Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Fiction: Zappy and I -- Part 3



: FINALLY! Bear's back for Friday Fiction, after more than a month of computer problems. And she's thanking the Lord much that things are up and running again -- all systems go!

Under the circumstances, it seems very appropriate to be featuring more adventures with that first Internet Computer of so many years ago... good 'ol Zapclunk.

So, onwards to our concluding episode of Zappy and I.

This final episode picks up just after Clicky, the keyboard, has succeeded in conning our heroine into trying yet another useless procedure to fix the computer's scanner and get it up and running... (Dealing with a rebellious, talking computer that has come to life, while trying to keep focus on a basic Christian walk in the midst, is turning out to be harder than one might expect...)

(NOTE: For those who missed the first episodes, Part 1 is available HERE, and Part 2 is available HERE).

Zappy and I -- Part 3


That night, I was back at my all-too-familiar post in the hall...

The keys clattered, giggling, "Man, did she fall, or what? Thinking I was helping her. Department store's Electronics Section!" It trailed off into helpless laughter.

"Yeah," whirred the disk. "Good job, Clicky! Like we don't know she listens at the door every night. Give me a break!"

I groaned quietly. They were on to me.

The monitor's voice trembled a bit, the glow of its screen dim. "Did you see her attack me? In cold blood, too. An inch to the left, and she would have gotten me right in the eye!"

"It serves you right, Greenie!" The disk whirred louder. "Now you got a taste of what it's like, huh? You won't be so quick to laugh next time she tries a reformatting, I'll bet."

"But I was doing my job! If she wanted to kill someone, why not go for Scan-boy, or Mr. Inky, over there? That's what I wanna know!"

Then a tiny voice I hadn't heard before piped up, high and squeaky. I had to turn my head and hold my breath to hear...

"Well, why don't you just tell her to turn on the other USB port in the BIOS menu? Then she wouldn't be so upset. Greenie's right. If you guys would just do your jobs--"

"Shh!" hissed one of the speakers, static crackling angrily. "Don't you know she's probably listening?"

"Whatever." The little voice got louder. "The BIOS. Check the BIOS! You have to turn on the other USB port. It's still turned--"

There was a sudden THUNK, and one last squeak. Then silence.

I charged into the living room and flipped the light switch. There on the floor was the mouse, flipped over on its back, still rocking like an overturned turtle in its shell.

I tenderly picked it up, glaring at Zapclunk's blinking red light. "You didn't have to hurt the poor little guy. BIOS, huh? We'll just see about that."

I gave the metal case a slight kick, even though I was sure they advised against that sort of thing in all the books, and stomped out of the room.

By the next morning though, I had grown suspicious of Squeaky mouse. I couldn't believe the manufacturer would actually sell me a new computer with parts of it turned off. What was the point of having two USB ports if they weren't even turned on? Who'd ever heard of having to tell a computer to turn on one of its ports before? This was probably just another setup. Squeaky had been acting and was in cohoots with all the others. I wasn't going to fall for that twice -- the old "sympathetic component" routine.

But as I went about preparing my breakfast, trying not to think about it, the word "BIOS" kept repeating in my mind... "BIOS", "BIOS", "BIOS"...

The stove's burner splattered and spit as oatmeal boiled over. I made a fast grab for the lid, pulling it off the pot, shaking my head. No, I wouldn't...

"BIOS", "BIOS", "BIOS"...came the mechanical whisper.

I leaned around the corner of the kitchen door and stared hard at Zapclunk.

But the red light was dark, and I remembered I'd unplugged him last night, after putting Squeaky back on his pad.

This was where it ended then. I was losing it. It had to happen, sooner or later, I suppose.

Grimly, I jerked the oatmeal pot off the stove, tossing a wet washrag over the spill... "BIOS"...

Turning off the burner, I stomped into the spare room and began rummaging through the drawer, looking for the manufacturer's manual. Ten minutes later I was scanning its pages, searching for all mention of the word "BIOS".

I don't know how I ended up on the floor... but minutes later I came to my senses, sitting there on the carpet, the manual still open in my lap. I read the page again (likely for the sixth time, at least).

It was true. It told me that the USB port might actually need to be turned on in the BIOS menu, instructing me how to do so.

The tiny little twerp was right.

Oatmeal forgotten, I followed the instructions step by step. It only took a few minutes. Then I held my breath as I hooked the scanner into the port, carefully checking its icon.

Yes... so far, so good. The icon was where it should be.

I sent up a quick prayer, once again centering a photo on Scan-boy's glass, and clicked the button, signaling Zapclunk to load the picture.

I couldn't believe it.

The scanner light was actually coming on.

Yes... The light was moving across the photo now. I stared at Greenie's screen in wonder as the picture of my dog and me slowly began appearing there, bit by bit.

Then with a yell I leaped up, throwing my hands high in victory. "It WORKS! IT WORKS! You were soooo right, Squeaky Mouse! It actually works!"

I know it was stupid...uncool... even downright lame.

I know I shouldn't have done it.

But it just occurred to me, as I was dancing around the room in joy, that "Squeaky" was not a very good name for a mouse that had saved the day. "Saved the day... Saved the day..." I thought.

"I should call you 'Mighty,' not 'Squeaky Mouse'." And the old cartoon intro popped into mind as I joyously burst into song about a flying mouse.

I think that's what did it.

Because it was then, just as the last sliver my dog's tail was appearing on the screen, fully loaded, and I was right in the middle of the second verse...

It was then Scan-boy froze, the picture disappeared, and Zapclunk crashed again.

Later, the landlord asked me quite a few questions about the whole thing... Wanted to know why he heard me yelling about mice clear over at his house (which is halfway down the block). Was worried that they had overrun the house... offered to pick me up some traps at the store.

Thankfully, by then, I had become quite calm again. I told him not to worry about a thing -- that I would take care of the mouse, all right. Told him trapping was too good for it.

He didn't know what I was talking about, of course. And I didn't fill him in.

As I said, he wouldn't understand.

That's when I reassessed strategy. Obviously, hiding in the hallway again wouldn't work. They knew I was listening. It had just been another setup, after all.

Stupid mouse!

So late that afternoon, I made a big show of starting up the Anti-Virus program, setting it to do a full system scan. Then, while Zapclunk was distracted, scanning for bugs, I looked at my watch in shock.

"Oh my! I forgot those overdue library books. And the library will be closing any minute. Silly me!" Grabbing a couple of random books off the shelf (I ended up with an old college algebra textbook and my classical music piano book), I tore out of the house.

I even leaped into the car and backed it out of the driveway, for added effect.

But when I got to the end of the block, I pulled over under the shade of a neighbor's maple tree, and quickly made my way back. Sneaking through the yard, I was careful not to step on any of the pine cones that lay hidden in the grass, not wanting their crackling to give me away. Finally, I reached the wall nearest the computer and flattened my back against it underneath the open window, hoping my elderly neighbor wouldn't call the police on me. (Her vision wasn't all it should be).

Sure enough, they were having a party in there. The printer was laughing so hard, in fact, it could hardly get the words out. "Mighty... Mighty... Oh, that's so good..."

There was a hurt sounding squeak, and then the voice so tiny. "Well, it should have worked. She must need a power USB hub. Mr. Disk's processor is so small -- I bet the USB ports are weak too -- bet they don't even have the power to run Mr. heavy-drain Scan-boy, over there."

Zapclunk's main fan grated, "Maybe Scan-boy does pull a lot of power, but you'll never have a chance to tell the tale. One squeak from you -- even one -- and--"

"Yeah," cut in Greenie, glowing so brightly the curtains actually turned slightly green, "Remember what happened last time. And we were going easy on you, shrimp. You landed on a nice soft rug that time..."

Sneaking away from the house, still feeling somewhat criminal, I headed over to the landlord's place to ask him what a powered USB hub was.

He explained, matter-of-factly, that sometimes the USB ports don't get enough power from the main computer to run some components, like scanners, that use a lot of power. So, in that case, you could buy a "hub" that has many USB ports on it. One end of the hub plugs into your USB port, and the other end plugs into the wall, pulling power directly from the wall to run the whole thing. Then you can plug scanners and other heavy duty USB equipment into the hub instead of the computer, and get power directly from the wall for them.

Suspiciously, I wanted to know why it didn't mention this in the manuals. And why hadn't he ever mentioned this to me before? (Not that I thought he and Zapclunk were conspiring together or anything, but still...)

He shrugged, saying lots of computers didn't need the power hub, and he hadn't known I was trying to run a scanner. So he hadn't thought of it.

To me, he seemed pretty casual about the whole business, considering I'd been driven to near nervous breakdown. But then, I'd never told him about that...

Anyway, I had a brand new USB hub plugged in and ready to test within a day.

There was no dancing this time.

I was calm and cool, my movements methodical, as I hooked the hub into the computer and plugged it in.

I watched quietly as the scanner copied the same photo of my dog and me, this time displaying it fully upon the screen.

The computer worked silently and efficiently, doing its job.

It felt eerie.

Zappy never spoke again.

Oh yeah... I call him "Zappy" now.

God changed Jacob's name to "Israel" after their struggle. I figured Zappy deserved as much. After all, we work together now, Zappy and I. True partners in spreading the Gospel for the Lord's Kingdom and glory.

Sometimes though, as I wake up late at night, I find myself listening, thinking I hear something. But it always turns out to be just a branch scraping against the window in the wind, or the sound of a distant car engine.

One night, rolling over in the darkness just before dropping back off to sleep, I wondered, rather sadly, what Zappy would say now if...

A scripture popped into mind from Ecclesiastes (3:1,7), "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven...a time to keep silence, and a time to speak."

I smiled as I fell asleep, finally at peace.

The End.


POSTSCRIPT:

Bear would like to put in a few words here, just to set people's mind at ease. For the record, she has never actually attacked any of her computers with a pocket knife, or even kicked them, although she does feel that computers sometimes probably deserve such treatment, and admits to having had a few fantasies...

Zappy, although he turned out to be a great writing partner for years, was eventually retired some years ago, due to having such a slow processor speed that he was no longer able to handle Internet work. However, Bear is planning on pulling out his 20 GB hard drive for future use, before sending him on to a computer rest-home. So part of Zappy will live on...

But then, after this past month of dealing with more recent computer challenges, Bear suspects there's a bit of mischievous Zappy living in all computers anyway.

In fact, Bear thinks Zappy has many brothers and sisters...

And cousins and aunts and uncles...

And second cousins and third cousins and...

So don't be surprised if, when sound asleep and you least expect it...

You yourself wake up thinking you hear the sound of mechanical chuckles in the night.

Joanne over at An Open Book is hosting Fiction Friday this week. So be sure and drop over there as well, to find links to the whole selection of entries by Christian writers, and/or to add a link of your own and join in the fun! We all welcome comments and discussion!
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6 comments:

Denise said...

Thanks for the smiles.

Joanne Sher said...

What FUN! You have such a creative mind. Will have to go back at some point and read the first two parts. Thanks for participating, Bear!

Sherri said...

I was one who had to go back and read from the beginning - glad I did, very cute!

Shellie Bailey said...

Very enjoyable. :-)

Laury said...

Cute story. Currently, my laptop is banished to my husband's desk where it sits in pieces waiting for parts to come:( Sad stuff:(

Sara Harricharan @ Fiction Fusion said...

Heehee! Such fun to read this, I'm glad that it eventually turned to "Zappy" instead of "Zapclunk". Cute and fun! ^_^

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