Lord Hillary Evenshot stared blankly at the small black rectangle on the table before him and thought “That’s the perfect word, tangle, all those convoluted directions that confront me.” His train of thought instantly leapt to seashells and smooth convolutions of pink and beige.
“Conch,” he said as he heard Hermione approach his chair.
“Yes, darling, those new mobiles do make one’s mind turn in upon itself, don’t they?”
Lord Hillary had been pressured into getting this tiny torture device by nothing more sinister than peer pressure, literally. Everyone at the House of Lords had harangued him for months, if not years by now, to get one. How convenient, they said, it would be for him to be able to be in touch at any given moment with everyone. “More like how convenient for them to interrupt me at any given moment that suits their schedules,” he had muttered as he had watched his fellows leap and twitch at the oddest and most awkward of moments, fumbling for their phones desperately as though not answering them would be tantamount to ceasing to breathe.
He had seen this happen innumerable times and at the most ludicrous of moments. Old Dunmore Throop, 23rd Marquis of Mayfield, had actually felt compelled to try to take a call during a call while answering a call of nature. It had resulted in his losing his grip, literally, to disastrous consequences for the pair of handmade Church’s standing next to him, which happened to belong to a chap named Brown. Lord Hillary had never really known anyone to leap as high from a standing start as Brown and he had come to the conclusion that the fellow must have been quite the athlete at school. Hillary had never really been able to figure out what that man did within those hallowed halls but had decided that his athleticism must have had something to do with his going into contortions during question time.
But time and pressure create diamonds and crack the hardest walls, so Hillary had succumbed. His foray into the mobile store had been an exercise in reaching new levels of dumbfoundedness. The array and the multiplicity of options had rendered Lord Hillary immobile in the middle of the floor. The well meaning clerk had asked what was to him a simple question, “Do you want a smart phone?” Hillary had gaped at him openmouthed and the train of thought had throttled off to consider the kind of educational testing phones were subjected to. What would the O level for a telephone be like? Was there much competition among phones for places at Oxford and would all the other phones refuse to call a phone that had been sent down for serving the Don’s cat catnip laced with absinthe.
Hillary had replied stammering, “Yes, quite, I’d rather not have a stupid one. Trinity or All Soul’s is fine.”
He had ended up with the small black rectangle lying on the table in front of him. After several hours of trying to make it say something intelligent, Hillary was beginning to think that his phone was not as gifted and talented as the others. It supposedly could respond to voice commands but the only commands it seemed to be able to perform so far were “Sit” and “Stay.”
“My old Rufus could shake hands, fetch my slippers, and ride a horse,” Lord Hillary mused, remembering his beloved Manchester terrier who had had a marked propensity to want to ride behind him on Widowmaker. Brave Widowmaker, the mighty steed of his youth, whose thundering tread at a walk was due more to his weight than rippling muscles in his flanks. Hillary had dreamed of careering off along the roads within his Grandmother’s estate, the drum of Widowmaker’s hooves beating a dread tattoo, and having his faithful hound ranging far and wide in search of danger. The reality was Rufus’s penchant for settling in for long, leisurely snoozes on Widowmaker’s broad rump.
No, clearly this phone had the IQ of a newt and that was probably an insult to newtdom.
Hillary turned to Hermione and opined as such. She looked at the screen of the phone that was wallpapered with application icons.
“Why did you get so many features, my dearest? A few are useful, such as the one that lets you find pizza in the middle of the Hebrides. But why do you need an application that gives you the shoe sizes of historical personages?”
“Well, darling, I was listening to the chap at the mobile store tell me how clever this phone was and how it would expand my ability to know things. I thought how great it would be to have the knowledge of the world at my fingertips and fingers reminded me of feet and then I thought how a smart phone would permit me to learn how to leave a smaller carbon footprint and so I said ‘Step ahead’ and he loaded down this shoe appliance.”
“Application, darling, is the term, I believe,” Hermione said, not wanting to show off her knowledge of things cellular. “Have you tried to tweet?”
Hillary was stunned into silence. He normally followed her train of thought as easily as she did his. Hermione wanted bird calls? At this hour?
“I haven’t felt the need to of late, my dear, but if you insist, I can try my meadowlark.”
“No, no, sweetheart, tweeting is the newest thing whereby you send messages to everyone and anyone you want, letting them know the most urgent and vital of information about you without which they cannot continue to live productive lives. You use a strange new vocabulary to reduce the number of characters by which you impart this critical information because you have only 140 available. Apparently people are riveted on what you have to say as long as you don’t take up much of their time saying it.”
“Tweet, you say. How do you decline that? Tweet, twait, have twooten?”
“I suppose so, my love. Why don’t you try it?” She pressed a button, not on the phone but on the wall and Cyrus appeared.
“Cyrus, do you tweet?” she asked.
“Occasionally, madam,” the stalwart valet said, “but not if I can help it.”
“But it’s the rage supposedly,” said Hermione. “The smart set is doing it all the time and I think Hillary should try it.”
“But, dearest, why would I want to send a short message to anyone via a mobile phone? Important information should be delivered face to face, such as ‘Fore!’ or ‘You’ve lit your mustache and not your pipe!’ I don’t think writing out messages is efficient. I don’t think we would have won Trafalgar if Nelson had had to send bird calls to his officers instead of roaring out ‘Hard about’.”
“Well, I agree, darling, but as I said it’s considered quite smart to do this.”
“Cyrus, can you help me?” Lord Hillary asked
“Yes, sir, immediately, sir.” Cyrus reached over and turned off the phone.
“Quite smart of you, old chap, quite smart.” Hillary said, rolling on the floor laughing out loud.
E.E. Whiting is one of U.S. 1’s summer fiction readers and a frequent contributor to U.S. 1. Lord Hillary and Hermione have appeared in several Summer Fiction issues.