Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Clickbait Master Meets His Maker

The worst experience of Bohmeier’s life was leaving his younger son Brendan in the video games section of Target, going to buy a pair of Nike’s latest, highest-tech running shoe, and then returning to the video games section to find Brendan gone, and no one in the vicinity admitting to having seen him. He felt as he had the afternoon his father had phoned to tell him his mother had died — as though a very large horse had just kicked him square in the solar plexus. He could barely breathe. He collapsed to the floor, and Security had to be summoned to help him off the floor, onto which he’d collapsed whimpering.

For the next 48 hours, he didn’t sleep for longer than 20 minutes at a stretch. For the first few seconds after waking, he’d be ecstastic with telief, only to realise that his relief was unwarranted — Brendan’s abduction hadn’t, in fact, been a bad dream. He felt as though in Hell. The police, of course, assured him they were doing Everything in Their Power to recover his son, but everything in their power apparently wasn’t enough, as a week elapsed without Brendan being recovered, and then another week. And then one of the detectives sat Bohmeier down and told him that more than any other part of his job he hated having to tell Bohmeier what he was about to tell him. With each passing hour, he said, the likelihood of Brendan’s being found decreased geometrically. Bohmeier thought he was using”geometrically” incorrectly. And why did the guy suppose that, in the circumstances, Bohmeier cared what aspect of his job he hated most?

Bohmeier was eventually able to return to work, but was able to remain focussed only briefly. His headlines had once attracted the highest click-thru rate at the digital marketing company where he worked, but now his supervisor, Janine, was having to ask others to rewrite his stuff.  Bohmeier had never been religious — he’d in fact made no secret of his disdain for his one devout Muslim and two devout Christian colleagues — but heard himself whispering one typically sleepless night that he would gladly give up his own life if God would spare Brendan’s.

The next day at work, there was no sign either of Janine or of any of his colleagues, either pious or secular. There was a middleaged guy in Janine’s office, smoking, in contravention of both company policy and municipal ordinance. He introduced himself as The Lord Thy God, but told Bohmeier it was fine to address him as God. Bohmeier thought he must be a nutter, but then the guy showed him on his iPad what he said was live video of Brendan knocking on the door of Bohmeier’s ex-wife Patsy, and Patsy opening it, and bursting into exultant tears at the sight of him, and squeezing him so hard that Bohmeier feared for his safety, as though he hadn’t been doing exactly that for weeks already! The couple hadn’t parted on good terms, and Bohmeier had had to pay a succession of lawyers a fortune to get him primary custody of their son, but he thought it might be churlish to mention that to God — who, when he thought about it, probably already knew, being omniscient and everything.

“Is there anything else?” God wondered in a tone that suggested Bohmeier ought to burst into his own tears of relief and make for his cubicle.

Bohmeier thought the opportunity too good to pass up. He moved himself to the edge of his chair to indicate that he didn’t intend to stay long, and asked why God rewarded persons like Donald Trump with great material comfort and beautiful sexual partners while allowing innocent children to die horribly in wars, or of agonising diseases. God rolled his eyes as he stubbed out his cigarette on the inside of Janine’s metal rubbish bin. “You didn’t get the memo that I work in mysterious ways?” he asked, his tone full of censure.

Walking back to his cubicle, Bohmeier thought of, “10 Most Horrible Juvenile Diseases — No. 7 Will Shock You”. It turned out to elicit the company’s highest click-thru rate of the year to date.

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