[Mitchell Zucker has several short stories on this site.  This one is a Think In The Morning favorite.]


Dr. Richard Mann, in a suit and tie, carrying an attaché case, pushes his way through the five o’clock Madison Avenue rush, followed by his cameraman Mike lugging equipment.  He reaches a doorman in a white lab coat standing in front of 731.  “Pardon me, is this AdMan Haven, the Madison Avenue Home for the Aged?”

“Yes.  Floors 19 through 25; right this way please.”

“Would you know how I might contact Dr. Felix Felicks?  I have an appointment but I’m afraid I’m late, stuck in traffic.”

“Oh yes, Dr. Felicks told me you were expected.  Unfortunately, visiting hours are almost over; but there should be enough time for a brief interview.  He said something about a book.”

“Yes, Dr. Felicks played such an important role in the early days of mental science, we felt people should know more about his contribution to the science of mind control.”

The doorman isn’t surprised.  “In his day, Felix was the most successful man on Mad Ave.  He practically invented mind
control.  He advised everyone, from the heads of the biggest agencies to the guys on the street corners selling fake watches.  They all loved him, that is, until he changed.”


“He was their super hero, until he decided to become one…  Here we are, 25th floor.  I’ll get him.  Please wait in the lounge.”

Mann is taken aback when the Doctor appears.  Felix Felicks, a very spry and active 86 year-old super hero, enters the lounge pushing his walker with tremendous intensity, as though it is a supersonic transporter, leaning and banking as he turns the corner and places himself squarely in front of Mann.  He wears a fluorescent- green eye mask, bright yellow cape fringed in flourescent green, yellow body-hugging tights that display his sunken chest, bulging belly, spindly bow legs, and yellow hightop sneakers.  A large florescent green “F” is emblazoned on his chest and cape.  An expression of intensely concentrated anger at injustice is burned into his face.  Other than that, he’s all Madison Avenue.  “Alright, what’s your shtick sonny; the meter’s running.”

“Good day Dr. Felicks.  I am Dr. Richard Mann from the Mind Science Institute at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  And this is my cameraman Mike.  I’m here to…”

“To interview me for a book.  Yeah yeah, what’s the deal?  How much?”

“It is not for a book or for money.  It is for an entry in the Encyclopedia of Exceptional Mental Phenomena published by MIT.  The Institute believes the world should become better acquainted with your pioneering work in mind control since it is so essential to modern mental theory.”

“What about royalties, sponsorships?”

“In addition to the CD and other computer related utilities, you will receive a leather bound signed and numbered special limited edition, plus you will become a senior lecturer and honorary professor of Mental Science at MIT.  If you agree, I would like to
film our conversation for our ‘World’s Finest Minds’ video record.  
Do I have your permission?”

“GO GO Mann!  Let’s get on with it; I got important business.”

Mann escorts Felix to a seat as the camera begins recording. “Before we begin, doctor, would you please clarify the pronunciation of your name?”

“Felix is Felix F-e-l-i-x and Felicks is Felicks F-e-l-i-c-k-s. It’s all in how you use your ‘F, sonny.  Say it enough and you’ll get the hang of it.”

“Thank you Doctor.  Since we do not have very much time, would you begin by sketching a bit about your background, where you received your training, your PhD work?”


“Well, would you mind explaining why you are wearing that costume?”

“Because I’m saving the world you damn fool!  Can’t you tell a super hero when you see one?  You’re on Madison Avenue now, not MIT.  My costume’s my brand. Instant name recognition. When people think ‘F’ they think of an old fart named Felix in tights and cape and mask who goes around saving the world with an ‘F’ on his chest.”

“I see.  Yes.  Why don’t we begin with the basics of mind control, shall we?  Would you please tell us about how you first…”
  Felix interrupts and talks to the camera.  “Now listen carefully to what I have to tell you my friends, even if you heard it all before.  There’s not much time left.  Here’s the most important thing you’ll ever learn in life.  If you want to save yourself in this world you have to understand marketing.  It’s the only hope we have; and don’t let anyone tell you different.”

“But surely, Dr. Felix, you must agree that there is more hope in solving the world’s problems through science and technology than through marketing.”

“Are you kidding?  Without marketing there’d be no science. Science couldn’t get a ten-cent grant without marketing.”

Mann does not appreciate Felix’s attitude.  “It would be helpful, Doctor Felix, if you explained exactly what you mean by Mind Control.”

Felix begins shouting into the camera “MIND CONTROL IS MARKETING AND DON’T YOU FORGET IT!  If you want to control people’s minds, all you have to do is get them to think what you
 want them to think!  Got it?  It’s that stupidly simple.  It’s been around forever; only today they dress it up with words like metadata, algorithm, app.  It’s all app crap!  It’s nothing but applied marketing.  ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME? — DAM IT, STOP YOUR MULTITASKING FOR A MINUTE AND LISTEN CAREFULLY!  It’s your only hope!  The whole idea in marketing is to keep you distracted so you don’t think for yourself.  It’s called softening the mark, setting you up for the promise, the gaff, the hook that pulls you in, gets you crying or drooling or playing with yourself while you’re being hustled.  Do you hear me?  Once they get your data they know what you’re gonna buy, what you’ll have for dinner, who you’re gonna vote for, who you’re gonna sleep with, who you’re gonna kill in the next war.  That’s called market research.  They know what you’re thinking because they own your freaken thoughts!  Your thoughts are the sum total of all the crap they’ve been selling you since you were born.  And dig this my friends: all the corporate managers and all the major stock owners who own the major companies and all the major bankers who own the major governments, they’re all related, constantly buying each other out and consolidating, getting tighter and tighter with each other, like kissing cousins, only closer; they live in the same houses, swap the same partners, have the same kids who use the same drugs.  Fewer and fewer of them controlling more and more minds with faster and faster hype, 24/7.  It’s nothing like 1984, my friends.  It’s much dumber now, much much dumber.  Look in the mirror if you don’t believe me and tell yourself that I’m full of crap.”
  Mann is so upset he loses his composure.  “That is quite enough, doctor Felicks, you and your kind cannot force me to think.  I cannot have my thoughts read or manipulated by others, nor can free thinkers, individualists, artists, poets, scientists, philosophers, anyone who earnestly studies human behavior, or cultural criticism, or the scientific method, or mind control.  In one way or another we are all dedicated to mastering our minds and cannot be influenced by propaganda or metadata analysis.  There are hundreds of millions of people who are not and cannot and shall not be put into a box, who would rather die than have their minds controlled by others!”

Felix applauds heartily.  “Bravo! Bravo! Such magnificent bullshit!  You’ve just made my next point, sonny!  Everyone thinks they can’t be manipulated.  Everyone thinks they’re special in some way or other.  The whole idea of marketing is to make the mark think they’re special.  It’s no different from selling snake oil from a horse and wagon a hundred years ago.  You don’t even know you’re being marketed by the corporations down the street, the publishers next door, divorce lawyers around the corner, vacation specialists, retirement counselors, automobile salesmen, shrinks.  They get paid good money to know all there is to know about you and how you think and how you will think.  Together, they can read you like an open book, Mann.  So cut the crap, don’t be so high and mighty, and get down to the real point of this.”

“Which is?”

“It’s time to rebrand the world.  Marketing today is as exciting as married sex, and I’m gonna set a fire under marketeers that will singe their asses.”

“Uh Huhhhh.”  Mann relaxes and realizes he should be more tactful since Dr. Felicks is so severely demented.  “I’m afraid I don’t understand you, Doctor.  Can you summarize your thinking about mind control as succinctly as possible?”



“‘F’, the most under-appreciated letter in the alphabet, the only letter you bite your lip to say.  Freedom, Fabulous, Famous, Failure, Foolish, Freakish, and of course Fuck, the most influential F of all.  Once people associate a product with Brand ‘F’, marketing begins to purify itself.  Honesty begins to pay.”

Mann, is curious since there is nothing in his background or training to suggest correlations between the dementia he is witnessing and marketing.  “I’m not sure I understand what you are proposing Doctor?”

“I’m proposing nothing. The Internet will take care of that.  In cyber space ideas stick around for nanoseconds.  They come and
 go like hiccups.  My work is fixing brand ‘F’ in people’s minds.  Once they have it, they’ll know what to do with it: ‘F’ Ratings, Wiki ‘F’, ‘F’ Book, ‘F’Azon.  Kids are geniuses when it comes to ‘F’”.

Mann chuckles to himself “Interesting, doctor.  You are proposing some kind of reorienting of mind control around the ‘F’ word.”

“Just the opposite, Mann.  When I’m through, mind control will be shredded and thrown into marketing’s dumpster along with all its metadata flimflam.  When the same product can be ‘F’d up and ‘F’d down in peoples’ minds marketing will change, fast.  You love your car it’s ‘F’n nice’ — You hate your car it’s ‘F’d up’. ‘F’ yes ‘F’ no.  Got the picture?  Marketing is all about keeping to message.  Screw up the message, no mind control.

He turns to the camera.  “Got that my friends?  Every tipping point will have a tripping point where it goes from being brand ‘A’ to brand ‘F’.  Spread the word, my friends, and join the brand ‘F’ generation.  That’s the way to change the world!

Mann is about to question Felix about how an “F” rating could possibly have any significance, when a bell sounds and a very buxom curvy nurse, whose buttons are bursting from her
 uniform, wiggles in pushing a wheelchair and announces “It’s closing time, sirs.  All visitors must leave now.  Come Felix, it’s time for your prostate massage.  ”

Mann is annoyed that the trip from Cambridge to Madison Avenue was such a waste of time.  “I’m sorry we could not spend
 more time with you Dr. Felix; this has been a most interesting visit; thank you very much; we’ll let you know about the encyclopedia; there’s no need to call us.  Stop filming the nurse Mike and wrap it up”

Felix is magnanimous.  “Good.  Just think ‘F’ Mann before it’s too late.  Right toots?” and he pinches the nurse’s behind.

And as Felix is wheeled down the long corridor of the Madison Avenue Home for the Aged, from each of the cubicles comes a
great syncopated pounding tattoo, reverberating along the 
canyon walls of Madison Avenue:  “F” “F” “F” forever “F” “F”…

Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art, Richard Albright artist