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I’d turned down a spot on the Olympic gymnastic squad because I knew my country needed me for my remarkable strength, endurance and triple-jointedness. I enlisted in the military and after sailing through basic was quickly transferred to the elite G.I. Joe unit where I’d be set to work fighting the villainous Cobra, an international terrorist organization determined to rule the world.

The members of G.I. Joe are extremely talented, though usually at only one thing.

Like, there’s a guy named Blizzard and one named Frostbite and they only fight in the snow, while a guy named Bazooka only shoots a bazooka, and there’s a guy named Quick Kick who’s a karate fighter, and a guy named Stormshadow who’s a ninja, and a guy named Wetsuit who does all the underwater fighting. There’s a guy named Nunchuk, who only fights with nunchucks. Dusty fights in deserts. The general’s name is Hawk, and he’s got great vision. The other guy in charge is named Duke. I don’t know if he’s royalty or from the South. The women are Scarlett and Lady Jaye. I don’t know what they do, but their uniforms seem tight for combat.

I know names are important. There’s a guy named Skidmark. I don’t want that to happen to me.

I know I have to make a good impression to get a good name.

Rather than just walk into headquarters through the front door, I shimmy up a drain-pipe, squeeze through a slightly open window near the HVAC room and then burrow through the air ducts, squeezing myself into corridors that would be constricting for a toddler. I see perfectly in pitch darkness, using night vision contact lenses of my own design. I don’t even have a map of the duct system, I find my way around through my finely honed instincts. Not only can I creep around any twist or corner, no matter how tight, I move silently, never putting weight on anything but my toes and fingertips.

Soon I’m overlooking the G.I. Joe situation room.

The team is assembled, each man holding their special weapon—sniper rifles, katana blades, chain-loaded machine guns and, oddly, a shovel. The one guy who joined from the Navy is dressed like a member of The Village People and has a parrot on his shoulder. The military police officer is dressed like a cop from the show CHiPs and has a german shepherd on a leash. I know their names are Law and Order, but forget which is which. The one Native American member, who has a hooded falcon on his shoulder, is dressed so offensively that he could advertise baseball in Atlanta.

Through a metal grate, I watch Hawk brief the team about Cobra’s latest plot.

They’ve tried everything to take over the world—the weather dominator, raising an army of Egyptian mummies from the dead, and even striking an alliance with evil robots from Cybertron who can transform into military aircraft. G.I. Joe has stopped them every time. But the new plan seems so absurdly straightforward that Cobra is bound to succeed.

They’re just going to bribe the U.S. president into joining Cobra and handing over the U.S. nuclear launch codes.

“Our current president has wanted to join Cobra forever,” Hawk explains. “That they’re paying him to do it is just a bonus.”

I realize that I can save the day here. My skills are perfect for this mission.

I can sneak into the White House and convince the president not to betray the country. I punch the metal grate out of its casing and then rocket through the small opening, turning three somersaults in the air to land in front of the team in a three-point hero’s pose.

“What an entrance!” says Hawk.  Everybody claps. Even the dog barks and the parrot repeats Hawk. “Squawk! What an entrance! Squawk! What an entrance!”

I bow.

“What’s your name and what’s your game?” says Duke.

“Infiltration,” I say.  “Using my gymnastic prowess I can sneak in or out of any facility. I call myself Serpentine!”

“Can’t be a snake name,” says Hawk.  “We’re fighting snakes. It’s off brand.”

“You have a guy named Snake Eyes!” I argue.

“He’s named after dice,” says Hawk. “Unbeatable at Dungeons & Dragons.”

“Slither!” I suggest. But they’re not buying it. Duke whispers in Hawk’s ear and then they exchange a high five.

“One of the problems we have is that Cobra always captures one of our guys and then we have to go rescue him. It’s expensive and time-consuming.”

“It’s also usually me or Scarlett who gets captured,” says Lady Jaye. “They like tying us up. But we’re sick of it.”

“So what if they capture you, new guy?” says Hawk. “Then you can just sneak out and we don’t have to bother with a rescue.”

“Your name is Jailbreak,” says Duke.

“And your special skill is getting taken prisoner. Which is something the president happens to hate, so you’ll never get promoted, but it really takes a lot of hassle out of our operations.”

“So… my job is to get captured.”

“And to break out!” says Hawk.

“And then to get captured again,” says Duke.

“It’s Sysiphean,” I say.

“Nobody knows what that means,” says Hawk.

“It means he’s a sissy,” says Roadblock, who is big like a roadblock.

The Joes all laugh and clap each other on their backs and the bird squawks, “Sissy! Sissy!”

“But I can sneak into the White House!” I say.

“We’ve already had one guy sneak into the White House,” says Hawk.

“Yeah,” says Duke. “The president!”

“And knowing is half the battle,” says the guy in the sailor suit whose bird called me a sissy.

And that, my friends, is how I came to represent Cobra as an Olympic gymnast. You can call me “Slither.”

Michael Maiello

Michael Maiello is a New York-based playwright, author and humorist. His work has appeared in McSweeney's, The New Yorker, and Weekly Humorist. He has two plays available through

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