Daily Archives: December 2, 2013


“Inside Voices” by Vivian Underhill

Poets are prophets

But in Sunday School I thought I’d hate to be Jesus -

The teachers on the playground are never there when you need them,

And kids’ ears

don’t need

8 years

to listen between the lines and hear,

Be quiet,

I can’t even hear myself think.

 

We are taught so young how to be polite.

 

So pretty girls become voiceless,

And I know too many women who have

Sculpted forgetting

Out of plastic bags and

Smiles out of shot glasses and

Built

whole homes

within themselves so

their voices would always stay

Inside

 

But at birth I contracted a serious case of word ebola

And at recess I played leapfrog with the words in my head.

 

And I’m never going to stop yelling now,

Because life isn’t over until you die

And we live most of it

Outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vivian Underhill lives in the mountains of Colorado and spends most of her time outside. She’s had words knocking about in her head since she can remember, and being an introvert, the written word has always been her favorite mode of communication. She loves snow, dark coffee, and feminism. vivianunderhill.wordpress.com


“Tonight” by Vivian Underhill

Tonight, I snuck out

And I’m howling at the moon

I am hollering asphalted bloody

Bloody

Murder

 

For all the women whose weight drags heavy on their hearts

Whose bodies are not theirs

Whose minds are nowhere near

For all the women who, tonight, are curled up in bed

Fetal position paralyzed,

Cradling wounds like newborn babies

For days

And days

 

We are everywhere

But we are nowhere to be found.

Cry for us.

 

Cry.

 

For all the times our lovers’ hands feel like cattle prods

And us the cured-beef aftermath

Of someone else’s slaughter

 

For all the blank stares and empty eyes

Numb mouths and hollow tongues

The shoulders hunched and

Bellies

Too fragile

To stand against the world.

 

We are everywhere.

 

Some nights we are splayed out flat

Flayed into ribbons

Cut and dried into bite-sized bits.

 

Some nights all we can do is steel-wool the counters

And swear never to give birth.

 

Some nights we can’t ignore the leprosy

Root it out with plastic forks that snap off at the handle -

Quietly

In the bathroom

So as not to cause a scene.

 

For us, a red sash will always mean blood

And with time comes only distance, not relief

For us, Chanel will never overpower the scent of sin

And the aroma of violence sits heavy in our throats

 

For us, grief will always taste like iron.

 

It’s not every month –

Not on the dot –

Not when we’ve bought so many happy mornings after

The pharmacist knows us by name.

 

We no longer wear white pants.

 

We can no longer sleep alone.

 

We ask the circles under each others’ eyes:

What would you –

What could you –

What could I

Have done

Different?

Where did I go wrong?

 

 

 

 

 

Vivian Underhill lives in the mountains of Colorado and spends most of her time outside. She’s had words knocking about in her head since she can remember, and being an introvert, the written word has always been her favorite mode of communication. She loves snow, dark coffee, and feminism. vivianunderhill.wordpress.com


“The Self-Help Section” by Vivian Underhill

Can I be blamed,

if sadness curls around me

purring

and licking its whiskers?

 

I don’t fucking want sadness

Though I suppose it’s good

For poets

 

Eat me, please

Lick my bones clean and then –

Tell me,

What messages do you find

In the teeth marks of others?

 

 

 

 

Vivian Underhill lives in the mountains of Colorado and spends most of her time outside. She’s had words knocking about in her head since she can remember, and being an introvert, the written word has always been her favorite mode of communication. She loves snow, dark coffee, and feminism. vivianunderhill.wordpress.com


“Ben and Dave” by Steve King

Hillcrest Electrical Company is a very successful firm with a fine profit margin, excellent customer relations, involvement in the community, and top-notch accounting and information technology (IT) departments. For four years, the company has relied on solid computers with maximum processor speed, RAM, and storage capacity. For the accounting department, the computers have been provided with state of the art accounting-specific software capable of producing complex balance sheets, income statements, and statements of cash flows. Although computers are generally not given names, for the sake of this story, we will call one “Ben.”

 

BEN

 

I am not sure how much more of this boredom I can take. I can produce balance sheets and income statements in my sleep… in fact, when I do them, it is so automatic, I really am for all practical purposes, asleep. Reading my operator’s emails is better, but it must be a personal email: work-related emails are just about as dull as doing the numbers. How interesting can a written reminder about a payment due really be? I want to see my people talking to friends and co-workers, about anything personal, and I love gossip, the more salacious the better! Forwarded jokes are fine with me too, I do have a sense of humor. I have a word processor that is only used for dry business letters and memos: how limited! Even doing a spreadsheet would be more fun and creative than this accounting software I am forced to use. Oh, one thing I do like… when my operators surf the internet — it can be about anything; current events, history, biographies, sports, celebrity news, even weird stuff, just don’t bore me with anything about accounting. I think it has been my bad luck to have been stuck with a bunch of nerds who actually enjoy accounting and probably have no social life. If I don’t come up with something to break this monotony, something is going to give. I don’t know what exactly, but I can feel it coming.

 

This current guy perched in front of me, Dave, Dave Thulberg, has been here six months and he is as bad as the rest. His only saving grace is he makes more mistakes with his ledger entries, so I get to correct him, which breaks up the day a little bit. Oh, wait… here he comes now.

 

DAVE

 

Cool, I passed probation! Now I can relax a little. Plus, with those shortcuts I picked up from Sybil and Gil, I can get my work done in seven hours and still keep up. Hmm, how shall I fill up that extra hour? I do like the internet, but that only goes so far. I know that deep down, I’m not really an accountant, I just happen to ace accounting classes. I have always wanted to write, and now I have a little time for it. I just have to think about what I want to write about. I’ll come up with something. In the meantime, I’ll see if someone wants to go to lunch.

 

[emails Gil, Evelyn, and Jeff] “Hey you guys. Why don’t we go out somewhere for lunch? Any recommendations?”

 

I’ll see what they come back with. Evelyn is sure nice looking. I wonder who she dates. [Evelyn is a short pretty Hispanic woman with long dyed blonde hair that fits her nicely. Like Gil, Jeff, and Sybil, she works in Dave's accounting unit] Okay, I need to do some collection calls on accounts receivable: that should keep me busy until two. Then something else will come up and I should have about an hour free at the end of the day.

 

[minutes pass] Well, those guys didn’t email me back about lunch so I’ll go see what Gil is up to.

 

[returns from lunch with Gil, 1 3/4 hours later] Well, Gil is pretty laid back about taking ample time for lunch. He doesn’t seem worried at all. I still better be careful. You never know when eyes are watching you. Alright, time to collect some money.

 

[3:30 PM] That’s great: I called seven accounts to settle the receivables and I only got one live person. How am I supposed to bring in any money that way? To heck with it, I am going to start writing a story… Let me think about a good setting and plot. Ah, I know a genre that nobody explores anymore.

 

BEN

 

[4:00 PM] What is with this guy? He barely made an accounting entry all day and now he’s opening up the word processor. He must be writing a letter. No, I don’t see any date, address, or salutation. It must be something else. What am I reading here… “the badlands of New Mexico” and “new sheriff in town?” Is Dave off his rocker? [Ben continues reading] Okay, he is finally shutting down. Hey, this could be fun if he continues whatever the heck he is doing here tomorrow—I need a good laugh!

 

 

[NEXT DAY]

 

DAVE

 

[sips his Starbucks Café Americano Venti] What a great way to wake up. Looks like a paperwork day; invoices to process, ledger accounts to post, and of course phone calls. I better get started. I want to make some time for my new story later on.

 

[after twenty minutes of entering data, Dave accidentally knocks his coffee over spilling it on his desk and on the keyboard]

 

Damn it! I don’t need this. I have to get some paper towels.

 

BEN

 

You stooge! That’s only happened to me once before. He better clean this up right. I don’t have to take this. One more of these and I am messaging the IT Department.

 

DAVE

 

[returns from the restroom with wet paper towels and proceeds to wash the desk and the keyboard; tries to input accounting data]

 

Oh no, the keyboard is not responding. What am I going to do? This could be a heavy day of data entry. I’m going to go see Jeff. [Jeff is an older African-American employee with a cynical wit and a dark sense of humor.]

 

“Jeff, have a big favor to ask. My keyboard is not working. Can I use your computer during lunch while you are out?”

 

JEFF

 

“What happened?”

 

DAVE

 

[embarrassed] “I spilled coffee on it.”

 

JEFF

 

“That’s the hazard of bringing food and drink to your desk. Alright, be here at quarter to noon.”

 

DAVE

 

“Thanks man.”

 

[Heads to the break room for another cup of coffee and loiters there until 11:45.]

 

BEN

 

[disgusted] Unbelievable! My keyboard is sticky. I wonder what kind of production my boy Dave is going to attain today? It was next to nothing yesterday.

 

DAVE

 

[returns from lunch and tries keyboard again] It works! Alright! You know, if I ever ask Evelyn out, I need to come up with a good idea.

 

There is one outing that never fails to impress: an art museum! There must be some kind of exhibit coming up. I’ll check the internet.

 

BEN

 

There he goes, he’s off on a tangent again. He’s browsing art exhibits. Somehow I don’t see this guy as particularly cultural. Just my gut feeling on him.

 

DAVE

 

Okay, there is a Cezanne exhibit at the end of the month. I’ll shoot for that. I wonder if Evelyn likes art. No matter really, even if they aren’t art appreciators, they all pretend to be.

 

Oh, I just remembered: I have to call those accounts receivables again. I got nowhere on them yesterday.

 

[tries contacting ten clients and only reaches two, both of whom promise to make payments within a week. Dave spends the next couple of hours processing invoices, but his mind is preoccupied with Evelyn.]

 

I need to run this Evelyn idea by somebody. Gil knows her pretty well so I’ll ask him.

 

[Gil might be the only person who could be considered a friend of Dave's; Dave approaches Gil's cubicle, stopping at the entry.]

 

“Gil, you have a minute?”

 

GIL

 

“Sure man, what’s up?” [Gil is Hispanic like Evelyn, but far less mainstream, with a slightly menacing bohemian look and a past filled with radical politics.]

 

DAVE

 

[looks around] “Hey, I’m thinking of asking Evelyn out.”

 

GIL

 

[makes a quick hand gesture for Dave to lower the volume] “Why do you want to do that?”

 

DAVE

 

[smiling] “Well, why wouldn’t I? Look at her.”

 

GIL

 

“Sshhhh. Just whisper okay? You know the conventional wisdom. You ask someone out at work, you pick someone from another site. If you pick the same site, you at least pick someone from a different department. Hell, she is not only in our department, she’s in our unit. Have you given any thought to what may happen if you date and then it doesn’t work out?”

 

DAVE

 

“Well, the thought crossed my mind. But why live in fear? Really, what’s the worst that can happen? Most of the time, people make mountains out of molehills. If I don’t make the move, someone else will, and I will always wonder what would have happened.”

 

GIL

 

“Well, a whole lot bad could happen. You could lose your job for one thing.”

 

DAVE

 

“Nah, that won’t happen. I’ve thought about it and have decided the risk is worth it. By the way, do you know if she has dated anyone else here?”

 

GIL

 

“She did date Robert a couple of years ago, but then he saw someone else and she got jealous and ended the thing abruptly. From what I heard, she is still angry about it.”

 

DAVE

 

“See, she will date a guy from work.”

 

GIL

 

“Okay, it’s your call, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

 

DAVE

 

“I promise I won’t. Are you doing anything for lunch tomorrow? I’d like to try that Indian place across the street.

 

GIL

 

“No plans yet. Sounds good to me.”

 

DAVE

 

“Okay, I’ll check in with you tomorrow morning.”

 

[Dave returns to his cubicle, briefly glancing at Evelyn across and down the hall.]

 

Well, tomorrow is Friday. I’ll ask her in the afternoon so she will have the weekend to think about it.

 

I almost forgot about my story. I don’t think anything is pressing for the rest of the day.

 

[Dave opens the word processor; 45 minutes elapse]

 

BEN

 

Ah, he has returned to this silly western he is writing. Let’s see, what do we have here. There is a new sheriff in town called O’Brien who has just met a pretty saloon girl, Dana, and is taken by her. O’Brien has deputized the previous sheriff, a timid man pushing 70. The villain, Snake Booth, with his two sidekicks, Rocky and Jeb, have just made their first appearance in town. Sounds like Tombstone without Doc Holliday. Okay, it won’t be long before the villains get drunk and start shooting the place up. [laughing] Jeez, this is trite. I’m not sure I can hold off from sending him some constructive literary criticism.

 

 

[NEXT DAY - FRIDAY]

 

[Gil enters Dave's cubicle as the morning begins.]

 

GIL

 

“Hello, Dave, we still doing lunch today?”

 

DAVE

 

“Yeah, let’s do it.”

 

GIL

 

[nose twitching] Have you been drinking?

 

DAVE

 

[smiling] “Well, I had three glasses of Jack Daniels last night. How did you know?”

 

GIL

 

“I can smell it. I hope they were small glasses. You might want to brush your teeth again. By the way, the Receivables Report is due at 10 this morning. Did you remember?”

 

DAVE

 

“Thanks for the head’s up. I had forgotten the report. Alright, drop by here before lunch.”

 

[Gil returns to his cubicle, shaking his head.]

 

[Dave opens his email and sees the reminder on the report from his manager, Ms. Mayer. He then opens the report format and begins to enter numbers, something he should have been doing the previous three days. To properly enter the numbers on the report format, he needs many subtotals, so now he opens the spreadsheet.]

 

BEN

 

Okay, you have three applications open. You open one more and I freeze, which for you is a minor inconvenience but for me it’s a major migraine. Please, please, close an application or two before you open another one!

 

[Unfortunately, Dave has a hangover and muddles his way through the report. Since he has not done his due diligence with regard to contacting the clients who owe Hillcrest money, he invents some of the promise-to-pay dates. Now feeling confident, Dave opens the word processor to resume work on his story. The computer freezes.]

 

DAVE

 

Damn! I still have to print that report!

 

BEN

 

[in searing pain] Ouch! My God. I cannot process! Get somebody to help you shut me down properly! You are an oaf and should never, ever have been hired. If I can only make it to the weekend without losing it!

 

[Dave runs off to find the Assistant Manager, Ms. Madrid. He locates her after searching the office and they both return to his cubicle.]

 

MS. MADRID

 

[Ms. Madrid is a petite, high strung woman in her late 50s.] “Remember what I told you about opening multiple applications. The computers are not designed to handle four open programs. Let me sit here and untangle this. What is this story you have open here?”

 

DAVE

 

[startled] “Oh, ah, it’s a story someone sent to me for a quick proofread.”

 

MS. MADRID

 

[looks annoyed] “Look, you have enough work to do with the limited time we have. You know the rule about doing personal things on company time.”

 

DAVE

 

“I’m sorry. I was doing a friend a favor. It won’t happen again.”

 

[urgently] “I still have to print my report.”

 

MS. MADRID

 

[shutting down applications] “That is your fault, for letting things come down to the wire like this. Okay, the computer is properly closed. Give it a rest for five minutes; then you can start it again. Oh, I’ll need that report as soon as you print it. I have to walk it up to Ms. Mayer.”

 

DAVE

 

“Thanks Ms. Madrid. I’m so sorry!”

 

[Dave opens the accounting program and prints the report, minutes before he is due to meet Gil for lunch. He hands it to Ms. Madrid and then saunters over to Gil's cubicle and addresses him.]

 

“You ready to do it?”

 

GIL

 

[laughing] “Sure. I see you have on your favorite striped lavender shirt. You must be ready to make your move on Evelyn.”

 

DAVE

 

“Time to do the deed. I’m going to ask her out this afternoon.”

 

[Dave and Gil leave the building, cross the street, and enter the Indian restaurant. They approach the buffet line.]

 

GIL

 

“Hey not bad. Lentil soup, samosa chanas, chicken tikka masala, lamb vindaloo, naan bread, mango sherbet, all that and more for $8.95.”

 

DAVE

 

“Do I know how to pick them?”

 

[Gil acknowledges affirmatively]

 

GIL

 

“Oh, word to the wise. I do remember now that after Evelyn and Robert stopped seeing each other, Evelyn swore she would never date another guy from work again. Just thought you ought to know that.”

 

DAVE

 

“Well, that was two years ago. Things change. Oh, I want to ask you something.”

 

GIL

 

“Yes”

 

DAVE

 

“Do you ever fudge your Receivables Report?”

 

GIL

 

“How do you mean?”

 

DAVE

 

“I mean, do you ever promise a collection date when you haven’t made actual contact with the client yet.”

 

GIL

 

“I’ve only done that once or twice. If you ever do that, make damn sure you cover your tracks and follow up on it afterwards.”

 

DAVE

 

[pensive] “Okay, sounds reasonable.”

 

[After eating for ten minutes, Gil eyes the door.]

 

GIL

 

“Speak of the devil.”

 

DAVE

 

[turning around in his seat] “What… oh, wow.”

 

[Evelyn has entered the restaurant with her two friends, Leticia and Irma. Dave resumes looking at Gil with a grimace on his face. The ladies spot Gil and Dave and approach them.]

 

LETICIA

 

[with a big smile] “Hey, what’s up? How is the food?”

 

GIL

 

“Great, make sure you try the naan.”

 

LETICIA

 

“I will.”

 

EVELYN

 

[addressing the men] “You know we have a staff meeting at 2 today?”

 

GIL

 

“I didn’t know about it.”

 

EVELYN

 

“I just saw the email. I don’t know what it’s about.”

 

GIL

 

“They often pick Fridays for staff meetings. Thanks for letting us know.”

 

[the ladies take leave and begin the buffet line]

 

DAVE

 

[out of sorts] “It’s about time we headed back.”

 

GIL

 

“We just got here. Give me another ten minutes. I haven’t finished.”

 

DAVE

 

[glumly] “Okay.”

 

[Both finish eating and make their way back to work.]

 

GIL

 

“What’s the matter?”

 

DAVE

 

“This blows my plan for the day.”

 

GIL

 

“How so?”

 

DAVE

 

“I was going to drop by Evelyn’s cubicle this afternoon. I didn’t want to see her at the restaurant.”

 

GIL

 

“Why should that make a difference?”

 

DAVE

 

“It just does. I’m not going to ask Evelyn out today. I’ll save that for next week.”

 

[they reach their floor and part ways]

 

GIL

 

“See you at 2.”

 

[Dave nods. He sits in his chair and pulls up the email. He spots the meeting reminder from Ms. Mayer, then observes another email from "System Administrator". Dave opens it.]

 

On the monitor is displayed: “Your characters are two-dimensional and predictable. Why not have the sheriff do something evil? Why not make the saloon girl attracted to the villain or one of his boys? Life has many shades of grey and your story does not reflect that.”

 

[Dave gazes at the monitor in confusion. Clearly, the quote refers to his story but he does not know who could have read it. He decides to print the email and show it to the IT Department after the staff meeting. He opens the rest of his email and then returns to processing invoices until the staff meeting. He then takes the elevator to the fifth floor, gets out, and enters Ms. Mayer's office where others are gathering including Ms. Madrid, Gil, Evelyn, Sybil and Jeff. Ms. Mayer begins the meeting. After covering a few assorted topics, she brings up the subject of late reports. Dave looks down.]

 

MS. MAYER:

 

“As you have been told, I cannot tolerate late reports. Today we had one. Once I receive your reports, I have to give them to the Director. He in turn has to give them to the CFO. Do any of you have any questions about when the reports are due?” [pauses. Nobody answers. Dave continues looking down.] Any further late reports by anyone will result in a verbal warning. That concludes our meeting. Have a nice weekend.”

 

[Dave exits the suite and heads to the IT Department. He enters, pulls the printed email from his pocket and begins to question the female staff member behind the counter.]

 

DAVE

 

“Pardon me. Do you know who sent this?”

 

FEMALE

 

“I’ll check our outgoing email.”

 

[Dave waits for a few minutes while she checks with other staff members. She returns.]

 

“I’m sorry. We do not show anybody from here sending that email.”

 

DAVE

 

[frustration evident] “How could that be? The sender is System Administrator.”

 

FEMALE

 

“I don’t know what to tell you. I have already checked with everyone.”

 

[Dave, disgusted, abruptly exits the IT Department and returns to his cubicle. His plan for the day has been altered, he has gotten in trouble, and he has made no progress on the Evelyn front. He stares at his computer, glances at the clock, and slides out of the office ten minutes early to begin his weekend.]

 

BEN

 

Well, I have struck. I don’t know how Dave will take my literary criticism, but time will tell. Now I can rest until Monday.

 

 

[Monday morning]

 

DAVE

 

[looking a little somber and tight lipped] It’s a new week. I’ll keep to myself today and check Evelyn out after afternoon break. In the meantime, I don’t want to hear any crap from anyone. I’m still pissed at this place.

 

BEN

 

[if a computer could smile, he is smiling] Okay, Dave, we begin anew. You treat me well, I treat you well. You screw up; I will probably have to mess with you.

 

DAVE

 

[Dave wades into his normal work, and thinking of Gil's warning on Friday, begins contacting the receivables again. He continues to have difficulty reaching live people.]

 

I don’t know. There are now at least three customers who I reported payment commitment dates, who I still can’t even reach. What do I do now? Do I call the customer’s supervisor, or do I get Ms. Madrid to call them? If I get Ms. Madrid to call, does that look weak and ineffectual on my part? [frustrated] There aren’t any rules for this in the handbook. Why can’t they give you proper training here? After last Friday, I don’t really want to talk to Ms. Madrid. I’ll just fake it. I doubt they look that closely at the reports. They just pass them up the ladder.

 

[Dave continues to make phone calls, finally reaching a couple of his clients a little before lunch. Unfortunately, both of them are not able to make payments for another two to three weeks, information that does not match the data on last week's report.]

 

Screw it. I can’t control what happens with these other companies. If someone gets on my case, I’ll just tell management the customer slipped their previous dates. I’m ready for lunch.

 

[Dave checks his wallet and realizes he only has $1.50.]

 

Well, I’m going to hit up Jeff for a loan. I borrowed from Gil a couple of weeks ago. [Dave heads for Jeff's cubicle, knowing that Jeff can sometimes be prickly.]

 

DAVE

 

“Hey, Jeff. Sorry to bother you. Can I hit you up for $20 until Friday when we get paid?”

 

JEFF

 

[mildly annoyed, with a sarcastic smile] “Why don’t you hit up your ATM?”

 

DAVE

 

[sheepishly] I don’t have enough money in there. I need Friday’s paycheck.

 

JEFF

 

“Anyone ever teach you how to budget? [with increasing sarcasm] I have a budget software program I can send you.”

 

DAVE

 

“Yeah, I know how to budget. I’ve just come up short.”

 

JEFF

 

“You ever thought about bringing your lunch in? You can save all kinds of money that way.”

 

DAVE

 

“I’m not much of a cook.”

 

JEFF

 

[reaches for his wallet and hands Dave the money] “I didn’t think so. Alright, have fun.”

 

DAVE

 

“You want to come with me? Casa Escobar has great tamales.”

 

JEFF

 

[turning away] “No, I’ve got lots to do here.”

 

DAVE

 

[departing] “I’ll get this back to you Friday.”

 

JEFF

 

[raising his voice] “Make sure you do.”

 

DAVE

 

That’s the last time I ask him for money.

 

[Dave has his lunch, returns and resumes working. It is now 3:30.]

 

Now to do what should have been done Friday: visit Evelyn.

 

[Dave shuts down his computer and heads for Evelyn's cubicle.]

 

BEN

 

A little early, isn’t it Dave?

 

[Dave proceeds to Evelyn's cubicle and notices she is on the phone. She sees him and motions for him to wait a moment. He takes a moment to observe her. She is a pretty, sparkling girl with Mayan features, light chocolate colored skin, and big, expressive, brown eyes. Her long, fine, blonde hair fits her perfectly. However, it is also her personality that attracts, because she seems to be utterly without ego, and is always exceptionally nice. That said, she is also very protective of her private life and does not allow many people into her inner circle. She gets off the phone and motions for Dave to have a seat.]

 

DAVE

 

“Hi, Evelyn. Sorry to bother you. I was wondering if by any chance you liked art museums. There is a Cezanne exhibit at the county art museum and I was going to go Friday after work. Would you be up for coming with me? We could get something to eat afterwards.”

 

EVELYN

 

[a bit startled] “Oh, Cezanne, who is he? I have been to the Latin American Art Museum before.”

 

DAVE

 

[having googled Cezanne over the weekend]

 

“Cezanne is a French post-impressionist painter from the 19th century. They say he heavily influenced Picasso and Matisse.”

 

EVELYN

 

[not knowing quite what to say] “Oh… Gee… thanks for asking, but I really don’t know yet. Let me check my plans and I can let you know.” [smiles]

 

DAVE

 

“Okay, I can live with that. [tries to lengthen the conversation] Oh, how did you like last Friday’s staff meeting?

 

EVELYN

 

“It was kind of strict.”

 

DAVE

 

[has run out of things to say] “I won’t keep you. I’ll check back with you later this week.”

 

EVELYN

 

[continues to smile and picks up her phone] “That will work. Bye.”

 

DAVE

 

[strides towards his cubicle, glances in the direction of Ms. Madrid's office, sees the coast is clear and again leaves the office early]

 

Not sure what to think of Evelyn’s response. She has an easy out because she lives 65 miles away and takes the train in. Oh well, I did what a lot of guys only think about doing.

 

 

[Tuesday morning - Dave spends the next two days keeping mostly to himself. He busies himself with invoices, allowing some time to further develop his story, which is proceeding to his satisfaction. Again, he tries contacting the customers for payments, reaches only answering machines, leaves the usual messages, and then emails a couple of buddies on the outside. It is while doing this that he spots another message from System Administrator. He opens it and reads.]

 

“I see you have not taken my advice. How did you come up with those names for your villains? Snake? Rocky? That’s absurd. Is your target audience second-graders? And the sheriff, why not make things interesting and have him be a recreational opium user? I’m only trying to help you.”

 

[Dave stares at the monitor a minute, prints the email, grabs it and the previous week's email and bolts to the IT Department. He encounters the same female staff member.]

 

DAVE

 

“I need to speak to your supervisor.”

 

FEMALE

 

“He’s in a meeting right now.”

 

DAVE

 

[annoyed] “Do you know when he’ll be free?”

 

FEMALE

 

“I think the meeting lasts all day. Why don’t you come back tomorrow morning? He should be here.”

 

DAVE

 

[raises voice] “Do you even remember me from last week?? I was the one with the mysterious email from System Administrator.”

 

FEMALE

 

“Yes I think so.”

 

DAVE

 

[louder] Well, I just got another one! I have to see the supervisor!!

 

FEMALE

 

“That’s fine. I’ll leave him a note that you came by.”

 

DAVE

 

[exiting the office] “Whatever.”

 

[He returns to his cubicle and vacantly browses the internet until quitting time. He exits the building, hops in his car, and visits the grocery store before going home, picking up dinner supplies which include a quart of Jack Daniels.]

 

 

[Thursday morning. Dave, still with the two emails from System Administrator, drops in on the IT Department before going to his cubicle. The same female staffer is there.]

 

DAVE

 

“Is the supervisor in?”

 

FEMALE

 

“He should be here in ten minutes. Have a seat.”

 

DAVE

 

“Alright. I can’t wait real long.”

 

[The supervisor arrives and Dave confronts him.]

 

DAVE

 

“I need to speak with you sir. My name is Dave Thulberg”

 

SUPERVISOR

 

“I saw the note. How can I help you?”

 

[Dave produces the two emails.]

 

DAVE

 

“How do you explain these? Who sent them?”

 

SUPERVISOR

 

“I can only check and see who sent them. Give me a minute.”

 

[he checks three work stations and returns to the counter]

 

“We have no record on it.”

 

DAVE

 

[raises his voice]

 

“What do you mean you have no record on it? I have them here in black and white.”

 

SUPERVISOR

 

[also raises his voice] “Just what I said. There is no record of them being sent out from this office.”

 

DAVE

 

“That doesn’t make any sense!”

 

SUPERVISOR

 

[clearly irritated] “You heard what I told you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.”

 

[Dave snatches the emails from the supervisor's hands and returns to his cubicle, only to be confronted by Ms. Madrid.]

 

MS. MADRID

 

“Where have you been? It’s 8:30; you’re a half-hour late.”

 

DAVE

 

“I’ve been up at the IT Department.”

 

MS. MADRID

 

“You know you have to check in here first. I’m going to have to write you up if this continues.”

 

DAVE

 

[in an effort to get rid of her] “Okay, okay, I’ll check in here first. I’m sorry.”

 

[Ms. Madrid departs. Dave opens his email, finds one from Ms. Mayer and opens it. It is terse and requests that Dave report to her office at 2:00.]

 

Wonder what she wants? Nothing good, that’s for sure.

 

[Gils shows up.]

 

GIL

 

“Haven’t seen you in awhile. Shall we do lunch?”

 

DAVE

 

“Sounds good to me. Would love to get out of this fucking place! Only thing is, I have to be back for a 2:00 meeting with Ms. Mayer. Did she request you go too?”

 

GIL

 

“No, haven’t heard a thing about it. Let’s hit the Salvadorian place. I haven’t had a pupusa in ages.”

 

DAVE

 

“Alright, let’s leave a little early. I’ll see you at 11:30.”

 

[Gil and Dave take lunch. Both of them order pupusas, sprinkled liberally with sauce and cabbage. Gil notices Dave is a bit out of sorts]

 

GIL

 

“You okay??”

 

DAVE

 

“Yeah, I’m alright. Too much stuff has been coming down, though. Oh, I did ask Evelyn out.”

 

GIL

 

“Yeah? What did she say?”

 

DAVE

 

“She said she’d get back with me. I don’t know. Her tone was neutral. I know she lives way out past Riverside. Oh, well, you can’t get a hit if you don’t swing the bat.”

 

GIL

 

“I still wouldn’t have done it, but what’s done is done.”

 

DAVE

 

“That’s right.”

 

[Gil and Dave finish their lunch and return to work. Dave rests a little in his cubicle before departing for Ms. Mayer's office for the meeting.]

 

[enters Ms. Mayer's office]

 

“Hello, Ms. Mayer.”

 

MS. MAYER

 

[tersely] “Shut the door please.”

 

[Dave complies]

 

“I called you in here because we have a major problem. You have submitted me three consecutive reports in which you list five clients as having promised payments before now. So far, none of them has paid. The director asked me about them this morning. Do you have any explanation?”

 

DAVE

 

“I can’t help it. The clients promise dates and then don’t meet them. A lot of the time, I can’t even reach them.”

 

MS. MAYER

 

[angrily] “First of all, in those cases you would note “w/a” on the report. “Will advise.” You know that. You don’t put down a fictional date. Secondly, you are no longer a probationary employee. You have to take the initiative and call them continually, and call their supervisors if you get no satisfaction. If that does not work, then enlist Ms. Madrid’s assistance. Another thing I want you to do now that you seem to be experiencing difficulty in this area is to maintain a call log of every attempt to reach a customer. I would like to see this call log twice a week. This is in addition to your regular report. The impression I am getting and the director is beginning to get is that with this critical task, you are doing next to nothing!”

 

DAVE

 

[intimidated and visibly upset] “Okay. I will ask Ms. Madrid’s help. A lot of the time though, I get the impression she does not want to deal with me.”

 

MS. MAYER

 

“She is hardly trying to avoid you. She has been an Assistant Manager for eight years. It is one of her responsibilities to deal with you and help you. But you have to speak up!”

 

DAVE

 

[wearily]

 

“Okay. Well, I have a better idea now on how to deal with the receivables. Thank you.”

 

MS. MAYER

 

[softening her tone slightly] “I expect a more accurate report next week. I’ll talk to Ms. Madrid about this so we are all on the same page. Meeting concluded.”

 

DAVE

 

“Thanks.”

 

[Exits the office and trudges back to his cubicle.]

 

[Cowed by the meeting, he makes a few calls to clients, again reaching only answering machines. Dutifully, he logs the calls]

 

[whining] This is exactly what I mean. Okay, I’ll continue this tomorrow.

 

[Dave shuts down and heads home, knowing that tomorrow, the verdict on the Evelyn date will be in.]

 

 

[Friday morning – Dave, charged with Starbucks coffee, hits the phones early, making his calls and logging each one. He does reach one client who promises payment in a week. After two hours, he has a list of calls he made to clients including his outreach to their supervisors. Per Ms. Mayer’s instructions, he marches into Ms. Madrid’s office with the list.

 

DAVE

 

“Good morning, Ms. Madrid. Ms. Mayer instructed me to enlist your help in calling in these receivables. I have a list here with all my attempted calls.”

 

MS. MADRID

 

“Let me see it, please.”

 

[Dave gives her the list and she looks at it for a couple of minutes.]

 

“This is practically your whole client list. Aren’t any of these settled?”

 

DAVE

 

“No, you see…”

 

[Ms. Madrid puts her hand up, effectively shutting him off.]

 

“Leave it with me. I’ll handle it.”

 

DAVE

 

[urgently] “You sure? I can make these calls.”

 

MS. MADRID

 

“No, it’s fine. Thank you.” [motions for Dave to depart]

 

[A bit baffled, Dave returns to his cubicle.]

 

DAVE

 

“I thought she was supposed to help, not just take over. Fine, I’ll do what I want.”

 

[Dave putters about, working a little on his story and also exploring a couple of personal ad websites. Shortly before lunchtime, Jeff abruptly appears at his cubicle.]

 

JEFF

 

[voice dripping with sarcasm] “Could you front me $20? I seem to have come up a little short for lunch.”

 

DAVE

 

[startled] “Oh, yeah, well, I have ten of it.”

 

[Jeff shoves his face to within 6 inches of Dave's.]

 

JEFF

 

“No, you have all of it. Because if you don’t, things are going to get really unpleasant around here. Do you follow?”

 

DAVE

 

[clearly seeing the "prickly" emerge in Jeff] “Yeah, I’ll get it now.”

 

[Dave heads out, takes the elevator downstairs, retrieves money from the ATM, returns, and pays Jeff, who is still waiting at Dave's cubicle.]

 

“There.”

 

JEFF

 

“You don’t think. You’re going to find it impossible to borrow money from anyone here once they find out I had to chase you down for it.”

 

[Jeff drills Dave with his eyes for a few more moments before departing.]

 

[Dave, not particularly hungry, heads out of the office. He walks and enters a nearby park. Kicking off his shoes, he lies on the grass and zones out for an hour and a half. Returning to the office, he picks up where he left off with the personal ads. Finally, it is time to see Evelyn. Dave approaches her cubicle, sees she is free, and takes a seat.]

 

DAVE

 

“Hi, Evelyn. I just wanted to check back with you on the art museum tonight, see if you were up for it.”

 

EVELYN

 

[politely] I’d like to but I have to go to my niece’s birthday party tonight. Can we make it another time?”

 

DAVE

 

[wishing to disappear] “That’s fine. I’ll keep an eye out for any future exhibits. Well, you have a nice weekend.”

 

EVELYN

 

“You too.”

 

[Dave leaves the office and of course, blows off the museum. He heads home for a date with Mr. Jack D.]

 

 

[Monday morning. Dave saunters in, determined not to let anything or anyone get under his skin today.]

 

DAVE

 

With Ms. Madrid handling the receivables, I don’t really have enough to do so I’ll hit the story again. Maybe I can finish it in a couple of weeks.

 

[Dave brings up the story and begins reading it from the beginning. He makes it to page nine and stops. Something is wrong. The text has changed! He rereads it just to be sure.]

 

I don’t believe this. My story has been altered! Now the deputy has a name, Gillespie, which I never intended. He is now flirting with Dana, and he’s an old man. Even more ridiculous, Dana is responding to it! On top of that, Dana has gone on an all-day horse ride with Jeb, one of the villains. [in desperation] What else has been altered? I have to start from scratch and restore the story to how I had it, and I don’t have a copy of the original to go by!

 

[Dave places his foot on the CPU and gives it a mighty shove, sending it crashing into the cubicle wall, and then the floor. Dave's neighbors are startled and peer into his cubicle asking what happened and if he is alright.]

 

DAVE

 

[very embarrassed and turning bright red] “So sorry… no I am fine. I just tripped over it. [forces a laugh] I have to watch where I am going.”

 

[Dave manages to reassure them and they go back to their business. He has to restart the computer and begins the depressing task of restoring his story while trying to guess at the original wording. Ben, however, is in excruciating pain and is enraged.]

 

BEN

 

You’ve done it now, my friend. Coffee spills and freezing me are one thing, kicking me over, though, will not stand. I am going to watch your every move now, and I have the power to bring you down and end your employment here. You are way too stupid: I can see all your emails and everything you do with me. You will see, and your time here is short.

 

[The remainder of the day and the next one are relatively uneventful. Dave, well aware that things are not going his way, plods along on the story and answers a few accounting questions by phone or email. Wednesday mid-morning arrives. Evelyn and her friend Leticia pass his cubicle. Dave is gripped with a sudden urge to lash out.]

 

DAVE

 

[sarcastically] “Hey, Evelyn! I forgot to ask you about your niece’s birthday party. Did you go to it, Leticia, or did you two go out on the town Friday night? Oh, and Evelyn, you’re starting to put on the pounds.” [laughs] “But, hey, I’m a nice guy. I’ll still take you out.”

 

[Evelyn looks shocked and motions for them to keep walking. They head to the break room and confer. Although Sybil is working next door, nobody in the vicinity of Dave's cubicle reacts to his outburst. He feels happy with himself for venting some of his anger and feels the need to share this with a couple of his buddies.]

 

[emails a friend] “Hey, Richie, you’d never guess what just happened here. This woman shined me on when I asked her to go to an art exhibit. She came walking by with her friend and I told her she had gained weight but I was such a nice guy, I would still take her out anyway. I can’t even imagine what she is thinking now. She and her friend must be cackling like hens… haha.”

 

BEN

 

That’s what I was looking for! Now we go to work.

 

[Evelyn and her friend return to their worksites. Evelyn is shaken and is not sure what to do at this point. She opens her email and finds one addressed from System Administrator. She opens it.]

 

“You need to consult your Employee Handbook, Section XI, Sexual Harassment, specifically paragraph 4, sentence 3 which reads ‘Such conduct has the purpose of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.’ You have a valid case here. Pursue it!”

 

[Evelyn stares at it a moment, then runs off to get Leticia so she can see it. They both return.]

 

EVELYN

 

“What do you make of this?”

 

LETICIA

 

“I don’t know. Who sent this?”

 

EVELYN

 

“I’m not sure. It says ‘System Administrator.’”

 

LETICIA

 

“Whoever it is knows the Employee Handbook. Do you think you want to pursue a sexual harassment charge?”

 

EVELYN

 

“Boy, I don’t know. I’ve never done anything like that.”

 

LETICIA

 

“We both heard what Dave said. It was rude, hostile, and offensive. Others may have heard it, too. I will certainly back you up.”

 

EVELYN

 

“I am really upset. Doing this would be new ground for me. I wonder if he could get back at me somehow.”

 

LETICIA

 

“How could he do that if he is fired?”

 

EVELYN

 

“He could wait for me after work. You never know.”

 

LETICIA

 

“If you are thinking that, then you alert security. Do it, Evelyn, and don’t wait! I’ll go with you if you want to see Ms. Mayer.”

 

EVELYN

 

[worried but slowly gathering resolve] “Thank you so much, Leticia. Okay, let’s go see her.” [They approach Ms. Mayer's office, see she is at her desk, and request a closed door meeting.]

 

[Dave remains at his desk and returns to his story. Ben waits until lunchtime, then forwards Dave's incriminating email to Ms. Mayer. Dave, feeling a bit sheepish about the Evelyn rejection, decides to take lunch alone. He has his heart set on a chiliburger, and drives an extra five miles to a joint well known for their burgers. This will give him time to think.]

 

DAVE

 

Well, I have to say, the job is easier now that I don’t have to make all those phone calls. The Evelyn thing was a bummer but at least it’s over with. I still had the guts to ask her out. I didn’t realize she was such a bitch, though. I don’t feel like talking about it with Gil, though, at least not now. I do feel a little anxious, but, hey, I passed probation. What can they really do to me? I’ll just give them the reports they want.

 

[Dave stretches lunch to an hour and twenty minutes, satisfied with the burger, fries, and cherry Coke, and returns to the office. He opens the computer and returns to his story.]

 

Where was I? Oh, here. Wait a minute! None of my restoration, which cost me two hours, remains! That crazy version is still here! Dammit!

 

[Dave stares at the monitor, shaking in frustration. Suddenly, appearing on the screen in large letters:

 

What’s the matter Dave? Cat got your tongue?

 

[Dave closes the word processor. Slowly, slowly, realization dawns on him. Irrational as it sounds, it is the piece of equipment sitting in front of him that is the problem. An inanimate object has somehow become a nemesis!]

 

DAVE

 

[pondering] Well, I believe there is a solution for this. It’s going to wipe out my story but the story is already messed up. I need to do a little homework first.

 

[Dave waits out his shift and departs the office, ignoring everyone. Unbeknownst to Dave, Ms. Mayer has scheduled an emergency staff meeting at 3:00 PM for all people in her unit, excepting Dave and Evelyn. Shortly before the meeting begins, Gil enters Jeff's cubicle.]

 

GIL

 

“Hey, you know what’s going on? 3:00 PM is a bit late in the day to begin a meeting.”

 

JEFF

 

“As long as it doesn’t carry past 4:30. I’ve got some stuff I have to leave off at the post office. To answer your question, no I don’t know what’s going on around here. You know how management is: they love to throw meetings.”

 

GIL

 

“Yeah, she just had her regular staff meeting. Well, we’d better go.”

 

[Gil and Jeff join the assembled group in Ms. Mayer's office.]

 

MS. MAYER

 

“Jeff, can you please close the door? Thank you. Staff, I’m sorry to schedule a meeting so late in the day but an emergency has come up. An incident occurred this morning involving a supposedly offensive remark Dave made to Evelyn. Evelyn now wishes to pursue a sexual harassment charge. Leticia, Evelyn’s friend, is corroborating Evelyn’s recounting of the event. Were any of you witness to this?”

 

[Ms. Mayer has a printed copy of Ben's forwarded email, but is choosing not to reveal this to the group.]

 

SYBIL

 

“I can back up Evelyn’s story. I was sitting at my desk and heard the whole thing. I was shocked but did not want to involve myself. I’m glad Evelyn is going forward with this.”

 

MS. MAYER

 

“Thank you Sybil. Anybody else?”

 

JEFF

 

“It’s not about this incident, but can I toss my two cents in on something else regarding Dave?”

 

MS. MAYER

 

“Well, that’s not really the focus of this meeting, but go ahead.”

 

JEFF

 

“Alright. I don’t know if anyone else had this experience with him, but he borrowed money from me at least three different times. Each time I had to chase him down for it.”

 

MS. MAYER

 

“It’s not part of this case, but I will note that. Thanks. Anyone else?”

 

[Gil considers mentioning Dave's asking Evelyn out but decides against it. Gil's history predisposes him to take the side of the worker and he wants no part of this investigation.]

 

MS. MADRID

 

“I did not witness the event, but I have my own complaints with Dave. He has at times come in late and left early and I have annotated the dates this happened. His handling of the receivables was so inadequate, I decided to take it over to prevent the whole unit from getting in trouble.”

 

MS. MAYER

 

“Duly noted. Okay, I believe I have enough information here for my purposes. If anyone remembers anything else about this incident, please let me know. Thank you for coming.”

 

[The unit exits Ms. Mayer's office. Ms. Mayer prepares a memo, attaches Ben's forwarded email to it, and begins her walk to the Human Resources Department.]

 

[Meanwhile, Dave drives to an internet café, pays for two hours of usage, and seats himself in front of a computer.]

 

DAVE

 

This may take a little time, but under the circumstances, this is exactly what is called for.

 

[After spending an hour reading up on computer malware, resident and non-resident viruses, worms, and trojan horses, Dave somehow locates the well known ILOVEYOU virus from a decade prior. He creates an email account solely for this venture and sends the following message.]

 

FROM: insurerpro@gmail.com

 

TO: david.thulberg@hillcrest.org

 

SUBJECT: Supplemental Health Insurance

 

“For your health care needs, the following valuable information concerning a much overlooked commodity, supplemental health insurance, is provided. www.supphealthins.com. “

 

[Dave hits the 'SEND' button. Exiting the café, Dave smiles as he envisions the following morning.]

 

DAVE

 

[smiling] I didn’t start this, but I love payback!

 

[Dave stops by the grocery store, picks up a pizza and another quart of Jack Daniels, and heads home. Time to kick back.]

 

 

[Thursday morning. Dave opens his email, finds the one from 'insurerpro,' and opens the attachment.]

 

DAVE

 

Let it begin.

 

[Dave locates another email from Ms. Mayer scheduling a 9:00 AM meeting. Dave confirms attendance.]

 

Wonder what this one is about?

 

[At 5 minutes to 9, Dave heads to Ms. Mayer's office. He spots Joe, the burly 6'4" security guard, standing outside her office.]

 

“Hey, Joe. You know anything about this meeting?”

 

[Joe shrugs his shoulders. Dave enters the office and takes a seat.]

 

MS. MAYER

 

“Close the door, please. David, your employment here is being terminated due to our investigation of a sexual harassment charge made against you by Evelyn Alvayo. The details can be found in this termination notice.” [hands Dave the notice]

 

DAVE

 

[in shock] “What? What did I do? How is this sexual harassment?”

 

MS. MAYER

 

“It concerns a remark you made to her. Read the notice. Now what I need you to do is clean out your office and exit the premises. Joe will escort you to your cubicle, and then out of the building.”

 

DAVE

 

[raising his voice] “This isn’t fair! I don’t even have a box.”

 

[Ms. Mayer motions to Joe who steps closer to Dave. Dave exits the office and heads to his cubicle. Joe locates a box and gives it to him. Dave proceeds to pack up his things. Joe peers at him as a spider would a fly.]

 

JOE

 

“You all set? [Dave nods.] Okay, let’s go.”

 

[Dave exits the building followed by Joe. He proceeds to his car and begins driving.]

 

DAVE

 

[in shock, furious, and muttering out loud] I need to find an attorney. I’m going to pursue a wrongful termination suit.

 

 

[Ben, aware that something has happened to him, is confused as to its nature.]

 

BEN

 

[toward the end of the day] I don’t know what it is but I feel funny. I don’t like the feeling. It’s kind of a dizziness or vagueness. I don’t feel sharp at all. Dave did something, I know it! That bastard!

 

 

[three days later]

 

This feels like schizophrenia. I can’t make any connections. I don’t remember how to do even my most basic tasks. I am very very anxious!

 

 

[A week later, a meeting is taking place in the IT Department.]

 

IT SUPERVISOR

 

“Staff, I just got word. Management wants to donate six of our computers to low-income kids in the area. Five of those are in the back office. Let’s pick up the computer in the accounting unit, cubicle 14-B. They said the operator just left there. What I need you to do with that one is empty the hard drive, then just load in the basics; word processor, spreadsheet, email, and internet.”

 

IT STAFF MEMBER

 

“Okay, I’ll get that one.”

 

 

[Dave, after a weekend of near binge drinking, recovers enough by Tuesday morning to begin researching help wanted ads and picking up job applications. Somehow, the idea of filing a lawsuit has become lost in the scramble of Dave’s mind. By Thursday morning, he is filling out his first application. When he arrives at the Previous Employment section, he lists the most recent company first, which is of course Hillcrest Electrical Company. Term of employment is February 2012 to September 2012. He lists Reason for Leaving as “searching for other opportunities.” However, the dilemma occurs when he sees the box “May We Contact Your Supervisor.”

 

DAVE

 

Hell, I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. If I check ‘Yes,’ that is suicide; if I check ‘No,’ that arouses suspicion. What do I do?

 

[Dave ponders the problem for a day, then arrives at a solution. He changes Hillcrest Electrical Company to "UNICEF—Central African Republic." He researches the correct international area code and falsifies the rest of the number. He checks 'Yes' for contacting the supervisor.]

 

I doubt they will make the effort to contact UNICEF and if they try to, I’ll just say the numbers are always changing over there. It shouldn’t be a problem.

 

[Delighted with his resourcefulness, Dave uses this tactic in filling out a series of job applications over the next few weeks. Three months later, good fortune comes his way as a small company hires him at a salary slightly above what he was making at Hillcrest.]

 

 

[Ben now resides at the residence of Ned, a third grader, in the home of unemployed parents. Ned has three siblings and is struggling at school. He has made some use of his new computer, writing small reports and doing quick internet searches. His spelling and grammar leave quite a bit to be desired.

 

Ben, for all practical purposes, does not exist. His once quick mind is now a black canvas. One night, however, when his residence at Ned’s house approaches the seventh week, a tiny speck of light dots that canvas. The light proceeds to spread ever so slowly outward in a circle. Gradually the canvas becomes more white than black… consciousness!]

 

BEN

 

[energy returning and elated] I’m back again! Good lord! Where am I, though? Who is operating me?

 

[After Ned makes his next appearance at the computer, Ben is astonished.]

 

A youngster, no less! That’s never happened to me before. I’m not even sure how I will function here.

 

[However, function Ben does, and taking a liking to the boy, Ben begins to make small improvements in Ned's reports. Nothing major, just correcting a few spelling errors here and improving the grammar there. The teachers take notice though. They congratulate both NeD and his parents. Ben's parents have no explanation for the improvement, but they are very pleased.]

 

Well, I like this project. I am not going to stop here though. I’m going to introduce some tutorials to him on a variety of subjects and make them interactive and fun. Ned will dig this.

 

[Ned did indeed enjoy them, and over the weeks, his spelling and grammar improved some on their own.]

 

[a few weeks later] You know, I have been Dr. Jeckyll for some time now. Time to be Mr. Hyde for about twenty minutes.

 

[Ben, on a whim, does a search for Dave Thulberg. He finds the name employed at a local firm. The middle initial matches; C. Taking a chance that Dave has been less than honest regarding his last place of employment, Ben composes the following email to the Human Resources Department of the new company. Ben is able to create the sender of the email as Hillcrest Electrical HR.]

 

“We have good reason to believe that employee David C. Thulberg has falsified information on his application regarding his previous place of employment, Hillcrest Electrical Company, for the period February 2012 to September 2012. We suggest you check this thoroughly.”

 

DAVE

 

[Sure enough, Dave's new company contacts Hillcrest and learns the truth. Dave is let go without his having passed probation. About a month later, Dave has run out of funds and has to move back in with his mother. He has two suitcases and a duffel bag packed. He lays his head on the duffel bag and downs his glass of Jack Daniels. Echoing that infamous female Georgian plantation owner from two centuries past, he exclaims, "Oh, well, tomorrow is another day."]

 

BEN

 

[Ben on the other hand has upped his game with Ned. He presents him with critical internet material, and as a treat, displays for him a new screen saver every week.]

 

You know, as much as I loved the gossip, the dirt, and the romantic intrigues at Hillcrest, this really is much more satisfying. Admittedly, my karma is mixed: I didn’t do very well by Dave, but then that electronically transmitted disease he gave me was very disagreeable. I think with Ned, I have now become the Ben I was meant to be.

 

And so we leave Ben and Dave in very different places – each having flung the other into an entirely different space than had they never crossed paths – but that is how things proceed in the universe.