Author: Ken Carlson

The light turned red. The red Jeep didn’t give Paul a moment and beeped twice. He looked in the rearview mirror and gently applied some gas.

He drove slowly around the town. That was the point of Saturdays. Take your time and don’t rush around like the rest of the week. There was traffic, but no one was in a hurry.

His Chevy Citation, an ’84, two-tone brown, had just cracked the 100,000-mile mark, not bad for an eight-year-old car. He’d have to hold onto it til the girls graduated from college.

He glanced at his Casio, the kind with the built-in calculator. He’d laughed at the notion of needing an adding device on his wrist. 15 years ago, it would have been a technological marvel, but now? Who needed to drop everything and divide 45 by 7?

Well, when you went to dinner with a large group, had to split the bill and figure out the tip, it helped. His cousin Bobby who ran a tire shop out Route 34 gave him some crap about it, but then admitted five times a day he had to run back to his desk and waste time running numbers. Who had time to waste doing that? If he could get over how nerdy it looked, maybe he’d get one.

Paul pulled into the Hollywood Video parking lot near Society for Savings Bank, relieved he could kill two birds with one stop. He reached for the Fried Green Tomatoes cassette, smiling a little because he ended up liking it. Mary was tired of Bond or Schwarzenegger flicks all the time.

As he reached for the door handle, Paul felt a stinging in his eyes, nothing serious. He squinted, rubbed them gently, and yawned.

When he opened his eyes, he got knocked around and heard a loud noise from the rear tire. His head bumped the ceiling. The driver of this Honda Element apologized; hadn’t seen the pothole. Where did they find these people? And when was the last time you saw an Element? They were as endangered waiting room or gas pumps without TV screens.

Paul scrolled through his messages. Mary texted him, wanted him to pick up some goat cheese. He asked the driver to swing by the Farmer’s Market over on State Street. He texted her back and checked his bank account.

Paul told him he’d be just a minute as he got out of the car. The driver was already checking his phone, waving with disinterest.

The market was fairly busy; lots of foot traffic past the folding tables and tents; dairy farmers next to bread makers next to the hipster who made fresh cider donuts. Everyone in attendance seemed to have a dog. Everyone seemed relaxed. An acoustic guitarist and his buddy on mandolin meant to keep it that way.

Paul spied the table he was looking for. It was about 20 yards up on the left. That stinging in his eyes returned. Suddenly he noticed an increase in foot traffic as he squinted into the sun. The table was becoming harder to reach as it disappeared from view.

The system responded to the alert. 46-97511-P wasn’t receiving data properly. The subject, a 53-year-old male, remained in stasis, compartment 46, section 307, row D of the North Wing. Automatically, the system adjusted by shifting from one relay to another. In a matter of moments, a temporary fix had been completed and repair request submitted. EOF.