there was a little low couch against one of the walls and she went and sat down on it.
i had too much white cake with chocolate frosting, she thought. betty was addicted to sugar, and despite the deep shame she felt about it, was often unable to resist temptation, especially when stressed.
but i really had no excuse this time, she thought, i am only visiting a museum…
betty closed her eyes….
when she opened them, she saw that m d foster’s photographs had disappeared and a new exhibit had taken its place.
a video, with some kind of musical soundtrack of what betty thought was a hip hop beat, was being projected on one of the walls.
a group of 9 or 10 schoolchildren - about 11 or 12 years old, accompanied by a tall young woman who betty assumed was a teacher, was standing in front of the wall.
another young woman wearing a white blouse with a photo i d badge pinned to it was addressing the schoolchildren with an enthusiastic air and many gestures. betty picked up the word “prizes” in her speech.
a table stood beside the speaking woman, and a chimpanzee was seated at the table.
a place card on the table identified the chimp as “carla”, and carla had a pink bow on her head to emphasize that she was a girl chimp and not a boy chimp.
the video and the music stopped. betty could now hear what the young woman giving the demonstration was saying.
“who would like to challenge carla and win a prize?”
“what’s the prize?” asked a solidly built young man.
“the prize is a copy of one of the museum’s series of novels - novel #!, novel#2, and so forth.”
the young man had his back to betty but his body language did not express enthusiasm. but before he could speak, a small girl raised her hand and said she would like to win a prize.
“thank you, “ the young woman smiled. “what is your name?”
“reba - what a pretty name. now - here is what we are going to do. the video - which was created by c c cuthbert, by the way - has already played a couple of times as we stood here, so if you were paying attention - ha ha - you should remember some of it. now when i start it again, watch carefully -
26 images are going to flash on the screen in 13 seconds in a random order and when it is over i am going to ask you to play back the sequence. as you see on the table here we have a keypad with the 26 images on it and you can use it sequence the images in the order you remember. does that make sense?”
“i guess,” reba answered. the children were now crowding a little more densely behind reba, looking at the keyboard on the table.
“now, when you do this, carla will also watch the video, and she has her own keyboard in front of her to play the sequence back, and then we will see who did better and then if you do better than carla, you win the prize. one more thing - this is not about speed, just accuracy, so you can take as much time as you want. ready?”
“this is bullshit,” a small boy behind reba announced. “i call bullshit on this whole thing. the monkey’s keyboard is fixed, can’t you sheeple see that -“
the young woman smiled sweetly and ignored him. “are you ready, reba?”
“no, this is bullshit,” the boy repeated, “and what’s it supposed to prove? - that we are all really monkeys? -“
“dylan, shut up,” the teacher said, with more asperity than betty would have expected from a 21st-century custodian of children.
“and she’s a chimp, not a monkey, you troll,” another girl spoke.
the video started, with its music. betty tried to watch it, but it went by too fast.
images flashed of a pyramid, a raccoon, a turtle, and an apple -
followed by a dinosaur, a flamingo, a coca-cola sign, katy perry, donald trump, a white kitten, the american flag, a cheeseburger, abraham lincoln, albert einstein, a can of red bull, mount rushmore, a black kitten, miley cyrus, a black-and-white kitten, henry kissinger, judy garland as dorothy, a jar of peanut butter, a red-and-white campbell’s soup can, chairman mao, a blue and green beachball, and a german shepherd,
all in thirteen seconds.
betty thought she remembered the pyramid first, but after that…
the children and the two young woman were crowding around reba, who was told again by the young woman giving the presentation to “take her time.”
finally reba said, “all right, that’s the best i can do.”
“let’s see - you got a score of seven! wow, that is great, reba, tremendous - one of the best scores ever! and your eighth was only two off!”
“yeah, right,” the young man addressed as dylan muttered.
“now, let’s see what carla can do. ready, carla?”
betty vaguely remembered reading about something like this before, probably in the new york times, so she was not surprised when the chimp played the 26 images back almost as quickly as they had been played to begin with.
the children gave the chimp a big round of applause, except for the unrepentant dylan -
“this is bullshit. this is why civilization is fucked.”
the children and the teacher left, and betty was left alone with the young woman giving the presentation, and the chimp.
the young woman noticed betty. “hi,” she said, “i am c c cuthbert. would you like to challenge carla? win a prize?”