In practice, nothing will ever work one hundred percent of the time. Apart from some crazy idealists (who posit that since theory and practice are never the same and since in theory nothing ever works perfectly in practice, in practice it is possible to make something that works perfectly, and who almost never go on second dates) this has been widely recognised amongst scientists and inventors for a long time. It is only recently, however, that it has been purposely exploited.

There will always be circumstances, the logic goes, in which a particular device will not work. These circumstances can obviously be changed through careful engineering: that is why there are scuba watches and hiking watches and watches with little things that go bing. What if, the logic continues after a stiff drink, we engineer those circumstances away into increasingly unlikely areas? Don’t make a watch that keeps perfect time unless you get it wet, make a watch that keeps perfect time unless it is worn by Henry VIII. Don’t make a camera that takes brilliant pictures in daylight, but rather murky grainy ones at night, make a camera that takes brilliant pictures unless you happen to be taking a picture of a wooly mammoth. Not only that, but it may be possible to engineer fantastically unlikely devices that only work in an incredibly unlikely but easily reproducible set of circumstances, such as the user hopping on one leg whilst humming Flight of the Bumblebees. By this time the logic is sprawled under the table and the bouncer is rolling up his sleeves.

* * * * *

Henry flicked through the pictures on his camera, each one a blurry blob and each one blurrier and blobbier than the last. It was no good. He swore under his breath. The light was all wrong now, anyway. He looked at the digital watch on his wrist; it read ’18:32:07′, and below that the date ’07/14/98′. The seconds ticked over, at a rate of about one per second if the watch was anything to go by. It wasn’t, so he pulled a second watch from his pocket. This one was a pocket-watch, as one might have guessed, and had been passed down to him by his father, Harry, and before that his grandfather, Hank. He thumbed the catch and flicked it open. Six thirty-three. He was mildly surprised. Not that the digital watch was keeping correct time, for although he had set it again this very morning it was now out by exactly three weeks, but that any of its digits even vaguely resembled something accurate.

His last girlfriend had expressed a frustration that he wouldn’t just stop wearing the thing. He himself had expressed a concern that his fellows would not take him seriously without a digital watch (after all, the reverse was true). At this point, she had expressed a desire to date other people. Well, and good riddance anyway. His friends had always been surprised he was dating her in the first place. (This was not strictly true. Indeed, in some ways, it was strictly untrue. What his friends were surprised at was that she was dating him.) He swore once more for good measure, tossed the camera onto the passenger seat, and pulled out onto Ocean Avenue.

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