‘Some decades ago, neuroscientists discovered through various perceptual experiments that the moment of nowness we all carry in our heads—the supposed crystalline pinpoint of cognitive focus that moves inexorably down our personal timeline from one millisecond to the next—is actually a blobby composite of everything we have experienced in the past fifteen seconds.’
A nowt stole my girlfriend practically right out of my arms.
It happened in public, in front of about fifty thousand people. But I don’t mean to make too much of it. The humiliation and indignation wasn’t much greater than what any baseline citizen feels when a nowt scores a good job or some other prize that would, in different circumstances, have gone to the average guy. Us basals have all gotten plenty used to that feeling.
I had taken Emma to Dodger Stadium that hot August day, to see the Dodgers play the Port-au-Prince Creoles. Emma and I were just getting serious, talking about moving in together, maybe into one of those new waterfront arcologies in Century City. I had a decent job with the state’s Invasive Plant Commandos. Plenty of employment security.
Currently we were hellbent on extirpating mutant kangaroo thorn, six-foot-high tangled barricades with poisonous prickers that seemed to spring up overnight. Emma taught several phys-ed-type MOOCs under the USC umbrella, such as “Introduction to Zero-Gravity Isometrics” and “Tantric Yoga for Cyborg Halflings.” Between us, we had enough income to qualify for a three-room condo with a lovely view of the waves lapping at the pillars of ultra-elevated, quake-reinforced Route 405.
Emma might not have gotten a bargain with me, but I’d won the lottery with her. True, I was pretty buff from my intensely physical job, but certainly not movie avatar handsome. “Craggy” was the best I could do. Emma, however, was gorgeous and, if not an intellectual along the lines of Secretary of State Malia Obama, certainly possessed of a charming and vibrant personality.
So I really wanted to show her a good time at the game. Emma loved all sports, but particularly baseball. I had sprung for two tickets at $485 apiece. They were way out behind the left-field wall, but that was the best I could do. Prices had skyrocketed with the Dodgers heading for a pennant. One good thing about the seats: we were primed to catch any home run ball that entered the stands. I’d even brought along my old childhood glove, made of vat-grown oryx hide.
There we were, in our stilskin vests against the heat, drinking overpriced beer, eating nutria hotdogs and Pad Thai kettlecorn, yelling at the bottom of the fifth, with Hatsuto Ramirez coming up to bat, when I noticed a guy casually ambling through the stands toward our row, in no hurry, whistling a tune.
He was dressed just like anyone else: hemp-cloth cargo shorts, Young&United henley shirt, smart Tevas. But I could tell instantly he was a nowt. How, I don’t know. How does anyone recognize a now-tweaker? Some luminous, numinous aura of self-assurance clung to the guy, a kind of lithe and easy way of moving, as if the universe obligingly cleaved before and rezipped behind him.
Being near a nowt always made me apprehensive, so I tried to ignore him. I wondered why he wasn’t up in one of the luxury suites where his kind generally congregated. Emma was so focused on the game she hadn’t seen him yet. The announcer relayed the ump’s call of a strike on Ramirez.
Incredibly, the nowt had actually entered our row and was sidling elegantly passed the knees of all the seated fans as if those knees were buttered, heading directly toward us.
The crack of bat against ball sounded.
The nowt, only a mildly handsome guy, stood before us. He bowed low and elegantly to Emma, said, “For you, beautiful,” then, without unlocking his gaze from Emma’s astonished eyes, stuck his arm up behind his back just in time to catch the home run ball that Ramirez had belted our way. I could hear by the way it socked his flesh it must have stung, but he never even flinched.
Of course the crowd went wild. The next thing I knew, Emma and the stranger had been caught by the Kiss Cam and were displayed bigger than life on screens around the stadium. The crowd bellowed for a kiss. The nowt obliged by sweeping Emma up.
When he released her, she seemed stunned. So was I.
“Allow me to introduce myself. Boffo Blinkoff. May I have the pleasure of your company in my skybox?”
Before I could even close my gaping mouth, Emma and Boffo were ascending the stairs. He tossed and caught the home run ball in several fancy ways as they walked. The whole kidnapping—from my sighting of Boffo Blinkoff, to his catching the ball, to Kiss Cam fame, to seeing him lead Emma off—had taken approximately ninety seconds. I never saw her again.
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