Tell me the name that you think I should know. Pronounce it in tones which imply I should bow.
I call these two my robofish. I draw them every morning, just before I start my shift. I always start with a billionaire’s name, a man of achievement: Musk, Kalanick, Gates.
Show me your faith that the things which you own will translate you to states of grace I’ll never know.
I break the name down into letters, then make them all happen at once on a piece of scrap paper no bigger than half of an inch. E becomes l becomes o becomes n. Then, on another scrap, I start again.
I’ll pretend I’m impressed by the money you make. I’ll smile and I’ll tell you to have a nice day,
The second robofish I usually use is Kenneth Pinyan, Patron Saint of the Humiliated Dead. Pinyan, immortalised in the Wikipedia entry for the Enumclaw horse sex case, was a former Boeing engineer who achieved notoriety when he died during what the entry dispassionately describes as ‘receptive rectal sex with a stallion at a farm in an unincorporated area in King County, Washington’. Already a figure of repute among those whose passion is for zoophile pornography, Pinyan crossed over into the mainstream when his colon was fatally perforated by an equine cock: the story of the philhippic Mr P became one of the Seattle Times’ most-read stories of 2005. Thus was Mr Pinyan spared the indignity of living on to become a whining boomer of the sort I find myself having to deal with most days. And became instead my robofish, my angler’s beacon in the foetid lake of English and American entitlement, my skeleton piper jangling his generational kin to their necessary doom.
as I make something beautiful out of your name. When I break what I’m making, my smile won’t be fake.
Usually I use Pinyan but lately I’ve been using Cedrick Jelks as my robofish. Jelks is a somewhat more liberal sanction than Pinyan because his embarrassing misadventure ended not in death, but in the mere loss of a penis. Sitting down a little too enthusiastically in the front seat of his Nissan Altima, Florida native and convicted felon Jelks was only reminded of the firearm on the seat when it unloaded in his unit. To which injury Florida state law seems likely to add the insult of a mandatory minimum three-year prison term for possession of a firearm.
Here is the paper that’s all that you were.
I crumple the paper bearing the rich man’s name.
Jelks is alive, and younger than Pinyan, but his story contains just the right blend of haplessness and humiliation. He’ll be a good robofish for the overconfident, the egoists who think a seven-figure bank balance excuses their being too thick to understand how to delete the cookies in their browser, who think being a mean cunt from the other side of Skype will change the laws of physics. For the ones who never clock the gun or hear the truck because their world is protected by safety glass.
Here is the fire as that paper burns.
I take my pen, push its end into the heel of my right palm and, on the word fire, force it through the paper on which I’ve made Jelks’ name happen, all letters at once. The paper gives beneath my nib as sure as skin makes way for needles. The paper is torn.
Here is the ash which is all you have left:
I crumple the torn paper the same as the whole one, and flick each into its separate cardboard fate.
This cup of plenty, this cup of death.
There. The robofish are drawn. The cups are primed. I can begin.