Ancestry

Corngoblin just posted an elegy to his laptop, and has invoked the ghost of a story idea from many years ago.

Knew going in that the few hundred in obsolete computer parts and hours of online research, could have easily proved fruitless. Zeroes and ones, stored on thin magnetic circles enclosed in flimsy plastic sleeves, ancestors of today’s USB drives like a horse-drawn carriage is to a Ferrari. How long can this technology store data reliably — a year? Two? Five?

Twenty-nine seemed a stretch, I knew that going in. But the moment I found that box of floppies — instinct had compelled me to sort through the carton I had lugged around unopened through I can’t recall how many moves, their data created on a computer with a proprietary OS, both long abandoned — there was no choice for me but to explore whether their data could be restored on a modern system (Yes!) and if my PC maintenance skills were still sharp (Of course!). A journey that’s lead to this moment, reclining back into my home office chair as the first floppy (labeled 1987) spun noisily in its drive, the sound like a small animal squeaking with exertion, followed by the names of forgotten files dancing on the flat screen:

BUDGET.87

CHRCTRS (my abbreviation for Characters, working within the 8.3 naming restriction)

CHRCTRS2

CHRCTRS.OLD

DARNOLD (Darn Old? D Arnold?)

Thirty-four files on this floppy, the first of seventeen. Digital artifacts from a younger version of myself, a me I can barely remember. Someone less secure, yet more confident than the person I imagine myself to be now. Less afraid to take chances, make mistakes, of which he made many. Less inhibited, especially when writing.

Am I ready to confront that person who used to be me?

A rhetorical question at this point, for sure. But one worth asking, as I right-click my budget file for 1987 and select Open.

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A Clock, Broken

Mark Aldrich just posted a wonderful piece about . . .  well you’ll just have to click the link and find out, because I suddenly can’t remember anything other than enjoying it . . . 

“Always?” Kei lifted the mahogony clock from the shelf, held it close to her face, like an archeologist examining a surprising find.

“Yes, always.” Her mother’s paper-thin fingers brushed the top of its surface, leaving a track in the dust. “The woman who we brought the house from, she gave it to us. A gift.”

“Why?” Still clutching the clock with her left hand, Kei pulled the sweater tight against her body with her right. One of the concessions she had to make whenever she visited her parents (and this visit, coming so soon after the conclusion of her divorce, was more than a formality) was accepting, without complaint, how they kept their thermostat down to a level that comforted their frugality.

Her mother shrugged. “She didn’t say why, and it didn’t seem polite to ask. We just — accepted.” Her right hand reached up, patted the empty space on the shelf above the basement television. “And put it there.”

Kei sensed the clock, with its intricate woodwork and brass fittings, was too expensive for her to be handling, yet she couldn’t let it go. “I don’t ever remember seeing it here. Did you, maybe, have it somewhere else before? And moved it here?”

“No, it’s always been here.” Her mother took the clock from Kei, put it back on the shelf. “I remember it like yesterday. Your father installed these shelves the weekend after we moved in, and this clock was one of the first things we put there. Been right there, ever since.”

“Huh.” Kei stepped back, the back of her left foot nudging the large bean bag chair; instinctively she sat down, nestling into the position where she had spent a childhood’s lifetime of hours, watching and playing as the screen grew bigger with each of her father’s promotions. She pointed up at the clock. “I can see it from here, no problem. If it really was there all that time, I would have noticed it.”

Her mother sniffed. “Children have priorities that distract them, prevent them from noticing the world around them. Especially an item as mundane, as a broken clock.”

“Why don’t you get it fixed?” Kei was suddenly inspired by the thought of actually being able to do something useful for her parents. An inspiration quickly dashed by her mother’s response.

“Because it doesn’t belong to this era, as a functional device. If we want to know the time, we can find that information in so many, more reliable ways. This clock, that it doesn’t work, just makes it seem more like it belongs in the past. Which it does — “she smiled down at Kei — “along with our faulty memories.” 

Waiting for the Sun

Today’s offering is inspired by Corngoblin, who recently used climate as a metaphor for displacement

 “It wasn’t the moving that bothered me.” She raised the white ceramic mug from the table, lifted it to her lips, drank. Her eyes fixed on me as she swallowed, set the mug down. “I’ve lost track at the number of times I’ve moved since college. And I’ve been all over, from east to west coasts, north and south. Good winters and rough winters, mountains and plains, rural and country. ”

“And you never had trouble sleeping before?” The waitress arrived with my berry-capped waffle, her omelet of many colors. She waits until the waitress leaves before continuing.

“It was geography, an aspect I hadn’t encountered before. We’re what, an hour east of the time zone boundary?”

Not blessed with heightened chronological instincts, I nod, hoping she’s right, before I start working on my waffle.

“Ever notice how, in the winter, the sun never comes up in the morning?”

She waits as I chew. Swallow. “Thought you said winter doesn’t bother you.”

“It didn’t, until I came here.” She points behind me, I’m not sure to where. “This is the first time I’ve ever lived on the western side of a time zone. All the places I’ve been before — Hartford, Chicago, Colorada, New Orleans, Vegas — every one of those places, the time zone may have been different but they were all on the eastern side of their time zone. Over thirty years, I got used to seeing the sun in the morning. But the further away you get from a time zone’s eastern border, the later the sun comes up.”

“Huh.” I was genuinely intrigued, pointed at her with a fork dripping butter and berry juice. “So that also means the sun stays out later in the day, right?”

For the first time that morning, I saw her eyes smile behind her big round glasses. “I’m just beginning to appreciate that, realize how I always hated driving from work in the winter. And I remember thinking last June, how cool it was to have sunset around 10 in the evening. I didn’t make the connection until the other day when I got up, started grumbling about it still being dark — and then it hit me.”

“Sounds like you’re OK with it.”

She shrugged. “Not much I can do about it. Except wait for the sun to arrive in winter.” And started cutting into her omelet.