The Northville Review
an online literary journal
Inside Joke, Explained: Paid for This

John Sheirer

I knew a guy in my college dorm who once stood shirtless before the full-length bathroom mirror, his belly bulging, pecs sagging, shoulders dipped, head slumped, mouth turned down, eyes vacant.

“Before!” he announced to the echoing room.

Then he sucked in his gut, puffed and flexed his chest, pulled his shoulders up and back, jutted his jaw, and smiled with his whole face.

“After!” he called out.

He then reverted to the “before” pose, then arched back to “after” … before, after, before, after, before, after … again and again until he was almost out of breath. Between gasps, he suddenly got an idea.

“Dudes!” he shouted to the three of us who were peeing, shaving, and just standing there avoiding our studies. “I gotta figure out a way to get paid for this!”

For the rest of that semester, whenever someone did something dopey, such as slipping on an icy sidewalk or spilling a tray in the cafeteria or flunking a no-show class, someone was bound to say some derivative of, “Dude, you’re getting paid for this!”

I don’t know if the guy who originated the phrase appreciated its popularity or not, but he transferred that year and was never heard from again. I’ve been out of college for nearly thirty years, but a little voice in my head that calls me “dude” still sometimes says, “gotta get paid for this” whenever I do something stupid.

About the author

John Sheirer lives in Northampton, MA, and teaches at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, CT (which isn't really near Northville, CT, even though it's a small state). His most recent book is the memoir Loop Year: 365 Days on the Trail, winner of the Connecticut Green Circle Award. Forthcoming are a collection of flash fiction (One Bite) and a creative writing guidebook (What's the Story?). He can be found here: