Day One at the Every: An Excerpt From Dave Eggers’ New Novel

“Wonderful!” Delaney said again, louder than before.

“See, they’ll note that repetition at the end of the day,” Kiki said. “You won’t get penalized or anything. It’s just to help us do better.”

Delaney almost said Wonderful again, just for her own amusement. Instead she said, “Of course.”

“And it’s almost eliminated my cursing,” Kiki said, “which used to be a problem. Same with focus and length. I had a tendency to ramble, and TruVoice identifies off-track …” Kiki stopped. “What’s the word? This is so funny.”

“Verbiage? Meandering? Blather?” Delaney suggested.

“Yes, thanks,” Kiki said. “It helps me get to the point. Early on, my directness scores were in the 40s, but now they’re high 50s.”

“Kudos,” Delaney said.

“Excuse me?” Kiki said.

“Oh. I just said kudos.”

Kiki tapped her screen. “Ah. Kudos. Like ‘congratulations.’ Got it. That’s a Level-3 word, too. I’ll get extra points for that one. Kudos. Kudos. Take a look.”

Kiki showed her phone to Delaney. A man passed between them, wearing what seemed to be the outfit of an Olympic swimmer, his phallus pointing from his crotch to his left knee.

“Sorry!” Kiki said, and tapped her screen. “See, here’s my word total for the day so far: 3,691. That’s not counting every contraction and conjunction, of course. On the second line, you can see it’s broken down by level. Today I’ve spoken 2,928 Level-1 words, 678 Level-2, 67 Level-3, and nine Level-4 words. Which isn’t great, in terms of Level-4. But, that’s the basic self-­improvement part of the app. I can build on that. Growth mindset, right?”

“That’s my motto,” Delaney said.

“Good motto!” Kiki said. “Kudos!”

They shared a laugh. Delaney felt sick. She liked Kiki, felt for Kiki, wanted to save Kiki, and she was lying to Kiki. How long could she lie to this guileless, frenzied face? She pitied her own soul. Out of the corner of her eye, Delaney saw a pair of men in slalom ski outfits, decorated with faux-flames, having a conversation while squatting.

“Squatting is, like, way better than regular standing,” Kiki noted. Her phone emitted the sound of a sad trombone. “See, that’s a reminder. I’m trying to cut down on saying ‘like.’ I get the trombone when I do. And look.” Kiki pointed to a string of words and phrases on her phone. “Here are things I said that AI flagged as problematic.” She indicated a string of words in a red box: screw, nasty, Cosby, Oriental. “These are all words I’ve said today. Isn’t it funny what was flagged? My mom is Chinese, so I could apply for a Permission to Say, but the AI is just noting the word Oriental is on the O-list. So I just need to explain I was referring to a rug. Then I get those points back.”

“Wonderful,” Delaney said.

“The other aspect is HR-oriented,” Kiki continued. “So if TruVoice hears one of the Os, it makes a note. End of every week, you get a summary, and it goes to HR. It’s not a big thing, but it protects you and everyone you encounter in case you say something considered problematic. That way, if you think you’re in the right, it’s recorded. If they think you’re in error, same thing—there’s a recording to reference. So you’ll get the initial ComAnon—you’ll get them every day, they’re anonymous, they matter if they add up, but you shouldn’t worry if they don’t. Anyway, you can get them erased if you check the transcript and you’re right.”