The Random Breakfast Generator

September 4, 2009 at 10:15 am | Posted in Short Story | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pic by Erica Marshall of muddyboots.org

Tristan the Advertising Cadet tossed fretfully on his futon. He really needed All Bran this morning. Fifteen days of Froot Loops had left him twitchy, constipated and more than a little paranoid. Once again he fantasized about sabotaging his Smeg Random Breakfast Generator.

‘Wallpaper’ magazine had claimed that random cereal generation was the ultimate way for young executives to prove their ability to handle whatever life threw at them. The concept was so exclusive that global distribution was restricted to one client per postcode.

Tristan bid furiously online for the personality assessment, triggering a call from his Help Desk Officer, who he told to f*ck off. He won the auction, noting in the disclaimer that random generation was not recommended for Capricorns. He earned a borderline pass and secured his order with a massive down payment. At last he had the means to erase office memories of his mother’s mortifying muesli porridge deliveries.

After four months wait and a three-day installation nightmare, the Random Breakfast Generator (or RBG as Tristan was now entitled to call it) dominated his apartment. The cost was crippling.

He threw a party and was amazed at the number of work colleagues who came. Guzzling his designer beers, they filed murmuring around the gleaming cylinders of what looked like a monstrous paint-tinting machine. Tristan poured schnapps for the creatives and learned with delight that they’d visited the web address he’d emailed them.

‘Twelve months eh, Cobber?’ The Art Director swapped looks with his team. ‘Reckon you can handle it?’

Tristan refilled the shot glasses. ‘Piece of piss, Andre; just you wait.’

‘We’ll be monitoring your progress.’

‘Go for your lives; the website’s updated every day…’

‘We know.’

Tristan’s favourite Account Coordinator approached the bar, achingly lissom in a Christopher Kronos spray-on. Tottering on her Nine Wests, she hefted Tristan’s Orrefors pitcher and sent a sparkling fragment into the salad centrifuge.

‘Oops! Sorry Trist; my bad. The Boys said we need another jug of Midori.’

Tristan gritted his teeth and emptied another textured bottle. It was Danni, more than anyone, that he wanted to impress.

She put her elbows on the bar and leaned forward smiling. ‘Nice toy.’ She flicked her eyes to the RBG. ‘Cost a bit?’

Tristan’s knife missed its lime completely. ‘F*ck yeah! I mean – yeah. A bit.’

‘So how’d you manage to pick thirty cereals? I can only think of … four.’

‘They gave me a list of hundreds; I just had to rank them. They had every cereal from round the world. Even ones they don’t make any more.’

‘Yeah?’ She took a slice of lemon and stroked it absently over her tongue. ‘Even Chocco Nuggets?’

Tristan blinked. ‘Chocco Nuggets? I can’t believe you said that! How d’you know about them?’

‘I used to have ’em at Grandma’s.’

‘Fair dinkum?’

‘Fair dinkum.’

‘Sh*t! So did I!’

Danni put the lemon in her mouth and bit hard. Her freckled nose wrinkled. ‘Wow!’

Tristan stirred the pitcher and tossed in a sprig of parsley. ‘I put Chocco Nuggets third; I haven’t had them for ages; I wouldn’t mind if I got them every day.’

Danni grinned. ‘That’d kinda defeat the purpose though, wouldn’t it? Still, I’d love to have ’em again one day too.’

‘You would?’

‘Yeah!’

Tristan’s heart began to thump. ‘Well, maybe…’

‘Oi, Danster!’ A large Sales Rep gestured from the balcony. ‘Tell Ted to hurry up with that f*cking jug!’ The Sales Boys always called Tristan Ted. Short for Sh*thead.

‘Coming!’ Danni grabbed the pitcher. ‘Gotta go, Trist; great party. I hope you get Chocco Nuggets every day.’

Tristan gazed after her, then realised the creatives were staring at him.

The copywriter lifted an eyebrow. ‘Chocco Nuggets?’

**********

Smeg contracts were Draconian by design. Tristan was glad; it was going to take a lot to make up for his failure to stop the Sales Boys pissing in his spa. He scanned the pages over his first random breakfast of Froot Loops, left buttock still aching from his NanoBot injection. In a few hours, the implant would advise Smeg Client Service that Tristan’s meal had entered his duodenum and was past the point of return.

Failure to receive this message every 24 hours would elicit a warning. Unless Tristan could prove an eligible medical condition, his contract would be terminated, his huge surety forfeited and his loser status proclaimed on Smeg’s RBG microsite. When he arrived at work, he was stunned to see every browser displaying this exact site.

‘We’re all eager to see how you get on.’ The Copywriter’s breath was hot at Tristan’s ear. ‘We’ve even organised a little communal bet, if you’re feeling confident.’

Tristan flushed. ‘Oh really?’ His voice shrilled as heads popped from every cubicle. ‘You’re bloody on!’

A cheer went up and the Copywriter handed Tristan a pen. ‘Nice one, Squadron Leader, sign here!’

The contract was printed on the studio’s best paper. Through smarting tears Tristan beheld a terrifying figure in double bolded comic sans.

**********

Tristan barely slept that night. He was hocked to the eyeballs; if he lost the bet, he’d have to default on his BMW. He glared at the pristine hoppers glinting in the moonlight. Suddenly they gave an unearthly groan and began to rotate. Tristan leapt like a deer, straight through his Japanese changing screen. Then he remembered: the RBG self-cleaned daily.

He’d nominated 3:00pm; the cycle was twelve hours early. For fifteen minutes he watched the machine behave like a mantis after feeding. The awful scrapes and whines raised his hackles repeatedly. Thoroughly spooked, he watched his ‘Lost in Space’ videos until it was time for breakfast.

He got Froot Loops.

The probability of two consecutive identical cereals was 1 in 900. This figure appeared in the RBG’s metrics monitor, which also advised Tristan that the odds of his next breakfast being Froot Loops were 1 in 2,700. Though tempted to test them, Tristan’s contract constrained him to wait until the following day, whereupon his china bowl rang again with little coloured rings.

The same thing happened the next day.

And the next.

He didn’t even like Froot Loops. He’d put them thirtieth – too timid to chance the nasty looking offerings from Yemen, Belarus and Chad. The cereal was painfully crunchy. The coating, which could only be dissolved by pancreatic amylase (thereby freeing radioisotopes for NanoBot detection), could be optioned to keep every morsel milk-free. Tristan rued his choice; preference changes were only free at the annual major service.

He couldn’t believe that having crunchier cereal than anyone else in his suburb had ever seemed like an edge.

**********

After two weeks of the sickly fruit treats, Tristan’s bowels became capricious. He called Smeg and a voice synthesiser offered a service visit, provided he undertook to pay for it should no fault be detected. Miserably he pressed ‘1’. The voice then asked him to confirm his apartment access code so the Technician could plan his or her day without constraint.

That evening, a crisp printout on Tristan’s dining table informed him that comprehensive diagnostics had shown the RBG to be in perfect working order. He converted his remaining share options and went to bed defeated. At 3:00am, the self-clean cycle scared the bejesus out of him yet again. Four hours later, the RBG presented him with another pristine serve of Froot Loops.

Tristan regarded the bowl white lipped, then flew to the bathroom and smashed it into his chrome toilet. Flush after flush failed to sink the impermeable rings, which bobbed gaily like so many life preservers. Then Tristan’s mobile bleeped with a text message:

‘Your Smeg RBG bathroom sensor has detected undigested breakfast material. Please remit proof of your medical condition to avoid breach of contract. Get well soon!’

Irradiation did more than keep the RBG’s cereals fresh and sterile, it made them easy to track. Tristan sank to his knees and stared long at the strobing sensor peeping from his s-bend. Suddenly it all seemed too much. What was poverty, compared to this hell? In a year or two he’d be back in the black. He’d had enough.

Riding in the office elevator he felt a faint stirring in his guts. His body seemed to be affirming that his decision, however painful, was the right one. The door dinged open and he exited with a faint smile – straight into a phalanx of manic colleagues.

‘He’s here; he’s not sick! Wooo hooo! We’re in the money! We’re in the money!’

Tristan’s image stared from every terminal, a crimson ‘WARNING ISSUED’ plastered across his Smeg file. The Copywriter began an exponential conga line and Tristan choked as Danni sashayed past – a hairy pair of sales hands at her supple hips.

For dinner, Tristan fished one Froot Loop at a time from his toilet, rinsed it in a bowl of vodka and washed it down with more.

**********

Mountain dawns and ocean sunsets swept unheeded past Tristan’s picture windows. The odds of Froot Loops were now so titanic, the metrics monitor expressed them as a formula. In return for a month’s free consumables, Tristan had allowed Smeg to run an article on his freakish statistical experience.

Now he spent his evenings bitterly declining invitations from chat rooms. Smeg’s home page had even begun scrolling up to the minute data and commentary on his progress.

At work the mood was hostile. It was almost Christmas and Tristan’s colleagues were sweating on their windfall. Their premature jubilation had soured to resentment at his stubbornness. Surely it was only a matter of time.

The agency mysteriously snared the All Bran account and Tristan was assigned to oversee the national re-brand. Bound by his contract, he dejectedly donated his pallet of freebies to charity.

On New Year’s Eve, Tristan breakfasted as usual. Hunched and rocking in the gloom of his filthy kitchen, he failed to notice the puff of powder that followed the Froot Loops through the dispensing chute. Only when his spoon made a gritty crunching sound did he look into the bowl.

Tristan began to tremble, then tore open his curtains to examine the vessel more closely. Under gentle morning sunlight, a faint residue bore witness to a vanished milk tide.

Ten seconds into the New Year, Tristan activated his RBG again. Amid a blaze of re-aimed downlights, his prayers were answered: Froot Loop dust. With a mad cackle he leapt onto his bench and tapped one of the hoppers with a cleaver. The pentatonic note was loud and pure. He hit another, and the sound was the same.

Forcing the machine around on its axis, he banged each cylinder in turn, frantically searching for the one that had to be almost empty. But the Italian steel was too thick to permit differentiation.

Undeterred, he loaded his owner’s CD and pored over the specifications, then calculated the volume of Froot Loops he’d eaten during the previous months. He carefully rechecked his figures, concluding that there could be no more than five serves of the hateful food left in the machine. If Smeg thought he were going to authorise a refill, they had another f*cking thing coming.

That week saw a transformed Tristan. Though pallid and overweight, he cut a commanding figure among his peers. Even the creatives began to look nervous. With each new dawn, Tristan happily devoured a growing portion of dust until only one possible Froot Loops serve remained.

It was Friday. For the first time in months, Tristan followed his peers to the pub. He drank heavily and even shouted a couple of rounds into his social vacuum. In just a few hours, he’d be free. As he got intoxicated, he began baiting the Copywriter and got a pleasing reaction. For once the shoe was on the other foot.

He became increasingly bold, thrilling as the Sales Boys congratulated him on his wit. Goading and taunting, he gradually worked the whole room into laughter at the Copywriter’s expense – tapping into deep-seated ignorance and jealousy of the creative function.

Then the Copywriter’s mobile rang and Tristan elatedly accepted his first free drink since joining the agency. When he turned back, the Copywriter’s furious face was only centimetres from his.

‘Alright, Arsehole, if you’re so f*cking confident, why don’t you double our bet?’

Tristan did a clumsy mental calculation and ended up with his BMW, two weeks’ holiday and enough cocaine to dust Danni’s entire body. Swayingly he surveyed the assembly, alcohol burning in his ulcerated stomach. Suddenly, all became hushed.

‘Doubleall yerbetsh? Yerrr bloody ONNN!’

The cheer was deafening. Tristan smirked at the Copywriter, who toasted him in surprisingly gracious defeat.

The summer sunset moiled huge on the horizon as Tristan slewed into his apartment. Chuckling and dribbling, he tore off his suit and slithered onto his cool Spanish granite. His pupils slid in and out of focus, then abruptly narrowed to pinpricks. At his nose was a tiny plastic toucan.

He scrambled to his feet and seized the mascot. Attached was a letter from Kellogs, thanking him for all the publicity and promising free Froot Loops for the remaining months of his contract.

Underneath was another Smeg printout, confirming that per the recent change in account conditions (as detailed in the brochure emailed to his work), his hopper had been refilled automatically.

Tearing at his face and hair, Tristan ran howling from the giant burning Froot Loop that filled his Western window.

Back at the office, his Help Desk Officer exited Smeg’s Client Control Site and deleted her hacker’s ID.

‘That’ll teach you,’ she whispered.


If you found this entertaining, you may wish to:

Your smallest kindness will keep me going strong. With many thanks, Paul.


Hurt Couture

August 29, 2009 at 1:34 pm | Posted in Article | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Look bad, feel worse.

In a little while, an extremely avant-garde fashion house will be formed. Rejected by all established organisations in their respective fields, two bright graduates will form a partnership. Their names will probably be Oskar and Vivienne and their company will almost certainly be called ‘Hurt Couture’.

Oskar will be a breathtakingly innovative designer. Vivienne will specialise in artificial intelligence and have a good grasp of nanotechnology. They will make catastrophic love once, swear never again to touch banana advocaat and then settle into to a close and productive friendship.

Hurt Couture’s mission will be ‘To make it impossible for people to look bad in our clothes’. Its slogan will be ‘No More Sneers’, ‘Look Bad, Feel Worse’, or something of that order. The logo will be a pair of stylised scissors suspended, like the sword of Damocles, by a thread.

Hurt Couture will not use fur, leather or feathers in any creation. Vivienne will argue in interviews and documentaries that since vanity is a purely human trait, its impact should fall accordingly.

The unique selling proposition of Hurt Couture will be revolutionary. Their garments will be engineered to punish people who don’t look good in them. ‘Countermeasures’ will range from gentle warnings to execution, depending on the severity of the offence.

Successful use of a Hurt Couture outfit will mean, by definition, that the wearer looks good. Rapid public adoption of company standards will flow from their intrinsic logic. Base directives will prevent shirt sleeves being rolled above the elbows, blue and green being seen without a colour in between and single breasted suits having all their buttons done up. Forbidden accessories will definitely include braces, bow ties and berets.

Countermeasures will be categorised, allowing clients to nominate their level of risk. Elegant contracts will set precedents for signing away common law rights. To the dismay of Hurt Couture’s left wing founders, this will quickly spill into the industrial relations arena.

Countermeasure severity will be expressed in ‘hurts’ (microhurts, millihurts, megahurts, gigahurts and terahurts). In a confusing nomenclature, ‘killerhurts’ will be reserved for terminal countermeasures. Mired in a non-metric system, US consumers will drop like flies until instructions are translated into their archaic terminology.

Spectacular garments like gowns and dance costumes will carry the gravest countermeasures – particularly if designed for high profile events. Television industry awards will consequently suffer numerous embarrassments.

Garments will be both solar powered and able to harness static electricity. State-of-the-art sensors, microprocessors and nanobots will put the price of even a tie beyond the reach of average wage earners.

All countermeasure sequences will begin with a warning, allowing reasonable time to either cease committing the fashion crime or leave the scene.

Electrical countermeasures will comprise audio and visual messages, lights, alarms and shocks. The common mistake of putting on odd socks will be countered by a friendly warning (‘microhurt’).

Chemical countermeasures will involve garment discolouration and self-destruction as well as acid irritation and injury. A white suit worn in sufficiently poor taste will generally dye itself piebald or corrode its owner’s wrists (‘megahurt’).

Mechanical countermeasures will include garment tightening and self destruction, cutting and pricking and emetic or poison injection. Any lapse of concentration at a fashion event will swiftly lead to incapacitating illness and/or the rending of every stitch (‘terahurt’).

Hurt Couture’s logo will be prominent and actively lit on every creation. Inside, fibre optics will feed a powerful central processing unit. Depletion or compromise of any countermeasure mechanism will disable the glowing scissors, defeating the purpose of wearing the item.

For safety reasons, pregnant women will be prevented from wearing Hurt Couture by hormone sensors. At least one dancing queen will watch her logos short circuit as she conceives atop the boom boxes at a three-day rave after a heated encounter behind the vegieburger tent.

Hurt Couture will capture public imagination and become a killer brand. Though industry bodies like The Cotton Board will strive to influence directives, consumers will reject their obvious self-interest and cling more firmly to ‘source’ dictates.

Vain people will become addicted to the brand and wear nothing else. By refusing to cover the risk, insurers will trigger mass policy cancellations – negating the effect of government rebates and dealing the industry a well-deserved kick in the teeth.

There will be no website; word of mouth and reportage will do everything. Production will be subcontracted under strict licence to accredited manufacturers. International standards like ISO 9001 will be rewritten to incorporate Oskar and Vivienne’s visionary ideas as to what really constitutes a quality organisation.

Ruined clothes will be refitted as clients try again and again to wear them correctly. This repeat business will create exponential growth of such magnitude that Hurt Couture will single-handedly revitalise the Australian dollar.

A leading footwear juggernaut will try to knock off company designs. Hundreds of Vietnamese children will die in a factory explosion as unscrupulous directors seek to minimise countermeasure substrate costs.

In a desperate bid to reclaim market share, a Swedish homewares firm will purchase the right to produce a complementary range of ‘Hurt Furniture’. Its first product will be a banana lounge that delivers high-tension piano wire wounds to incautious recumbents. Insufficient field-testing, however, will result in a string of gruesome self-assembly accidents.

Death by deliberately induced fashion crisis will account for a statistically relevant proportion of suicides.

Charities will forbid donation of Hurt Couture garments, owing to the high risk of injury to recipients.

Representatives from the bondage and discipline community will lobby Hurt Couture to create garments that punish wearers who look GOOD. Vivienne will decline to produce a range, but concede to re-engineer bespoke items.

One day a crowd will accost Oskar in the street, demanding to know what right he has to decide who wears his designs. Oskar will be deeply troubled by this and will rationalise that while he has no moral mandate he is, like a lawyer or accountant, entitled to choose his clients.

This will not sit well and he will continue to be agitated until he discusses the issue with Vivienne over an impertinent Verdelho. She will suggest they expand their range to include styles suitable for all body types, with the aim of making everyone on the planet look their best.

As the sun sets over their cliff-top studio, the partners will agree that if, despite this accommodation, some paedophilic scoutmaster still insists on cramming his fat arse into their beloved Lurex ‘Marching Boy’ hotpants, he deserves everything they can dish out.

🙂

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.