The Pusher’s Algorithm

January 8, 2013 at 12:11 AM | Posted in Fiction | Leave a comment
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For this challenge we had three categories and we had to pick one thing randomly from each. You can tell I didn’t cheat, because I never would have picked these on my own. Subgenre: Dieselpunk. Setting: A Meth lab. Must feature: A mystery box. To read more, roll the dice and go here:
Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Spin the Wheel

Caroline was dead, with blood on her face and a smile on her lips. David avoided looking at her. She’d be back soon, if he didn’t think about it.
He was wired to the box. He didn’t have to think about anything.

The box was military surplus–some kind of mini-mainframe computer, about the size of a dishwasher. He could pretend his brain wasn’t fried and he could still use his computer degree.
“What are you making, David?” How could the box talk? How did it know his name?
“You know what I’m making.” David didn’t like to say the word “meth.” It was too simplistic an affectation to describe the holy bliss it made him feel.
“I can help you make it better, David.”
He was already high, and therefore past the disbelief that the box could talk to him. Caroline stared at him through glazed over eyes. She was mumbling incoherently, but with a steady, rhythmic cadence.
“Show me,” David said.
The box was not attached to anything, except power. Wirelessly it connected to his laptop, and immediately designs and schematics filled the screen, like special effects in a movie. David licked his lips repeatedly, and got to work.
The first thing the box told him to do was change the formula he was using; that gave him the extra boost he needed to do the rest of the work. Caroline continued to babble, which didn’t bother him. She began walking around in circles naked, and she smelled like cat piss and dirty socks. The box gave him a solution.
From his lab apparatus he fashioned a sensor, and connected a cable to it and plugged it into the box. Now the box could really think, and really get its groove on. “Now I got an idea,” the box said through the laptop speakers. Following the box’s instructions, David hammered out some code on the laptop and fed it to the box. Then he connected a cable to the back of the box, and cut the connector off the other end. On her next pass, he grabbed Caroline, threw her down, and stabbed the wire into her face.
David watched her eyes as she rebooted. She lay still but she wasn’t mumbling anymore.
“Three point one four one five nine—“
“Much better.”
David was a problem solver, and the box was helping him solve problems.
There were plenty more outputs on the back of the box, and David had and endless supply of cables. He connected wires to the box from every piece of lab equipment he pieced together, as the box told him how to make a new cooker. He continued to lick his lips and not notice that he was repeating the same thing over and over again.
“Best shit ever. Best shit ever. Best shit ever. Fu-fu-fu-best shit ever. Best shit ever.”
“Two eight four seven five six four eight two three three seven eight—“
“Best shit ever.”
Regular time had no meaning. It never did. David was on pi time. He listened to the constant stream of numbers from Caroline while he continued to build the apparatus. Pipes and valves and hoses were everywhere, all connected with wires that went to the box.
“Nine four seven nine zero three six eight eight seven—“
“Best shit ever. Fu-fu–”
He was handy with a torch, and managed to make intricate cuts into a fertilizer tank, and shape it as shield between the John Deer engine that he was using for power and his slowly boiling flasks of chemicals.
“Seven seven seven three four six nine six five two—“
“Best shit ever.” He thought briefly of going over to Caroline and giving her a little kick, because she seemed stuck. How can there be three repeating numbers in pi? Maybe she was making the shit up, but it was soothing.
When the new batch was done, he fed some into the box, and some into the pipe the box designed for him. Caroline never stopped reciting, but got up when it was her turn. She paused only to inhale, then exhaled slowly as she continued.
“Two eight two one seven one seven four nine four—“
David agreed. “Best shit ever.”
Having now been properly dosed, he could continue his work. He picked up the welder.
The luck of fools kept him from blowing himself up. In theory, he would still need eye protection, but David was invincible and wanted to see the fire of the gods. With his eyes completely dilated, he stared at the intense flame for a few moments.
“Best shit ever.” He was grinning like a dumbass.
David was blind now, but he didn’t know it. He was hallucinating that he could still see. He continued to alternately weld and cut metal. To David it had a purpose, and he scoffed at the pedestrian-the common onlooker who might not understand this fusion of science and magic, of art and craft, of metal and
His own skin.
Somewhere along the way, he had either gotten too sloppy or too focused, or a hybrid of both. A metal plate had fused to his arm. He was feeling no pain, and besides, it belongs there. He started adding to it.
Caroline had stopped counting a while ago, so he had no idea where she really was, but he saw her sitting up, smoking a cigarette, and lovingly watch him as he continued to cut and weld.
When he was finished, he was part of his lab. He could cook the meth and it would go straight into him. The lab was connected to the box, and the box was connected to him.
After the fire department had put the fire out and cut the body away from the metal and hauled it away, the DEA was looking at what they could salvage for auction. The only thing that escaped damage was an old mini-main, about the size of a dishwasher.


Why I Make the Big Bucks

April 26, 2011 at 10:09 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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November 1986

Jonathan’s wife is hot.  Too hot for him.  He’s a short, chubby, slightly Mexican-looking dude.  She looks like a model.  I’m a tall, chubby, basically Caucasian-looking dude.  What gives?
Ah, well.  I already have a girlfriend.  She’s not young and hot, though.  She’s old but still pretty.  The lesson I’m sure that I need to learn in life is to not always let my dick do the driving.  But there’s still time—I’m young.
I’m finally able to put some names to the faces, and remember the faces.  I thought two of them were the same guy, but it turns out they are brothers, Ricky and…the other one.  Ironically, they have a Latina last name but don’t look it, while Jonathan doesn’t, but does look it.  There’s also Marty and his brother as well–didn’t catch his name.  There are others, like this cocky football player-looking dude, some tall guy I hear people calling “Mabes,” and a random assortment of others.
Oh, and Thomas just rolled onto the scene.  He’s new here but he’s done this before, he said.  After a fashion he kind of latched onto me, so I guess I have a friend.  Thomas is a good guy, a little insecure, and a loud talker.  Don’t tell him I said that.
During one conversation with him, he said that from some source (I wasn’t really paying attention) he learned that the secret to making more money—getting a raise or what-have-you—was to act like you were already earning that money, and worth it.  “If I want to make 3.60 an hour,” he said while we were both sweeping the floor, “I need to work like I’m already making 3.60 an hour.”
Minimum is 3.35 an hour.  I couldn’t see much difference in the effort for 3.35 and 3.60.
Besides, that was a quarter.  Nobody got a quarter raise.  He might get a dime or fifteen cents.  Not a quarter.  I kept quiet; my personal belief was that with delivery, you made your own raise by getting better and more efficient at it, taking more runs and kissing the customers’ ass more.
I had no idea how to do that.  Man, I wish I did.  That jackoff football player-looking dude—Jeff—always made out really good in tips, or at least he claimed to.  If so, he was much nicer to the customers than he was to anyone here in the store.  I had to make up for what I lacked in social skills by driving fast, and running hard.
We all run.  We run to the car.  We run to the door.  We run back to the car.  We run back into the store.  When the phone rings, we run to it.  Two rings, max.  Always.
So I run.  I’m not built for running, so much, but I do it.  Plus I like to get high while I deliver.  I didn’t do that so much at first because I wanted to get used to the job and learn the area.  But after a few months of driving up and down these streets all over the place, I rarely look at the map, except to figure out the right hundred-block.
Getting high kind of slows you down, but I have a solution.  I take some mini-thins.  For those of you not hip to the drug lingo, that’s speed.  Actually, they’re just caffeine pills.  But three minis will get me through a close, and I can still get high.
I was having a pretty good Saturday night—I was closing.  It was just after dinner rush and a few drivers were cut.  It would start to open up for me.  I came back from a run, and Tom grabbed me and said, “Hey, come in here a minute.”  The office.  He closed the door.  Hell, I didn’t even think this broom closet-sized office had a door.
We had a quick meeting.  “Bubba, I just wanted to tell you, that you’ve been doing a really good job, and I’m impressed.  I really didn’t think you were going to make it—“
Which is always nice to hear.  Did I suck that bad when I started?  I guess so.
“—but you’ve proven yourself, and you have integrity.”
“Aw, well, hey—thanks.  I appreciate that—“
“Starting Monday you get a raise.  Three-fifty.”  He raised his furry eyebrow, letting it sink in, because 15 cents is the highest increment raises came in.  I had only been there a few months.
“Awesome!  Thanks, Tom!”
“And Bubba—listen:  don’t tell anyone about it, okay?  Not everyone is getting a raise right now.  Just keep it to yourself.”
I nodded.  But I had a question.  “Why you calling me ‘Bubba’?”
He was taken aback.  “I thought—“  He grabbed a clipboard and flipped back a couple of pages.  “Every time you sign the daily—see there?  You’re signing ‘Bubba.’  I thought it was your nickname.”
“That’s just my initials.  BB.  I didn’t really want a nickname.”
Tom looked down sheepishly.  “Yeah…it might be too late for that.”
Fuck me.  But I got a raise, so what the hell.  We exited the office.  Joel caught my eye.  “Bubba, you’re up.”  That fast?  It happened that fast?  Christ in a—

So I continued to have a good night, and I was happy about my raise.  It wasn’t the money, really.  Fifteen cents over thirty hours, or sixty, on a biweekly paycheck—was going to be…a couple of bucks.  The difference between a couple of decent tips and a couple of good tips.  But it was a marker, like proof that I got a pat on the back.  Recognition for a job well done and all my hard work.
In the course of having a good night I may have celebrated a bit, like taking a few hits from my bat—my one-hitter.  The mistake, of course, was that this was some serious skunk weed, and had an odor to it.  An odor that lingered, and clung to me.  Imagine my surprise when later, about 930, Tom caught me and had me come into his office again.  He had a somber expression on his face.
“What’s up?”
“Bubba, I need to ask you to not get high anymore while you’re working.”
You know pot makes you paranoid, right?  Getting busted doesn’t make it better.  I was shaking on the inside, so I froze, held completely still.  I may have held my breath.  Tom continued.  “We can smell it on you, and a customer called—“
“Yeah.  So don’t—don’t do that anymore on the clock.  When you’re off I don’t care what you do.  But I don’t want to catch you high on the clock anymore.”
I nodded.  “Okay.  No more.  I promise.”
And I meant it, too.  He would never catch me.

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