Author: Cheri Vazquez

It was 1978 and I was on my way to a job interview at the most exclusive fine dining restaurant in New City. I’d coifed my hair into what I believed to be worthy of the sommelier position. My satin slacks pinched at my waist securing a silver silk blouse I had purchased at Barneys, my throat dry as I traded my last meal cards for the clothing. The tag scratched at my neck. I wove my way through grey suits and leather briefcases until I was interrupted by the familiar buzzing. I tapped the receiver switch behind my left ear.

Not now, please not now, I willed the message not to be a calling.

The alert came through a tiny circular speaker, patchy with static. I thought of my roommate flashing her shiny updated speaker.

“They’re so worth it”, she had said beaming in the mirror.

I had nodded and said, “I’ll check them out.” The installations themselves were out of my range much less the actual equipment.

In the middle of the cushioned sidewalk, the monotone voice came through clearly enough, “Emma Reed, report to the nearest Founder, if you are unsure of its location, press Direct and our locater agents will give directions for the preferred route.”

I checked the countdown, 45 minutes. If I missed this interview there would be little chance of rescheduling. 15 minutes to the restaurant, at least a 30-minute interview, impossible even if I ran the remaining distance. I had thought they were done with me.

Haven’t I done enough? I sighed and reached down to auto-de-heel my shoes, a small comfort I could afford.

“Reply,” I pressed the record button, “Please note the request has come at a time most inconvenient for the receiver. Request for a delay.”

Only a few seconds passed before the alert sounded, “Receiver, request denied. Please report to the nearest Founder…” I waved my hand to silence the automatic response that sounded cruel and cold after my distressed reply.

The suns were hanging bright and heavy, I undid the top button of my blouse as I turned away from the possibility of a normal future. A silver concart with raised lettering, Breakfast- the MOST important meal of the day! whirled towards me spitting out steam as tiny cups revolved on a conveyor belt. A smiling replica of an Old-World cartoon bunny in a black hat spoke in my general direction.

“Why not have a sip?”

Why not, I thought. The bunny ones always got me.

The slot wheezed as if out of breath as it sucked my coins into the belly of the cart. A gentle stream of foamy liquid poured from the curled spout into one of the waiting aluminum cups. I sipped as I walked the last block, savoring the cool bittersweet foam, the flavor something nutty reminding me of last year’s Founders Day cakes.

At the Founder site, I opened a steel-framed door to a repurposed phone booth, I always marveled at the thought of people having to use a handheld device to communicate. The door resealed itself, and any feelings of freedom dissipated into pressurized air. The booth’s glass walls and plump white seat were pristine, Old-World lavender tickled my nose. I noted the fingerprints on the glass lever and felt a sense of satisfaction that the cleaners had missed something. The sound of clunking gears prompted me to grab the lever and pull. I sat back as a soft glow lit the tiny room. I sank out of the sunlight and left the future behind.