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The App.

By Martin Green


I had no desire for visitors after my hip replacement surgery but I’d returned home from the hospital on a Friday and my son Ken and his wife Glenda insisted on stopping by over the weekend. They told my wife Sally, when they called, they had something for me. So there I was Saturday afternoon, propped up in bed, my hip and most other parts of my body still hurting, awaiting their arrival. “You’ve told them this will be a short visit, right?” I said to Sally.

“Yes. I said you really weren’t feeling that good.”

“I’m not. I think I need a couple of those pain pills.”

“They won’t make you groggy?”

“They haven’t yet. I notice the bottle says they have all kinds of horrible side effects, nausea, stomach pains, headaches, dizziness, hallucinations, probably in rare instances death. So far I haven’t had any. And they do work. The way I feel now I don’t think I can get through even a short visit without them.”

A while later Ken and Glenda arrived. Ken was a tall good-looking young man now in his forties. Glenda was also tall and good-looking, a few years younger, always well-turned out. She spent a lot of money on clothes. Typical of their generation, she and Ken liked to live well, had a larger house than they needed and maxed out their credit cards. She gave me a quick hug and peck on the cheek. “You’re looking good,” she said.

I knew this was a lie. I’d seen myself in the mirror that morning and I looked as if I was 120 years old, which was also the way I felt. Ken also came over; he gave me an awkward hug. “How are you doing, Dad?” he asked.

“Not too bad,” I lied. “Thanks for coming over.”

Ken and Glenda asked about the surgery and the hospital stay and Sally did most of the responding, saying that the surgeon had assured her it had gone well, that I’d already started physical therapy in the hospital and that I’d be using a walker to get around. I told them hospital food was as bad as advertised, kind of like airline food, and that the hardest thing was getting out of the hospital; it had taken four hours to get the discharge papers. Glenda had a package and she gave it to me. “Maybe this will make the time go faster while you’re recovering,” she said. I opened it and recognized an iPad. I knew it was expensive, maybe $500; the gift was typical of their extravagance. I did have a computer, you couldn’t get by nowadays without one, but I’d resisted getting any other of the new gadgets everyone else seemed to have. Who wanted to squint at that small screen, I’d say, and I preferred real books to digital ones. Still, it was the thought that counted. I thanked them and put the Pad on the bedside table.

“I’ve already put in a lot of Apps,” said Ken. “News, sports, business, weather and if you want more you can go to the app store. It’s also set up so you can get your e-mails on it.”

I had a vague notion of what an App was and I had no clue as to an app store, but I said, “Thanks. I’ll take a look at it later. I’m really getting tired now.”

After we said our good-byes, Sally shepherded them out. I closed my eyes and went to sleep. I really was tired.

Recovery, as I’d been warned it could be, was slow. I went around the house with the walker that had been provided to me. Sally hovered over me to make sure I didn’t somehow manage to fall over. I did the exercises which were supposed to be vital. My right leg had become swollen and I cut down on salt as this was said to contribute to the problem. The skin on my feet became dry because I was spending so much time in bed and Sally rubbed some kind of lotion on them. I had a few more visitors. Mostly, there was a lot of tedium so eventually I looked at the Pad that Ken and Glenda had given me.

First I checked out the Apps that Ken had told me about. Some were pretty good, like the New York Times; a financial app which showed what the markets did that day as well as individual stocks; a few sports Apps; a couple of music Apps and an App for free books. I went to the App Store as Ken had directed and saw many other Apps there, a lot of them free ones. I downloaded some of these. In those early days at home, Sally had to prepare my breakfast and bring it to me as I sat in a chair in the living room since I couldn’t get to my usual dining room chair. This took some time so I’d stay in bed for 10 or 15 minutes before getting up and look at my Pad, checking my e-mails, then the latest news, the stock and bond markets and the sports results. Later in the day, I’d read one of the free books I’d downloaded. I have to admit I was becoming fond of my Pad.

At the same time the Pad could be exasperating. The screen would freeze up or I’d get a totally different screen than the one I wanted. At other times, an App I could have sworn I had would disappear. On this day I saw an App that I didn’t recognize. It was a financial App so I pressed it and the screen showed the major market averages. The Dow Jones was up, which was good. There was a search box for individual stocks. I put in one I’d been following and it seemed to be way up, almost twice what it was yesterday. That was odd. I put in another stock I’d been following and saw the same thing. Then I noticed the date at the top of the screen, not today’s date but the same date six months from now. Then the screen went black. I looked for the App; it wasn’t there. I went to the App Store but saw nothing that might be the missing App.

So what was I to do? Was I being given a glimpse into the future by the iPad gods? If I bought the two stocks now and they did double, wouldn’t that be nice? Needless to say, this had never happened with any stock I’d bought before. But what if it had all been an illusion. I’d taken two pain pills a couple of hours before and one of the possible side effects was hallucinating. I recalled that one night during the first week after I came home I suddenly awoke to a bright light and there I was standing on a tennis court in the sunshine. I took a few steps; no pain in my hip. Then I realized I wasn’t awake. I was having a dream, or was it a hallucination? As soon as I thought this, a dark curtain descended. I was no longer on a tennis court. I was in bed with a still painful hip.

The reader, I’m sure, would like to know what I decided. If I bought those stocks and they did double in six months I’d make a lot of money. If the App was somebody’s joke or if I’d imagined it I could lose a lot of money. I went to another financial App and checked the stocks. No, they hadn’t doubled overnight; in fact, each was a little lower. I recalled a TV show in which somebody received tomorrow’s newspaper, which gave him a glimpse into the future. I believed he used this, not to make money on the stock market, but to head off impending crimes. But of course this was a TV show.

My decision was simple. This was real life, not a TV show. I wasn’t going to double my money in six months. That kind of thing simply didn’t happen. In the next few weeks I returned my attention to recovering from the hip surgery. I discontinued the pain medication, no more hallucinations.

But I’d told Ken and Glenda, on one of their subsequent visits, about the App and they were intrigued. “There was something about that iPad when I was putting in the Apps,” said Ken. “It was almost as if it knew what I was putting in before I did it.” Ken called me later; they were going to take a flyer on those two stocks. I hoped they hadn’t invested too much. We’d find out in a few months. If Ken and Glenda made a killing I’d be happy for them, but I’d be kicking myself. The only thing I could do was to pay special attention to the iPad in the future.



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