The phone clicked, and the call ended. Joshua was left feeling exactly as he did earlier. Well, actually, a little more stupid than he had started off. He was beginning to think that he had been the victim of a rather curious little scam. All the lady had done was listen. When Joshua felt like he’d run out of steam, she said in her silky smooth voice.
“Your problems are important to us, Joshua. We’ll call you.” Click.
Joshua pocketed his phone and started walking in his new sneakers towards any place in the early dawn of New York that would make him feel less of an ass.
The lady at the desk laid the handset down gingerly. She looked at it and shook her head. Joshua Cranston. People like him were a dime a dozen, who thought they’d reached the end of their tether and were about to hang themselves with the slack. Every day, someone like Joshua Cranston reminded her of why she’d joined the Solutionists.
She looked at the screen in front of her where Joshua’s file was being displayed. Her perfectly manicured nails typed away at the keyboard, as she enlisted Joshua’s problems. She saved the file and hit ‘Enter’. Another dialogue box opened up.
“Welcome to SoluNet. Who are we helping today?”
She entered Joshua’s name in the small blank box and immediately a new window opened.
Accessing data for – Joshua Cranston...
File Read complete.
Composing problem statements...
Parsing core discordance...
Constructing parameter network...
Initialising neural network processing...
The screen became static for a while, as the information was passed through an advanced neural network. Eventually the screen cleared, and a single message began to display.
Processing complete. Solution #JC56A47 recommended.
She made a quick note of the number and put it into a file. Then she sent the solution code number out on the wire. The proposed solution the SoluNet was providing automatically knew who to contact and what steps to take. All that had to be done was execute it.
Joshua hadn’t gone too far before his phone rang again. The number was unknown, but instinct made him answer it anyway.
“Hello, who is this?”
“Mr. Cranston, this is Jed’s All Night Auto Repair. We are done with your car and since you asked us to deliver your car urgently, where would you like it?”
“What?! I didn’t… Is this a joke?”
The voice on the other line hesitated.
“Er… this is Mr. Joshua Cranston, right? License plate MMV 596?”
Joshua uttered a shocked “Yes.”
“Well, then. Where can we deliver your car, Mr. Cranston?”
Joshua hung up and looked at his phone as if it had suddenly developed antlers. He was still in shock when he saw the homeless man in the tattered clothes standing in front of him, waiting patiently. When he took a closer look, he recognized him as the man with whom he’d made a trade earlier that night. The man spoke in his gruff accent.
“Mr… I was told to bring these back, so um… here you go. I’d like to have my sneakers back now.” He held out and proffered the dress shoes and a suit that had until recently been caked with the splatter from a thousand cabs.
Joshua was not sure if he was hallucinating. As if in a dream, he took off the sneakers, and took back the shoes and wore them. Holding the jacket in the crook of his arm, he looked up to thank the hobo, but he’d vanished.
His phone rang again.