Bevis was employed by the Coca-Cola corporation in Atlanta, Georgia, and he was proud of it. The CEO, Ermin, had taken him in when he was but a young, aimless man mourning the loss of his father, and he repaid Ermin’s generosity with diligent work as his personal assistant. So when Ermin summoned him to his office and asked him to deliver a package to his rival Brademond, the CEO of Pepsi, Bevis did not hesitate. He did wonder, for a split second, why Ermin wanted to communicate with Brademond. Bevis had just concluded a huge bidding campaign to win a contract to become the official drink of the NFL; Coca-Cola had narrowly beat out Pepsi, the defending champion, and it was all due to Bevis’s hard work. Then, Ermin produced a cardboard box and spoke solemnly. “Bevis, you must see that this box arrives at Pepsi unopened. It is so important that I cannot send it by mail. You must not even take an airplane or any public transit. The contents of this box must be kept secret at all costs. You are the only one I trust to accomplish this task.”
Bevis nodded emphatically. “I shall do my best and bring honor to the company. My trusty Arondel will drive me the nine hundred miles to Pepsi headquarters in Harrison, New York. I shall make sure he is updated with the latest self-driving release and charge him at only the best UltraChargers. My phone Morgelai will keep me updated and in contact with the outside world should anything arise.”
“No!” Ermin interrupted, and Bevis jumped. “You may not use your own car and phone. You are going on a company trip, representing the great and glorious brand of Coca-Cola. You will be provided with an excellent vehicle and brand-new iPhone 32 Pro Max Xtra. Leave Arondel and Morgelai with me; I assure you that I will take care of them.”
So Bevis set off into the wilderness of I-85. He felt uneasy about leaving his beloved Arondel behind. Arondel was more than just a car; he was Bevis’s best friend. Arondel had been a gift from Ermin as recognition for Bevis’s hard work. He had always been equipped with cutting-edge technology, but in the years since, Bevis believed that Arondel had gained a true personality. After all, Bevis did not have any friends. He was wholly devoted to the cause of promoting the superior soft drink—and to the CEO’s daughter, capable Josian who had overseen the marketing for the NFL contract and was being courted by his rival, an IT director by the name of Yvor. Aside from the sweet minutes he snatched with Josian by the water cooler, his closest companions were Arondel, who chatted with him on the way to and from work, and Morgelai, who made sure he ate, slept, and showered when necessary. (Bevis worked 80-hour weeks, of course; he was determined to be the best employee Ermin had ever seen.)
Every mile on the way to Harrison, New York, Bevis bemoaned his separation from his beloved Arondel. Arondel would have warned me that we had left behind the last Chevron in Georgia, he grumbled to himself. Now where am I supposed to earn my Chevron Texaco Rewards™? He remained grumpy as he encountered a figure from his past at a Super8 near Richmond. (While he should have stayed at the Marriott, Bevis preferred to be the best employee he could be by saving money for the company.) He made sure to stay far away from his hometown of Hampton, VA and those who had wanted him dead.
When he finally drove up to the PepsiCo headquarters, a security guard waved through the gate and showed him into a bland conference room where the C-suite was seated. With great ceremony, Bevis handed Brademond the cardboard box. “My boss requests that you follow the enclosed instructions.”
Brademond opened the box and removed dozens of sheets of bubble wrap. Finally, at the very bottom, he extracted a single sheet of writing paper embossed with the Coca-Cola logo. He read it, frowned, then took Bevis’s hand and shook it firmly. “Thank you, my man.” Then, out of nowhere, he yelled, “Executives, come bring this man to the ground!”
Before Bevis knew it, he had been tackled and pinned to the ground, his wrists and legs bound with extension cords. Brademond stood over him with a stern expression. “The instructions state to… dispose of you with all speed and secrecy. However, I admire your determination and work ethic, young man, despite your victory in the NFL sponsorship campaign. Therefore, instead of orchestrating your death, I will leave you in a janitor’s closet in the basement car park. You shall have, until you are dead, a quarter of a bag of Cheetos every other day; and if you shall drink, though it be not sweet, a can of Pepsi Zero Sugar.”
And now we shall leave Bevis here, bound to a vacuum and bemoaning his fate, and enquire after the fate of Arondel and Josian. With Bevis’s absence, Yvor the IT director won his suit and was given Arondel and Morgelai as his wedding presents. In celebration, Yvor was determined to turn up to after-work happy hours driving Arondel. He sat himself in the driver’s seat of the car and pressed the button for ignition. Arondel blinked on. “Good day, Bevis,” a robotic voice pulsed through the car’s speakers. Then a pause. “You are not Bevis. I do not detect Bevis in the vicinity.”
“I am your new owner, and you are to listen to me,” Yvor said shortly, resenting that everyone, even Josian, even this vehicle, seemed to prefer Bevis over him.
“I do not recognize you. You are not Bevis. Bevis could not transfer ownership without my consent.” Arondel revved his engines, the sound building ominously. “Get off.”
“Of course not,” Yvor snapped. “You are to drive me wherever I please.”
“No.” Arondel’s engines leapt into full power, screeching as he careened wildly out of Yvor’s driveway and down the street. Yvor, without his seat belt on, was tossed violently from side to side as Arondel narrowly missed hitting three cars and two trucks on his way to the interstate. Yvor screamed as Arondel’s speedometer crept up, and up, and up. 150, 170, 190, 200… Then abruptly, with a horrible screeching that Yvor would never forget, Arondel skidded to a stop amidst clouds of smoke. Yvor was thrown forward, crashing through the windshield and rolling down the hood of the car before coming to a stop on the concrete. In his last moments of consciousness, he was filled with pure rage. This car. I will make sure it is never driven again, never charged, left to rust in a dank basement parking garage…
Seven years passed before the tumultuous events of Bevis’s escape, which we shall gloss over. Bevis, a battered Prius, pulled into the Coca-Cola parking garage to meet Josian in the guise of a traveling car mechanic. He had arranged to see Arondel in the hopes that Arondel was still functional, or at least in one piece. In his lengthy, convoluted path of escape, it had been the thought of Arondel that sustained him, his beloved, his companion, a car worth fighting for. Oh, and Josian, too. If he could not save Arondel, at least he could hold a proper funeral.
Josian approached him, radiant as ever in her dark pantsuit and employee ID lanyard. “Before we get down to business, may I ask you a question? Have you ever heard news of a former employee, Bevis of Hampton?”
“I have heard of his wondrous car, Arondel, the first among self-driving cars,” Bevis replied slowly. “I would like to have a look.”
As they headed towards the mildewy corner where Arondel was stored, abruptly, all of Arondel’s lights lit up and his doors opened. Then Arondel glided towards Bevis, stopping mere feet from him. “My driver. My true owner. Bevis. You are back. I have waited so long for you.”
Bevis placed his palm on Arondel’s hood. “Arondel. It has been a while, hasn’t it? You look beat up.”
“Come. Take a seat. We will go on adventures again, just like we used to. And you will take care of me, update my software, and make sure I am never out of battery. Bevis. I have missed you.”
“Bevis!” Josian gasped, the realization dawning on her face. “Oh, Bevis, my dear! Now that you have your car Arondel, let us fetch your phone Morgelai, and let me go with you then, home to your own town in Virginia.”
The pair took their seats on Arondel, who drove the lovebirds off into the sunset. It was so beautiful they could almost ignore the missing windshield.
I rewrote a portion of Bevis of Hampton, roughly from lines 1205 to 2190. I omitted or glossed over several parts in the interests of brevity, such as Bevis’s encounter with Terri and the events of his escape. Parts of the dialogue, specifically the lines replacing bread and water with Cheetos and Pepsi Zero Sugar and the second-to-last sentence spoken by Josian, are near identical to the text but in modern English (lines 1419-1421 and 2187-2190). In this adaptation, I address two main themes: an increase in reliance on technology paired with a decreased reliance on animals, and the similarities between the workplace and the court.
I set Bevis in the near future, where self-driving cars are the norm and AI has become so advanced that it can convincingly mimic human relationships. Arondel is a car and Morgelai is a cell phone. There is much talk about how pervasive technology has become in our society, but as our dependence on technology has increased, so has our distance from the natural world, specifically, animals. In the medieval era, animals were a subject of daily interaction. While traveling, a knight like Bevis would have ridden his horse every day, kept it fed and watered, put on and taken off his saddle and gear, and perhaps even gone days without any friendly interaction except for his horse. This dynamic is very rare nowadays. A road trip, such as the one Bevis takes from Georgia to New York, can be accomplished without drawing near a single animal. In this aspect, the car has wholly taken over the function of the horse; technology has replaced the animal. The animal still exists and is useful, but it has been relegated to an expensive hobby, something a person must go out of their way and spend a lot of money to interact with.
In this piece, I envision a future where the car not only takes over the transportation aspect of the horse, but also its place as a companion and friend. Arondel the car is attached to Bevis just as Arondel the horse is, and I’m frankly surprised that it was so easy to translate the horse into the car. Arondel is modeled after a Tesla with slightly better communication technology and full self-driving mode. It’s quite easy to imagine how we could end up here in the near future.
I also chose to replace the kingdoms, courts, and wars in Bevis of Hampton with companies, offices, and marketing campaigns. This also reflects a shift in our view of the world. While nations and politics are still very much prevalent, the office worker is much more relatable and prevalent in modern-day America. Loyalty and “the company is a family” thinking have taken over the corporate world. In this story, I envision Bevis as the ultimate corporate shill, the sort of guy who proudly posts on LinkedIn that he is saving his company money on hotel bills. This has come with a slight loss of subtlety; in the original text, Bevis was not wholeheartedly in service of King Ermin because he is Christian, not Muslim. I was unable to translate this tension into the present day (perhaps Bevis’s father was the head of a health food company?) but I was able to portray Bevis’s deep loyalty to the king/CEO who took him in and raised him.
When we look back on history, we are often critical of those who pledge unquestioning loyalty to a king. As participants in democracy, it is difficult to understand the perspective of those who can entrust their life and livelihood into the hands of a powerful man who definitely does not have their best interests in mind. With corporate imagery, this may become easier to understand. In a world of company-branded merchandise, work retreats, and catchy lingo, our workplaces constantly ask us to pledge our loyalty to them, believing the executives are leading the company in the right direction without a voice in the process. And yet, to the company, its employees are expendable, just like how Yvain casually sent Bevis to his death. To the office worker, the company takes the place of employer, guide, and determiner of fate, just as the king was to the knight. As a computer science major, I have read a lot of posts from people who have been laid off by their company, and the advice is always to treat the company like they treat you: don’t ever trust them, and do whatever is best for yourself, even to the detriment of the company. Bevis’s loyalty to his company and trust in his boss leads to his downfall.
In the end of this adaptation, Bevis and Josian drive off into the sunset. In the text, however, they continue to have disagreements, such as that on Josian’s virginity, and Bevis’s adventures continue on. I was unable to replicate this in my story, as I preferred to build a solid ending to the piece. I was also unable to elaborate on Bevis’s place of origin: Hampton, VA. If I had to expand the project further, this would be the areas I would focus on.
In Bevis of Hampton, Bevis’s relationship with his horse Arondel and with King Ermin are the key signifiers of his knighthood. In this adaptation, I have interpreted these relationships through a modern lens as dependence on technology and interactions with superiors at work.
[Featured Image] https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/02/04/hampton-alumni-protest-installation-statue-george-h-w-bush