The Chronicles of Sam Moon - A Short Story By A. P. Davis, revised on 2.12.2020
Chapter 1: The wise man and the fool
SAM MOON CHRONICLES
The Chronicles of Sam Moon - A Short Story By A. P. Davis, revised on 2.12.2020
Chapter 1: Waking up from living in the past.
A new storm was on its way.
The old man could barely stand up when getting out of bed. Some days were better than others.
He was living alone, a widower, from having been married with children for over 30 years. Now he was up in age, about 69 and life was never going to be the same without her.
The year was 2027 and the world was so different from what it had been just under a decade before, in his recent memory. By now, everything had become automated. Artificial Intelligence and automation was common. Even something as simple as a door had the ability to weigh a person who passed through it, and could determine how often people opened a door and how much heat or cool was lost from air as it passed through. Locks on doors were voice activated and responded to verbal commands.
Floors would illuminate at night, to provide visibility for walking across the hall during night hours to prevent falling. So many aspects of living were controlled using the latest algorithms with Artificial Intelligence that it would be mind boggling if a person living in the first decade of the 21st Century to this moment were to suddenly experience it all at once.
There was an automated knock at his front door that mimicked a human that was motion activated. Looking down, he saw a package that had been delivered by drone. It was 14 X 14 X 12 small and the label read: To Sam Moon, 505 Brooklyn Street, Dallas, TX, from Cat Tech LTD. FRAGILE.
Sam Moon, the old man picked up the box with some hesitation, as he had a tendency to get vertigo when reaching for an object on the ground. He placed the mystery box on the coffee table, then reached for his MP3 player, coat and hat and headed out the door for his morning stroll. A local park was just a block down the road, past the old oak tree that grew out in front of his house. He had an hour before catching up with online news. Putting on his hat, and carrying his walking cane, he proceeded carefully towards the street then down a side road to Pecan Grove Park as his dog Apples, himself going on middle age in dog years, followed along-side.
Compared to how things were just a few decades ago, hardly anyone walked in his neighborhood. Most people remained in their homes until later in the day if they were not otherwise working in the towers in the Downtown area. It was a cool morning. The sky was full of clouds. No rain in the forecast though. Turning on his MP3 player to songs he remembered since he was in his 50s, he walked slowly down towards the nature trails and listened to a song by Gordon Lightfoot.
It was sometime around October and the leaves on the trees were only just now beginning to turn to shades of yellow, red and gold. James Tyler was out in front of his house at the corner, mowing his lawn.
“Hey there Sam,” James said in a rather cheerful voice. He was retired airplane mechanic who had lived in the neighborhood since he left the military. “Nice day for a walk. Did you watch the news last night?” Sam stopped for a minute and replied, “What was it about?” Apples walked up to his neighbor and wagged his tail and panted. As James bent to pet the dog, he explained, “Well, it seems there was a sighting of a rare kind of Eagle that had been declared extinct but turned out to be one of the oldest Bald Eagles alive. It was flying near the towers when it was hit by a police drone that mistook it for an unauthorized craft and it fired on it and the poor Eagle fell but yet it was not dead. It seems the police drone used a tazer on it. They plan on taking it down to the bird sanctuary and let it live the rest of its years at the Marsalis Zoo.”
Sam was pretty glad to hear that. Then he waved good bye to his neighbor and proceeded down to the nature trails. He hated that in spite of the latest drone technology man was still a threat to the local wild life. No wonder an eagle was on the endangered species list. Bad enough the big birds fly directly into wind turbines, much less those mile high towers.
There were wild flowers still blooming along the walk path that remained in spite of the cooler temperatures. Blue with yellow centers and some had grown over the edges of the cement walk. The local city park maintenance crew was busy blowing leaves off the park benches and a few children were gathered at the see saws and swings towards the end. Apples started barking so Sam had to grab his leash and attach it to his collar to prevent him from chasing the children. Usually there was no one at the park this time of day. Sam sat down on the metal park bench, designed with a curve at the back, as they were made ergonomically, to provide maximum comfort. Sam hated those benches. They made his back hurt even more.
Being alone at his age was not easy. Before his wife passed, he often enjoyed Jean's cooking, so much so, he had lost several pounds once she left him and he had taken her for granted in many ways. He began to cry. Every so often, when he stopped to think about her, he found it too difficult to hold back the tears. Clouds were rolling in and it grew dark fast. Sam realized he had to hurry back home before the rain started. So, before he could take his usual walk, one time around the park, which was only one block in length, he turned to his dog and said, "We got to go home now Mr. Apples." I'll get you something good to eat when we get back."
The wind was starting to blow a bit more and the leaves stirred as the city workers frantically tried to control the leaves. They turned in their lawn equipment and got into their maintenance vehicle then drove away. Sam hurried as much as he could, in spite of the pain in his back and his knees. Apples seemed to be a bit excited too. Some black grackles flew in circles over the houses like black kites tied to a string. Then, by the time they got back home, the wind was picking up even more. He lived in tornado alley, as it was called and a thunderstorm could evolve from minor cumulus clouds in a matter of half an hour or less, sometimes, bringing unexpected rain and high winds. Lightening was starting to strike. It was a good thing Sam managed to get back home before the storm went full force.
Back inside, he fetched Apples some Kibbles and Bits and turned on the T.V. set to see what the weather forecast looked like. He had all but forgot that box sitting on his coffee table, in the living room. The box was vibrating or was it his imagination?
What's in this box anyway? , thought Sam, as he sipped on coffee he heated up in the microwave. I never ordered anything, at least not for a month of more. I wonder if it is one of those senior citizens care packages. No. This was not from the Pantry. There was a strange sound coming from the box. This was annoying. A storm was about to break and here he was, sitting on the couch, looking at it. He put on his reading glasses and read the label again. It was from Cat Tech LTD. And below the word FRAGILE, it read: Cat robotics item no. FTC108.ALT976-B Guaranteed. No returns. See invoice inside.
Sam reached for his box knife. He began to open the box, when there was a flash and a bang and suddenly all went dark. All the power in the neighborhood went out. Even the streetlights went out. Winds were blowing the trees at such velocity the tree tops began to sway. Then, as his dog jumped up on his lap, excited by the thunder, an orange glow shined from inside that box. Looking closer, Sam realized what was inside. It was a robot that looked like a cat. Its eyes began to flash blue. And it began to talk. "I can answer all of your questions. Ask me anything." There was a small booklet and in spite of it being almost completely dark inside the house, due to the power outage, there was just enough light inside the box, where the robot cat's eyes shined, for Sam to see that it appeared to be an instruction manual.
Then a few minutes after that, Sam fell asleep on the couch. His dog lay on the floor beside him.
Then that night, he had a dream.
In his dream, Sam woke up and was at the ground floor of New America 1.
People were exiting the tower in large numbers. Sam approached and entered the tower lobby and began walking forward to the central elevators. The door to elevator no. 11 opened and people sprang forth in a hurried manner, as if running from a fire.
But Sam was compelled to continue forward and then he ascended to the 70th level. The door opened to an empty space, with a vastness that seemed to him enormous. Then walking ahead, he saw a group of elevators that led up to the higher levels, 70 to 100. Elevator no. 4 was empty. Music was playing inside through the hidden speakers, behind panels of diffused light shining on the smooth surface of the elevator floor, which appeared as white marble. A panel at the door had an LCD screen advertising travel to a mountain resort followed by a voice that announced "Level 100 - Please take Elevators 1 - 5 to the observation deck."
Sam was anxious to reach the top level, for some unknown reason, but then, this was a dream, right? Dreams don't always make sense in contrast to everyday life. When he walked into the open space of the observation deck, another elevator that led to the penthouse suites and Club at the top of the World, he found a door that was open that led to an luxury suite and there was a white baby grand piano. Just beyond, a window that took up an entire panel wall. Sam approached the window and looked out and saw clouds down below him and the sky above. It was a view that reminded him of being once on Mount Spokane, looking down over the city of lights below, but there were only clouds.
It felt as if the building was swaying. Suddenly he felt panic and an immediate urge to descend back to the ground level but as he got into the empty elevator to go down, he awakened from his dream or rather, his nightmare.
The storm had passed. A lamp light in the corner of the room was on, casting light on his wrist watch, which read 5:21 AM
His dog immediately barked to remind him it was his time to go outside and do his business. Sam reached for the remote control, to unlock the door to the front porch and the door swung open automatically as Apples rushed outside. He stared at the box that was on the coffee table. Inside it he saw the robot cat, its eyes glowing blue and then it spoke. "Don't forget to take your meds. Ask me a question and I will give you the facts. I am the fact cat, your personal robot companion. I am custom made and programmed just for you, Meow!"
"O brother. Just what I needed." said Sam.
The robot cat replied, "Can you please repeat that question?"
Sam then said in an irritated tone, "That was not a question old wise one!"
Then, the cat made some unusual noises and began to laugh in a robot kind of way. "If I was to rate that humor on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give it an 11."
Sam asked, "Is there an off button on you cataclysm cat?" - The fact cat replied, "I can be turned off by voice command."
"And that would be what may I ask?" Sam inquired. To that, the cat replied, "Just say shut up, or you can be polite and just say, ROBOT CAT, PLEASE HIBERNATE."
After being frustrated with that so called Fact Cat robot companion, Sam prepared his dog some canned Kibbles and Creamy Gravy and a bowl of fresh water. Then he microwaved a cup of chicken noodle soup. By now the sun had rose just enough to bring night to the new day. The air was crisp with the clean smell of a fresh rain.
As Sam sipped on his soup and his dog Apples goes to town on his Kibbles & Cream he turned on the monitor for the local broadband broadcast news & weather report.
The meals on wheels robot drone delivery service came right on schedule. Soon after that, a library drone flew by to drop off a box of items from the local public library with several videos of mystery shows and movies along with one book.
He opened the package of hot breakfast and placed it on the table to cool before freezing it for lunch time and then he opened the box that contained videos on thumb drives and DVD rom disks, and discovered one actual book, entitled: The Wise Man and the Fool. A novel, written by: AUTHOR UNKNOWN.
“I’ll read that book later”, thought Sam. It was time to take his daily walk, only this time he would be walking to the Hampton Station. Apples would remain at home. It was about time he paid a visit to the Downtown library. It had been a long time since he took a shuttle to the Towers of New America, in the Central District, where the Central branch of the library was located.
Taking out a Kindle tablet, Sam logged on via his home modem and switched it to roaming mode. There was an app with the scheduled departures and with any luck he would get an early ride and make it in time for a donut and coffee at the ground level coffeehouse. It was not easy leaving Apples behind. He would miss him all day long, but it was necessary for Sam to renew his library card and he wanted to check out some new books and videos. He had learned only recently that the library had gone totally automated, with Kiosks and hardly any librarian would be found in the Central library’s 20 stories.
Hampton Station was a wide open space of parked vehicles, and people sitting at bus stops and light rail stops, on concrete benches that were designed for anything other than a real human. But then cushions were sold at the Station’s convenience market center. Rows of lights along the concourse and trees and shrubbery lined the perimeter.
An attendant at the Hampton Marketplace offered Sam a voucher for a free shuttle ride to and from the Central Downtown station as he was a senior citizen and anyone past the age of 60 was given special consideration. Not only was transportation free of charge to the elderly, soft cushions made of foam rubber were given as sitting on a solid hunk of concrete could play havoc on the dairy air of old people who sat waiting for their ride.
Looking at the vending machines that lined up in front of the ticket and information booth, he scanned his personal ID card and pressed the button for a route map. The machines provided a wide variety of items to choose from. One such vending machine had sunglasses, UV-umbrellas and anti-bacterial hand cream. Logo hats with DART on top, black on yellow and logo pens and logo notepads were also regular products on hand for people who might need something at the last minute.
Fortunately, restrooms with handicapped access along with ramps and automatic doors were accessible to patrons as well as cold water fountains for no charge.
There were about 75 vehicles, parked in the lot. People who drove to take a ride on public transport, often kept their vehicle parked all day or all night, and there was even a locker for bicycles and motorcycles. There was even a building for pets to get day care. This was an enormous improvement since just a few decades before.
A Drone – A security drone, for the Greater Dallas DART Station landed on a Drone Port. It would keep a constant watch on the entire area to be sure everything remained secure for all the patrons.
“Oh no, I forgot my blood pressure pill.” – Sam thought out loud. So it was a no go for today. Sam had to get back home to take his morning meds. He had been a bit anxious anyway. It had been a year since the day he left home. For all that time, he had not traveled beyond his own immediate neighborhood. No telling what things were like Downtown. He grabbed the free foam pad and began his slow journey, 2 blocks back home.
Walking along the sidewalk, looking down on the uneven concrete with many cracks due to lack of city funding and mainly because the home owners planted trees near the edge of their lawns that had deep roots, that, over the many years, grew to enormous heights and the results were not only uneven pavement along the walk paths, but at the foundations of the houses.
“I can’t believe I was so stupid. I haven’t forgotten my meds hardly ever that I can remember. Then again, I’ve been a bit anxious ever since that robot cat was delivered to my house from an unknown source. I never signed up for it or requested a robot companion. Anyway, I’ve got Apples. He’s all I really need. And I forgot to change out his water.” – Sam thought, to himself, while tripping on a curb, startled, as a dark tinted windowed van rushed passed as if being chased by police.
“Apples, my favorite doggins, I’m so glad to be back home with you.” He went to the faucet and filled up the doggy dish and went over to the sofa and reached for his blood pressure pill that sat on the coffee table. No refills without proper authorization. Now he had to call the pharmacy to get a new 90 day prescription.
With nothing planned for the day, he pushed the on button to Fact Cat. Eyes turning blue and bright, the robot cat from unknown origin woke up and began to make noise. “How are you Sam?”
“Look here, robot cat. I don’t really have time to mess with you. I just want to mainly know, who is responsible for sending you to me anyhow?” – Fact Cat replied: “I don’t have that information. I was created for you. I am able to speak in 11 different languages and have over 100 Terabytes of stored data in memory.”
“Look here Cat. I don’t care if you have 1 million Petabytes. I just need to know who sent you and where I can send you to return you back to wherever you came from.”
The Fact Cat did not respond. Frustrated, Sam pulled out the power pack on the back of the robot and went immediately to watching his TV show. Dr. Zack, another dysfunctional family in need of advice by the famous psychologist and positive motivator for the viewing public at large.
The sunlight shined through vinyl window blinds on the two Cast Iron plants that he grew from one single top that survived a deep freeze back in 2001. His wife loved those plants. He had cared for them since they were little sprigs and now they outgrew their pots and tried to reach up to the ceiling. Often Sam would take the plants out on the front porch in spring to give them natural light, but since the age of global climate change, summers often got too hot for the sensitive plants and when it reached upward of 110 in July, the plants had to be brought back inside to keep from dying. They had been inside the house, at that window for the past decade. The floor where they stood was of hard wood and over time, water drained out from the pots, overfilled and made the floor warp and turn shades of grey that no matter how much floor wax was applied, remained discolored because of it.
Summers did get pretty hot. Sam never liked hot days. He became something of a recluse, most often living in the past by reading memoirs of his wife that she wrote in small Dollar Store books over the past 24 years, chronicling her thoughts and the minor details of each day of their lives together. Sam found it difficult not to cry when remembering the times when she was alive. It seemed like just yesterday when they would talk about the president and how awful he acted and she would make pizza with Naan bread.
Back then, he was just thankful to God for every day they had together.
Nowadays, it was just Sam and Apples, taking each day as it comes.
Well, there was this one other thing, a robot cat that was an unwelcome guest to his happy and humble home.
Sam broke out crying, “Why me God? Why did you take her away from me?” He thought about his younger brother, who had passed away years before he had been told about it. And who had died in a hospice center and had lost all contact with reality due to adult onset dementia, which unfortunately was an inherited thing. His older brother was still alive, but in an adult assisted living house. He had not seen Bubba in quite some time. What a way to spend your twilight years, alone, in a house with only a dog to keep you company, living with only your memories to keep you from diving deeper into sadness and sorrow.
Sam sat for a little while, thinking about his brothers and he sat down on the sofa and fell fast asleep.
Only about an hour later, the phone rang and woke Sam up.
“Okay, hold your horses.” – He reached for the telephone, an antique banana phone, also called a slim line phone, that originally, many decades ago, came in lemon yellow, lime green, bright green, blue, black, and white. His was the lime green phone, so it would blend in with the house plants.
“Hello?” – Sam inquired.
The caller spoke: “Hi Sam. It’s been a long time. How are you doing?” – Sam had no recollection. Who was this guy? “I am just fine and dandy. But I am sorry, I don’t recognize the voice. Who is this exactly?” The caller replied, “This is Kenneth, your brother.”
Sam thought his younger brother was dead. It was a long time since he got a call from him. Last time he called, he was in a hospice and only had a few months to live. “Is this a joke? Kenny isn’t alive. He died back in 2022!” – “No, it’s me. They made a mistake with the paper work. I am living in Hawaii and have a nice apartment on the main island.”
“I can’t believe it. But okay. If you say so, but I had no idea.”
It seemed doubtful to Sam, as he reflected on the last phone call he received from his brother Kenneth. At the time of the last conversation he had with him, the nurse told him that Kenneth had problems with his medications and problems with his memory. Sometimes his bother would speak in broken sentences, word salad, and other times he would talk normally. It seemed as though the medications might have a significant negative effect on his ability to concentrate and to speak coherently.
“How are you Kenny?” – asked Sam, “I am doing okay. I have to go now. I’ll call you back later. I love you.” – The phone clicked, followed by the dial tone.
After hanging up Sam stared off at the Cast Iron plant at the front living room window. The blinds were half way shut. “I just don’t know. I just don’t know.”
Apples waggled his tail and hopped up on the couch beside him. He reached for the cup of cold coffee, picked it off the coffee table and sipped on it and he picked up the book. Opening to the first page the book read as follows: THE WISE MAN AND THD FOOL. The story began with: John was the father of two sons, Anthony and John Jr. He asked his younger son Anthony to go and buy groceries for the family and he gave him a list of items to buy. He asked his older son, John to go out and pick up medications and fill the car with gas. Both were given 20 dollars cash. Anthony did not drive so he had to walk 6 blocks to the grocery store to shop for needed food and other items with 20 dollars cash. John Jr. had a car and took the 20 dollars given him to pick up the much needed medications for his father.
On the way to the corner gas station & convenience store, John Jr. saw a six pack of his favorite beer. He was tempted to spend part of the 20 dollars on it, hoping his father would not know about it, but thought again. (Maybe he would find out. I better not do this.) So he filled up the car’s gas tank with regular unleaded gasoline for about 5 dollars, which filled up the 16 gallon tank all the way to the top. This left him with 15 dollars cash. He knew the pharmacy would charge 2 co-pays of 1.25 each medication. That would be 2.50 total. John drove 5 miles to the local Little Giant grocery store and picked up the two needed medications for his father and paid the 2.50 cash co-pay.
But on the way back home, he thought about maybe buying just one lottery ticket, for 1.00 cash, just in case he might win a million dollars. He thought, his dad wouldn’t notice a dollar, right? He fought with his conscience. (No, I can’t. Dad will know.) So he managed not to buy that 1.00 lottery ticket and managed to fight the temptation to buy that 6 pack of Shiner Bock, that he loved so much, in spite of being an alcoholic who had to go to the AA meetings once a week on a Sunday.
Meanwhile, his younger brother Anthony picked up items based on what were on that shopping list. 1 dozen grade ‘A’ medium eggs, 1 gallon whole milk, 1 loaf of Mrs. Bird’s soft bread, and some of his father’s favorite candy, circus peanuts, orange peanut shaped marshmallow candy, that sold for a dollar a bag and one box of Anthony’s favorite breakfast cereal, Corn Flakes.
Anthony looked and saw a nice bunch of bananas. They weren’t on the list and he had enough out of the 20 dollars cash to get them but because they weren’t on the list, he hesitated but picked them up and placed them in the shopping cart anyway. Anthony figured, his dad would be happy that he was so thoughtful to get the bunch of bananas, especially because they were so ripe, but they cost 2.50 and that was exactly how much he got once a week for his allowance. He fought the urge to put them back, knowing they were not on his father’s shopping list, but went ahead, anyway and purchased them.
When Anthony got back home with his bags of groceries after walking, his older brother John Jr. had already been home.
His father asked, “Anthony, did you get everything on my list?” – Anthony answered, “Yes” – and his father asked that he give him the change. Anthony reached into his pocket and handed his father the change. His father counted it. “This comes up 2.50 short!” – “Well,” said Anthony, “I bought you a bunch of bananas. They go great with cereal and they make a great banana sandwich.” – “But I did not put bananas on that list. And although you did this without my permission, I will let it slide this time, but don’t do it again. I needed the extra money to pay for stamps to send a few letters in the mail.”
Anthony said, “You can take it out of my allowance.” – His father thought about that for a minute then said, “That sounds like a very good idea. I will do that but still, you know, I trusted you completely, to be honest and only buy the items that I wrote down on that list. Can I trust you in the future to do exactly as I ask?” – Anthony answered, “Yes. It won’t happen again.”
John Jr. had given the medicine to his father and the change and it came out exactly right. But, in the back of his mind, John was angry because his dad seemed lenient with his younger brother for buying bananas that were not on that list. Earlier, while Anthony was walking back home, his father had given John Jr. a lecture on alcohol. “Did you want to buy beer and a lottery ticket?” – John had replied, “I did not give into temptation, but I felt tempted to buy both a 6 pack of beer and a lottery ticket, but I managed to fight the impulse to do it.” – to that his father replied, “ You know, I admire you for doing such a good job, resisting the urges to drink and attending Alcoholics Anonymous and going to church services.”
John Jr. was both glad for his father’s approval and resolved not to feel bad about his brother being let off the hook for buying those bananas, since they were not on the list.
Sam put the book down and decided to fix himself a peanut butter and banana sandwich. That story made him hungry.
More to this story will be added as time permits.
Image Credit » Image by Jos Manuel de La from Pixabay