- By Corey Brown - By Corey Brown

Severed the book

© 2019 Corey Brown


“Thanks for coming everyone,” The man said.

I looked around the room, there were twenty or thirty of us, some strong-armed into attendance, others duped by company propaganda; the entire lot nothing more than a bunch of inmates without conviction. I studied the man who had spoken; he was some wanker from my consulting firm, wearing a blue sport coat and green bowtie--- a bowtie, if you can believe it. Thanks for coming? Right. Like any of us had a choice.

“As you know,” Mr. Bowtie said, like a captain looking at his ship of fools. “Our firm is dedicated to maintaining the highest standards. And there is a new corporate initiative to attain the VHS fifty-six thousand certification.”


Speaking of high standards, corporate initiatives and certifications…..crap, I got no segue, here. I have absolutely nothing for the Rick Spinner lead-in. Now this is embarrassing. Suffice to say that my name is Spinner, Rick Spinner---of course you already know that because I blew my cover talking about lead-ins---I am a consultant, a despiser of initiatives, certifications and high standards.


“The VHS certification”, the guy said, “will enable our firm to bid on a variety of new contracts, including work with the Martian Government, should one be discovered to exist.”

“Excuse me, Sir,” I said. “I thought DVD was the standard, no more tapes.”

The wanker looked confused then said, “Pardon? Tapes, what are you talking about?”

“You know VHS, as in Video Home System recording tape. VHS won the videocassette tape war against Betamax.” I looked around at my fellow prisoners and said, “But come on guys, it’s all DVD now.”


Mr. Corporation smiled, understanding now. “No, no,” he said. “VHS means Very High Standard. This certification is the Very High Standard number fifty-six thousand.”

I nodded. “So, VHS has nothing to do with cassette recording tape?”

“Oh, no not at all. It’s all about defining processes, following procedures, filling out forms. You know, monkey work, that sort of thing.”

“Wait, you’re saying there have been fifty-five thousand nine hundred ninety-nine previous Very High Standards?”

“Uh…” The guy was momentarily stymied. “Well, no, the former standard was RHS thirty-two thousand and four.”

“RHS? What’s that, Really Hot Shot?”


He gave me a look and said, “Spinner, isn’t it? Rick Spinner?” His tone, or maybe the fact that he knew my name, suggested that he knew who I was. “No,” he said. RHS stands for Really High Standard. Mr. Spinner, this company---your employer takes these certifications seriously and we’re committed to the next step. We are moving from Really High Standards to Very High Standards, with or without you.”

Being a seasoned pro, being street-wise, I ignored the wanker. “Yeah,” I said. “That’s great, but I don’t understand what happened to the twenty-three thousand, nine hundred and ninety-six…uh…standards in between. Or the thirty-two thousand and three before that?”


I heard stirring sounds around me, chair legs scuffing, throat clearing, pencils tapping. I sensed unrest in the others, perhaps a mutiny was brewing. I glanced over my shoulder at my partner, Nacho Flaherty, but he was asleep. Good old Nacho, always apropos. Every self-respecting consultant can take a tip from that Young Turk.


“Yes, well, the number designation,” the guy said. “It’s really quite complicated and very dull.” He laughed nervously. “It’s just not important for the purposes of this seminar.”

I had dealt with this type before. Once, in my days as rookie, I had the misfortune of taking a service call on rabid color printer. The customer had been cagey, he had refused to give out details, didn’t want to talk about the print job that made the device go crazy. The fact that it was my print job, the fact I was the cagey SOB didn’t make matters any easier. But, oh yes, I knew the type, all right.


“Sir,” I said, getting to my feet, flashing my ID badge. “I’m a consultant, don’t make this any harder than necessary. Please answer the question.”

The guy looked at me, kind of confused, mouth half open. I get it all the time. It’s the badge, always the badge. Then he took out his own ID badge said, “Yes, I know you’re a consultant. I’m a consultant, everyone in this room is a consultant. We all work for a consulting firm. We all have ID badges.”


So it had come to this: a contest of wills, a battle of the badge, a moment destined to be the stuff of white collar legends. For a long time we just stared at each other. I needed to use the restroom so it was hard to stand still, but I did. Truth be told, the real reason I stood up in the first place was to excuse myself. Why I pulled my badge and yammered on about being a consultant is still a mystery. But I was in it now, a showdown of corporate manliness.


“Okay, fine,” Bowtie guy finally said. “You want to know? There really are fifty-six thousand procedures in the VHS standard. And you have to memorize all of them.”


That is when everyone in the room stood, and headed for the nearest tavern.