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Somewhere in an Almost Parallel Universe


Backchannel to "The Wall-Mouse"
(Short Stories)


Overheard:

Montague (call me Monty) The Wall-Mouse is speaking to his Budd:

It was one of those Internet lists, you know, like 'Joan's List'. But not exactly. More like a 'rent me' list.

Budd replies: A remt-me list. Hm-m-m.

Montague: I can't remember the name...people something. The last part rhymed with 'power,' I think. People Power! That was it. They show you a list of people with their little pictures attached and they want you to hire them. Not permanently you understand. Just for an hour or so.

Budd: The Hour of Power, perhaps? You rent people for an hour of power?

Montague: No, God no. You know how it goes. They start you out and then all of a sudden begin sending you gobs of that religious bunk-o stuff right to the email address you signed up with.

Budd: You're right. I hate when that happens.


The Next Day


Budd says: Montague! Listen up!

Montague: Call me Monty.

Budd: Whatever. Listen! It's happened...the four most feared words in the English language. 'Mike Waller is here!'

Montague: Oh, crap. What are we gonna do?

Budd: I dunno what you're gonna do, but I'm gonna go change my underpants!

Montague: C'mon, it's not that bad. He's only a mouse!

Budd replies: Yeah, that's what you think. I seen him take on one o' them rats out beyond the rockridge. Think on that for a minute!

Montague: Well didja see 'im? Didja ask 'im what he wants?

Budd: He wants t' talk to you.

Montague: Tell 'im I'm indisposed.

Budd: I can't do that. That'd be lyin'. Nobody lies to Mi...Oh, oh. Too late. Here he comes.

Mike Waller: Montague? Are you the one they call the Wall-Mouse?

Montague: Call me Monty.

Mike: Well, finally. And I'd be pleased to call you Monty, Mr. Waller. It's Mike Waller with The Sixty Minutes of News show, and the pleasure is all mine. Strange, isn't it, that there are so many of us Wallers around? No relation as far as I know.

Montague: Not as far as I know.

Mike: I'd like to ask you a few questions, if you don't mind.

Montague: About what?

Mike: Oh, one or two things. Like what you do these days.

Montague: Oh, mostly whatever you've got.

Mike: No, heh, that's not what I meant. You're the former store manager of the largest Wallmeister in Mus County. And at the same time rumored to be involved in a patent dispute. Impressive. When did you become an inventor, Mr. Waller, er...Monty?

Montague: Oh, about the time my friend Budd...he had to leave suddenly...stopped wetting his pants, except for today of course.

Mike: Excuse me?

Montague: It's complicated, Mr. Waller.

Mike: Call me Mike.

Montague: Well, okay...Mike. As long as you don't mind a small fist bump on your chest.

Mike: Not at all, not at all. As long as you don't mind the cleaning bill for the fountain pen you just crushed inside my shirt pocket.

Montague: Now that is unfortunate. I'm so sorry. Send it 'round and my Aunt Beatriz will have that shirt good as new in no time.

Mike: Now, looking at my notes I see a back-and-forth that occurred between you and an Internet labor force organization called...uh, let's see...'Personas por the Hour?' What was that about?

Montague: Ah. Thank you, Mike, for remembering the name. I've had trouble with it.

Mike: Well, it's Spanish, is it not? At least in part.

Montague: Right. It's a mix of both Spanish and English...called Spanglish...becoming much more common. It was about fraud, Mike, and you're being much too kind. I'd warn everyone to be wary of these folks.

Mike: What kind of fraud?

Montague: The ordinary, garden variety type. Saying one thing and delivering something else like viewing up a list of independent contractors, not all of whom actually exist, at least not initially. The viewing list also keeps changing along with the photos. Oh, and they want money up front...always a red flag and something smart folks always manage to avoid.

Mike: Did you eventually hire any of their 'personas', if you will?

Montague: No, I never did.

Mike: Well, was that fair? You've bad-mouthed their service but you've never even tried it.

Montague: I look at it this way, Mike. I've run a large business...a huge business, actually. You only get one shot at me. After that it's game over. I didn't see an actual product from them to be truthful. What I did see was the extrication of information--email addresses, work history, hobbies, you name it. This is extremely valuable information, Mike, and the so-called business entity pays nothing for it.

Mike: But this is just common practice. It's done everywhere on the WWW, is it not?

Montague: On the World Wide Web it is. You're right about that. But Mike, as a store manager I hired dozens of people, yet I never once turned around and used their personal information as a commodity to be bought and sold in the public square.

Mike: Laudable, but not very practical, I'd say. If everyone else is doing it, wouldn't an astute businessman say he or she should be doing it too?

Montague: Well, we're talking apples and oranges, Mike. The Internet is uncontrolled at present, but that's going to change, at least if people like me have anything to say about it.

Mike: Okay, now you're throwing breaking news at us. You're saying that Mr. Montague Waller, the Wall-Mouse, is in favor of regulating and controlling the Internet.

Montague: Precisely. And it's going to happen sooner or later. It's people like the ones we're talking about that are helping pave the way. They may seem ignorant, but that's over used. They're nescient. What's that, you ask? It's the opposite of prescient. The nescient person doesn't see the problem. The prescient person actually foresees the problem.

Mike: Very good, Mr. Waller. You may have a future in this business.

Montague: Call me Monty, Mike.

Mike: Oh, Monty. Of course. Now moving on, I've heard it said that you have a dark side, which seems a bit strange, actually, because I find you intelligent, cogent and charming, to speak plainly about it. Of course you were fired from your very important position at Wallmeister's. I'd like to hear you speak to that, if you don't mind.

Montague: Be glad to. I wasn't actually fired, I was replaced by my fifteenth cousin--I barely know the man.

Mike: Well you say you weren't fired, but isn't being replaced the same thing?

Montague: It's the context that's important, Mike. I was dealing with an irate customer.

Mike: You mean that there's such a thing as an irate customer at Wallmeister's? Don't they have something called 'the ten foot rule?' Any customer who's not greeted with a friendly smile and a hello when within ten feet of a Wallmeister affiliate, that affiliate could find himself being fired for the infraction...true or false?

Montague: That's true, but you have to understand. It's insubordination that still counts for something.

Mike: So you place the customer at a lower level than that of a Wallmeister affiliate. Aren't you just a step away from doing in your store exactly what you hate about the Internet...capriciousness, autonomy and even using terror tactics, to be quite frank about it.

Montague: Well there's a balance to be struck here.

Mike: Then there's a balance to be struck on the Internet too. Aren't you trying to have it both ways?

Montague: I'm sorry Mike, but I don't like your tone.

Mike: And isn't it true that you were considered an enforcer in the most notoriously violent gang in Mus County prior to your assignment at Wallmeister's?

Montague: So sorry, Mike, but this interview is over.

Mike: One more question, Mr. Waller. Just answer yes or no. Is there any truth to rumors floating around that you are behind the mysterious appearance of cadavers in and around the Tollbridge settlement area?

Montague: That's a malicious lie. There's no truth to it whatever. And if you continue this line of inquiry and any of it is made public, I'll have you up before the magistrate on charges, you got that?



To be continued

------
Fritzwilliam


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