turned on the light on her side of the bed, then sat up. But it wasn’t Mrs. Krause. It was Suzanne Pleshette.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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