West Sutcliffe, PA

Alan P. Scott - Fictions

rounding error

In article <ranjit-0109951613280001@gale.sas.upenn.edu>, Ranjit Bhatnagar (ranjit@gradient.cis.upenn.edu) wrote:

: Ever heard of West Sutcliffe, PA?
: No?
: There you go.
:    -ranjit
:    (Hint: remember when they went to 9-digit zip codes?
:     Can you say "rounding error?")

Shades twitch as they look out the window. Pale, because they never go out anymore... no one who left West Sutcliffe has ever returned. Now and then they see a white government truck speed by, far overhead on the freeway, but never on their own streets. No friendly blue-uniformed carrier ever arrives. They hoard catalogs and circulars, fumble through old issues of Readers' Digest, TV Guide and Sports Illustrated, and the lucky ones pore over a relative's letter or an old Christmas card. They place calls to mail-order houses whose ads they see on broadcast TV (the cable installers never quite made it to West Sutcliffe), but the merchandise never arrives. Paradoxically, only the fact that the city service workers, based in East Sutcliffe, cannot find them keeps their essential services active.

Every now and then, though, they get another envelope from the Publisher's Clearinghouse, telling them they've got another chance to win ten million dollars. They never see who brings them, and their anxious replies never seem to get picked up. Nevertheless, it is the only thing that gives them hope. The grocery stores are almost empty.

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