Judy & Merv: A Case of Technophilic Colonization of a Heartening Love Story

Benjamin Obler
8 min readSep 8, 2023

Something from the vault to get us through 2023

It wasn’t a long story. It was short. Judy loved giving light aerobics instruction to senior citizens at the community center on Tuesday nights but it hardly paid at all, and she wasn’t sure she could keep living on Healthy Balance frozen stir fry entrees. Merv was a conductor for Canadian Pacific — he “drove train,” as he put it — and since he’d been struck by lightning, he’d been looking for ways to…well, let’s just say that since he’d been struck by lightning he’d been experiencing persistent electrical charges across his entire epidermis. Zaps, zips, phantom tickles, fiery patches. Life was a living hell and he had come to be regarded as something of a lunatic in the town, prancing and flailing down the street like a wincing chimpanzee.

Taking an aerobics class was Merv’s last resort after countless homeopathic trials including Epsom salts, essential oils, hypnotism, and deep relaxation suspended inside a hyperbolic chamber. On occasion Merv endured three-day erections. He didn’t necessarily believe that simple exercise would cure what more specialized remedies had failed to relieve, but the instructor was an attractive woman he knew from around town, and without articulating any particular outcome, he thought, in signing up, that some of his symptoms might meet a natural end through the woman’s aide.

The odds seemed in Merv’s favor. But it wasn’t meant to be.

I mean, it might have been but no one ever found out, because no sooner had the story unfolded, than they took it, and you’ll never believe what they did with it. First they read it aloud, recorded it, and took the recording and ran text recognition on it, which once stripped of its punctuation they made into a prose poem. This poem they staged a reading of, having it signed to the audience live by a certified American Sign Language speaker. They filmed the ASL speaker, after which an AI program was ran upon the file, analyzing the woman’s gestures, measuring the tempo and directionality of her hand movements and converting them into x, y coordinates and algebraic equations to describe the changes in position of her lovely, vociferous hands.

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Benjamin Obler

Instructor at @GothamWriters, NYC. Ed.-in-Chief of AspiringWriterSyndrome.com, where fiction is the focus and inspiration is the goal. #Javascotia @PenguinBooks