It's currently called "When The Party of the First Part Met The Party of the Second Part, with Addendum and Rider". In a nutshell, it's set in a world where all human actions and interactions are tightly, legally regulated and thus no matter what you do, you need a contract and legal advice. Now, try having a romance in this world.
When The Party of the First Part Met The Party of the Second Part, with Addendum and Rider
by Jeff Soesbe
When I decided to let the car in, I wondered if I was setting myself up for trouble. Even now, I can't say why I did it. I was sitting in the line of vehicles at the light and I saw the small blue car, ahead of me, waiting to pull out of the parking lot.
"Car," I said. People have told me I'm old-fashioned because I call my car "Car", but why should I give my car a name, even if it can carry on a conversation? It's not like it'll fetch a stick, or lick my hand, or even curl up next to me on the couch. Of course, I'm sure that somewhere in the crazy business world there's someone who is figuring out how to get a car to do just that.
Not that I've seen any trade secrets or inadvertent discussions along those lines. If such a vehicle came out, I'd be as surprised as anyone else and certainly would not file a prior invention claim against the company that produced such a device. I just want to make sure that's on the record.
In any case, I digress. "Car," I said. "I want to let the blue car in."
"Warning," the car said. "I am legally obligated to notify you that delaying the expedited flow of traffic could result in fines and penalties based on legal actions initiated by the drivers behind you who will be affected by your decision."
What I wish someone would invent, speaking of car-related inventions, is a car that speaks plain old English and not legalese. We are a smart people, surely we can invent a version of English that doesn't require obfuscation to achieve its goals.
"Car, contact and estimate." My car went through whatever series of techno-actions it takes to contact other cars and their owners, present them with the situation, let them decide if they would press for grievances, and estimate the final fine minus any credit I would receive from the Good Citizen Fund and from the owner of the blue car. A few seconds later (cars are fast these days), I had my answer.
"Total penalty would be fourteen dollars and thirty four cents."
It sounded like everyone decided to go easy today. It did mean I should skip my daily cup of skim, non-BOVA, quarter caf, non-sweat, 98% organic, cruelty-free soy, osmosis filtered, green tea latte, but in a fit of kindness I figured it was worth it today to do a good deed. Besides, it was almost Christmas.
"I approve penalty and will pay the cost. Let the car in."
As I approached the parking lot exit my car slowed and the blue car, signaled in advance by my car, quickly zipped into the open space. The whole operation was efficient and minimally disruptive.
I sat and cranked 1101 words on the story and it was kind of fun. Of course, this means I now have *four* stories active: "When Crogdor Came Back", "Real Space" (rewrite), "The Dybbuk's Moll", and this one.
That's too many. I really need to get back to focusing on Crogdor and Real Space because they are the current stories. The others can wait.
Distraction mind, focus! I said, focus!
Oh, look, shiny things...