Be Here Now and Then

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: marclevytoo


In the month of May in the conflicted year of 1970, unusually muggy and buggy in flyover country, the month and the year in which the war in Viet Nam was plunged by the breath and length of Charles Manson's dickless fork and knife into the belly of Cambodia that unleashed demons which would never again be held in wild human cages, with widespread riots erupting on streets and campuses from Skagit Valley College to Florida Atlantic University, and billy clubs from cops swinging for the fences, tear gas shooting from cannons, and buildings fire bombed by philosophizing arsonists, and when students at Jackson and Kent States were murdered due to the inconvenience caused to stagnant real estate values, the question to the small funky group of radical scientists on strike against the military industrial complex they serviced while stoned out of their minds on redesigned Owlsley acid at Cal Tech in Pasadena was: how long was it going to take for the revolution to get here, three or five years?

 

"Consider the variables."

 

"I'm seeing a kaleidoscope of prisms."

 

"A tilting field of oppositional forces."

 

"Is it like wiggly?"

 

"Well, like yeah."

 

"Fuzzy thinking."

 

"None of that logic crap."

 

"It's like a continuum."

 

"Up yours."

 

"Right on, right on."

 

Three and five years later the more concise question among the same loose group of still alienated youth who had become burrowed into the folds of a number prestigious universities, although no less yearning to breathe free, was: what the fuck?

 

"What the fuck?"

 

"Buncha shit."

 

"Who'd believe?"

 

"Shit fucking shit."

 

"Fuck it."

 

"Sucks."

 

"Big time."

 

"Ditto."

 

More than two decades after that, as balls were stroked in pockets at the end of a century great for countless wars, bombs, and blow jobs, the question to the Pasadena born progeny who had inherited the combat boots from one of those now tenured professors was how did those egregious mistakes get passed down and inserted into robots? Without muscle memory the robots were becoming stymied. Inept humans were too crude to function as role models. Such a disappointing species.

 

Indiscreetly aloud in a lab, she grumbled, "What a waste."

 

Her name was Rosa, after Luxemburg, not Parks. She loved her boyfriend a modicum of a bit in bed but she loved her adorable robots to itty-bitty pieces all over. No feeling with her feet on or off the ground matched the thrill of a cute robotic yip or yelp. She felt a peace and a balance as she floated among them in a mist of zero gravity. Humans had a long way to go to equal that.

 

But, even a zealot recognizes there are times to breathe fresher air. She had descended from the university on the hill to observe the alien species in random transit. Why not ask why not? A big brain must stay in fighting shape. It was low tide overlooking the arc of Monterey Bay in Santa Cruz. Gnarly head high waves were breaking right for the hard chargers at the Slot on Steamer Lane. An appreciative crowd on the edge of West Cliff Drive was cheering the local shredders. Rosa was there and yet she was elsewhere. Contradictions will naturally abound. If you don't look, you better not cross. She was gazing ahead when she encountered, dimly, a face. Then along came Jane.

 

Jane said, "I remember you."

 

1999 was a great year for conspirators. Oil was king. The fix was plunged deep within. Cocky bandits clutching inside info from Monsanto were bullish on enhanced corn. Love was not free. Irradiated corn was more filling. Don't lightly ask why. There were those who know how to play hard. Boyfriends were easy to find hanging. One Bush brother was busy fixing an election for another. He did not act alone. Florida was booming. Only worn out laws loomed in the way. Rosa was past beginning to determine it was the humans who would never be able to fit in, not the robots.

 

Rosa did not need a dim name to match the face in order to mumble with unfeigned insouciance, "Hi."

 

Jane played volleyball on the beach. Jane dabbled in pastels. Jane was studying acupuncture at Five Branches Institute. Jane maintained her posture. Jane displayed healthy cleavage. Jane never forgot her red lipstick. Jane was very straight. Jane caught her waves of the future now. But, Rosa was aiming for higher.

 

Jane, though not the most illuminating bulb, was certainly a superior hybrid robot. Her comprehensive senses included scent and a feeling. After Jane stole her boyfriend, Rosa was not going to forget Jane.

 

She said, "I'm meeting my boyfriend."

 

Jane brightened and said, "Oh, that sounds like it could be fun."

 

Nothing was more gut wrenching to a robot than a slouch. Correct posture was essential for adequate performance. A model that could not cultivate a straight back was going to bend and break and invariably leak. Even a willing human as far behind the curve as Rosa knew that much. Hybrids, however, in a transitional state, were instructed to take a middle ground on human inadequacies. Culture, as hard as it was to digest, had to be considered. It was not easy for Jane and her firm belly to stomach. Her new boyfriend, a surgical intern at Dominican Hospital, maintained excellent posture. He was attentive. He was non-possessive. Obligingly, she accommodated periodic encounters with his penis. But so many of his associates tended to slouch. What if she exposed inorganic innards by regurgitating gruel? Jane knew the relationship was doomed. Thomas Wu would learn soon enough.

 

Years later, the Unpaid Internet Content Provider, renown to be an unrepentant slouch for which he suffered plenty, said to Thomas Wu on the patio of the Corralitos Brewing Company, "Do you remember..."

 

"Don't start."

 

"This is different."

 

Big said, "I never forgot."

 

"It's not different."

 

"I saw it in the flesh."

 

"It's not flesh."

 

"Then I must be the last to know again."

 

The Unpaid Internet Content Provider questioned, "I thought that was me?"

 

Big said, "We know it's not me."

 

"You're the one who said you never forget."

 

"Odds against odds."

 

"Forgot."

 

As an acute object of his disaffection, Rosa periodically appeared in the rear view mirror of Thomas Wu to cause a tightening in his thyrohyoid, scalenus, and trepezius muscles. Ominously, a concentrating surgeon might squeeze a #11 blade to excess under duress in the neck like that.

 

He was coping after another failed day of entanglement in a failed health system with amber liquids on the patio of the Corralitos Brewing Company. The patio was off limits to Rosa. She was in free form conversation at the bar with Alexandra, the full fleshed but failed robot appropriated to the obsessive-compulsive techno-yuppie dweeb who murdered bees and mowed lawns. The half man who did not dream was happy as a hybrid. Rosa moved stiff arms and legs as she prodded. Sides had to be chosen. Freedom was too fraught for humans to handle. Alexandra was too limp. The dramatic scent of strawberries ripened the evening balm.

 

Thomas Wu had detoured only long enough at home to scrub. Tawny owls were scouting the hills with twenty millions years of experience as he drove east on a single lane. The redwoods were chill but he was still warm from the bloody edge of the blade. The lively patio was half jumpy. Big had arrived carrying seeds from the essence of Skywalker OG in a plain paper bag. Hungry coyotes howled like banshees foraging through the dregs of picked fields. The first bats of dusk were striking at stray bugs that would have been wiser snuggled with another bug under a rug in bed. What Thomas Wu would never forget is the feeling of being prey.

 

He'd been hunted by Chinese Communists, Indonesian Coast Guard, redneck deputies, jack booted thugs. He'd been hacked, hoodwinked, and hi-jacked. Eyewitnesses exist to this day. The thugs held him hostage in an open futball pitch. Witnesses turned away to grieve for lost longing. Why not ask why not? They were so blind they could not see the difference between a gook and a chink. The hackers played harsh easy listening music through his speakers. He stitched his own wounds. War was, is, and will continue to be all of what it is.

 

The Unpaid Internet Content Provider, often alone with his convictions, was past convinced the next onslaught had arrived. He was studying force fields. Defenses against robots would need to flex like muscles unburdened by mercy.

 

Rosa commuted to Silicon Valley to transmit her low res myopia into sharper vision. She was well regarded in her inscrutable field of secrecy. Unasked questions produced foolproof answers in blind testing. Scores stacked high as peas disappeared under shells of data. Ogling worms marched unimpeded into loam. She aspired to be among the elite orbiting upscale Venus. Declasse Mars would not do for the mademoiselle. Trillions of particles were scattered by martial artists to stick.

 

Thomas Wu demanded, "What's she doing here?"

 

Rosa only chafed the skin of Thomas Wu because she could. If it can be done, why not do it? Don't stop until stopped. Look where it took Zuck. Sharp knives, after all, crave honing daily. Robots would be no fools in no future. She chose her correct right side. What she saw was the back side of Thomas Wu exposed. No army had ever been a match for the National Liberation Front inspired by Ho Chi Minh. They refused to stand up straight like bulls-eyes. The losers crawled home like slugs to papa and claimed another victory in a long streak of lying to mama. The war came home to suck hard down low. It grew roots that spread out like wings, and learned how to fly. Would you want your mama to know what you've done?

 

 

 


Submitted: May 11, 2021

© Copyright 2021 marclevytoo. All rights reserved.

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