Beaucoup microphones stood poised near Attorney Penny Brophy’s mouth as she announced a multimillion-dollar settlement with pharma giant JM Industries. With the Metropolis Art Center serving as backdrop, Brophy began.

“It became clear from the beginning that JM Industries had one goal in mind when they underwrote their highly publicized, ‘Felines: Nature’s Most Beautiful Pets’ exhibit. Profits!”

An onlooker shouted, “My son was an addict before he died! It’s all thanks to JM! They have blood on their hands!”

Momentary silence followed. Brophy continued. “Ailurophobia is real. Call it what you like, felinophobia, gatophobia, elurophobia, or just plain cat phobia. These irrational fears of any kind are no joke. The vast feline art exhibit once displayed throughout the building behind me was not about education, lifting a community, or advancing the arts as the company touted. No, ‘Felines: Nature’s Most Beautiful Pets’ was a worst-case example of corporate greed–”

“And murder!” someone shouted. “You couldn’t escape it. They advertised this…this…scourge across every media known to man!”

Brophy paused, subtly nodding her head. She knew how to work a crowd. She continued. “The data don’t lie. Since the exhibit’s opening a year ago, there has been a significant uptick in Benzodiazepine-related addictions. Yet, JM Industries continues to refuse to accept any responsibility for this disturbing rise in cases. Ladies and gentlemen, too many of us know firsthand about the toll addiction takes on individuals and families.”

“And how many damned deaths?” asked a man in the front row. He held up a sign with the number 50,000 over a picture of a casket. Alongside a skull and bones, JM Industries was scrawled across the casket. “Where will it stop? When will it end?” he screamed. “It’s about money. It’s always about the money! They don’t care a rat’s ass for human life!”

The attorney acknowledged the sign holder, extending a palm-up hand in his direction. “Furthermore, we can prove each and every one of these addictions are directly linked to a drug manufactured by JM Industries. Internal company documents clearly show JM Industries leadership were not only aware of this potential health hazard, they increased the potency over legal limits of the most commonly abused sedatives prior to the exhibition’s opening. It’s time JM Industries paid a price for the havoc they’ve wreaked on society. It’s time we emerged from this horrific, unconscionable, ongoing nightmare. It took a grassroots movement, but working together, we took on corporate America and defeated her!”


Stolid Olivia Messer, granddaughter of JM Industries’ founder, sat in gate 11at New York’s JFK Airport. Her flight to Heathrow departed in less than an hour. She stared at the number 11 above the door. In her mind, she drew the letter S over them. Messer grinned at the image. Her smile widened. The cat display was her idea. It proved to be a cash cow beyond everyone’s expectations. Messer had reviewed the legal briefs earlier that morning. The settlement amounted to nothing more than a slap on the wrist. The dollar sign imagery vanished, replaced by slogans. Comedy is King in the United Kingdom, and Makeup, Mayhem, Mirth, and Merriment. Already underway were plans for an elaborate clown exhibit at an historic south London museum.

Bruce Harris wants to live in Maine.

Copyright © 2020 Bruce Harris. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited.