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James burst from the basement, grinning like a toddler who’s learned to speak.

“I’ve done it!” In his hand he clutched a small black box, with a large conical microphone on one end and a wire connected to a small speaker on the other. On top was a solitary bulb, which glowed red, as if indicating a recording was in progress.

“Dad, WTF?” Kylie said, looking up from her phone.

“He’s turnt,” said her brother Brayden, who didn’t. “What’s that smell?”

“It’s him. TFW your dad smells like a homeless dude.”

“Oh, shaaade.”

“Dat outfit doe,” Kylie added. “On fleek.”

“HA shots fired.”

Their father stared at them without comprehension, his smile a beaming monument to pure happiness, his bathrobe an earthy testament to an entire weekend spent in his cellar workshop, complete with coffee stains from more than one spilled mug, and small burns from minor wiring issues.

“Where’s your mother?”

“Store. But don’t have FOMO, she’s just getting groceries.”

“I made her a present,” James said. He flipped a switch and the red light dimmed. He pressed another button and a robotic voice crept from the speaker.

“Dad, where have you been? We were worried,” it said.

“I think he may be intoxicated. What’s that smell?”

“It’s him. He should probably take a shower. His current odor brings shame on our family.”

“That was unnecessarily harsh.”

“Despite the unpleasant scent, his outfit is pretty stylish.”

“Good joke. I hope he doesn’t take it the wrong way.”

“Where’s your mother?”

“She’s at the store, but don’t fret, she’ll be back soon with the food and drink necessary to sustain us.”

The playback ended, and Kylie and Brayden simply stared.

“WTF was that?” Brayden said.

“My gift to your mother. It’s a millennial converter. It takes all your nonsense phrases and converts them into intelligible sentences that real people understand.” He flipped it back on.

“Wait, so you can understand us?” Brayden looked at his sister. “The struggle is real.”

“I can’t even,” she replied.

“Talking is kind of overrated TBH.”

“Keep it 100?”

“Squad goals.” They turned their gazes back to their phones and began typing furiously. James stopped the recording and turned on the converter.

“Wait, so you can understand us? That is an unprecedented invasion of privacy.”

“This information is difficult to process. I don’t know that I can communicate verbally anymore.”

“In all honesty, I had always considered audible conversations to be a bane of human existence.”

“Should we make a pact to only converse digitally for the rest of our natural lives?”

“I’m proud of you, brother. Together we can do anything.”

The voices faded, and James stood in a silent room, his children pounding away quietly at glass screens. He trudged back down to the basement, and the teenagers heard him scream obscenities with the ferocity of their high school principal.

“What did he say?” Brayden texted Kylie.

“NSFW,” she typed back.

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Conor Yunits spends most of his time writing op-eds, statements and speeches for other people. He once wrote a political blog that was hailed as “a new model for election blogging” by the Washington Examiner, profiled by WBUR and WGBH in Boston, and praised by The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, The Hartford Courant and The Washington Post. He tweets @conoryunits, probably too much.

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