Meme

by Andy West

Table of Contents
Part 1 and Part 3
appear in this issue.
part 2

Two days later and decidedly not on time for work, he was racing about the house grabbing stuff. As daylight hours shortened he liked to be in the park soon after the sun was, besides which he was supposed to meet a delivery of fence posts first thing that morning. He shoved his PDA into a pocket, then dropped his lunchbox plus a Coke from the fridge into the old shoulder-bag that accompanied him practically everywhere.

Despite his hurry, he paused to gaze at three leaflets laid neatly upon the kitchen table. Each was a different and single, bright hue; all had a rigidly beaming face printed on the front. The three main party agendas for the upcoming election. He’d been meaning to read them for some time. Perhaps he could do this on his lunch break. For a frustrating moment, indecision froze him. Then he caught them all up in annoyance and flung them in the bin.

“What’s the point?” he muttered. “Bloody politicians! They’re all the same,” continued his frustrated utterance. They always said whatever it took to get themselves voted in, then squirmed out of doing anything. These days, it seemed to be all about image and not about substance.

Somehow he managed to stub his toe on the way out and was forced to head down the drive at a fast hobble. He immediately noticed a fresh bite to the air. About time, with November only one more day away! There wouldn’t be any frost for weeks yet, but he felt comforted and breathed a deep draught of cleansing air. Though Autumn was very mild and winter would be somewhat late, thankfully it would still come.

As he backed out into the road, a newsreader informed him in measured tones about the mugging of a prominent local businessman, quite close to his park. He snorted in disgust. It popped into his mind that society’s values had slipped badly, as that message of Julia’s said. Perhaps the education system was flawed.

The morning was old and warm when his PDA burst forth with Handel’s ‘Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’. That was Julia’s tag and highly appropriate too, but he couldn’t do anything about it just then. He was up to his calves in mud, laying a much needed drainage system for the grassy sports area. It was an hour later in his hut, his hands cleaned sufficiently to handle the device, that he read her text.

I’m really sorry, I shouldn’t have sent that ‘Paradox’ message. It’s a kind of virus. This guy Memmet Emiane explained it to me. Is it alright if he contacts you? Julia XX.

Despite it being Julia, hot annoyance washed through him. She didn’t ever install virus checking programs on her equipment and never exercised caution about what she downloaded or distributed. And he most certainly did not want to be bothered with having to talk to some random stranger, a foreigner too judging by the unusual name. He hurriedly sent back a text.

What kind of virus? Is it going to trash my PDA? Why can’t you explain about it yourself??

He belatedly realized this was rather curt. Especially as his security screening hadn’t actually come up with anything and in fact his device was working fine, for now. Even so, he firmly resisted the guilty urge to write a gentler postscript.

He was making a cup of tea when Julia’s reply came. She was probably bored at work yet again and surreptitiously using her PDA. She read its display through a half-open drawer in her desk, often boasting about how she’d managed to setup a redirection of her regular work keyboard to it, on the tap of a single key. Thus her hands were always busy and there was never any personal data on her screen. It seemed everyone at her company thought she was a very conscientious worker.

The explanation is complicated. Your PDA is safe, but it’s worse than that. This virus affects people! I know you don’t like to be fooled by anyone. I apologize for starting all this ) : Julia XX.

Alan was astonished by this answer. What on earth was she talking about? She must surely be confused! Despite her triumph in the keyboard saga, which he suspected in any case could not have been done without help, Julia’s grasp of technology was in general even worse than his own. Added to which she was downright dizzy at times.

He cursed as a splash of boiling water stung his thumb. Instinctively he jerked the kettle away and left a trail of steaming puddles over his drainage blueprints.

Frustration added to the annoyance that still simmered within him. He didn’t believe he had been fooled by anything, as Julia claimed. With the perspective of time, he reflected that maybe the ‘Paradox’ message was phrased in a rather patronizing manner and some of its final verses were a bit clichéd, but this didn’t alter its bold truths. And if there was no Trojan program or anything else affecting the PDA associated with it, he couldn’t imagine what she meant by it being a virus.

Then suspicion flared and heated his mind still further. Julia was pretty gullible. Maybe right now someone was trying to trick her. He dabbed at the blueprints with a tissue, wiped his hand on the thick corduroy of his trousers, then relayed his thoughts.

You’re being ridiculous! How can a virus in a text message affect me? How do you know this Memmet person isn’t a fraud? I thought the ‘Paradox’ verses stated what most people are too afraid to say about our times!

After putting the blatantly obvious down in words, he felt more reassured and calmed down a little. No doubt Julia had somehow managed to get it all wrong. He’d probably hear some muddled version of the truth later, via half an apology. He dipped a digestive biscuit into his tea and returned to poring over his plans. He’d definitely need more plastic tubing, plus some sections with a wider bore for the final outflow. He would have to force yet another requisition through the office. But his thoughts got no further as another text interrupted.

Please let me give Memmet your address. He’s a very clever guy, but you can decide for yourself when you see what he has to say. Love Julia XX.

Irritation prickled over him before he’d even finished reading and a hiss of exasperation escaped his lips, but then one crucial word leapt out from the small screen and put all negative feelings to flight. Though it was often Julia’s habit to put two kisses on the end of her texts, with him and for other close friends too, she had never written the word ‘love’ to him before. He was left feeling dizzy and a little confused, though also pleasantly warm deep inside.

A waft of heady, painful days came back to him from long ago. From that time when he’d been so desperately attracted to Julia, even after he realized she liked playing the Queen Bee, with a constant cluster of males all around her. She’d never returned any real romantic interest, though with flirtatious enforcement had kept him in orbit along with many others. He’d probably be circling still if Gwen hadn’t come along and stolen him away, he thought uncomfortably. Yet although very happy in his marriage, he guiltily admired Julia still. He’d never been able to completely still those leaps of his heart that her bestowed favors could invoke. He typed while still in a daze.

Well only because it’s you that asked, though I’m not likely to be convinced! Alan X.

* * *


Proceed to part 3...

Copyright © 2007 by Andy West

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