Larkins is a fool.
Mr. Gheb Larkins. A native New Jerseyan. An Air Force mechanic in the war. A divorced father of one. A bank manager for the Peach Towers branch of the Atlanta Cares Bank. My boss. And with all of that, an utter fool.
Why is he a fool, you ask? Well, if you, dear reader, have read this far into the story and still haven’t figured that out, then you, too, are a fool.
But if you mean why is he a fool on this particular morning, well then that’s because he is openly talking about his horse race bets, something quite illegal, right in the middle of the lobby of the bank.
I don’t know why he doesn’t have a filter. It’s got to be a New Jersey thing, but then that sounds racist. Racist against… New Jerseyans? Whatever.
“Fat Churner is gonna be it, I tell you,” he tells me (and everyone else in earshot). “I got eighty bucks on him right now. If he wins this one, then I’ll know I’m set. I have full-on psychic powers. So I got a double up on the Kentucky Derby, placed right on Yuletide Conquest. Don’t care for the horse—kinda ugly—but I’m all for winning fifty K and shoving it right in the face of the Vice President. That lady’s always betting on Gaul of the Barbarians, and I just don’t see it this time.”
In a desperate attempt to change the subject, I ask, “Why’s it even called the Kentucky Derby these days? Isn’t it in Valdosta?”
A customer comes up to my desk, hoping to ask something, but Larkins shoos her away to another clerk.
“Yeah, they do it in Valdosta now, but the Kentucky Derby brand is still real strong. I hear they license out virtual Kentucky Derby arcade games out in the Eastern Union, where people gamble thousands of dollars a day after work on video game horses. I can’t imagine how much the real deal makes.”
“So it’s just some legacy thing.”
“Yep. Just like the Atlanta Braves’s kinda racist Native American iconography.”
“Wait, are the Braves… Oh, I guess they do have that axe thingy. Is that really supposed to be… Huh, I guess it is. Damn.”
“So even if hardly anyone even lives in old Kentucky anymore, they keep the name because money’s all that matters.”
“We work at a bank, Harding.”
“Oh, right. Money is amazing and the only thing that is relevant in the modern age.”
“Right on. And that’s why I’m making all sorts of bets. Gonna get rich, then invest in a bunch of startups and pull out just when they start making their first profit. Low risk, low return, but high satisfaction, because I can wipe the smug look off those techie kids’ faces.”
“That sure is a plan,” I say.
“Betting and investing. Two sides of the same coin, right? I could probably go even further, if I wanted. I hear they do some shady shit out at that Data Farm place. It’s not doing too well financially, so they’ve started loosening up some of the restrictions. Now certain types will go in there and use the servers to secretly place bets with bookies on the real underground stuff. I’m talking assassination pools. Political elections. Natural disasters. TV awards show results. The kind of stuff where real bad things can happen to ensure bets go through, if you know what I mean.”
“One of those things is not like the others…”
“I’d never bet on any of that, though. Especially not political elections. I’m already donating to all my favorite candidates enough. Better to invest than to bet, you know?”
Not this again…
“Speaking of,” Larkins says, “I suppose you know about how the mayoral election’s turning out, don’t you?”
“I sure don’t know,” I say. “I’ve been way too busy to keep up with that nonsense.”
“Well then, I bet you the television will give you all you need to know.” He takes the TV remote and turns on the CRT over in the corner of the room. And sure enough, a news report is currently playing.
“How do you always do that?”
The robot anchor reports, “…and authorities would like to know any information you have on the whereabouts of this heinous villain known as the Mighty Slammer.”
Ooh, she’s probably mad now, what with them using “the” and all. And I didn’t think she’d be captured. I hadn’t heard any information about it until now, though, so I had wondered if they got her and wanted to cover it up, for whatever strange advanced technology she had on her person. Now I know she’s still on the loose, ready to wreck whatever bad restaurants she comes across.
“And now for our next report,” the robot anchor continues, “we go to WKRB, our politics robot.”
The camera shifts to a different robot anchor. “Hello,” it says. “The mayoral primaries for most political parties were held on Tuesday, and with the votes counted and certified, we can now officially declare the winners, even in that tightly-contested New Hope Party race.”
I’m so confused how coincidentally this all could be playing out. Are TVs now psychic, or does Mr. Larkins simply watch so much TV that he knew the news would be on and talking about political stuff?
“First, the nominee for the Labor Party, who held their election in June, is City Councilwoman Aisha Baker, who won with over seventy percent of the vote in a six-candidate field. She was a prominent critic of former Mayor Epstein, and continues to rail against the establishment.
“The Silver Republican nominee will be businessman Nathan Nguyen, whose signature policy to provide each household with their own robot has become a point of hot debate in this current race.
“The Values Party has nominated Nathan Horowitz, though at press time, Horowitz has been asked by party members to step down due to his recently-revealed ties to the Neo Nazi terror organization. Even so, he won a sizeable margin of the overall vote in his primary.
“Lastly, it took until three this morning to call the vote, but former ambassador Hope Winters emerged from the eleven-candidate field to be declared the winner of the New Hope Party. The ballot count went for an unprecedented sixteen rounds before she won over Dalton Supervisor Richard Dalton with 50.1% of the vote.
“Those are our major party nominees for the mayoral elections in November. The Green Party and Transhumanist Party will hold their primaries later this month, and for anyone else looking to get on the ballot, you have until September 30th to meet the requirements. Happy voting, everyone.”
Mr. Larkins turns to me. “Guess how many of those candidates I donated to?” he asks.
“All four winners?”
“Yes! Wait, no, three of the four. I didn’t donate to the Values Party. I’m not that kind of guy.”
“Okay, good. The Values Party specifically singled out nonbinary people as a reason for Atlanta’s moral decay, so…”
He shrugs. “Assholes are gonna be assholes. What can you do?”
“Beat them up, I guess.”
“Fair enough. Well, anyway, I’m just telling you, no matter which one wins in the end, it’s gonna be dollars for me.”
“Yay, I think?”
I’m not sure I’ve followed his train of thought at all.
But with politics on the brain, now I can hardly think of anything else. I’m glad Hope Winters won her race, even if it was by the slimmest of margins. She seemed so cool (as a person, at least). I’m not so glad that Nathan Nguyen basically purchased a political party with his billions, but I highly doubt he’ll win too many over with the message of giving everyone free robots (but also cutting public funding for schools and social services to be able to afford it).
This is not what I wanted to think about, ugh…
Get my brain back on track… Okay, there.
Work’s just about over, so it’s time for something much more important, and that’s going to see R8PR about Mighty Slammer.