Boo’s life improved immeasurably with the arrival of the TV remote. Not because it controlled a TV so much as it controlled a human. Boo decided what he wanted Kandi to do and issued instructions through electronics tied to the flatscreen. Kandi, like most people, did whatever the voices on the television told her to do. It was a good system.
Boo started Kandi’s training with simple commands. Like “sit” and “stay”. These were easy. Kandi was an old hand at passive viewing so she’d “sit” and “stay” the instant the LCD flickered on. She’s patiently “stay” so long as the pictures on the box didn’t invoke thoughts of scary ideas such as hard work or science (like Dirty Jobs or old episodes of Cosmos). She’d sit there contentedly, a drooling semi-evolved ape without a care in the world, until Boo changed the channel or powered down. (Boo took care to never repeat the Cosmos mistake. He’d tried it on a whim and regretted the outcome. Kandi was allergic to math and nearly passed when a young Carl Sagan emoted about “billions and billions”.)
Presumably “play dead” was just “stay” taken to extremes. Boo didn’t push this one because the nearly inert Kandi seemed too suggestible. What if he put her in a coma?
“Speak” was the opposite; flip the channel to anything that provoked cognitive dissonance and Kandi would howl and leap about. This got boring pretty quickly so Boo moved on to “fetch”.
“Fetch” came easily too. Kandi’s mental pump was well primed by a lifetime of consumer ads. For his first experiment, Boo chose a frisbee. He waited until she was gone, logged on to Amazon, and surfed many fine frisbee choices. Then he went to her Facebook feed, and joined a few groups about Ultimate Frisbee. (Kandi had 28,384 “friends” and was a member of 273 “groups”.) Boo waited, Amazon’s algorithms did as expected, and three days later Kandi clicked “buy”. Thus, the frisbee was fetched from a Chinese factory to Boo’s living room. Boo was a little disappointed she inadvertently ordered a 175-gram model instead of the heavier 200-gram one he’d specified. But he made allowances, you can only train so much and Kandi never was good with numbers.
“Walk” was Boo’s favorite. He arranged for a Fitbit to be delivered. Kandi, believing this was “free with the Frisbee” and far too lazy to check her credit card statement, simply slipped the device on her wrist and grinned. She loved her new collar! Whenever Boo wanted a walk he activated the Fitbit and Kandi, in Pavlovian trance, headed for the door. Boo would be waiting by the leash and Kandi invariably “suddenly decided” to take Boo with her. Often, she’d remember to take the Frisbee. Boo loved this! So did Kandi.
In fact, under Boo’s tutelage, Kandi’s health was improving. In addition to far more exercise from walking, Boo was gradually weaning her off rum and onto solid foods. He’d already coaxed her into buying yogurt and she’d tried a few servings. Eventually he’d introduce her to foreign objects called vegetables. But that would take time, you can’t move too fast when training.
In addition to training, Boo worked behind the scenes in ways Kandi would barely recognize. He was gradually shoring up her stretched finances. (Kandi was unclear on the topic of “minimum payment” and had been absorbing appallingly large late fees each month.) He was also looking for a tutor to get her though finals this year and he programmed the cell phone to “accidentally” call Kandi’s mother once a week. (Which did wonders for all involved.)
All in all, the period after the arrival of Boo’s TV was a time when Kandi thrived.
There were risks though. All sentient beings know the Orwellian cautionary tale of telescreens is fait accompli. Boo understood the device was a window through which he could view anything but also a snitch machine through which someone (whoever that might be) could monitor him. Boo wisely disabled the voice activation and “webcam” feature before Kandi’s antics wound up on an NSA archive somewhere. Even so he operated the remote out of view of the monitor’s all-seeing eye. (Boo could not verify but suspected a file had been opened on Kandi’s accounts due to Boo’s influence. He was right. Nobody who buys a case of Captain Morgan monthly also likes to watch old black and white cinema classics and the NSA duly noted this contradiction. When the device reported that a single individual liked “The View” and huge quantities of free college lectures about Medieval history the NSA recalculated a “possible” to “confirmed”. Lucky for Boo the algorithms weren’t a fine sieve and nobody was in immediate danger. The NSA was well aware of the 0.01% of American pets which are smarter than their owners and wasn’t about to go off the rails fighting against what appeared a normal statistical anomaly that held no particular risk.)
Tragically, the good times were about to end.
If you think I’m trying to manipulate you into buying a Frisbee, feel free to click below instead.