Posted by: Erin on Wednesday, August 28, 2002 - 05:54 AM
"You can't have what you want right away," said the clerk.
"I, I've been waiting for it for a long time already?" Jack felt a keen disappointment.
"Well, I'm sorry, it's back-ordered."
"That's not fair."
The clerk looked up, "Who told you it was supposed to be fair? But don't get your knickers in a bunch. I said it was back-ordered, you'll get it eventually. For now, you'll have to make do with what we've got in stock."
Frustration tasted bitter, Jack wanted what he had ordered and not some substitute.
"Next," said the clerk.
Forced past the desk by those in line behind him, Jack stumbled toward the exit. Then he turned and pushed his way back toward the petty bureaucrat, forcing himself to the head of the line again. He didn't make anyone happy doing this, but at the moment, he didn't care.
"How long?" he asked the clerk.
"How long what?" The clerk showed his annoyance, he had a lot of things to do and lots of people to do them to.
"How long before I can expect delivery?" demanded Jack.
The clerk looked at his books. "Well, for a factory model, sixty or seventy years it looks like?"
"I can't wait that long!" wailed Jack. Even the people in line behind him murmured, that did seem excessive.
The clerk snapped the book shut, "You come back here before it's ready, you'll just get the same thing you're getting this time."
Jack tried to cry but he couldn't, not yet. "There must be some way? I haven't liked this model any of the times I've gotten it. I want the other one!"
The clerk had no time for this, but he grabbed Jack's paperwork away from him and scribbled something on it. "There, happy?"
"What? What?" said Jack, trying to make out the clerk's scribbles.
"I've authorized a modification to your delivery, you'll get what you want in, oh, twenty or thirty years, I've just saved you fifty years, probably."
"I don't understand, I have to come back here...."
"No, no, I just authorized a field upgrade for you. Don't go trying to jump the line again," the clerk said severely. "Now move along, it's the best I can do for you."
Jack staggered as the people in line surged forward, impelling him toward the exit. "Twenty years?" He sighed, but wandered along the departure platform until he found his tube. He settled himself inside and curled into the fetal position. "I don't know if I can wait even that long," he complained.
He felt squeezed, compressed, "It's not fair," he said again. "I'm going to complain to management." Though, that hadn't worked before; management seemed oblivious to the minor problems of a few unhappy clients.
The sensation of being squeezed and crushed and pressed through a small opening was just as painful as last time. Jack struggled to keep a few important thoughts in mind. He knew what he wanted, he knew that he'd been authorized to seek a field upgrade in twenty or thirty years but he had a little trouble remembering anything else.
* * *
"It's a boy," said the doctor.
Jack didn't understand the words but he cried anyway.