Adam Bozarth

Maybe This Will Work

Adam Bozarth

It was about 7:00 when James turned on his television, ready to relax on his big couch. It was a really nice couch, he thought to himself. It was cushiony and soft like a favorite shirt, and the color was just right for the room. Mal picked a great couch, because she’s so great at that kind of thing. I’m glad I snagged her up before anyone else had a chance to. James looked over at his wife who was toiling away in the kitchen, still smiling.

Driving snow outside whistled and wailed. It had been tricky to drive home in the storm, but James had made it safely back to his cozy home. Work had been a bit rough, with 8 instant deadlines to meet before lunch, and an important, lengthy meeting with the head of Human Resources about downsizing most of the labor in the warehouse. Normally, this wouldn’t have been a problem. It was a fairly normal workload for James. At about 11:30, however, the battery on his Harmonizer went out.

Only about the size of a quarter, but square, the Harmonizer had been the answer to James’s prayers. It was only a quick outpatient surgery, but the risk was low and the effect was immediate. James went under feeling afraid of losing himself. He didn’t want to be someone he wasn’t, he just wanted peace. No more second-guessing, no more petty regrets, just normalcy. In a few short hours, James awoke with a small nagging tug at his temple, but otherwise, nothing. It was quiet, peaceful, still.

As the battery drained, James didn’t notice at first. It was almost like when a jukebox stops playing songs in a crowded bar. You don’t notice the moment the music stops, you just realize it later when you’ve had time to think about it. James was a bit panicked. He tried his best to squeeze as much use as he could out of the Harmonizer’s remaining power: turning it off until he started to twitch his foot, setting it on the lowest level, turning off the Bluetooth. James was kicking himself. I’ve had this fucking thing for years, he scolded to himself, and I forget to charge it last night? It only takes 5 minutes to get a full day’s charge! What the fuck is my problem?

Lunch was marred by James constantly kicking himself. He munched away at a meager salad in a reused takeout container, hating every bite. He tried to sneak out of the office to buy a charger at the Best Buy a few miles away, but the opportunity never came. The inbox kept filling up, weighing him effectively to his seat.

The meeting with HR, which would have been painless with the gentle mental massage of the Harmonizer, was excruciating. Not from the boredom, but by the process. Fully automated stocking and handling was affordable now, but it meant that scores of people were out of work. Working through the names of who would go and who would stay made knots in James’s guts, which he had not missed. The handy little plastic square that he popped onto his temple worked to stop most of the heavier thoughts and feelings from reaching his conscious. The parade of names—the “Damned” as Robert from HR called them—racked James in agony. The thought of so many men and women out of work mutated into a selfish fear of James’s own downsizing. What would happen if he had to tell Mal he lost his job? Would she still love him? Would they have to wait even longer to have a child with no money coming in? Robert’s pettiness over their fate, and the overuse of his cute nickname drove James nuts. He wanted to rip Robert’s Harmonizer right off of his stupid little skull and smash it. Better yet, he wanted it all for himself. The meeting finally ended with 90% of the warehouse staff slated for termination. James threw up in the bathroom before heading home.

The drive through the snow felt like being on a roller coaster that intersected other roller coasters. James’s hand cramped from clutching the steering wheel. Tears came to his eyes as more black fantasies about downsizing refused to be ignored. Safely back in the garage, James panted for breath as he gathered his things.

Within seconds, James had plugged his Harmonizer into the charger while still wearing it. This made the Harmonizer warmer, like a mug of hot chocolate being pressed on the side of his cranium. As James lay on his bed, tethered to the charger cord and still wearing his work clothes and winter jacket, the warmth was more than welcome. After a few minutes, James could think straight enough to put his things away properly.

The TV came to life quickly, showing the latest news from around the world. So many interesting things happening today. Governments were changing, earthquakes had destroyed a swath of towns in the Midwest, a serial killer had struck again in Seattle. James grabbed a glass of water at the commercial break, kissing Mal on the cheek as he left the kitchen.

A commercial for dog food faded out as James sat back down. Then it began. Flashing on the screen was a Harmonizer, but different. Smaller, sleeker, a smooth finish.

“Get more from your life. More mood settings. More powerful blocking algorithms. Longer battery life. Not to mention, seven great new colors. The Harmonizer+. Feel like yourself. Again.”

James smiled, picked up his laptop, and placed an order for one in blue. Blue would look great with the sofa!

Don’t Worry, Mom

Adam Bozarth

Hey Mom and Dad,

School’s going great and stuff. I’ve been trying to get involved in stuff outside of class. I don’t know anybody here. It’s kinda lonely and I get homesick a lot. I get along great with the guys on my floor. They’re gonna go out tonight, and I think they want a bunch of guys from the floor to tag along. I promise I’ll be careful! Don’t worry!

They’re calling me now, I gotta go!

Adam

———

Hey Mom and Dad,

School’s going really well. I’ve made a few friends, mainly guys here on the fourth floor. We’ve been out to a couple of parties and things, played some frisbee. I think I’m gonna join the intermural kickball team they are putting together. I used to be so good at kickball. It’s also Rush week for all the fraternities. Marty and some of the others on the floor are thinking about rushing. I don’t know! Could be a good time and meet more people. I won’t do anything dumb.

Adam

———

Hey Mom and Dad,

Sorry I haven’t written in a while. Guess which one of your sons is rushing Alpha Kappa Pi! That’s right, your only son! The guys at AKπ are all super cool. Rush is no big thing. They are really laid back and welcoming. I thought I’d have to do some crazy stunts to prove myself, but it’s like they are going out of their way to be nice to me. I was thinking about going Tau Kappa Epsilon like dad, but Marty and the rest of the 4th Floor crew are going AKπ. They are all nice, caring guys, so you got nothing to worry about.

Maybe I’ll get a cool frat nickname like dad! Something better than Bucket Mouth. Ha ha ha!

Adam

———

Mom and Dad,

I was just initiated into AKπ! I’m going to be a lifelong member! I can’t talk, because we are having a big ceremony tonight to commemorate it! This is so exciting. There are AKπ’s all over the country at the heads of almost every major corporation. They really look out for other members, helping them find a place in the workforce after graduating, grants, scholarships. You name it! As long as I keep up on school, I got nothing to worry about.

Adam

———

Mother, Father,

I know I have not written in many days, but please do not take my absence from e-mail as an insult. Know that I am very involved in my education and with the fraternal organization I belong to now, Alpha Kappa Pi. My course work is exemplary and the high priests of AKπ have told me I am a member in excellent standing. Please do not attempt to communicate with me over the telephone as it is forbidden.

Please do not worry about me as the teachings of Alpha Kappa Pi have brought great peace of mind to me, Martin, and the rest of the members of the 4th floor of my dormitory. We are all looking forward to moving out of said dormitory and into the Alpha Kappa Pi pyramid of power.

My life is entirely enriched after becoming a lifelong member of this organization. They have taught me much about stweardship, community involvement, and the coming age of flames that shall mark the passing of this, the 13th iteration of Gaia.

Hark, I am wanted elsewhere.

Yours until the end of this world,

Moongate

Moonlight Skate

Adam Bozarth

Cole braced his tiny midsection for impact as he skated into the wooden divider wall. It was the only way he knew how to stop. He didn’t rollerskate much, just the few times during the school year when the school sponsored a skate night at Skateland. He couldn’t really go by himself to Skateland, as he was only 12 and Skateland sat on an otherwise deserted stretch of forgotten highway outside Briarton, Illinois. Cole landed with a bang the set off creaky reverberations in the rest of the aging divider wall. His sandy blond hair jolted into cascades at the impact.

Cole struggled toward the exit of the rink, hand over hand on the railing like a pubescent mountain climber. He propelled himself across the worn carpet of Skateland, plopping onto a bench to retie his laces. Stupid laces, he thought. Why are you so smoothed over and why do you come untied all the time? Ricky Beirbaum totally ran over my laces to trip me and make me look dumb in front of Lisa. He knows. He’s being a real asshole.

His hip still aching from his spectacular fall, Cole decided to save himself any further embarrassment by playing pinball. Cole was always excited about coming to Skateland for the pinball. Specifically, he was excited about Pin-Bot, who was more robot than pinball table. Pin-Bot used his flipper-like fingers to bounce the space-age pinball across drop-targets and light-up displays on the playfield. It spoke your score aloud as you racked up thousands of points in a swath. The laser-fire sound effects, the illustrations on the backglass, the visor. Oh, the visor. Activating each one of the colored targets would make Pin-Bot’s visor raise, revealing more targets with incredible point values as well as a slingshot bumper that could knock your ball clear down the center of the playfield if you were careful. Cole sank about a dollar-fifty into Pin-Bot before his fingers got sore.

———

While Cole was mastering space-age pinball strategy, an all-skate block of music was being played over Skateland’s aging stereo system. The selection of music had also seen better days, as grade schoolers where gliding around the rink to Tag Team’s “Whoomp! (There It Is)” followed by “Rock and Roll pt. 2″ by Gary Glitter.

Lisa Hammond was sipping on a Slush Puppy in the snack bar watching all of her friends skate by doing hilarious poses. Jane Halloway kept doing goggle-eyes at Lisa, Scott Foreman kept doing discreet middle-fingers until he was caught by a chaperon, and Ricky Bierbaum was doing exaggerated hip thrusts to the beat of the music. She laughed very loudly and smiled wide, taking off her glasses to wipe her eyes. She wore square frames. It was a look she was trying. She thought it made her look smart. I want to be smart. Will I be smart? I think I’m not that smart now. I do dumb things.

After she finished her drink, she rejoined her friends on the rink. “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey was playing.

———

Cole stumbled and rolled his way over to his friend Andrew who was struggling to play Ridge Racer 2. Skates are murder on an accelerator, even if it’s for a video game. Andrew’s grubby hands gripped the fake steering wheel with maniacal intensity. He brushed his dingy hair out of the way of his face as he careened back and forth across the virtual course, making more collisions than headway.

“Hey, man,” Cole shouted over Mariah

“What up?” Andrew replied, eyes still on the game.

“What do you think about Ricky Bierbaum?” Cole asked sheepishly, hoping for Andrew to reply with disgust. Oh, how I hate you, Ricky. You have a swimming pool, you’ve touched like 5 boobs, and you’ve had a beer before! Why do you get everything, Ricky? Sorry that my parents don’t own a bank, Ricky! Jeesh.

I hate you, Ricky.