Cursed. By the Devil. On a Tuesday.

The time: Tuesday night, 11:45 pm.

The place: My house.

The setting: I'm all ready for bed, just putting things in order so I can find them fast the next morning - I've had to look for my keys one too many times in the morning, so I've learned to get it all together the night before. And I'm pretty excited about the fact that I'm going to be in bed before midnight. My insomnia's been really bad, I'm feeling tired, like I actually could sleep, and I might for once get a good eight hours.

Then the phone rings.

I almost don't pick it up - hell, I'm about to go to bed. But there are only two people who'd really call this late, neither of whom I've talked to in a while. So I decide to pick up, say hi, and decide on a time to call back that would be good for both of us.


"Hey Miriam. It's The Editor." The Editor is - as you may guess - editor of a review; I'm on the editorial board. She and I spent a few hours earlier in the day getting food for the launch party celebrating our new issue, which is happening the next day. After we got the food, we picked up brand-new, hot off the press copies of the review. She does not sound happy. And I have a sinking, stabbing certainty that her calling at this hour cannot mean good news.

"Hey, The Editor. This can't be a good sign."

"No. We're at Kinko's right now," she says, and adds what I knew was coming but was hoping she'd somehow forget to mention. "We really could use your help."

Damn. Here I am five minutes from bed and I had to pick up my phone. Serves me right. I tiptoe into the bedroom, wake The One And Only gently and tell him I have to leave to work on the review, and I'm not sure when I'll be back. He mutters sleepily, "You're overcommitted. I love you," and drifts back off to sleep.

So I head over to Kinko's. In my pajamas, because I'm not going to bother putting on real clothes, and anyone at Kinko's at midnight on a Tuesday will understand if I'm wearing red-and-white-check flannel pants and a shirt that says My State Can Beat Up Your State. I bring chocolate chip cookies.

At Kinko's, they're uncollating, inserting, recollating. The first page is screwed up. We have copies of the corrected first page, which need to be trimmed to fit in the review. The Editor and I trim pages. The completed reviews need their staples removed, and the first page needs to be folded in. This happens at the collating table, courtesy of The Man In The Shirt and The Amazingly Good Friend, who is not even on the editorial board but is helping anyway.

The cookies are appreciated. TMITS has a couple. Then he asks if I thought to bring a burger. I did not.

We get an assembly line going, more or less.

"Hey, guys!" Freedom Guy, also on the editorial board, walks into the Kinko's. We wave, explain the situation.

"I just want to tell you, next time you have something to do at midnight..." FG begins.

"Don't call you?" The Editor finishes his sentence.

"No! No! Not at all!! Call me!! I'm so excited to be out here. I feel FREE! I was driving up here and just feeling like I was so free!!" He wanders off to the collating table.

The Editor turns to me. "Is he serious?"

"I think so."

We get things collated. We bemoan our fate. We are approached by a reporter, who for reasons never explained is hanging out at Kinko's at midnight on a Tuesday, and who reports on issues of geography. Our review kinda relates. The Editor invites him to our launch party.

We only finish collating thirty reviews. We're not going to sell more than that at the launch party anyway, and we can do the rest when there's actually, like, daylight outside. It's time to staple.

We get a long stapler from the folks behind the counter, one that can staple in the middle of an 11 x 17 stack of folded papers. TMITS does the first stapling. Kerchunk. There's only one stapler, so we all watch, like cows watching traffic go by.

The staple doesn't go all the way through. TMITS tries a few more, hands the stapler off to the next person. "Maybe I just don't have the right flick of the wrist."

We all try. No one's got the right flick of the wrist. It's not the wrist. We need bigger staples. The Quest for Staples ensues, and after a good half hour we finally realize not only that it is completely wrong for Kinko's not to have bigger staples, but that it is a completely benighted town we live in, because there's no 24-hour office supply store.

We're about to leave, because The Editor has decided that since there's no other option, she'll wake up early, head to the office supply store, and do the stapling tomorrow morning. On a whim, I ask the clerk whether any of the other Kinko's in town might have a contraption that would work. "Sure, a saddle stitcher - they probably do," the clerk tells me, so I call the closest Kinko's and ask. "A what?" they say, like I'm crazy, but when I explain, they say "Oh, yeah, a saddle stitcher. Sure, we have one of those."

Image of saddle stitcher. Link.
Right here. A saddle stitcher. Not exactly the model we used. But close enough. Click on the image to go to the saddle stitcher sales page! Ooh, the excitement!

So now it's Kinko's, Part II. FG is driving because he's loving being out here and he's loving the freedom and he'd be happy to drive because did he mention he loves the freedom of driving after midnight? We all pile into FG's car, except The Amazingly Good Friend, because she's gone way above and beyond the call of friendship and is going home.

TMITS mourns the fact that no one has a burger.

Kinko's II. We explain the situation. They're very sympathetic. We explain that we really don't have the money to spend on doing anything over. They say OK, and even though they're the ones who're supposed to work the saddle stitcher, that would cost us money, so they bring the saddle stitcher out onto the floor for us to use. "We're probably breaking all kinds of liability laws," the manager says. But in the wee hours of a Tuesday morning, who really cares?

"We won't staple ourselves," we assure him. "Well, maybe we will. But we won't hold you responsible!" Probably, the mixture of desperation and gratitude in our faces is convincing enough.

There's a gas station next door with what looks like a pretty extensive food store. TMITS decides they might have microwaveable burgers, nasty though that sounds to me, collects other food orders, and heads over.

The Kinko's guy explains to us how the saddle stitcher works. It's so easy. It's going to be a dream and we're going to finish in no time.

He gets a review, does a sample staple.


We look, excitedly.

No staple.

"Now that's strange," he says. "It was working earlier..."

His co-worker goes to get staples. But the machine already has staples.

Our faces get sad. Very sad.

TMITS walks in. His face is sad. Very sad.

"They were closed," he tells us. "No burgers."

"The stapler doesn't work," we tell him.

TMITS considers this news for a moment. "You know what my theory is?" he asks. "My theory is that we have been cursed by the Devil."

No one can find a reason to disagree.

I call the one remaining Kinko's in town that's still open at this time of night. I ask for a saddle stitcher. They don't have one.

"You could use one of our regular staplers," the manager at our Kinko's suggests.

"We tried that already, at the other Kinko's. It didn't work," The Editor explains.

Unfazed, the manager brings the long-armed stapler out, and tries stapling a review.

It goes through beautifully.

We're floored. We've just spent an hour and driven across town finding alternatives to what was just a really bad stapler.

We get to stapling. TMITS wonders why the Devil would want to keep him from eating a burger. We all consider what it is we've done recently that might cause the Devil to curse us. We can't figure it out.

Finally, at 2:30 a.m., we finish the stapling. We come to the conclusion that there's no good reason for the curse, but that we're all going to be in for a whole slew of good luck sometime soon, just by the law of averages.

The Editor packs up the reviews. We make plans for the next day: who will be there to warm up the mini-quiches, set up the tables and open the wine for the launch party at noon. We congratulate ourselves on having survived, we hope this marks the end of the curse of the Devil, and then we all head home.

The launch party is a success. The tables look lovely, the quiches are warm, the wine open. Hardly anyone can tell that half the editorial board and the editor in chief were not sleeping the sweet, undisturbed sleep of the uncursed the night before.

"Did you ever get your burger?" I ask TMITS.

He smiles beatifically. "Oh yes. And it was good."

26. October 2002


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