Sunday, September 20, 2009

Daily Story 158: Punch, Agent of Chaos

Jake opened his eyes and took a deep breath, thinking immediately of the similarity to those commercials where someone is pulled from unconsciousness by the aroma of coffee or orange juice or whatever, although he thought it unlikely that there would be a commercial for burning wiring any time soon. He lay in bed and tried to convince himself that it could be coming from somewhere other than his computer - that it could, in fact, be something much better - like the wiring in the walls. If that was all, if the apartment complex was just going to burn down, he could grab his computer on the way out and he would just be homeless. That was manageable. He had renters insurance, and he could stay with his parents for a while. An involuntary shudder passed over him. No, not his parents. But he could sleep in his car or something, and he would still have his job. Mr. Grimes had made it very clear that this would not be a possibility if the GGN report wasn't on his desk bright and early Monday morning.

Jake swung his legs out onto the crinkling layer of fast food wrappers and soda cans that covered his floor and crunched his way over to the computer desk. He walked slowly, praying as he did that he would find some other explanation for that unmistakable smell before he reached the ancient case. That bitter tang was stronger on the other side of the room, and the LEDs were dark. Showing the purest optimism, Jake pushed the power button. Twice. It just didn't seem fair - considering the damage it had done to his life, it would have been more appropriate if the monitor had exploded, sending jagged chunks of glass through his stomach. There should have been fire leaping out of the case, keys flying off of the keyboard and into his eyes, electricity arcing off of the mouse and grounding in his brain, causing his eardrums to rupture. Instead, it just sat there. Taunting. Jake wiggled various cables and flipped the light switch that, he knew, was not remotely connected to the power strip. The possibility of rogue electricians rewiring his apartment eliminated, he got out a screwdriver from the pile of sunflower seeds where it currently lived and gently removed the outer covering of the computer. A fresh waft of electrical mishap hit his nostrils. The power supply was completely fried, which wasn't really surprising since the little fan that was supposed to cool it looked as if it had perished while attempting to cough up a hairball. He removed the power supply, because it seemed like the thing to do, and dropped it on the floor. It made a nice, loud noise when it hit the upper strata of junk, and Jake found himself picturing the noise it would make if it landed on his roommate's cat.

The beast in question was named Punch, and had long grey fur that managed to gather in little drifts (when dry) and strange mounds (when wet) all around the apartment, especially where they were not wanted. Somehow these scale models of Punch would end up in Jake's raisin bran, on his pillow, topping his burger that he only left unattended for five seconds. They would blow past like tumbleweeds wherever he looked, as if they were reproducing on their own. No cat could have that much fur. Granted, Punch weighed about thirty pounds, but even so these clumps of hair that sat like glistening monoliths on every surface must be the work of no less than ten or eleven animals. Until now Jake had always thought the dry fur to be the more harmless of the two; while it did manage to get onto his food more often, at least it had never been partially digested and then used to make some moist little sculpture in his shoe. But now... now it was clear that Punch had been working towards this eventual goal for months, distracting him with obvious violations of the apartment so he would not realize the more diabolical plan being put into motion. The GGN report, bane of his weekend, was now lost to him forever.

While he had made sure to save his work slightly more frequently than usual it did very little good when he had only been saving it to the hard drive, which was clutched in the cold, dead hands of his computer. Jake looked at the screwdriver in his hand and toyed briefly with the idea of taking the hard drive out, but unless he developed some sort of super power that allowed him to transfer data from the hard disk to paper using only his limited mental abilities he would still need another computer to hook the hard drive up to. Jake spent a few minutes thinking about how disappointed he would be if he gained super powers and then found out that it was something lame like data transfer, and then he wiggled some cords again.

He could just picture walking into Mr. Grimes' office and dropping the hard drive on his desk, maybe even playing dumb about it and suggesting that he had been under the impression this was how Mr. Grimes had wanted it. This would lead to some questions, of course, as anyone looking for the GGN report on Jake's hard drive would be distracted by twenty gigs of pirated software, illegally downloaded music, and porn. There was probably a company policy about that kind of thing. He had already been written up for being late to work too many times, and the porn thing would probably push it over the edge. He didn't even like porn, he just couldn't bring himself to delete it once his roommate had downloaded it. Mr. Grimes probably never looked at porn. He probably looked at motivational posters instead.

Ideas ran through his mind about what he could do for his last day. Surely there were some entertainment possibilities here - after all, they couldn't threaten him with being fired anymore. He could wear an inappropriate T-shirt. He could flip off his boss. He could, in fact, do just about anything he wanted as long as he stopped before the point where they could arrest him. He paused for a moment while he thought about this, and then started to dig through the detritus around his bed for his tie, hoping quietly that he might find his spine too. He reached around under his bed for a moment, and when he pulled his hand out it was clutching a strip of hideous paisley-covered imitation silk. Well, one out of two isn't bad. He grabbed a piece of paper and scribbled a quick note to his roommate - "GETTING FIRED TODAY, NEED MORE TIME FOR RENT, ALL YOUR DAMN CATS FAULT. PIZZA TONIGHT? YOU'RE BUYING."