Here at work we have been given this amazing new machine, the Mopier. The Mopier does many great things. It is, at its essence, a printer, but it is oh so much more.

The Mopier prints very quickly, more quickly than one would think possible given the speed at which we know mechanisms and machinery can run safely and efficiently in this day and age. One would think that gears would soon be ground to powder under the pace at which the Mopier moves, but this does not happen. I think that maybe it uses some kind of gelatinous substance in there, some of those space-aged polymers maybe, rather than the more traditional metals or plastic because, really, what it does, how it works… otherwise not possible.

Because in addition to printing on regular white paper, the Mopier also prints directly onto letterhead (for two different companies no less, since everyone here [for reasons which are too complicated to explain, but has something to do with—like all things—taxes] actually works for two different companies at the same time. Although, even though everyone works for two companies, we receive [sadly] only one paycheck.).

This printing directly onto letterhead is, truly, a godsend. Before, to produce a piece of correspondence or a report on company letterhead, one had to take the original, plain, white paper version to the copier, load the copier with the appropriate letterhead, and then complete the copying process, after which the leftover letterhead must be removed from the copier and replaced with the regular white paper again. Can you imagine anything so tedious as this? We were ready to revolt, to bring The Man to his knees for some serious payback time, but then the Mopier was bestowed upon us, and all was well again. Of course it was. How could it not be?

The night after the day after the Mopier arrived, we gathered to celebrate. Together, we clanked vodka-filled coffee mugs, exchanged our collections of comics clipped from the funny papers and debated the merits and relative truths from our quote-a-day calendars. We stroked the smooth putty-colored plastic of the Mopier as it happily went through its paces and we gave thanks upon thanks upon thanks.

And one of us, expansive from the vodka, said something like this (I will not say who, but he knows who he is): When I was a boy, I’d go to the library and I always checked out the biggest books, the green ones with the title and author stamped in gold on the spine, and do you know why? Because that meant that the library had had to rebind it, that the book had been read so often, so thoroughly and so well, that ultimately it had to be reassembled using the library’s own equipment. You know, sometimes I would watch them do this in a room in a basement where they kept the old press and binder. This room was very very hot because something you have to remember is that it takes heat to bind things together, dangerous heat that filled this room always. The binder and press were operated by a man named Earl who was the first man I ever smelled, by which I mean smelled when he was in the essence of his work (a thick, choking, rotten-sweet scent of hot pulp and glue and sweat), because, as most of you know, I had no father, never knew my father as a matter of fact [of course no one actually knew this], and Mother was always working at the salon which, also of course, was filled with women who talked and talked and talked, but never did anything, or so it seemed to my boy self. And for forever I have thought that a green cover meant that a book must be good and that it had been worked by Earl, and also, in addition to being green a.k.a. good, when a book is thick, this means it will last longer because it is truly awful when books end.

Later on, for awhile, things bordered on the out-of-hand, shoulders were squeezed, shrieks rose to the ceiling beams, eyes were rolled at jokes old and new, new wounds opened, others (older ones, nearly forgotten anyway) closed, and in the end, as we left each other, hugs were exchanged during which it was noticed (or at least noted) for the first time that Grace had gotten awfully, awfully thin.

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The Mopier prints on legal-sized paper too. Ledger-sized, even, with a couple of quick (and easy) adjustments.

The Mopier also collates and staples, which might not seem like a big deal, might seem in fact rather common, but it does special things with the staples also. For example, if you want one staple in the upper left-hand corner, you can choose to have it done in either the straight (meaning vertical) or angled (meaning angled) style. You can also choose to use two staples so it becomes a booklet, or three staples, or five staples even for a really sturdy (ass-kicking) booklet that will not come unstapled no matter what sort of abuse is heaped upon it. We have proof of this.

We would have never landed that big contract for all that work we’re so eager to tackle if it hadn’t been for the Mopier. That went something like this:

COMPANY CEO: Gosh, look at those staples, they sure look fine. I tug and tug and it still holds together. Lookit that! Let’s give these people a whole bunch of our money to do something.


Most marvelously, when you retrieve your document from the Mopier, it somehow senses your approach because as you move to it, the finishing tray will rise (click-click-whir, ka-chooga, ka-chooga, whir) while simultaneously nudging the document towards you (out of the finishing tray) by means of an unseen (always unseen, I’ve tried very hard to see this) device. The document just hovers there, waiting to be claimed. This sequence is like a handshake, firm and perfect time after time, and for this I, at least, am grateful.

So we have this Mopier and it sits in a little room, or alcove if you will, flanked by the other (less special) printing devices, and the Mopier actually has the best view in the entire office. It has a view of Lake Shore Drive and the lakefront (Chicago) itself. (By contrast, from my office, I have a view of the Mopier alcove, and I am not without importance around here. There are people here, many people, who view… nothing.) On a good day (like today), from where the Mopier sits, you can see all the way down the shoreline to the Indiana Dunes. The foreground holds the scaled shell of the Adler Planetarium and Piper Cubs lift off from Miegs Field and arc over the water. On days like today (again: good, clear, gorgeous), the Mopier is washed in sunlight for most of the morning into the early afternoon. This view is spectacular.

And so also we have Grace (I have not forgotten her), who seemingly grows less substantial by the day, who smiles sadly as she passes my office, who sometimes mutters to herself and occasionally trembles and rocks as her hands mince the air in front of her monitor, but whom I will (of course and shamefully) never ask any of the questions that her declining condition should prompt from a person (such as myself) who cares (I do I do I do I do I must I must I…), who thinks of these things (often, not to say unceasingly), yet (as just stated) will not even ask a question so simple as: “Are you okay?” or “Is something the matter?” because he (I) is (am) afraid of the answer and knows (know) not what to do with it, whatever that answer may be.

So the question I have (the one I am capable of) is: Why must people be unkind to the Mopier? They are unkind, this is fact, documented by the Mopier repairman who came and said, right away, without hesitation or delay upon inspecting the Mopier, “Someone has been unkind to the Mopier.”

You see, there are places on the Mopier (two places in fact) that are clearly marked with the international symbol for “don’t put paper here,” that symbol being what looks like sheets of paper enclosed in a circle and crossed by a line. The symbols are rendered in red, easily seen against the putty-colored Mopier shell. It has become clear that the Mopier does not like it when the paper is placed in these do-not-put-paper-here places. It prints on legal when you want letter, or on letterhead when you want plain, staples when none are desired, and on occasion (more and more often these days) even jams with paper and emits a plaintive beep asking for help. The beep sometimes sounds for hours, never weakening, but still ignored, always.

When this happens, when the Mopier misbehaves because there is paper placed where clearly there should not be paper, do you know what people say?

They say, “stupid machine,” or “goddamn stupid machine,” or sometimes even “goddamn stupid fucking machine.” One person even kicked the Mopier, once.

This is all terribly ironic because in reality it is they who are stupid (goddamn and fucking stupid really) because they are putting paper where it clearly says: DO NOT PUT PAPER HERE and it is upsetting the Mopier, upsetting it enough that it ceases to function in its previously wondrous way. When things are wonderful, they deserve to be wonderful because, in truth, wonder is rare.

(However, most truthfully, wonder is everywhere.)

I just want people to respect the Mopier. It has abilities that deserve respect. There are many abilities that deserve respect and the Mopier has some of these. If people would respect the Mopier, I’m sure it would do great things, greater things than it does already, things you cannot imagine (but I can).

Like sometimes, when the Mopier is performing up to and even beyond spec, when it has been treated with care and consideration and I go to retrieve a finished, collated and stapled (on appropriate letterhead) document handed to me so gracefully by the finishing tray, and I look out of the Mopier alcove’s window and see the traffic stacking on Lake Shore Drive, at the brake lights on the cars lighting up in succession as they stop for reasons unknown, I put my hand on the Mopier and feel its insides throb and its heat under my touch, and I just know it’s trying to tell me something important, secrets that anyone could hear if you just listen hard enough.