14 Dec

Grenshaw and the Monster 12

Outside the shop, Tommy was standing at the opening of an alley. “This is where we got the idea,” he said.

“What idea?”

“That night when you thought you saw the monster, we learned something.”

“What do you mean I thought I saw it?”

“We learned to listen to you. There was no monster. We could see that. But you believed it was a monster, which was ingenious.”

“You’re saying I came up with the idea?”

“Not exactly. You created it, but that’s different from coming up with the idea. We did that. But clearly some part of you knew that you were responsible for creating the monster. Your conscience, your subconscious, your soul.”

“Tommy . . . or whatever your name is, I have no idea what you’re saying right now.”

Tommy motioned down the alleyway. “What do you see now?”

Grenshaw looked. As usual, the alley was dark. And sure enough, there were the eyes, a pair of glinting lights.

“C’mon,” said Tommy, walking headlong into the darkness.

“Are you crazy?” Grenshaw watched as Tommy’s figure began to fade from view. He followed reluctantly.

As he proceeded, his eyes adjusted. He could make out shapes: metal trash cans, broken bikes, doorways leading into more darkness. And people? Yes, there were people. Small figures leaning against the brick walls and standing in doorways. They were no bigger than children, but their faces looked weathered.

“Tommy?” Grenshaw asked. “What is this place?”

“This is where your trash goes.”

Horrified, Grenshaw looked from face to face, trying to discern the obscured expressions. “Is this place real or is this another computer-induced vision?”

“What do you see now?” Tommy asked, nodding down the alley.

Grenshaw saw a pair of tiny figures sifting through shards of glass and metal. They moved quickly, selecting the favorable pieces and throwing the others toward a trash can. They held small torches. By the light, Grenshaw could see their youthful faces. These were children.

“Your monster is a couple of poor kids, Mr. Grenshaw.” The boys paid no attention to Tommy. Maybe they couldn’t hear him.

Grenshaw didn’t know what to say. From the shadows, another figure emerged. Grenshaw recognized him by his blue coat. He approached the children and peered over their shoulder. “Good work, boys,” he croaked.

“They might grow up to be criminals,” Tommy said. “Then again, they might grow up to be like their father.”

Through a doorway, a fourth individual appeared in the alley, this one taller than the others. “Boys,” he said, “come on inside.” Grenshaw could barely make out his features, but he didn’t need to. He recognized the voice.

to be continued . . .

12 Dec

Grenshaw and the Monster 11

“By now,” the shopkeeper explained, “your operating system has become fully integrated into your daily life, so it’s easy to think it’s not there. Still, I’d expect you to know that you had the computer.”

Grenshaw nodded. “I’d expect the same.” What incompetence. Could he sue these people?

“It could be that the system was purposely deceiving you.”

“Purposely deceiving me? You sold me a product that lies to me?”

“We sold you a product to get your life right.”

“Right. “˜Get your life right.’ I’ve been hearing that all over town with that stupid ad you guys run.”

“Uh, we don’t run ads, sir.”

“Of course you don’t. Look. Give me a full refund and maybe I won’t sue you.”

“I’m sorry, sir. You signed an agreement waiving those options, so you’ll be doing neither. However, I think I can help you. Though I have no idea what you’re going through right now, I’m sure it’s the right path for you.”

“Right path? You call seeing monsters in alleyways and talking with interns that don’t exist the right path? What the hell did you sell me?”

“We sold you the single most advanced piece of technology in our modern world, sir. We sold you the most effective way to the right path.”

“You’re telling me a computer knows what the “˜right path’ is? Hell, nobody knows that. How can your company claim to know what’s right?”

“Well, one definition of it is “˜that which ensures harmony and peace.’ And in fact, a computer might know better than we do since it has no self-interest.” The shopkeeper started fiddling with a small keypad. It looked more or less like a calculator. “Our software was developed by a panel of scholars, religious leaders, and key revolutionaries. Surely, you wouldn’t argue that the Revolution was the wrong path?”

Grenshaw thought back to his father. He remembered when they were selling their house; his father had pulled him aside. “Son,” he’d said, “we’re going to have to start making some sacrifices. For a while things are going to be very different. We’re going to have to give up a lot of our luxuries.”

Grenshaw glared at the shopkeeper. “Not everybody liked the Revolution.”

The shopkeeper looked up from his keypad. “I have a son, Mr. Grenshaw,” he began.

Grenshaw’s glare softened. Could this guy read his mind?

“And he doesn’t like taking baths.”

For a few long seconds, the two men stared at each other. Initially, Grenshaw was waiting for more, but he realized the man had made his point.

The shopkeeper pressed a few more keys on his calculator. “There,” he said. He moved one of his watchmaker’s loupes over his glasses. “Yep. It worked.” He pointed toward the door. “Looks like you have a visitor, Mr. Grenshaw.”

Grenshaw turned around to see Tommy standing in the doorway. “Come with me,” he said. “We’ll explain some things to you.” He exited the shop.

Grenshaw was about to follow when the shopkeeper spoke. “By the way,” he asked, “was your father’s name Phil Grenshaw?”


The shopkeeper nodded and then headed toward the back room. “He was a great man,” he said before disappearing through the doorway.

to be continued . . .

10 Dec

Grenshaw and the Monster 10

Grenshaw stood staring at the Marigold Café. Inside, a couple chairs were tipped over; the stools that normally lined the diner’s sidewalk bar were piled in a corner. But all else seemed intact. It looked closed, but not closed for good. Actually, if it weren’t for the big sign pasted in the window declaring “out of business,” Grenshaw could imagine customers bustling inside. He could picture the chef flipping fried eggs and bacon.

Hadn’t he just seen the chef yesterday? Wouldn’t he have given some warning? It made no sense. Everything had happened so fast.

Grenshaw dialed the office again; he’d have Tommy look up the details of the account. He wasn’t sure what he was going to find, but then again, he seemed to be discovering all sorts of strange things these days. Might as well try.

Mary answered. “Hello Mr. Grenshaw. This is Mary.”

“Mary, I need to talk with Tommy.”


“Tommy.” What did she mean who? “The intern?”

“I’m sorry sir. The intern’s name is Adam. Would you like to speak with him?”

Grenshaw was only slightly surprised. The way things were going . . . . “You’re sure there’s no Tommy there? No Thomas? Nothing?”

“No sir, I don’t know if we’ve ever had a Thomas working here.”

Of course. “Okay. You’ll have to excuse me, Mary. I’ve had a strange night.”

“No problem, sir.”

Grenshaw walked back to his bike shaking his head. There had to be some explanation for all this.

As he was approaching the bike, he reached in his pocket for his keys. They were gone. “You’re kidding me!” he said out loud. Passers-by looked at him like he was dangerous.

He retraced his steps mentally, trying to figure out where he might have left them. Then he looked at his bike. The keys were still in the ignition. He couldn’t believe no one had stolen it.

As he mounted the bike, he once again heard that voice urging, “Get your life right.”

“Get your life right, my ass!” he shouted, drawing more frightened stares from pedestrians. He checked his watch: 11:20. He had time; maybe the computer shop would have some answers. “They damn well better,” he said out loud; he’d given up on appearing normal.

Fortunately, GCF computers was open. It was the first thing that had gone right today. But when Grenshaw walked in, the man at the counter – the one bent over his work like a watchmaker – said, “Can I help you?”

“Uh, yeah,” Grenshaw began, amazed at the guy’s poor memory. “I was in yesterday?”

“No, I don’t think so,” he said kindly.


“Do you already have a GCF computer?”

“I think so.”

The man came out from behind the counter and looked at Grenshaw’s neck. “Yep. You sure do. How long have you had it?”

“Well, like I said, I was in yesterday. I think I bought the computer then.”

“You think?”


“But you’re not sure?”

Grenshaw scratched the back of his head. “Well, no.”

The man went in a back room and came out with a small plug. “This is gonna pinch a little.” He connected it to Grenshaw’s neck and then moved his hands through the air, manipulating something that was invisible to Grenshaw. “Okay,” he said. “Our records indicate that you bought the unit six months ago.”

“Six months?”

to be continued . . .

07 Dec

Grenshaw and the Monster 9

The streets were busy when Grenshaw got on his bike at 11:00 to head for the office. Sidewalk pedestrians were spilling onto the street; people were gushing out of the subway stations like ants on an anthill. It was overwhelming. And on top of it all, he had to weave around hordes of slow bikes, all the while, keeping an eye out for flying ads. Those things were getting dangerous.

As he turned onto 3rd Avenue, a small ad whizzed by his head. “Watch it!” he screamed.

“Get your life right,” the ad replied. Get your life right? Where had he heard that?

“The computer!” he said out loud. He felt the base of his neck; sure enough, it was there -barely distinguishable, but there nonetheless. He decided to stop by the shop on the way to the office. “GCF Computers,” he muttered. “Wonder what that stands for.”

As he wove in and out of traffic, he pondered some possibilities – Gullible Customers Forget, Giant Computer Fluke, General Confusion Formula – but just as he was coming up with “Getting Customers Fleeced,” he passed the Marigold Café and saw a sign posted to the front which read, “Out of Business.”

He screeched to a stop, nearly causing a pile-up behind him, and got off his bike. As he was running toward the Marigold, he called the office. Tommy answered.

“Tommy, what the hell happened?”

“Excuse me, sir?”

“The Marigold Café. It’s closed. For good.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I have no idea what happened.”

“We only survive if they survive, Tommy.”

Tommy chuckled. “Really, sir?”

“Yes!” Grenshaw shouted. “We can’t afford to lose this account.” As soon as he said it, Grenshaw knew how ridiculous he must have sounded. Of course they could lose the account. They were Grenshaw Juices. They didn’t need the Marigold Café. They could have lost every single one of their smaller accounts and still be in the black. “Listen, Tommy, I need you to look into the Marigold for me. Find out why they went under.”

“Alright,” Tommy said, hesitantly.

Clearly, Tommy thought Grenshaw was nuts. And hell, he might have been. It really was irrational – all this fussing over some small diner on 3rd Avenue. He was acting like his father had when the Revolution began. Still, he needed this. “Look, Tommy. Just do it for me, okay?”

“I’ll get right on it, chief.”

Chief? “What did you say?”

There was no answer.


He’d hung up.

to be continued . . .

05 Dec

Grenshaw and the Monster 8

When Grenshaw walked out the doors of GCF computers, he found he was facing an alley. He paused and looked down the length of the dark dead end. Funny, he didn’t remember an alley being there. He double-checked that the GCF shop front was indeed the front; maybe he’d walked out the back door.

But no. Everything was as it usually was. Except now here was an alley leading nowhere. He was about to shrug it off and head toward his bike when a small flash of light – like a reflection off a wristwatch – caught his eye. He squinted into the darkness.

There they were. The eyes. They were smaller than he remembered them, but they seemed to be growing bigger. Maybe he was simply adjusting to the darkness.

“How’s it goin’, chief.” Grenshaw jumped at the sound of the voice; standing next to him was the chef from the Marigold. “Did I scare you?”

“No,” Grenshaw lied.

“Just lookin’ down an alley, then?”

“Look, I might be going crazy, but I see a pair of glowing eyes. Do you see it?”

“Glowing eyes, eh?” The chef followed Grenshaw’s line of vision. “Yeah, I see “˜em.”

“You do?”

“Yeah. That’s you, chief.”

“What do you mean?” Grenshaw said.

“That’s you. You’re lookin’ at a mirror, chief.”

Grenshaw turned back to the alley, incredulous. The eyes were glowing and they had tripled in size. He heard a growl, and then the darkness lunged at him.

He woke with a start and sat in bed breathing heavily. His clock read 10:20; it took him a minute to understand that he’d been dreaming. It took another minute to figure out that it was the morning and that he’d slept in four hours. “Damn it!” he shouted.

He phoned the office. Mary picked up. “Mary! I’m sorry I’m late. I don’t know what happened.”


“Listen, I’m on my way. I’ll be there in 20 minutes.”

“No need to worry, sir. I’ve delayed all your meetings till afternoon.”

“You did?”

“Yes, sir. You asked me to do so.”

I asked you to do so?”

“Yes, sir. Yesterday, you phoned and said you’d be coming into the office at noon today.”

“Oh.” Grenshaw walked over to the mirror. He stared at his reflection, trying to discern within the depths of his own eyes where the past twelve hours of his life had gone.

“Is everything alright, sir?”

“Uh, yes. Thank you, Mary. I’ll be in at noon.” He hung up the phone and said to his reflection, “What am I doing?”

to be continued . . .