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A dentist appointment; An early Christmas gift; A small lie; An experiment in serving Texas Tea. Part II

Craig spent much of winter break mastering his Invisilens. He especially liked taking aimless drives in his mother’s car. To get to his favorite burger joint, way over in Stafford, he spoke the address just as he would if he was using the car’s onboard navigation. Invisilens painted a line for him to follow, making directions unmistakable. As he approached the destination, the car asked for permission to be remotely navigated by the restaurant’s control tower. A long string of cars were lined up ahead of him. Craig consented and a window popped up with Estimated Time Till Service: 8:37. The car moved into the turning lane and slowed down. Ahead was low concrete building with cacti planters surrounding plastered walls painted to look like the Alamo. Music requested permission to play on the car’s sound system. Craig decided what the hell, and a tinny Mariachi band struck up a song. Waiting in line, the Tornado Burger sign whose company logo was a red Texas Twister, rocked back and forth in the wind, squeaking. Craig watched as one of the restaurant employees dressed in white shirt, black pants, and a red apron, made a slow circuit around the building removing plastic grocery bags from the various cacti needles.

An icon popped into view. Normally this would have been on his wristwatch, or fed into his video tablet, if he preferred. He focused on the icon and thought “select” and then a menu opened up. It was a lot like using a touch screen, but with out the carpel tunnel, and Craig had already learned how to select quickly. Invisilens had a number of games that helped train his navigation. The trickiest thing to do was type text, because it required thinking out each word like a spelling bee. Though the computer offered predictive text that tapped into the Blue Tooth’s history of voice recognition, Craig found that he was in that awkward middle stage of growing a new peripheral relationship. It evened out, though, because much of the time he could thought-type just as fast as he could have verbalized it. Begrudgingly, he admitted to himself that his reliance on spell check was slowing him down and he endeavored to memorize his most common misspellings. After a time, a short list was compiled of his highest frequency misspellings, success, necessary, privilege, etc. He earned a gold star every time he thought typed them correctly, and eventually he was able to unlock a zoom lens.

So when the Tornado burger menu popped up in front of him, he had no troubles thought selecting the combo he wanted, specifying which condiments he desired, what flavor soda, and which size. A new window appeared asking him to confirm a charge to his American Express. Slowly the cars ahead of him trickled toward the food window. When it was Craig’s turn, a brown faced boy about his own age passed over a white paper bag straining with food and then a large cardboard soda cup. Behind the guy’s paper hat, Craig could see an assembly line of food workers and hear the chatter of orders in Spanish. Craig nodded thanks and then set the car on full autopilot so he could eat. The steering wheel sank into the dashboard and the car pulled smoothly into traffic as he arranged his drink and fries in various cup holders. Leaning back in the seat, munching on fries, he turned on his Netflix account and watched an episode of the Simpsons.

He got an instant message just as the car turned into his neighborhood. He saw the pop-up in the corner of his eye, paused Simpsons, and read a text from Randy: preparty at my house. Craig issued the new destination to the nav command and shot a quick text to his mother to let her know that he’d have the car a bit longer, but that he’d send it back once he got to Randy’s. A thrill passed through him; it had been relaxing to be on winter break, but he was eager for social interaction with someone his own age. When he was home, his parents held him pretty close.

He killed the Simpsons episode and rolled down the windows. It was chilly, but not cold. One of the perks of Houston in the winter time. Randy was a classmate from Standish, the Massachusetts prep school where they both had boarded since ninth grade. They were not so close at school as they were at home, where they experienced a distancing from peers they shared in elementary school. Football for example, was not so important at Standish. This was a major cultural difference. Sugar Land Consolidated High School had just recently completed construction of a new stadium which now held 20,000 spectators. The entirety of Standish Hall where most the students lived, the chapel, the dining room, and most of the classrooms could fit inside the stadium complex, with room to spare for Standish’s own football field, where the bleachers sat maybe 1000 on the biggest game of the year against their rival, The Whitman School.

As freshman at Standish, prefects had checked Craig and Randy into 7am work program, followed by breakfast, in the old character-building style that New England’s prepatory schools were famous for. Though their parents lived in Texas, neither families had forgotten the value of their own North East educations, and more importantly, the connections that came with them. It was expected that Randy and Craig, being the only two Houstonians in their class at Standish, would be warm to one another. The world was small and hometown alliances valuable.

Randy’s house was much bigger than Craig’s, and on the 18th hole of the Brazos River Country Club, along an endless par 6 that was designed to show off for the clubhouse bar. Randy’s front yard consisted of a wide horseshow drive made of interlocking brick pavers that traced his father’s pet project: his water works fountain. An immaculate landscape surrounded a pond the size of an Olympic swimming pool, but only three feet deep. 12 independent water cannon swam about the catfish and the bull frogs, disguised as water lilies. The cannon could be programmed to display various patterns by shooting tubes of water. This also filtered the water, keeping the pool un-naturally clean and clear, allowing easy viewing of the large reptiles and fish that lived there. Currently the fountain was set to a simple spray so as not to appear ostentatious.
Around the path that bordered the pool, cascades of feathery white Angel’s Breath and bright red poinsettias poured from different moss-woven baskets hanging from LED lamp-posts. As Craig’s car slowly pulled up the driveway, he saw various succulents around the house, providing a dense green ground cover year-round. Around the exterior wall, stout date palm trees had been planted. The car slowed down, preparing to stop under an extensive cedar carport covered in bright pink bougainvillea that wound around to the backyard. It was like arriving at a hotel, Craig thought with an excited thrill. The exterior of the house was covered in bright white stucco, which gave the home a Middle Eastern feel. No coincidence, considering Randy’s father had made his money as an oil executive and spent much of his time on business in the Gulf States.

3 Comments

  1. meister wrote:

    just one small note. if the voice of the story is Craig’s, then i would suggest switching “preparty” with something like “pregame before susie’s party tonight”, since this is the modern youth vernacular term.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink
  2. Roman wrote:

    Meister-burger Burger-meister,

    Duly noted.

    Thanks for reading!!

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Permalink
  3. miser wrote:

    great story, could suggest that:
    par 6 are not usual, usually a gimmick, i think. par 5 would be the max for a 2010 course.
    for an ostentatious house, maybe porte cochere would be more ladida than car port?http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porte-coch%C3%A8re

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

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