Flash: What are they really trying to sell?

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“Telly off.”

“Hey, I was watching that.” Karter complained to his mother.

She picked up two dishes, then stacked a third between them, showing off her skills as a human waitress. “And I told you, no screen time until your studies are done for the day.”

“I got it done, mostly. And what I didn’t finish isn’t important.” He flopped over on the floor to look up at her. “Consumer awareness is complete yesteryear.”

His mom’s eyes twitched, and her lips formed a flat line. “Fine, then tell me why that commercial, selling a car I couldn’t afford on two years hustling tables, and certainly not something you can buy at your age, showed up in your feed?”

“Um … because it is cool?” Sitting up, the fourteen-year-old looked around the room for clues. “Maybe related to a new three-dee-show?”

“That is a start. The HyundaiHondaHover is used a lot in Fifteen Rings over Cylan, but reverse the logic.” The adult lifted the plates. “I’m drop these into the cube and set dinner heating, but I expect a better answer by the time I get back or you will be on screen blackout tomorrow.”

“Aw mom, no, tomorrow is MechBattle.”

“Karter, this is important to me, and I believe it will be important to you in the future. Use that implant and gray matter to come up with something.” She stopped in the threshold and looked back. “I’m not being unreasonable. I know that is what you are thinking. But remember, I’m your mom. I’m always on your side even when it doesn’t feel like it. The sellers, with those commercials and ads, are not. Know who is your opposition and who is your support system.”

He rolled his eyes but activated the EdYou screen.


Karter made his way to the kitchen after the dinner ding came through. He discovered the reason why his mom hadn’t came back immediately was she had been folding laundry. Tucking his head down, he sat at the table. That folding and delivery chore should have been completed by him two days ago.

The near-beef stew with a side of real bread from her work smelled delicious. Automatically he reached for her hand across the small table.

“We remember to be grateful in the small things for they build the best parts of our lives. We remember to be grateful in the small acts for they build the best friendships of our lives. We remember to be grateful for the small ideas for they build the best principles of our lives. Confirm.”

“Confirm.” Karter solemnly closed the grace. Dropping his mom’s hand, he dug into his fourth calorie allotment of the day.

She let him eat about half before asking, “Do you have the report ready?”

“Hm, maybe. Obviously if it is an officially registered commercial, they are either advertising, selling a product or service, or marketing, selling a concept or reputation. Since we aren’t in the position to buy, under proper targeting for advertising, I shouldn’t have seen the flying car commercial.” He tore two more pieces of bread off his slice and dropped them into the soup and stirred it. “So the question is, what are they marketing?”

“And you had speculated maybe a movie or telly show.”

“But that isn’t right, because product placement would be doing the reverse, unless it is selling nostalgia like using old cars in shows.” He scrunched his nose. “Since the HyundaiHondaHover is a newer line, only two years old according to the implant download, and they are pushing next month’s model, the new show is selling the car, not the car selling the show. Like you said, reverse the logic.”

“You do listen to me sometimes. Good to know.” His mom smirk turned into a smile. “I appreciate your thinking so far. But you haven’t answered why are they dropping a commercial for a private car into the feed of a family only able to afford public transportation, and not even the special services like individual taxi and flame jumps, only the mass transport.”

“Well, if it isn’t advertising, it has to be marketing.” Karter used the last of his bread to empty the bowl, then jammed it in his mouth before he continued talking. “I don’t think it is the concept. We are aware of the flying cars using the flame streams to triple their speed. I’m sure they want to drop that in every now and again, so if we ever get insta-rich, we want to pick up one immediately. But the HyundaiHondaHover ads came on three times today, and there were another couple for the MercedesCadallicWind. I could see one or two every few days, but five in one day is a lot to aim at someone my age.”

“Just how long were you on screen today?”

“Um, do you want me to answer that or finish the report?” Karter asked hopefully.

His mom pinched the bridge of her nose. “Finish the report.”

“Since it isn’t a concept, it has to be reputation.” He pushed his bowl to the center of the table frowning. “They want us to WANT flying cars even when we can’t afford them. They want us to desire things beyond our ability, to make them more valuable to people who can afford them because other people can’t. Make some people feel better when other people are hungering after the idea they have access to, the small ideas. But this twists the small ideas, corrupting people’s principles with envy, instead of the pillars of support, growth, and beauty.” Karter looked at his mom. “That is some premium grade therapy-need.”

“Yes, and they also take it further.” His mother stacked her bowl into his and stood up from the table, moving the dishes over to the washer cube for loading. “They will sell you models of the cars, clothing with the design, and posters for the walls, all to keep you aware of what you want but can’t have, and have you pay for the privilege because they own the idea and image. But, you know, Consumer Awareness is a boring, unimportant subject. It’s okay to blow it off and support the mega-corps products.”

“Mom, I haven’t been dipping on the psychology classes; reverse-pysch is complete yesteryear.”

“I accept correction.” Having finished loading and activating the washing cube, his mom leaned against the counter. “But I do have one last inquiry before you put away the laundry.”

Karter rolled his eyes and groaned.

“Are you going to continue to dip on the Consumer Awareness?”

“Do you think that they will continue to hit me up to ride the envy flame?”

“They hit you five times today.” She shook her head in annoyance. “No screen time tomorrow until ALL your studies are done. But, let me tell you as someone with a few more years living the marketing stream, they hope you don’t bother with your studies, and if you do, they hope that they can wear you down with a constant stream. They want you to want a flying car really badly. And other stuff like it.”

Karter glanced around their small eating room before he said, “I would like a flying car.”

“So would I.”

(words 1,206; first published 12/10/2023)

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