No Telling What

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Thom Wu, who was born on a plywood platform above the dirt floor where his mother fed mulberry leaves to silk worms on the Yungui Plateau, awoke in a colorless condo on a cliff above Monterey Bay. From there he could stroll to surf no higher than head high waves at Pleasure Point as a means of improving consciousness, strength, spontaneity, and balance. Some days, in a world that spins, were better than others.


The condo was designed to be colorless by a certifiable professional in the field who charged a flat fee plus additional hourly rates. She tried to explain for expensive minutes how so very distracting colors can be to the attainment of artistry at its peak. It was his mistake to listen.


That was hardly the sole reason his day veered off course like a second class scud rocket that fizzled in a drab desert and left him behind, but he blamed it anyway. He also blamed entitled patients who behaved poorly and interfered due to stubborn cases of arrested development, personality disorders, and chronic itches married to odd quirks. Where contradictions abound, which is everywhere, not just here or there, anything can happen along any string of time in a warped and winding simulation of space. There were dawns when the sky stayed dark and refused to budge. There was and is no proof he was guilty.


By the time Thom Wu selected a beer able to withstand the heat, a blonde ale brewed in dry Sparks, Nevada, and sat down that evening on the comfy patio of the Corralitos Brewing Company, half of the fiery sauce defiantly whipped into shape by his tiny mother for the char siu pork was gone.


He complained, "What's left for me?"


Innocently, Big replied, "We weren't sure you'd show up."




The Unpaid Internet Content Provider contributed, "Don't forget to center your breathing and relax the death grip on your hips."


"Who else is we?"


The elusive answer to the question often asked, what chance did the overblown and underwhelming brains of the doomed species so determined to ravage Earth have before escape, remained beyond reach? What other species so carelessly plotted and carried out its own extermination? It used to be such a free rambling planet with cool oceans for floating.


"You know your mother is not happy with you."


"She loves you best."


"I visit."


"You love her for her dumplings."


"I saved you some."


"Am I supposed to be grateful?"


"And I saved an intact pair of xiaolongbao just for you."


"Your pronunciation is getting better."


"You learn by doing."


"What about shrimp?"


"You doubt?"


"Prove it."


"If I'm not getting better I'm falling behind."


The tiny Chinese mother of Thomas Wu, not a Thom to her, a known firebrand in Oakland's Chinatown, was rarely contented by her surly American son who refused to honor her fiction of his ancestors with reverential visits each week. Only Big, who was the size of three tiny Chinese mothers disappointed by their willful American children, was able to lift the container she packed. In addition to the char siu pork and the pan fried dumplings with peppery Hunan dipping sauce, the tiny mother of Thomas Wu provided a rotating array of favorites from the Yunnan and Guizhou, sesame noodles, bok choy with chicken in garlic sauce, Sichuan green beans, and Sichuan pan fried peppers


"I left some weed oil for her to try in the dumplings next week."


"Anything for you."


"For her arthritis."


"She doesn't have arthritis."


"Since when did you get so all uppity about her complaints?"


"Medical school."


"I believe her."


"Another product of the white professional elites."


"Except I'm Chinese."


"You look like an American from Sacramento to me."


"What about believing me?'


"Less so."


"What's this black stuff?"


"Tree fungus."




"It grows on you."


"That I believe."


"I'd eat that again," the Unpaid Internet Content Provider offered.


"You are."


"I'm very certain we've had this exact conversation before."


"There's all the market research you need."


"You still gotta pay."


"That's extortion."


"Repeat, repeat, repeat after me."


"What if we're just a part of a vast broken simulation stuck like a needle in a scratchy groove?"


"That conversation, too."


"Picture Earth chosen for its many colors."


"Stuck like a scratchy needle in the groove."


"It doesn't take much to feel superior."


"Here's another one. I'm being watched by robots again."


"That's what your mother says"


"I'm sure of it."


"And so on and so on and scooby-dooby-doo on."


"This time it's a dog."


"Oh no, not him again."


"That dog barks very distinctively like a pig with a stuffed snout."


"Sloppy coding."


"The intervals are not random."


"He's got to have pig in him, too."


"And hyena."


"Hyenas don't share."


"That's why pigs deny evolution."


"Where's the wicked witch when Dorothy needs her most?"


A large number of degrees around the only round table on the patio of the Corralitos Brewing Company were covered by a larger number of opinions. Some were meant to be heard of never again. Asses filling chairs to capacity proved able to bend space at uncertain angles. Two dissimilar opinions were apt to blow from the same ass at the same relative time. You did not have to ask Einstein for proof to hear all about it.


"I've paid enough."


"There is never enough."


"Proof you are American as they come."


Unlike the Unpaid Internet Content Provider, for example, making common sense always felt important to Thom Wu. He was able to parse the vernacular as well as any nimrod ABC, the cocky American-born Chinese with aspirations to coolness, although he wasn't. He did not wear a baseball cap backwards. He did not pretend to enjoy martial arts movies or hip-hop. He had as much trouble understanding customer service from Bangalore as any Badger from Baraboo, Oshkosh, Appleton, or Eau Claire.


The Unpaid Internet Content Provider only needed to make enough sense to achieve personal satisfaction and not so much as to feel unduly restrained by common denominators. He was drinking one intoxicant, then another, though not to his hearts content.


Dangerously, he proclaimed, "I've been thinking."


"Uh oh."


we learn all."


"That's not right," Thom Wu carped.




man bites dog?"


"There goes the old if/then clause again."


"Does it really taste like chicken?"


There are no odds in an up front game to explain the plural appearances of an ill-disguised robot dog on the butt end of a long wireless leash. It would wait at the top of the stairs leading from the beach at Pleasure Point to bark at Thom Wu after a session of surfing. Nothing about the so-so surfing skills of Thom Wu warranted a second look. Even if that canine bark came out more like a porcine snort. But, Thomas Wu seemed to know too much of who knows what about robots according to who knows who. Up close, the fake dog was hard to miss. Was this a pattern beginning to develop like a smudged ink blot by the third day? The handler had to be nearby. Discreetly, he scanned the scene of onlookers on the cliff.


As the handler of the handler, Zev Vlaski was becoming increasingly concerned. The cliff of sand on which he stood was less than stable. It was not only there he was not alone. The additional pair of spying eyes set loose to prowl at Pleasure Point did not have to speak the language of the imperialist lackeys to agree. So many smiles on these faces of so many colors were suspicious. Was his vital mission in jeopardy of exposure? Failure was not an option. He tried to predict what his infallible fearless leader would demand. How could there be so many grown men with beards free to run wild wearing short pants like toddlers. Without contact or direction from the party so far away, he as a lowly individual would be forced to choose.


Later, in recounting his serial version of events at the Corralitos Brewing Company, Thom Wu had to admit that he too had been skeptical at first when applying the illogic.


The Unpaid Internet Content Provider proclaimed, "This really is where man bites dog for real."


The snorts of the robot dog operated on a short loop of altered bass notes modeled after Russian military marches of the twentieth century, very stirring in near Siberia. Alexandra, full fleshed though failing robot, goose stepped in tandem to the tunes when receiving packages from the parcel services during snorting events. She felt fulfilled alongside. Maintaining the monotony of her character, she never had the chance to experience rhythm.


Foo Goo Loo, the spy on a vital mission from North Korea to the fertile Pajaro Valley was by the third day of surveillance past curious how a pampered American dog would taste at home cooked on a skewer. By then, perhaps infected by the contagion of aberrant behaviors from the local masses, he wanted it now, not then, and he wanted it bad. Very much layered fat on such a short chubby dog, he mused. How could it not be delicious? Perhaps a sweet and tart marinade would enhance. His mother would know how. He was indignant when informed no barbecue dog was available to be delivered to his room at the Wagon Wheel Motel, along with pizza, falafel, tacos, sushi, and pork chow mein, aghast at the decadence of abundant food, adequate shelter, sunshine, comfort, and activity with no limits or controls clamped on the counterrevolutionary renegades. As a spy, he was unsure if he qualified for diplomatic immunity if captured.


Alexandra had proven to be serviceable at maneuvering the leash of the robot dog in tight corners with none the wiser. As her handler, Zev was not displeased. As a senior executive member of the committee deciding her fate he was still torn. She represented a large investment. Fingers with sharp nails would be pointed. As the chief technical officer and equity partner he was not optimistic. She displayed all the classic beta signs of futzing and fizzling, a reject. He had too many crumbs on his plate to parse hers. He had to consider the value of her precious metals as scrap. She perceived no threat, for example, from the rotund tourist with a boxy camera around his neck edging ever closer to the position of her robot dog. The robot dog was secretly designed with hacked data in near Siberian Russia for use in reconnaissance and patrol. It was equipped, per the hype of its disingenuous sales brochure, with an advanced perception system, tactile and ultrasonic sensors, microphones, cameras, and global positioning. It could run and fetch with the best of bitches. Tough as shit, too, in a hissy fit, cat fight, or biped brawl. A bug up the snout explained the snort. New bugs were in the pipeline, developing.


The robot dog not only heard commands, but obeyed commands. It obeyed the commands from Alexandra above all. Zev had not been paying careful attention to the shade in those shadows. In reviewing the videos of Thom Wu surfing he began to consider, Why am I not doing that? That looks like fun. Every big brain needs new stimulation. I could do that.


In his stead, Alexandra became the unchallenged mistress of the robot dog, a Czarina in her realm, at last. She did not worry about style, fit, polish, or acceptance by mere humans. She felt proud to be a superior robot. Secretly, she was amping the ferocity of her robot dog. Conquest of naive humans will depend upon the ability to inflict pain. Next: maximizing the bite.


Not an ass seated at the round table had not been bitten for real. It came as no surprise to see it was Big, while maintaining his steady grip on an overrated pint of hazy IPA from SoCal, who asked the meaningful question, "What happens when you are stoned on the beach at sunset and listening to the Grateful Dead on your trippy Spotify mix and your bluetooth speaker threatens to choke your throat and pierce your ear drums if you don't comply?"


"The first time?"


"Not the first time."


"More than once is too much."


"Game over."


When Foo Goo Loo made his ill-fated attempted to snatch, grab, and run with the robot dog, Alexandra grabbed and snatched back. Her graceless knee jerked like a tom turkey. He'd jammed the wrong button in the wrong butt. She pressed hard on control and assumed dominant command. Synthesis rammed thesis in the fucking balls. Push came to kick, pull, and punch, and shove. The perfect part in his hair came artlessly unglued. Her battery was charged with 88% power. Up close, he smelled like canned spam. He suffered from jet lag, crabs, and high blood pressure, too. Her composite shell was impervious to the smell.


Contradictions, as the second most basic building block of the multiverse will tend, did its dialectical thing. A whole lotta shakin' carried on. Sparks and feathers flew from cocks with crowns. That's how clashes come about. That's how repetition, repetition, repetition, starts all over again to get back to where it once belonged. It was and is no contest. Catch the ride if you can and get away to higher ground. Who was it who declared once and for all of mere posterity, "Badges? We don't need no stinking badges."


While Dr Wu tended at the scene of the crime to the fallen Foo Goo Loo as compelled by his Hippocratic oath, he captured the eye of Alexandra looking back in full panicky flight. She needed to be juiced. Tangled wiring from the damaged robot dog was cuddled in her arms. She was newly filled with terrible purpose. He wasn't going to be fooled, though. He enjoyed learning something new every day. He had learned how to run but not to hide.


Who knew where they were going Zev Vlaski would get to first?


Hoisting a last tasty brew Thom Wu proclaimed, "Last call on me. The game is not over. The game begins now."

Submitted: January 21, 2022

© Copyright 2022 marclevytoo. All rights reserved.

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