Like 2

[Continuing yesterday’s response to a prompt from The Daily Post]

Driven by roughly equivalent amounts of curiosity and annoyance, Midge blocked out thirty minutes on her calendar for a mythical meeting, then found an unused conference room. Keeping the room lights turned off for a reason she couldn’t articulate, the recent college graduate used her phone at first to verify that one of her social media profiles now showed an interest in fishing (it did), and then to investigate how that profile had come to exhibit such an odd mutation.

The glow of her tiny screen illuminated her face as she found her answer in chat rooms and technical forums. The social media site provided an option to track the online history of their users (Midge checked her profile’s settings, and confirmed the option had been turned on for her). As she discovered just how thorough the site was tracking her history, Midge grew increasingly concerned — every article she had read, every purchase she had made, every blog entry she had posted, even every time she had clicked the Like button on updates her friends had made on social media sites — any online activity she had conducted since creating her account on this one social media (and choosing not to investigate the options available in her profile settings) had been collected into a sophisticated algorithm that produced a concise list of her interests, which was then made to other users of the site.

Midge didn’t need to search back through her recent online activity to determine why that algorithm detected an interest in fishing. Two friends of hers, a male from high school and a female from college, had recently gone on separate camping trips in Wisconsin. Both were avid fishers, and had posted several pictures of their bounties. Acting entirely out of fondness, Midge had liked their pictures and status updates.

The light in the conference room clicked on; Midge hadn’t heard JT from IT enter the room. She excused herself, hurried out of the room, satisfied not only that she had found the answer to her question, but also by having finally edited her profile settings to avoid any future accidental updates to her profile.

As she walked back to her desk, her phone vibrated. Without breaking her stride, she pulled her phone from her belt holster and glanced at the screen — Tosh had sent her a text.

Like

[Today’s topic from The Daily Post — online privacy. Suddenly inspired to start another short work of fiction.]

“I didn’t know you liked fishing.” Claudio retrieved his brown ceramic mug as the Keurig machine spat in completion. The sudden statement woke Midge from her somnambulant journey into the break room.

“Fishing?” An accusation as much as a question.

“Yeah, fishing.” The manager of The Jourdain Group’s audit department poured powdered creamer into his mug. “Read it last night, on your profile. Streams or lakes?”

Jourdain’s youngest software developer took only an instant to piece together the context of his question. “Neither. I’ve never gone fishing in my life!”

“Huh.” Claudio sipped from his mug. “Not according to your profile.” The large man then walked out of the break room, more amused than concerned with Midge’s confusion.

The Bucket

[It’s back to The Daily Post for inspiration — something about childhood one wishes would have been different. And for the first time in longer than I can remember, it’s also time to return to the characters of my novel.]

“I wish I’d listened better.” Annie snapped the buttons of her winter jacket over the closed zipper, the January winds cutting into her. “There were so many things people were trying to tell me — friends, my parents, teachers. I was pretty stubborn as a kid, thought I knew it all.” She sniffed loudly, smiled at Butch. “Guess you don’t think I’ve changed much.”

“Oh!” Butch stepped back reflexively, as if a bulb had suddenly flashed in his face. “No. Why would I think that?”

Annie smirked, the wool cap on her head wrinkling. “Your turn — anything you’d change.”

“Oh!” He stared back at her blankly. “About what?”

Months of similar conversations had trained Annie to control her facial reactions to these questions. “You asked me if there was anything about my childhood I’d wish were different. And I answered. So now, I’m asking you the same question.” Please don’t ask if there’s anything about MY childhood you wish were different.

“Oh!” Butch stared up at the late afternoon winter sky as if concerned something were about to fall upon him. “I guess — I wish I hadn’t lost that bucket.”

Annie blinked. “A bucket.”

“Yeah!” His face brightened. “My family, we had this bucket. It was red, not bright red like a tomato, but duller, looked a little brown actually.”

“Maroon?”

Butch shook his head. “No, it was a bucket. And my family, we used that bucket for all kinds of things, like washing my dad’s car, or mopping the floor, or filling the wading pool, or under a drip in the ceiling. Sometimes when one of us was sick, my mom would put a little water in the bottom, put it next to our bed in case we — ”

“Sounds like your family got a lot of use out of that bucket.”

“Yeah, we did.” His face dropped. “But then one day, I was using the bucket to play out in the field behind my house — Rune was with me that day — and I don’t know what happened, but I lost it. And my folks, they were some sore at me about that, don’t you know.”

“I see.” Annie knew the Goodman family’s heightened concern over household finances. “So, your family went without a bucket?”

“No suh!” Butch seemed startled that Annie would have considered this possibility. “My mom, she went out the next day, got us a new bucket. It was bigger, and green.”

Her patience was failing. “A bucket? Your family goes one day with a . . . bucket, and you’re telling me that’s the one thing about your childhood that you wished was different?”

“Oh!” Butch scratched his chin. “Well, my sister found the old bucket a few days later, but since my mom had already used the new bucket when she was digging out weeds, she couldn’t return it. So I made her go to the store and pay that money, for no reason. That’s why I regret it.”

Meaningful Nonsense

My posts this past week and a half have been a series of nonsense verses, one word salad after another. Those posts were a reaction to the passing of my mother, my way of demonstrating that I wanted to continue communicating with the world, but found all words inadequate to express how I felt. Tomorrow, I return to my gentile normalcy, and will go back to posting entries that bear some semblance of meaning. Thank you for hanging with me over this very unsettling week, and I hope you’ll stick with me as I resume my experiments in this blog.