To all appearances, an ordinary man stepped into view from the surrounding darkness. His short black hair was perfectly groomed. His simple black suit and narrow tie hung without a wrinkle on his slender frame. A slight creasing showed on his beige flesh at the corners of his mouth as it smiled enigmatically.
“Submitted for your approval,” he spoke, “a man and a woman, their names don’t matter.” His head moved slightly as he made minor gesticulations. “Tonight is different from any other, as they will soon learn, for it will decide the remainder of their future. Tonight, on the edge of understanding and the border of mortal comprehension, these two will plunge headlong…into…into…”
The aforementioned man led the aforementioned woman into a deserted doughnut shop and politely offered her a stool at the dining counter.
“Well, half the lights are on, but nobody’s here,” she said, looking around the empty diner. “That means no waiting. Life is good.”
“Ain‘t life a snood,” he said, looking around the establishment, “not a cop in sight.”
“Well, I’ll be damned,” she muttered.
“Do you think I can get my pizza with relish?”
“You can’t be serious,” he told her. “You’ve had too much to drink already.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she challenged.
“Sure, I do. Your blue snood. You wore it last week.”
“A taxi backed over my mother, somebody shot my cow, etcetera, etcetera. Why wouldn’t I want a drink? Flying aardvarks, man! Did you know that Sigmund Freud had died?”
“That was a puppet.”
“Yeah, a puppet,” he explained. “Someone with somebody else’s hand up his pants. He was a legend.”
“Well, when life gives you melons,” she said, “make melonade.”
“That’s so sad,” he said with a sniff, wiping at a nonexistent tear on his cheek. Then, grabbing her by the shoulders and looking his companion squarely in the eyes, he told her, “You take your melons! Take them and shake what your mama gave you!”
Nearby, the man with the enigmatic smile came to life once more. In a soft voice, he spoke again, saying, “Variation on an age-old theme: If an economist gives a lecture, but no one shows up to hear, will it still be boring? Of course it will be.”
“Look, everyone’s entitled to three or four vodka martinis when the mood strikes!” she insisted.
“They don’t even serve leopard here,” he tried reasoning with her. “You’d have to go across town for that. Nothing else goes with martinis the way leopard does, but you just can‘t change its spots.”
“Damn spots! That’d be a horse of another color. I’m gonna go take a bath,” she said seductively. “Care to join me?”
“No, Lucy,” he said, spinning playfully on his stool, “you can’t come out to the club and be in the show.”
“But I have to be…or not to be,” she replied. “I can’t go hungry again! We’re having company for dinner.”
“Well, are you coming or not?” she persisted.
“I don’t know. Is that legal?”
“Cream cheese isn’t illegal,” she told him, “just flattening, but if you warm it up first, it even feels good.”
“Be careful,” he said, reaching out a gentle hand to her cheek. “I couldn’t bear it if anything were to happen to you.”
“Me, either,” she responded softly.
She stood, knocking over a container of coffee stirrers as she moved. They both looked at it as though it had come to life.
“What is it?” she asked.
“I don’t know what it is,” he said. “Let’s shoot it and see what happens.”
“That’s all you ever think about,” she complained. “You never lick my eyeballs the way you used to.”
“Life’s a snood,” he said. “Get used to it.”
“I have an announcement,” she said dramatically.
“The penguin died?”
“How’d you know?”
“You have that glow. Don’t look at me, though, I don’t even own a blender.”
“I’m so drunk.”
“Should I be surprised?”
Once again, the strange but well-dressed man spoke.
“Black rain falls from the cloudless, blood-red sky. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this place.”
Then, his body stiffened, becoming completely still. Across the shop, the man and woman had also become motionless.
“That’s enough!” a man cried out from the darkness. “No more! My ulcers can’t take this.”
Three men walked into the doughnut shop, one overweight and visibly disturbed, the second not quite as agitated though still concerned and the third dressed in gray coveralls and indifferent to the stressful plight causing so much anguish around him.
“Ya see what I gotta put up with?” the first man asked, waving his arms at the lifeless figures. “Whatta ya think it is?”
“After what I just saw,” the man in the coveralls said. “I’d say that their CK9Run logic dots probably burned out a while back.”
“They blew that entire scene,” the second man said.
“Yeah,” the man in coveralls said, “I’ve seen this before. They’re not going to make any sense till we replace those processors.”
“Can ya have ‘em done by morning?” the first man asked.
“No problem,” the repairman said. “I’m going to have to take them back to the shop, though.”
“Just make sure you have them back in the morning,” the second man said. “They’ve cost me enough time and stress already.”
“They’ll be ready.”
“Alright, get these piles of junk outta here,” the first man grumbled. “Jeez, Morrie, this is supposed to be the best hardware in the business and we can’t even get through a week without it breaking down? How does anybody ever get programs made?”
“I dunno, boss,” Morrie said, watching the repair crew walk the androids out of the studio, “life’s a real snood.”
“Oh, well,” the producer sighed, turning to walk back into the dark, “still less trouble than live actors.”
“All that food talk has me starving. Get us sandwiches for lunch, will ya?”
“I’ll order in,” Morrie answered. “You know what you want?”