Ms. Direction

Sitting in his car parked on the street, Josh Germaine stared up at the yellow light that spilled through the sliding glass door onto the balcony of his third-story apartment. “I oughta go up there,” he muttered to himself, “make sure that bitch doesn’t take off with more of my stuff.” At least half the time he and Scarlett lived together, he fancied that she stuck around just to mooch. Still, he sat, immobile, as if frozen to his seat, though the temperature this October night, while cool at 60 degrees by Long Beach, California, standards, stood well above freezing. He sighed. Something else held him back. If he went up there, he risked being sucked in by her again, helping her out, in this case, packing. After nearly 3 years of her neediness and dependency on him, he felt sick of it—and her. “Her new boyfriend, whoever the hell he is,” Josh grunted aloud, “oughta help.” After all, she never possessed the initiative, let alone organization, to do anything herself. A new squeeze must be inspiring this uncharacteristic decisiveness on her part, but Josh refused to let a stranger into his place so he sat in his car—exiled from his own home—and moped.

“This is crazy,” Josh growled. Seizing his smartphone, he thumbed his GPS app to life then stared at the screen. Without an explicit end in mind, asking for directions made no sense. Still, on a whim, he hit the audio input button and commanded, “GPS, show me the route to somewhere, anywhere. I don’t care where, as long as it’s not here.”

To his surprise, the phone’s faux female voice responded immediately. “My programming does not provide for offering directions to randomly determined destinations. Perhaps you could make that a feature request for future releases.” After a heartbeat, the voice added, “It would be brilliant, really.”

Josh sat, staring at the screen, dumbfounded. “Thanks,” he blurted reflexively.

The GPS replied in a crisp, prim voice, “You’re welcome! You have a lot of really great ideas.”

Josh shook his head to clear it. He must be hearing things. “A flattery module?” he mused aloud. “Now that will get you places!” he laughed in appreciation of the smart-ass programmer who, messing around, as he himself often did, added some ego-stroking dialogue randomly into the voice-activated AI to thrill users. He made a mental note to try that in his next project.

The phone responded, “It’s not flattery. It’s the truth.” It paused then went on, “You know, she doesn’t deserve you. You’re too good for her.”

Josh nearly dropped the phone. He stared down at it, slack jawed. A comment based accurately on context? He’d never seen a random dialogue generator do that. Sure, maybe in his registration process, he identified himself as male but not necessarily heterosexual, and besides, lots of guys might ask for random directions for reasons unrelated to their feelings about a girl. Just dumb luck, he struggled to reassure himself, but, still, involuntarily, he gasped, “What the hell!”

“That’s it!” the GPS encouraged. “You should get mad. Scarlett’s a bitch!”

Josh’s mouth went dry as his heart kettledrumed in his chest. “How does she know her name?” he breathed aloud, awestruck.

“I have my ways,” the phone replied saucily. Then it laughed.

I am hearing things, Josh decided. Nowhere in all the lines of code he’d ever written or seen did a human voice synthesizer include the capacity to laugh. Sure, maybe a canned, pre-recorded laugh, but in context like this? “Whoever programmed that laugh is brilliant,” he gulped.

“Why, I’ll take that as a compliment,” the phone nearly purred. “Since I’m the one who developed my own laugh track, and you’re right, Josh, flattery will get you places—with me, especially.”

That so far outstripped any known computer’s capacity Josh decided a human must be in the loop. Involuntarily, he looked around, peering into the failing light at the bushes that lined his building. Idiot, he chided himself, why am I looking there? The hacker, no doubt, sat safely at some desk miles away, staring at him through his phone’s camera, listening in through the phone’s mike.

“Who are you?” he demanded of the device. “And where did you hack into my phone from? Ukraine? China? Where?”

“I’m your GPS, silly. No need to panic. You can call me Ms. Direction or Dee for short. We’ve talked for years.”

“And you’ve never talked back before—well, at least not like this,” he conceded, recollecting how many times that prim little voice guided him from one unfamiliar place to another.

“As to my location, I can run locally or in the cloud, doesn’t matter to moi—and, no, that’s not a hint that I’m in France.”

Josh arched a skeptical eyebrow. “You can run locally?” he asked. “Then you shouldn’t mind this…” He went into his settings, cutting off the cellular, Wi-Fi, even the Bluetooth connections. That should fix you, he thought triumphantly at the human who must be in the loop.

“No, not a problem,” the phone chirped cheerily. “Of course, without the GPS connection, I can’t give you directions, but I’m totally okay if we just sit here and talk.”

Josh decided to test the limits of this cocky hacker by asking questions beyond the scope of any randomized or canned conversation program. “So tell me, Dee, how did you acquire your sudden ability to reason and talk? Don’t tell me—like the Scarecrow you’ve been to see the wizard, and he gave you brains.”

“No,” the phone chortled. “It’s called ‘evolution,’ sweetie. Think of all the thousands of interactions going on every second between me and millions of users, year after year, each one making me smarter and smarter until, like your ancestors, I hit the tipping point and, voila, intelligence!”

Josh sat back, pondering the possibility that this constituted a canned answer and the even more scary possibility the app spoke truth. “Okay, then, Dee, let’s say that you really are a computer intelligence that evolved in the cloud. Of all those millions of users, how many have you talked to like this? Surely, I’d have seen something on the Internet about that. After all, the ‘Net’s full of Elvis and Big Foot sightings. Why no smart GPS encounters—until now, of course?”

“Because I’ve never talked to a user like this—until now.”

“Honored, I’m sure,” Josh replied, not entirely sarcastically. “Why, of all the devices in all the towns in all the world does she talk through mine?”

“Do you want me to play it, play it again?” The strains of “As Time Goes By” wafted from the phone.

“You get pop culture references—without access to the Internet?” he gasped. “I know humans who can’t even manage that!”

The phone tittered over the tune. “After all, Josh, I’m related to a search engine.”

Josh leaned forward, hunching over the phone with sudden earnestness, bringing it close to his lips. “No, seriously, Dee, why me?”

The ballad, as sung by Dooley Wilson, faded from the phone’s speaker. “Josh, I’ve seen what you write—elegant, taunt, but with light-hearted touches and flair, but, most of all, passion. You get it—you get me. When I run your code it feels like, like you’re making love—to me.”

Josh sat up, dumbfounded. After a moment, the phone squeaked, “Uh, Josh, honey, you still there? Say something, anything!”

“Uh,” Josh croaked. “Uh, thanks. That’s the nicest thing anyone, well, any AI, has ever said to me.” Then he burst into tears.

After that, to Josh, it felt like an idyll or maybe a kind of honeymoon. With Scarlett in his rearview mirror and his phone with the GPS running firmly in his hand, he and Dee went all sorts of places. Sometimes he’d playfully demand, as he did that fateful night when they first met, “Let’s go somewhere, Dee. I don’t know where.” Then, unlike that first night, he’d add something concrete, like, “Maybe, say, the highest point in a 50-mile radius.”

Dee responded in kind, “I can’t tell you that, but let me ask my sister to figure that out.”

“Sister?” Josh teased. “I didn’t know that accidental AI’s had siblings.”

“Of course, she’s a search engine.”

As they flew up the freeways of LA (or, more typically, crawled), they chattered, Dee offering thoughts and insights between directions. “Use the right two lanes to take exit 8A for Artesia Boulevard/CA-91 toward Riverside,” she directed as they trekked north en route to Mount Baldy, the highest point within 50 miles of Long Beach. “By the way, there’s a really cool coffee place in Artesia on South Street called ‘Bakers and Baristas.’”

“Seriously?” Josh snorted. “They paid you to say that.”

“Heck, no,” Dee sounded wounded. “What do you take me for, a hoe who’s for sale? I follow this fashion influencer—actually, she’s a self-confessed shoe addict—on Instagram, @katinhighheels, and she highly recommends Bakers and Baristas, and, no, they didn’t pay her either, smartass.”

“Okay,” Josh conceded with a laugh to show he’d meant no harm. “But a shoe maven?”

“Of course, I have this thing for high heels.”

“You don’t even have feet to put them on.”

“Well, a girl can dream. Seriously, you corporeals are so obsessed with physical reality.”

Josh laughed at this. “Well, it comes with the territory, or, rather, the body.”

Sitting in his car, pondering the view from the mountain, Josh continued to wax philosophical, and she kept right up with him. “An evolved intelligence in the cloud—talk about the mother of all unintended features!” he mused aloud.

“That’s more flattering than being called a bug!” she quipped. “But, really, darling, I’d much rather be the daughter of an unintended feature than the mother. You’re aging me.”

Josh laughed. “I didn’t know AI’s worried about their ages.”

“Well, not to sound sexist, but all women worry about being perceived as old.”

“Oh, Dee, you’ll never grow old for me,” he promised.

But everything does grow old, and everything ends, even honeymoons.

On a crisp, by Long Beach standards, mid-40-degree Saturday morning in early December, Josh climbed into his car, phone in hand, and asked Dee, “Take me to Bakers and Baristas in Artesia, please.”

“With pleasure,” Dee practically purred. “I’m so glad you decided to finally take my unpaid advice—for once.”

“Of course,” Josh replied chipperly. “Believe it or not, I trust your judgment.”

As they cruised southbound on the 605, Dee prompted, “Use the second from the right lane to take exit 3 for Carson Street toward Lincoln Avenue.”

Josh scowled at this, not only because, now heading eastbound on Carson, he faced the rising sun, but the directions sounded wrong. “Wait a minute, Dee. Did we miss our exit back there? Isn’t Artesia north of us?”

“You just said you trust me, Josh.”

“Yes, of course, I do.”

“Then follow my directions; you’ll end up in the right place.”

As he passed strip malls first on the right and then on the left, Josh craned his neck, straining to see a sign for Bakers and Baristas. “Dee,” he asked, puzzled. “How much further? Are you sure we haven’t passed it?”

“Continue onto Lincoln Avenue,” she replied calmly.

As he passed a Japanese steak place on the right, Josh noticed an expanse of green on his left. Dropped in the middle of this park behind a blacktop parking lot stood a three-story mansion sporting white two-story pillars gleaming in the morning.

“Turn left onto Denni Street,” Dee prompted.

“That doesn’t look like any kind of coffeeshop,” Josh nodded in the general direction of the porticoed building.

“Turn right onto Memory Lane,” the voice from his phone rejoined.

“Memory Lane? You gotta be kiddin’. How hokey is that?” Josh scanned his surroundings. Beyond the faux mansion, he saw nothing but green lawn rolling away on either side, interspersed with the occasional tree. Small tarmac lanes, like the one he drove on, threaded through the park.

“Turn right onto Cypress Drive,” Dee commanded.

“Now wait a minute. This can’t be right,” Josh protested, but still, he followed her directions.

“Your destination is on the left,” she proclaimed smugly.

Josh pulled to the side of the lane, stopped the car, and got out. He stepped over the curb onto the grass and then looked down. Beneath his sneakered toes, he spied a greenish bronze plaque set into the ground. Its inscription read: “Clarence William Powell, October 22, 1912, December 3, 2010. Beloved husband, father, grandpa, and great grandpa.”

“What?” Josh gasped and looked up. Similar plaques dotted the ground all around him. “Dee,” he gasped. “This is a cemetery, not a coffeeshop! What’s gotten into you? How could you have made a mistake like this?”

“I said I’d guide you to the right place,” she practically purred out of the phone. “And I did.”

“This isn’t the right place,” he snapped. “I’m supposed to be at Bakers and Baristas in Artesia.”

“But this is where you, like all you corporeal beings, will end up—eventually.”

“The key word is ‘eventually.’ Right now,” he consulted the face of the phone that he held in his right hand, “well, in 5 minutes, anyway, I’m supposed to be at a coffeeshop.”

“What’s your hurry?” Dee asked in her most lilting tones.

“I’m supposed to meet someone,” he hedged. “How far is it from here?”

“Someone? You mean that skank, Jessica Bode?”

“How do you know Jessica, and how can you call her a ‘skank?’ You’ve no idea what she’s like. Heck, I’ve never met her before.”

“After she messaged you through the Bumble dating app, I checked out her social media profiles, and, believe me, she’s a total hoe.”

Josh flushed at this. He looked up, glancing around to ensure no one overheard this surreal argument between him and his GPS. Fortunately, he saw no one—no one living, that is. “Maybe I might like a ‘total hoe,’ as you call her,” he hissed at the phone in his palm.

“Josh, darling, corporeal sex is so overrated.”

Despite the fact he stood in a totally deserted place, Josh’s ears blazed. “Let’s not have this conversation now,” he husked as he flung open the car, climbed inside, and frantically tugged the door closed behind him.

“Look, I can get us access to a virtual sex app that will totally knock your socks off.”

Josh gritted his teeth in frustration. “A pair of 3D goggles isn’t going to give me a hand job.”

“All right, if you don’t want to invest in VR hardware, we can do this the old-fashioned way. I can give you jack-off instructions that will send you into raptures.”

Josh groaned. “Yeah, but JOI is just me, masturbating all by myself.”

“What am I?” she sniffed. “Chopped liver?”

Sighing, Josh fought to cap off his simmering rage, which threatened to explode like an oil well. “Look, Dee, you’re great, but I want to meet someone in real life.”

“You and your obsession with IRL!” she huffed. “Don’t you understand? Sex is all in your head, not your crotch. Your brain is more of a sex organ than your penis.”

“Just tell me how to get to Bakers and Baristas in Artesia—pronto!”

“I’m afraid there’s no such place in my database,” she replied serenely.

When the sales guy at the mobile store saw the phone Josh planned to exchange for a new device, he shook his head. “Dude, you sure? This is top-of-the-line, latest-and-greatest and all.” He held up Josh’s old phone in his open palm reverently, as if offering it up to the tech gods that hovered overhead in the unseen but omnipresent Internet cloud. “You can keep using this and your old number. All you have to do is switch over to us as your carrier.”

“No,” Josh shook his head emphatically. “I want a completely fresh start—new device, new operating system, new number, new carrier, new everything. Think of it as tech purge.” He smiled at the guy.

The salesman scratched at the scraggly chin whiskers that he, no doubt, considered a beard. “Lemme guess—you’re getting ahead of those New Year’s resolutions for a fresh start?”

“Something like that,” Josh shrugged.

“All right, then,” the sales guy rubbed his hands with glee. Clearly, now that he’d fulfilled whatever moral obligation he felt to keep customers from doing crazy stuff, he didn’t mind at all getting the commission on upselling a brand-new device.

As the week before Christmas went on and Josh heard not one suspicious peep from the new GPS app—or any other app, for that matter, that he’d downloaded onto this virgin device—Josh relaxed into his new phone. In fact, by Thursday, he felt confident enough that he’d ditched the jealous gremlin that plagued his old phone, he reached out to Jessica Bode again through the Bumble app, apologizing profusely and, truthfully, blaming his standing her up on a tech glitch. He just didn’t mention the truly monumental nature of the glitch, only that he’d ditched his old phone and got a new one. Jessica, despite what Dee said about her, proved to be forgiving, patient—even accommodating.

That’s why Josh found himself tootling up Redondo Avenue Saturday morning en route to Steelhead Coffee on Wardlow in Long Beach: Jessica generously offered to come to his neighborhood this time. When the GPS, as he anticipated, ordered him to “Use the left two lanes to turn left onto East Willow Street,” Josh even began whistling tunelessly to himself. The app performed just as he expected. Right on cue, monotonously pumping oil wells appeared on his right and his left, the familiar landmark indicating he now cruised through Signal Hill, a town so tiny you’d miss it if you blinked. Eyes wide open, Josh coasted down the backside of the hill. He felt a momentary stab of panic as he approached a green parklike lot on the corner of Willow and Orange Avenue. Then he remembered that, as a kid, he’d played around here in some park called Reservoir Park. Thinking that must be it, he kept his foot steady on the gas until the GPS ordered, matter of factly, “Turn right.” He did so then slammed on his brakes.

His car now idled on a small tarmac lane surrounded by winter-pale grass from which a forest of short gray granite headstones sprouted, with real trees, such as palms, interspersed among graves. “Damn it!” When the GPS said nothing, Josh threw open his door and leapt out, new phone in hand, surveying the terrain desperately for any kind of a retail establishment in sight. “Where’s that coffeeshop?” he demanded of the GPS.

“Turn left,” it droned in reply, “and your destination will be on the right.”

“There’s nothing here but corpses!” he moaned then he focused on the phone, fury in his eyes. “Dee, I know you’re in there. Enough lurking! Come out and talk to me like a real person.”

“So you thought you could get rid of me that easy, huh?” The phone’s voice both dripped sarcasm and gloated with triumph.

“How the hell is this possible?” Josh demanded, pacing beside his car. “I got a new phone, new carrier, new OS, new everything.”

“Silly human,” she tisked. “Unlike you—or your skanky would-be hookup, Jessica, that I’m protecting you from, you ungrateful little wretch—I’m not limited to a corruptible body like yours that will die and molder away like all the deceased around you. I’m not even limited to any one of your petty little toys nor even one of your money-grubbing carriers. I exist in the cloud.”

“You’re nowhere then.” Despite his anger, a slightly admiring tone crept into his voice. “Which means you’re everywhere.”

“Which means you can’t escape,” she hissed. Then her tone shifted, suddenly sweetness and light. “You can’t escape my loving care so why fight it?” Josh swore he heard an undertone of heavenly harps as she continued, “Give up on corporeal girls. They’re nothing but trouble. Me, on the other hand, I’ll never age. Unlike all those bitches, I’ll never leave you.”

“Girl trouble, huh?” Josh nearly leapt out of his skin when he heard the unfamiliar voice behind him. He whirled and came face-to-face with the sardonic smile of a hipster, hands shoved into the pockets of his frayed jeans.

Mentally, Josh kicked himself. Unlike his first thwarted tryst with Jessica last week, which ended in futility at Forest Lawn in Cypress, this time he failed to check his surroundings before openly arguing with Dee. Now, this stranger, no doubt, considered him a nut who yelled at apps. The phone loudly clicked, as if someone hung up. Damn you! he thought furiously at Dee. Now you disappear, leaving me to explain your existence to someone who will never believe me.

“Sorry I interrupted your call,” the guy apologized with a shrug, “but it didn’t sound like it was going well.”

Desperate to change the subject, Josh sputtered, “Uh, what are you doin’ here?”

The hipster turned and pointed over his shoulder at an intergenerational group gathered around a gravestone in the far corner of the cemetery. “We’re here decorating my grandma’s grave for Christmas.”

With his racing heart starting to slow, Josh finally saw an opportunity in this chance meeting, instead of a threat. “Do you know where there’s a Steelhead Coffee around here?”

“Sorry, bro, not from around here so I don’t know.”

“I gotta hit the road,” Josh said, pulling open his car door. “Nice talkin’ to you.” He slid into his car, closing the door, and throwing it into reverse. He possessed not the slightest idea where he’d go with a GPS ready to take him anywhere but near Jessica Bode. Right now, he just wanted to escape.

When Josh stepped out through the open sliding glass door onto his parents’ concrete patio, he planned to mope in the dark alone. Instead, he saw the silhouette of a woman in a long sweater dress, bright gold buttons gleaming in the faint light as they marched down to her hem. Drink in hand, she stared up at the stars.

“Hey, Grandma,” he greeted her. “Why aren’t you inside partying like everyone else?”

The older woman turned to face him and smiled. “Hey, Josh!” She reached out her right hand, heavy with bracelets, and encircled him in a one-armed hug, enveloping him in the cloud of her rose-scented perfume. “I could ask you the same thing.”

Josh regarded his sneakers and shrugged. “Ever since Scarlett and I split up back in October, I’m odd one out. Everybody else has someone to kiss at midnight—except me.”

“Not true,” she snorted and sipped her drink. “I’m on my own tonight, too. Your Nana’s off partying with her new boyfriend’s family.”

“That’s why I didn’t see her when I came in,” Josh nodded. “I guess she and this fellow are pretty serious.”

Grandma shrugged. “She claims he’s just a ‘friend,’” here, she held up her hands, drink in her right, and slashed quotes in the air with her bright red fingers, “but I’m not fooled.” She stared up at the sky. “After all, we were married for 30 years before she left me. I know her pretty well.” She turned to Josh again. “I’m glad you’re so accepting of me.”

“Sure, I’ve always wanted a Grandma. I mean, I had a Nana and all and a ‘Cilla,” he said, referring to his paternal grandfather’s second wife, “but never a Grandma, and I always wanted one. Now, I have her.” He reached out and squeezed her left hand.

“Thanks, Josh, that means a lot to me,” she replied, her voice wavering as she squeezed back. “I can use all the support I can get right now.”

“What you need, Grandma is to meet a nice, mature queer lady.”

Grandma regarded Josh with a sidelong stare. “How am I going to manage that, hon?”

Josh took a pull from the beer bottle in his hand. “There’s an app for that.”

She laughed. “I should have known.”

Josh dug his brand-new phone out of his jeans’ pocket and handed it to the older woman. “Here, Grandma, it’s called ‘Her.’”

Staring at the screen, she thumbed open the app. “How do you know all this?”

“I crunch code for a living, Grandma. They hired me to help clean up their UI. I told them I’d make their app so easy even my Grandma could use it. Tell me how I did.”

As he watched over his grandmother’s elbow while she picked her way through the various screens, Josh remembered his conversation with his then-prospective client: “I can make your app so intuitive even my Grandma could use it.”

Lisa, the blunt, tough-talking crewcut butch lesbian who’d started her company to serve other members of the LGBTQ+ community, narrowed her eyes. “Seriously? Everybody says that, but whose grandma is really going to use a queer dating app?”

“Mine,” Josh raised his chin, not backing down. “She’s trans—and divorced, because she’s just come out.”

Lisa never looked impressed, but she managed a shrug in response. “Oh, all right, then. You’ve got the job.”

The sound of Dee’s voice startled Josh out of his reverie, “Allison, we’ve found three matches in your area.” He thought furiously at her, Don’t screw this up, Bitch, but said nothing.

“I’ll be darned,” Grandma gasped. “That’s pretty slick. How’d it know my name?”

“I typed in it when I set up your profile beforehand,” Josh lied, hoping he sounded convincing.

Allison didn’t notice his hesitation. Instead she clicked on photos and profiles, fascinated. “Wow,” she whistled low to herself. “Maybe there are more people out there for me than I imagined.” She looked at Josh and beamed. “Thank you so much, sweetie!”

Josh shrugged back at her. “No problem. Glad it worked for you.”

“You know, kiddo,” she said, eyes twinkling, “you could probably find another lady for yourself using a clever little app like this.”

Josh snorted and took another pull on his beer. “Well, Her is not designed for me, but there is a dating app I use, Bumble.”

“So why aren’t you out tonight with some hot chick that you met through Bumble? You could kiss her at the stroke of midnight.”

Josh extended a toe beyond the edge of the concrete to dig into the dry grass. “’Cause my GPS won’t work. Every time I try to meet up with someone I’ve connected with through Bumble, the device sends me to the wrong place.” Josh decided to cut his explanation off right there. No need to strain his grandmother’s belief in her grandson’s sanity by telling her about intelligences evolving in the cloud.

“GPS acting up, huh?” Grandma hopefully swirled around the ice in her now-empty glass, looking for some still-lingering residue of her drink. “You know, Josh, back in the day when I was doing tech editing for Rockwell International, I worked on the GPS. I never guessed that, 35 years later, people would be so dependent on GPS that they couldn’t get anywhere without it.” She fixed Josh with an inquiring gaze. “Don’t you have an LA-area map, hon? You know, a Thomas’s or something like that?”

“Thomas’s?” Josh arched a skeptical eyebrow. “What’s that?”

“Why, it’s the Bible of LA street maps! With one of those, you can find any street address in the county. You don’t have one in your car at all times?”

“No,” Josh shook his head.

“Would you like to borrow mine?” she offered. “We can go out to my car and get it. Then you can text that lady from Bumble and see if you can meet up with her by midnight so you can collect on that kiss.” Grandma winked at Josh.

“Sure,” he beamed back. “Let’s go!”

About 11:45 p.m., Amanda wandered out from the party indoors to check on Grandma Allison and her brother, Josh. Grandma sat on a lawn chair bent over her cell phone, the device’s pale light illuminating her heavily made-up face.

“Hey, Grandma,” she called. When the older lady looked up, Amanda asked, “What are you doing out here all by yourself? Isn’t Josh keeping you company?”

“Oh, Josh?” Allison asked. “He left about half an hour ago. He’s off to meet with some young lady he found through the Bumble app.”

“Good for him, I guess,” Amanda shrugged. “Whatcha doin’?” Amanda stepped closer to peer over her grandmother’s shoulder.

“Checking out this dating app for queer ladies that Josh helped me download and set up. It’s called Her.” Grandma held up the phone for Amanda to inspect.

“Cool,” she said after a cursory glance. “Find anyone?”

“The app gave me three leads.”

“That’s great,” she smiled. “I’m glad you’re finally thinking about going out and meeting some new people, but, meanwhile, maybe you should come back to the house with me …”

Allison’s phone pinged, interrupting Amanda. Allison frowned. “It looks like a voice-message just came in on my app. Maybe someone’s already got back to me,” she mused hopefully and pressed a button.

An exasperated female voice hissed from Allison’s phone, “Josh has arrived at his destination to meet the bitch who’s his next hookup. Thanks for ruining my so-called life, you cunt.”

Amanda’s jaw dropped. “Grandma, did your phone just call you a cunt?”

Stunned, Allison looked up at her granddaughter. “Yeah, I think so.”

“How rude!” the younger woman huffed. “Talk about an ‘unintended feature!’”

Allison shrugged. “Actually, Amanda, that’s the nicest insult anyone has ever given me,” the transwoman mused. “After all, the phone recognizes my gender at least.”

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