Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Deeper Tides

Pity the poor smartphone generation,
helpless – hooked on the latest updates.

Those who can work their way to
owning their own house get to glimpse
deeper, more enduring time currents.

Gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts
think in far longer sequences.
Daily rhythms give way to weekly
and finally seasonal stretches of time.

Last springs seedlings grow yellow,
spindly with seed-heads and final blooms;
sinking inevitably to the ground.
These get cut and added to compost,
to help feed future crops of food and
beauty. The cycle continues.

Gadget batteries go dead or burn up
in less time than a seedling reaches
maturity and begins to blossom.

The deeper tides of life satisfy
one more fully than any tweet or post
ever could. Time to shut down the PC
and go back outdoors to enjoy more.

- end

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fiction - Be Happy, You Lunkhead

    He kept reminding himself to be happy. In ages past, taking a flight like this would have been impossible. It was all once science fiction, just as other things had been in previous ages. It didn't seem to make a difference.
After all, this is 2175 now. A short day-hop to Mars is no big deal, his anger centers answered. People are flying out to Titan now, like they used to travel to the Hawaiian islands. No big deal. All Jase knew was that he had forgotten his nic-ene ampules. Damn that Stuze, she kept climbing his nerves about any little thing. So he had rushed around their pod, grabbing things in haste. He had not wanted to leave with both of them mad. But every time he tried to work into an apology, she would step on some other nerve. He had to get out of that situation.
But now here he was, going to visit his folks in Bradbury City. He was mad, he had forgot his nic-ene, and he had not shaved in four days. Things were definitely not looking good. And now the brats two aisles down were making cracks and laughing. Couldn't he ever get any peace? He clenched and unclenched his fists, trying to control his temper.

Then came a sudden crunching impact, and then blaring alarms, and lights flickering out. A canned voice began repeating some warning, but was soon overridden by the robo-pilot AI.
“We have been impacted by a medium-sized asteroid. Please grab your Oxy-kits just under the seat. Unfurl the masks and put them on. We are in no danger unless we get hit again.”
“Shit. It figures,” grunted Jase. He felt weightlessness full-on now, since they were no longer under acceleration. But still managed to grab his Oxy-kit from under the seat and pull it out. He struggled with unfurling the mask, which was supposed to auto-activate. But how old were these units? wondered Jase.
“Hey, um, man, can you help us out here?” Jase heard a plaintive plea from behind
“I'm busy, give me a sec.” Damn teenage brats. Serves them right.
More atmosphere hissed out several cracks in the hull.
But Jase finally got his mask on. He turned to the brats, and tried to guide them with hand signals. They finally got it figured out. Meanwhile, the ship hull managed to auto-seal most of the cracks. But then the robo-pilot cut in again:
“I need the assistance of an able adult passenger, please. I cannot seal two of the hull breaches. If we do not get them sealed, all 45 passengers face death by asphyxiation. Please, I need assistance immediately. Would an able adult please move forward. You will apply some emerg-seal to hull breaches. I will guide you, but human hands are needed for this operation.”
Jase looked around the cabin. Mostly older people swivelled their heads, with shrugs and 'who, me?' looks on their faces. He swore, then yelled, “All right. I'll help.”
“Pardon me? Who spoke?” said the Pilot AI.

“Me, here, in aisle 7.” Jase stood and tried to wave. But he found himself doing a somersault. He managed to get righted. The weightless practices he had along with everyone else back in middle school helped out a little here.
“Oh, Jase Edwards? Thank you, sir. Please move towards the front of the liner. Thank you so very much. The rest of you sit tight, and try not to breathe too heavily.”

Jase grabbed the seat backs and carefully maneuvered himself towards the front. A narrow door slid open. “Please proceed through here, Jase.”
He did so, and then the door slid shut. Jase was faced with a flickering control center (at one time called a “cockpit”). There was no humanoid here – just rows of circuit cards, in racks. And a center bulkhead facing him, with an ugly gash, leaking out atmosphere.
The voice sounded tinny in here, but Jase could still hear it.
“Please grab the patch kit on the side, Jase. Remove a large patch and press down onto the opening...”

Jase followed the instructions of the robo-pilot, resident in the racks all around him. He got the larger gash sealed fairly quickly. He simply laid the patch over the hole. It was pressed against the hole by atmospheric pressure, and nano-elements within the material gripped, making the patch and the hull seamless. But the other gash was under some of the electronics racks.

“OK, Jase, all you need to do is to remove the lowermost rack. The toolkit is to your right...”
But naturally, it was to the Robo's right, and his left. He hunted around, locating a uni-driver tool.
“Good, Jase. Now, tap the four fasteners, and unscrew....”

The fasteners were covered with grime, and hidden. And Jase's mask kept getting in the way. He was dripping sweat by the time he got the screws undone.
He pulled on the rack, and it came out – but there were wires holding it in.
“i can't yank it out without disconnecting these. I'm getting dizzy, too...”

“jase, can you press the patch in underneath, just moving the unit a small amount? Try that...”

Then the robo voice went staticy.. A connector had pulled out of the small rack he was holding. Shit!
Jase grabbed a medium-sized patch, yanked it out of its wrapping, auto-activating the nano-tech embedded within. He would have to hit the hole the first time, or that patch would try and grab down on any surface it touched. So he pulled the rack out more, disconnecting two more wire assemblies. But now he could see the hole, a long, jagged crack already accumulating debris with the air leaking out. He aimed carefully, and slapped the patch right down over the hole, almost on the floor part of the forward area he was in. Immediately there was a change, as the patch grabbed hold and sealed.

“Pilot? Can you hear me?”

Jase saw some lights flicker on a small display. Words appeared.
“Atmosphere integrity restored. Voice unit disconnected.”

Jase looked down at the rack he still held with one hand. He carefully pressed two tiny wiring assemblies back into their sockets. He heard bursts of static. Looking at the display, he saw the problem.

“Voice unit reverse polarity. Please correct.”

Jase getnly tugged out the wiring groups, and re-connected them the opposite way. Belatedly he saw the color of the sockets matched the modules. He moved the rack closer, and managed to get the third one in, after more struggle.

“Hull integrity restored. Voice unit functioning. Thank you very much for giving me my mouth back, Jase. Our Oxy supply is stabilized, but will only last two hours, with a tiny reserve.”

“Two hours? What the hell? Do we even know where we are? Will we all die here anyway?” Jase was so upset he couldn't find any more words.

“Relax, Jase Edwards. We had a collision with a small asteroid. We are currently in the asteroid belt, approximately halfway to the Martian orbiting base. I've already sent out several distress calls. There are three rescue craft en route. The nearest should arrive in 27 minutes.”
There was a shift in volume, and robo-pilot repeated his reassurance to everyone over the shipwide intercom.
“We will be visited by rescue craft beginning 27 minutes from now. You may remove your masks, as there is a two-hour supply of breathable air on this craft. Everyone please relax and enjoy the view of the asteroid belt. We will be visited shortly. Please follow all instructions you are given, to make our transition swift and safe for all concerned....” Jase grunted his thanks to the intelligent racks around him, then moved shakily back to his seat. He was met with a chorus of “thank you's” and scattered applause from everyone, including the unruly teenagers.

Less than 24 hours later, Jase Edwards was at his parent's pod In Bradbury City. He had freshened up, and even shaved, borrowing his dad's razor. “After all, I have to look good for the mayor,” he said aloud to himself, grinning.

At a hastily-arranged award ceremony, Jase Edwards was presented with a special commendation, for helping save the lives of 45 people on an express liner to Bradbury city. That went well – Jase stayed on his best behavior. But a couple hours later, when his girlfriend called to try and patch things up, his inner demons rose.

“Get lost, Stuze, I've moved on now, since every gal here wants to date the person who saved 45 lives. I don't need your shit anymore. Have a nice life.”

Jase had a lot of fun the next several Sols. He only heard later about Stuze's suicide attempt. Then he thought to himself, Yeah, she screwed that up, just like everything else. He only felt a twinge of regret. Sometime he even surprised himself.

                                                                        - The End


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Removing Summer's Friend

The nights grow darker,
days cool off degree by degree.
October rears a scary face,
we all know what is to follow.

The furnace kicks on for the
third night in a row -
my cue to pull out the window AC.
Jut one, not both – no need to hurry.

There are days in the high 70s
still coming up on us.
One cool source fan may yet
be a blessing on hot days ahead.

That heavy window unit gets pulled,
and the double-pane glass slides home
with a gentle tug. Quietude!
Now I can turn up the TV,
and bang on my little keyboard all night,
without fear of disturbing the neighborhood.

#enjoy the fall-winter is coming.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Perpetual Warfare

She naps upon the kitchen counter unaware,
until I creep up slowly with the green ampule.
Her ears twitch and she fixes me with a stare,
I freeze, then move up and croon reassurances.

“We're gonna get rid of those fleas, honey,”
I say, snapping open the applicator –
and swiftly put it down on her neck,
emptying a tiny bit of expensive medication.

She only moves a short distance away,
not even taking off like before.
She knows I am waging war on the
biting bastards making our lives hell.

After more reassurances, I go off to do
other chores. She sits on the counter and waits,
uncomprehending and shocked at what occurred;
Soon she notices a change and hops down.

Maybe by next spring I'll get rid of them,
then April will arrive,
she will want outside,
and the whole war will start again.

Friday, October 07, 2016

School Memories

Dad knocks on the door, says it's time to get up.
Time to roust out of bed and get ready for school.
Get up, get dressed, hurry downstairs.
"Did you wash and brush your teeth?"

Eat some cereal, throw on a coat,
get out the door and off to school.
Make it inside through the throngs,
hurry to homeroom and Mr. Yoder.

Bow your heads for a prayer –
no, a moment of silence.
There's the bell, now it's off to first period.
Geography, Mathematics, Shop class and Art.
Gym class and dodge ball and flag football.

There was an intensity about those years.
Your future was in others hands,
simplifying most day-to-day planning.
You had to think, but not very hard,
leaving the mind-numbing planning to adults.
Your world was day-to-day,
much more so than now when you are
nearing sixty and worrying about everything.

Now the only person you answer to is yourself,
and as easy as that can be sometimes,
at others it is the most difficult thing.
One can always quit one's job and suffer
the consequences, but oh no,
even thinking about your fathers reaction if you
said you were going to quit school...

Well, that was simply unthinkable, and wise
youths just did not go there, period.

This too shall pass.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Pigeon Woes

Sweeping along the sidewalk one day,
a brown lump came into awareness.
Upon jabbing it with the broom,
it animated itself most surprisingly.
A little pigeon, with broken wings.

Tried to give chase with broom and bucket,
but the thing had legs and used them!
It scurried up to the doors and past,
entering a nearby office building.

Perhaps seeking respite from the
cold concrete canyons,
or looking for food or comfort.
Alas, it was not to be.

I swept it up finally,
took it back outside and released it
to the air and elements.

My boss would not want me to
allow pigeons into a building
that we are supposed to keep tidy.
I swept up the feathers scattered
inside the doorway and moved on.

Another day, another pigeon
shown the stoop.

- end

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Shifting to normality

Morning sun gleams bright into office windows,
a poor match for the operator's dark interior mood.
For he must walk out into the world, his day finished,
everyone else's just starting. His whole life feels
like one big misalignment of energy and purpose.

When he is rested, entering the computer room
at start of shift is a thrill: Indicator lights flash,
tape reels spin, printers chatter and clatter.
The room hums with life and excitement,
he is an integral part of the whole scene.

As the night wears on, his initial energy
fades and a coffee break is called for.
As he sips and gazes out a window,
he sees outside night life fading to a halt.
Soon the streets are empty,
pools of light and shades of darkness
permeate empty streets and alleys.

The city has gone to sleep,
but he and his co-workers must continue
to process insurance data with high mental acuity.
Any mistake means setback and do-overs;
The next day's processing might be delayed!

So the third shift hero keeps soldiering on,
dreaming of that bottle of beer and good
day's rest coming at end of shift.

That is,
if the kids and cars and commotion of
the following day will allow him anywhere
near his preferred seven hours of rest.

He has been doing this for six years now,
and sleep does come, easily enough.
But on weekends he reverts to night-sleep,
and that Monday change-back is sheer hell.

Sometimes he says to himself,
“One of these days I'll just quit -
say the hell with it!”

Then the day comes when he does.
he makes the call and quits over the
phone – just like that.
After hanging up, he sleeps soundly,
without a care in the world.

He has returned to the normal world
from the depths of night.
What could possibly go wrong?