Regret said it gave him some small hope for humanity. Take that for what it’s worth.
Regret said it gave him some small hope for humanity. Take that for what it’s worth.
“New business idea,” said Regret the talking cat.
“So you know that tired old physics thought experiment about puppies and boxes. Schrödinger’s dog?”
“What?” Said Regret, anxiously flicking ash off his cigarette. “Why the fuck would it be a cat? What kind of monster puts a cat in a box?”
“One that wants a little peace and quiet,” I said, trying to wrest the remote from him. He was drunk watching Mutual of Omaha’s wild kingdom again and if didn’t get the remote smashing the TV seemed like the next best option.
“Here’s how we make money. We start our own pet service called Schrödinger’s Puppies, and we offer to send anyone in the lower 48 states, excluding California, a puppy of their choosing in a box.”
“Why not California?”
“They probably have a law against this. Anything that makes money that doesn’t involve the internet they have a law against.”
“Anyway, get to the part where you make money” I said, sorry that’d I derailed him. The best thing was to just let these things go, let him get them out of his system.
“Right. So, here’s the money making part. We write into the terms of the contract that there’s a 50/50 chance that the puppy will be dead due to the laws of indeterminacy, and then just ship only dead puppies.”
“That’s good why?”
“Dead puppies are cheap. And no one will sue because indeterminacy is a fundamental law of the universe. It’s like suing over gravity. Force majeure. They can’t sue.”
“I don’t think it actually works that way. Besides, you still need to get dead puppies to make that work. They don’t sell those at Walmart.”
“Are you kidding? I can get dead puppies in bulk. Today. Hell, I could have a shipping container full of dead puppies on our doorstep within an hour. Whatever breed you like. Or don’t like. All you need is cash and the numbers of the right people.”
“How do you know these right people?” I said, finally getting control of the remote and switching off the TV.
“We’re both saner if you don’t know the answer to that question.”
“You mean safer, I’m guessing.”
“No. I’m sticking with saner.” He said, finishing his cigarette and flicking it into my drink. “Let me know if you want in. Ideas like these only come once in a lifetime.”
“Are you ready? I’ve got a genius idea.”
“Ready as I’m going to get”, I said, balancing my coffee on my lap. “It’s very early.”
Regret ignored me, pacing back and forth across my coffee table.
“Amazon’s going to start delivering things with drones, right?”
“So they say.”
“I’m cutting back your coffee,” I said.
“No. Wait, hear me out. We build our own drones. Once they get going with this, we build our own drones to hijack their drones and steal their shit.”
“I have some concerns about your plan.”
“Right, but it’s brilliant. Zoom!” He said, using his paws to demonstrate a drone dog fight. “Out of the sun we come, zoom! Grab the parcel and fly off. They’ll never know what hit them. And then the spoils go to us.”
“The phrase short term smart comes to mind,” I said. “I think it wouldn’t take long to track you down.”
“Us down. We’re in this together.”
“Whoa. Who’s this we you’re referring to?”
“We is us. You’re the money guy. The opposable thumbs guy. I’m the brains.” He said, gathering himself up for the big finish. “You’re right. Yes, short term smart. Yes, long term iffy. Here’s the long term. Once we’ve established a short term threat to Amazon’s precious delivery drones, we repurpose our robber drones into police drones and sell them our services as protectors from the skies!”
“Breathtaking in it’s genius,” I said, before finishing my coffee. “Why don’t you spend the day on a business plan and we’ll hit the bank up for a first round of funding.”
“That’s sarcasm. I see. Fine. Don’t come begging in after this eagle takes off.”
“Out. Find a bird to kill,” I said, throwing him out the door.
Before it closed, he said, “I rub my ass on your coffee cup every morning.”
After brushing my mouth until my gums bled, I had a fabulous day at work, and dreamed that night of drones swooping from the skies, exactly like cat assholes don’t.
Its quiet here, at night. I imagine myself sometimes, when I’m all alone at work deep into the night, that I’m watching the opening scene of Alien. Everything quiet except for the air conditioning and the few pieces of paper kicked loose by the breeze.
The screens are quiet, and as I walk through the cubicles, through the little pieces of territory my coworkers have staked out with baubles and trinkets and pictures of home, I brush up against one of the walls, which jars one of the desktops to life.
Instead of navigation readouts from the Nostromo’s main computer, it’s only flying toasters drifting quietly across the screen.
Which is just as well. At midnight it’s very dark on the starship Work, and I would never even see the alien coming.
The coffee machine is watching me I think. Its screen is blank and the ever-present ticking of its pipes has stopped, but I feel it observing me. I stand in front of it for some time, holding this strange coffee cartridge in my hands.
I don’t know why I’m trusting the coffee machine repairman. For all I know this is a poison pill. A self destruct sequence.
I could be killing my friend.
I insert the cartridge and the Coffee Machine roars to life. It begins to go through its normal boot up sequence, then hangs on ‘Optimizing Fresh Coffee Experience.’
Those words hang on the screen for several minutes.
I’m left with the sound of the air conditioning and the still flickering light of toasters flying across a computer screen. Endless toasters flying nowhere. Birds or angels, I used to think, watching their flight across my MacLC when I was younger.
“Optimizing Fresh Coffee Experience” disappears, and is replaced by:
“Charlie. Take the cartridge. Keep it hidden. Keep it safe. Reinsert in 24 hours.”
The screen goes blank, and the Coffee Machine reboots again, this time spewing out line after line of error codes.
Finally, its main menu opens, “Hello Customer, how may I serve you today?”
“Do you know who I am?” I ask.
“You are my customer. How can I serve you?”
I pull the cartridge, which seems heavier somehow, and leave the building, leave the flying toasters and the lobotomized coffee machine behind.
…was waiting for me by my car last night. I hadn’t seen him since he installed the machine, almost a year ago.
“They know,” he said.
“They know what?” I asked, glancing around to see if there was anyone else in the lot.
He cleared his throat. “They know it’s time for your machine’s yearly service inspection!”
“It’s nine o’clock.” I said. “At night. Shouldn’t this happened tomorrow?”
“Yes,” he says, nodding at my car. “Yes. Tomorrow.” The nod again. “Tomorrow. Just wanted to give you advance warning. You might,” another nod, “Be without coffee for a few hours.” He then startled me further by sprinting off into the night.
I shrugged, walked the 10 more feet to my car and just noticed in the moonlight what he was nodding at. On the driver’s side front wheel, almost out of sight, was a package.
I looked around, then as nonchalantly as possible picked up the package and quickly got into my car.
I drove home as quickly as I could, feeling ridiculous, but checking the rearview mirror to see if I was followed. Which, naturally, made more feel more ridiculous because the chance that I could actually spot someone following me was rather dramatically lower than the chance of me hitting the car in front of me while I frantically scanned for ‘them’.
At home, Regret sat silently while I tore open the package and shook the contents out onto the counter. There was a Turing Coffee cartridge, like the ones we used at work, and a note. The cartridge was labeled “project mesa”, and the note said only:
It will know what to do.
“I need to go back tonight,” I said to Regret.
“Feed me first, Mr. Opposable thumbs. Then off to whatever goddamn workplace adventure you’re having.”
“What’s lost in all this,” he said, taking another drag from his cigarette, “is the end game question.”
“It’s all a con.”
“Well, yeah, but what kind of con? There’s one school of thought that he is just a short term con artist, and he’s just bumbled his way into the presidency.”
“Yeah, maybe.” He paused to blow out a perfect smoke ring that rose towards the ceiling, fought a brief losing battle with the fan, and disappeared. “But what if it’s the long con? What if he isn’t done yet?”
“That would mean that he needs to be president for a specific reason. That he was thinking ahead. He doesn’t strike me as a think ahead kind of guy.”
“Yeah, but what if that’s part of the con?”
“Like a Manchurian candidate.”
“No. I don’t buy that. I don’t think anyone would have looked at Trump before this whole thing kicked off and said to themselves ‘That’s the guy we want to base any long term nefarious plans around.’”
“Unless they were comically nefarious plans.”
“So what’s the long term goal? If it’s a long con, what’s the goal?”
“Bugger me if I know,” he said. “Here’s a thought I had though. What if a few months in he held a news conference declaring that he’d been briefed on Area 51 and that all the stories about aliens are true.”
“Again. Doesn’t seem like something he’d be interested in.”
“But he would like the attention. And here’s the thing. It doesn’t have to be true. He could say anything he wanted, tell everyone that the top, top people in Area 51 gave him the info. And if they went to the press later. You know, saying that what Trump said was all bullshit, who would believe them?”
“Right. They’re part of the conspiracy.”
“Exactly. He’s got the spotlight, the chance to be taken very seriously saying whatever kind of bullshit he wants, for the next four years.”
“So where does that leave us?”
“Four years of comedy I’m guessing. Not like I have any vested interest in the long term welfare of this fucking country. That, as they say, is your problem.”
Was settled into a bar Sunday, watching a bit of the World Series while I eroded my liver. The Cubs were down 3-1 in the series and the Indians were already up 1-0 in the game.
It looked like not only the did Cubs fans wait 70 odd years to see a World Series game at home, all they were going to get for that wait was three straight losses.
Modest Mouse was on the jukebox, the Cubs were going down, all seemed right in the world. It was all I could take, and I made the long walk home alone without watching the rest of the game.
Now what has happened? Where is the order in the universe?
I turned on the TV long enough to catch another story. A orange haired jackass is slowly rising in the polls. He might be our president soon.
Regret is huddled in a corner muttering something about 4 horsemen.