The Bill for Breakfast

The rules for the Flash Fiction contest said the story had to be fewer than 500 words. 

He said no one would believe me – “Go ahead, tell anyone,” he said.
I had breakfast with Bill Gates at Café 72.  “We like your blog,” he said.  “You’re insightful; you have something to add to the conversation.”
“OMG,” I said. “No one reads my blog!”
“We read everything,” he said.  “We’d like to keep you around to see what else you might produce.  We’d like to offer you medical care,” he said very deliberately, “that is not available elsewhere.  You’ll have all the time in the world, and you’ll have enough money to get by.  Of course, there are downsides.  You’ll outlive everyone, you’ll have to stage your death periodically, and you’ll see your children die.”
“Will I be able to have more children?” I asked.
“We’d rather you not,” he said.  “It would be a drag on evolution.”
I began to wonder if he had met my children, and then I thought about the time in college that I took some speed to finish my thesis.  I couldn’t sleep for a day, so I stood in the bathroom making faces at the mirror.  All I wanted to do was sleep.  It was hell.
“I don’t know, Bill.  It’s a great offer, but what if I’ve got nothing much to say?  You know, after a couple of generations, it’s the same old conversation?”
“Well,” he chided, “At that point, we’ll both know something, won’t we?  You can always opt out.  We’ll just stop the upgrade process, and you’ll slip away like everyone always has.  Sometimes, people lose interest in the conversation.”
“And you never do?”
“Most people lose interest after the first ten million.  Or ten billion.  For me, there is always more to engage, but it’s less interesting without fellow travelers, which is why I’m looking for people like you to hang out for the next thousand years or so. Not to hang with, but to be around for reference.  I want some other long-term, comparative perspective.  Of course, nothing is certain: random events could terminate any of us – car crashes, comets – but we’re working on a brain backup for the Microsoft Zune. 
“You can put music on it, too,” he added, helpfully.
I had hardly touched my eggs Benedict, and I was starting to think about how much I would miss my wife – my own fellow traveler – when the check arrived.  Bill looked down at it for a moment, and I figured, he’s a billionaire and he called me, so he probably wants to get this.  I looked at him looking at the check, then his arm reached out and pulled it under the table like a mechanical chicken.
“You know something?” he said, “You’re not cut out for this.  You should have picked up the check.  It’s a little test I use to separate the shepherds from the sheep.  You need someone to take care of you.  Go ahead.  Tell anyone you want about our little meeting.  No one will believe you.”

Published in: on April 25, 2009 at 7:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

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