Ctrl, Alt, Insert, Delete - Norman A. Rubin
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“Psst!” a whispered voice beckoned as I jogged along a path near the concrete parched channel that brought water in a trickling stream to the thirsty residents of the City of Angels. “Psst, psst!” the sound called urgently, forcing curiosity on my part, despite the warnings of mayhem by total strangers. “Over here,” the voice whispered. At a supporting protruding abutment along the canal, a little man beckoned me with his pinky finger to near him. At first it was difficult to discern his identity as he was partly hidden by the visor of a peaked baseball cap. Then identity squirmed into the cells of my brain.
“Horace Zither!” I exclaimed, “yes, you are Horace Zither, a good neighbor of mine from the nearby vista villas. Heard about a hassle at the film studio where you laboured, and that very interested parties are seeking your where’abouts or remains. Even your everbeloved has missed your appearance for the past few days and has put the bloodhounds of a well known shyster sniffing your trail.”
“Shhh!”, whispered the urgent cry, “They’re all looking for me - LAPD, FBI, the Foggy Bottom, CIA, Hizbollah, Hassidic rabbis, and many other frustrated individuals. They all want to put their hands on me, me, Horace Zither.’ All because of that computer program.”
“Why?” I exclaimed, feigning ignorace of the affair.
Horace Zither beckoned that I should follow him, which in a state of curiosity I obeyed. Along the way he muttered that the whole affair would be explained when we are out of sight. We directed our steps along a zigzag path which led to a unused water tunnel the Angelo municipality had at one time constructed at great expense to bring water from the now dried up Pasedena watershed. His flashlight beam directed us through a short course of twists and turns till we mounted stairs leading to a large well lit room above. The furnishing within was sparse but adequate.
The blanket roll that I sat on squirmed and rolled as I sat on its thickness, forcing me to jump in fright. “Don’t be alarmed, that’s my good friend Scruffy,” and indeed the apparition looked like a ‘scruffy’. “The good man does errands for me, bringing food and drink. He had done other chores for me in the past, which I will not explain. Let me introduce you to the good man and then I will explain my sudden dissappearance from the eyes of many, including my beloved Mable.”
Well, I made myself comfortable, next to the scruffy who just grinned at me with an idiotic glance, as I Iistened to the facinating, yet woeful tale, of Horace Zither.....
Genius, according to the dictionary, “is a person showing exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative and original work, and etc., etc..” Well, whatever that means, Horace Zither was one of those as depicted in the Webster as being a genius. I shan’t bring disparity to the ones with the gift. The good man looked the part, characterized by a round, balding head on a short rotund body; his florid face was, at times, frowned in deep quizzable thought - felt there was a question mark looming above his head.
Horace Zither had been simple in his tastes in all aspects of his life. Even in love he chose the simple gargatuan form of Mable Daisy, lovely daughter of the banker J.Q. Hendriks, as his bride. Well, it was a convenient match as the both the Zither and the Hendriks families were desparate to rid themselves of the seed of their loins. The Zithers had to suffer explosive charges concocted by young Horace in their shattered home; and the Hendriks saw bankruptcy in the voluminous appetite of ballooning Mable.
Much to the consternation of both families, both Horace and Mable, after their marriage vows, channeled their diverse interests into lucrative occupations. Horace was always employed in his inventive capacity and Mable occupied herself for a wage as a taster at a large bakery outfit that prided itself only in productive quantity.
Somehow the rolypoly body of Horace was enveloped in love by the sensuous rippling flesh of Mable. Six children were blessed to them, three boys and three girls. All grew to a career opposite of their parents. One of their sons, a former smuggler, enjoys the comfort of a federal penitentiary; another is on the run from the minions of the law; and a third is a punch-drunk boxer. Their daughters, on the other hand, turned into eye-catching nymphs that captured the eyes of Hollywood execs and various billionaires.
Horace Zither was neither a close friend nor a drinking buddy to hardly a soul; but he was always on good terms to his immediate neighbors, despite his deep friendship with the fire department. Both Horace and his beloved Mable enjoyed a quiet and comfortable life, tending to the simplicity of their needs.
He was a technical director at a motion picture studio where he had found employment in his later years: The film emporium was a second grade production facility that ground out all sorts of violent action motion picture and television programs. Their reels took the viewer to interplanetary battles with all sorts of mayhem that computers can concoct; the underworld where evil crooks ran amok in destructive acts; to disgusting fiery creatures crawling from the depths of the earth and also from the seas; to the sight of lovely, near nude nymphs being violated by oversexed villians; and the rest of the unbelievable drivel.
The studio needed various types of weapons and other destructive electronic gadgetry to put at the hands of the forces of justice in their fight against the baddies. Well, that’s where the gifts of the genius talents of Horace were put to work. He was a master of this art, a real perfectionist, creating all sorts of gadgets and gidgets. He kept his papers in correct order, filing the blueprints of his work of genius, and storing a well-protected copy of his creations.
Horace Zither was a real master in his work at the studio that caught the attention of the producers and directors as his gadgetry turned, at times, trashy movies into moneymakers. They awarded the good man for his efforts with the title of ‘technical director’ with a modest rise in salary. Whatever the mongols required for their endless flow of trashy films, Horace invented. His genius concocted ray guns that zipped and zapped; stellar outfits for the lovelies that quickly unzipped and unzapped; guns of all types that bang-banged and fired an endless round of shot; whizzing spaceships filled with maneating fishy and earthy creatures; tumbling planets that ran amok; and all sorts of electronic gadgets that blinked and flashed.
Until one fated day when a command was politely ordered... Horace Zither was hurriedly called into the office of the executive producer. There was no pause after his entrance as the supremo put his arm around the shoulders of his technical director, “Horace, my good man, the studio is in need of your wizardry.” The producer told of a new blockbuster, plagarized from a known author with, off course, cunning changes. “That the star, a well-known wrestler, will take the leading roll; namely as a champion of justice needed to fight an evil and nasty man who finds a way to take over the world,” he chortled.
“How,” said the exec as paced the flood chomping on a cigar that Fidel was glad to get rid off, “How, you may ask. The mean baddy, with a devious mind, has invented a superduper computer that with a touch of his fingers on the keys he can control the financial and political world. Horace, my good man, use your devious mind.. sorry... your inventive genius and create a super computer for the film, that bings and bangs, and blinks and flashes that will give the illusion of nasty power of the evil man. Well, Horace Zither, give it you best - we are depending on you. The film shooting will be in two weeks.”
Horace left the office, his mind afire with thoughts and plans. Quickly he scurried from the chrome and walnut of the studio’s office and hurried to his atelier in the sub-basement of the dingy building housing the varied workshops. Upon arrival at his department he called his co-workers for a confab and in simple terms outlined the studio’s planned film. He spoke of the main requirement for the film plot, which was the need for the invention of a superduper computer for the villian.
Well, before a camel can walk through the eye of a needle, the crew outlined plans, gathered materials, sawed, hammered, welded, screwed and electrified. Horace Zither busied himself in concocting the program, that with a press on the CTRL key lights would flash on - DELETE caused sounds to emit from loudspeakers - TAB button would darken the set - ALPHABET keys commanded - F1 to F12 simulated the loud clash of arms and marching feet - CAPS LOCK did one thing and SHIFT did another and in a final touch Horace used his bank account number as the secret code when ENTER was pressed.
Within two weeks, in time for the film shooting, the computer contraption was installed and ready. It was beaut, much to the delight of the producers and directors; it was an outlandish set of panneled lights, speakers set hither and yon, and in the center the computer surounded by fake instruments of every sort. The infernal machine was ready awaiting the press of the ‘start’ key under the capable finger of the technical director to produce the needed effects. Lights, action, camera...
Horace Zither looked at me with a crestfallen face as he continued his tale... “It worked, the computer program really worked, and I do mean it worked,” he cried out and called upon the heavens.
When the nasty-nasty pressed the ALPHABET keys of A, F, or X, the power grid of Lower California blew a fuse, causing the most severe breakdown of power in history in the state, but when the evil one pressed END, power was restored. The first days of production, cuts in power increased and the citizens of Cal. violently protested the failure of the Feds to provide mucho monies for generators to increase current. The FBI was called in to investigate.
When the baddy grimaced, he pressed CTRL and all the one-armed bandits in Reno twirled to three cherries causing untold grief to the boyos, and a contract was given. The Pentagon lost its secrets to the mullahs when NUM LOCK was touched... And the Iranian chemists’ supply listing fell into the hands of CIA on the press of F1. All the intelligence boys banded together. Horace Zither became a billionaire in paper from the secret numbered accounts from the Land of the Yodel when the SHIFT KEY was mishandled. But, the worst of the whole affair was when DELETE was punched and kosher butchers found tasty tidbits of pork mixed with their beef...
“Investigation pointed its finger towards me, the studio’s technical director. Much to the agony of the studio, the filming of its superduper production was finis,” moaned Horace Zither in the misery of his soul.” He detailed the anger of the studio producers and the threat of lawsuit for their financial loss.
Horace Zither continued in his woeful tale of agony, “At that time, California was in the grip of the ALPHABET keys of A, F, or X. The frequent power blackouts gave me time to retreat from the advancing horde; time to snatch the program from the computer in order to destroy the evidence of the electrical disorders and other mischiefs. But I couldn’t; I wasn’t able to destroy this zenith of my genius.”
“That’s the whole story, and now every agency, whether they be good or evil, had put me on their wanted list, dead or alive, kosher or ‘tref’.”
I never knew the final end to this episode at the movie studio, nor was I able to discern the fate of Horace Zither or of Scruffy. There had been rumours of earthquakes and brushfires in the vicinity of the tunnel that at one time brought water from the Pasendena watershed at great expense. All that I knew was when there was a power failure in the lower part of the state, or when cherries flashed on the bandits in the parched lands, or even when bankers had heart failure, Horace Zither must be pressing the keys.
Norman A. Rubin