There was a young lady at the door. They were always sending young ladies.

She rang the doorbell again. Mzee looked at the screen for a few more minutes. She was very pretty, well groomed, her hair black and shiny, like India ink. She was holding a bouquet of flowers, a wildflower bouquet. One of the flowers was tucked neatly in her hair. When he opened the door, she bowed.

“Good morning Grandfather,” she said, smiling politely.

“Go away,” said Mzee. She bowed again and walked right past him into the house. Mzee grumbled. “I’m not your Grandfather.”

The girl smiled politely. “My name is Sophia,” she said, walking directly to his kitchen. “May I prepare your breakfast?” She reached under his kitchen fountain and took out a crystal vase. All these women always knew where everything in his house was. She clipped the ends of the flowers and arranged them artfully in the vase on the dining room table.

“I would like bacon,” said Mzee.

Sophia–in all likelihood not her real name, probably had a name he couldn’t pronounce–bowed again. “I will prepare you a salad and a vegetable omelet,” she announced, her hands folded. She bowed again and went into the kitchen, clattering about with his generator.

“I don’t like to eat salads,” said Mzee. “Salad for breakfast isn’t right.” At no time during Mzee’s five hundred and thirty years of life was salad at breakfast an acceptable norm. Sophia nodded, smiled and bowed again. She prepared him a salad and a vegetable omelet, using fresh, not synthesized products. Mzee wanted to hate her and the breakfast, but all these girls were good cooks, and none of it was really awful. Maybe the food was a little bland, but not bad.

“Grandfather, after breakfast, would you like to go for a walk?”

“No.” There was a time when Mzee would have loved to go for a walk with a pretty girl, when he was only home to sleep, always out, moving in the world.

“There are some school children who would like to meet you,” said Sophia, as she waved a glowing globe over his dishes, shining their porcelain surfaces.


“You are a great man.”

“I’m not a great man. I was a truck driver. I worked in dock, unloading things from ships. I had a farm. I grew things for people to smoke.”

“I’m sure the children would like to hear about it.”

“I don’t want to go out.” Outside was always strange. In here, he could keep things just the way he liked, in a way that made sense. The world had become incomprehensible, at once lewd and bound by etiquette he didn’t understand.

“Grandfather, you are a living record. You have a responsibility to the young people. The children should hear from you what tobacco plants looked like, how people drove cars, what people wore.” Sophia knelt next to his chair and put her smooth hand on top of his dark wrinkled one. “You spoke to me when I was a child, and it meant very much to me. It inspired me to pursue a degree in 21st century history. Please, allow these children the same gift you gave me. ”

“Get off the floor, girl, everyone’s gotten so god damned formal nowadays. Whatever happened to ‘just do it, ye old bastard’?” Sophia stood and bowed.

“Then you will go? You will speak to the children?”

“Yes, yes. I’ll go. I can’t do whatever it is people do with those vehicles nowadays. You’ll have to drive, or ride, or whatever it is you do.” Sophia smiled brightly, her grey eyes dancing with excitement.

“Of course.” She bowed and placed excess food into his Filter. Sophia helped Mzee out of his chair and ran around his house getting his hat, coat and Lift. She attached the little metal disc to his belt and suddenly it felt like he was floating and moving was easy again.

“Here’s the deal,” said Mzee. “I’m not going to follow any young woman around. I’m escorting you, alright?”

“Of course, Grandfather.”

Outside, pink balloons floated against the sky, barreling towards their destinations, penetrating the liquid metal of the temperature-controlled domes. The young lady’s grey eyes turned black in the sunlight, her skin darkening to suit the atmosphere. “Ready to go, Grandfather?” she asked.

Mzee sighed. “Go ahead.” She touched a silver bracelet on her wrist and a pink bubble enfolded them, like the petals of a flower.

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The Past

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