Rosco looked at me with thinly-veiled contempt

“Six hundred will buy you a box and a screen. Maybe a Scancil sharpener thrown in, you know, steak-knives type deal.”

He tapped the linoleum counter with his Scancil unit and pretended to be interested in his own store’s catalogue, propped up against the beated terminal they used to jack credit approvals, download payments and Scancil boots.

“What’s in the box?”

“Nothing. Some relics.”

“Any K20s in there?”

Rosco’s scowl changed then, into something possessing redline cunning, a streetbot spying a stormdrain.

“Listen kiddo, K20s are obsolete …”

As if to say everybody knows that.

“They are an international irrelevancy. K20s are the Amiga of the worm kingdom, Mr Ñ”

An old-timer’s mumble, glancing over at the terminal’s GUI before swivelling his sensor sunnies Terminator style. Smiling like a polar bear on an ice floe.

“Dreamnation. Hmmm. But I guess that’s a little before your erm, memory froze over, eh. Remember the 1980s? I don’t think so.”

“Matter of fact Rosco,” I volleyed, “I’ve got an old Amiga unit back in my tube. Maybe I’ll bring it right on over and shove it up your pawning arse. Six hundred for a relic box that can’t even simulate Atari? What am I, some kind of sloop?”

“I’ll remind you boyo, that you’re on private property here, and the rules of this establishment, that have clearly been made known to you on the previous occasions on which you have entered this shop, would have alerted you to the fact that threats against the propreitor will be taken seriously and all threats deemed liable will be submitted to the IOU database, placing passpartout fools such as yourself at the mercy of any commercial establishment fitted with a fuck you robot jockey, my friend.”

“How about five fifty then?”

“Blow it. And get out of my store.”

“Come on, man! What are you, some kind of Sotheby’s for the scrap heap?”

“Actually, I’m closed. It’s lunch time. And that means jack-time or coffin time for the likes of you. I’m going to throw you out of here, and then I’m going to lock my door. And you know what? Then I’m going to sit right here and eat a tuna sandwich, maybe finish off that bottle of Toke I cracked at morning tea. Then I’m going to put my feet up and wait for the inevitable blast of flatulence to gush from my arsehole. Then I’m going to open up the shop again. All I can say is, woebetide any man who enters my shop preaching Atari Nation propaganda then. That man would surely perish, his ventilators clogged with a human stench, his clockwork fucken arms spinning round until he zapped it. Long and painful, Mr Windsock. Get it?”

So that’s it. I’m breaking curfew. Big fucken whoopee. Like he hasn’t seen a Y2K before.

“Fuck that shit. You’ve got three days to evacuate, just like everybody else. You can’t take this junk with you. Not all of it. I laugh at you. This way.”

Doing the old bargaining trick, the single digit signature. Then walking to the door, its glass pane exhibiting the pea-soup squall streetside. Pausing there.

“Okay. Five fifty it is. Hell, let’s make it five hundred. And I’ll throw in a relic translator for nothing, coz it’s Christmas and I love ya. Well don’t look so happy. What were you expecting, a hand job?”

Rosco laughed. First time ever. Swear it.

“I’m gonna miss you Rosco,” I blurted.

“You got some place to go?”

“You know me, Big R Ñ Li’l Hobo and all that.”

“Yeah. Take it easy, DD.”

“You too, Rosco.”

“Fuck that shit. Where did you learn to talk like some septic gangster?”

“Right here, Rosco.”

“Get outta here, then.”

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