Pryvett, the Alchemist of the Internet. His latest Web find: The Institute of Official Cheer.
Picture Pryvett: 1978, seventeen years old, his chestnut pompadour gleaming with brill. He is clad in jeans and a shirt that looks like the table cloth from the supper table in Little House on The Prairie. Both trousers and shirt conform to the cool of the time, sporting more rivets than the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a time when Glen Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy" was on the radio and Robert Redford was starring in the bizarre mainstream movie hit, Electric Cowboy. Rivets somehow = cowboy, and cowboy at that time somehow = cool.
Pryvett was tuned into his culture.
This was the year Pryvett ran for leadership of student government at his high school. Among the multifarious points of his campaign platform, he promised that no more young men from the school would be shipped to Vietnam -- even though no young men from the school had ever been sent to fight in the Vietnam war; and in spite the fact that the Vietnam war had ended three years before, and that Pryvett and his high school were located in the non-Vietnam-war-fighting country of Canada. Pryvett's opponent in the election was a bubbly Doris Day clone who promised, if elected, to bolster school spirit and pride and good feelings. Teach the world to sing.
She was not elected.
Pryvett running for office was the joke. His putting forth a campaign platform was the joke. His speeches -- standing at a microphone before the student body, wiping his sweaty face with a handkerchief like some cut-rate televangelist -- was the joke. But the student body took Pryvett's joke and ran with it. They elected him leader of student government. Everyone outside of the joke -- teachers and school administration -- demanded a recount of the votes. The Doris Day clone cried unabashedly in the principal's office. The aged, fish-faced principal whom the students called "Uncle Pete" consoled her saying, "If there is the least hint of shennigans having occurred in this election, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will make things right! Wrongdoers will pay!"
The recount found the ballots in Pryvett's favor.
A second recount was conducted, which also declared Pryvett the winner of the election.
A third recount occurred, which told the same story the other counts told: Pryvett had been lawfully elected leader of student government.
The message was clear: No more students would be sent over to fight in the defunct Vietnam war in which Canada didn't participate.
As the Doris Day clone was sedated with surgical-grade Thorazine in her pink, stuffed-animal-bedroom by a white-mustachioed country doctor who still made house calls, Pryvett gave his victory speech to the student body.
The school administration may as well have supported the initial ballot count because being leader of student government was difficult for Pryvett. Somehow, the principal, Uncle Pete, treated Pryvett like a confidential informant among the students. Whenever there was vandalism in the school, a mess made in the cafeteria, something off-color printed in the student paper, mass occaions of students cutting classes, Pryvett was immediately called to the principal's office to explain. He was the respresentative of youth culture to Uncle Pete, who was distinctly baffled by the youth in his charge.
"Now, why would someone spray paint 'Eat Shit' on one of the front doors?" Uncle Pete would ask.
Or, "Why would someone mutilate frogs in a biology class and strew their parts through the cafeteria?"
Why did male student refuse to flush urinals?
The weight of such questions were a cross to Uncle Pete. And Pryvett had no answers.
Sometimes an unconfortable silence descended on Pryvett and Uncle Pete in the principal's office. Uncle Pete staring in the air, musing about some unspoken thing. There were moments when a wistful smile clumsily overtook his narrow, mirthless features, and he spoke of his military service in World War Two. "Right and wrong were simpler to decipher at that time. Black and white -- just like the pictures from back then," Uncle Pete said. "There was us and there were the Gerries."
One afternoon, Uncle Pete got carried away reminiscing those simpler times, and told about the time bagpipe music was played over the loudspeaker in the base camp and how he and his brother soldiers were so swept up by a sense of patriotism and the brotherhood-of-soldiers that they began shooting prisoners...
Uncle Pete then seemed to return to himself and he scowled at Pryvett, saying, "Don't you have a class right now?"
"You called me here."
"Well, then, OK. You're dismissed. Keep your eyes open and never stop taking names."
* * *
Uncle Pete and the high school administration were not the only authorities who regarded Pryvett with wary eyes. A few years back a theft occurred at Package Handling Company where Pryvett works as a sorter. PHC had a "zero tolerance" policy about such things. The item lifted from PHC's care was not some family heirloom, not a piece of high technology, nor was it a valuable gem or specialized medical equipment -- all of which would fetch insanely high prices on the black market. No, PHC's recent "heist" involved a DVD: College Girls Gone Wild.
With the item missing/stolen, it's hard to say how PHC knew exactly what had been taken. But PHC has it ways -- it knew exactly what was missing. And knew exactly how to handle the situation.
PHC employs an ex-federal law enforcement officer to conduct internal investigations, and when occasion necessitates, interrogations.
When the College Girls Gone Wild DVD went missing, Pryvett was hauled into a windowless cubby of a room, seated at a table and questioned by the RCMP-trained PHC investigator. The man was trim without the least appearance of being physically fit. He wore tight gray polyester pants and plain white shirt and had an uneven mouse-brown mustachio. There was a forced sharpness to the way he spoke, as though doing an imitation of an impression of James Cagney. His eyes twitched with a rapid blink, like he had his contact lenses in the wrong eyes.
"Those college girls," the blink-twitching investigator said, sitting opposite Pryvett, his feet up on the edge of the table, "they sure are wild." He smiled a "we're all buddies here" smile. "And college girls sure can be hot-to-trot." He sighed. "No doubt about that." He clasped his hands behind his head. "And what red-blooded man wouldn't enjoy watching college girls go wild." He chuckled to himself. "I'm married, but between you, me and the lamp post, I wouldn't mind watching some college girls go crazy. No-sirree-Bob."
Pryvett looked at him, nonplussed. The investigator may have been RCMP trained, but Pryvett had military training. He wasn't some rube sorter virginal in the ways of psy-op interrogation.
The following afternoon, Pryvett was called once more to the windowless room. He sat at the table. When the investigator entered the room a few minutes later, he no longer wore the "we're all buddies here" smile. He closed the door then whirled around and slammed his hand upon the table. "Do you believe in God?" he shouted.
"Yeah," Pryvett said.
"What do you think God thinks of people who steal?"
"That they're thieves," Pryvett ventured.
"Scum," the investigator seethed. "God thinks thieves are scum."
"Then what does He think about murderers?"
"What?" the investigator said, taken aback.
"If thieves are scum, then how do murderers rate? Are they like 'ultra scum'?"
The investigator narrowed his eyes on Pryvett. "What are you trying to say? Are you confessing to something?"
"No, you just said--"
"Only sinners dodge a question about God." The investigator planted both palms on the table and leaned toward Pryvett. "You got any sins you want to confess?"
Pryvett let the moment run on like a silent stammer. Then said, "No."
The investigator gritted his teeth and left the room.
The next day, following morning break, Pryvett was again brought to the windowless room. He sat down at the table. The investigator entered a few minutes later. The blink-twitch in his eyes was more severe that day, somehow signifying he hadn't slept well the night before. There was a DVD case in his hands. He slid it across the table at Pryvett, obviously hoping he would pick it up. Pryvett didn't touch it, though he saw by the cover it was a College Girls Gone Wild video.
"So, you're Mr. Hardass," the investigator spat. "PHC's got me down here in Windsor, away from head office, away from my family, just so I can play games with you. What's your game?"
"You called me here."
"Yeah, well that remains to be seen." The investigator chewed on the end of a pen.
After a moment, Pryvett said, "You know Biff?"
The investigator's twitching eyes widened. "Yeah, well no. I mean, what about him?"
"Before he quit a few days ago, he said that he should steal something."
"Something from PHC? Something -- ? What?"
Pryvett was sent back to his station and a call was placed to Biff. To the question of "Did you steal a College Girls Gone Wild video from PHC?" Bill replied, "Yeah. So what?" The investigator attempted to threaten the wrath of God upon Biff, but in the end Biff couldn't even be bothered to bring the video back to PHC. The investigator was left to drive to Biff's house to pick up the heist item and the case was closed.
To this day, Pryvett has received no apology from PHC for its false accusations against him.