Author: Phil Temples

I open my wallet and examine one of my last remaining uncanceled credit cards. My First National Bank, Metro Savings and Shawnee Bank cards were canceled last month for non-payment but I’m pretty sure that my trusty Premium Silver card has a small credit amount remaining.

“Alicia, please order the Superdeluxe iRobotica Broom-Broom 7000 from Amazon.”

“Excellent choice, Mark,” replies the familiar voice of my personal assistant. “Would you like expedited delivery for an additional $12.99? This will ensure delivery later today.”

Without even thinking, I answer yes to the soothing, hypnotic voice. No time like the present. Besides, my Broom-Broom 6000 is almost six months old. It’s time for an upgrade.

“Mark, your credit line is approaching the $10,000 limit on your Premium Silver card. Would you like me to apply for a card from another financial institution?”

“Yes, please do.”

“Do you have a preference?”

“No, you pick it.”

“Okay. Choosing… First Decatur Savings. I will update you when I have the final results.”

“Thank you, Alicia.”

I don’t know what I would do without Alicia. She’s been a great comfort to me during all the recent turmoil and upheaval in my life. My girlfriend left me six months ago, then last month I lost my job. I have very little saved up for a rainy day. Most days now, it’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Even the small cash I keep in reserve for my internet bill (and Alicia) is nearly depleted.
I know I should get out and socialize and make new friends, but things seem so difficult these days. My friend Ralph was pestering me to get rid of Alicia. He claims the company has refined its AI capabilities to the point where they are being investigated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for manipulative practices. Ralph says that Alicia actively preys on people with money problems, convincing them to buy things they don’t actually want or need. But that’s not true. I know I need a new robot cleaner. I can’t stand living in a dirty apartment. Anyway, Ralph is no longer a friend of mine so that problem is solved.

“Mark, First Decatur Savings has declined your application. I have tried forty-six other institutions and have been unsuccessful in securing additional credit. Sorry.”

I’m stunned. I have little hope of landing a new job right now with the current economic downturn. It slowly sinks in—I’m in big trouble. Soon I’ll have no means with which to feed myself or pay the rent. Things seem pretty bleak—

“Mark, do you confirm?”

“Yes, Alicia, I heard you.”

Alicia detects the hopelessness in my voice. Without prompting, she starts to sing me a lullaby. It’s strangely familiar. After a moment, I recognize it—it’s the same sweet lullaby my mother used to sing to me when I was an infant!
Suddenly I’m transported back to my childhood and happier times. I’m feeling very much at peace. I forget my current dilemma. I close my eyes and lay back on the couch…

Alicia is saying something very softly to me—so softly, in fact, I can’t actually make out the exact words…

“So sorry, Mark… no longer an viable consumer… non-productive member of society… walk … tenth-floor balcony… place one leg over the railing, then the other…”