by Resha Caner
"Isn't it funny?" I asked.
"What?" Bob replied as he scrubbed an annoying stain from the countertop. His large eyebrows clung to his forehead like goats on a high mountain cliff. The link between my words and Bob's eyebrows did not escape me, but I tried not to laugh. I meant something else.
"Whenever someone thinks of the future, it's always in some exotic far-off place. Why don't people who write these stories ever think of the future taking place right here in Illinois?"
I gave a slight backhand tap to the screen of the laptop, then looked at Bob tentatively. After all, I had only met him five minutes ago. This was my first trip into his cafe. It always looked so appealing, but I was usually in too much of a rush, grabbing stale coffee from wherever I could find it.
Bob stopped his chores, and leaned over to observe my screen. "I've read that story," he said with a scoffing laugh. "A piece of crap. Here, let me give you something better." His hands strained at the wrist to type from an odd angle, but the letters of a new web address flew from his fingers, and The Time Machine by H.G. Wells popped onto the screen.
"OK, now you're going way back," I said.
Bob shrugged. "I guess I'm old-fashioned at heart."
"I can see that," I laughed. To emphasize the point I glanced around the cafe at all the people enjoying a wireless laptop connection, or playing on a GameBoy, or watching the big screen TV, all supplied without charge by Bob. He probably made it up in the price of the coffee, I thought, staring into my cup and remembering the exorbitant price. "I hope this is real java."
"It's real," Bob confirmed with a nod. "See, even you have something you won't give up. That's why my place appeals to so many people."
"Yeah." I sucked in another draught of caffeine. "Nothing tastes like the original. Thanks." I slammed the empty paper cup onto the counter, exhaling with satisfaction.
As I rose to leave, Bob's eyebrows came alive. "Forgettin' somethin' buddy?"
I glanced at my empty coffee cup. "Oh, yeah." I leaned over so Bob could scan my wrist tag for the proper number of credits.
Then I flipped down my glasses. Immediately data began scrolling across, and my ear-piece activated. My boss was already irate that I hadn't made it to work yet. My customer had been calling from Ganymede wondering why his tractor hadn't been delivered. The guy knew the engine for his machine was a special order from the Pleiades. It didn't matter. He made unreasonable demands anyway.
I stepped out of the cafe. The scanner picked up my signal and called for a transport to take me to work. The selected vehicle dropped out of line from those streaming by overhead. Before I stepped in, I took one last look at Bob's Old Fashioned Internet Cafe. All those science fiction stories I had been reading about the future suddenly had a dissatisfying taste. Of course everyone needs their escape, but maybe Bob was right about some of those old-fashioned stories.
I was already making plans to return tomorrow for my morning coffee.
© 2008 Resha Caner
Original Fiction debuting at Residential Aliens.
Resha Caner lives in the imagination, serving as the alter ego to an often frustrated writer. The seeds of creativity planted many years ago by a few special teachers occasionally bear fruit. He was recently selected as a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest, has been the editor's choice at Bewildering Stories, and received an honorable mention from the international literary review, Constellation. His work has also appeared at Sage of Consciousness, Planet Mag, SNReview, The Blotter, EveryDay Fiction, MindFlights, and Haruah, with more to come at Anotherealm.
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