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"The world is really so surreal these days that it's necessary for us to blunt it somehow in order to stay sane. The artist functions to short-circuit the buffering mechanism, so that people can occasionally perceive the weirdness of things as they are."
- William Gibson

Nipple-Assist  
  A multi-purpose electronic device worn upon the nipple.  

At the Fox's Lair, the minute French restaurant in downtown San Diego, the maitre d' glanced at the name which Rachmael ben Applebaum had jotted down on the sheet with its fancy, undulating, pseudo-living letterhead and said, "Yes. Mr. Applebaum. It is-" He examined his wristwatch. "Now eight o'clock." A line of well-cloaked people waited; it was always this way on crowded Terra: any restaurant, even the bad ones, were overfilled each night from five o'clock on, and this was hardly a mediocre restaurant, let alone an outright bad one. "Genet," the maitre d' called to a waitress wearing the lace stockings and partial jacket-vest combination now popular: it left one breast, the right, exposed, and its nipple was elegantly capped by a Swiss ornament with many minned parts; the ornament, shaped like a large gold pencil eraser, played semi-classical music and lit up in a series of attractive shifting light-patterns which focused on the floor ahead of her, lighting her way so that she could pass among the closely placed tiny tables of the restaurant.

"Yes, Gaspar," the girl said, with a toss of her blonde, high-piled hair.

"Escort Mr. Applebaum to table twenty-two," the maitre d' told her, and ignored, with stoic, glacial indifference, the outrage among those customers lined up wearily ahead of Rachmael.

"I don't want to-" Rachmael began, but the maitre d' cut him off. "All arranged. She is waiting at twenty-two," and, in the maitre d's voice, everything was conveyed: full knowledge of an intricate erotic relationship which - alas - did not, at least as yet, exist.

Rachmael followed Genet, with her light-emanating useful Swiss-made nipple-assist, through the darkness, the noise of people eating in jammed proximity, bolting their meals with the weight of guilt hunching them, getting done and aside so that those waiting could be served before the Fox's Lair, at two a.m., closed its kitchens . . . we are really pressed tight to one another, he thought, and then, all at once, Genet halted, turned; the nipple cap now radiated a soft, delightful and warm pale red aura which revealed, seated at table twenty-two, Freya Holm.

Seating himself opposite her, Rachmael said, "You don't light up."

"I could. And play the Blue Danube simultaneously." She smiled...

From Lies, Inc., by Philip K. Dick.
Published by Fantastic in 1964
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