Mack and Dylan stood on a moving walkway amidst a group of twenty people, a mix of adults and children. The belt stopped and the pre-recorded voice of an announcer explained the display that the tourists were viewing through a pane of thick glass.
“Welcome to Shock Rocket,” the announcer said. “Built over fifty years ago, this attraction provides you with a firsthand look into what people from the 1960s thought the future would be like.”
In the display, the robotic joints of a little animatronic boy moved about as his animatronic father sat in a chair and read a newspaper. Their voices were also pre-recorded.
“Papa?” the boy asked. “What will the world be like in nineteen-ninety-five?”
The father’s joints creaked as he lowered his paper. “Gosh, Timmy. What a question. Why by the year nineteen ninety five, resources will be plentiful so there will be no more suffering or economic strife. Politicians will be of excellent moral character and music, movies and culture of all kinds will be of superb quality. No sir, you’ll never leave a picture show thinking you just wasted two hours of your life. Moreover, all the negroes will be shipped off to Jupiter, so they’ll be happy over there and we’ll be happy here, separate but equal as they say.”
“Wow,” Mack said.
“This really needs to be updated,” Dylan said.
“Humans will live in the lap of luxury as robots cater to their every need,” the father continued. “And since our new metal friends will do all the cooking, cleaning and various and sundry house chores, there will no longer be a need for me to take off my belt and give your mother the old coupe de grace across the backside for fetching my dinner late.”
Timmy’s tiny hand patted a stuffed dog on the head. “I hope they’ll have dogs in the future.”
“Oh don’t worry, Timmy,” Papa said. “Women will always treat men like dogs. Sure, they’re happy to spend all your money on geegaws, knick knacks and useless folderol. You try your best to be nice but they won’t stop giving the milkman the old ‘come hither’ look. And while men are slaving away at the salt mines, women are stuffing their pie holes with bonbons, watching soap operas and doing anything but ironing your shirt. Doesn’t a hard working man deserve a crisp, starched shirt, Timmy? Is that too much to ask? For Christ’s sake, these hairy arm pitted, bra burning women’s libbers will be the death of us all.”
The conveyor belt moved, taking the crowd further down the hallway.
“Mack?” Dylan asked.
“Is my father like that?”
“I don’t know what to tell you here, buddy.”
“It’s cool dawg,” Dylan said. “As Stank Daddy would say, ‘On these mean streets, the only thing a hustler’s got is his tech-nine and the truth.”
“God I wish you’d read a book or something,” Mack said.
“Well?” Dylan asked.
“No,” Mack said. “He’s not beating your mother up with a belt over a later dinner or anything but…”
“What?” Dylan asked.
“There are rules to this, kid,” Mack said. “The adults aren’t supposed to bad mouth each other in front of the kids.”
“There’s nothing you can’t tell me that I haven’t seen on the Internet since I was just a lil’ shawty,” Dylan said.
“Damn Internet,” Mack said. “OK, fine. Your Dad ran off but instead of divorcing your mother, he keeps stringing her along, telling her he’ll come back any minute as soon as he quote unquote ‘finds himself’ but he’s not really doing any deep, meaningful soul searching at all. He’s just bilking her for as much money as he can until she calls it quits.”
“Whoa,” Dylan said. “Sorry I asked.”
“Me too,” Mack said. “Stop rushing to become an adult. Believe me, by the time you become one, you’ll wish you hadn’t.”
“I ought to bust a cap in my pop’s ass,” Dylan said. “Bla-ka-ka-kat.”
“Do you know you’re a white kid from the suburbs?” Mack asked.
“Yeah, if you want to saddle me with the label that the man slaps on my ass just so I can fit the preconceived notions inside his cracker ass mind,” Dylan said. “But I self-identify as an OG. My ass is down with the gangsta set.”
“Whatever,” Mack said. “I’m not sure what to say about your father other than I’m sure he loves you in his own way. Some people just spend their lives looking for some kind of high from life without realizing what they have right in front of them.”
The conveyor belt stopped.
“We’re cool, though, right?” Dylan said.
Mack held out his fist. Dylan bumped it.
“Maybe,” Mack said. “Just try to self-identify as a kid that does his homework and gets good grades.”
“What?” Dylan asked. “A street hustler can’t also get good grades?”
“I didn’t say that,” Mack said. “I’m saying that you specifically don’t get good grades.”
“Check your privilege, bro,” Dylan replied.
“I didn’t mean anything bad by it,” Mack said.
“It’s cool,” Dylan said. “Just slap a trigger warning on unsafe speech like that next time.”
Mack sighed. “I need to remind myself to stop having conversations with people born before nineteen-ninety.”
A pair of double-doors opened and the crowd made its way into a room made up to look like a space craft.
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,” came the announcer’s voice. “The year is nineteen-ninety-five.…”
“Oh thank God,” Mack muttered.
“…as envisioned by people from nineteen sixty-five.”
“Damn it,” Mack said.
“Yes, thirty whole years into the future,” the announcer continued. “Please find your seats and buckle in, as your ride on the Shock Rocket is about to begin.”
Mack and Dylan strapped in to their seats. The other tourists buckled up. Down the row, a mother and father were struggling with their rambunctious seven-year old.
“Cody,” the father said. “Calm down. No! Get in your seat!”
“Why did you give him that soda?” the mother asked. “He’s going to be bouncing off the walls now.”
“I didn’t give it to him,” the father said. “He helped himself.”
“Well maybe you should set a better example and don’t drink sugary drinks in front of him,” the mother opined.
“Jesus Karen,” the father said. “I need it just to stay awake through all this bullshit. I can’t believe we wasted so much money on a park dedicated to a cartoon wombat where all the rides are from the sixties and they charge you four bucks for a lousy Funky Cola that probably, at best, has ten cents worth of soda syrup and water in it.”
“Fine,” Karen said. “Just bitch and moan your way through the whole vacation then, Norm.”
“Maybe I will,” Norm said. “Maybe we should have gone to Maui like I wanted to.”
“Like there’s anything for Cody to do in Maui,” Karen said.
“Oh please,” Norm replied. “This kid’s got a squirrel brain. You think he gets any of this? Put him on a beach with a bucket to make sand castles with and he’d be just as happy and you and I could be sunning ourselves and drinking fruity drinks with umbrellas in them.”
Dylan leaned over to whisper to his uncle. “Maybe its better for parents to get divorced than to end up like that?”
“Eh,” Mack said. “Put any two people together long enough and they’re bound to gripe at each other. The key is whether or not they keep coming back. I sense behind all that bickering, there’s a lot of love between those two.”
“Oh God,” Karen yelled. “My mother was right. I should have married Bob Kovach.”
“Oh here we go with the Bob Kovach routine,” Norm said.
“Bob Kovach owns a successful dry cleaning business,” Karen said. “Bob Kovach volunteers to read to at risk youth. Bob Kovach never has a snippy attitude.”
Norm sighed. “I only have a snippy attitude when you talk about Bob Kovach who, by the way, has one eye that’s way bigger than the other.”
“Its hardly noticeable,” Karen said.
“Hardly noticeable?” Norm asked. “The man looks like a walking science experiment.”
Mack looked at his nephew. “Then again, I suppose if all a couple ever does is fight then there’s not much of a point to keep it going.”
“For a dude who isn’t married, you sure know a lot about relationships,” Dylan said.
Mack scoffed. “Nah. Honestly, I’m just pulling this all out of my ass. I’m the last one to talk to about love.”
Dylan slapped his hands and rubbed them together as though he’d just caught a great big secret. “I knew it! You got a fly ass honey stashed somewhere.”
“Had,” Mack said.
“Oh,” Dylan said. “She take a walk?”
“That’s classified,” Mack said.
The young couple’s argument grew louder.
“Cody,” Karen shouted. “Give Mommy that soda so she can throw it out.”
“You’re going to throw away four bucks like I’m made of money?” Norm asked.
“When this thing starts up it will go everywhere,” Karen said.
“So what?” Norm said.
“So its common courtesy,” Karen said.
“Common my ass,” Norm replied. “For a hundred and sixty eight bucks a ticket, they can afford to clean up a spill.”
Karen looked exasperated. “Bob Kovach would back me up on this.”
“Aww Bob Kovach my ass,” Norm said.