Rodney strode up to the marble edifice that stood out like a symbol of power and definition. It had the air of singularity, of definitiveness about it. The word THE was inscribed in six-foot-high letters over the main doors. It was an entrance designed to give a person pause, to make them reconsider if they were worthy of entering such an august building. Rodney had no doubts about his qualifications. With enough money, you could buy anything, even something as hard to come by as a definite article.
Inside was a large foyer lined with books. A man sat behind an ebony desk. The golden nameplate said Chester T. Nomen: “The” Department.
“Can I help you?” the man said, in a voice that said he could not.
“I want to join the “The” club,” Rodney said.
“I’m afraid the “The” club is very select, sir. Invitation only.”
“I have this,” Rodney said. He pulled out a diamond the size of his fist and set it on the desk. “I can give you five more of them.”
“Well, when I said it was invitation only, I didn’t mean that I could not invite people personally,” Nomen said quickly. “None of our other members get to choose their own “The” but with you, I think we can make an exception. Would you like to follow me and view some of the choices?” He stood up and motioned Rodney to a door on the right.
“Do you have any in mind?” he asked as he unlocked the door and led the way into a cedar-lined hallway. Soft music was playing.
“How about ‘the Great’?” Rodney said.
“Well, that is one of our largest and most popular groups, to be sure. Still, it comes with some hidden drawbacks. Let me show you.” He turned down a hallway and opened a door onto a palatial room covered in silk and cedar. A richly-dressed man was cowering in the corner, rocking back and forth.
“Good morning, Alexander,” Nomen said. “How are you today? This man might be joining the “The” club. He’s wondering how ‘the Great’ is working out.”
“Pressure, so much pressure,” Alexander murmured. “Gotta be Great. Gotta be Great everyday. Can’t be average. Gotta be Great.”
“They’re not all like that, of course,” Nomen said, closing the door. “The Russians—Peter and Catherine and that lot—handle the pressure a lot better. Herod really embraces it. But still, if you choose ‘the Great’, you’re mostly in with kings and that lot and a lot of them are really full of themselves.”
“Well, how about ‘the Grey’ then?” Rodney asked.
Nomen gave him a patronizing look. “I can see why you’d like that, but we try to steer of fantasy here. That means all colors are out.”
“Fine, what would you suggest?”
Nomen thought for a moment, then started walking. “You might be a little old for ‘the Kid’. Billy pulls it off nicely, but he’s a special case. How about ‘the Knife?’ It’s a bit gruesome, but it comes with lots of notoriety.” He frowned. “Of course, Mack might be a little put out. He likes to be exclusive.”
“I want something tough and manly,” Rodney said.
“Manly, eh? Are you brave? Enough to be ‘the Lionheart’? How are your impaling skills? That worked out well for Vlad. ‘The Barbarian?’ It requires a loincloth though.”
“How about ‘the Hun’?” Rodney asked.
Nomen looked shocked. “Quiet, don’t say that word here—”
It was too late. A figure appeared around the corner, its claws dripping golden, its eyes aglow with nectar-lust. It stalked towards them, a ravenous, tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff.
“Hun . . . hun . . . hunny?” it rasped.
“We don’t say the H-word around here,” Nomen whispered. Then he looked thoughtful. “Hmm, Rodney the Pooh. Think about it. It’s got promise.”