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Little Life Alterations

by Channie Greenberg

Sashi was tired of trying to kill Barnaby. Her studies in chemistry, in herbal lore, and even her archery lessons had taken time away from her jogging, from her ceramics and from her chocolate chip cookie baking. Given that his demise seemed nowhere imminent, her next best idea was to find a way in which to silence him; to wit, Sashi bought earplugs.

Those tapered foam devices had a noise reduction rating of 30. Although ordinarily used on shooting ranges or in large factories, the little bits of compound material seemed ideal for shutting out Barnaby’s wonky complaints and his impotent use of vocal nuance.

Sashi explained to her tenant that she meant to drown out the yammering cats beneath their single window and to make herself impervious to the morning noise of garbage trucks. In response, Barnaby shrugged, turned up his radio and continued to pursue his hacker kick. Once, he almost obtained Swedish Burgers and Burmese Fries corporate headquarters’ payroll files.

Sharing a life with a malicious cracker had not been among Sashi’s top ten aspirations. A market downturn, which slumped her sales of leather pocketbooks, all of which featured hand-painted scenes of Massachusetts Route 2, had forced her to be less than discriminating about roommates.

Carefully, Sashi inserted those tiny pieces of memory foam into her head. The product’s warning sheet was larger than the plugs. Sashi had glanced over the paragraphs containing cautionary tales of tinnitus, of temporomandibular jaw, and of otis externa. She had stopped reading, though, before reaching the sections on polyurethane products’ combustibility and on colloids’ tendencies to cause respiratory irritation. The ensuing silence that her plugs yielded proved even less textured than did the quiet she understood as belonging to the spheres of sleep.

Charmed, Sashi turned on her laptop. She was determined to finish a chapter or two of her newest novel. She liberally doused her main character’s love life with a million small concerns. Meanwhile, Barnaby succeeded in sapping the bandwidth of a disillusioned fifty-two year-old grandmother in Des Moines, Iowa.

That particular elder was a woman who had grown so tired of her children’s inattention that she had established herself as an electronic gun-for-hire. She specialized in “rearranging” Internet bookstore accounts and in blackmailing the ever-changing roster of leaders of a certain banana republic.

When granny had accumulated more than twenty-six thousand dollars in illicitly gained credits, she planned to run away to North Carolina and to live the good life of a retail store employee. However, Barnaby’s fiddling with her rate of data transfer adversely affected her savings. In response, that elder traced Barnaby. Thereafter, she called upon an arsonist who owed her a favor.

In the end, Barnaby jumped through the apartment’s lone window, breaking his collarbone, one of his knees, three of his ribs, and frightening a lot of dumpster cats. Weeks later, he returned to hacking, under a new name and a new address and quickly became rich via intellectual property theft. Among the works that brought Barnaby his first million was Hilary and Johnny Love Hedgehogs, the tome Sashi had been penning before dying in a horrific high-rise blaze.

Copyright © 2009 by Channie Greenberg

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