Yesterday the Cardinal sent word asking me to meet him at the Obscene Prophet.
As always, the Cardinal was late. I put up with his inevitable tardiness because of the outrageous excuses he invents when he finally does show up. The Cardinal is a talented and prodigious liar.
In front of the Prophet an exquisitely crafted, juggles-a-career-and-a-family robot, whose few delicate wrinkles eerily captured the ravages of forty years of privilege and good taste, stopped me and asked directions to the Fountain of Consolidated Wealth. I had no idea where such an abomination might be located but I pointed down the street behind her so she would turn and face the passers-by.
As I was telling her that she needed to go past the Temple of Market Forces, take a left by the big blue whirling thing, and go to the other side of the Tomb of the Unknown Consultant, I took a cheap plastic replica of a large jeweled scarab out of my pocket and moved it unobtrusively up behind her ear. Squeezing a jeweled wing, I paused in the middle of my bogus directions. The artificial woman stood motionless, staring unblinking into the glare of the counterfeit wonders that stretched before us. Into her ear I said "those bastards" in a matter-of-fact voice. Then I gave the plastic beetle another squeeze and returned it to my pocket. The robot, still motionless as only a machine can be, began to say "those bastards" every ten seconds in a dull monotone.
I went inside to get a cup of coffee and wait for the Cardinal.