Baker Travis is a modern man, who spent his twenties looking for easy money: he answered an ad one day, modeling his body for postage stamps. He showed great promise with dramatic poses, and was soon promoted to the special effects department, which was working on a set of stamps dealing with occupational safety. He was proud to pose for the series, especially the engraving of the man stepping on a nail. The way he describes the project, "Sure it hurts, but I'm a specialist."
So every day he goes to work, takes off his shoes and socks, looks at the nails on the ground, picks the one that he feels would best express the theme, and puts his weight on it. It slides into his flesh, and he screams and sweats, but his assistant holds him up while the artist crawls around with his pencil and notebook and sketches furiously. Every now and then he calls for a mop.
Like so many people, Baker hurts himself for money. All his friends hurt themselves for money, working too long and too hard for too little. They all had back pains and dislocated shoulders, but Baker went one step further.
"The nice thing," he jokes, "is that when I'm fed up working, I can say I stepped on some nails at work, and get worker's comp." He figures he only has to work for a few months out of the year. He has a lovely house, and enjoys his pool, possibly because the cold water helps to numb his wounds.
"That's living, though," he says. "Some people bend over their gardens until they can't stand up straight, some people race cars until they get pulped on a wall. I bleed in my pool. It's a personal thing."
He knows everything in life is temporary, he is no fool. He is always planning ahead. "Next year, I'll get this cool job being smashed on the head with a mallet."
A sensible man, Baker Travis. He chased the American dream of money money money! and came up a winner. He has more cash than he could ever hope to spend. He laughs at the poor, he preaches about opportunity, he keeps his wheelchair clean.
He winks at his audience. "No pain, no gain!"
He's off to the hospital again.
Unpublished flash fiction, written 8/5/91
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