On his way to work the next morning, Aaron stopped at the newsstand for the morning edition of the Trib from Kristof, who had a pushbroom for a mustache and spoke with an accent that roamed through eastern and central Europe.
“You see Khandaq is kicking out its president?” he asked. “It’s 1918 in the Middle East, all of sudden.”
“Sweeping change, you think?” Aaron asked.
“People get ideas about what freedom ought to look like.”
“Should I read it or are you going to recite it to me?”
“Buy it, buy it, then you read it,” Kristof said, shoving the paper at him “You’re the only one buys the news anymore.”
“I can’t be paying your rent on my own.”
“How can I compete, when they can get the news in bed? Should I bring them the news in their beds? For free?” He shelled a pistachio and in one fluid movement, popped the nut in his mouth and chucked the shell over his shoulder. Aaron noticed a small pile building behind him on the sidewalk. “You see this here?” Kristof asked, pointing to a story on the front page. “FBI is looking for an online terrorist. Anyone knows what that means, they don’t buy a newspaper. Keep the online news online,” he pleaded, hands outstretched skyward, “give us real terrorists in our newspapers.”
Aaron found the article. FBI was looking for information regarding an online subversive known as Iktomi who organized a protest at the UN Building in New York. No details as to what harm the protest caused, but a block quote from the so-called terrorist:
“A primary objective of any oppressive state must be the isolation of its citizenry, not just from the citizens of other nations through jingoism and war, but from each other. The obvious method of this is through out-grouping and the formation of the other, but a more subtle method is the reification of individualism. The self uber alles. Your snowflake uniqueness may be lovely, honey, but you’ll only shut down the roads if you join up with the blizzard.”
The FBI was hunting down flashmob organizers now. Soon it would be thumbscrews for bloggers, waterboarding for posters to lolcats. Aaron folded the newspaper and tucked it under his arm so he could fish out his wallet. Once the transaction was completed, Kristof fixed him with a deep and serious stare from under eyebrows like perched caterpillars.
“Your Aunt Nancy says to watch out for loose women,” he said.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Aaron asked.
“I figured you’d know,” Kristof said, throwing up his hands in apology and defense. “I thought maybe it was some kind of…” He trailed off. “Nerd code.”
“We don’t have a — ” Aaron started, but he stopped short, thinking of everything from html to 4chan to leet. “I guess we have a bunch of nerd codes,” he admitted. “But I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Some guy came by this morning and asked if I knew you. I said, yeah, he’s here every morning. Gives me five bucks to tell you your Aunt Nancy says watch out for loose women. I said sure, do you want a paper or something?”
“Did he say anything else?”
“He said he’d read the news today. Oh boy. He said.”