NICKIE AND ME IN "PROGRESS"
by R. David Minty
" Fix some more coffee, honey, and let
me know when he gets here."
This was no ordinary man sitting in his bedroom smoking Marlboro's by the pack. The
on the desk was flashing a screen-full at a time. The printer spooled off its last ream of paper at
frantic pace. Ron fancied himself a programmer, but he'd always wanted to be a writer. In
reality this early forties,
gone-grey guy knew everyone thought he was just a paranoid
schizophrenic on Social Security. He was doing his best
and he saw no contradiction in that.
The door bell rang, "Ding-dong . . . Ding-dong."
get that, honey?"
The man at the door stood tall and round, well dressed in a suit, but no tie. "Hi Mary,
"Hi Nickie, I'm glad you're here. I'm worried about him. He won't eat and he hasn't
slept in two
"I'll talk to him, don't worry, it's not good for your health," he said in
a smooth reassuring voice.
"Oh, come in please." She looked tired, He thought.
She turned to the couch
and sat down, gesturing for him to sit in the recliner. "Good! You
remembered the computer paper," she said.
"He's been on edge. I can't take much more of this."
Ron greeted his guest with a firm handshake. "What's
"I've been meaning to ask you that." The professional tone was evident.
you may be my therapist--"
Nickie raised his hand, "Hey, I'm your friend first. I care. Okay?" His tone
had clearly changed.
"Besides this makes twenty-one reams of paper you owe me. What are you up to?"
can't tell you. I can't tell anyone!"
"Okay," Nickie softly stroked his full black beard.
It's not OK! He's crazy I tell you!" Nickie could hear the edge of panic in Mary's voice.
"Calm down, both
of you . . . Now, Ron, If you don't want to talk about it today, I can come back
The only sound was the printer humming away in his room.
"It's Communergynics, " he finally blurted out.
His fingers trembled with excitement as he ran
them through his bushy hair.
"Communication energy; the
study of." They both chimed in unison. They'd heard it hundreds of
times. It was his favorite subject.
"It helped me once," Mary answered, her voice now relaxed.
"It works!" Ron
"What do you mean, it--" The printer's humming stopped and a sharp tone interrupted from the
"Oh no, it's out of paper! I've got to get some on the printer right away," he stammered.
"Ron, the program will hold it's progress until you initiate the printer again," Nickie said with a
"Oh yeah, I forgot," he laughed. "Would you like some coffee? You know I'm always forgetting."
"And your manners," Mary added.
"Oh, cream or sugar?"
"Not since I was diagnosed
Diabetic," Nickie said.
"Oh yeah, I forgot, C.R.A. ya know."
"Can't Remember Anything."
Replied Nickie with a chuckle.
Ron poured their coffee. "Come see what I'm up to."
As they entered
the bedroom, they had to step over stacks and stacks of computer paper on the
floor. Dozens of reams littered the entire
"Just move those books off the chair and have a seat," Ron pointed to the reams of paper. "Put
them on the bed."
"My God, where did you get the money for all this paper?" Nickie asked, as
he moved them.
"I paid the rent and--No, don't put your coffee there; put it on the night stand. I never put drinks
near the computer--and spent the rest on these," he explained.
"Good God! It's Planet of the Apes
. . . and Martian Chronicles," Nickie recoiled. "Why did you
"I didn't . .
. That's Dune and Metropolis is over there somewhere--I've got all the classics--It's the
computer," he mused.
"There, now she'll roll." He had inserted the next ream of paper and it was ready to go. With a
smile, he hit the button. As the printer began its humming, he spoke again, "Now, what
did you say?"
Nickie sat looking around the room with his hands in the air.
"Not why, but how?" Ron laughed.
do you mean?"
"Communergynics. It works!" Ron said, smartly. "I understand it, but no one else
didn't believe me. Not even you. I showed everybody the vectors. You know, emotions
"So, I put it all into the computer," he stated simply. "Then, I put all the
stuff, which I had
learned in my writing classes in too."
"Okay, I created a library
of C functions for an A.I. program that would use Communergynics
and my writing skills. I also threw in a self-programming
dictionary and thesaurus, and an A.I.
"Yeah, A.I.--Artificial Intelligence." Nickie
began to follow.
"So I gave it input." Ron said. "I'd created a menu setup, the clock, both of them
and entered one book."
"So, what's wrong with that?"
"No, you don't
understand," he was shaking. "I gave it Metropolis! I could have given it
any-y-thing," Ron stuttered.
"The list could have started any-y-where."
"The list I gave it to prime
the memory," Ron said.
"Okay, so why is your computer printing all the classics?"
it works!" Ron said confidently.
"Do you boys want something to eat?" Mary was standing in the doorway.
"Not now damn it!"
"Honey, you have to eat something sometime," she pleaded. "I'll
fix you whatever you want."
"Okay, I want a hamburger."
"How about peanut-butter sandwiches?"
"OK!" she snapped, and addressed Nickie, "Do you want one?"
"More..., coffee?" she asked.
"Certainly, thank you Mary!" Nickie responded.
And as she left purposefully, he turned to Ron and asked, "So, what do you mean, 'it works'?"
I didn't tell it the words to the books. It's figuring them out by itself!"
"A book at a time?" Nickie
"Yeah." Now we're getting somewhere, Ron thought.
"In what order?"
he spat. Then out loud, "Now we're cooking with gas."
"What book are you on now?" Nickie mused.
"The next one is the wild card."
"Oh I didn't tell you," he mumbled.
"The program needed a wild card to boot properly. So, I
thought of Scott Huffman."
"An old friend I had . . . he went the way of the other cookie."
see, the first time I took Mary out to dinner, when we met, I got two fortune cookies. One
said, 'You're missing a
dear friend. Take heart.' Anyway . . . I remembered him say he had a book
idea about a therapist who went crazy . .
he called it, 'Both sides of the Glass'."
"So, that is what it's writing now?" Nickie was truly amazed.
"So, did he ever write it?"
"Come on now, the idea of a wild card is to choose something . . ."
"That's new!" Nickie finished.
Suddenly the printer stopped. As they turned
to the computer, Mary walked in with the coffee.
"Where do you want this? Where--?"
Fed up she set the cups down and turning to leave snapped back, "Damn you!"
to respond. As he did he knocked the coffee onto the computer keyboard. "Shit!" But
it was too late.
witch, you," he screamed. "You ruined it all. You devil maiden!"
"Ronald," Nickie cautioned.
"But she is a devil . . . She's been planning this all along."
think you're losing it, Ron."
"I know. I've already lost it!" He stammered. "I'll have to reboot
it all over."
"That's not what I meant," mused Nickie. "When was the last time you got any sleep?"
"Counting today?" Ron asked. "I don't know, I can't remember . . .I'm sorry, Nickie. I'm sorry."
"Look Ron, take your Meds and get some shut-eye. You need some REM time," Nickie advised.
come back tomorrow, okay?"
"Yeah, It's hopeless," he groped. "My keyboard is ruined."
spoke softly to Mary in the living room before he left, but to Ron it sounded miles away.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry,"
he whispered over and over. Then he slept.
* * *"Afternoon, sleepy head."
"Oh, hi Nickie."
Ron's eyes were full of sleep as he leaned up in bed.
"I think you've got a real novel here," Nickie said
as he thumbed through the pages. "I have
something for you."
Ron sprang from the bed when he saw the
keyboard. "Where did you get it--how--I mean?"
"I borrowed it from work," Nickie chimed.
didn't," Ron laughed.
"I'm the boss, aren't I?" Nickie mused. "Well, let's try it!"
hooked up the keyboard and turned the computer on. The standard boot-up began to take.
"You can start over, can't
"Just let me see . . . " Ron's eyes darted across the keys and screen. "I don't want to have
through all that hell again."
"But it is worth it!"
Ron clicked the mouse and then
again and a directory map appeared on the screen. "Yes!" He
shouted. "I knew it!"
"The first rule of A.I. is to put a memory saver in your batch files."
"What does that mean?"
"It means, Mr. Freud, that we can reboot the program where we left off!"
great . . . But don't get cocky," Nickie chided.
Ron struck a couple of keys and then paused.
"If I can just remember the right key strokes . . . Yes!" Ron exclaimed.
started to boot. Several lines flashed by on the screen, then suddenly it cleared and
the statement '1 or 2?' appeared
at the top of the screen.
"1 or 2? What is that?" Nickie asked.
"It's asking if we want 'auto
boot' or 'author's menu'."
"What's the difference?"
"To let it write an original story or
let us give it input of our choice," Ron responded.
"Yeah!" Ron agreed.
"Now we'll see what she's made of!"
The screen flashed and on came the menu.
"I don't know?" Nickie replied. "What's our choice?"
"Ten years from now, next year,
whatever we want."
"You mean it can read . . . err I mean write the future?" Nickie asked. "That's
"That's the idea, friend, it'd be no fun if the play ground was safe" he responded. "It'll
story that is going to be written! It doesn't help to go backwards. After all it's technological
"Okay, how about today!"
"Now it is!" He concurred. "And . . . characters and title!
. . . how about Nickie and me in
'Progress'." He typed it in. "Now . . . Enter!"
began to hum immediately.
"Uh oh...," Ron gazed.
"What? Oh the title's wrong!"
must have forgotten the semicolon."
"With computers, syntax is everything."
"What are you
worried about? You got top billing."
"We're going to be rich, Ron," Nickie mused.
going to be rich. You're just going to get all the money you loaned me back . . . uh,
you're right, we're going to
"Yes, my friend."
"It's the other cookie!"
other fortune cookie! It said, 'My friends would be friends for life.'"
"Coffee anyone?" It was Mary
and she'd been listening all along.
Suddenly the printer stopped.
"He's a Developer!" Nickie said.
"Yes, you're both right, but best of all I'm
not alone, I have two good friends with me!" Ron said
with a smile, as he took the story from the printer.
you'll have to come into the front room if you want your coffee," she grinned.
"I love you, honey, I do!"
he said with a kiss, while wrapping both arms around her thin figure
giving her a big hug.
*SAYS* HAH HAH HA HA HAU HAU HA HA HA HAHAHAHA HAH HA HA HAH
MARY *SAYS* HEY HOW'D YOU DO THAT?
RON *SAYS* THAT'S
MARY *SAYS* YOU'VE GOT A LICENSE?
RON *SAYS* I DO AND YOU DO TOO
MARY *SAYS* I DO
*THINKS* WHO WRITES THIS STUFF? HA HA