Every store in the Commonwealth trotted out their old, unshifted merchandise on Black Friday. As a date on the calendar, it was a quaint holdover from the pre-Reform, back when people sold you stuff you didn’t need just because you had money, and they could convince you to spend it. It was harmless cultural theater, like those recreations of historic villages with actors churning butter and feigning shock at your zippers.
My best friend Adrian and I ventured into the old commercial sector this year for some Black Friday window shopping. Our dads tried to talk us out of it, saying it was rude to waste a shopkeeper’s time if we had no intention of buying anything. Typical dadNet programming, trying to guilt us into staying home. We went anyway and had a great time trying on boots and coloring in mood panels with hand gestures while our dads remained docked at home. We had just left a home appliances warehouse and were about to break for lunch when I saw him standing in the window.
The box showed up on our doorstep a week before Thanksgiving. We were confused. It couldn’t possibly have been the prep-by-step Thanksgiving dinner we ordered. It was way too early, and the box wasn’t nearly heavy enough.
“Do you think we got scammed?” I asked my boyfriend Paul.
“What do you mean we, Mr. Subscription Delivery Service Addict?” he said with a smirk. “I’m not the one who ordered it. I told you I’d be happy with pizza and beer.”
We’d done pizza and beer for two consecutive lockdown Thanksgivings. I was ready for something special, but neither of us was a great cook. I wanted premeasured ingredients and a simple chart to follow. Thanksgiving-in-a-box was the answer, or so I thought.
I hated my HOA. It was full of boring old people with nothing better to do than micromanage the lives of others. I paid my dues on time every month, but only to keep the pool open and keep the dreaded condo board off my back. I ignored their emails, and whenever a new notice was posted in the elevator, I made a point of looking the other way while I rode from the parking garage up to my unit.
Every summer, they held elections for the condo board. As usual, I threw my ballot in the trash without even looking to see which of my neighbors were candidates. It was always the same handful of people who probably just rotated offices among themselves like a twisted, incestuous merry-go-round. One morning, I found a note shoved under my front door thanking me for my vote. I didn’t recognize who it was from, but I didn’t much care, either. The $400 a month I paid in dues should be more than enough to be left alone.
Noah tapped the key card against the door panel and turned the handle. It was late, and he was exhausted. After a delayed flight, lost luggage, and a tumultuous cab ride in pouring rain, his brain was fried. The dozens of work emails he missed because the plane Wi-Fi was down would just have to wait. At this hour, the only thing he wanted to do was collapse into bed.
It was long past midnight, and all the way from the airport, Noah feared his room had been resold. In a surprising demonstration of customer service, however, the Portal Hotel had held his reservation. Despite his exhaustion, Noah indulged the excitable desk attendant as he explained the hotel’s amenities. The guy was nice enough, and Noah especially enjoyed the way his pecs stretched his already tight shirt when he inhaled.