“Mom, you know what Zoltar said?”
“Who’s Zoltar, Jimmy?”
“He’s the guy in the machine at the arcade.”
“You down there again? Didn’t I tell you and your friends to go play baseball. A little dirt and sweat is good for you.”
“Aw, Mom, we’re just hanging out, we ain’t doin’ nothin’ wrong.”
“Maybe so, but I don’ like you hanging around those kinds of places.
“Zoltar said my financial outlook is excellent. What does outlook mean?”
“It means . . . it means what the future might look like.”
“That makes sense. Zoltar is a fortune teller. I guess he meant that my excellent outlook is an increase in my allowance. Right mom?”
“You wash the car and we’ll give you an extra dollar.”
“Great! Then I can get more outlooks from Zoltar.”
“You spend your allowance on Zoltar?
“It’s just a penny for him to tell me my outlook. He did tell me that I would be hungry in an hour and he was right.”
“Yeah, well I knew it too. Here’s your sandwich.”
“Mom, you remember the time when I surrendered?”
“What are you talking about, Jimmy?”
“You know . . . that Sunday night at church when they kept singing I Surrender All? After the tenth time I went up and surrendered. I figured they would keep singing until I did and I wanted to go home and see the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.”
“I remember the night you walked down the aisle.”
“Yeah, well, the day before Zoltar told me “All you need is love”. I guess he knew that I wanted to see the Beatles.”
“No, dear. Finish your lunch” . . .
Jim Jr. started his internship at COVID Products in 2020. He began as a salesman offering masks, cleansers, and social distance apps. After he met a sales goal of $200K in 2022, he was transferred to advertising. Six years later he became the science anchor of the 24/7 COVID Report. His mechanical engineering degree gave him the necessary credibility, he felt.
“Today’s COVID report is brought to you by Phantastic Pies. You have to eat them to believe them.”
Before his stint at 24/7 COVID, Jim Jr. worked at a local TV station. He came on with his COVID report after the weather and traffic reports.
“The Psi COVID variant this week has a chance of being 80% doubly dangerous. Look at this map of the Chicago area.
“The green dots are those who have had their fifth booster shot. The blue dots are those who have only had four booster shots. But this mass of large red dots is the unvaccinated. Let’s zoom in on one using Channel Eight’s Heart Beat Tracker. Live video is being provided by a next-door neighbor.
“Folks, that is Mary Lou Stebbins in Hinsdale, IL. Mary Lou has yet to be vaccinated. So, avoid 217 Burton St. and all contact with Mary Lou.”
At noon, Jim turned over the 24/7 COVID Report to his young intern Stephanie Lour. He then went home to his wife Ann Marie.
Ann Marie greeted him at the door with a masked kiss, replicating the 24/7 COVID Report promo performance. Ann Marie, a devoted wife, always hoped for an unmitigated kiss in broad daylight. But Jim Jr. made sure that nobody ever saw them kissing without the proper PPE – even at their wedding. The unmitigated kiss – a peck on the cheek – would occur after Jim Jr. had ingested four properly prepared Martinis and was on his way up to bed at 7 pm.
In the afternoons, between the door kiss and the Martini kiss, Jim would grab his properly prepared Martinis and head to the basement – the COVID Command Center, as he called it. He had Ann Marie bring his meals there. “My work is too important to fiddle around with my time. Millions of lives are at stake!”
That state of affairs is what Ann Marie confided to her friend Julie at Zims’ Wine Bar. Ann Marie was fairly sure that her husband did not participate in pornography. But Jim never confessed his love for her. As far as life and love go, she told Julie, the newly restored Zoltar was Jim’s center of attention. She often watched him as he put coins in and Zoltar fed him fortune cards.
The fortune telling machine had been father-to-son handed down. Zoltar was Jim Jr.’s inheritance after his father passed. Senior made sure it stayed in the family. Zoltar had been placed on the auction block when the arcade closed down. Jim Senior was there to outbid the rest.
Julie, seeing Ann Marie so miserable, counseled her friend to leave to Jim. “What man loves a machine more than his wife?” But Ann Marie balked at leaving Jim Jr.. She decided that she would change her husband’s preoccupation. She had a plan.
Ann Marie began to dress as a gypsy fortune teller. She had Jim Jr. sit down and she pretended to tell him his fortune. But Jim Jr. wasn’t interested. “I am a man of science”, he told her.
One afternoon Jim Jr. ran up the basement stairs yelling “I’ve got it!” Ann Marie ended her phone call to Julie and said “What?”
“I will produce a vaccine that not only protects from the common cold coronavirus but also makes the recipient a valued customer at major stores, major everything!”
“And how are you gonna do that?” Ann Marie asked.
“Simple,” Jim Jr. responded. “You see my report on TV. There are devices that detect a person’s unique heartbeat. I will vaccinate people with my proprietary nano-particle that pulses with a unique code. I’ll call it . . . I’ll call it BlingBeat.
Ann Marie offered a “gimme a break” smile
“Zoltar gave me the idea.” Jim handed Ann Marie a card: A fool and his money are soon parted.
“You see”, Jim continued his sales pitch, “Subscriptions to BlingBeat will be renewed with each booster shot. There is a new booster shot for each COVID variant. We’re only at the Psi variant. There will be endless variants because pharmaceutical companies want endless profits. I am . . . I mean, we are . . .hooking our wagon to that gravy train.
“There will be an initial outlay of money – I’ll get a business loan – but I see a revenue stream that doesn’t end!” Imagine! For the price of Starbucks coffee for a year people will have a subscription to a second heartbeat that gets them into stores, sports events, theaters, the works!”
Jim Jr. began to pace back and forth and then stopped abruptly with a laugh. “When the CDC runs out of Greek letters, I’m guessing they’ll have to use male and female names like the weather folks do for tropical storms . . . With my 24/7 COVID Report, BlingBeat will have name brand recognition. People trust a science anchor.
Jim ordered another martini from Ann Marie and went back down to his Command Center. He had some phone calls to make.
Weeks later, Jim Jr. came home as usual and headed to the basement with his martini. He fed a coin into Zoltar and received the following card: If at first you don’t succeed, take another stab at it.
Jim Jr. always felt that Zoltar always had the best fortunes just for him. It was in the family, after all. And this card insured that. Zoltar told him to keep trying.
Jim had asked Ann Marie to be the beta site for his BlingBeat. But she refused. “Try it on your intern, not me!”
But Jim Jr. was resolute. Ann Marie had to be the beta site. She would never take him to court. “She worships me, doesn’t she?”
So that night, at 3 am, Jim Jr. wakes up at the usual time to get ready and head off to the TV station. Before he gets out of the bed, though, he reaches under the bed and pulls out a syringe and a vial. He drew the vial’s content into the syringe. With a quick swipe of an alcohol swab, Jim jabbed Ann Marie in the arm.
“Ouch! What the . . .?”
“What’s the matter honey? A bad dream?
“I just felt a sharp pain in my arm. Why do I smell alcohol?
“I spilled some martini last night.”
“That doesn’t smell like martini . . .can you get me a glass of water? My mouth is dry.”
“Yes. Don’t get up. Lay still. You must have been sleeping on your arm.”
A few weeks later, Ann Marie went shopping for the week’s groceries at Bill’s Food Market. As she was walking in, the cart kid said “Hello Mrs. Jones.” That was the first odd thing she noticed. Why would that kid know my name?
She walked in and the store manger greeted her. “Good morning Mrs. Jones. Welcome to Bill’s Food Market.” That guy never said hello to me before.
She walked through the produce section and noticed blue lights beginning to blink on a small dispenser as she neared the bananas. A coupon popped out: Fifty cents off a pound Mrs. Jones.
She walked down another aisle. The same blinking blue lights greeted her as she approached other food items. As before, a coupon popped out of the dispenser with her name attached. It must be some new sales gimmick, she thought. But something strange was also happening.
As she walked down each aisle, folks would look at their smartphones. Then they would say “Good morning Mrs. Jones.” What the . . .?
What Ann Marie didn’t know was that Jim Jr. had acquired a business partner. Zack created the BuyinaryBeat heartbeat scanner. (Zack wasn’t crazy about BlingBeat. So, the name was changed.)
Bill’s Food Market was the beta site for the BuyinaryBeat scanner. Jim Jr. told Zack that Ann Marie shopped there every week. Both Jim Jr. and Zack were pleased with the beta test results. Now production could start.
Months later, the BuyinaryBeat scanner had been installed in a variety of stores and venues including sports stadiums, hospitals and even churches. The BuyinaryBeat serum was being injected into arm after arm. The persons receiving the vaccine were told that they were not only protected from the latest COVID variant but that they would now receive exclusive consumer privilege. And, they would not show up on the 24/7 COVID Report map.
Ann Marie liked the attention she was getting at the drug store, the dress shop, Zim’s Wine Bar, and elsewhere. But she couldn’t figure out what had changed. She knew she didn’t have some aura about her that brought out the attention of others. Something had changed . . .She rubbed her itching arm.
Jim and Zack’s business Buyinary BuyWays took off. Jim Jr. continued the 24/7 COVID Report while the business was growing. At one point he left the TV station and incorporated his COVID report into a 24/7 infomercial. With former intern Stephanie, he was hawking the benefits of the BuyinaryBeat serum.
After five years, the partners decided to go public. The IPO made them millionaires. The night of the offering, the two of them celebrated until two in the morning. Jim Jr.’s head was spinning as he came through the door of his house. Ann Marie must be in bed. I’ll pour myself a martini and check in with Zoltar.
Jim Jr. half-hobbled down the basement stairs, spilling the martini. He took a penny out of his pants pocket and dropped it in the coin slot. Zoltar lit up and said, “Here you are, COVID Master.” A card popped out. Jim Jr. set the martini down and read it.
Your reality check is about to bounce.
“Huh? That’s not like you Zoltar.”
He put another penny in the coin slot. “Here you are, COVID Master.” Another card popped out.
You will soon have an out of money experience.
“C’mon Zoltar! Get with the program!” He put another penny in the coin slot. “Here you are, COVID Master.” But this time the machine did pop out a card.
“I’ll deal with you tomorrow.” With that he finished his martini and went up to bed.
Ann Marie was not in bed. Her clothes, her things, were gone.
After the stock market closed the day of the IPO, Ann Marie, with Julie’s help, moved her things out of the house. She threw the PPE and their wedding picture into the trash. She went down to basement to gather up her laundry. As she walked by Zoltar, the machine pushed out a card: All’s well that ends well.
Ann Marie divorced Jim Jr. She received a substantial monetary settlement for her share of Buyinary BuyWays. Her attorney had told the judge that Ann Marie had been raped by the jab and that Jim had used her as a guinea pig. Jim Jr. was later brought up on charges of battery and domestic abuse. “Other charges are pending”, said the DA.
Ann Marie went on to use the bulk of her divorce settlement money to produce an anti-BuyinaryBeat serum. Its effect was to null the nano-particle Jim Jr. had planted inside vaccines. She had been getting a lot of attention with the BuyinaryBeat vaccine her husband had pumped into her veins. But it wasn’t the attention she needed and wanted. Jim’s arcade life wasn’t for her.
©Jennifer Ann Johnson, Kingdom Venturers, 2021, All Rights Reserved
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