Friday, November 12, 2010

The Enterprise - 11

"The sensei is a friend of a friend," Bill declared. "We let him come in and use a computer sometimes."

"And he gives lessons in return?" asked David.

Bill nodded. "I think he's homeless."

Conversation quieted for a few minutes and our attentions drifted to the television, where a bicolored mosaic crept across the national map from east to west, favoring red. We balanced paper plates of takeout Chinese on our knees as Bill's little boy and girl ran around smacking into things and scaling the furniture.

We were in a ranch-style house on a tiny patch of grass beside a busy street, near a vast and gleaming shopping mall. Bill volunteered that the place had cost one point two million dollars.

"Did you enjoy it?" Bill asked.

"What?" I replied.

"The sword training. Audrey! Come here!"

We made favorable sounds and expressions.

"It's my team-building exercise!" he beamed.

Later, back at The Prison, I lay on the stiff bed clutching a flask of scotch. Things were getting weird in the election. Al Gore had called George Bush to retract his concession. It was not immediately clear whether Bush understood the meaning of the word "retract." Florida had been declared but now was back in play. I drifted off to sleep to the increasingly surreal metaphors of Dan Rather, sounding like a drunk Mark Twain.

The following day we concluded our testing, the final user exiting after having provided the same ingenuous and anodyne feedback as practically all the others. We sat with everyone for a midafternoon conference call with New York. The contested election shadowed every conversation. Someone put up CNN on the projection screen and we watched the gap in the tally narrow by the minute.

It was early Wednesday afternoon and we had nowhere to go, nothing to do.