The First Day

First day of school. She’d had to buy her son a new Backhand. He wore it proudly, turning to see it again and again. Fiddling with its controls. Mastering it.

A Backhand. On her son. Her five year old. She’d not gotten a Backhand until she was twenty-three years old. But they hadn’t been affordable to her until she was twenty-two. By then they’d been around for five years, replacing phones, watches, laptops, and everything else. Just a device on the back of your hand, doing all those things, feeding off your body’s energy. She still discovered it as amazing and creepy.

She wasn’t ready to surrender her little boy to the pearly halls of education. He seemed so small and fragile. This was the pain of being a mother. Her mom told her she would experience it. She knew she would, too. She’d been a virtual mother for two years, training for the vocation.

“Are you nervous, Jayed?”

Jayed turned his liquid brown orbs at her with a bright smile. “I’m not nervous. Why would I be?”

Not surprising. He’d gone to in-person daycare and online classes since he was three. They grow up so fast.

Jayed said “They’re going to start teaching us emoticons today. I already know most of them.”

Kary’s mother came in as Jayed said that. She, of course, couldn’t stop a head shake. Habit and personality compelled it. “Emoticons. I remember when we learned cursive writing. I was older than him. It was phased out two years after my class. Oh, how things change.”

She squatted down before Jayed. “Look at my little scholar.”

Jayed was dressed in his best red shirt with black shorts and purple rubber sandals. Corporate sponsors on his front and back. The usual suspects. Energy companies. Baseball and football teams. Restaurants and banks. They all had part of her baby already. But this was good. Without corporate sponsors, they wouldn’t be able to afford public school. The city’s NFL team, the Mexico City Aztecs, had stepped forward in a big way. Paid for all his vaccination, his share of the teacher, and his meals.

The teleporter chimed. “Time to go,” Jayed said, spinning and striding toward the teleporter like a miniature man. “Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll be okay.”

She rushed to him, along with her mother. Both bent, forcing him to turn back to them, lavishing the youth with hugs and slobbering, noisy kisses as they said, “You be good. Treat others with respect.” He endured and accepted, then smiled. “You shouldn’t be so emotional. I’m just going off to school. I’ll be back tonight.”

Then he stepped back into the teleporter. Raised the Backhand to the keypad. Synced. And was gone.

Another Dream of Frustration

Yes, another dream about communications. Being in the military. And technology. Except it wasn’t the US military. Wasn’t the Air Force. I was part of a different military organization. Black or very dark blue — couldn’t tell in the dream — one piece uniforms. Like coveralls. Belted. Black boots. Caps. Insignia that was made up of diamonds and stars in silver and gold on epaulets.

Some disaster was eminent. Tidal waves, storms, and flooding. Another guy and I were trying to organize stuff. He outranked me but I was asserting my ideas. It had to do with displays. What should we put on the displays? What would be most useful? A tech informed us that we could have more than one display up concurrently. How many were the max? Four. Then let’s put four up.

A vision came to me about what we could do. I became animated with the idea. Was trying to explain and sell it to the rest, especially the man in charge. My exasperation expanded. How could he not see and understand this, blah, blah? I slowed down. Became patient. He began to grasp the plan. But whereas I wanted to display information about the weather, our readiness, etc., he countered, “Let’s put information about eggs up there.”

Eggs. I was taken so far back. “Why would you put eggs up there?”

“So that everyone knows how many eggs we have,” the man in charge replied.

“Why would anyone care about eggs? We’re a military organization. There’s a storm due to hit at any minute. Why would we put information about eggs up?”

But he was insistent. The dream ended with me turning away and walking off, shaking my head.

With A Bullet

He watched the lights. Knew the sequence. What to do. Checked his watch. Been in line forty-five minutes. Sweat sheathed his back. Not from heat.

The woman ahead seemed confused. WTF. How? R-O-Y-G-B. Someone was talking to her from a monitor that he couldn’t see. She was laughing at herself. Hoarse sound. Like she’d been smoking. An odd thought for someone her age, in a lilac and white dress with dark purple shoes and matching glasses and hand bag. Where was she going.

She went on. The light was red. He fixed on it. Glad his wife wasn’t here. And sorry. She would like this. And hate it.

The light turned green. He stepped in. Fixed on the new set of lights to his right. R-O-Y-G-B. Stereo female voice said, “Look into the blue screen ahead of you, please.:

That screen was ten by ten inches, he guessed.

“Find the black light and focus.”

Damn. He’d forgotten that. How could he see the other lights if he was staring at the black dot in the blue screen. Found it immediately — did he get a reward? Focused. A soft click was heard. Gentle whirring followed.

“Welcome, Gerrard. Please look to your left. You will see a series of light. All are now dark except the first one, labeled one.”

Well, they were making this unnecessarily cumbersome. Did that voice have an English accent?

“When light number two turns orange, please put your right arm in the black cuff to your left. You will hold it there as lights three and four turn yellow and green. During that time, you may feel a small jab in your right hand. Do not worry. This is normal. Do you understand?”

“Yes.” Might be a British accent. There a difference between English and British accents?

“Keep your arm in the cuff until light number five has turned blue. Do you understand?”

He felt like giggling. Shivered. Cold in this booth. “Yes.”

A chime sounded. The second light turned orange. The voice said, “Please insert your arm into the cuff now.”

Gerrard did. Sweat dribbled down his neck. Why? Wasn’t hot. The cuff closed on his arm. He couldn’t pull it out if he tried. Kind of wanted to try.

Light number three went yellow. Something jabbed his index finger hard. He flinched.

“Please do not move,” the voice said.

Embarrassment washed him. Hadn’t meant to move. He was surprised. That’s all. Harder jab than he expected.

Green light number for came on. Another chime. Same as the first. A blue light came on. “You may remove your arm.”

As he was pulling it out, flexing his fingers and looking for damages, the voice continued, “When the overhead door light turns green, you may exit the booth. Your gate is twenty-seven bee.”

As he looked at it, the booth light turned green and the voice intoned, “Follow the instructions to your gate. Thank you for Traveling with America First.”

“You’re welcome,” he muttered. Ahead was a sign. “Gerrard Miles, please turn left and follow the green line to gate twenty-seven b.” The green arrow pointed straight.

It was dark. Low lights. Cool. Like he was underground. Or in a movie theater. One of those huge complexes with big screens and small rooms. He followed as necessary, losing tracks about how many turns were made. Things he’d read always said this was the offsetting part, getting to your gate. Most deemed this the worse feature.

Gate 27 B was in green to his right. Others were there. About twenty-five. Another sign said, “Pittsburgh.”

A male voice said, “Welcome to gate twenty-seven bee and travel to Pittsburgh. We are ready to board. Please proceed to the door on your left.”

They all queued. He felt weird about it. No seats? No zones? Others were guffawing about it. Nervousness flowed around them like flooding waters. Only one woman, blonde, in a white coat, seemed comfortable. Seemed a little superior in her attitude, too. She’d done this before.

The gate was open. No one was there. A male said, “Please step into the gate when the light turns green.”

This was it. They made it seem like it wasn’t. This was it, though. They all knew it. All were deadly quiet. The blonde woman went. Was gone. The light shuffled forward. Sweat was drenching Gerrard. Like he’d been in a moonson.

He shuffled with the rest. Tenth. Ninth. Et cetera. Then him. Licked his lips. Coped with dryness at the back of his throat. And a dry tongue. Watched the light. Stepped forward.

The ground moved, sucking him forward. He almost screamed but there wasn’t time. The same voice said, “Please step forward. Welcome to Pittsburgh. The local time is five thirty-four. It’s a pleasant seventy-eight degrees outside. You can claim your baggage at carrousel number seventeen. Thank you for traveling with America First. We hope you have a good visit, whether you’re in Pittsburgh for business or vacation.

He walked forward, blinking against dazzling sunshine, his sweat drying, the ordeal over, into the international airport, looking for directions to baggage claim. He’d been at home two hours before. Home in Medford, Oregon. Now he was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He’d gone over twenty-five hundred miles almost instantaneously. Like a bullet.

Fucking technology. He didn’t understand it but it was amazing.

A Dream of Nerds

I was on location somewhere. Huge friggin’ building. Mixed used. Offices, classrooms, and dorms. Not sure of my purpose there. Clearly a visitor as others introduced me. Looked me over. Showed me the ups and downs. Overall, the raisons d’être seemed about learning, teaching, and solving problems related to electronic communications and computer networks. We would form impromptu erratic groups that changed composition. All were young. Very smart. Male and female of multiple races and ethnicities were present. After forming in halls or lobbies, we’d be told something like, “So and so wants us in the blah blah blah,” and off we’d scurry. Never caught names. None of the faces were familiar. They were distinctly nebbish and nerdish, though. A vibe. The machines absorbed their intention. They made silly jokes.

They wanted to befriend me but I was dubious about being there. I didn’t select going there. Wasn’t certain of what was going on. But did learn that I would only be there a short time. A few days. This was a catalyst for them all to want to spend more time with me and be my friend. All kept trying to grab me so they could talk to me, pulling me close, pulling me away from others, following me as a herd, swamping me as I walked the halls and stairs. I was flattered and overwhelmed.

In the evenings, we could go to a club. Have beers. Well, that appealed to me. That immediately appealed to my new cohort. They were all for it. Going then involved an elaborate process of acquiring passes to leave and enter the right buildings and halls, and possessing the correct identification and means to buy beers. Totally bewildering to me on the first night. My new friends took me through it.

By the second day, I was more familiar, comfortable, and assertive. I was finding where I wanted to go. What I wanted to do. Then, beer again in the evening. My friends were less sure. Beer? Again? But we did that last night. Another group, who’d missed out on the previous evening, heard and wanted to go, so everyone went. Huge crowd.

Third time I spent more time in the classrooms. I was introduced to computer networks. They were having problems. We begin changing out components. The teacher led this process. I thought it haphazard. Shouldn’t we be tracking what we did and the results? It became more chaotic. Noisier. The volume deafened me. I focused on what was going on with fixing the computer networks. Can’t articulate in our real existence what was going on. Only that a fix was needed. We were removing and installing silver modules about the size of ancient removable hard drives. After doing a number of them, I discerned a pattern and began suggesting changes.

That’s where the dream ended.

Shout Out

I’m always complaining, ranting, and whining about things that don’t work. Especially technology that doesn’t work or that doesn’t live up to the initial hype. Like ATMs. Teller machines. They were supposed to save us all money, they claimed, back in the beginning. Why, with the savings they would make, they’d be paying us zillions of dollars in interest. Sure.

Customer service is usually my target. I’m still dealing with the PIN issued for the new credit card because the PIN still doesn’t work —

But that’s not what this post is supposed to be about, so let me make that shift. This is instead about doing my income taxes.

I use software to do my taxes, been doing that for over twenty years. I’ve been using H&R Block’s software for the last nine years. Each year, the whole process becomes a little better. This year, it sparkled with amazing efficiency. I completed the taxes and filed a few weeks ago. “Your return should be accepted without two to three days,” the software told me. Zap, my Fed return was accepted in thirty minutes. Thirty minutes later, Oregon accepted it.

Well, cool, isn’t that great? I thought so. “You should receive your refund in two to three weeks,” the software told me. The IRS has made this part really easy, establishing a place online where you can put in some info and see what’s going on with your tax return. I figured that I’d check that the next week for an update.

Two days later, I checked into the checking account online. Lo, a deposit was pending, and gave the date when it would be received, along with the amount. Yes, it was my tax refund. I was receiving it less than seven days after filing.

I thought that deserved a shout out.

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