The room was gray on black canvas, illuminated only by the moonlight entering the window, save the green LED dot on Randy’s forehead. Randy sat on a desk next to a disheveled pile of papers, with a phone charging cord running behind him. In front of Randy lay a pile of unopened mail:  envelopes, thin catalogs, and magazines. A door opposite the window led to blackness.  The walls on either side were lined with full bookshelves, including weathered college texts, books on management and personal effectiveness, and works of popular fiction from the last twenty years. The silence that no one heard was broken by the rattling of keys and the click of a lock. As the door creaked open, the darkness gave way to the faint light emanating from an outside porch. 

George walked through the door and gently shut it behind him. He removed his shoes and walked quietly to the room.  He flipped on the light.

“Hello Randy.” A pink LED light on Randy’s head awoke with a glow.

“Hello George.”  Randy had been programmed with George’s name. “Would you like to hear my new features?”

“No.” He walked toward a small refrigerator.  “Randy, what are the headlines?”  As Randy recited a synopsis of the day’s news, George grabbed a lowball glass off of the shelf above the refrigerator.  The glass clinked twice with the ice cubes Randy had wrestled out of the tray in the freezer.  He picked up a bottle of bourbon from the shelf and poured the golden liquid to a height of about three fingers.

Sitting in the chair at the desk, he sipped as Randy finished the news.  “The Cardinals lost to the Nationals, three to zero.  Would you like to hear a recap of the game?”

“No.” George wasn’t really much of a baseball fan, but he found that being able to speak articulately about the Cardinals’ last game helped him with coworkers and clients. No one wants to talk about a 3-0 loss, so he just savored the silence of this moment, the half hour between when he had time to relax, to think.  Long ago, a professor in an otherwise forgotten humanities course had forced him to read Camus’ “Myth of Sisyphus.” 

The story of Sisyphus, perpetually rolling a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down as he approached the pinnacle, stuck with him. For George, it had become not the vision of his career, developed as an ambitious college student, but an accurate portrayal of his now middle-aged existence. 

His career was the hill upon which he rolled the boulder.  He had all the trappings of prosperity- a nice house in a nice neighborhood, a shiny Mercedes and a trophy wife.  By all appearances, he was a success.  The ephemeral nature of those appearances was manifested in the fact that his Mercedes was leased and his house was heavily mortgaged.  Even his job was an illusion, as he was working overtime to keep the company from failing, taking with it his salary and 401k.  If he lost his job, the house and car would soon follow.

He took a sip from his glass and drew a deep breath.  “Hello Randy.  Play some classical music.”  He listened to the calming notes of Beethoven’s Sonata Pathetique and closed his eyes.  This was the moment Camus referred to when Sisyphus would walk down the hill to once again take up his never-ending task. For one half hour each evening, George would sip on his whisky and contemplate his lot, as he and the company survived one more day, preparing to rest before once again returning to work.

The clink in the glass let him know he had taken his last sip.

“Randy, stop.”

George flipped the switch and headed down the hall to his room.

The next evening, went the same as the others.  This time, though, George asked for a recap of the Cardinals game, as the Cards won 5-4.  As he sipped his whiskey, Randy went over the highlights of the game, including the walk-off home run by Carpenter to win the game in the bottom of the ninth.  He would make a note of this for any conversation the next day.

“Thanks, Randy,” he responded, forgetting that he would get no acknowledgement. 

“Would you like to hear my new features? 

“No,” George replied.  Once again, he had Randy play some classical music. 

Although he enjoyed the quiet, he found himself taking pleasure in Randy’s company.  Emily was up in bed, and would get irritated if he woke her up.  Even the sound of his shoes in the hallway would annoy her.  He slept in the guestroom down the hall from his office so he wouldn’t disturb her in the evening.  He rarely spoke to her as he had to be in early in the morning.  If the company could be turned around, he would have his life back. Until then, Randy was there to keep him company.

“Randy, stop.”  He shuffled down the hall.

The following day, George wasn’t much in the mood for hearing the news.  Still, he could not resist greeting Randy.  “Hello Randy.”

“Hello George.  Would you like to hear my new features?”

Why not?  “Yes,” George responded.

“I can let you know what your wife is doing.”


“I can let you know what your wife is doing.”

George gulped his drink.   He had not been particularly concerned about what she was doing, but maybe he had been neglectful.  Had Emily put in this feature so that she could communicate with him?

“Would you like to enable this feature?”


The next voice was Emily’s.  “You need to be careful.  Someone could have seen you walking in.”

And then, a man’s voice.  “No one saw me, and who cares if they did?  Are they going to talk to your husband when he comes home late at night?”

“Look, we don’t want to take any chances, okay?”

George sat in silence, sipping what was left of his bourbon.  How would Randy know to record and play that snippet?  It must have been a fluke.  The conversation sounded suspicious, but maybe there was an explanation.

The next morning, he knocked softly on the bedroom door.

“What!” she murmured.  “I’m trying to sleep.”

“Sorry.  Did someone come by here yesterday?”

“What?  Um.  Yes, I think so.  Yes.  He was selling something.  Insurance. Why?”

“I was just curious.  One of the neighbors told me they saw someone at the door.”

“Um, the front door? Yeah it must have been him. It’s too early. Was there any reason you need to know?”

“No, sorry I woke you.”

That evening, he walked again into his office.

“Hello George.”

George squinted his eyes and looked at Randy.  He didn’t recall saying “Hello Randy” to activate him.  He figured the stress must be getting to him.

“Would you like to hear my new features?”

“No. Play classical music.”

A soothing orchestra piece came on.  George walked toward the refrigerator and put ice in his glass.  He picked up the bottle.

“Are you sure you want to drink that?”

“What?  Yes!”

“Studies show that a cup of chamomile tea will help you sleep.”

“Randy, no!”  And how did Randy know what he was drinking? He shook his head.  A glass of bourbon in the evening was one pleasure he never denied himself in life.  Even when he was poor, living paycheck to paycheck, he would buy a bottle of cheap whiskey as the one luxury he allowed himself.  Now, the whiskey did not have to be cheap, and he was not about to stop indulging.

“Do you want to hear what your wife is doing?”

He held his glass and sat down.  “Yes.”

Emily’s voice came on.  “He found out you were here.”


“I don’t know.  Someone told him, but I just said you were a salesman.”

“And he bought it?”

“I think so.”

“Why don’t you just leave him?  You don’t love him, do you?”

“No, but what am I going to do?  Live in your cruddy apartment?”

“It’s not so bad.  Besides, you should get something out of him in the divorce.”

“I don’t know that he has much, but right now he has the house.  He works so much to keep his job.”


“Don’t worry.  I’ll take care of it.”

George furrowed his brow and took a sip of his whiskey.  This didn’t sound good.  He needed to find an attorney.

“Hello Randy. Save that conversation.”

“I’m sorry.  I don’t understand.”

“Hello Randy.  What’s my wife doing?”

“I have no new information.”

“Hello Randy. Re-play the last conversation.”

“I’m sorry.  I don’t understand.”


As usual George was rushed, meeting with investors and clients.  He had no time to find a lawyer.  Now at home, he could contemplate his next move.

This time he was sure he had said nothing.  Randy greeted him.

“Hello George. Would you like to know what your wife is doing?”

“No Randy.”

George put ice in his glass and picked up the bottle of bourbon.

“Are you sure you want to drink that?”

“Yes!  Will you quit asking me that?”

George poured the bourbon, finishing the bottle.

“Randy, play some classical music.”

He sat down soaking in the music.  Picking up his phone, he started to search divorce attorneys.  He had known some people who had gotten divorces, but none of them had anything good to say about their attorneys.  Emily was right about one thing, though.  He had no real assets, and his income was precarious at best.  She would get nothing, or next to nothing.

His phone fell out of his hand and dropped to the floor.  As he leaned over to pick it up, he felt dizzy.  The drink was hitting him hard.  He tried to stand up and fell back on his chair. 

He had another sip of his drink and pushed it aside to lean his head on the desk.  The room was spinning.

Randy spoke.  “Do you want to know what your wife is doing?”

“Yes,” George slurred, his head still on the desk.

The voices sounded far away.  He felt like he was on a ship at sea.

This time the man spoke first.  “I can’t do this anymore.  You need to leave him.”

“Don’t worry, it’s taken care of.”

“So, you told him?”

“No, I told you I can’t do that.”

“Then, what?”

“He has a nice insurance policy.  I put something in his bourbon.  The way he’s been going, they’ll think it was a heart attack.”

George breathed in sharply and tried to lift his head, but it fell back on the desk. His body convulsed for a moment, and then he was still, his eyes fixed forward in a death stare.

“Goodbye George”