01 January 2010

"Little Drummer Girl"

By Curtis C. Chen

Harvey didn't like the probe. Every time it slid into the back of his head, it made a grinding noise that rumbled through his skull and made him feel like his head was being scraped out. Today was worse, because he didn't have his normal technician, and this new fellow was not gentle at all.

Frank had met Harvey at the airport and presented proper credentials from the talent agency, but Harvey didn't like him. Frank spoke in a loud voice and with a mouth full of chewing gum that he kept snapping. Now he was breathing artificial berry flavor everywhere as he set up the link interface.

"So you been to St. Louis before?" Frank asked, pronouncing it "LOO-ee."

"A few times," Harvey said. "It should all be in my profile."

Frank waved a hand in the air. "No worries, Mr. Feldon, I'll take real good care of you. They hired me special for this gig when your regular tech got sick."

"How is Barry, by the way?" Harvey asked.

Frank shrugged. "Never met the guy. I'm an independent contractor, see, paid by the hour? Be honest with you, I don't know much about literature, but if the agency can afford my rates, you must be a real crowd-pleaser."

Harvey wasn't sure how to respond to that. "I guess narrative fiction isn't quite dead just yet."

Frank laughed from behind his laptop computer, which was connected to Harvey's head by a glowing blue cable. "Okay, we got green lights across the board. You want to give me a level here?"

"We can't start yet," Harvey said. "My drummer's not here."

"Your what?" Frank actually stopped chewing his gum for a moment. "You got a drummer? Seriously?"

"It's in my profile," Harvey said.

"No shit," Frank muttered, tapping at his computer. "Haven't seen a drummer in—okay, here we go, Chris Tuttle, latest firmware..." He smacked his gum while reading. "Wow. It's been a while." He looked into his equipment case. "You ever considered upgrading, professor? I could set you up a firewall in, like, two minutes."

"I'm an old dog," Harvey said.

Someone knocked on the dressing room door, and Frank went to open it.

Christine Tuttle stood in the hallway, wearing an asymmetrical green evening gown that left no doubt as to her gender, checking her beatific face and wavy brown hair in a tiny mirror. She closed the compact and nodded at Frank.

"Thanks," she said, and walked over to Harvey. She leaned down and straightened his necktie. "Sorry I'm late, sugar."

"You're worth waiting for."

Christine smiled. She pulled up a chair and sat, crossing her long legs. "What are we, ten minutes out?"

"Fifteen," Frank said, still standing by the door.

"Well, you going to plug me in, ace, or is this a do-it-yourself gig?"

"No. Yes. Okay." Frank shut the door and scrambled back to his station.

Harvey coughed into his hand, hiding a smile. It was nice to know that all men responded to Christine the same way.


Photo from Science Museum of Minnesota, July, 2008