“Umbro-Matic,” by Gary Newhook

Apr 20th, 2012 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

He got the idea from a Persian Silk Tree in the backyard. It would make him rich; a patio umbrella that automatically opened when it rained. He spent a small fortune conducting research and building a prototype. A small circle that was three inches across at the top of the umbrella tied into some motors inside. When water landed on the circle, or wet mat as he called it, the umbrella opened with a “splong.” It had some wires sticking out, the edges where he had made cuts in the pole were rough, it had to be hooked up to a car battery, and it opened far too quickly, but it worked.

After years of shopping the idea around in his spare time, he got a spot on a popular TV show called Serpent’s Lounge, where powerful people in the world of business listened to pitches. It was sort of like a game show that you won if you could get someone to invest in your idea. His pitch on the show was going perfectly; he was engaging the investors, and they seemed genuinely interested. “Think about it,” he said, “You’re planning a barbeque, but all of a sudden it starts to rain. You’re at work, and you know that by the time you get home, the patio is going to be soaked. Well, with the Umbro-matic, you don’t have to worry. It’ll open itself and keep you patio, and barbeque, dry. “

It came time to demonstrate his prototype, so he poured a glass of water onto the wet mat. Splong! The Umbro-matic opened too quickly. It smacked him in the face, bruised his cheek, and he struck his head on the floor. The investors passed on his product, saying it was too dangerous.

Perhaps it was due to the mild concussion, or perhaps it was just determination, but after coming so close to selling his idea on Serpent’s Lounge, he quit his job, and devoted all his time to pitching the Umbro-matic. After the episode aired on television, a video was posted on the internet and went viral. Everyone had seen it, and even when he managed to get a pitch meeting, he was laughed out of the office. Despite all this, he kept trying.

Eventually his wife got sick of the entire situation, and ran off with the inventor of the Choptastic 9000. Arnold Watson, inventor of Watson’s Self Gutting Fish, would call him on the phone and taunt him, until the phone company finally cut him for not paying his bill.

His brother made him go to a support group for inventors with terrible ideas.

“I’m Doug Snelgrove, inventor of the rotating frying pan,” began one man.

“Hi Doug!” The group enthusiastically chirped.

“I spent my entire life savings developing a frying pan with a rotating handle, so you could easily dump pancakes onto a plate. It consumed my life. Thanks to you folks, I’ve turned my life around. I have a new wife and a son on the way, and I just got hired as a network analyst. Since I’ve given up on the rotating frying pan, my life has never been better.”

His brother leaned toward him and whispered, “Are you learning anything from this?”

“No,” he replied, “Because my invention isn’t terrible.”

He moved into his brother’s basement. When another Umbro-matic incident, resulted in a compound fracture in one of his nephew’s arms, he moved into the street.

He sat on the corner, penniless and alone. Just when he thought things couldn’t get any worse, it began to rain.



Gary Newhook is an amateur playwright from St. John’s Newfoundland who is trying to make a transition into the world of fiction. He has been fired from Quizno’s and once woke up on a strange couch after a night of binge drinking. You can follow him on Twitter @Gary1985.


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