“The Jiminy Device” from Lisa Mantchev is a delightfully snarky satire of celebrity taken to its logical (and entourage-encrusted) extreme.
[ IMPORTANT NOTICE: This story is NOT covered by the Creative Commons License that covers the majority of content on Futurismic; copyright remains with the author, and any redistribution is a breach thereof. Thanks. ]
The Jiminy Device
by Lisa Mantchev
“What do you mean you’re leaving?”
Shock and disbelief clouded London’s brow (despite the neurotoxin injections) as she stared at her lover. Marcel only shrugged. When one of his people scribbled a note and handed it to him, he read it cold.
“We’re drifting apart. It’s not you, it’s me.” He took the cigarette out of his mouth and glared at the hapless scriptwriter. She withered visibly behind her cheap haircut. “This is what I pay you for?” He shook his head and his stylist adjusted the tousled locks with a comb.
London sniffed, trying to muster some tears. Her special effects guy produced a squirt bottle of saline when she couldn’t quite manage it on her own. Her personal trainer (Tony… or was it Toby?) glared at Marcel. “You can’t leave me. I’m an heiress for god’s sake. I’m leaving you.”
Neil and Susanna, their respective PR generals, glowered at each other. Index fingers hovered over cell phones, ready to speed-dial the Associated Press.
“I didn’t want to hurt you—” Marcel continued, exhaling a stream of silver-blue smoke.
“Oh, go fark yourself and your lame excuse for an entourage.” London threw herself onto a chaise, a maneuver that wrenched a few dozen crystals from her barely-there ensemble. “This is what I get for slumming it with a C-list celebrity. Daddy was right about you.”
Marcel gaped at her and forgot to read the rest of his speech. He even forgot to take a drag off his cigarette. Neil and Susanna pounded away at their keypads.
“London is leaving Marcel,” Neil barked in triumph as his line connected first. He gave Susanna the finger and marched from the suite with her dogging his heels like an overexcited poodle.
“Marcel dumped London!” she countered, shoving him through an open doorway as she raced to the lift.
“He can’t satisfy her in the bedroom,” he said before he’d even regained his feet.
“She’s hooked on amphetamines and refuses to go to rehab—”
“London’s already dating a crowned prince!”
“He’s consoling himself with that hot new Indie movie starlet!”
Their voices faded down the hall. Someone adjusted the lighting. Soft music encouraged a reunion. London arranged herself in a more flattering pose.
Thighs: ever-so-slightly parted.
For a moment, London thought Marcel might reconsider. She was the It Girl, after all, voted one of Global E-zine’s Most Appealing. Her sexcapades were a nightly fixture on the entertainment news projections.
She’d stirred up a very good buzz for him. He should be kissing her shoes in gratitude. Instead he was walking out on her. How tacky. And humiliating that he’d beaten her to the break-up. She slammed her thighs shut and sat up.
He looked at her with smoldering blue eyes that once upon a time had reminded her of Venetian Sapphire gin bottles; now they merely prompted a yearning for a frostini with a twist. London stalked to the bar and settled for a bottle of slammerstein.
“So I guess I’ll be going,” he said, doing his best sad-little-boy imitation.
“Whatever.” It almost didn’t hurt to down a third of the bottle without coming up for air.
“No hard feelings, all right?” He flicked the butt of his cigarette towards the window and missed.
“I’ll send one of my people around to collect my things.” He lit up again, using the gold lighter she gave him only last week.
“Your things?” London twisted around and broke the heel on her shoe. Tottered. Recovered. Leveled a glare at him and stifled a hiccup. “I bought you these things. I bought the clothes you’re wearing, right down to the underwear. I should make you strip and try to catch a cab naked.”
Every shred of polish she’d rubbed into him over the last three and half heated weeks tarnished when he countered with the clever retort of “bitch.”
London’s bodyguards flexed their immense biceps. Tony/Toby, she noticed, clenched his fists. She flapped her hand at them, the five-carat right-hand ring glinting like a beacon in the night.
“Boys, kindly show Marcel the door. And feel free to introduce his pretty face to the stairs, the wall and the doormat on the way out.”
Marcel, apparently not as dumb as he looked, turned and fled, pursued by all of his people and some of hers. London took another swig and then hurled the bottle at the mirror over the fireplace. The noise, the mess, they did her soul good. She pulled off her ruined stiletto and threw that as well. Then she snapped her fingers (or tried to) at her assistants.
“Let’s trash the place. Tip those floating sofas over. Break that butt-ugly vase. Start ripping down the screens. And that painting has to go.”
“But London, this isn’t your penthouse…”
“It’s the Plaza—”
“That’s an original Simpson finger painting!”
“I don’t think this is such a good idea.” Tony/Toby neatly hooked his arm around her waist when she swayed. “Maybe you should just sleep it off and get even with him in the tabloids.”
Delirious with booze and the prospect of some creative redecoration, London only patted his cheek.
“Don’t worry, cutie. I can afford it.”
London smoothed the fabric of her chic grey suit. Thank goodness currant couture had leaned to the conservative with a hint of demure playfulness. Last season’s sex-kitten-naughty-vixen-spank-me look would never do for a court appearance.
She wasn’t anxious exactly. Anxiety caused wrinkles and sleepless nights. Sleepless nights sparked unflattering headlines that screamed “London’s bridge is falling down! Is it drugs?” and “Heiress romps with wrong crowd! Daddy’s furious!”
Never mind that Daddy was furious. And threatening to do all sorts of unsavory things, not the least of which was cutting her off without a dime. This whole suing-for-damages thing was a major drag.
The judge (a woman in dire need of some highlights and a nose job) glared at her.
“Young lady, do you understand that your father has refused to pay the damages incurred by you and your employees on the night in question?”
London nodded. Cameras flickered all over the courtroom as both android paparazzi and reporters went mad to get a photo of the Fallen Angel, as they were headlining her.
“Yes, Your Honor.” As soon as this was over, she’d jump on the company flier to the company island. She needed sun, sand and a tan native to rub cocoa butter over every square inch of her body.
“And that this is not the first time you’ve been charged with reckless endangerment and willful destruction of private property?”
“Yes, Your Honor.” Tears would so come in handy right about now. Too bad her entourage was seated three rows back.
The judge glowered at her. “I don’t think you grasp the gravity of the situation.”
“Huh?” London’s head was still on the beach, her mind still frolicking in the sand several continents away.
Reporters laughed and captured more digital images. The judge banged her gavel with ill-concealed impatience.
“Silence, please. Since you seem to care little about the outcome of this trial, I will announce my judgment to your people and they can convey it to you at your convenience.” The judge shifted her gaze to London’s attorney.
“No, I’m—” London began.
The judge cut her off. “You are hereby ordered to pay restitution to the plaintiffs in the amount of four million, nine hundred thousand dollars for the damages to your suite. This amount will be deducted from your trust, in compliance with your father’s wishes. In addition, you will spend no less than three years in a state correctional facility—
A cold wave of reality hit London in the face and the beach evaporated.
The single word stuck in her throat, just above her heirloom strand of pearls.
“—or you will agree to the implantation of a digital conscience and five hundred hours of community service.”
The members of the AP raced for the doors, screaming headlines into their cochlear implants. London couldn’t make sense of it all.
“A digital what?”
The judge smiled. It wasn’t reassuring.
“Something to give you scruples, young lady, since you are so obviously without any. That is all.” She swept from the room with her robes fluttering.
London gaped at her disappearing (and ample) backside then turned to the lawyer.
“You miserable farking bottom-dweller. You told my father you’d get me off.”
“Young lady, Mother Theresa the Fifth would have been hard-pressed to say something nice about you.” He grabbed the handle of his hovering briefcase. “You and your friends are a public nuisance and a danger to society. A little jail time will do you good.”
London slapped his face smartly, to the delight of the remaining photographers. Then she turned on her heel—a Van Dorton sling back—and ran directly into Tony/Toby.
“Get out of my way or you’re fired!”
“Sorry, Princess.” He took her by the elbow. “Your father cuts my paycheck. And it’s now my job to watch where you’re going, which is either to jail or the clinic. What’s it going to be?”
“How dare you call me names, Tony… Tony… whatever your name is—”
“It’s Zach, actually.”
“Whatever. You take your hands off me this instant. The only place I’m going is the airport. And from there I’m going to my beach!” Her voice climbed a full octave and peaked on a shrill high C.
He shook his head at her and began to clear a path through the remaining reporters. “You want the judge to slap a few extra years on to your sentence for fleeing? Or send a headhunter after you? You won’t enjoy their brand of manhandling, trust me.”
A volley of flashes popped off in her face. A dozen hands tried to stuff mini-microphones practically up her nose as Zach battled their way out of the lobby and onto the street.
“London! Give us your thoughts on the sentencing!”
“What will you do about hair color during your imprisonment?”
“Who designed your suit?”
He shoved her in the waiting limousine and slammed the door behind her. London didn’t require a saline bottle to burst into tears this time. The violin music was a nice touch, though.
London woke up in the clinic, her head throbbing worse than it had after a week clubbing in Las Vegas. She put a tentative hand to her temple and winced.
There was probably bruising.
She’d have to book a month or three at some reclusive spot in the mountains until she’d recovered her good looks.
That’s all you can think about with so many people suffering from debilitating diseases? Surely a little bruising is nothing compared to thermo-radiation treatments or genetic realignment!
An electric shock accompanied the chiding voice in her head, jangling every nerve and sizzling in a white arc of light behind her eyeballs. London yelped in panic and pinwheeled her arms against the sheets as a nurse appeared.
“Up and about, are we?” she chirped as she rearranged bedding and fluffed pillows. “What do you think of your Jiminy Device?”
“What do you think I think about it, you stupid karfaffle?” London received another electroshock and girded herself to deliver a succinct and profanity-laden diatribe.
“No comment.” Zach rose from the chair in the corner and set his newspaper aside. “Perhaps you’d like me to notify Security that you’re feeding information to the press about your high-profile patients.”
The nurse colored. “How dare you intimate such a thing, sir?”
“I’d also take a guess that you’re wearing a feed. I can’t prove it, though, unless I check your cleavage.”
“This is harassment.” The nurse backed towards the door, one hand to her bosom.
“Not if I’m right.” He took one menacing step towards her. She squeaked and fled.
“Guess she didn’t like the idea of your paw down her shirt. Who died and made you my bodyguard, anyway?” London glared up at him. “I have bodyguards. Real ones.”
“Your father seemed to think you needed a babysitter, so here I am,” Zach said as he offered her a glass of juice with a plexi-straw.
She wrinkled her nose at it. “I don’t do juice first thing in the morning. I need coffee. Preferably a quad-caff latté from the bistro on 8th street.”
Do you know how many wasted man-hours are involved with one of those designer coffees, much less the destruction caused to the eco-system when they clear land to plant the beans?
“Fark!” London yelled as she clapped her hands to her head.
“You’re going to want to take a moment before you think uncharitable thoughts. Or selfish ones.” Zach smothered a smile. “It’s going to curb your fifth-level reflections a bit.”
Mindful that if she received any more shocks her hair would be permanently fried, London swallowed her retort along with her juice.
Your hair is hardly the most pressing issue in the world. What about starving children? What about the sad state of galactic economics?
London braced herself for the shock, but the Jiminy Device contented itself with a nauseating rendition of “We Are the Global Alliance” before it subsided into welcome silence.
“Maybe I should have picked prison.” With all the overcrowding? “This is going to make me crazy.” Don’t demean those with real mental illnesses! “How in the hell am I supposed to function with this thing yammering in my head?” London threw her juice at the wall (what a waste!) and pulled the blankets over her head (many a homeless person would be thankful for a shelter like this…)
“Call the doctor. I’ve changed my mind,” she shouted. She felt an awkward hand pat her through the bedding.
“It’ll get better,” Zach promised. “Your brain just needs time to reprogram how you think.”
“But I like how I think!” she wailed, wondering if she could feel guilty about that—
Thinking only of yourself and your own well-being is selfish!
“This is going to kill me,” she announced with as much drama as she could infuse into the words.
“Or make you stronger. And a better person.” Zach pulled the covers off and attempted to hand London her clothes.
She tugged at the sheets without luck. “What the hell do I need those for?”
Think of all the naked people that would be grateful for those clothes!
“Your first community service appointment is in half an hour. You’re scheduled to serve protein shakes and make nice with the lesser fortunate members of your adoring public.”
“Noooooo!” she wailed. “I can’t. I need rest. I need time to recuperate. I need a massage and a makeover!”
Zach shook his head. “More bad news, Princess. Your father fired the rest of the entourage. There aren’t going to be any makeovers in the near future.”
For a moment, her brain couldn’t process the nonsense words coming out of his mouth. Fired? Entourage?
“Fired… my… entourage?” she repeated, feeling stupid. “That’s not possible. I haven’t been without them since—”
“Birth?” Zach tossed her clothes at her and headed for the door. “Get used to it. He’s cutting you off. No one is going to wipe your nose or that cute little ass of yours anymore.”
“Cutting me off?” She knelt in the ruin of her bed and clutched the covers to her chest. “Then what are you doing here?”
“Damage control. It’s my job to make sure you don’t embarrass yourself—and him—any further. Now I’m giving you five minutes to meet me in the hall, or I’ll come back and dress you myself. And I promise you that neither one of us will enjoy it.”
He slammed the door behind him. London threw on her clothes in less than a minute and was out the window in two. She needed help. She needed sympathy. And by god, she needed coffee.
You’ll be sorry!
Marcel answered the door in a pair of synthosilk boxer-briefs and a delightfully rippled chest.
“What are you doing here?” he said, suspicion marring his perfect features.
“I had to get out.” London sniffed and wiped ineffectually at her nose. “Are you alone?”
“My people have the day off. Why are you crying?”
“The poor orphans,” she said with a ragged sob. “And the puppies!”
“What puppies?” In his confusion, Marcel allowed her into the apartment and peered down the hall. “This building has a strict no-pet policy.”
“No,” she said with a gulp as she picked her way through the mess. Newspapers and gossip magazines littered the floor. The room reeked of smoke. A haze Los Angeles would envy hovered overhead. “I was talking about the ones in the animal preserves.”
“You’re crying about puppies in the animal preserves? There’s a government no-kill mandate on dogs, London. They’re an endangered species.”
“Yes, but they have no one to love them or pet their soft little ears!” She threw herself face-down on his sofa and writhed with guilt.
“You’re spilling coffee all over the place!” he said with a yelp, wresting the black and white styracine cup from her grasp.
“I couldn’t drink it. Not a single sip.” She grabbed two fistfuls of his boxer shorts. “The cup won’t biodegrade for a hundred thousand years. Think of the corporate irresponsibility!”
“The corporate what?” He detached her hands from his nether-regions. “Get a grip on yourself.”
“Help me, Marcel.” London plugged her fingers in her ears and began rocking backwards and forwards. “This thing in my head is making me crazy.”
He leaned against the doorjamb — That’s a calculated effort to look sexy. How self-indulgent! — and studied her.
“Your father is one step away from cutting you off without a dime. I don’t need him to start leaning on me too.”
He thinks only of himself. He’s a bad influence!
And he didn’t know that she was no longer an heiress.
“I suppose you do have your career to think of,” she said, trying not to choke on the words. “I was just hoping that maybe you’d help me. As a friend. I would be very grateful.”
“I have lots of friends, London. Including one that might just know how to disable that thing in your head. (Hey! Just what is he suggesting?!) But I need to know what’s in it for me. Just how grateful do you think you can be?” His eyes, those smoldering too-blue Venetian sapphire gin eyes, looked her over.
Well, they weren’t so much smoldering as vacant.
London blinked. That sounded less like the Jiminy device and more like… well, like her own voice.
Had she thought that herself?
“How grateful do you want me to be?” she asked, uncomfortable with the process of groveling. “You broke up with me, remember?”
“It was all a mistake.” He took her hand with tenderness (Manipulative bastard!) “I should never have listened to that image consultant. We were really good together. We could be good together again.”
“I don’t understand.” The promise of a migraine bloomed behind the implant. “You want us to get back together?”
“More than anything.” He kissed her fingertips (A move he picked up in acting class!) “You’re my sun, my moon, my goddess. (That’s a line out of the play he’s rehearsing!) Let’s get that thing out of your head. And then let’s get married.”
Ham actor! Such cheese! That’s all he is… ham and cheese!
“A month ago you didn’t want to have anything to do with me. Now you want to get married?” The pain intensified tenfold. London tried to extricate her hand from his grasp.
Where is that Zach guy when we really need him? He was a fine, upstanding young man.
Well, I wouldn’t go that far. But at least I know he’d never suggest doing something illegal.
London blinked and tapped her right temple. Great. Now her digital conscience and some previously silent inner voice were ganging up on her.
She should listen to them.
Run, run from this den of temptation, away from the promise of a return to blissful ignorance and selfishness!
A promise of coffee and couture.
You don’t need the coffee that much! You can learn to like synthetic herbal tea!
Marcel twitched with impatience, all but sulking because she hadn’t swooned at his proposal.
“So what do you say to a big, splashy wedding that will put us back on the front page?”
All the pieces fit together as chartreuse spots did the backstroke through her field of vision.
“You haven’t gotten any press since the break up, have you Marcel?”
She had to give him credit. His look of wounded surprise almost fooled her.
“That hurts, London. I really care for you. We belong together.”
She shoved him away and gestured to the riot of paper on the floor. “I bet your name or your picture haven’t appeared for weeks. What’s the matter? Is your agent threatening to drop you? Did you lose that gig for daytime digitals?”
She knew she’d hit upon the truth when honest, raw emotion twisted his face into an ugly parody of himself.
“Spoiled little rich girl, what would you know about it?” He stalked across the room and shook a cigarette out of a new pack.
“Well, the joke’s on you, loser. You just proposed to society’s most recent dispossessed heiress.” London squared her shoulders and smothered the urge to stick out her tongue and add “so nyah!”
“You’ll be laughing out the other side of your face when you try to get a job.” Marcel puffed away, wheezed and then coughed wetly. “You’ve never worked a day in your life.”
“Neither have you. Not really,” she said as tried not to cough. “You should quit smoking. There’s no cure for cancer yet. And the tariffs on that pack would feed a family of four for a month.”
“Tell it to the tobacco companies. This shit is more addictive than Spank.” He puffed away. “Worse than junk food, and you know what’s in that stuff.”
“Addictatives.” London thought about it for a moment.
“I’d quit if I could.” He jerked the door open. “Now get your broke little ass out of my place.”
London paused by the door to pat him on the cheek. “Thanks.”
“What the fark for?” He glared at her.
Zach stood, panting, in the hallway. She took him by the elbow before he could tear into her.
“Let’s get out of here. There are people I need to see about a loan.”
The make-up artist for “Good Morning, World!” patted the shine off London’s nose and added a bit more lip gloss. The Jiminy Device let her enjoy the minor pampering with only a small admonition that many a person would be grateful for lipstick, much less lip liner, lipstick and gloss.
Zach stood off to one side of the set, arms folded. If she didn’t know better, London thought that expression on his face might just be approval.
A tech guy stood behind the camera and counted them down.
“And we’re on in five… four… three…” He held up two fingers, then one. Zantra, the hostess, turned on her gigawatt smile.
“Welcome back! With me today is dispossessed heiress and former wild child London Fitzcarlton. Many of you will remember her crazy exploits, and even more of you will remember the consequences. Now she’s with us today to reveal her new outlook on life.” Zantra turned to London. “How did you react to the news that your father had cut you off without a cent?”
“It was the best thing that could have happened to me, next to the implantation of my digital conscience. I had to find a way to support myself.” London leaned forward. “My newly-formed company has teamed up with the manufacturer of the Jiminy Devices. We’re going to help thousands of people take control of their lives.”
“We can break your habit, no matter how addictive.” London turned to the camera. “You want to lose weight? We’ll shock you when you go to put that cupcake in your pie-hole. You want to stop smoking? We’ll shock you when you light up. Addicted to gambling? Shopping? Sex? We’ll reprogram your brain for healthy living. And all our profits are going straight to charity.”
The hostess chuckled. “It sounds too good to be true.”
“I assure you, it’s not, Zantra.
“Are you telling me that the incurable party girl has turned humanitarian?” Zantra shook her head with every indication of disbelief. “Our viewers want the truth.”
“The truth is that we can even help you with that little shoplifting problem you’ve been struggling with.”
Zantra’s eyes widened and all seven of the fingers on her left hand twitched. She turned to the camera with a forced smile. “We’ll be back with the billionaire business babe after a short break.” As soon as the red light blinked out on the camera, she was screaming for the producer and a cup of coffee.
London grinned into her herbal tea and gave Zach the thumbs-up.
[ IMPORTANT NOTICE: This story is NOT covered by the Creative Commons License that covers the majority of content on Futurismic; copyright remains with the author, and any redistribution is a breach thereof. Thanks. ]