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Tuesday, May 02, 2006


by Edward Coletti

I want to pitch a new reality TV show.
It will be called simply,
“How Much Can You Take?”

Millions of Americans will watch and countenance
Round after round of escalating degrees of torture
Inflicted upon willing contestants,

Eager participants from all levels of American life
Juiced on the fame and hope of winning
The million dollar grand prize

For withstanding the nine levels of hellish torment.
No prizes for those who reveal anything,
Even emotion will go unpaid.

Now here’s the big “twist”:
From another pool of carefully screened guests
Emerges this week’s “Grand Torturer;”

In return for his or her prowess and success
He/She (actually, test audiences have preferred females)
Will win Carnival Cruises, home entertainment centers,

Ultimately even a brand new Cadillac Escalade
By extracting interesting and titillating information
From their cash-hungry torture subjects.

Think of the fun, the appeal to virtually all the senses.
The visuals beginning with the older light-hearted
Pillories of Olde England where crowds of spectators

Seize the opportunity to also participate by tossing
Insults, feces, stones and whatever else they can find.
Then we see things move up to other quaint antiquities

Like the stretching rack or the iron maiden.
In spite of the fact that familiarity breeds boredom,
More modern methods from “The Electrical Age” –

-the genital and nipple shocks- can be
Spiced by punked-up body piercers encouraged
To release all restraint from their imaginations.

And these are only the first two of the nine Dantesque levels of pain!
I need not go on except to anticipate your next question:
“What,” you ask, “happens

Should a contestant fail to recover, even after,
Half an episode’s attention paid to heroic efforts at resuscitation?”
Well, here’s a beautiful thing:

We budget for that with a double-indemnity prize,
Two Million Dollars! Paid posthumously
On the air the following week

To the late contestant’s grieving but grateful family.
I recommend one of those huge faux checks
Held jointly by the family, our emcee and
The President of The Fox Network.

What do you think, America?
And, of course,
Will you support our fine sponsors?

Edward Coletti is a graduate of Georgetown University and the Creative Writing Masters Program at San Francisco State University. He is also a Vietnam veteran, fiction writer, vocational rehab counselor and business consultant. Publication credits include two separate editions of Light Year (Bits Press Anthology), Tucumcari Literary Review, Orphic Lute, InterGalactic Poetry Messenger, Riverrun, Parting Gifts, Green's Magazine, Mediphors, Gryphon, The Pedestal, Cafe Pushkin etc. Mr. Coletti is also indexed in Granger's American Poets (Columbia Univ.) and was Sonoma County, California’s Featured Writer. Information about his most recent book, thawts, is contained at He lives with his wife Joyce in Santa Rosa, California and can be reached by email.