The Means of Exchange: Matt's Short Story

Matt Barton's picture

ISWNCBM: It's ClassifiedISWNCBM: It's ClassifiedEnjoy the following humorous short story, intended as an Xmas gift from me to you. I'll warn you, though--you may never look at a television commercial the same way again!

Seymour Schmidt made his way through the portfolio slowly and thoughtfully, occasionally lifting out a page and staring at it intently. His office was bright and sunny, and, as always, full of cigar smoke. Whenever he saw something he liked, he puffed on the cigar, making the tip glow bright red. Jarvis and Sabina knew that if the cigar went out, their boss would force them to take the entire ad campaign back to the drawing board.

“Ouch, damnit,” yelled Seymour, yanking the cigar out of his mouth. It had burned his lip.

“So,” ventured Jarvis, pushing back his thick glasses that had slid down his nose—“Do you like?” Beside him, Sabina sucked in her breath and brought the clipboard in her hands up to her chest, as though shielding it.

The old man looked up with an enormous grin on his liver-spotted face. “Jarvis, Sabina—this is, without a doubt, without question, the best damn ad campaign I have ever seen in my whole friggin’ life. It’s almost worth paying you a bonus.”

Sabina’s clipboard fell out of her hands and onto Seymour’s desk, but no one noticed. Sabina wasn’t beautiful, but she was pretty, especially when she was angry. “You better pay us a bonus, you greedy old miser!” Jarvis gasped and waved his hands at his partner.

Seymour only laughed. “Simmer down, sweet thing. Of course you’re getting a bonus. But there’s only one problem. How in the hell do you expect us to get Justin Sweeny? That little punk wouldn’t endorse his own mother’s cookie recipe for less than ten mill. And Burger Crown doesn’t want to put that kind of money into this, even for the Double Bacon Meat Feast.”

Jarvis cleared his throat. Seymour looked at him. “Yes?”

“Well,” said Jarvis, “As it happens, he owes me a favor.”

“Justin Sweeny owes you a favor?” asked Sabina and Seymour at the same time.

“Let’s just say I have some photos of him that he doesn’t want anybody else to see.”

“Porn? Puke? Drugs? Dressed as a Nazi? Kissing a boy? What, Jarvis?” stammered Seymour.

“I interviewed his mother last year and she gave me a copy of his baby pictures. You know, he’s got that one with himself naked in the metal bathtub with a big sponge on his head.”

“I’m green lighting this campaign,” announced Seymour. “You guys get Sweeny in sequins and clogs and set up with the choreographer. I’ll get on the horn to Industrial and have them do the CGI and the furries. I’ll get with Sweeny’s backup band, too.” Seymour worked as he talked, and was already whipping through his Rolodex and pulling out cards. “Oh, and how the hell did you two think of that catchphrase? Catchy little thing.”

Jarvis shrugged. “It just sorta came to me. I had just watched Carmen and, I don’t know, somehow just saw these bears on Segways and Sweeny in a HAZMAT suit playing an accordion. It just came together, and then, out of nowhere--

Hey, you, what’s in them buttery buns?
That’s mighty meat, double meat, it’s the one, hun!
Hey, baby, baby! Your meat is plugged with bacon!
Yeah, yeah, and your hunger it be slakin!

Seymour and Sabina were staring at him. Then the old man sighed. “Jarvis, I knew when I hired you that your literature degree was going to make me a rich man one day, but you ain’t no Sweeny. Now, get the hell out of here.”

The commercial was in production for three weeks. It went off without a hitch, and even Sweeny was impressed with Jarvis’ lyrics. But Jarvis went to bed rather than stay up for its midnight debut on Fox. He woke the next day, went through his morning hygiene routine, and sat down at his computer with a cup of coffee.

“NASA says, no hoax” read the headline on Google News. Jarvis took a big swig of coffee and tried to understand what he was seeing. “Extra-terrestrial origin of visitors confirmed, we are not alone.”

Jarvis sat down the coffee. He checked the calendar—nope, not April 1st. Then he noticed that all of the stories on Google News were about aliens—aliens, who wanted—who were demanding—

“No, way,” said Jarvis. “Hell, no. No friggin’ way.”

He was outdoors and headed to the office in five minutes, the half-drunk coffee still steaming beside his keyboard.


At the Schmidt and Sons Advertising Agency (Seymour didn’t have any sons, but thought it would be good for business), everyone was in a state somewhere between panic and spiritual fulfillment. On the one hand, their ad had made Burger Crown and its Double Meat Bacon Feast the best-selling sandwich of all time, and the Schmidt and Sons Advertising Agency not just the number one ad agency on the hill, but the number one ad agency ever.

On the other hand, the aliens were outside the White House chanting “Your meat is plugged with bacon!” and demanding Double Meat Bacon Feasts.

Sabina met Jarvis at the door. “Jarvis—did you hear?”

Jarvis nodded. “Is it real?”

“Yeah, it’s pretty real. Really real. We better go up and see Seymour.”

But before they could enter the building, a cadre of serious-looking men in black suits and black ties caught up to them. “You—you’re Jarvis Turnall? And you, ma’am, are you Sabina Sturklaw?” Jarvis and Sabina nodded. “We’re going to need you to come with us. We have Mr. Schmidt already.”
Sabina shook her head. “Are we in some kind of trouble?”

“Yes, ma’am. The Secretary of State wants to see you,” said the man.


On the way to the White House, Jarvis and Sabina saw hordes of people, many of them just walking around looking dazed, but others carrying signs. Some of the signs seemed benign enough, but others carried darker messages. “Sweeny is our Leader!” proclaimed one in bright neon pink.

When they arrived, the agents handed them workout attire and directed them to the gym. “She’s on treadmill #007. You will be on #006 and #008. Oh, and we’ve set your treadmills to level 8. Don’t lower it. Don’t raise it. Keep it at level 8. Understood?”

“Understood,” said Jarvis.

“Level 9, got it,” said Sabina.

“Ma’am, around here, humor will get you bloodrocuted.” Sabina shot Jarvis a puzzled look, but he just shrugged.

Hillary Rodham Clinton had worked up a fine sweat—or light glow—and had already burned 152 calories by the time Jarvis and Sabina climbed aboard their treadmills.

“You know what I like?” asked Ms. Clinton.

Assuming it was a rhetorical question, Jarvis and Sabina said nothing. It wasn’t. So finally, Jarvis said, “No, ma’am, what do you like?”

“I like organic.”

“Oh,” said Jarvis. He was already sweating profusely, and he wasn’t sure if it was the exercise or the fact that he was exercising next to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“But that’s neither here nor there.” Ms. Clinton sighed. “We’ve got a situation here. It’s spiraling out of control. It makes North Korea look like a brat having a temper tantrum because his dad bought him a knock-off Wii from Family Dollar and thought he wouldn’t notice.”

“Wow,” said Sabina.

“Yeah, wow,” said Ms. Clinton. “Freakin’ Super Barrio Brothers. And now we’ve got six flying, I don’t know what they are, so let’s just call them saucers. Flying saucers. And you know little green men? Cute little green men that kidnap Santa but then learn the true meaning of Christmas? Well, these are giant, menacing, evil-looking yellow things fashionably encased in metal. And they don’t appear to believe in Santa.”

“Is it true,” asked Jarvis. “Do they want Double Meat--“

“Don’t say it,” snapped Ms. Clinton. “Don’t ever say that.”

“Well, the sandwich whose name cannot be mentioned—is it true?”

“ISWNCBM,” said Ms. Clinton. “That’s the code word we’re using for it.”

“Rolls off the tongue,” said Sabina. Unlike Jarvis, who was wheezing and gasping for breath, she was longing to raise the setting on her treadmill.

“We’ve tried communicating with them,” said Ms. Clinton. “They won’t say anything. They just keep chanting that ridiculous song, that fat propaganda.”

“Have you spoken with the President?” gasped Jarvis.

Ms. Clinton chuckled. “Anyway, I’m going to need you two to try working with them. The linguists have failed. The experts have failed. We even had Oprah send them a message.”

“What was the message?” asked Sabina.

“Like I care? Anyway, I’ve put the CIA, the FBI, and a taxi cab driver who knows the city at your disposal. They’ll see that you get to the scene. Once there, I want you to figure out how to deal with these aliens.

“Water,” said Jarvis.

“And get that man a smoothie with a ginseng energy shot.”


Jarvis and Sabina stepped out of the cab and made their way through the throngs of onlookers, gawkers, prostitutes, street preachers, reporters, police, and a man who introduced himself as Fred. Finally they reached the scene.

“My God,” said Jarvis.

There, in the front yard of the White House, was parked the most gigantic alien space ship Jarvis, or, well, anybody else had ever seen. It resembled a battleship, if a battleship could float, had wings, and giant billboards on the sides.

“Do you see those billboards?” asked Sabina.

“Yeah,” said Jarvis, pushing up his glasses. “What do they say?”

The CIA and FBI agents helped get them through the rest of the crowd, and finally they could see the aliens themselves. Just as Ms. Clinton had described, they were giant, yellow, and encased in stylish metal suits. They had six legs and dozens of tentacles, all waving about in unison with each other. They were chanting:

Hey, you, what’s in them buttery buns?
That’s mighty meat, double meat, it’s the one, hun!
Hey, baby, baby! Your meat is plugged with bacon!
Yeah, yeah, and your hunger it be slakin!

Beside them, dozens of young men were pushing carts loaded with ISWNCBMs into a ramp that extended down from the ship.

Jarvis approached one of the aliens and waved. “We, er, hope you come in peace. Do you come in peace?” The chanting continued. Jarvis waved more frantically. “I take it you enjoy the burgers?” The chanting continued. “Those burgers, they sure are good, aren’t they?” The chanting continued. “Are they really that good? Just between you and me, I haven’t tried one.”

The chanting continued.

Sabina stepped forward. “Hey, you, what’s them in them buttery buns?”

The aliens stopped chanting.

Jarvis smiled at Sabina. “Wow, that was good thinking. Now what?” The aliens waited patiently. Or perhaps impatiently. Suddenly, Jarvis thought they were waiting in a very hostile manner. “Sabina?”

“That’s mighty meat, double meat,” said Sabina, not finishing the verse. The aliens remained still. Sabina tried it again: “That’s mighty meat, double meat…”

“It’s the one, hun!” said one of the aliens who was a bit smaller than the rest. The other aliens did nothing, but Jarvis thought they did it very disapprovingly.

“Don’t antagonize them!” said Jarvis.

Sabina swayed her body in her best rendition of Justin Sweeny. “Hey, baby, baby!”

The little alien said or did nothing.

Sabina swayed again, singing, “Hey, baby, baby!”

The short alien waved a single tentacle.

Sabina tried once more, “Hey, baby, baby!”

This time, the short alien waved all its tentacles and said, “Your meat is plugged with bacon!”

The chanting resumed.

Jarvis shook his head. “I don’t get it. Why that chant? Why those sandwiches? I mean, it’s good, I wrote it and all, but…Something doesn’t make sense.”

Sabina nodded. “Hey, you,” she said to one of the boys pushing the hamburger carts.

“What’s in them buttery buns?” squealed the little alien, out of turn. The other aliens stopped for a moment, the little alien seemed to shrink into itself, and then all resumed from the top.

The boy walked over. He didn’t have a single zit, pimple, or blackhead. “Yes?”

“Why are you giving them all those sandwiches?”

“We call them ISWNCBMs, ma’am.”

“Yes, yes,” snapped Sabina. “Why are you giving them away?”

“Well,” said the boy, “it’s what we were told to do. But, it’s my understanding that the government told Burger Crown to do it, and that they would cover the expenses.”

“Boy, that’s a great way to spend tax-payers’ money,” said Fred.

“What are you doing here?” asked Jarvis.

“I’m just a free citizen, giving you my opinion,” said Fred before disappearing back into the crowd.

“Have you tried bargaining with them?” asked Sabina. “Surely they must have something valuable they could give you in exchange. I mean, they have a frackin’ spaceship.”

“Frackin?” said the boy. “I’m not a nerd, you know. I have no idea what sci-fi show you’re alluding to.”

Jarvis waved at the little alien. “Me, Jarvis.” He thumped his chest. “Me, Jarvis.”

“I mean,” said Sabina, “that maybe instead of just giving them all those—“ Sabina caught herself. “ISWNCBMs, you could try trading with them.”

“Funny thing about things like that. You can say anything. Oh, sure, communicate. Trade. Bargain. Establish multi-lateral negotiations. Trade agreements. Engender a new era of peace and cooperation. Actually give a damn about the proletariat. Learn our names, even. But, no, it’s just ‘boy’ to you, isn’t it?”

“It certainly isn’t,” said Sabina. “I’m offended that you think I think so lowly of people like you.”

“Oh, so it’s people like me, is it?”

“Me, Jarvis!” shouted Jarvis, thumping his chest. “This,” he said, pointing up, “sky! And you?” he pointed at the little alien. “Who are you?”

Sabina pushed Jarvis out of the way and walked right in front of the biggest alien of the group. “Winston tastes good,” she said. The chanting stopped abruptly. “Winston tastes good,” Sabina repeated.

“Like a cigarette should!” replied all the aliens in unison.

“Please don’t squeeze—“ said Sabina.

“The Charmin!”

“Strong enough for a man,” said Sabina.

“But made for a woman!”

“Hey, you, what’s in them buttery buns?” chimed in Jarvis. The chanting resumed.

Jarvis shook Sabina’s hand. “You’ve solved it! So brilliant!”

“Well, I try my best,” said Sabina, suddenly scarlet. “Not sure what this proves, though.

“They communicate in jingles,” said the boy.

“It’s almost as if they only communicate in ad-copy,” said Jarvis.

“That’s what I said,” said the boy.

Sabina snapped her fingers. “I’ve got it. Now all we need to do is get back to the secretary of state.”

“Right!” said Jarvis. “But give me fifteen minutes.”


“This time, I’m going to stretch first.”


So, by the same time tomorrow, the brave employees of the Schmidt and Sons Advertising Agency had resolved the dilemma of the millennium. The aliens were satiated, their ISWNCBM supply was continuous, and in exchange, they were willing to give the human race all the scrap gold, platinum, uranium, diamonds, and E.T. game cartridges they wanted. This last item caused more than a few eyebrows to rise, but only after it was understood that a certain Mr. Warshaw had been in touch with the aliens long before. So, peace reigned, prosperity flourished, and advertising reached a pinnacle hitherto undreamed of by those masters of the massaged message.

The END.


Troy Wilkins
Troy Wilkins's picture
Joined: 06/19/2010

Thanks for that, that was a great read, I really enjoyed it!

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
Thanks, Troy. Every now and

Thanks, Troy. Every now and then I get that itch to write a story. I actually planned this one out a good deal beforehand, something I hadn't really done before. Seems like it made for a better experience for all.

Mark Vergeer
Mark Vergeer's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006

Very surreal read! You really drew me into it. Great stuff! Nice little reference to BSG!

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
You guys think it's good

You guys think it's good enough to warrant another go at it? Go ahead, be brutal.

Mark Vergeer
Mark Vergeer's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006

H*ll yeah!

Troy Wilkins
Troy Wilkins's picture
Joined: 06/19/2010

For sure mate, 400% good enough! It's EPIC, hahahaha!

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
Thanks, guys. I'll try my

Thanks, guys. I'll try my best to make the next one even better. :)


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