Like a lot of business owners, the pandemic forced me to put projects on hold. People weren't traveling to the kinds of international tourist attractions I typically obliterate with a giant laser and they weren't going to fancy galas I could flood with mind-control gas. If I'd seen the toilet paper hoarding coming, I could have done something with that. But instead I had to lay all my henchmen off. For a while, it was just me and my wordless, 8-foot-tall bodyguard Udo rattling around the old volcano hideout.
When places started to reopen, I was thrilled to get cracking. But six months later, I'm still spinning in my giant chair with nobody to carry out my catastrophic schemes for world domination. Because nobody wants to work anymore.
I'm over here feeding my own moat of alligators. The piranhas all have ic. Do you have any idea what it takes to maintain a saltwater shark tank? This is the worst kind of disaster — the kind I didn't trigger myself with tectonic plate bombs.
Used to be, you handed somebody a jumpsuit, paid them whatever was left from your satellite death ray budget and called it good. What do henchmen need money for, anyway? Sprucing up their cots? Flavored creamer in the break room? If I paid them a living wage, what motivation would they have to pull themselves up by their military surplus bootstraps? Previously, I'd have suggested letting supply and demand for labor work itself out in the free market. But that was when I still had the staff to control said market with a well-timed seizure of all the world's gold.
I know what you're thinking. Some 700,000 people have died of this virus in the U.S. alone. And you're right — nobody has been hurt more than me.
I tend to lose upward of 75 percent of my staff on every project, whether to explosions, damaged submarine pods, space station crashes or errant poison darts. A lot of dart deaths, actually. Still, I could always fill the benches with dudes who were sick of working on Bezos' rocket.
But now they're just lazy and I'm posting jobs on Craigslist like a chump. And if anybody answers the ad, I'll likely have to train them to do everything: arm nuclear warheads, fly a helicopter, bite through rebar, behead someone with a bowler hat. What are they even teaching these kids, anyway?
And they'll want healthcare, which nobody had asked about since Udo launched that one guy into our lava pit. But now if they're, say, shot with a spear gun, they expect to be stitched up instead of rolled overboard to chum the waters. Now they want 401ks. Like they're going to live to see retirement.
Supposedly some have kids to take care of and now they're asking if they can detonate remotely. Surely they can just hire stone-faced nannies with vague European accents to tutor them and conceal their escalating acts of violence like my parents did until their tragic ski lift accident. It was good enough for me. I'm not buying that excuse.
Henchman work in a pandemic isn't even that dangerous. Most of the members of the public they interact with have bags over their heads before they're tossed in the van and I monologue from at least 6 feet away. They're only in close quarters while jogging around my sprawling network of tunnels or crouching in the belly of the mechanical whale I'm using to approach Australia. Crap. Forget that last part, OK?
And get this: This virus has an actual safe, tested vaccine. I busted my ass coming up with that brain melting pollen like a decade ago and had to scrap the whole thing because MI6 stole the antidote. To think I could have returned a couple of Tucker Carlson's calls and people would have refused the cure. Who knew? I must still have a vial or two somewhere.
People used to take pride in henching. Did the countless anonymous dudes who died falling from scaffolds, cranes and speeding trains do it for the money? Did they complain when I disintegrated coworkers who failed me? No. They toiled as pawns in my twisted game for low wages and almost certain death. Generations of henching families proudly joined my team with minimal hope of advancement or survival. (I assume they were related since they all kind of looked the same.)
Now all of a sudden it's a terrible job and I'm the bad guy. But, like, metaphorically this time. What about Santa and his elves? When he lords over his uniformed minions in a remote hideaway, it's adorable. Everyone's putting elves on shelves. When I do the same, it's "exploitation." It's not like people were such big fans of henchmen before the pandemic. I don't see anybody putting a hench on a bench.
It's just poor work ethic. All it took was a few months off and some unemployment checks to get them whining about the downside of a career building my evil empire. Honestly, they don't even deserve that "Heroes work here" banner I had Udo hang.
All I'm asking for is a few hundred expendable souls to fistfight on my behalf even as the final seconds of the self-destruct countdown echo overhead and the very walls crumble around them. But the global pandemic has spoiled them.
Come along, Udo. That whale isn't going to weld itself.
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill (she/her) is the arts and features editor at the Journal. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill