By: Robt. Emmett
“We’re excited about Amazon Prime Air. We have developed a delivery system that will safely deliver packages to your customers in thirty minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles. Our APA drones will….”
“Ya know, listening to that TV commercial just now, I had a thought.”
My wife stopped knitting and looked at me over the top of her narrow designer glasses. I could read her mind.
Wonderful, please enlighten me.
“Can you imagine what your father would think of delivering packages with drones? Or any of the other things we have now days.” She shook her head as she added a couple more stitches. “I know, I know, Harold died over thirty years ago, but wouldn’t it be neat if he could come back and see the change?”
Her needles paused their clicking, “Neat?”
I yawned. Morning caffeine, here I come, I thought as I wandered into the kitchen. “Harold! What are you doing here? You’re….”
“I’m waiting for my coffee. I looked, but I couldn’t find your Percolator.”
“Percolator, we use a Keurig. It makes one cup at a time, any kind you want.”
“One cup atta time, this I gotta see.” He shook the last cigarette from a wrinkled pack of Old Golds. “Oh, by the way, where’s an ashtray? I might as well have a smoke while I’m waiting.”
“We don’t smoke anymore, so we got rid of our ashtrays.” He removed the cellophane, crumpled the empty pack, and dropped it on the kitchen table. “I’ll just use the wrapper as an ashtray.”
“No.” I handed him a saucer and dropped an ARCO coffee pod into the coffee machine.
Pointing at the empty cigarette pack, he asked, “Where can I get some more smokes?”
“In your day, cigarettes were sold everywhere. Now they are sold in Smoke Shops.” He sent me a doubting look over the top of his bifocals. “But I’ll Google it for ya,” I said.
His jaw dropped. The match burnt his fingers. “What the hell is a Google, anyway?”
“It’s a search engine.”
“An’ just what’s a search engine anyhow?”
“It’s a program on my computer that….”
“Is that what you have in that new shed … a computer? I knew you made good money, boy, but hot-damn, that’s something, owning a computer and building a garage to house it is really something.”
I picked a cell phone off the hutch. “It functions through my phone. All….”
He swiveled his head from my hand to where the black wall phone once hung. “That’s a phone? Bushwa.”
(He makes up words. I think, he thinks bushwa means bullshit in French, it doesn’t.)
“Oh, it’s a phone and a whole lot more. It’s also a GPS,” I said.
“What in thunderation is a GPS, anyway?” He struck another match and lit his cigarette.
“It means Global Position System. A bunch of satellites, about twenty-two thousand miles out in space, tells where you are. It can navigate you from place to place. And even tell you the elevation at your location.”
“Tells your elevation from out in space, that’s pure horse-pucky!” He blew a smoke ring. “You mean to tell me that thing in your in your hand can find a place to buy cigarettes, this I gotta see.”
I picked up the cell phone, “Find me a store that sells Old Gold cigarettes.”
“Who are you talking to?”
“The phone, actually a computer, it’ll tell me where the nearest Smoke-Shop is. And it will even give me directions and a map.”
“And I ‘spose it’ll tell ya the elevation.” Tapping his head, “That don’t fit in my beggie.”
“If I asked, it would.”
“Pshaw, you talk like someone with a paper asshole.”
A woman slid the window open and asked, “What do you need?”
“One, ah no, two packs of Old Gold cigarettes.”
“I need to see an I.D.”
“They’re not for me.”
She slowly exhaled. “I see.”
I didn’t like the tone of her voice. “They’re for my father-in-law.” She said something to the tall person standing in the shadow near her.
“An I.D. to buy smokes? Let’s go, boy, she can go piss up a rope.”
(He always called me ‘boy,’ when he was unhappy at something or someone other than me. When I’m the object of his ire, he uses the term, ‘Chum’. The last time he’d used that word was the third date I’d had with his daughter. He never calls me Chum anymore because now I’m his favorite Son-in-Law. I’m his only Son-in-Law.)
I turned right onto Milton Avenue and chirped my truck’s tires. It might be a good idea to put a little space between the Smoke-Shop and us. I knew the Smoker’s Depot was a mile or so away. Hopefully, they wouldn’t be as fussy about their customers I.D.
“Boy, turn around. There’s that place I usta have coffee at.”
“Yep, that’s the place. Great coffee and the service was the best.”
I looked at my father-in-law, “Times change, Harold.” I turned into the nearly empty parking lot and parked diagonally. Or as he would call it – Katty-whampious and we went inside.
The look on his face was priceless. “Where is the counter? Who’s gonna take our order?”
“We have to place our order at the DOK.”
“What in tarnation is DOK?”
“The workers here demanded a wage increase to fifteen dollars an hour.”
“Fifteen dollars an hour, hells bells, I drove truck and never made that kinda money.”
“The owner installed Digital Ordering Kiosks to take your order, and just like a real person, it’ll ask you if you want cream or sugar with coffee. Best of all, it kept the prices the same, but forty-three percent of the former workers were laid-off.”
“That’s ridiculous, let’s head back to your place and you can make a cup of that one cup at a time Cur-egg coffee.”
I parked my truck in the driveway. The dogs were standing at backyard gate, tails wagging waiting to be let in the house.
I opened the back door and smelled the coffee. The wife’s up, I thought.
She was surprised to see me, “Where have you been?”
“Your Dad wanted to get some smokes. I took him to the Smoke-Shop, but when they wanted to card us, I split. Then he wanted to stop at McDonald’s and we did. But he got mad when he had to use a DOK.”
“Yeah, your father,” I said.
“Exactly where is my father now?”
I swung my arm around and pointed at … my jaw dropped. Only the tail-wagging dogs were behind me. “He was just….”
“Dad died over thirty years ago. You know as well as I do.”
“But,” I was completely flummoxed. (One of his words, not mine.) “He was here when I woke up this morning and wanted coffee. He….”
“He’s dead, Rob. I wish it were otherwise, but sadly, he’s gone, gone forever.”
I had to agree with her logic. “You’re right, dear.” I kissed her on the cheek as I picked up the crumpled Old Gold pack off the table and slipped it into my pants pocket, “As usual.”
– Ԙ –