â€œWhat can I get for ya?â€
â€œSure thing, boss.â€ The bartender started mixing whiskey and lemon juice and sugar. I pulled out my phone and sent a text to Greg. Having a few drinks. Head over.
I dropped my last 20 out for the bartender as he set my drink down. I picked it up and took a long sip. I wouldnâ€™t be able to get my next welfare check until therapy on Monday, but I drained most of the drink without savoring it anyway and ordered another. A light buzz started settling in and it made me think back to last year.
You are all a lost generation. Thatâ€™s all I wrote for the first few months. Same with Geoffrey Chase Tucker-Hem, Angela Elizabeth Hudson-Hem, Frank Gordon Mendez-Hem and Terry Nicholas Padilla-Hem. That sentence was the only thing I thought about for weeks after getting my implant.
It felt like some great revelation instead of an overused sentence. To me, they didnâ€™t feel like the same words Hemingway wrote a hundred years ago. They were fact.
I tried explaining this feeling to Dr. Clermont once a long time ago before Iâ€™d learned what type of man he is. I didnâ€™t have rows of scars that I constantly rubbed across my wrists back then.
â€œWell thatâ€™s natural with the implants, Harrison,â€said Dr. Clermont. â€œAny person with an Oppenheimer implant is going to obsess over nuclear fusion for years before experimenting with other physics. Same with the Warhols too. They enjoy their soup cans for a while, but eventually, theyâ€™ll begin working on Progresso cans. When you put an implant into your life, thatâ€™s just the way it works,â€ heâ€™d said.
â€œIs that the way it should work?â€ Iâ€™d asked.
â€œHow I think it should work isnâ€™t important, Harrison. Tell me how you think it should work.â€
I noticed my phone buzzing on the bar. I picked it up and read a message from Greg: Canâ€™t. Iâ€™ve got therapy in an hour. Iâ€™ll call you tonight. My implant started throbbing and I scratched the back of my head. Another unpleasant side effect. The headaches used to be one of my excuses for writerâ€™s block. I blamed it on all sorts of thing like slow spinning fans, lukewarm coffees and loud people. Blaming them used to make me feel less responsible.
â€œIâ€™ll take one more,â€ I said to the bartender after draining my second drink.
â€œItâ€™s one in the afternoon boss, sure you need another already?â€
â€œYeah, my head hurts.â€
â€œAll right, $4.50.â€ I tossed out the last of my money started wondering if I had anything to drink at home. There was a chance that Elizabeth had left something the other night, but I couldnâ€™t remember. I wouldnâ€™t see her until I went to Dr. Clermontâ€™s next session, and I could already picture a frown sitting under her blank gray eyes as I told her Iâ€™d polished off the rest of her wine.
â€œHere you go,â€ said the bartender as he sat a fresh whiskey sour in front of me. â€œSo whatâ€™s wrong with your head?â€ I looked around the bar. It was pretty much empty besides me and another guy around 60. I must have seemed more interesting than him.
â€œUh, just an implant.â€
â€œOh yeah? You got one of those, huh?â€ I nodded my head. â€œTheyâ€™ve been finding more and more of those spoiled ones lately.â€
â€œYes, theyâ€™ve been finding quite a few,â€ I said.
â€œSo who do you have in yours?â€
â€œHemingway.â€ The bartender seemed to squish his face in concentration. â€œErnest Hemingway?â€ I said. â€œThe Old Man and the Sea? The Sun Also Rises?â€ He shook his head as I listed off the books.
â€œSorry boss, donâ€™t know him.â€ I shrugged and took another drink. â€œSo is he one of those banned ones?â€ I put my drink down and looked at him hard. He seemed to wait for some response, but I sat still. I could see discomfort settle over him as he decided to change his question. â€œSoâ€¦ why did ya get the implant?â€
I thought about it for a moment. I wanted to write the short lines like Hemingway did. I thought it would help me write books for my generation like he had. I felt like he was what my writing needed. It was a stretch, too, but back then I thought that I might even find the new voice for my generation. I wanted it to help me write. I didnâ€™t want it to help kill me.
â€œIt made sense,â€ I responded.
â€œMade sense how?â€ asked the bartender. I leaned further onto the bar and grabbed a straw. He watched as I started dragging it back and forth across my wrist.
â€œWell,â€ I started, â€œIt was simple, you can spend thousands of dollars on a college education, or you can spend those same thousands of dollars on a neuron pulse stimulant implant that takes an hour to get.â€
â€œYeah, I hear that boss. I skipped dealing with all. The old man had a place at this joint for me, so I just hopped on it.â€ I stood up and drained my glass. He seemed to catch the hint and started walking down the bar. â€œWell, nice talking to ya. Hope your head feels better.â€
â€œThanks,â€ I called as I shuffled out the door. Standing made me feel a little drunker, and I wandered off into a sunny Friday afternoon.
_Fiction writer Justin Goodfellow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. _