Home > My Not So Perfect Life(13)

My Not So Perfect Life(13)
Author: Sophie Kinsella

I nod. I mean, I don’t know the Sidney Smith Agency, but I know they’re our rival.

“Anyway, now they’ve asked us to come in on it too. I’ve been tasked with looking at the products. What do you think so far?”

“Tricky,” I say, falling off my stilts for the third time. “It’s harder than it looks.”

“I agree.” He comes over to me on a second pair of stilts, both of us constantly stepping back and forth as we try to keep balance.

“But I like being taller. That’s quite cool.”

“Useful for seeing over crowds,” he agrees. “Party stilts? That might work.” He tries to stand on one stilt, sways, and loses his balance. “Shit. You could not do this after a few beers. Can you dance on them?” He lifts a leg, wobbles, and falls down. “Nope. Also, where do you put your beer? Where’s the drink holder? This is a massive defect.”

“They didn’t think it through,” I agree.

“They have not seen the full potential.” He telescopes them back up. “OK, next toy.”

“How come they got you to do this?” I ask, as I fold my own stilts up.

“Oh, you know.” He flashes me a grin. “I was the most immature.” He opens another box. “Hey. A drone.”

The drone is a kind of military-looking helicopter, with a remote control the size of a small iPad. It must have demonstration batteries in it, because soon Alex has got it to float up in the air. As it comes flying toward me, I dodge with a yelp.

“Sorry.” He lifts a hand. “Just getting the hang of it…” He presses a button on the remote, and the drone lights up like a spaceship. “Oh, this is great! And it’s got a camera. Look at the screen.”

He sends up the drone, high in the air, and we both watch the picture of the rooftops of Chiswick, getting more and more distant.

“You could see everything in the world with one of these,” enthuses Alex, swooping the drone down and up. “Think how many experiences you could have. You could see every church in Italy, every tree in the rain forest….”

“Virtual experiences,” I correct. “You wouldn’t be there. You wouldn’t feel the places or smell them….”

“I didn’t say you could have perfect experiences, I said you could have experiences.”

“But that’s not an experience, just floating by from a distance. Is it?”

Alex doesn’t answer. He brings the helicopter downward, switches off its lights, and sends it toward the neighboring building.

“No one’s even noticed it!” he exclaims, as he gets it to hover outside the window of the big meeting round the table. “Look, we can spy on them.” He taps at a control on the touch screen, and the camera tilts to film the table. “Focus in…” He taps again, and the camera zooms in on some papers.

“You shouldn’t do that,” I protest. “It’s sneaky. Stop it.”

Alex turns to look at me, and something flickers across his face—as if he’s chastened and amused, all at the same time.

“You’re right.” He nods. “Let’s not be sneaky. Let’s be up front.”

He switches all the helicopter’s lights back on and sets them to flash red and white. Then he carefully maneuvers the drone toward the open window.

“Stop it!” I say, clapping a hand over my mouth. “You’re not going to—”

But he’s already sending the flashing drone through the window, into the formal meeting room.

Just for a moment no one notices. Then a man in a navy suit looks up, followed by a gray-haired woman—and soon everyone’s pointing. On the screen, we can see their astonished faces up close, and I stifle a giggle. Two people are peering out of the open window down to street level, but no one has even looked in our direction.

“There,” says Alex. “They all looked stressed out. Now they’re distracted. We’re doing them a favor.”

“What if their meeting’s really important?” I object.

“Of course it’s not important. No meeting is important. Hey, look, a microphone function. We can listen to them.” He touches a button and suddenly we can hear the voices of the people in the room, coming through a speaker on the remote.

“Is it filming us?” a woman is asking in panicked tones.

“It’s Chinese.” A man is jabbing his finger at the drone. “Look at the writing. That’s Chinese.”

“Everyone cover your faces,” another woman says urgently. “Cover your faces.”

“It’s too late!” says a girl shrilly. “It’s seen our faces!”

“We shouldn’t cover our faces!” a man exclaims. “We should cover the minutes of the meeting!”

“They’re only draft minutes,” puts in a blond woman, looking anxious and putting both arms over her printed sheets.

A man in shirtsleeves has stood up on his chair and is trying to hit the drone with a rolled-up piece of paper.

“No, you don’t!” retorts Alex, and he presses an icon on the remote control. The next moment, the drone starts shooting spurts of water at the man, and I clap a hand over my mouth to muffle my laughter.

“Ah,” says Alex. “So that’s what that is. How about this one?” He presses another icon, and bubbles start streaming out of the drone.

“Argh!” The man jumps down off his chair as though under attack and starts batting at the bubbles. I’m laughing so hard, my nose has started to hurt. There are bubbles floating everywhere in the room, and people are shrinking away from them.

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