? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
The concierge smiled. “Oh, there’s a lot more in your file, sir.
“This is an invasion of privacy. I demand that you delete this file.”
The concierge was patient. “These are permanent records, sir, and cannot be deleted.”
“Well, we’ll see about that,” Jasper fumed. “Meanwhile, I’d like to see the condo I’ve bought. I suppose you have a record of that too.”
“Certainly.” The concierge turned to Mike. “Take Jasper to unit 314.”
“I will need a cell-phone and a computer.”
“Each unit is equipped with a computer. And I will give you your personal phone.” The concierge reached under the counter and produced a bubble-wrapped phone.
Jasper took the package. He looked at the label, which said, Soul-Phone for Jasper Wergild. Hear what the world is thinking. “What’s this? A new gimmick? Personalized no less. Look here, I don’t need all those fancy features. I just want a regular cell-phone.”
“This is the only brand we carry,” the concierge said.
Jasper took his phone and charged after Mike into the elevator.
Unit 314 left him no cause for complaint. He did not realize that he had bought a fully furnished condo, and he was surprised to find that the furniture and the fixtures matched his taste exactly.
“Everything satisfactory, sir?” Mike asked.
“Not bad, not bad at all,” Jasper said as he threw himself into an ivory colored soft leather couch and propped his feet up on a glass-topped table. “I think I’m going to like this place. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must call my wife.” He looked at his watch. “Damn! It must have stopped in the crash. They don’t make Rolexes like they used to. I’ll have to trade it in for a Timex.”
Mike waited respectfully until Jasper stopped laughing. “Sir, I mean, Jasper. I keep forgetting that we are supposed to use first names. Let me give you a few pointers. At Paradise Point we have . . . a different system. So until you are familiar with the procedures, take it slowly. And read the instructions for the phone.”
“All right, I will. And thank you, Mike,” Jasper said briefly, hoping to be left alone.
“Just one more thing,” Mike said. “You will be left alone, but you will get help if you ask. Also, you might want to meet your neighbors. They could help you a lot. After all, you are all in the same boat as it were.”
By now Jasper was prying his phone loose from the bubble wrap and barely heard Mike leave and close the door behind him. Mike is like my mother, always telling me to read the instructions.
He pressed the Talk button and dialed his home number. A recorded voice answered. “Please state clearly the name and age of the person you wish to reach."
“Marguerite Wergild,” Jasper said.
The voice continued. “Please state the age of the person you wish to reach.”
“What the hell has her age got to do with it?” Jasper sputtered.
The voice repeated the instruction.
Jasper waited in frustration. The voice repeated the message three more times. Finally, exasperated, he said, “She is thirty-five years old, not that it’s any of your business.”
The voice repeated what he had said: “You wish to reach Marguerite Wergild, thirty-five years old. To refine your search, you may state the exact date and place of the desired communication.”
“The time is now, the place is our home, you moron,” he shouted.
“Time: the present. Place: home. I will make the connection,” the voice droned.
“Finally,” Jasper said as he heard Marguerite’s phone ring. At last he heard her voice and he burst out with “Honey I’m in Florida. Guess what? I bought a condo. You’ll really like it. That’s the good news. Now the not so good news: on the way down I had a little accident and wrecked the car. But the good news is that I’m OK, and I want you to hop on a plane and come down here.” He held forth for more than a minute before he realized that there was no reaction from Marguerite.
“Did you hear what I said?” he asked and waited.
Marguerite was there and talking, but not to him. “. . . Jasper went off early this morning. Said he had to meet a boring client in Florida. He thinks I’m jealous. Jealous? Of whom for heaven’s sake? He just doesn’t get it. Ever since Ben died he’s been living like a hermit. He wraps himself up in his business deals and small talk; there’s no getting near him. The party was my last attempt to get him to open up. I thought if he met some of his old friends—”
Jasper pressed the End button. I must have been connected while she was talking to Nancy, he thought. He figured he’d wait until his wife finished her conversation before calling again. Meanwhile he must contact Joe to let him know he would be late returning, and the Triple A to pick up the car, and his insurance agent, and Hertz Rent-a Car for another loaner, and his lawyer to advise him on how to force Paradise Point to delete all the personal information from his file.
Jasper threw the instruction sheet on the counter. “Is this some kind of April Fool’s joke? It says here that this phone transmits people’s thoughts?”
“Does it malfunction for you?”
“Malfunction! It has no function! Every time I dial I get a bad connection. Instead of a busy signal I hear the party speaking to someone else. I hear my wife speaking to her girlfriend, but she doesn’t hear me.”
“Jasper, your wife is not speaking to her girlfriend. It sounds like speech, but what you actually hear are her thoughts and feelings. The phone is in perfect order. You just have to get used to it.”