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The Deal


The Deal 

Evan looked out the window into the bright glare of early afternoon, scanning the cars parked along the windswept street several floors below, searching for the figure of Jerome. The courier was two hours late and Evan was growing anxious. A few strangers made their way down the sidewalks, collars raised against the chill breeze with clenched hands jammed into pockets. To Evan, nothing seemed out of place. He sat by the window and waited, his discomfort growing with each passing minute.

Evan was angry with himself. He didn't really know Jerome, let alone trust him. Jerome had a reputation as someone that would do anything for a buck, and now Evan sat foolishly in his own apartment, a wad of money in his pocket, waiting for Jerome to arrive and make the delivery as promised.

Finally, a tall thin figure came sliding around the corner and Evan recognized the gaunt face of Jerome as the man crossed the street toward the apartment. He carried a hard-sided attaché case, and moved quickly across the asphalt and disappeared from view as he neared the building below. Evan berated himself for doing the deal here at home, to jeopardize his good name and security right where he lived. He scanned the street one last time, searching for someone or something that would raise an alarm. Finding nothing amiss, he retreated to the kitchen to await Jerome.

A soft rap on the entry way announced his arrival and Evan opened the door and stood aside as Jerome strode quickly into the apartment.

"You're late," said Evan. "Everything okay?"

"I got hung up across town, but it's cool.”

"Let's go to my office," said Evan, and he led Jerome into a room and shut the door after them. A large light fixture on the ceiling cast a dim glow and the thick hang of oversize curtains on two large windows prevented the bright afternoon sun from entering the room. At one end stood a large desk with a tall office chair behind it and two small-upholstered seats set out in front. Two large easy chairs sat against one wall on either side of a small table. A large floor lamp rose up behind one of the easy chairs. Bookcases laden with volumes lined the other walls.

Evan gestured toward the desk and Jerome set the case on the flat writing surface and took off his coat. Evan felt his heartbeat rise in anticipation; this was it. They stood there and looked at each other until Evan finally asked, "Well, do you have it?"

"Sure thing, man, I got it right here just like I said I would." Jerome opened the case and gently removed a fist-sized mass of fine tissue paper and set it down upon the desk.

After a moment, Evan asked, "Can I see it?"

"Go ahead. You know the drill, don't touch anything with your fingers, don't do anything you'll regret later. But I know you have to see it for yourself, so there it is."

Evan picked up the small mound of tissue and slowly peeled back the layers until the secret lump finally sat revealed in the palm of his hand. He had heard tales of such things, but this was the first one he had ever seen, let alone held. He looked at the rounded end of the object and read the characters printed there: 'GE PS25 100/200/300'.

Here, resting in the palm of his hand was an actual contraband three-way high wattage light bulb. Evan thought about reading in the comfort of his room without going blind. His heart was racing.

For years, dim fluorescent lights were the only option allowed by the government. The environmental police, the 'Greens', had viciously prosecuted those that flaunted the new energy mandates and requirements, and they went after the hidden stores of the old-style light bulbs and destroyed them with the same zeal that other agencies displayed with illicit drugs and other contraband. When on his business travels, even though he stayed in the best hotels, Evan had to suffer through a dimness that barely allowed him enough light to tell his right shoe from the left, let alone attempt to read a book or newspaper. The answer did not lie in online books or computer screens either, devices that allowed the authorities, or someone, to track everything you read or browsed.

Evan didn't know what the government objected to the most: the energy used by the old bulbs or the unfettered access to ideas and information that their use implied. For that matter, Evan wasn't sure if he was ready to risk owning this object. One glimpse of the bright light shining through his window curtains at night might result in a visit from the Greens, a visit where Evan might go 'missing'.

"I'll need to try it first," Evan said.

"Only on the condition that if the three-way works, you buy it," answered Jerome.

Evan nodded his assent and after checking that the window curtains were in place, walked to the floor lamp by the easy chair. Keeping the tissue between his fingers and the glass, he screwed the bulb into the receptacle and turned on the fixture. First came 100 watts, then 200, and finally the almost mythic 300 watt setting; the area around the chair was ablaze in light. He had never seen anything like it. He stood enthralled, the brightness searing into his brain, and for a brief moment, he experienced the possibility of all things.

Evan reached into his pocket and pulled out the wad of cash.