The box was almost slipping out of his fingers, but Rob wasn’t about to let a case of Butterfingers lose him the contents. The city had heated up in the time he spent in the pristine white store, seated on a lawn chair and feeding himself with day-old cheese curls and anticipation.
Today was the day, carpe diem, all that good stuff. What he got was the bragging rights to the first Andromeda tablet. Encased in its navy blue shell, even the image of the computer was tantalizing; he would crack the computer’s ins and outs before the end of the week.
“I love you,” he breathed into the cardboard after signing his week’s paycheck away.
The unrelenting sun outside was a different story. People behind him boiled in tents and camping chairs, fanning themselves with cheap paper fans. They took measured sips from water that lanyard-clad employees handed out, every bit as determined as Rob to get their fingers on the new tablet during store hours.
“Suckers,” the word slipped from his lips as he jauntily made his way up the avenue, watching their eyes covet what was his. “I’m taking her home first.”
There was a lilting dip in his step as he made his way down the familiar stairs of the subway station, welcoming the blast of air of oncoming trains as he swiped his pass and boarded the next one bound for downtown.
The sun remained fixed in more or less the same place. Now it was his neighborhood that sweltered, with kids darting from hose to hose, yard to yard, screaming. Sweat beaded onto Rob’s forehead and he clutched his box tighter, because every single one of those kids was a running, screaming, not-covered-by-warranty accident.
“Stick em’ up,” called a voice from behind, and he stood face-to-face with an assailant, who proudly waved his lime green, overpriced plastic armaments.
“Not enough time to play today, little guy,” Rob shook his head.
“That wasn’t a question, evildoer!” The boy held his hand on the trigger.
“I’ll give you a quarter if you leave me alone, kid.” He began to rummage in his pockets for the promised offering when the spray of ice water hit him square in the face.
“Not the box not the box not the box!” The shouts were a frantic mantra that he called, turning down the lane as fast as flip flops would allow. Behind him was a chaotic scramble of children, rallied by the timeless war cry: “GET HIM!”
Somewhere, Rob thought, finally retrieving his keys, the gods of technology smiled on him. He stood dripping in the wrought iron gateway, everything on his person soaked but his precious tablet. His breaths slowed until he heard giggling from floors above.
Rob looked up, and saw grinning faces from windows above. They readied the balloons, red and orange bombs swelled with hose water.  Squeezing his eyes shut, he curled his fingers around the warranty and prayed.
–By Rui Zhong