Send ‘Em Outside!
“Money, money, money!”
A scabby little hand pawed at Robert Reynolds’ face. “Money!” The hand dropped as its owner, a street urchin, tripped on an ice patch, landing in cracked mud. “Please, my young Lord, please, look, look at my mother,” said the urchin, righting himself. “She’s sick!” The urchin pointed to a pile of blankets.
“Not in the mood, urchin,” said Reynolds in his squeaky voice. He patted little white mittens and stomped off. “I’m almost done with Send ‘Em Outside and—”
“Remember—” It was a voice—somewhat distorted, electronic.
“What?” said Reynolds. He adjusted his earpiece.
“Remember, Reynolds. You’ve gotten this far…”
“Right,” said Reynolds, rolling his eyes. He took a breath. “I’m almost done with—” He turned to the side and smiled broadly. “Send ‘Em Outside!” Reynolds winked and held his smile. The cameraman that had been following him gave him a thumbs up.
“Good” said the voice. “Now turn back to the urchin.”
Reynolds smile transformed into a bitter scowl. He turned back to the urchin—“Look, urchin, if I play my cards right, I can still make it to the Philharmonic in time for the opening lecture about tonight's symphony.” Reynolds made a beeline for the lot over past the ice on Market Street—on the way to the City Gate. The cameraman jogged to keep up.
“Um, Robert,” said the voice. “That’s not…”
“We’d like you to engage with that little street urchin some more.”
Reynolds huffed. In his green velvet jacket, white linen pants, and paisley ascot, Reynolds could have projected the air of an esteemed diplomat or scholar, but he didn’t have nearly the right level of gravitas to pull off these sort of worldly pretensions. To those here in the poor part of Constance Junction, he was clearly just a pasty, gangly clown. From the shadows, they taunted him and said things like, “I’ll slit your throat, bitch.”
“Do I have to?” whined Reynolds, further adjusting his earpiece.
“Well, as we’ve gone over, multiple times, part of your civic duty by appearing on this program includes—”
“Shut up,” said Reynolds. "Wait." He was suddenly diverted by the sight of an old rag picker who was trotting ahead of him. The rag picker was headed to the Gate’s little pedestrian door. Reynolds watched as the rag picker whistled and a green laser scanned his eyes. “Oh no,” said Reynolds. He then turned to the camera and nodded slowly, working through a train of thought. “I think I know what’s coming.”
The voice in his ear said, "Approach the rag picker, Reynolds. Let's see what happens here."
Reynolds reached out his hand for the rag picker. A second later, a computerized voice at the Gate said, “Need more money. Terminal denial. Need more money,” and the rag picker took a laser blast in the middle of his forehead.
“Incredible!” shouted the voice.
“Stop filming,” said Reynolds.
“No way,” replied the cameraman. “We’ve never recorded a real 'Terminal denial' suicide.” The cameraman zoomed into the smile that remained pasted on the old rag picker’s smoking skull.
Rubbing the peach fuzz on his chin, Reynolds walked back to the urchin and gestured to the corpse. “Why’d the old man do it?”
“Money!” said the urchin.
“Do you speak English, urchin?’’
“Money! Money! Please! Please, my young lord! Money!”
The audience on their home computers fired off comments about the urchin—“greedy little shit” received the most likes.
Reynolds rolled his eyes and looked up to the spires on the other side of the Gate. He listened closely. He was able to make out the sound of an orchestra tuning. He hummed along. Meanwhile, other rag pickers huddled around the warmth emanating from the smoking skull of the suicide.
“How much longer?” Reynolds asked. “The orchestra is tuning. I was told--”
“Almost done,” replied the voice. “Feel free to head to the Gate and scan. I suppose you’ve done your civic duty, besides we got a lot done today. Capturing a terminal denial suicide was great.”
The urchin tugged on Reynolds jacket.
“Urchin!” Reynolds yelled.
“Money! Money! My mother! Look, look! Money!”
Reynolds turned to look. The face of a toothless old woman slipped up from under the blankets. She kissed the forehead of a robot baby and sparks shot out from the top of the robot baby’s head. The old woman’s breath was visible. She whispered, “Money, please, sir, money…” She said it in a foreign accent. Her hands signaled, money, give me money.
Someone in the computer audience commented, “bitch.” It received a lot of likes.
“I’ve never seen such desperation,” Reynolds said under his breath. He walked toward the Gate, the urchin pulling at the sleeve of his jacket.
“Trust me, urchin,” he said. “I’d love to chat with you right now, but I simply can’t. I have obligations—a work by Tcherepnin is being performed live. Does that make any sense to you or are you too ignorant?” Reynolds rubbed medicated topical lotion all over the acne on his cheeks. “It’s not to say that I don’t feel for your plight. Indeed, my appearance on—” He turned to the camera and smiled broadly— “Send ‘Em Outside!—” And turned back—“Has provided me with valuable life lessons.” Then, in a moment of inspiration, Reynolds turned again to the camera. “Sometimes life is not fair.” The camera began to zoom into Reynolds face. “I thank you, urchin, and I thank the show’s producers, and, in fact, I thank all the legislators of Constance Junction for establishing this worthwhile educational television program. If any of you are selected to live with poor people for the day and appear on Send ‘Em Outside! I encourage you to embrace it. Me? I’ll continue to vote liberal for the rest of my days!”
“Great job, Reynolds,” said the voice. “That’s exactly the tone we’re going for.”
The urchin cried, “Please, young Lord!” and tore the silk lining from Reynolds’ pockets. Gold coins fell to the blankets lining the street.
The cameraman panned to the urchin, who was bracing, his eyes fearful. Then to Reynolds, who looked up to a police helicopter. The old woman under the blankets started crying. The head of her robot baby exploded. The old woman stood up and ran away, soot floating, her hands flittering above her head. Snow fell. A convertible zoomed up to the gate, splashing mud on Reynolds’ pants. In the commotion, the urchin snatched up three gold coins and ran over a snow bank. “My pants are ruined!” shouted Reynolds. He walked straight at the cameraman.
“Robert, what are you doing?” said the voice.
“You owe me new pants!” Reynolds was pointing to the mud on his white pants. “My pants are positively—” he slipped on a patch of ice and fell forward, right at the cameraman. SMASH. Reynolds head speared the lens of the camera. Someone in the computer audience commented “moron.” It received a lot of likes. The voice in Reynolds ear said, “Holy shit!”
Reynolds woozily muttered, “Oh my goodness…” His body reflexively staggered toward the Gate. His head was sliced up and covered in blood. Pieces of electronics dangled from his oozing wounds. He got out another muttered sentence: “I’m late for the Philharmonic…” The laser scanned his eyes and granted him entry to the rich part of Constance Junction.
“Welcome back, Robert. Thank you for your participation in Send ‘Em Outside!"