There comes an hour in the afternoon when the child is tired of ‘pretending’. It is then that he torments the cat.
A man cradled a bag of birdseed in one arm—a sling supported the other—and approached a feeder. Blasts came from the neighboring home. The man talked into an earpiece. “Hold on hold on. I got another call.”
Near him, a sunbathing woman looked at an electronic tablet.
The man tried to open the bag. “Yeah, you carry ‘Blastketball?’ Where the ball explodes? What are you slow? Blast. ‘Blastketball.’”
The sunbather sat up. “Eb, come here a sec. I need to show you something.”
“I’m on the phone here, Netty.”
“I need you over here.”
Eb ignored her. “K stop stop stop. It’s a video game.”
Netty reached behind her. “Ouch. Eben, this chair…”
“I guess I don’t understand why this is so hard for you people.” Eb chuckled and took down the feeder. “I had to wait before. Fine.”
Netty nibbled on the corner of a phone.
Eb set down the unopened bag. He reached into his sling and winced, then removed a tablet. He approached Netty. “Almost cut myself on this thing. Now what’s wrong?”
Screaming came from next door. Netty looked at the house. “Paige showed me this huge TV system they got. How do they get that?”
“Conpleo home entertainment system. Philip told me. Surround sound, perfect picture, yada yada yada.”
“How can they afford that? Did he plow more snow last winter?”
Eb adjusted his sling. “He’s in charge over there.”
“And she just stays home all day?” Netty clicked her tongue. “Does he even have a degree?”
Eb resumed his phone conversation. “I’m waiting about ‘Blastketball.’”
A teenage boy stood on the deck that overlooked the yard. “Dad, you gotta see this. Bwoom.”
Eb held up his hand. “I told your coworker—it’s a video game.”
“I threw right at this cheerleader’s face and it snocked her head off.” A dog squealed as the boy pretended to break it over his knee.
Netty tsked and reached behind her. “Eb, I need you to look at this.”
“K stop stop stop. How can you people not get this? Ah. The twerp hung up.” Eb thumbed his phone. “What’s with the chair, Netty?”
“We need a Completeo or whatever.”
“Conpleo? Yeah, so if I was like, ‘Can you skip some of those salon appointments?’”
“Now look it this.” Netty’s tablet showed people riding stationary bikes.
The boy pretended to slam-dunk the wriggling dog. “‘Blastketball.’ That’s next, right Dad?” He ran back into the house.
Two younger boys with large toy guns walked the adjacent street.
Netty tapped Eb’s sling, then held up the tablet. “Look. It’s for depression. Are you listening?”
“Some people biking? I’m bored.”
“No wait. This is an ad.”
“Can’t you just x out of it?”
One of the boys on the street placed a cell phone in his gun’s magazine.
On Netty’s tablet, a light shone on a woman crouched in a hole. Netty slid her phone across her lips. “I could use this.”
Eb examined his tablet, and occasionally glanced at Netty’s.
Grinding and shouting came from next door. “K what are they watching over there?”
Netty’s tablet showed a pharmaceutical. The woman climbed out of the hole. “I should get this. Are you listening, Eb?”
“I’m an architect, not a doctor.”
“You heard Dr. Brimlow. I can’t help it. When I get all moody?”
“Good to know.” Eb thumbed his phone.
“There’s this Harvard guy. And he did this study and it’s like it works.”
“Guy’s probably getting cutbacks.”
A girl, flourishing a purple scarf, sauntered from the deck. She wore short-shorts, and looked at a phone. The boys with guns watched her.
“K do what you need to do, Netty. But if you get that, then I get those Loaders tickets.”
“Really Eb? When you just spent all that money on your car?”
“Hold on hold on. You go to that salon, what? Every two weeks?”
The girl, her back to the street, bent over, then picked up the bird feeder. The boys watched.
Next door, a child screamed. A gunshot silenced it.
Netty used her tablet as a visor. “Shouldn’t an architect’s salary be way above some street sweeper’s?”
“It’s public works, Netty. Philip’s in charge over there.”
Eb resumed his attempt to open the birdseed. The girl—her T-shirt showed her stomach and said, “Pump at the Chance”—used her phone to tap the bird feeder.
“What’s with the scarf, Tiff? It’s like eighty-something out here.”
“It’s Taff now. Everyone calls me Taff.”
“Good to know. So if I was like, ‘This is my daughter Taff…’” There was a beep, then Eb removed the tablet from his sling.
“Dad. It’s Taff like taffy. Did you get M.T. that game yet?”
“Call Dawn.” Eb slapped the unopened bag. “Doesn’t taffy melt when it’s eighty—” He fumbled the tablet. “This thing’s like a knife.”
“Duchess Pump wears a scarf. In ‘Your Wallet Inspires My Love.’”
Eb shook his hand. “Is that the one where she eats the computer?”
“Noooo. That’s ‘I Control This Relationship.’ Here, I’ll show you.”
“Nah I’m sure it’s amazing.” Eb touched his earpiece. “Dawn? It’s Eben. I got it here.”
Taff glanced at the boys, then passed her scarf through a ring on the feeder.
Eb’s tablet showed an architectural rendering. “You got this gap here. Between our building and everything else? You need something there.”
Playground sounds came from the house next door. Taff swung the feeder by her scarf and the few remaining seeds fell out.
“Here: just add a couple people, some vegetation, and you’re set.” Eb made a popping sound. “I don’t know, Dawn. I’m an architect, not a landscaper. Fine, bye.”
A man with a screen on his chest walked down the street.
Taff handed Eb her phone. “Can I get this? Mom said to ask you.”
“What I need is a new case for this thing. The thing’s sharp.”
“Mom said it’s okay if I get this.” The screen showed a garter that doubled as a phone holder.
Eb snickered. “I guess I don’t understand why you can’t just put it in your pocket.”
“But Jelly’s … Kelly’s got one. So does Cindy.”
The young man reappeared on the deck. “Hey Dad, you got to see this. I just ripped out this guy’s backbone then used it to snock this girl’s head off.”
Machine gun fire smothered the playground sounds next door. Eb reached for the feeder, but Taff pulled it away. “You’re gonna get M.T. that dumb game? That’s a lot more than this.”
“Hey Netty? You told her she could get this leg thing?”
“If her father can get all that car stuff…”
“I’m trying to be realistic here.”
Netty held her tablet before her face.
“Fine. Whatever, Taff.”
Taff, smiling, gave Eb the feeder, and then, looking through her scarf, left.
Eb continued to struggle with the birdseed.
The man with the screen on his chest reached through a hole in the fence and laughed deeply. “Mwah-huh-huh.”
Eb mumbled, “Ah God.”
“Hey Eben, just wanted to ask you something real quick. You busy?”
Eb gripped the bag. “Uh, yeah, Steve. I am.”
Steve crouched and looked through the hole. “Just two minutes. Real quick?”
“Two minutes, Steve.” Eb picked up the still unopened bag, then walked to the fence.
Steve’s tablet, suspended by a cord, showed a man cradling a stuffed animal and holding a wand. Blood dripped from the star that topped it. “What happened to your arm?”
“Bike accident. What do you need, Steve?”
“Hey, what kinda birds is that for?”
Eb retrieved his tablet. “I don’t know just birds in general.”
“You can get these tree decoration things instead.”
M.T. came onto the deck. “Cram it in there. I … am …” He shrieked and swatted at something, then ran back into the house.
“They’re decorative … decoration things.”
“I’m an architect, Steve. Not a gardener.”
“You won’t need birdseed. Mwah-huh-huh.”
“Hold on.” Eb answered his phone. “I hope you’re gonna tell me you got ‘Blastketball.’”
Steve tapped his phone. It played loud repetitive music.
As Eb set down the birdseed, his tablet scraped his arm. “God … all right listen. I do not want that round thing you dribble, k? What I want is a video game. A video game called ‘Blastketball.’ Blast. Like kaboom?”
Steve placed his phone—the music continued—through the hole. It showed a man hanging a funnel-shaped object in a tree.
Eb rubbed the scratch the tablet made. “All right, Steve. I’m on hold.”
Steve took up his tablet. “Hey, Dick Wadding’s at Miday Theater.”
“Can you turn that off? That’s really irritating.”
Steve stopped the music. “It’s called ‘Digital Injection.’” He searched his tablet.
“Who’s that creepy-looking guy you had on there? The guy with the wand star thing.”
“Kirk Killchild. The movie? You gonna see that one? Gah.” Steve reached through the hole.
“Isn’t that the one where the guy kills all the kids?”
“I think they said it’s over a thousand. Opening night’s next weekend. It’s gonna be hard to get tickets.”
“I could get tickets.”
Steve swiped his tablet. “This is hilarious. Dick Wadding. It’s super hard to get tickets for this too. I tried but…”
Next door, children sang “Happy Birthday to You,” then party horns sounded.
“…got this crack pipe and they’re naked and he’s got a knife and fork and he’s eating their … you know.” Steve cupped his hands beneath his chest. “It’s hilarious.”
Eb touched his earpiece. “That’s great. I already have ‘Football.’” A boom cut off the party horns. “So if I was like, ‘I need tape. You guys have tape?’ You guys’d probably say, ‘Yeah, we’ve got glue.’”
Steve tapped his tablet. “Here’s the bird part.”
“Ah forget it. I’ll just order it through Fullerton.” Eb ended his call.
“This guy’s hilarious. Dick Wadding?”
M.T. yelled through the screen door. “Dad. Come check this out. It’s nasty.”
“Hold on.” Eb took Steve’s tablet. “Ah these ads. Come on come on x out.” The video clip started. A man on stage held a crack pipe with a parrot perched on it. “Hi birdy birdy. It’s so beauty—” The bird shrieked and bit the man’s face. The audience roared.
Steve laughed. “Yeah-hah. Whew! You should go see it.”
“Yeah. I gotta go.”
Inside, M.T. played a video game. The dog lay on the floor, and rap music played: “Show the bitch my app./It’s called ‘Kick yo fuckin’ ass.’/Strangle the whore/with my USB cord.”
Eb brought in the birdseed, and the volume lowered.
M.T. put a peanut shell in his mouth. “Dig dig dig.”
“Hey, can you give me a hand with this?”
“Yeah, watch this though dig dig. I’ll smash these by-aches apart. Dig ya dumb shit.” On the screen, a monster wearing an American football uniform in tatters cradled a human foot. He evaded a tackler, then ran into a businesswoman on the sidelines. She split in half.
“He’s out of bounds.”
“No bounds in this.” A shell appeared between M.T.’s lips.
“You know anything about Kirk Killchild?”
“‘Hello young man. You like Teddy? Mwah-huh-huh.’ Dig dig dig.”
The tablet beeped, then Eb brought up the rendering. “This thing’s like a weapon. Got these sharp…”
The player with the foot used a sword to behead twelve children. “Bwoom. You see that, Dad?”
“Yeah yeah. Dawn?” Eb set down the birdseed. “I’m looking, and it’s just like, I’m bored.”
In the yard next door, a man showed a phone to two men wearing baseball caps.
“K the people? They’re a little distracting. I mean, this couple holding hands? And this lady with the dog? I feel like singing ‘Kumbaya.’” Eb chuckled.
M.T. spit the shell into a bowl full of peanuts and chewed shells. “Look it this. This is Haley. From my class.” He stood. “Haley hale hale nail nail.”
The dog sniffed the birdseed bag while Eb talked. “I’m trying to be realistic here, Dawn.”
Next door, the men in caps worked with shovels. The other man stood at the fence and held up his phone as if photographing Netty.
The dog tried to open the bag. “Cut it out Pea. K Dawn, just take out the family, put in a guy with a tablet. Take out the dog, put in a woman looking at a phone.”
The football player jumped up on an elderly woman in a wheelchair. His cleats went into her head.
“Wait wait. Here. Take out all the people, put in a video sculpture.” Eb made a popping sound.
The player got to the end zone, then hurled the ball upward. Three birds fell onto the field.
The dog sniffed the peanut bowl.
“Fine. Bye.” Eb looked at his phone. “I thought you’re supposed to eat the nuts.”
“Shells taste better. Pea. Stop it dickhead.”
Outside, the man holding the phone held up something shiny.
Eb picked up his unopened birdseed bag, then headed out.
The dog spilled M.T.’s bowl. M.T. screamed, “Peanut Butter.” He smacked the dog across the face.
Eb approached the man, who tossed a gold-wrapped candy to Netty. The man continued to hold up his phone. “I’m an early adopter.”
Netty threw back her head and laughed.
Squeaking and pounding came from the man’s house. He turned the phone toward Eb. “And now, the inimitable Eben Sapp.”
“Wait, you filming this Philip?”
“Eben is wearing an arm sling. And how, Eben, did you acquire that arm sling?”
“I told you: bike accident.”
Philip sucked on something. “And what did you learn about what happens when you bike and text simultaneously?”
“I guess I don’t understand these women walkers. Just yada yada yada not paying attention.”
Philip held out a tin of the candies. “Shindiggie?”
“The Means are going to Vegas in about a week, and I’m pleased to say that Eben Sapp happens to be a Vegas connoisseur.” From Philip’s home came a boom, followed by the ooo of a crowd. “Okay, Eben. I challenge you to name the top five hotels in the Strip?”
“I’ve been there a couple times for conferences.”
“We’re staying at the Royal Arroyo. Are you familiar with the Royal Arroyo?”
“Never been there.”
“PocketTheWorld.com names the Royal Arroyo as one of the top five resorts on the Strip.” Philip turned around. The phone screen showed both men’s faces.
“You’ve had that thing on reverse the whole time?”
“What wisdom can you impart for our Vegas trip?”
“I’m an architect Philip. Not a travel agent. What’s with the noise?”
“Eben. For shame. Don’t you recognize ‘Blasketball?’” Philip lowered the phone. “I got it for Parker.” He addressed the men with caps. “Hey, amigos? Make it bigger—mas mas mas—a bigger gap between the flowers and the fence. Más grande, sí?”
“I got ‘Blastketball’ on hold. What are those? Chocolate?”
“Eben, isn’t chocolate rather ordinary? These are Shindiggies. Shindiggies aren’t ordinary.” Philip handed one to Eb. “Why don’t you try a Shindiggie?”
Eb tried one. “Grape?”
“Grape? Do you think Philip Means would settle for grape? Now hop this fence. I want to show you something.”
Eb slapped the bag. “I just got to take care of this. If I can get the damn thing open.”
Philip raised his voice. “Netty, I’d like show something to this guy. Can I show something to this guy?”
Netty unwrapped a Shindiggie. “Well what are you going to show him?”
“Netty! For shame!”
Netty laughed hard.
Philip moved closer to Eben. “Now, are your socks on tight? I hope your socks are on tight.”
Eb used his knee to lift the bag. “I guess.”
“Good, because if they’re not, what I’m going to show you inside will knock them off.”
“Just let me take care of this.”
“Eben, the birds can wait.” Philip watched the landscapers. “Have you heard of Dick Wadding?”
Eb rolled his eyes. “Crazy Steve was going ape shit over him.”
“I’m pleased to say the Philip and Paige Means are going to the show. Tonight. And we have to leave soon.”
“He was saying tickets are impossible yada yada yada.”
“And I got them.” Philip leaned closer. “Tell all the bitches about me.”
“How did you manage that?”
“Connections. Hey Netty, should I tell Eben about my connections?”
Netty looked up from her tablet. “And maybe he can tell you about his car.”
Philip tossed Netty another candy. “Eben, I have a question for you: what’s the most talked about movie right now?”
Eb crunched his candy. “That’s that Kirk Killchild.”
“I’m pleased to say that I’m going to show you part of it. On a Conpleo-UX. Maybe you heard it earlier?”
“How’s that possible? It’s not even in theaters.”
“With Philip Means, all things are possible.”
Eb’s tablet beeped. He pulled it from his sling. “Let me just—”
“Now just hop over.” Philip grabbed the bag, but Eb did not let go.
“Hold on hold on.” The tablet split the bag. The seed spilled into the bushes on both sides of the fence.
Philip clicked his candy tin. “I suppose the feeder can wait?”
“Here. We’ll just scoop it up.”
“That doesn’t seem like the most logical idea. The stuff’s all over. I’ll just have Juan and Jose over there suck it up. We don’t need a million birds in our bushes.” Philip turned to the men. “Amigos, no millones de aves, sí?”
The men waved.
“Let me just…” Eben studied his tablet. “Come on come on. Where’s the x?”
“Eben Sapp, envision this: on Monday, you tell all your coworkers that you saw a sneak preview of Kirk Killchild. On a Conpleo-UX.”
“Fine.” Eb hopped the fence.