I’d solved my first problem earlier today–I was no longer homeless at the start of the month. This, however, only exacerbated my second problem, which was how to transport my belongings from my old apartment in Brooklyn to my new one, which was within shouting distance of the Bronx. While I didn’t actually own much, the idea of schlepping it over the entire length of Manhattan was enough to make me want to douse it all in napalm and ignite it. That wouldn’t work, though, inasmuch as I couldn’t afford to replace any of it.
Solving unsolvable problems, though, was my specialty, and so I set my right brain to the puzzle while my left brain typed up the notes I’d taken from my Jane Plains concert review and feature from last night. Both sides were brought to a halt when the cell phone in my desk went off.
I should probably point out that this phone wasn’t mine. Some fuck-nozzle had dropped it onto the East Village after shouting a strange obscenity in my general direction. I’d kept it, because hey why not? I answered it for the same reason.
“The electronic device into which you speak is my property,” the phone told me.
“Finders keepers,” I replied. I had no intention of keeping the thing, mind you, but the whole experience that put it into my hand was kind of ludicrous, and I wanted answers. In my profession, I’d come to discover that adversity, if massaged properly, tended to produce answers.
“I find your immaturity to be unpleasant.”
I opened my mouth to speak, but the directness of the statement was kind of startling, and so I closed it again.
The voice continued, “I am prepared to negotiate for its release.”
“Why don’t you just buy a new one?”
“I would prefer not to follow that course.”
“Are you a robot?” I asked sincerely.
“I fail to see the pertinence of that question.”
“So you’re not denying it.”
He sighed–or simulated a sigh; I had no way of telling. “Decorum dictates that I should utter your name in frustration at this point, but since I have not yet been made aware of it, I would prefer to bypass this and remind you that I am willing to exchange a great deal to repossess that cell phone.” He added, “I should probably make it known that I am remarkably wealthy. So what is it you want?”
“Okay,” I said. There was a lot I could use right now, I’ll admit, but none of that would clarify the situation that put me into this position of strength. You see, the man on the other end of this phone didn’t freak out that night when he saw me; he freaked out when he saw my best friend. When I asked her to explain, she absolutely refused. If there was one thing I hated, it was not knowing something. “I want you to tell me how you know Lisa Green and why you reacted that way to her.”
“As a businessman,” he replied, “the term I would use to describe such an offer is deal-breaker.”
“I thought you were going to give me what I want!”
“The word I employed was negotiate,” he told me.
“Don’t you want your phone back?”
“I am willing to purchase another.”
“Because you don’t want to talk about some girl?”
“Lisa Green can hardly be described as some girl.”
All right, I had to give him that one. But still… “That’s crazy!”
I massaged my eyes. “You drive a hard bargain.”
“Doing so is my livelihood.”
With a sigh, I confessed, “I’m moving from Park Slope to Inwood after work tomorrow, and I don’t have a car or any money.”
“I require your current address, your new address, and a convenient time of departure.”
I grinned. “I bet your cybernetic arms can lift a lot.”
“Nonsense,” he replied. “I’ll be utilizing professionals.”
“But your cybernetic arms could lift a lot, though, right?”
“The information I requested, if you please.” After I provided it, he told me, “I will be present at your new residence when you arrive so that we may conclude this transaction, and subsequently, our relationship.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I’m Max, by the way.”
“Sean,” he replied.
“Let me guess, it stands for ‘Synthetic Engineered Android… Ah hell, what does the N stand for?”
He hung up.
I shrugged. “That went well.”