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A Short Story by Rober, ©1997

I was traveling down South ... the place got lazier and people drawled more with each mile of my time. Stopped for directions, and practically took as long hearing how to get there as it did arriving.
Was a beat up old shack. Hound dogs sleeping so hard only their noses twitched as I passed up the rickety stairs.
"Howdy, ma'am. Come to fix your computer."

"What's that?"

I could see it sitting on the floor under a pile of old Harper's Magazines behind the lady.

"That..." No wonder Southerner's felt Yankees sparse of words. She moved in slow motion, turning her head in the direction I was pointing.

"You mean, that?"
Her voice had changed. Feeling had stolen into it from somewhere. 

"Heard tell it had a virus. Didn't want to catch none, so Billy Bob, he took it out yonder and was going to shoot the dang thing n' bury the remains. I nearly got kilt grabbing a holt of him and his daddy's shotgun. 

"It'll pollute the ground we stand on and make it unholy!" I tol' him. He's half deaf, you know, from shooting that shotgun of his'n at passing revenooers."

I nodded, moving past her. It looked bad all right. "Ma'am, I'm glad you called. I'd best wrap it up safe and take it away to a safe disposal site."

She looked relieved. "You sure we ain't due for harm? Took you three months getting here."

I mopped my brow, "Ma'am ... it's a virus frenzy out there, and I'm too few legs and hands to handle it all. If you ain't noticed yourself looking cross eyed more than usual, you're fine."

She nodded, still uncertain and hesitating on how to say what was on her mind. "You won't stay for grits and buttermilk?"


One look was all it took. "It's all right, boy, I understand you Northern folk aren't brought up right. Take that thang and go on your ways."

I was half way out the door before she finished saying, "Who's going to pay for that hole in the backyard, used to be my garden?"

"What?"

She eyed me with grim determination. "That virus thang has been mining my soil like a hungry plant, bud. Starting on the foundation if you take a look."
 
I felt it then... the tingling touch of something alive within that computer. It was checking me out for the morsel it thought I was destined to be. I dropped the whole shebang right on her front porch. Something like battery acid was dripping from my hands. I watched as the computer began dragging itself by its tendril like chords back into the house where it had been resting before I got there.

"It like's it there, don't it. Well? What you going to do? You're the expert!"

I wiped the battery spit on my jeans and said what every professional does at a time like that, "I'll get back to you..."


Shades of Fantasy
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Revised: March 12, 1999
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