by John Birge
forum: Profit
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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        Ed Harrigan tried not to look nervous. He had practiced in front of a mirror all morning, unable to get any work done. When he had gone out for a smoke, he had retreated behind the bikeshed, to smoke in peace. "In peace" meant that he leaned his head as far back as he could, inhaled deeply, and with all the breath he could muster blew the smoke straight up, so that he would not stink of cigarettes. He then washed his hands carefully, and now he was ready. Ready to present his invention to the board of assorted men with salaries an average of forty-three times his.

        Ed worked for the PolyEver Corporation and "liked" his job. It was a good job, and he would like to keep it. But if they liked his idea... Wow! A million dollars, literally. Exactly why they expected him to come up with something revolutionary, he did not know, but he was flattered and thought it rude to ask. Nobody had ever thought much of his opinion, not in school and not at work. But perhaps these men did. Perhaps their fancy isala researchers could not think like the average man? That was probably it.

        He tried not to look nervous, but was painfully aware that he merely looked autistic. If he tried to look confident, he looked like a wounded mutt. He knew; he had seen that in the mirror. But it did not matter. All that mattered was the presentation. They were ready to begin. They were waiting for him,

        He tried to conceal—and failed—that he had breathe deeply.

        "Gentiles," he said, clinging to a speech he had of late rehearsed more than the corpy pledge of allegiance, "I am here to present, to you, members of the board and other distinguished… with the Cafebox."

        He was nervous now, and sweating. Wet. Hot. Like urine from armpits.

        "Cafebox is, of course, Jukebox and Café in one word. See, the Cafebox is not just a coffee machine. I mean, it's a good coffee machine... But it's also... A stereo! When you're making your coffee, and it's early in the morning, and you want something, I mean some music, to get you started... I know I do."

        He invited the very important people around him to laugh, but they did not. Mineral and water, armpits. He cleared his throat and continued.

        "So you can have different colours, and different shells, sold separately. A collector's thing."

        At the end of his presentation, Vice President Gregorz Pcep stood up, eyes fixed on Ed, dwarfing him. Ed wanted to go to the toilet, he wanted to take a bath, he wanted to eat. Panic seized him, horrible panic.

        "I don't think we need to discuss this, do you?" Ed's heart went black. He looked around, seeking unnecessary approval for his thought. Quiet nods and serious, closed eyes agreed.

        "You don't?" managed Ed. "But I haven't told you about the (What now, Ed?), the shells and the lightsystem."

        "Ed? Ed, don't worry. We like it. You the man."

        Aware of how stupid the question was, Ed asked, "You like it? Really?"

        "Of course! It's exactly what we were looking for. Your Cafebox, a very interesting prole-portmanteau."

        The greetings continued until Ed's heart was about to burst of joy, spilling fluttering kittens on polished corporate floors and he thanked them, and them thanked him, and he was. Approved. Human.

        After having returned to his workstation and found himself unable to work, he did something he had always wanted to do. He walked a few inches above the ground and bought two cigars, floated back and asked his manager to join him for a cigar and he accepted. Importance and immortality tugged at his extremities.

        "So, how does it feel?" asked Patty, his manager.

        "Absolutely brilliant." He tasted the cheap cigar and loved every breath of life and stimuli.

        "You know, I have to tell you, I would have never thought of anything like it."

        Ed could not help smiling. "Guess not."

        "I mean," said his slender, muscular, ambitious manager, "to come up with something like that..."

        "Somewhat like?" smoked Ed.

        "Something as bloody stupid as that!" Puff. Inhale.

        "What?" laughed Ed nervously.

        "I know. It's so idiotic. I entered, you know, but I do not have your imagination. The—what was it?—the Cafebox, is to bomb for sure."

        Mutilated in uncertainty and obedience as usual, Ed limped back to his workstation, to confirm his fears. They were true. Stoic stupidity rewards itself. For one in a million. The contest goal was: to invent something that will surely bomb, to lower average standard in order to raise cost of real products. Different phrasing, but the geist of it was evident for all to see, for all who read carefully.

        Inmem Excerpt (profitmargin, as explained by D. Adams): "If we sell shit products, sold packaged with stupid ideas to stupid consumers, we can immediately jack up the price of our actual products by 40%. Subtracting the average of 20% loss on your product, it's still a twenty percent gain."

        "Can economy work like that?" Ed didn't know anything about economics. If they said it worked like that, it did.

        The working day done, Ed walked out of PolyEver rich. Rich! So his ideas were worthless. He was 'insulted', sure, but a million dollars compensated. He had been insulted by most people and most things all his life. At least, and at last, he was getting paid.

        Economy had always been science fiction to him anyway. Thoughts like manatees. Epiphany at last; he'd better convert this million into something of actual value. Just paper.

        Civilisation was founded on the principle that nobody would ever, beyond thought, wealth, beyond families and dynasties and states and hours and shows and powers, principalities, thrones and dominions, realise it was all a dream. Dreams and paper. The most precious things to man.






copyright 2007 John Birge.

John Birge:

A traveller, visitor and writer of worlds, John Birge is a young off-beat writer by night and an avid beer drinker in the day. Although primarily producing prose, he occasionally enjoys having poem or two rejected for being "not quite for us". Other interests include ball games, distorted music and occult studies.

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