The Chairman and Little Mao

A third excerpt from LITTLE VICTORIES.

EXT. CONVENIENCE STORE — DAY

TITLE CARD: The Chairman and Little Mao

A Korean-owned convenience store sits on the corner. Its windows are mostly swathed with the usual displays for lottery tickets, soft drinks, beer, entertainments and electronic cigarettes, but there are also ads for “Coconut Fed Meats,” “Barnyard Scent Country Deodorant” and “Shimmer Luxury Cubed Ice.”

ISABELLA, whom everyone calls “The Chairman,” walks up to the front door.

A short woman in her early sixties, she wears a floppy hat, a bulky winter coat, and carries a heavy handbag.

INT. CONVENIENCE STORE — DAY

Scene continues.

Isabella enters the shop, which is crammed with products, inadvertently startling the bodega cat loitering by the door.

She waves to a Mexican man behind the deli counter.

ISABELLA: Hey Chuy.

Taking off her hat, she walks into one of the aisles towards the back, where’s there’s another service counter that is far less cluttered than the counter up front. This one is practically pristine, with a sign hanging from the ceiling that says:

“Kim Evolutionary Solutions: Desktop Genetics For Your Pets.”

There are a few brochures next to a bowl of fortune cookies.

Isabella picks one up and opens it.

She reads:

“Design, Synthesize and Clone Your Perfect Domestic Companion.
Kim’s Evolutionary Solutions offers a ground-breaking approach for custom designing a stable cell line of your favorite genetic attributes, using one of the most robust and reliable technologies on the market…”

She puts down the brochure, just as a young Korean-American man in a white lab coat emerges from out of the back. This is EDDIE.

EDDIE: It’s The Chairman! Hello! How are you?

ISABELLA: I’m good. I’m good.

EDDIE: How are the kids?

ISABELLA: They’re good, thanks.

Isabella reaches into her pocket.

ISABELLA: Before I forget, I brought you something. I saved this for you from the other night.

She places two wrapped fortune cookies onto the counter, next to the bowl of the other fortune cookies.

EDDIE: That’s awesome. Thank you. Let’s open them!

Isabella grabs one and Eddie grabs the other.

Eddie points to a chair.

EDDIE: Please! Have a seat.

She sits and places her handbag on the floor.

Eddie puts his fortune cookie down on the counter and immediately smashes it with his fist. He removes the fortune and reads it.

EDDIE: What did you get?

ISABELLA (with food in mouth): Oh, um, “Make your judgment trustworthy by trusting your judgment.”

EDDIE: Hmmmn. Mine says “All the little things will add to a happy journey.”

He smiles, somewhat impressed.

ISABELLA: Do you believe that?

EDDIE: I have to believe that for today. That’s the challenge… I know, it’s silly.

He sits down behind the counter, then pulls out his tablet from the drawer.

EDDIE: Alright. Let’s get to business. How can I help you today?

ISABELLA: Well, it’s Little Mao. It’s time.

Eddie nods.

EDDIE: Okay. Do you want to talk about it?

ISABELLA: I’m okay.

Eddie nods again.

EDDIE: So, you’d like me to set a new synthesis in motion?

ISABELLA: Well, I wanted to talk to you about that.

EDDIE: Of course. Just out of curiosity, how are the kids taking it?

ISABELLA: Oh, they’ll be fine. They don’t know right now, and they don’t need to know — at least, not right away. I mean, they’re practically grown up. Sophia’s already a Senior.

EDDIE: I get it. Alright. What do you have in mind?

ISABELLA: Well, the last two times Little Mao… died, you know, she drowned in the pool, and then there was that incident with the bus, I was just wondering, well, I’d like to avoid that.

EDDIE: That’s perfectly understandable.

ISABELLA: I’ve heard that it might be possible now to improve her intelligence. Is that something you can do?

EDDIE: Sure.

Eddie looks at his tablet.

EDDIE: Let me just find Little Mao’s folder.

As he flips through menus on the tablet, Isabella opens up her bag.

EDDIE: So, if you don’t mind my asking, what happened to Little Mao this time?

Isabella removes a long-haired Daschund from her bag. This is Little Mao. She puts the dog on her lap.

ISABELLA: She’s right here.

Eddie looks up.

EDDIE: Oh. She’s alive.

ISABELLA: Of course.

EDDIE: Hey Little Mao.

Isabella places Little Mao on the counter. She sniffs around and quickly finds the fortune cookies.

ISABELLA: Those aren’t for you.

She puts the dog back on her lap.

ISABELLA (to Eddie): My husband and I just thought it was time for an upgrade.

EDDIE: Okay. Well, we can do some very precise genome editing to increase her intelligence for the next synthesis. That’s not a problem. Do you have any specifics in mind?

ISABELLA: Something that makes her less accident-prone. The fact that she’s dumb doesn’t help much.

EDDIE: Okay. Something to consider as well, I mean, as you are getting older, and your kids aren’t around as much, you may wish to think about Little Mao not only as a companion but also as a guardian. Do you follow? We can bump her intelligence the equivalent of twenty IQ points, for example, and then she’d definitely be able to look out for her own safety much more effectively, but she could also look out for yours. Have you thought about that?

ISABELLA: That’s interesting.

EDDIE: She’d have the capacity to recognize an emergency and the ability to seek help, such as she’d be able to know how to hit an emergency button, if you fell down or fainted or something like that. You know, those wearable buttons that you push to contact emergency services?

ISABELLA: Oh. That’s clever.

EDDIE: Yeah. So, if you couldn’t press it yourself. Also, tests have shown that with increased intelligence, dogs gain a broader vocabulary. Certainly, she’ll be able to process more complicated commands and she may even be able to express more complicated thoughts. And emotions.

Isabella pats Little Mao on the head.

ISABELLA: Is that a good thing?

EDDIE: That’s up to you. There’s other benefits to consider: if we boost her IQ, then she’d be able to feed herself. Let herself out for walks. She could be potty trained and then taught to go outside, if you want. we can also amplify the influence of the genes that govern emotions, such as feelings of loyalty, so you won’t have to worry about her running away.

ISABELLA: Okay.

EDDIE: We can also make her more Biofuel efficient. There’s a bit of an extra cost for that.

ISABELLA: We wouldn’t have to feed her as much?

EDDIE: Well, yes, but overall, she’d need to consume less. Ideally, she’d have figured out portion control and can then feed herself. Is that what we want?

ISABELLA: That would be great.

EDDIE: So, should we decide on how much of an intelligence boost to give her?

ISABELLA: I don’t want her to be too smart. Makes me a bit uncomfortable.

EDDIE: For the behaviors that we just talked about, twenty points will be sufficient. I’ll put you down for the KES-20 boost package. Okay?

Isabella nods in agreement.

EDDIE: Now, remember, she still needs to be trained as a puppy. It’s just that she’ll learn faster and she’ll be able to handle more responsibility. More tasks.

ISABELLA: My son was also wondering, he had downloaded some Biobit torrents and thought some of them would be good to have for Little Mao. Can we use them in the new version?

EDDIE: Well, I’d be happy to take a look, but we’re generally very cautious about adding third party coding. We trust our proprietary approach the most.

ISABELLA: That’s okay. We’ll just go with the boost package. Twenty points is good.

EDDIE: Okay. Delivery takes about four weeks. I think it was longer than that last time out, but we’ve been able to speed up the process a bit.

She pulls out her day journal and a pen.

ISABELLA: Let me just put this in my calendar. Do I make a deposit now?

EDDIE: You are in the system, so you can pay once Little Mao arrives. Thanks.

ISABELLA: Great. That was easy.

Eddie looks at the dog in her lap.

EDDIE: But what are you going to do with this one?

ISABELLA: What do you mean? We’re getting a new one.

EDDIE: No, what about the old one? You know, the one you have right now?

ISABELLA: Can’t we keep them both?

EDDIE: I don’t know. We’ve never had that situation before. It might be, it might be problematic.

Isabella looks at her dog.

ISABELLA: Well, we’ll just have to give her away then.

EDDIE: Okay.

ISABELLA: Maybe we could make a switcheroo once the new one is ready.

Eddie nods.

EDDIE: Well, that’s it, then. It was nice to see you. Say hi to your husband, and we’ll see you in about four weeks.

ISABELLA: Yes. I look forward!

With Little Mao in her arm, she stands up and offers Eddie her free hand. They shake.

Eddie gestures to the bowl of fortune cookies.

EDDIE: Do you want one for tomorrow?

ISABELLA: No thanks. I’m good. It’s the little things that add up. I’ll see you later.

Eddie smiles and takes one last look at Little Mao before Isabella walks away.

EXT. CONVENIENCE STORE — DAY

Scene continues.

On a leash, Little Mao sniffs the edges of a chain link fence right by the shop. She then looks up at Isabella.

ISABELLA: Go on.

The dog takes another sniff of her surroundings, but looks up again, gazing unflinchingly at her master.

ISABELLA: Alright, let’s go, little buddy.

They both walk out of frame.

end of scene.

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