Story Go Round 6/28/2008, #3

A Panel of Ex-Burts

(pre-titled by John)

"Hi, I'm Jared, but I used to be a Burt. In fact, all the panelists here today were once named Burt. Why we changed our names, and what it means to each of us is the subject of tonight's semi-final round of interrogations."

The older man in nicer clothing sitting next to him took this opportunity to thank the sponsor, and make a plug for the New Inquisition, glancing askance at his fellow Burt for forgetting something so important and obvious. "If it was not for these gentlemen in their all black uniforms, armed guards, and vague credentials, we never would have come out of our comfort zone to tell our story. I, for one, am ready."

The audience clapped politely. Someone coughed.

Burt-Jared recognized her from an earlier episode and remembered that her interrogation had been particularly ... messy. He waved and didn't wonder she didn't wave back - her arm might not have healed yet.

"So at first I was okay being a Burt..." Jared began.

"When you say 'okay', please define it, if that's not too much effort," the inquisitor interrupted sharply.

"Um," said Jared, taken aback. Having his wind-up derailed like that set him on edge. "I guess I mean I liked it and all-" He yelped as the inquisitor punched up the pain on his remote. "Okay, okay! I loved being a Burt! Are you happy now?!"

"But there was a reason you abandoned that title, wasn't there?" The man insinuated, toying with the remote. "A higher purpose, isn't that right?"

A former Burt named Charlie interjected nervously: "Are we in trouble?"

Jared shot him the butt-out look, but it was too late. Burt-Charlie's chair rolled forwards until it was apace with Burt-Jared's, but didn't stop there. It began to lower, and B.J. saw they were sending him to the Pit.

Charlie yelled, "Is this taking me to the break room?" Then some compartments opened with a clang. A grinding, whirring sound started up.

"Hey, you can't do that," shouted a former Burt named Don. But within seconds B.C. hung over the pit, suspended by the restraining straps, looking into the mouth of the big meat grinder.

The audience clapped again, some began chanting 'ex-Burt' quietly. The noise swelled until suddenly Don said, "Hey, this ain't worth it. I want to be Burt again!"

"No!" Jared screeched. "There's no going back; we made our choice and our peace!"

His agony filled the TV studio with many conflicting feelings, and the well-lit room hummed with growing tension. Then one woman stood up tentatively and declared: "I'm Burt." A man next to her jumped up to say: "No, I'm Burt!"

Before long, there were double the number of Burts in the world there had been before. The Inquisitor's hardball tactics had failed.

In fact, it wasn't long before the Inquisitor, overwhelmed by the groundswell of popular support for Burts, changed his name to Burt.