Philip kindred dick — penultimate truth
Philip K. Dick The Penultimate Truth
A fog can drift in from outside and get you; it can invade. At the long high window of his library — an Ozymandiasian structure built from concrete chunks that had once in another age formed an entrance ramp to the Bayshore Freeway — Joseph Adams pondered, watched the fog, that of the Pacific. And because this was evening and the world was darkening, this fog scared him as much as that other fog, the one inside which did not invade but stretched and stirred and filled the empty portions of the body. Usually the latter fog is called loneliness.
"Fix me a drink," Colleen said plaintively from behind him.
"Your arm," he said, "it fell off? You can't squeeze the lemon?" He turned from the window with its view of dead trees, the Pacific beyond and its layer in the sky, darkness hanging and approaching, and for a moment actually considered fixing her the drink. And then he knew what he had to do, where he had to be:
At the marble-top desk which had been salvaged from a bombed-out house in the Russian Hill section of the former city of San Francisco he seated himself at the rhetorizor, touched its _on_-tab.
Groaning, Colleen disappeared to search for a leady to fix her the drink. Joseph Adams, at his desk and rhetorizor, heard her go and was glad. For some reason — but here he did not care to probe his own mind too deeply — he was lonelier with Colleen Hackett than without her, and anyhow late on Sunday night he fixed a dreadful drink; it was always too sweet, as if by mistake one of his leadies had dug up a bottle of Tokay and he had used it, not dry vermouth, in the martinis. Ironically, left to themselves, the leadies never made that error… was this an omen? Joe Adams wondered. Are they getting smarter than us?
At the keyboard of the rhetorizor he typed, carefully, the substantive he wanted. _Squirrel_. Then, after a good two minutes of sluggish, deep thought, the limiting adjective _smart_.
"Okay," he said, aloud, and sat back, touched the rerun tab.
The rhetorizor, as Colleen reentered the library with her tall gin drink, began to construct for him in the auddimension. "It is a wise old squirrel," it said tinnily (it possessed only a two-inch speaker), "and yet this little fellow's wisdom is not its own; nature has endowed it — "
"Aw god," Joe Adams said savagely, and slapped off the sleek, steel and plastic machine with all its many microcomponents; it became silent. He then noticed Colleen. "Sorry. But I'm tired. Why can't they, Brose or General Holt or Marshal Harenzany, _somebody_ in a position of responsibility, put Sunday night somewhere between Friday noon and — "
"Dear," Colleen said, and sighed. "I heard you type out only two semantic units. Give it more to ogpon."
"I'll give it plenty to ogpon." He touched the _no_-tab, typed a whole sentence, as Colleen stood behind him, sipping and watching. "Okay?"
"I just can never tell about you," Colleen said. "If you passionately love your job or hate it." She read the sentence aloud. " 'The well-informed dead rat romped under the tongue-tied pink log.'"
"Listen," he said grimly. "I want to see what this stupid assist that cost me fifteen thousand Wes-Dem dollars is going to do with that. I'm serious; I'm waiting." He jabbed the rerun tab of the machine.
"When's the speech due?" she asked.
"Get up early."
"Oh no." He thought, I hate it even more when it's early.
The rhetorizor, in its cricket's voice, intoned folksily. "We think of rats, of course, as our enemy.