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Read Aloud

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It's open mike night at the bar. The audience is restless - the last three people have been terrible. The mime was actually better than the singer-songwriter, and the mime had a nervous laugh.

A woman walks on to the stage. She's wearing a pink sweater and carrying a floppy, oversized book. She's gorgeous. The audience holds its breath.

"Hi," says the woman. "I'm Donna, and I made a bet with my coworkers yesterday, so I'm going to be reading to you from the phonebook."

Donna flips the book open to the white pages.

"Esposito," she reads, "Annmarie Ms. Do you think Ms is her middle name? I don't know about you, but my parents didn't give me a title when I was born. I mean, my dad did call me Queenie, but that's because I am literally the Queen of Cool. If you're going to give your kids a title in their name, aim high! Duke Ellington! Prince! Kiera Knightley! That means you want your kids to grow up to rule. Not Ms. That just means you want your kid to grow up to not tell bureaucrats whether she's married or not."

Donna turns some pages. "Hellman, Dusty Sue. Pretty sure that's a character from a Spaghetti Western. Or a bad country singer. And then there's the list of companies whose names start with 'Innovative.' Innovative Dynamics. Innovative Metalworks. Innovative Promotions. Innovative Salon. Innovative Type. I don't know about you, but I don't want my salon to be innovative. Like, do you want anyone experimenting with your hair? 'Ooh, babe, let me just try out this new hairspray, invented it myself, the last three people's hair caught on fire but I'm sure you'll be okay.' Hell no! Anybody touching my hair better know what they're doing. I want tried-and-true methods, not innovation. And Innovative Dynamics? What does that even mean? That's just two buzz-words stuck together."

The audience is buzzing now, a wave of chuckles rolling up to the stage. Donna nods, taking it as her due.

"You know how you can pay extra to have your number in bigger type?" asks Donna. "Well, the biggest number on page 104 just says 'Joch and Kirby, Free Initial Consultation.' Consultation on what? Do you just call them up and find out? Is the free consultation just the phone call to figure out what they're trying to sell you?" She flips a few pages. "Ooh, Manpower. That's a good name for a company. Let me just bookmark that page. Pucky Huddle Delight, though, I'm not even sure if I want to know what they do. It sounds like the creepiest massage parlor. That's a massage parlor with an unhappy ending."

The crowd whistles and gives thumbs up. Donna runs her finger down the page.

"All right, last one. Proper, Puss. I'm not sure if you pronounce that like the cat or like the disgusting fluid, but either way I think this person should look into changing their name. Proper Puss is either the name of a pornstar or an emergency gynecologist."

The crowd applauds. Donna pulls the mike in. "My name is Donna Meagle, I just won twenty bucks off of Tom Haverford, and I'm better than all y'all."

She pushes the mike over, and walks off stage as it hits the ground.

"We love you, Donna!" screams Leslie, from the back of the room. "Yeah! Way to punk Tom!"

"Shut up, you're embarrassing me," whines Tom, fishing a twenty out of his wallet.

"Shouldn't have bet the queen," says Donna, and takes the bill.