I was coming out of the Wal-Mart Supercenter yesterday when an earnest-looking fellow who appeared to be in his mid thirties came up and tried to hand me some kind of lurid religious tract.
“I can’t accept that,” I told him.
“I”m an Alpha Prime.”
“Huh?” he asked in obvious confusion. “Alpha what?”
I decided to take the time to explain it all to him. “Prime,” I said. “Alpha Prime. Surely you know as well as I do that there are only three types of people in this world. Alpha Primes, Control Agents, and Subsidiaries.”
“Subsid. . .”
“That’s right,” I replied. “And I know you’re not an Alpha Prime because we always recognize one another. And you don’t look focused enough to be a Control Agent, so it’s pretty obvious that you’re just a Subsidiary.”
For some reason he seemed to find this mildly alarming, so I moved in closer, put my arm around his shoulders, and gave him a reassuring squeeze. “You see,” I said, “the sole purpose of Control and its agents is to keep us Alpha Primes from detecting the Pattern. That’s the reason they try to annoy and distract us as much as they possibly can. But I’m onto them.”
“Right,” I said, giving him a conspiratorial wink. “I saw the Pattern a long time ago.”
“Right again. Let me give you an example. I’m sure you’ve seen that insurance ad that features the British rock guitarist, Peter Frampton… Right? It’s on TV all over the country.”
He gave me a hesitant nod, his eyes growing ever wider.
“Well, surely you realize that there is no such thing as a Frampton.”
“Absolutely not,” I said firmly. “Can you imagine anything more absurd than a Frampton? I mean, have you ever actually met one yourself?”
He shook his head. “No, I can’t say that I have?”
“Of course you haven’t. You see, the Control Agents just gave that guy the name because they realize that ‘Frampton’ is one of those words that we Alpha Primes are genetically predisposed find utterly loathsome.”
Here I stopped speaking and gave his shoulder another squeeze and then continued in a knowing whisper. “And if we’re all bent out of shape about ‘Frampton’, then we’re sure as hell not going to notice the Pattern, now are we? And that’s any Control Agent’s whole purpose in life. Obscure that Pattern. Get it?”
“I… I’m not sure,” he said dubiously. “But I really have to go.”
“But you haven’t given away all your tracts.”
He shrugged. “I haven’t had much luck here, anyway.”
“Luck?” I asked. “Why, my friend, there’s no such thing as luck.”
I shook my head gravely. “Of course not. There’s only the Pattern. For example, have you ever been about ready for bed and then realized you just had to have a soft drink or something? So you find yourself dragging your shoes back on and driving a couple of miles to the convenience store and dealing with some idiot who can barely make change. That’s because you had to be in a certain place at a certain time, either to cause something or to prevent it. A car wreck or whatever.”
“No doubt about it,” I said and gave him a resigned shrug.
“The grim truth is that we’re all slaves to the Pattern, whether we realize it or not. Even the Control Agents. But you should be grateful that you Subsidiaries only get the small assignments. We Alpha Primes get the big jobs. Why, I once had to fly all the way to Budapest and eat a liverwurst sandwich in a certain cafe to prevent a dormant volcano from blowing up in Iceland. And I hate liverwurst.”
At this he bolted and sprinted to his car and then sped quickly from the parking lot. No doubt he was eager to fill his friends in on what he’d just learned about the Pattern. I regretted that I hadn’t been able to tell him about the Watchers, but there’d be plenty of time for that later on. I’d memorized his license plate number, and I have a helpful friend in motor vehicle registration.
It was a lovely day.
Milton T. Burton is a texas native, author of two crime novels, “The Rogues’ Game” & “The Sweet and The Dead“, St. Martin’s press.