You are acclaimed composer, playwright, and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda. Your musical Hamilton won 11 Tony Awards including Best Musical, plus the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
It seems like Hamilton must be doing pretty well financially. The theater is always sold out, and you’re pretty sure you’re getting a percentage of the ticket sales.
You’re not really sure how much money you have in your bank account at this point. It’s been years since you bothered to check the balance. You gave your bank info to a Hamilton HR person, and they set up an auto-pay thingy for you when the show first opened. However, after years of Hamilton performing sold-out shows to rave reviews, you assume you’ve probably earned enough money to afford a trip to the mall.
Still, it’s better to be safe than sorry. You should check with a financial adviser to make sure the mall is within your budget.
The mall is a gleaming palace of commerce, a paradise where dozens of stores coexist in the ultimate shopping experience. You’ve never been to the mall, but you’ve heard that anything can be bought there.
Since you were a little boy growing up in Manhattan, years before you wrote and starred in your first Tony-winning musical, 2008’s In The Heights, you dreamt of one day visiting the mall and going on a shopping spree. Apparently, there is even a court filled with food if you get hungry while you shop.
The mall apparently can be pretty expensive though, which is why you haven’t tried visiting until you stowed away a little nest egg by having the most popular musical in the world. It’s taken decades of hard work to become an internationally renowned Broadway star, but now perhaps, finally, it will pay off with a trip to the mall.
You head to the nearest financial adviser you can find, an accountant that owns a tax-preparation storefront called “TAXES DONE QUICK” near Times Square, wedged between a Dunkin’ Donuts and a CVS pharmacy.
The accountant recognizes you when you walk in. “Wow, you’re Lin-Manuel Miranda. What are you doing here?”
“Wow. Okay. I usually just file taxes for normal people that aren’t fabulously wealthy Tony Award winners, but sure, I’m happy to give it a shot.” The accountant whips out a calculator and starts trying to piece together the puzzle of pay stubs, royalty checks, and MacArthur Genius Grants you’ve presented him with.
“This will take a little while. Can I offer you a cup of sparkling water while you wait?”
The account fills up a glass of sparkling water and hands it to you. It’s ice cold and crisp.
“Suit yourself. All right, I better start figuring this out.”
The sparkling water is ice cold and crisp.
You rap about sparkling water. The accountant blinks, then fills up a cup of sparkling water and silently slides it across the desk.
The accountant stares at you for a couple seconds, then after an awkward silence gives a few polite claps of applause.
You take a small sip of sparkling water.
While you were rapping about sparkling water, the accountant finished reviewing your documents. He waits several seconds to make sure you’re done before beginning to speak.
“Lin-Manuel Miranda, after examining your finances I calculated you have a net worth of $100 million.”
The accountant grits his teeth in concentration as he pores through your complicated financial records. Finally, after what feels like hours, he finishes his analysis.
“Lin-Manuel Miranda, after examining your finances I calculated you have a net worth of $100 million.”
The accountant stares at you for a long moment before responding. “Yes.”
You toss $10 million to the accountant for his services, and head over to the mall.
Minus that payment to the accountant, your net worth is now $90 million. Hopefully that’s enough to buy some nice shirts at the mall, and maybe grab a sandwich for lunch.
The mall is beautiful beyond your wildest imagination. Rows of gleaming stores beckon invitingly, offering you any product your heart desires.
Then you hear it. The sound of jubilant shrieking and stampeding feet. It’s a familiar noise you know and fear.
You’ve been spotted by Hamilton fans. They crowd around you in a frenetic melee of grasping arms and adoring gazes.
“Wow, it’s Lin-Manuel Miranda!” screams one of them.
“We love Hamilton, and to a lesser extent we also love your other works such as In The Heights!” screams another.
“‘By casting minority actors to portray the Founding Fathers, Hamilton is a wryly clever subversion of the white patriarchal power structure that established America, examining the paradoxical moral duality of historical figures such as George Washington who are hailed as champions of freedom despite their guilt for partaking in the national original sin of slavery!” screams another fan.
“You also wrote the songs in Moana!” another fan screams helpfully.
This isn’t good. These fans are extremely appreciative of your music, and they’ll never leave you alone to shop in peace. You’ll have to find a way of losing them. Maybe you can pick up a disguise at one of the stores here so you can shop incognito.
Oh no, your plan backfired! Instead of scaring them away, singing a song from their favorite musical in the world made the Hamilton fans even more riled up.
Hot Topic is a large empty room containing only a somber man dressed up as a skeleton. “Hello, welcome to Hot Topic, The Store That Sells A Jack Skellington Costume™,” the Hot Topic cashier says glumly. “Would you like to buy our Jack Skellington costume? He’s the main guy from The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is a movie that came out in 1993. I am wearing the costume, but you can still buy it.”
“Huh,” says the Hot Topic cashier. “Is that the plot to The Nightmare Before Christmas? I’ve never seen it. Anyway, do you want to buy our one costume?”
“Unfortunately, yeah, we’re down to our last Jack Skellington costume,” the Hot Topic cashier says sadly. “Long ago, Hot Topic was rich with Jack Skellington costumes. Shelf after shelf of Jack Skellington costumes filled this store, and hundreds of people came every day to buy their Jack Skellington costumes. In that golden age of the mall, Hot Topic was known as The Store That Sells Many Jack Skellington Costumes™.”
“People don’t come to the mall anymore to buy their Jack Skellington costumes,” mourns the Hot Topic cashier. “They just buy Jack Skellington costumes online from the comfort of their own home, without even having to put on a pair of Jack Skellington pants to leave the house.”
You toss the Hot Topic cashier $20 million, and he strips naked and hands you the Jack Skellington costume. His frown is now replaced by a grateful smile. “Thank you, Lin-Manuel Miranda! Wow, the retail price of this costume was $34.95, so it’s really nice of you to give Hot Topic $20 million for it.”
You put on the heavily used Jack Skellington costume. It smells like old sweat and bad deodorant, but it’ll keep you from being recognized by your fans.
You run into the crowd of Hamilton fans again when you leave Hot Topic. “Excuse us, Mr. Skellington! Did you happen to see which way Lin-Manuel Miranda went?” one shouts inquisitively at you.
Good. It seems that your costume has them fooled.
“We’ve got to rescue Lin-Manuel Miranda from that bird’s stomach so we can continue to scream nice things at him!” scream your fans. They begin feverishly roaming the mall in search of the fictional bird that supposedly swallowed you.
Now you’re free to roam the mall in peace. But what store will you visit next?
Father: “My little Lin, should you ever find yourself within…”
Mother: “That wonderful hall known as the mall…”
Father: “Visit the book hoarders, known as Borders”
Greek Chorus: Oh-oh-oh, yeah-yeah-yeah. Borders bookstore and café.
5-Year-Old Lin-Manuel Miranda: Whoa, what did they say? It’s a bookstore and a café?
Father: Son, believe it. It’s true. Borders can sell both books and coffee to you.
Mother: That’s why the slogan of this fine bookseller is “Books And Coffee Together Sounds Too Good To Be True, But It Is True, Because It’s At Borders, Where You Can Place Both Coffee And Book Orders™.”
Greek Chorus: Hey-hey-hey, yes-yes-yes, wow-wow-wow. Borders.
A huge line of people wearing wizard costumes are camped outside the entrance to Borders.
“Salutations, friend! I am Harry Potter,” says one of the wizard cosplayers waiting outside Borders. “We are on line for the DVD release of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 2.”
“Hello, I am Ronald Weasley!” says another wizard cosplayer. “Yes, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 2 was released on DVD on November 11, 2011. But Borders went out of business on September 11 of 2011, two months before the DVD came out, so we never got to buy it.”
The Ronald Weasley cosplayer sighs forlornly. “We’ve been waiting on line ever since, hoping that Borders reopens someday so we can buy the DVD of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 2.”
“Hello, we’re Hermione Granger, Albus Dumbledore, and Draco Malfoy,” say three more wizards. “We can’t leave to buy the DVD elsewhere, because then we’ll give up our place in line in case Borders ever reopens.”
Borders is out of business. You stare through the window at the tragically empty shelves of the store, where once books and coffee coexisted in beautiful harmony.
Wiping tears from your eyes, you stride away from the dead husk of Borders to explore the rest of the mall.
You have $70 million to spend, and you’re a grown-up, so you can keep track of how much money you have left from now on. Shop wherever you want, and just remember how much you’re spending. You can do simple arithmetic, right? When you’re out of money, click on “I’m broke” in order to fail. This is on the honor system.
Maybe you’ll find a way to reopen Borders bookstore while you’re at the mall. Or maybe not. You don’t have to. It’s a goal, if you feel like having a goal. You’re Lin-Manuel Miranda, do whatever the hell you want.
You are not broke. You just arrived at the mall, and you still have $70 million left.
Come back when you’re actually out of money.
“Welcome to Tragically Just Coffee, the wretched café where books aren’t also for sale,” says the barista. “Would you like to buy one of our dumb, book-less coffees?”
Which coffee drink do you want to buy, and pay $12 million for?
The barista hands you a Mocha Blaster, a piping-hot coffee drink that is half-drip coffee, half-ice cream sundae fudge, with a pound of chocolate chips and unshelled peanuts mixed in.
You are wandering around the mall with your scalding-hot Mocha Blaster. Where do you want to shop?
“Hello, and welcome to Unfortunately Just Books, the dumb bookstore that doesn’t also sell coffee,” says the bookseller behind the counter. “Wow, is that coffee? There’s coffee in this bookstore? This is a dream come true! I’m still sad we don’t sell coffee, but just being in the presence of coffee and books at the same time is an incredible experience.”
You spill your Mocha Blaster onto the Gutenberg Bible. The ancient tome starts to glow with holy power, and is surrounded by a golden nimbus of flying letters. The entire mall shakes as deafeningly loud angelic voices chant “Borders bookstore is having a grand reopening” in a divine cacophony.
Then the Gutenberg Bible floats off the table and flies out the door.
The Gutenberg Bible soars into Borders bookstore and lands onto a table. The Bible releases a glowing shockwave of energy that passes over the empty bookshelves, magically filling them all with the latest bestsellers. In one corner of Borders, the once-desolate café is miraculously refilled with coffee and pastries. Borders is ready to go, except there are no employees inside.
Then dozens of little sparks flutter out of the Gutenberg Bible and land on the floor across the bookstore. Everywhere they land, a human embryo appears, which rapidly ages into a baby, then a child, and then a nude adult. Doves swoop through the mall into Borders carrying Borders employee uniforms and clothe all the recently spawned Borders employees.
The Harry Potter fans that were waiting outside of Borders give a celebratory cheer, then file into the store to buy DVDs of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 2.
What a fun day you had at the mall. You had high expectations for the mall, and they were completely exceeded by the wonderful stores you browsed. You also reopened Borders, but don’t care.
All that walking around and rapping and singing made you exhausted though. You crawl into bed and fall fast asleep.
You enter Borders and buy a copy of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and a small coffee. You read the first few chapters while sipping coffee in the Borders café, use the Borders bathroom to urinate, then head home and forget the book on the subway.
Congratulations, Lin-Manuel Miranda! You have reopened Borders bookstore without blowing all your money at the mall, which is a pretty nice accomplishment, but nothing special compared to all your award-winning songs and plays. Your Wikipedia page gets an extra sentence added near the bottom that reads, “Lin-Manuel Miranda reopened Borders bookstore and didn’t blow all his money at the mall.”
Your coffee gets cold while you’re wandering the mall. You swallow it down in one gulp before it can get any cooler, stand still screaming for five minutes as you experience the exhilarating rush of caffeine, then continue on your way.
The barista hands you your coffee drink. It smells like burnt rubber and molasses, which is exactly how you like your coffee.
“Hello, and welcome to Unfortunately Just Books, the dumb bookstore that doesn’t also sell coffee,” says the bookseller behind the counter. “Feel free to browse around this un-caffeinated wasteland of published garbage.”
Counterintelligence Dawn At Spy Ridge: Book 2 Of The Sloan Steelson Chronicles
“Private eye Sloan Steelson is back in his most thrilling spy adventure yet. After the rogue CIA unit known as V.I.P.E.R. kidnaps Sloan Steelson’s wife and brainwashes her to think she’s a horse, Sloan must infiltrate the top-secret government barn where she’s being held hostage to uncover the dark secret behind Project F.A.R.M., and save the presidents of six countries…including America! Brandon Ballsworth has done it again with Counterintelligence Dawn At Spy Ridge: Book 2 Of The Sloan Steelson Chronicles!”
—Stephen King, author of The Green Mile
There is a priceless first-edition Gutenberg Bible on one of the shelves. The price tag on the priceless book is only $30 million, which isn’t that expensive, but it’s written in incomprehensible medieval English so you can’t even read it.
Time to drink milk at the bodega
Which is basically a grocery store
Not going to pay for milk at the bodega
Drink some milk then drink more
Until they force me to leave the bodega
By shoving me out the door
Because I’ve drunk all the milk in the bodega
Which is essentially a grocery store
Chorus of New Yorkers: Wow, he drank all the milk in the bodega, what a shame. If you don’t know what a bodega is, just think grocery store, it’s pretty much the same.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg:
I’m mighty thirsty after walking all day
What is this thing here, this “bodega” store?
I need to buy milk, and make my throat okay
To quench my thirst forevermore
Chorus of New Yorkers: A bodega essentially is a grocery store but Spanish. There are some differences that are hard to articulate, but more or less it’s a grocery store where you can buy things like cereal or a radish.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg:
Bodega owner, your finest milk, por favor
Yes, I can speak Spanish like “por favor” and other phrases
Including “hola” and “tambien” and “mas mejor”
Now por favor give me milk, to stay in my good graces
Welcome to the bodega, essentially a grocery store
Mayor Mike Bloomberg, I regret to tell ya
We can’t sell the white fluid known as milk anymore
It has all been drunk by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Mayor Mike Bloomberg:
How dare you deny me my precious white beverage
Give me milk or my vegeance will be deployed
There are no depths to Mike Bloomberg’s rage
Give me milk, or the Heights will be destroyed
[Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s army of muscular eunuchs begins smashing windows and overturning trash cans throughout the Heights.]
Mayor Mike Bloomberg
That’s enough, you’ve earned a temporary reprieve
To give you time to fetch me white nectar to sip on
Hurry, you only have three days to retrieve
Before my eunuchs return and unleash Armageddon
Oh no, this is my fault, and I’ll tell you how
I drank all the milk, and the mayor is mad
I must now journey in search of a cow
And milk it to make Mike Bloomberg glad
Outside of card: “Now that you’re retired you have more time to spend at the beach…”
Inside of card: “…as a dumb fat old over-the-hill ugly smelly idiot. Happy birthday, Grandpa!”
You are Lin-Manuel Miranda, and you are in the paradise known as the mall.
Where do you want to go next?
You encounter Paul Blart, mall cop, standing still on a Segway. Paul Blart glumly surveys the mall from his perch on the mechanized scooter.
“I am not really Paul Blart. I didn’t used to look this way,” says the security guard as he chokes back his sorrow. “After the popular 2009 film Paul Blart: Mall Cop, the mall tried to drum up business by having their security guards surgically altered to look like Paul Blart. I volunteered for the surgery because I was excited to look like a character from a major motion picture.”
“I am not Kevin James. I didn’t used to look this way,” says the security guard as he chokes back his sorrow. “After the popular 2009 film Paul Blart: Mall Cop, the mall tried to drum up business by having their security guards surgically altered to look like Paul Blart. I volunteered for the surgery, because I was excited to look like a character from a major motion picture.”
“Because after the surgery to turn me into Paul Blart, mall cop, I bought a DVD of Paul Blart: Mall Cop from Borders and watched the movie, and it turns out Paul Blart is a real klutz!” The guard grimaces in anger and shame.
“I thought I was being surgically altered into a dashing hero, but the film depicts Paul Blart, mall cop, as a hapless buffoon who is often bad at his job! Now I’m stuck looking like a portly moron for the rest of my life.”
“I tried to embrace being Paul Blart. For example, sometimes I will trip on purpose, or get in an argument with a shoplifter and let them beat me up, or I will fumble while trying to hold something, and then drop the thing on the floor. People laugh when I do these antics, but I think they’re laughing at me, not with me. It’s very demoralizing.” The man who is not actually Paul Blart sighs in frustration.
“What’s worse, sometimes people don’t even notice. One time in 2011, I went to Borders to read the Holy Bible, and while I was reading the holy bible I deliberately loosened my belt to make my pants fall down, and then I tripped on my pants and tumbled out of the door of Borders with the Bible and pretended to accidentally slam the Bible shut on my genitals as hard as I could and humorously screamed ‘Ouch, Blart’s testicles are experiencing difficulty!’ and then I stepped backwards so a person in a motorized wheelchair would hit me, and I let the wheelchair drag me around the mall for a few hours while I made consternated expressions. I thought those Blart antics were pretty funny, but nobody happened to be paying attention, and I got pretty badly injured.”
A single tear rolls down the faux Blart’s cheek. “I’m trying to make lemonade out of lemons here, but honestly, if I could do it all over again, I wish I hadn’t let surgeons turn me into Paul Blart as part of a marketing campaign.”
The security guard shakes his head. “The surgeons say they can’t operate on me because Paul Blart is too funny and every time they see me they start laughing so hard they drop their scalpels. The Paul Blart procedure is irreversible.”
“I doubt it,” says the false Paul Blart as he bends over to theatrically rip his pants open, revealing his heart-patterned underwear.
“So what,” he says with a weary sigh. “Now I’m a rich Paul Blart, but I’m still Paul Blart. I’ll probably buy a mansion with a fancy chandelier I’ll get tangled in somehow. And then I’ll manage to free myself from the chandelier by removing my pants, making me fall 20 feet to the floor, and then I’ll say ‘I’m okay’ and then the chandelier will come loose and land on me. And my snooty butler who doesn’t respect me will then say something acerbic like, ‘Will that be all, Master Blart?’”
You remove your Jack Skellington costume and give it to the security guard. He puts it on and no longer resembles Paul Blart.
“No, not really,” says the skeleton costume-wearing security guard. “I just remembered how bad Jack Skellington messes up Christmas. He’s essentially the Paul Blart of the holiday world. If anything, I’m even more of a buffoon than I was before.”
He glances at you and a brief flicker of recognition crosses his face. “Oh, hey. You’re Lin-Manuel Miranda. Cool. I didn’t recognize you when you looked like Jack Skellington.”
“There you are, Lin-Manuel Miranda!” the Hamilton fans scream at you. “We’ve been searching this mall all over for you, and we can’t risk losing you again. We’re going to do a Stephen King’s Misery to you. That’s when you imprison an artist you admire and force them to write, even though they’d rather be free.”
Your fans throw you in a dreary concrete basement that only contains a wood chair, a typewriter, and a square of masking tape stuck on the floor in one corner. “The square of masking tape is the toilet,” one helpful fan shouts at you.
“We love Hamilton, but one problem with the plot we all have is that Alexander Hamilton dies in Hamilton,” says another fan. “He’s our favorite character, and it bummed us all out that he gets shot and killed by Aaron Burr in a duel. So what we’d like to force you to do in exchange for food and water is have you write a sequel to Hamilton where it turns out Alexander Hamilton didn’t die and is doing fine. You better get to work! We love you, Lin-Manuel!”
You start writing your Hamilton sequel, which starts with Alexander Hamilton getting put in suspended animation so his duel wounds have time to heal, and getting awoken from cryo-sleep by President Abraham Lincoln, who recruits him to help win the Civil War.
To be frank, it’s not your best work. Your fans toss you food in your basement cell, but they tend to forget giving you fruit and you end up developing a bad case of scurvy. The fatigue and pain from scurvy makes it hard to concentrate on writing lyrically brilliant, catchy songs about U.S. history. Your sense of pride prevents you from just phoning it in and turning in a middling musical, so you continually tear up pages of Hamilt2n and rewrite things from scratch. Months of writing pass with very little to show for it.
It seems as though you’ll spend the rest of your life stuck in this basement trying to write a Hamilton sequel, and never live out your dream of shopping at the mall.
Oh crap, this is not good. You blew all your money at the mall and are completely bankrupt. You are utterly financially ruined without a penny to your name.
The only thing you can do now is go perform a production of Hamilton and wait until you sell enough theater tickets to get rich again.
You leave the mall and head over to the Broadway theater where packed audiences pay hundreds of dollars per seat to see your hit musical.
All right, Founding Fathers, we’re starting a new nation
A land of freedom for everyone, except for all the slaves
This calls for celebration!
But before we begin our drunken raves
We need a good name for our independence declaration
We can’t just call it the “Declaration of Independence”
That’s a little too on the nose
I’m thinking something like “The Parchment of Providence”
But less clunky, a name that flows
If anyone has any ideas for a good name, anything at all
Please, raise your hand
I’ll promote that person to be a revolutionary general
So they can help me create America the land
On second thought, I’m warming up to “Declaration of Independence”
Let’s go with that, I think it works good enough
But Alexander Hamilton, I admire your confidence
I think you’ve got the right stuff
Can I offer you a job, leading the revolution’s armies?
We’ll give you a gun, it’s pretty cool
You can shoot British people, and it’s legal because they’re enemies
Just don’t do something stupid, like get in a duel
You earned more money from Hamilton, and your net worth is now $1 billion.
You walk to Best Buy, a giant warehouse filled with televisions. You don’t own a television, but you’ve always been interested in them because they’re basically Broadway theaters small enough to fit in a house.
A kindly old merchant greets you. “Welcome to Best Buy’s Electronics Emporium. I am Best Buy, the purveyor of this fine, family-run store. How may I help you today?”
All the TVs in Best Buy are playing Disney’s Moana, an animated musical with songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
I’ve been staring at the edge of the water
Thinking about the mall
That awaits beyond the sea
I try not to think about shopping
But the mall is calling
It beckons to me
Every time I try not to think of going
I remember things that need owning
Buying pants and socks and scented candles
In a shopping spree
See how I’m riding on a boat?
To the mall I’ll float
I’d also like to save my island
If there’s time after the shopping I have planned
Moana: Have you heard of the Heart of Te Fiti?
Maui: Yes, it’s that magic rock that makes tropical islands possible, sort of like that holy relic that used to be in Borders bookstore and made Borders possible.
Moana: We have to put the Heart of Te Fiti back where it belongs to save ancient Polynesia (the era and location where we live), the same way someone trying to reopen Borders would have to put the Heart of Borders back in Borders.
Maui: Yes, it’s the magic thing that makes coffee and books possible in the same store, and it’s missing.
I hope it is now abundantly clear to you
That if you want to reopen Borders
Here’s a clue
You must find the thing taken from Borders
That’s what you have to do
Or maybe you don’t care about Borders
In which case, never mind
“Allow me to introduce my wife, Agnes Buy,” says Best Buy. “Agnes! We’ve got company!”
“Oh, a visitor?” says Agnes. “How wonderful! We rarely get visitors to Best Buy Electronics Emporium these days. Where’s Justin? Justin! Where’s that fool boy? Justin!“
“What is it, Mom?” shouts Justin from the store.
“We’ve got a visitor!” screams Agnes. “Bring up the fattest Panasonic we have for our guest. Let’s make him feel at home.” She leans over to you. “My son, Justin, is a sweet lad, but he’d lose the head on his shoulders if it weren’t screwed on.”
Justin Buy jogs across Best Buy struggling to hold a large Panasonic television. He puts it down and wipes his brow while regaining his breath.
“Golly, a visitor,” says Justin. “It’s so exciting to have company. We never have company these days.”
“There’s also my daughter, who I named after the first TV I ever sold, Toshiba Buy,” says Best Buy.
“Nice to meet you,” says Toshiba Buy. She’s the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen, and you have to stop your jaw from dropping. Not that looks are all that important to you, Lin-Manuel Miranda. You value a woman’s intellect, creativity, and personality over their surface-deep physical appearance. Besides, you’re happily married.
Agnes warmly claps her daughter on the shoulder. “Toshiba doesn’t work here anymore, she’s only visiting from Harvard University, where she’s a professor who teaches a history course on the life of Alexander Hamilton. She’s the leading scholar on Alexander Hamilton in the entire world.”
“Oh, Ma, you’re embarrassing me,” Toshiba says as her cheeks blush.
“Well, it’s true!” says Agnes. “You’ve won the Pulitzer every year for 10 years in a row because of your 10 incredible books about Alexander Hamilton. ”
“Gosh, Mom, you make me sound like the biggest nerd,” says Toshiba. “Honestly, sir, I’m really not just a boring bookworm. For fun, I also like to write songs about Alexander Hamilton and sing them using my Broadway-caliber singing voice.”
You have become hopelessly smitten with Toshiba Buy, the gorgeous Alexander Hamilton expert. This isn’t good. You already have a wife and son.
You leave the mall and try to forget about Toshiba Buy, but it’s impossible to get her out of your head. Your wife notices that something seems off about you, but when she asks what’s wrong, you tell her that you’re just tired from writing Hamilton and it’s nothing she did.
For the most part, your relationship is still pleasant. You don’t fight any more than you used to. You still go to charity galas and Broadway premieres together. However, you both know something is missing. Each time you stare into each other’s eyes, you don’t see the spark of love that used to flicker there. Your heart no longer belongs to your wife. It belongs to Toshiba Buy.
Years pass with you living together in a bleak marriage of convenience. Perhaps you’re still friends with your wife. It’s hard to tell what’s real affection, and what’s just cordial decorum. The emotional desolation of your relationship inspires you to write the Broadway show Alexander Hamilton And His Wife Sit In An Unlit Room And Sigh For Three Hours, which wins 25 Tony Awards.
“It’s so nice of you to visit Best Buy,” says Toshiba. “People don’t come to my parent’s store these days.”
“What kind of hosts would we be if we demanded money for a television?” says Best Buy. “You’re the guest of honor! That Panasonic is our gift to you, free of charge.”
“Don’t mention it,” says Best Buy. “We could really have used the money, of course. Our store is on the verge of closing.”
“Well, if you insist,” Best Buy says reluctantly. “Gosh, $40 million is quite the pretty penny. That’ll allow us to stay open for a few extra weeks before we go out of business.”
“It’s because Borders bookstore closed,” Best Buy says sadly. “Borders was the anchor store for this mall. People traveled for hundreds of miles to see the miraculous spectacle of books and coffee sold in the same place. Then afterwards, they’d go shop at the other stores before heading home. With Borders gone, this whole mall is dying.”
“Yes, we’re definitely in a pickle,” says Best Buy. “Without Borders, this mall is doomed. Too bad nobody is trying to reopen Borders somehow.”
“God bless you,” says Agnes Buy, giving you a kiss on both cheeks. “If you could reopen Borders, that would save Best Buy, and also be a convenient place to buy both books and coffee without having to make two trips.”
You go to the food-court McDonald’s. “Welcome to McDonald’s, Where You Don’t Have To Eat The Meat™,” says the cashier.
“We have to put meat on our hamburgers to be able to legally call them hamburgers,” she explains. “But you don’t have to eat the meat. It’s up to you whether to eat the meat or not. We don’t recommend eating the meat. We recommend eating around the meat. But if you really want the meat, we won’t stop you from eating it. That’s why at McDonald’s we have the motto ‘You Can Eat The Meat If You Really Want, But We Don’t Recommend It™.’”
“Oh no, the meat is fine,” she quickly reassures you. “It’s 100 percent beef. Perfectly fine beef. Just, you know, it’s McDonald’s beef. It’s much worse than even Applebee’s or TGI Fridays’ beef, and that beef is pretty bad, too. I mean, it’s fast-food beef. What do you expect? You definitely don’t want to eat it if you don’t have to. And you don’t! That’s the great thing about McDonald’s.”
“If you do decide to eat the meat, we recommend swallowing the burger patty whole, like a lozenge,” says the McDonald’s cashier. “That way you taste it less as it goes down your throat.”
You slide the hamburger patty down your throat, wedging it into your esophagus. The meat is very tough and is the perfect size and shape to block your windpipe. Rapping right now would put you at serious risk of choking to death.
Deciding to not choke to death is a good instinct, however you are Lin-Manuel Miranda, so you are going to sing and rap as you eat whether you want to or not.
Well, you’re choking to death. This isn’t good.
You find yourself standing on the edge of a cloud, facing a huge golden gate.
“Hello, thanks for calling 911,” says the 911 operator. “If you are in need of assistance, please scream loudly into the phone.”
“You have chosen to not scream, which means everything is fine,” says the 911 operator. “Thank you for calling 911, and have a nice day.” She hangs up.
You carefully discard the meat and only eat the hamburger bun. It’s one of the most delicious things you’ve ever tasted.
“Good choice to avoid the meat,” says the McDonald’s cashier. “I tasted our meat once, and while it wasn’t too bad, I feel no need to repeat the experience. You’re really not missing out.”
“Also, it seems like you enjoy rapping and singing while you eat food, which is a really serious choking hazard while eating a disc of meat. If you tried to eat our meat, you would probably die, just like all the actors in the McDonald’s commercials who sang ‘Bah-da bah-bah-bah, I’m loving it’ while eating burgers and choked to death.”
Cloud mist swirls around you, and when it fades away you find yourself standing before America’s Founding Fathers.
“Lin-Manuel Miranda, we’re big fans of your work,” says Alexander Hamilton.
“Hamilton made American history cool,” says George Washington. “You brought us out of the history books and turned our life stories into an engaging piece of musical theater.”
“Having African-American actors play us was a stroke of genius,” says Thomas Jefferson. “Hamilton forces the viewer to process the moral duality of us Founding Fathers, who created a nation that guarantees freedom to all, while also paradoxically committing the sin of slavery. The music is really toe-tapping, too.”
“Don’t mention it,” says George Washington.
“No, you are not dead,” says Alexander Hamilton. “You are merely unconscious, and your soul will fly back into your body as soon as you wake up.”
Before you can say anything else, Alexander Hamilton holds up a finger. “And just to get the other afterlife FAQ out of the way:
1. Yes, God is real and He loves you.
2. No, you can’t meet Him yet. Seeing His glory would kill you for real, so you got to wait until you actually die before you can meet Him. Even then, He’s pretty busy so you really only get to talk to Him for about 10 minutes, like, every hundred years or so. I’ve only spoken to Him twice since I died, but He was very nice.
3. Yes, I said He. God is male. Not trying to be controversial about it. He’s a dude. I mean, I met Him. He has a beard. That’s not to say there would be anything wrong with a woman God, but that’s just not the way it is.
4. Jesus is real, he does have miraculous powers, but he’s way more important in the Bible than he is in real life. He’s sort of like Wolverine in the X-Men comics. Pretty important character, but there are lots of other X-Men too, you know?
5. Hell is real, but it’s basically like a Swedish prison. It’s not that bad, and it’s mostly there to isolate serial killers from everyone else, ’cause we don’t want to hang out with them.
6. Obviously, monotheism is right.
7. Um, am I forgetting anything? Ghosts don’t exist. Not on Earth. So anyone who ever said they saw a ghost was either lying or crazy.
8. Dead souls in heaven can see anything on Earth happening at anytime. Yes, we can see you naked in the bathroom. No, we don’t care. After you’ve been dead for a few centuries, you outgrow ogling people.
9. Aliens did visit the ancient Egyptians, but it was to admire the pyramids as tourists, not help build them. And the aliens were invisible the whole time, were careful not to affect anything, and left Earth pretty soon afterward and haven’t been back yet.
10. Heaven is fun. It’s basically like the holodeck from Star Trek, but with more emotional fulfillment. You’ll enjoy it, eventually.
11. Angels are real, but they’re freaky, with lots of limbs and animal heads and eyeballs in weird places. Not the handsome people-with-wings kind. They’re cool though. I have a lot of friends who are angels.
12. That’s pretty much it I think.”
“Yeah…” says George Washington after a long pause. “We’re feel really bad about the whole slavery thing. We’ve had a lot of time in heaven to think about it, and it was wrong.”
“Keep in mind, we lived before electricity existed,” says James Madison. “That’s not a defense, but it’s really easy for modern people to say they’re against slavery when they have electricity doing most of the work for them. I guarantee you, if you took away electricity and gave everyone the choice of churning their own butter or having a slave do it, like, 90 percent of people would suddenly be in favor of slavery. Also, if I’m being honest, we were horribly racist.”
“Anyway, our punishment for doing slavery is that we have to feel guilty about it for all eternity,” says George Washington. “That doesn’t sound rough, but think of how long eternity is.”
“Hmm…” says Alexander Hamilton. “We’re not experts on books, but we know who is. Hey, Johannes Gutenberg! Can you hop over here for a second?”
Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press, materializes nearby. “Hey guys, what’s up? Oh, wow! It’s Lin-Manuel Miranda. I’m a huge fan of your work.”
“At the heart of every Borders bookstore was one of my magical Gutenberg Bibles,” explains Gutenberg. “That gave Borders the power of selling books. But to also give Borders the power of selling coffee as well, they spilled my favorite coffee drink on the Gutenberg Bible. A coffee-soaked Gutenberg Bible is the secret of how Borders was able to sell both books and coffee.”
“But it only works if you use my favorite coffee drink, which is a Mocha Blaster.”
“Don’t mention it,” says Johannes Gutenberg.
Heaven blurs around you as you start to wake up.
“Farewell, Lin-Manuel Miranda,” says Alexander Hamilton. “You will not remember any part of coming to heaven, except for the information you need to know.”
“Actually, I don’t think heaven wipes visitors’ memories anymore,” says George Washington. “They stopped doing that after accidentally deleting too many memories and turning this one guy into a vegetable.”
“Oh, never mind, then,” says Alexander Hamilton. “I guess you’ll remember all this. Anyway, nice chatting with you. Good luck at the mall.”
“I just performed CPR on you and saved your life,” says the McDonald’s cashier. “Also, I tasted some McDonald’s burger juice from your mouth while I was performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and it was better than I remembered. I think McDonald’s has improved their meat formula or something, because it tasted okay. Not good, but better than it used to. You have to give McDonald’s credit for improving their food, even if you still wouldn’t want to eat there.”