Author : Kent Rosenberger

The vidphone at the other end picked up on the second ring. “Family Affairs, how can I help you?”

“Customer number 26337NS-24.”

The attendant typed in the numbers in her computer. “Ah yes. Mr. Johnson. How can I help you?”

Johnson gave a wan smile. “Look, I’m glad you’ve been working with me at that end, but I just can’t keep up with the payments anymore. Tough economic times and all that.”

The attendant nodded. “I understand, sir. Did you want to downgrade to a cheaper program? Just until you get back on your feet?”

Johnson shook his head. “No. No, I think at this time I’d just like to cancel my subscription, if you don’t mind.”

More typing. “Of course, sir. Did you need some time, or should I make this effective immediately?”

Johnson had already made up his mind. “Immediately would be best.”

“Of course, sir. You’re paid up through the end of the month. I’ll backdate to today’s date and we’ll send you a refund directly to your account for the difference. We will inform all of your contacts on our end; work, school, church and so forth. Will there be anything else?”

“No. No, I don’t think so.”

“Alright then. If you ever want to re-subscribe, just give us a call. And sir, I am sorry for the loss you are about to suffer.”

“Thank you. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye, sir. And have a good day.” The screen went blank.

Johnson turned away from the video viewer just in time to see his wife and two children, gathered in the living room with him, wink out of existence in a static-filled blue haze. The artificial family he had come to know and love for the last twelve years was suddenly gone, more victims of the crumbling economy.

In less than a second, Bruce Johnson was no longer a husband or father. As he sat in the abrupt loneliness of his home, he wondered if he would now be considered a bachelor or a widower.

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