Under blankets she waits for sleep. She holds onto the product lying next to her, taking comfort in his warmth and his regular rhythm. She begins to hope that, through holding on, she will acquire these characteristics. The second product is larger and heavier than her. This too is a source of comfort. She wonders if it is somehow this size of his, this soft bulk, that helps him to sleep. The product does not permit herself bulk at this level. She owns a machine on which she runs without moving forward in space. The machine keeps her light, but she suspects that even if she stopped using the machine she would not grow heavy like the product beside her. And anyway, she knows, she would not stop using the machine. Besides, people say that exercise is good for sleep. But she cannot sleep. There is something careless, she decides, about this other product’s heaviness, as if the thing that has allowed him to grow so heavy is also the thing that allows him to escape so easily from the day. She wonders if it is this thing, even more than the bulk it produces, that lets him sleep so peacefully. She has now stopped holding on to the other product. Instead she looks at him in the darkness that seems no longer dark. His rough face is smooth, his breath rhythmic and audible, but never breaking into a snore. At least if he snored, then there would be an excuse—for her not sleeping, for her to nudge him awake. There is a great unevenness, she decides, in his absence of care. She lies awake, thinking of him. He lies asleep, not thinking at all. How many more hours, she wonders, when added up, how many more days and weeks and months has she spent thinking of him than he has spent thinking of her? The product’s thoughts make her feel like this is the end of something. She wishes he were awake, so she could hear his voice and know he cares. She adjusts herself under the blankets and holds onto him again. She holds on tighter than before, hoping that he might feel her and wake. But he does not wake. And soon she begins to remember how comfortable it is lying next to him, holding onto him like this, feeling his warmth and his regular rhythm. She begins again to hope that, through holding on, she will acquire these characteristics. But then she remembers that this is not what happens. She wishes that she could climb into him like a sleeping bag and become careless too within his soft bulk. But then she remembers: there are dreams in there.
Excellent for keeping time and measuring the creeping increments of light, Louisa is particularly well suited to the Nocturnally Vigilant, her restless thoughts offering company in the strange hours like the mobile that hangs above the cradle of a child. To purchase Louisa, simply offer her your own fitful racing thoughts in return, so that thoughts can whisper back and forth across the swaying night.
While supplies last, the product is available in her Original Packaging, sitting at the head of the table, speaking to six other products who register her tone as crisp and decisive. Clicking a button that alters the contents of the screen behind her, she speaks of their increasing numbers this quarter: impressive, she says, in the midst of so many declining numbers as a result of the Price Wars—but still capable, she says, of further increase.
A sweet, fizzy beverage, extracted from the lakes and the corn, is central to the welfare of their numbers, and just as central is Heather’s capacity to coax the products in this room into deriving ever-new sequences in which various other products imbibe the fizzy beverage and evince great pleasure.
Heather does not herself imbibe this beverage, as the blood of corn dragged toward taste buds can cause swellings of the skin that must be lanced with hot needles and squeezed carefully of infection. Take caution when squeezing: pockmarks may result. But potential buyers should feel at ease: the product contains a large quantity of skin, ideal for storing her insides. The skin is subdivided into little chambers, each of which should be flooded daily by passing the water of seven glasses through the mouth. Regular maintenance is crucial, as the chambers quickly breed fungus and toxins that must be flushed away. A cream can be applied on the outer levels to prevent the product flaking and oozing with oil.
The skin is useful for allowing Heather to draw close to other products, to trade touches that result in pleasure, tickles, irritation, and rashes that blister and peel away. Heather’s internal units archive the glistening faces of other products. She wonders how they keep themselves so smooth, so lifelike. This is something she hopes to capture in the sequences she helps derive.
Garments are worn to protect against damage to skin that can only be repaired through modes of disfigurement known as scarring. Sometimes the garments are removed and the product positioned in a wooden chamber full of heat that causes her skin to stretch open and drip away liquid that would do harm if kept inside.
Below her brow, the product contains two round gatherings of soft, jellied facial skin useful for scooping light from the sky.
The product’s skin moves inward, growing thoughts and memories.
If attentively cared for and watered daily, the product will soon be made entirely of skin.
Within the skin, there sleeps a carcass. In conjunction with the familiar methods, the carcass is kept subdued through the continued coaxing of sequences featuring products imbibing the sweet, fizzy beverage, and the maintenance of numbers that continue to increase.
While Heather has all the advantages of a luxury product, she requires only that you observe the sequences and imbibe the beverage until you are at one with the lakes and the corn.
Birds! Birds!! Birds!!!
With this product we offer birds.
And with this product we offer thoughts shaped like birds.
Blackbirds, Robins, tiny Wrens, Goldcrests, Magpies, Wood Pigeons, Jays, Starlings, the occasional Blue Tit featuring a golden belly and a deep-blue coat, soft white cheeks and doe-like eyes, sometimes a Swallow or a Mistle Thrush, or even a Goldfinch painted yellow, red, blue, black, white—all flutter, glide, twitter, chirp, and peckishly feast from bird feeders stuffed with seeds, fruits and berries, and from plastic containers heaped with dragonflies, crickets, aphids, worms.
Balthazar stands behind the fence, whistling, it seems, at the female products walking past, sporting Human Clothing, hair and eyes. Yet while it is true that Balthazar whistles, it is not at these, but to the birds. Balthazar has mastered many different varieties of call, not simply mimicking the warbling tones of various types of tweet, but learning too the rhythms and intonations, the silent spaces between the chirps. The product whistles, as he often says, “not to mate, but to communicate.”
The birds are clothed in numerous feathers, which aid in temperature regulation, camouflage, signaling, and flight. The flight of birds, the product knows, is largely enabled by the power of pectoral muscles, not the deltoids which in humans facilitate arm wrestling victories and insufficiently researched quips and sallies like, “I just flew in from H———, and boy are my arms tired.” In addition to plumage and contractile tissues (not to speak of a skeletal structure offering bones of the most delicate contours), the birds come with a highly developed nervous system, and are able to feel things that people can’t feel. Their optical networks are similarly complex, offering even certain bits of the spectrum not normally available due to highly exclusive ultraviolet properties. And in case such features fail to charm, we need hardly add that the birds have beaks deftly shaped for refining their song, for feeding themselves and for feeding their young. It is not the case that, as in picture books, wriggling worms pass plumply from beak to beak—rather, Balthazar knows, all forms of life must be digested with great consideration before being brought forth as food for the youth. Balthazar wishes that certain people would treat their thoughts with similar care, before vomiting up unprocessed remarks that cause those around them to choke.
The product lingers in his garden, enwrapped warmly with fluttering orbits, ears tuned by hums, whistles, and chortling calls. For this fugal cathedral of vectors and song, this warbling host of grace-capable familiars, Balthazar needs only to offer The Hand Picked Treats and Treasures of Nature displayed in convenient and unthreatening fashion. The birds can be yours for no added cost, once you have committed to a Balthazar purchase.
Balthazar’s countenance is resplendent with warmth, his grin stretching flesh cooked pink by the sun. Every so often he gives a pale egg of thought to Those Who Cannot Understand: to bespectacled Susan who, at the first shadow of imploring, tunneled into the ground; or to puff-chested Edwin, whose eyes never bothered with him in the first place; or even to Aunt Jennifer hovering in wait for the mice and voles of human error—or to any of the others with their failures to fledge into creatures capable of sight on both sides. As quickly as these eggs emerge, the product flings them away like brood parasites trying to suckle his remorse. His feelings migrate to the beauty of birds. Birds, he knows, evolved from the dinosaurs, and so were once the rulers of earth. Moreover, he knows, birds mate for life, so, in spite of all their modulating complexity, they are, at core, far more consistent than the more outwardly uniform human varieties. Sometimes the product permits himself to linger on a certain egg—one that, unbroken, was freckled and lovely and seemed at times to contain the whole world, but that the product now finds crumpled and sticky with blood-speckled yoke. And though the product averts his eyes, his thoughts fly back to witness The Accident and The Very Great Loss.
The Balthazar set can be yours for just three easy payments. The first is Small Talk Born of Curiosity. This initial payment might at first be refused. However, do not be deterred. Our system is completely reliable, and with a bit of persistence the product will be yours. Enter again the Small Talk B. C. If it should fail still, do not be discouraged. Try again with different angles. Above all remain patient and calm. Cordiality will not go amiss. Neither will a well-informed interest in a variety of bird types. Once this payment has been accepted, you will be instructed to offer the second payment: 350 to 400 mL of fermented barley, tactfully aged. This second payment might at first be refused. Do not panic—simply keep trying. The payment will go through most easily if your manner is at once light, jovial, and firmly insistent, and accompanied by a spoken assurance that everything will be alright. Once the payment has been deposited into the organic receptacle, you will be free to make the final payment. This will require some skill in mimicry or masquerade. You must appear in The Costume of Sarah, levitating with feathers, wings, and coos. And just below the ceiling of light, refracting in larks of starling brightness, you will offer The Loving Voice and promise not to live on without him. And if in his sobbing and supplication he should make a gesture of protest, you will hold aloft a faceless bundle, and, speaking his name, you will grant him forgiveness.
With this product we offer birds.
And with this product we offer thoughts shaped like birds.
The Lovers (a Plant)
Just in time for spring, we bring you this stylish 2-in-1. Picture, if you will, among the wide expanses of verdure available in most urban and suburban districts, a well-balanced structure of denim, cotton, hands, and hair. Upon closer inspection, you find, to your surprise and delight, the flesh-coated faces of two spring products joined together in a playfully faux-naïf manner that calls to mind primitive acts of oral hygiene popular before the spread of twigs and brushes.
The Lovers are cultivated next to footpaths, fed by the waters that manifest in duck ponds and charming streams. They stand untroubled by passing products, and exude a unique confidence so well suited to this time of year. Indeed, The Lovers, through a highly sought-after chemical reaction, produce what appears to be their own biosphere, an amorous system closed and self-regulating. Yet the discriminating consumer will be able to discern that the seeming biosphere is in fact a clever lure—and herein lies this product’s most distinguishing (and, perhaps, even notorious) feature. In a sassy twist, The Lovers function as a pitcher plant, obtaining much of their required sustenance from the thoughts of other products.
When the ocular functions of nearby walkers, joggers, and biped cyclists, are attracted by the mock biosphere (consisting of spring-lit pigments and pheromonal bribes), their thoughts draw breathlessly near like insects to orchids that mimic their form. Once contact is established, the thoughts are ensnared in a pitfall trap, and slip into a viscous pool where they dissolve in reverie. The specific enzymes that act on these thoughts will depend on the constitution of the passing products: for some it is envy’s acrid bite, corroding with the knowledge that this embrace does not belong to them; some are sunk deep with the loneliness cramp to wear away slowly with time; some surrender to the toxins of nostalgia; others unravel in a rash of irritation at these idlers cluttering their jogging route with such shameless Public Display; many simply disintegrate in speculation about what flowery tale The Lovers’ shape conceals, trying to imagine the particulars of pursuit and ecstasy, or wondering what bitter umbrage sometimes shades their passion.
The Lovers may be transplanted upon purchase to the location of your choosing. To avoid upsetting their unique oral arrangements or risking the separation of fingers petaled together in tender lust, we recommend that they be sent via PremiumFirst, which comes with our full guarantee and is trackable for your convenience. Give The Lovers a home in your back garden where they can be enjoyed to the utmost in the spring and summer months. In most cases, The Lovers will survive outdoors well into the autumn: put on your favorite sweater and sip a glass of cider as you watch the colors change around them. In the winter, they can be potted and placed on the windowsill, or even used as a centerpiece to captivate the imagination of dinner guests. It is rarely necessary to prune The Lovers, but those customers in possession of The Green Thumb may wish to try grafting pieces of The Lovers onto themselves or pieces of themselves onto The Lovers.
To enjoy this product’s Public Display in the comfort and privacy of your own home, you need only (upon obtaining a TL license) provide the small payment of those ingrown hopes that root in your brain, decaying into narratives of the non-vicarious order. Pluck them out, untangle them, and send them through our safe payment system.
Bills of Exchange
Often found in public houses, bars, and discothèques, and associated with a certain degree of liquidity, Bills of Exchange provide not value itself but the promise of value. Under an icy winter moon, Fat Bill, Buddy Bill, Greasy Bill, and Shy-Until-7-Drinks Bill pile out of Buddy Bill’s truck and enter the bar. Bills of Exchange usually come in a set.
Fat Bill orders a round of drinks while the others get started scoping the room and sizing up their prospects, eager to know if any of them will be accepted absolutely, conditionally, or partially. A Bill of Exchange is not a product but a draft, and it often takes the combined effort of a number of Bills to procure a single product. Fat Bill returns with a tray: four rye and cokes for sipping, and four shots of tequila to get business going. Glasses clink and Bills toast Bill. Today is the anniversary of the date on which Buddy Bill was drawn, and Bills mean to make the night count. Greasy Bill has singled out The Blonde Product With The Legs, a highly decorous item that Bills speculate might be on offer at a discount due to market drops and the specialness of the evening. With a minimum of friendly prodding, Buddy Bill crosses the floor to where The BPWTL is obtaining cigarettes. Many a Bill considers itself to be an interest-bearing object. But it all depends on whether or not the Bill is received. Fat Bill, realizing that Buddy Bill lacks a drink to offer, orders another round, plus a Long Island Iced Tea that he takes across the floor. While one Bill provides the information that today is his birthday, the other Bill discretely hands Bill a drink to hand to the product, who refuses politely and returns to her Table of Friends.
Undiscouraged, Bills view the Table not as a liability but as a promise-bearing frontier, speculating that if The BPWTL will not receive them, perhaps one of the less ornate products that keep her company might. A Bill desires nothing more than to be accepted and held until maturity. Bills order drinks and bring them over. Buddy Bill tries to dance with a brown-haired product with a large red sweater with a picture of a dog on it. S-U-7-D Bill, well on his way, tells a product with meaningful eyes that he would give everything—give his whole existence—for her. Greasy Bill, determined to come due more quickly than most, feels around underneath the table in order to discern who might accept him. Fat Bill, in his liquid glory, dances by himself, shut-eyed and smiling.
But all too soon the door swings wide and a set of Foreign Bills enters the Bar. Buddy Bill, taking notice, attempts to engage the sweatered product in a tango. S-U-7-D Bill and Greasy Bill intensify their entreaties. Even Fat Bill is pulled from his drowsy bliss. These Bills, being Inland Bills, drawn in the Midwest, bear different information than Foreign Bills, but have the same function and often find themselves competing in a flooded market. Foreign Bills order drinks for the Table of Friends. Inland Bills warn of roofies and offer further drinks of their own. Bills cluster round the Table, exchanging cutting words with Bills while trying to secure their products. Bill questions Bill’s value. Bill calls Bill a Queer Bill. Bill takes a mighty swing and Bill crumples. Bill tries to break a bottle over Bill. Two Bills hold Bill, and two more try to break Bills’ hold. Chairs are raised for hitting Bills. Mediators step in. Bills are seized. Bills are banned. In a final effort, Bill attempts to persuade The BPWTL to sign her endorsement against his back. The BPWTL politely declines. The Bills’ liquidity is judged to be suspect. No one at the bar wants to take responsibility for the Bills. Both sets of Bills spill into the night, stumbling on snowdrifts and slipping on ice. Having no more products in sight, the sets of Bills part company on even terms. Bills pile into Buddy Bill’s truck to seek out a party that Bill’s buddy is at, and while various Bills are normally due at different times, these Bills all come due at once.
The drawing and use of Bills of Exchange, often seen as an archaic practice, never really went away, and recently—due to the crisis in futures—the number of Bills has proliferated. If you are planning to attempt to travel, and do not want the risk of carrying products to barter, Bills of Exchange can be a reasonable alternative. While these particular Bills are no longer in circulation, you can order a fresh set now. Bills of Exchange have no intrinsic value, and once drawn by us must be guaranteed by you, the drawee. We will happily draw Bills for a small service charge, waived for those with a Premium account. However, we should note that Bills of Exchange will gradually be phased out, and we recommend that you acquaint yourself with more efficient and widely accepted forms of payment.
Dadpapa #5 is the best one yet. But don’t rely on our word alone:
“Kind of a sad guy, but definitely not a dirtbag.”
“Pretty stand-up if you ask me. Can’t say I’d do it if I was in his shoes.”
“Not long-term material if you know what I mean, but nice enough.”
“Who? Oh, him.”
“This one she left us with. This one is nice. Not like #4, who waved the spoon, or #2, who hid behind things. When we’re bad this one wiggles his finger but smiles like we’re good. This one has eyes that are made of water. This one’s face looks tired. Dadpapa #3 had a leather coat and a moustache; this one has jeans and a prickly face. A prickly face is nicer than a moustache. Waiting on the street is nicer than being quiet at the table.
Dadpapa #5 is trying to find us a new mom. That’s why he goes up into the buildings and we wait outside on the steps. I play with my yo-yo and Maggie picks up rocks. Each time, we talk about our new mom. Will she be blonde and pretty? Will she sell things that are nice to play with? Will she stand all day or sit on old furniture? Will she help with people’s hair? Sometimes he finds them in a restaurant, and sometimes at a park. I order burgers and Dadpapa gets eggs. Maggie has a grilled cheese sandwich. Dadpapa is very polite and smiles at the waitress and tells her she’s pretty and what great kids we are. In the park we go down slides, and Dadpapa interviews for new moms.
Out on the steps dogs come by. Will this one have a dog? Will she have a tea set? Will her name be Sue? Will she prefer a) spanking our bottoms, or, b) renting some movies? Will she make her sentences clearly or talk with a lisp? I hope this one has a lisp, Maggie says, that would be cute. Yes, I agree, and nice. #5 is the best one yet—that’s the third last thing our mom told us. I feel safe with this one, is the second. The first last thing she told us is that she was going for groceries. I hope the new one has a longer list.
On the steps we see the kids come by. The moms and dads. I find some gum stuck to a clean place. It still has some flavor so we split it. Soon a kid comes by who looks so fresh he might be straight out of the dryer. He knocks over Maggie’s pile of rocks and makes bad laughing sounds. I kick him in the pants and punch him in the eye. His drippings make his freckles look big and he spits and runs away. Maggie is happy because now she has the job of making the pile of rocks again.
When Dadpapa comes out from the building he sits down with us on the steps. He looks at Maggie’s rocks and tells her nice job. He looks at my face and wipes the spit from my sleeve. He smells the air in the sky and looks at the sidewalk with its dogs and its people and the street with its cars and its fallen nuts. I don’t think this one is going to be your new mom, he says with his soft voice and his eyes made of water. Dadpapa #5 is the best one yet.”
Useful for climbing or lifting small products in the air, Dadpapa #5 can be purchased through several methods but most popularly through the following process:
1. Locate any small blade of the sort that can be used for carving intricate patterns into wood.
2. Locate any rabbit of the sort that can be startled from copses or found on hills at dusk.
3. Use the blade to clip away the webs and sinews that knot you to other products more that 1.5 times your size.
4. Insert the blade into the rabbit and make an incision large enough for the hand to enter, and remove the heart.
5. Present the heart as your own (rabbit outers may be discarded or repurposed as food).
 If you do not yet possess these crucial items, which maximize the enjoyment of many products, don’t deny yourself any longer. Log in to see ordering information.
 If you are unfamiliar with memory, we highly recommend this semi-aqueous item easily installable within most products and useful for storing accessory items such as shells, cups, faces, and the smells that various weather formulations draw from the soil. If used in tandem with the handy space savers available at most retail outlets, memory may be divided into memories for ease of access, use, and speedily tucking out of sight should company arrive unannounced. Cooperating memories can be combined and assembled into a wide range of sequences, playable on compatible devices and products.
 For testimonials to the benefits of Bills of Exchange see J. R. McCulloch, A Dictionary of Practical, Theoretical, and Historical of Commerce and Commercial Navigation (London: Longmans, Green, 1871); J. W. Gilbart, History, Principles, and Practice of Banking, revised edition, edited by A. S. Michie, 2 volumes (Philadelphia: G. D Miller, 1882); W. T. C. King, History of the London Discount Market (London: Routledge, 1936); and Mary Poovey, Genres of the Credit Economy: Mediating Value in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2008). We welcome further reviews.