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Fifty Shades of Green

Matthew Kando

Carl was an accountant by trade, but he loved little more than gardening. The thing about gardening, he would tell you, is that unlike numbers, which always did what they were supposed to, plants were hard to predict. Within the science of gardening, there was just enough variability to keep it interesting. A few degrees of temperature difference, or maybe some slightly more acidic soil, and a plant could go from a beautiful flower to a wrinkling brown mess. That was why ever since his grandmother had given him his first basil plant at the age of seven, he was hooked, and with every new flower and each successful seed, his interest in the hobby only grew. One day, a friend of his, some guy he had met on an internet forum called “botanyneatplants?” told him about this plant called a cupid’s bow orchid. From the moment he first saw it, he knew he would have to have it. Each of its petals was like a siren’s song to his eyes, and there was an ancient beauty about the fiery-red column’s shape. He would pay any price for this botanical gem. Unfortunately for him, that price in U.S. dollars was around $3,500. Although he was an accountant, he hadn’t accounted for such an expense in his zero-based budget and would have to liquidate investment assets in order to pay for such a plant. This could prove dangerous as the small subtraction from his portfolio may have meant tens of thousands in losses over the next four decades by his retirement. Carl, again, wasn’t an incredibly interesting guy and he didn’t like to live dangerously, but he wanted this plant. Not as much as his retirement, but enough that he decided he’d have to do something for it. The following week, after days of pondering the challenge at his office cubicle (and he had accounted for this slump in his work with a debit to distracting thought expense) he was chatting with Janet, a colleague of his, at the water cooler. She told him about how a lot of people over the last year had turned to “modeling” sites to make inordinate amounts of money for little more than some photography work. “Kids these days,” he thought as he walked back to his cubicle, fully hydrated. Upon second thought, however, he realized the added income would solve the financing issue perfectly, so long as it would pay as well as his hydration buddy had promised. It might even help add to his 401K, and remember, these things grow exponentially, so he decided he would try it out. The work was easy for him, and although he was a bit ashamed at first, he found it was quite empowering. After all, people were literally paying him hundreds of dollars to see his body; no greater honor can be bestowed by a guy named “VenusGuyTrap69.” Things were going swimmingly for Carl. He saved up so much money in one month from just his time online that not only could he afford the orchid, but he also bought himself an additional Amazon share. In this economy, that was quite a feat considering how inflated the stock market had been lately. It made Carl feel like a modern-day Rockefeller, and he pictured himself in a fancy suit, smoking cigars and drinking fine burgundy while discussing oil futures. Some weeks went by and some zeroes were added to his spending fund, but in time, his decisions would appear to have caught up with him. He was doing some beancounting one day when his regional manager approached him at his cubicle. “Hand in your calculator,” he told Carl, and with a tear in his eye, Carl complied. He had seen a video of Carl twerking naked to the hit Luis Fonsi song “Despacito” and decided that Carl wasn’t the right fit for the job. Carl was very curious how he would have come to find this video—What side of the internet was he perusing for him to have come across Carl's backside? He had to withhold a slight chuckle while he started packing. As he left the firm with a box of his belongings, Janet approached Carl and questioned his complacency: “That was total baloney! Why did you just sit there and take that? What you do outside of work has nothing to do with how well you handle the books.” “You’re right, that’s ridiculous,” Carl replied. “But what can I do about it?” “You should take this to the news or something.” Carl imagined himself doing this and was quite frightened by the possible repercussions. “What if people don’t agree with me and don’t care about my termination?” he thought. “What if all of my friends see that video of me doing squats in a thong? What if this exposure means I never find a job again?” He spent quite some time pondering the subject, and he just couldn’t ignore the nagging feeling that he’d been sold a raw deal. It was the 2020s, after all—the era of sexual liberation and a separation of private and professional life; what he does in his own home with his own body and free will shouldn’t have any bearing on his employability. In the end, he heeded Janet’s advice. What happened to him was unfair, and he knew should do something about it. Carl contacted the local news and informed them of his situation. Having just run a very successful story about a fireman being fired for some, shall we say, unconventional use of the firehouse pole, they gladly offered to publish his testimonial. After the story ran, Carl found himself reading the comments under a YouTube reposting of his story’s news coverage. He saw a multitude of comments praising his bravery in sharing his story, but he couldn’t help but focus on a few negative ones. “Imagine hiring a guy to write income statements and finding out he's been grinding on all of the receipt paper” was the one that hurt him the most. He was just about to apply at his local McDonald’s and give up on his career as an accountant, fearing the worst. Carl figured at the very least he could make due on minimum wage supplemented with dividend income long enough to figure out a more permanent source of employment. He was imagining the droves of grubby-fingered patrons demanding Saweetie meals when his phone’s dinging called to him. It was an email. Several emails, actually. “Invitation to our firm,” one read, and “Employment opportunity,” read another. It turned out that a lot of companies had seen the news and wanted to hire him in protest of his former employer’s unjustified decision. You see, it turned out that the positive press hiring Carl would entail was irresistible to all of these companies. His public support in the media, save for a few nasty comments, was through the roof—people were jumping at the chance to interview him or have him promote some new sex-scented cologne. Everybody was chomping at the bit to have a piece of Carl, and for $12.99 a month, many internet weirdos got theirs. He happily took a job with another firm and was allowed, no, encouraged to keep modeling. Carl never stopped doing what he loved; he spent the rest of his career accounting, the rest of his youth modeling, and the rest of his life gardening. There wasn’t a set of numbers he wouldn’t crunch, a picture he wouldn’t post, or a plant he wouldn’t foster, and in those fields, Carl found immense success for his persistence. He had won an even higher salary at his new firm, and he even got Janet a job with him. His modeling career took off; agencies were getting in line just to obtain the rights to images of his sweet cheeks. And his garden? Well, there several different, gorgeous orchids bloomed aplenty.
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