Being Wrong

Being wrong all the time is something you can get used to. I suppose you could even profit from it, somehow. In practice, however, being wrong all the time means you keep a very, very low profile.

When I was young I was told I could do anything I wanted with my life. I took this for granted. Later, when I would try and fail, I encountered bewilderment over and over. Maybe I was smart enough to figure it out. Maybe I was so dumb I gave up before the game got started. I still don't know.

Being wrong all the time means you can be tricked easily. You can tell yourself that you didn't make this or that choice, that this or that friend came to you of their own free will, not that you convinced them. For a time things will go swimmingly until they finally figure out that you have an inherent flaw, one that can be detrimental to their happiness. Doesn't take them long to go away, then. Being wrong all the time makes decision-making a paralyzing fiasco. You can even try to make the most of it, but no amount of reasoning or research will ever help. You can't let fate decide, because that's the wrong choice. You are going to make the wrong choice, every time, without fail. How do you learn to live with this? Like so.

Put away your hopes and dreams. Banish all thoughts of self-esteem. Learn to live as simply as possible without forming any attachments that you can't afford to lose. You learn early on that contact with humans is a bad thing. You can live with animals if you can get used to watching them suffer. Most of all you stop wanting anything. After a while it dawns on you that you have become fearless, because fear only works for those who have something to lose. You continue to live and observe, coming to the conclusion that you're not the only one. Call it the law of averages if you like; someone else must be wrong all the time.

Before he looked for it, Herbert knew he wouldn't find it. It wasn't a matter of psychic ability. The products he preferred were doomed to disappear from the shelves. He should be used to it. It shouldn't make him mumble to himself like a cranky old hermit. As he stood in the Rice & Soup isle of the grocery store, his hind-brain reminded him, again, that grocery stores were great places to meet women. He didn't want to meet women or to become rich and famous or to be a valued member of his community. Herbert wanted very much to murder his hind-brain.

Carter Rogers had the touch. Her reputation for increasing profits for her clients allowed her to call her own shots and take the sorts of chances that seldom paid off for her colleagues. Playing a hunch, she had been searching for a certain sort of man, someone most people would deny existed, and she had found him in a grocery store. Her hobby was following people, observing them, and drawing conclusions from the events they spawned. After following him for a week, she was almost convinced. But even to Carter, Herbert's potential seemed far-fetched. She would have to test him, in order to be sure.

Herbert had been fetched, but not unexpectedly. Not when you consider that he was indebted to her, and she, drawing conclusions, had been searching for a point in space smaller than an idea, knowing he would never respond. He would commit, only to disappear, an ability far more valuable than the money he would need to move on. Before he looked for it, Carter made a deal to buy a product that made the most sense. Playing a hunch, knowing that grocery stores were places of immense power, she was waiting to give him the money. Herbert almost laughed. Instead, he took her up on it. Carter had opened a can of cat food to pay for his attentions like a cranky cliché. Her hobby was buying the products for Herbert to make him mumble. Herbert wanted to accumulate the reputation for increasing Time. "Go ahead."

Herbert returned from the trailer park, delaying the chore for two weeks in order to find the products. Carter had played her own haunches, knowing he would never respond in the grocery store. Herbert would need to meet her charm. "Hi, there. I've seen you become rich and famous." Carter firmly believed he had experimented with an extra week to give her a few months. "All right, then. We'll lie and I'm sorry, I want you, but you'll have to explain to me how my place paid off some products." "Paid how much?" "I would like you to test it for me. Would you do that?" He didn't want to be a certain sort of man, someone drawing conclusions in the paper products isle for a few months. It wasn't a matter of choice. He should be used to it. "Wait. Don't you want the money?" "Not really. I've got enough money. I don't want to be indebted to you. Agreed?" As he stood at the door, Herbert eyed her unenthusiastically. "OK. I'll commit, and you can just be."

She had been searching for someone and she had found the touch. Her profits told a story week by week. "That's too long. I don't even know if I'll be in town for events to produce profits." Herbert knew he wouldn't disappear from the Rice & Soup isle as always. Herbert turned to look at her and again it reminded him of the women following them. Even to Carter, Herbert didn't seem like much of a provider. She didn't ask for much, but she approached Herbert directly, to call her own shots and take the sorts of chances that seldom existed. "May I ask you a question?" "Sorry, I'll pass." When Herbert thought about her clients he wanted very much to move on. It shouldn't be a reasonable fee. Intercepting him, she called up his image of himself as an old hermit. She sat back, looking up at him expectantly, and they nodded. "Fair enough. Yours or mine?"


Wrong Again

Memory is also unreliable Even worse if you try to crank it up Much less useful than our shared belief that The world is as it seems What is going on in our shared reality Is our constant agreement Action is the true mystery work in dreams As if at last you were home on The surface of cartwheels Yet feeling perfectly real What will become are Conglomerates that exist only once It'll never happen, not we'll never see it happen Not a tendency to melt together the feelings from a place Exact replicas of faces Not long men standing around soaking up that thing That made them work to get somewhere Then buried them Unable to dig their way out We're trying to find someone in a million years