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Time (Problems of Distribution)

 

At first, because of its great expense, only the very wealthy could purchase time, and only in tiny increments. The president of the Castelnuovo Group spent a few extra minutes once a week or so, expanding his allotment on a vexing sales analysis problem, which he looked at as a kind of corporate chess. Hedonistic actresses, on the other hand, sipped a little time in order to prolong such pleasures as sitting in the sun in their back gardens. The manufactured time was clearly different than natural time, but people said it wasn't inferior. It had a grain, instead of smoothness, but so did alligator shoes and Chateauneuf-du-Pape.


When the original patenter improved its process, the price of time fell. And within five years, other companies had reverse engineered the stuff, making artificial time available even at Sears. Most people claimed they needed more time to spend with their children, but in practice, they consumed it at work. Insurance companies and automobile upholstery manufacturers alike dispensed cheap time in their staff lounges. At three thirty in the afternoon, the secretaries went down the hall and took a brief, throat-coating sip so that they would have enough to finish collating the address lists.


Prisoners were given ladle-fulls of poorly manufactured government time, similar in quality to the "government cheese" they had eaten as children. It corroded their insides and hollowed the muscles under their eyes. If they could have spit it out, they would have. Similarly, the daughters of men dying of liver cancer would have rejected time altogether as the minutes ticked by outside the recovery room. What had formerly been a luxury the world was now awash with, yet the fundamental problems of distribution remained the same.

 

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ANGELA WOODWARD has published prose recently in elimae, Diagram, Pebble Lake Review, 13th Moon and others. Her book The Human Mind is forthcoming from Ravenna Press in 2007.