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Illustration by Jonathon Rosen.

B: There’s an asp.

A: I follow you.

B: You knew?

A: No.

B: But you follow; you do follow.

A: Yes, now.

B: I see.

A: I failed to mention that reportedly there was some mix-up. Maybe I should have said this in the meeting just now, to everyone. It’s nothing to concern yourself with, just some irregularities along the way, the way we normally do business, you know. I had assumed we would just make adjustments to the policies later, but given the circumstances with endless qualifications and the turgid pace of the operation, we decided against it. So, going forward, we should probably consider other avenues when we’re employing such usages, even in increments, piecemeal, even if we’re going by the letter, as it were. I was hoping to nail all this down today, but perhaps there are other matters we may have to think of before getting to this.

B: I don’t understand. You told me you were going to move a mountain—your words—to get this done, and now you say there was a mix-up, reportedly? Does Dridge know?

A: We tried to push forward in the usual direction, but the mix-up was more than a mountain, ultimately, though this would have to be measured. Ideally, what we’d need are more well-adjusted people, seemingly pointed in the right direction, and working together with a purpose. Certainly, these purposes still need be created, identified. Well, identified and then created. In that order. I was put in the position of addressing the complexities to staff and others, and yet there is always something missing from the discussion, things which can never be fully understood, itemized, processed. You know the drill.

B: We can get you more people—Krill, Mawktock, whoever—that’s not a problem. But I need to know a) how many people you need, and b) is there a managerial oversight problem operating here that more people is not going to fix, because c) we still need this done now. Dridge is asking.

A: Reportedly, some of the people are not well adjusted, as I implied previously, and it is not yet certain what this all entails—for instance, if the well-adjustment is to the present situation of the operation, or whether they are behind or ahead of the adjustment sought. None of these expected adjustments are actually in the handbook, which needs revision, or even a new chapter, as here, or several. We are certainly aware that this needs to be done. We are on the same page on this, certainly, though one assumes at one’s peril, as the handbook makes clear in chapter four, and even, to a less threatening extent, in chapter nine. The managerial oversight is going to be tackled, as they say, in the next meeting, I believe, by the managers themselves. We feel, or they feel, I should say, that that is their job, really, and I can’t say that I blame them.

B: Who is not well adjusted, reportedly? Krill, who? And to what? To being mismanaged? To being poorly led by uninspired Captains who do not possess the intestinal wherewithal to whip the staff into line—just really whip them all—and get us that Total Effort we’re going to need on this one?

A: In a word, yes. To being not well adjusted to the adjustment levels of the managers, who are, to different degrees, not managing the operation or themselves properly. A few seem to have risen too quickly to the positions, and so there is the thought among two or three that these few may themselves not be properly well adjusted, at least not to the standards heretofore thought consistent with the level they are at. Likewise, however, and to the point, there seems to be disagreement about this level and what it means. Again, a handbook, or something like what we are hammering down here, for instance, might well put us on a path, a lighted path, perhaps, toward understanding what they are really trying to get at first, so from there we can go forward. Because we intend to move forward. There’s no dispute there—at least none that I’m aware of.

B: Are you well adjusted, do you think?

A: I don’t follow. What are you getting at?

B: I’m just trying to identify the problem here, the Whole Problem, so I can get a handle on it and then we can together strategize some solutions. I believe, as I’m sure you do as well, that “The Only Good Conversation Is an Honest Conversation,” and so I want to know if you consider yourself well adjusted, both as a person and as a manager.

A: This sounds like shrink talk. I don’t rightly know the answer to this. There are reports, or there were reports, that I saw, that they had done on me. Reports from a kind of consultancy group. The Company had this done with everyone there, and I’m not sure the point of them, unless it was to have them on hand for some later reason that they hadn’t expected in the present, but just to be safe. Anyway, on these sheets of paper, it became clear that I had been monitored during snack times, even. The upshot of this was that there were disagreements. Purported disagreements. These were mentioned on the second page, but someone had taken a marker to various words, like in a redacting way. So I’m not sure now what the final thoughts were on me. I would defer to these papers, though, because that’s down on paper, and they are really the experts. I really don’t know beyond this my level of adjustment.

B: Do you by chance recall any of the words that had not been redacted? I’m interested particularly in the words which appeared—or didn’t appear—toward the bottom of that second page, words such as “prone” and “to” and “use” and “tape” and “excessively,” just as an example. Another example might be “masturbates” and “into” and “toilet.” These are just examples, to spur the memory.

it became clear that I had been monitored during snack times, even.

A: There were vestiges, or memories of these vestiges. I mean to say that I have memories of the vestiges of these redactions and those pieces still left standing, which always makes me wonder, Why? Why were these words left standing and others not? Were they trying to point me toward some understanding of myself, something they were hinting at? In any case, in comments outside of the cameras—they have been spotted tucked beside a wall sconce in two locations by other people—people have suggested, coworkers, that they believe, some of them, that they are being recorded still, past the need for the consultancy reports. One person, though, stated he/she felt that no one was actually viewing or listening to the recordings, but the procedure, the steps, was, were, taken to ensure against “crimes against humanity.” We all laughed at this overstatement, in a circle, but the one who said it was not laughing. So we didn’t, or I didn’t—I’m not sure what the others thought, were thinking—I didn’t know what to think.

B: A non-response response, perhaps even evasive. I am recording this. I don’t mind your knowing. I find that recordings produce Greater Honesty. Don’t you? Recordings—by which I mean audiovisual monitoring synced up with one’s heart rate, one’s thermal imaging profile, and so forth—produce more information, and more information creates a more honest state of affairs, and so we can therefore all be friends and share our appetizers, just like real friends do. Several years ago, the Board was less than convinced when I brought this formulation to them along with my plan to install high-definition digital cameras and sensitive microphones in the toilets. The men’s and the women’s? I heard. Yes, I said, of course, both. I mean, why open yourself up to charges of discrimination? Well, but the toilets, I was given to understand, are private, severely off-limits, and yet my feeling was, Why? Do we not all go tinkle? Do we not all go boop-boop? Do we not all sit there straining over our turds, crouching like animals on the bowl? To placate the Board, I offered to have the cameras and microphones installed in my personal washroom. There were some on the Board who felt that that would be the end of that. Or that I was misleading them, that I would never go through with my rashness, that I was, as they say, “Coughing into the Wrong Monkey.” But I did the Board one better: I had the equipment installed without haste, and what’s more, at the beginning of every meeting, we all watched the latest recordings of me at my labors, producing my tinkle-tinkle and my boop-boop. It must be said that I enjoyed the cameras almost as much as I relished viewing the raw footage. Sometimes, facing the onset of a difficult turd, I gazed into the cameras and made an expression that, well, I can’t demonstrate it now, here, for you, because the moment is not right. The light is not good, and I do not need to shit, sir! The best way that I can explain it is that I let my animal come forward. The recording and the viewing went on for several years, and it got to where I didn’t think of the cameras and even the most delicate members of the Board seemed not to mind my exertions, while others became true fans of my work, so familiar with my daily rhythms that they could predict my business before I did it. This was when I began masturbating into the toilet. I cannot say why except that I have since read in various books of management theory about how men in my position require relief several times a day. It is not unusual, in fact, for a man of stature to seek relief seven or five or eighteen times a day—the number is immaterial—and so that’s what I was doing. There was no element of fantasy that I recall, no exquisitely appointed bedrooms in my mind, no invisible lingerie to wring with my hands. It was just and simply and always a transaction between me and the bowl. Some on the Board indicated surprise that I would never flush, electing instead to leave the squiggle-squiggles there, but I will tell you exactly what I told them: I have always thought it important that we as a people—I am speaking of the human race now—do our best to conserve water. Water is so precious.

A: No, this is fine. Being recorded, I mean. In fact, off and on, I have begun recording myself at irregular intervals. I try to not ever get caught in a pattern, so I am always irregular in these matters. To explain, I like to have my own copy of what I’ve said, in case someone brings forward, like perhaps you yourself, an audiovisual reproduction of myself, speaking on whatever subjects and objects, just so I can have the comfort of knowing that I have an unedited copy. They can do so much now with editing, you know, that you end up sounding almost too much like yourself. I try to minimize this. I have a friend who works in archives at a government building, the work of which he cannot talk much about, and he has helped me create a kind of harness of lightweight material to wear. On the right shoulder, he was able to tap into the plastic a tiny machine screw threading so that a three-inch flexible rod could be screwed into it. On the top of the rod is an eye-shaped camera. The flexibility of the rod may need to be adjusted to something firmer, however, because it tends to bounce a bit too much, and the eye hits me in the ear if I turn quickly. It was the only way presently, though, that I could ensure that my face was being recorded as I was saying the words I was saying, so I am—well, we are—going to stick with this set-up.

I am seeking ultimate realism here, Life Unadorned by Fantasy.

B: It is a fine practice to record oneself, and I commend you for that, particularly if you are recording yourself unexpectedly, building in the whole surprise factor. The irregularity of your recordings is fine, too, of course, but unexpected irregularity would produce the best of all possible worlds. You see, one can’t—or shouldn’t—know when one is being recorded. You must wear your harness all the time, whether the camera is “on” or not, just to create familiarity, so that the harness feels like a part of you, like skin. Recording by itself, however, even good recording, is not enough. One should also watch oneself, the more regularly and studiously the better. Do you watch yourself much? You can’t just make these recordings and stockpile them like the squirrel does his nuts or the librarian does obscure journals published on the bleeding edge of neuroscience. Since the age of nineteen, I have recorded my sexual activity, all the boom-boom time. I have also viewed this footage many times over, most recently, last night, before sleep. This is not, please understand, out of any prurient fascination on my part. There is in me no slow working out of some deep kink. I merely want to see myself in a realistic light. I am seeking ultimate realism here, Life Unadorned by Fantasy. I wish, in fact, to destroy fantasy. In my recordings, one finds no heroics, no boasting, no pouting and panting for the lens like some fucking porn star, the sexual athlete, the bounding gymnast, lithe and limber, prancing about the bedroom. Nobody does that shit. But that is precisely the allure of porn, I feel. Not just the fantasy of instantly available sex, the partner always ready for a roll, though the promise of sex without windy preamble or sex without dinner first or a feature-length movie is, undeniably, something. No, the true allure of porn is sex without dirty dishes in the sink, sex without arguments or “a migraine coming on” or arriving home from work and having to cook dinner yet again. I speak of sex without those nights when sex seems vaguely possible, in the air, as it were, only to find oneself detoured by flashing arrow signs and construction cones into another pointless fight, another evening of it’s too late, why don’t you cuddle up and hold me? Porn, finally, is sex without life all around it, and I am uninterested. I want none of it. I want rather the jiggle of fat, the cellulitic ass wrinkles, vaginal farts. I want moments of awkwardness, too, and accidental discomfort, the untimely charley horse. I want to hear myself say, That’s my arm, you’re pinching my arm, Jesus. I want dicks going limp and premature ejaculate drying on my leg. I want the long seconds of embarrassed quiet, you see, the whispered apologies. I am only craving a bit of honesty, to see myself as myself, not as I might wish myself to be. This is a good thing, this exercise, this standing outside oneself and watching. Look at my face, the expression on it, the pained, ecstatic stupidity. We are monkeys humping in trees. Look at your face. It is the same. We are the same; we are irretrievably ridiculous. Why deny it?

A: Yes, well, I mean, certainly. I think. I can sort of see what you mean there, with the honesty, and maybe what you say about the gymnast too, though my ardency is perhaps not as keen. I’m not as finely developed as you, I dare say, in general—I was raised among large-armed women, for instance, who smoked before seven in the morning. I’m also not one to make speeches either—full-throated, ambitious things—like what you have just said to me. It almost sounds prewritten, like you’ve written it down before speaking to me, but maybe it has been brewing for some time. I can get that itch to speak out about things, but I mostly keep it in my head. Sometimes, though, I mumble these thoughts, and the camera will pick up my mouth moving a bit. Completely inaudible, or quietly garbled. But sometimes when I think of others possibly viewing these things, on the off chance that I misplace the recordings, I worry that one of the people viewing will be a lip reader, and therefore he or she will be able to transcribe something I only mean for my mind. For myself.

B: You’re too hard on yourself, though being hard on yourself is another good exercise and does, oftentimes, produce a Greater Honesty. You remind me of myself, actually, when I was younger. I’m not conversant in the ways of large-armed women, but in other respects we are like brothers who have grown up in separate households and rarely see each other. It’s not just that the harness you made for yourself is similar to the apparatus I fashioned for myself years ago, using packing tape, a Styrofoam cooler, and a mess of those six-pack rings. No, I see in you the habit of the recorder, perhaps still nascent, maybe a bit fitful yet, but no matter, takes only a year or a year-plus of careful repetition—repetition, that is, and reinforcement—until the habit becomes like a passion within you, a burning. What would you think—this just occurs to me—about me giving you a new project?

A: I am open to this project you mention, without knowing of its intention. Would I be able to continue using my shoulder camera during the project? I’d like that. As I mentioned previously, I was particularly aggrieved by my former employer’s one-way surveillance—did I mention this previously?—an incredibly enormous Mormon who shoveled nuts of all kinds into his mouth while talking to me and pointing the remote control at the CCTV monitor, from which we watched all manners of amorous affections between his son, an angry ex-football player, and a coquettish coworker who often smelled of dope and baby diapers. I felt this was a kind of larger crime at work, but being beneath the fat man, I couldn’t say it clearly enough, not that he’d even listen. A customer found her thong in the bathroom, entirely compromised, twisted, and so on, and this was given to the manager with a smirk and a wonder of what all went on there. Like with most things, she would never find out, and so was left to her own devices, like everyone else, you know.

B: I am, as you probably realize, opposed to one-way surveillance. Such regimes are popular, however, with the churchgoing set, and it’s no wonder: these people, people like your enormous Mormon, or Dridge for that matter, spend their lives worshipping their god, singular, suspended there up in the heavens, and they hear all through childhood, God is watching you, little Dridge. God sees you even when you’re alone. And Dridge, bright boy, asks, Even at night, in the dark? Even at night, Dridge. Even when Mommy and Daddy are sleeping. And so what does Dridge do? Dridge grows up, comes to work at the Company, and first thing on his agenda is he sets himself up as god, observing over CCTV while his people—let’s call them the warehouse crew—have forklift races, in effect. Now Dridge sees all. Well, this is no way to be, no way to live, no way to work. Far better, I think, to promote everyone to God Status, with everyone watching everyone and everything recorded all the time. Now everyone feels equally powerful and equally worried. It all balances out, you see? As for my new project, I appreciate your willingness to take it on, not knowing a thing about it. So fearless! Or are you just that desperate? What if I had said I’d like you to sort the Company’s garbage by color and then alphabetize the piles by first letter of said colors? Or what if I said, congratulations, you’ll be sexing kittens in the dark? Maybe you are just the trusting sort. I should not abuse that.

A: I don’t know why you’re being so secretive. What is this about? Are you speaking about matters here in the subfield office or out in the field itself? We have our cameras here, you know. Or I can get mine. I know that there are enormous server farms hidden inside a corpse of trees, a forest, really. And these servers, just over the border, are heavily guarded at all times. I happened to be putting my nose where it shouldn’t have been, some months ago, and though we broke up—I with her, for the record; too complicated—she had many aerial images of these servers, and other servers in classified areas of the country. I remember her mentioning some boy, maybe ten years old, in rural Virginia, biking into this one area, and they just made him go away, permanently. The regional office even cynically put out a Missing Persons report for the family, and the family thanked them for this gesture.

Wear your camera, keep it “on” all the time.

B: Well, without going into too much proprietary detail, I can tell you that I’ve invented a glove which is now being field-tested overseas, if you follow me. A person can wear this glove and, by making certain gestures and finger motions, perform nearly all of the functions of a satellite cellular phone. The glove also acts as a universal remote control for even the world’s most ridiculously elaborate home-theater system. All in a glove, which is not a cumbersome glove, by the way. I have no idea what you’re picturing. This is not like a spacesuit glove. This is a thin, snug-fitting glove, made of something like Lycra except more durable and not as sparkly. The gestures and finger motions are adapted from American Sign Language and International Sign, or Gestuno, and with just a few dozen simple commands, the wearer of this glove—which is called The Glove, incidentally, capital-T, capital-G—can phone his favorite restaurant, scroll through the TV listings, and so forth. It works off Bluetooth technology, so anything that you have that’s Bluetooth-capable will work just fine with The Glove. My car stereo, for instance, is Bluetooth-capable. Some high-end toaster ovens are Bluetooth-capable, so if you set out your bread the night before, when you wake up, you can slip The Glove on—a number of users reportedly wore The Glove to bed, it’s that comfortable—bring up the toaster with the “select application” gesture, and, in a few minutes, you’re eating toast, chief.

A: Beyond toast, though, does it Deliver?

B: What do you mean?

A: You know, how Dridge always wants to know if things Deliver for us.

B: Dridge appreciates The Glove, if that’s what you’re asking. The thing is—and this brings me to your new project—I have two parallel programs going right now: one a team that is supposed to be readying The Glove for the consumer electronics market—big money there.

A: And the other?

B: The other is a different team, separate. They’re working on, let’s say, noncommercial applications for The Glove. Certain parts of the military, our agency, Other Government Agency—these are some of the interested parties. There are people who believe The Glove can, with some programming, operate unmanned aerial vehicles, or any vehicle really. In the past, technology went from the military, say, and then eventually flowed into the consumer market. In a broad sense, that’s the story of the Internet, right? Or take those GPS devices. GPS is just repurposed missile guidance software. Toned down, of course, but the same idea. The same principles. What we’ve done, and what I’ve been wanting to do for years, is flip that script. So instead of developing The Glove for our interested parties, only to have someone else dilute it and capitalize on it down the road, why not do that now? Sell it to everyone, two versions, and—this is the good part—the consumer end of things actually funds the requisition for all interested parties. You needn’t get bogged down in the financials, but it’s like a discount, basically. Think of it that way. Everybody’s very happy.

A: I would like to see your User Surveys. Were you leading them to your conclusions? You’d want to be careful about that, before Mawktock and Krill get wind of it, because they’ll dig into those surveys like badgers, and they’ll question you for hours about what you’re trying to do, what you’re really trying to do. This happened to me, and they had it on that consultancy report, referring to a separate document. I made a photograph of it on my iPhone, as Dridge came in to say hello, a nice distraction, but then I lost the damned phone somewhere in the field, but I distinctly remember Mawktock had used that phrase “crimes against humanity”—and, to be honest, I didn’t understand the usage. I have worried greatly ever since that someone is going to find that phone, or perhaps they already have, and then I will not be protected, won’t know what they know.

B: I don’t worry about Mawktock and Krill. Listen, Mawktock has always gone on about crimes against humanity, but you know what? Who cries out about crimes against humanity? Losers. History’s losers are always crying out about crimes against humanity. And Mawktock went to Penn, okay? He is deeply, deeply sympathetic with history’s losers. Krill, I know less about. He poses, I grant you, more of a problem, potentially anyway, which is part of the reason I got both Mawktock and Krill assigned to the consumer end of things for The Glove. It’ll be a great career move for the two of them if and when they decide they want to be buyers for Target—Krill in small appliances, Mawktock lording it over spatulas. This is why I need you. I need you to work with them on the consumer end. Wear your camera, keep it “on” all the time. Everyone there wears a camera already, it’s great, one of my favorite places to visit, actually, all the glorious watching of the watchers, but keep in touch with me, okay? Because the consumer end of things isn’t supposed to know ass-all about the interested parties. So if you hear anything like that, or if you sense anything like that, or if you maybe see certain persons whispering but you don’t know what’s being whispered, whatever it is, you need to get in touch with me. No one knows about the parallel programs except for me and you and very few others. I won’t burden you with names, most of them you’ve never heard of. You have the main idea.

A: The names are the names. I am quite sure we know who we’re talking about, without mentioning them. That damned meeting has made me all the more aware of the burgeoning incompetency here, the stalled efforts from above, even after we’ve provided the data-tel. The Glove seems like it might be just the thing, to maybe get us out of this, this fucking hole, though I don’t really fully understand it, yet. I had a dream the other night, somewhat related to this, where I felt everyone was saying something for the purpose of the next person I’d hear. That these unconnected people were actually part of a larger pattern, one I didn’t understand, and this was normal stuff, taken for granted. Everyone was behaving normally—people would drink juice at tables, a bird would call from a tree, and there were mirrors in stores, just like it is right now, and yet it was part of some other dimension as well. Like a combo of worlds. When you would motion to a person, some other thing would happen, like a window across the street would open, or maybe the window was triggering something, like the dog that kept going around the block, always in the exact same pattern, like it was lost in the street, but not lost in another sense. It was spooky, but I wanted to remain in it. I don’t know why I’m bringing this up, really, now that I have, but The Glove seems like something from that world, like an extrasensory device, and so maybe that’s it. I can’t be around Krill, though, for more than two hours, so don’t put me in a hotel with him.