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Observing Editor

One adventuresome atom

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I hestitate to dwell overmuch on serious topics, but a number of people have written in with questions regarding the soul insurance now on special offer to readers of The Glob. It appears that California has been surprisingly ill-served by the insurance industry to date, such that the public is completely unfamiliar with the basic features of a soul insurance policy. After consultation with underwriters at Celestial Sentinel, I have obtained permission to present a case study that clearly demonstrates the value of this critical risk-management product.

At the time of the claim, Mr. Monkey (not his real name, of course) was a middle-aged screenwriter living in Los Angeles. He had made a decent living for the previous twenty years by writing scripts that sold fairly well, but were never produced. His career had provided him with sufficient material comforts, but he craved the accomplishment of actually seeing one of his scripts made into a film. Resolving to take positive action to achieve his dream, he joined an esoteric society in Venice Beach that promised to unlock his latent creative powers to their fullest extent.

Mr. Monkey diligently applied himself to the exercises and studies prescribed by the society for several weeks, without any changes occurring in his writing. However, after a weekend retreat in Death Valley sponsored by the society, he returned home to find his mind in the grip of an idea. With scant effort, this idea blossomed into a thrilling feature-length screenplay that possessed an intricate but subtle structure, pulsing like a living thing through the story. Each character was masterfully delineated in fine strokes that provided an actor with superb opportunities to strike nearly every chord on the human emotional instrument.

He brought the screenplay to his writers’ group, a small circle of hard-bitten professionals who had wasted their energies in reworking other writers’ miserable efforts for money. With recourse to a case of beer that he had also brought along, Mr. Monkey prevailed upon his colleagues to conduct an impromptu reading of the script. By the end of a long evening, every writer at the table was in tears, confessing that this was the most beautiful script that had ever passed through his hands. It was more than just a commercial screenplay, it was a masterpiece of theatrical art, and it was the masterpiece of Mr. Monkey.

Now justifiably excited, Mr. Monkey took the script to his agent, who read the first page and found herself unable to put it down again until she finished. She immediately began shopping the script to the major studios, engineering a bidding war that saw Mr. Monkey command a seven-figure price for a script for the first time in his career. The studio that purchased the rights rushed the project into pre-production and placed Mr. Monkey on retainer for rewrites, if any were required.

A month into pre-production, Mr. Monkey was presented with a binder full of notes from the director and principal actors requiring changes to the script. He took the binder home and dutifully reviewed the notes. Each requested change dealt a mortal blow to his creation. The subtle pulse that moved the story had to go: it was ‘too artsy.’ All of the characters needed to become more like the actors assuming the roles, so that the actors could work in the bits that audiences loved to see in all their films. The rewrite would be a complete hatchet job on the child of his brain, and Mr. Monkey sat paralyzed before his computer for hours, unable to change a word.

Lying in his bed that night and worrying over his dilemma, his mind drifted through some of the visualization exercises that the society had taught him, and as he fell asleep he invoked the Path of Third while wishing that this problem would be taken care of somehow. The next morning, Mr. Monkey awoke to find a completed script on his writing table next to the binder of notes. It was a perfect massacre of his creation, implementing every suggestion in the notes to the letter. However, the work was done, and he would be paid for it. So, after waiting for a few days for appearance’s sake, he turned it in.

The next week, yet another binder full of notes arrived. As an experiment, he took it home and laid it on his writing table as before, then went to bed. In the morning, a fresh bastardization of his work was waiting for him. It was a miracle.

In total, the script went through seventeen rewrites before all parties were satisfied, and Mr. Monkey tenaciously turned in each new version on time and incorporating all comments. The studio was astonished. Mr. Monkey was somewhat vexed by the destruction of his artistic vision, but he was more than compensated by the fact that he didn’t do any of the destruction himself, albeit he got paid for it. Moreover, actual shooting was starting soon.

During the long period of revision, he had become convinced that the bringers of his good fortune were the Rewrite Elves, entities that he had once thought of as a screenwriter’s joke, but which he now believed in totally. With every batch of notes from the studio, he went through a ritual of placing the notes on the writing table and discussing their general obtuseness with the invisible elves, whom he referred to as ‘The Team.’ He left them a bottle of scotch and a bowl of pretzels for their troubles, which were invariably consumed by the next morning. This generosity to The Team was nearly Mr. Monkey’s undoing.

Mr. Monkey was unaware of anything amiss until he went in for the annual wholeless and wellness checkup required by his esoteric society. Tests showed that he was dangerously close to utter damnation, despite no significant record of sin or bad karma in his spiritual history. Further investigation revealed the cause: The Team had reported his nightly offerings of refreshment as sacrificial worship of impious spirits, violating the First Commandment, among other statutes. Moreover, the forces that had reached out to Mr. Monkey had spirited in an addendum to his studio contract, stipulating that the studio received a one-twentieth interest in his soul with every rewrite required. Only a minuscule fraction of his soul remained free of sin and obligation, and this revelation shocked Mr. Monkey to the depths of his being.

Luckily for Mr. Monkey, his society membership included coverage for accidental soul lossage as part of a group insurance plan from Celestial Sentinel. He made a claim to the company in short order, which dispatched an investigator to verify the facts of the loss and obtain an affidavit of involuntary temptation from Mr. Monkey. The company then arranged to have his house exorcised and entered into negotiations with the studio over the diabolical addendum. A settlement was reached whereby the studio relinquished their 17/20ths interest in Mr. Monkey’s soul in return for additional rewrites, gratis. Mr. Monkey was also obliged to take his name off of the completed picture in the event that the final shooting script contained a majority of material from the demonic rewrites, which is what eventually transpired.

Mr. Monkey therefore achieved his ambition with some cost, and no credit, but things could have turned out far worse. Without soul insurance coverage from Celestial Sentinel, Mr. Monkey would have been at the mercy of independent spiritualists and lawyers when trying to sort out his affairs. Once he made a claim to Celestial Sentinel, the company immediately put Mr. Monkey into a state of grace that prevented further losses of innocence, protecting him from immediate peril. The certified affidavit of involuntary temptation was redeemable for absolution for his unfortunate worship of pagan divinities, and the company was able to recover the rest of his soul from the studio. In the event that the studio had proved recalcitrant, Celestial Sentinel could have compensated Mr. Monkey by confiscation of portions of the souls of the studio executives who refused to do the right thing.

All in all, Mr. Monkey didn’t have to sweat the details of his brush with damnation, thanks to his coverage with Celestial Sentinel. I urge every reader of The Glob to consider whether he or she can afford to pass up this offer. As the familiar slogan goes, ‘With Celestial Sentinel, you’ve got friends in high places.’