From Free-Range Chickens.

Hey Simon,
It's Danielle, the quiet girl you said "hi" to once at Academic Camp the summer after junior year of high school. I'd explain how I tracked you down and got your e-mail address, but there just isn't enough time: in three minutes, I'm leaving on a jet plane for the Bahamas. (I know-I should have e-mailed earlier!) Anyway, I've been secretly in love with you for the past six years and I want you to come live with me in paradise. If you write back in the next three minutes, I can get the pilot to wait for you. If you don't respond by then, I'll have no choice but to assume that our feelings are not reciprocal.

Danielle

Dear Mr. Rich,
This is the IRS. We have a feeling that you may have accidentally exaggerated some of your business expenses this year, but we don't want to trouble you with something as unpleasant as a tax audit. Can you do us a favor and just send over a quick e-mail confirming that you told the truth on all of your forms? You don't have to explain your specific expenses-you can just put "It's all true" in the subject heading, or something to that effect. If you write us back before the tax deadline, which is in three minutes, then we'll consider this matter closed. Otherwise, we'll have no choice but to take your silence as an admission of guilt and send you to prison.

IRS



Hey Simon,
How's it going? It's Craig from high school. I just wanted to say hey and see what you were up to. I just started working for a company called Skylar Labs and it's been really exciting. In fact, I'm actually on my way to a press conference right now. In three minutes we're unveiling a really cool new product to the public. It's hard to explain, but basically it stops the spread of cancer cells while simultaneously giving patients the ability to fly. I wonder if the announcement will have any effect on our company's stock prices? Anyway, hope everything's cool with you and I'll talk to you later.

Craig



Dear Mr. Rich,
Three minutes ago, NASA confirmed that a moon-sized asteroid is on a collision course with Earth. In preparation for this day, the government has built an escape pod, called simply, "The Ark." You are among the ten humans who have been selected to board the pod and serve as the progenitors for a new race of men which will live on after our planet has exploded. The other humans going into the pod are Jack Nicholson, a brilliant scientist, and the seven most beautiful women on the planet. Please write us back in the next few minutes to confirm that you're willing to take part in this mission. If you're uncomfortable with this level of power and celebrity, just ignore this e-mail and in three minutes your seat will be given to someone else.

God bless you,
The President

Excerpted from Free-Range Chickens by Simon Rich Copyright © 2008 by Simon Rich. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.