Joyce Carlyle traversed the busy intersections during rush hour in her Saturn minivan. The skittish, motorized putts of laborers and office jockeys and soccer moms scuttled about, unified in a chaotic dance.

A monster-huge Ford Raptor smashed a Mercedes through the brick wall of someone’s backyard, so Joyce had to take the long route. She carved through the narrow suburban streets just outside of her destination: Balboa Community College. She honked at a group of jaywalkers, then pulled into the parking lot.

She stepped softly through the empty courtyards and hallways of Balboa, on her way to retrieve her son from an after-school tap dancing class. However, her ears were assaulted by high-pitched screams and moans. It came from the open door of a classroom, where a mop-topped schlub of a man swept the floor.

She shifted her sight through the doorway. The noise came from a portable TV playing a strange battle-hentai: a naked robot woman fought a giant bug with very articulated probiscii. She removed both of her breasts and threw them at the bug, which exploded like grenades.

“Haw haw haw! Fuck yeah!” the schlub guffawed as he cleaned the floors.

“Oh my God. What do you think you’re doing? This is a school!” Joyce cried, averting her gaze from the raunchy cartoon.

“There’re no kids here, just us. I start work after hours, lady,” the man replied. He dialed up the volume, articulating the wet splotches of something either very sexual or very violent.

Joyce couldn’t tell which.

“Can you go away? I’m workin’ here. Eat cum,” he said.

“Excuse me!? You’re a custodian, right—a servant of this institution? You should treat guests with respect!” Joyce shouted.

“I treat people with equal respect. There’s no one here but me and your screaming, except for some 17-plus year old students—the age rating for this show, ahem—in a stadium 600bfeet away. I know what I’m doing.”

“I’ll let your manager, or the district, or whoever know what you’re doing too.”

The man turned to Joyce. He flicked his name badge toward her. It read “Jay Fogle.” He gave her a fierce raspberry and replied, “I have jobs lined up across the whole town. You can’t put me on welfare. You can’t kill me, no matter how hard you want to. People like you want people like me gone, so bring it on, frumpy cunt.”

It was a knee-jerk reaction, a semi-articulated panic attack: Joyce pulled out her phone and called Balboa’s front office, then the local school board. She did this all while picking up her son and driving home.


Joyce made sure to sow the seeds of Jay’s errors. It only took a few hours for photos and warnings of him to spread like wildfire across Nextdoor, a common neighborhood watch app among concerned homeowners. Joyce didn’t need to do anything else. Messages shot back and forth on their own, culminating in PTA meetings, then Jay’s assured firing and blacklisting.

Joyce smiled. Her blood vessels finally loosened once she knew Jay was gone.


At the local Stop-n-Shop, Joyce shuffled over the pearly tiled floors. Easy listening Muzak blared throughout, but it wasn’t enough to mask the enraged shouting of a man on checkout number seven:

“You think this is a good deal, you pasty, nebbish cock-nub? My wife’s emailed every day with your stupid store deals. Wastes of paper.

“You tell me your register isn’t working; well, what will you do to fix it, kid?”

Poor child. He’s only a teen, Joyce thought as the cashier in question stood behind the manager, who hammered the 30% Off button until the price lowered enough to placate that buffoon of a man. Some customer he was.

Joyce found herself lost in aisles that stretched into the ceiling. The rows blended into each other so well she was trapped in a single hallway that ran into the horizon.

A red vest fluttered just in the corner of her periphery. An employee, she knew. She caught him perfectly, but to her shock, there stood the same mop-topped schlub of a man from before.

His name tag, “Jerry Escher.”

That couldn’t be true. He looked exactly the same as that Jay miscreant. Still, she wanted to be done with this place.

“Do you know where the cooling gel-soles are? My son’s been having problems with his tap dancing. He keeps saying he might quit.” Joyce asked, then chuckled to herself.

“Uh. Okay. Aisle ten.” Jerry replied. A smirk spread across his face.

This annoyed Joyce, so she asked, “You look familiar. Do you get in trouble often?”

“Whatever.” Jerry’s voice lingered, but he already turned the corner to a new aisle.

That rude-ass. I would be too if I was that old and had no skills to make money, Joyce assured herself and followed the signs to aisle ten.

Turns out, this was the adult diaper aisle. She tried to act in good faith and search for the gels, but found nothing. Worst of all, she was sure some blue-collar yokels laughed at her as they passed by.

Another extended panic attack pulled Joyce into the manager’s office, as if she rode by railcar. They dragged Jerry Escher in for interrogation.

When asked about pranking Joyce, Jerry replied: “Haw haw. Yeah. I was busy stocking for Jessica and this lady yanked my arm like a wildebeest. I’m tired of getting treated like meat by entitled grandmas, so I sent her to change her diapers.”

“You stupid, smug idiot!” Joyce roared. “You’re representing a company. By wearing that uniform, you’re following the policies of Stop-n-Shop. I don’t think they’d allow you to treat me this way.”

“We don’t,” the manager interjected.

“I took this job because I needed to work!” Jerry said. “What else could I do? You just want a punching bag of boot-licking bureaucrats to support your shitty expectations.

“This isn’t a fiefdom, grandma. I don’t pledge to this fuckhole, and plenty other employees feel the same, deep down. If S-n-S really cared, they wouldn’t let old bags grab me with their greedy platypus hands!”

“You’re fired!” the manager barked. He looked to Joyce for a reaction, as if expecting a treat.


Joyce woke up to another sunny morning in the suburbs. The lawns glowed lush and green. The aftermath of her son’s electroshock therapy was still fresh on her mind when the harsh revving motors of her gardeners got to work on the hedges. She rose from bed in a gown to close the window and draw the curtains, to erase them from her sight and hearing.

Then, she saw him again.

Several tanned men in wide brimmed hats and gloves busied themselves, but one of them was him, Jay Fogle! Jerry Escher! A chubby, hunching man with a gross mop-top of ratty hair. Their eyes met and Joyce’s veins clogged immediately.

“Mom. Mom! What are you doing?” Her son’s voice was miles away as she ambled outside, phone in hand.

Her camera’s flash caught the familiar man’s eyes as he worked the clippers.

“Lady, you might want to get back inside. You’re not dressed for yard work,” he said, then chuckled lightly.

“Stalker! Creep! I saw you watching porn at my son’s college. You bully customers at the Stop-n-Shop, too!” Joyce shouted, but was barely heard over the gardeners attending their duties.

The man’s head cocked with confusion, but his expression brightened, and he approached the woman.

“Look, you’re Ms. Carlyle, right? You hired me to work in your garden. Why are you getting so worked up? You’re making a scene.”

“You’re making a scene!” Joyce mimicked. “Where’s your manager? I know who you are!”

“I am the manager. I’m James Gonzales, of Gonzales Landscaping. You can tell us to leave if you want, but you aren’t getting a refund,” James said.

“I don’t believe you! A man like you can never succeed. Society makes sure snarks and assholes don’t get their way. Not in my country!”

James’ face suddenly hardened. He parted the bangs from his eyes to reveal a sweat drenched, fully beetled brow.

“Now you listen to me! Make sure that camera is running. You think that—just because you fret and tattle-tale—you decide who succeeds and who doesn’t?

“Let me tell you, I built this company with my own hands. I don’t have to serve anyone with a smile. I don’t know what you’ve been digging on me, but whatever. I had troubles in my past, but I climbed back up and made something of myself! You can’t kill me!” James’ voice rose to its apex of screaming. “You can’t doom me to a shit job where I hate the world more and more. And even if I worked as a gas jockey or somethin’, so fucking what!? What gives you the right to judge anyone? You’re a demon. You curse people into becoming the thing you hate. You’re a neurotic feedback loop. So go back inside, take your Lexapro, and go the fuck back to sleep so I can finish my job!”


James Gonzales became a hero that day, a meme across many feeds who defended himself valiantly against some Karen. What was her name? No one remembered, but it’s said she lurked in the shadows of every discount store and argued over the prices of candy bars.