Amazon comes to Fritters, Alabama

I shaved my head for this?

© 2005 James Duncan Davidson used under a Creative Commons license


[A conference room lined with construction paper collages and felt banners showing happy suns, planets, and children, and legends like AMAZON IS A-OK! and ENJOY YOUR FRITTERS JEFF! The MAYOR is seated at a table on a dais; elders of Fritters, Alabama and their families sit facing the dais in folding chairs. All stand up and applaud as a bald man in a good suit enters the conference room, and only sit when he has been seated on the dais.]

MAYOR BEAUREGARD SHONEY: Welcome to Fritters, Mr. Bezos! We’re very excited to have you. It’s a great honor for us and rest assured we won’t try to mess with you like those socialists in New York.

EMINENCE: [Laughing quietly] I am not Jeff Bezos, Mayor Shoney. My name is Grayson Eminence. Perhaps my shaved head fooled you. Most Amazon management have shaved their heads, and yes, that goes for the women as well. When you see them in the papers, they’re wearing wigs.

[In the audience, MARION PEWTY turns to her husband, SAM PEWTY, and whispers, “I ain’t a-shavin’ my head.”]

EMINENCE: I thank you for inviting Amazon to your community. I shall be your contact throughout this process. Now, the first thing I want to know is, what does Fritters offer Amazon in tribute?

[Pause.]

SHONEY: Tribute? You have our proposal, Mr. Eminence. No property, water, or any other kind of taxes —

EMINENCE: Not your terms, Mayor Shoney. Your tribute. If you know your ancient history, you will know that great leaders demanded of their subjects tribute in the form of gifts — something of great value to the conquered tribe, as a sign of respect.

SHONEY: You didn’t get the fruit basket?

ALDERMAN SMITH: Them soaps in the hotel room, they ain’t normally there, y’know. We got ‘em at the Kroger and put ‘em out special for you. Normally folks here wash with coal oil.

EMINENCE: [Coldly] Look up the Locrian maiden tributes and the tophet of the great god Moloch for reference. When the ancients wanted a thing, they paid a suitable price. Now then, have you composed an ode?

SHONEY: A ode?

EMINENCE: A lyric poem in the form of an address to a particular subject, often elevated in style or manner and written in varied or irregular meter.

SHONEY: It was supposed to be a surprise, but when we walk down Main Street to City Hall we were planning to have schoolkids line the streets and sing “Mr. Wonderful.”

[Pause. EMINENCE rises. The elders start to follow suit.]

EMINENCE: [Commandingly] Don’t get up! [They obey. Pause. EMINENCE walks slowly back and forth, blandly regarding them] In the course of our quest, every city in America has offered Amazon their most glittering prizes. Helipads. Prime real estate. Abatements in the billions of dollars. Some offered — and later withdrew. But there will be a reckoning. [Raises his fist before his own face; through clenched teeth] Oh, there will be a terrible reckoning! [His voice rising] Nashville and Alexandria, Virginia are not the most — exalted locales but they showed the completeness of their fealty to Amazon in ways that I cannot share in a public forum — but be assured it would raise the hairs on the back of your brick-red necks. [Voice low] Now we come to Fritters, Alabama, which has to recommend it nothing at all — except, if she chooses to give it, the sort of loyalty, the humility, the obeisance that a vassal owes a lord. [Voice rising again] And that is what we demand! If we should require your churches remove their crucifixes and in their place mount the Amazon logo, it should be done the next day — willingly, without complaint, even if you and your children must work through the night. That is what you will provide, not this [lunges, tears down several collages and banners] insulting childish frippery! We offer you the chance of a lifetime! Riches beyond the dreams of avarice! A Fritters thrumming with new jobs and industry that would make Birmingham and Montgomery look like wide spots in the road! You could be the Queen City of Alabama — perhaps in time the capital city of a new Amazonation! [More quietly] Or you can remain mired in your own obscurity — forever. I shall return in 24 hours. When I do — Etonnez-moi!

[He leaves. Silence.]

MARION PEWTY: Well, I s’pose I could shave my you-know-what.