Friday, February 18, 2011

The Cold, Dark Night

 Ok, so this is a story I submitted for a writing contest. The reason I did it was to get some practice and to challenge myself. I held off publishing it here because part of the rules was for the story to not be published but since I figured I don't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning I  would submit it to my wonderful readers (all 7 of you). The rules were that is had to be 600 words or less and be able to be read in 180 seconds (you can guess the contest). There were also some other parameters but I'll just let the story stand for itself. Enjoy!

Rumilo Salvetore, AKA “Fat Rummy”, the notorious gangster, sat at the head of the long table in the dimly lit restaurant flanked by ten of his henchmen. The restaurant was empty except for them, a busboy, the maitre d' and Sylvia, Fat Rummy's beautiful, raven haired wife.

Sylvia sat at the end of the table opposite of Fat Rummy. She sat with her elbows on the table staring sadly at her wine glass.

Fat Rummy took a swig from his glass of wine and began to tell one of his terrible jokes. Sylvia despised him and his jokes.

“A priest and a rabbi walk into a bar,” he began. His henchmen leaned in. Sylvia rolled her eyes and sighed and feeling hopeless until she saw the tall man in the dark suit enter the restaurant through the front door.

“And the bartender says, 'You could use a drink', So the priest says...'” , Fat Rummy continued. The henchmen were completely engrossed in the tale.

As Fat Rummy continued the tall man approached the maitre d' who was standing at his podium near the entrance to the restaurant examining the reservation book. He leaned over to the maitre d', whispered into his ear and handed him a folded bill. The maitre d' ceremoniously took the bill, smiled graciously, closed the reservation book, picked up his coat and walked out the front door.

Sylvia could feel the rush of excitement in her chest, her eyes wide as she watched the tall man make is way across the room. He was her ticket to freedom, her chance for a new life. Play it cool Sylvia, she thought. She has to act shocked when it happens, scared, sad. She will have to play the grieving widow. This she can do.

“Then the priest says, 'What poodle?...'” The anticipation was so intense that they didn't even notice the tall man in the restaurant making his way to the busboy, handing him a folded bill and nodding towards the door. The plan was going just as Sylvia imagined it. In a few minutes she would be rid this fat oaf and his henchmen.

Fat Rummy reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a cigar, chewed off the end and spit it onto his empty plate sitting in front of him as was tradition before delivering his punchlines.

“And the rabbi says, 'I know one thing, that sure ain't kosher!'”

The henchmen exploded with laughter, slamming their hands on the table. Sylvia didn't seem to notice. Her whole body stiffened as the tall man, almost out of nowhere, was now standing right next to Fat Rummy's chair.

Fat Rummy searched through his pockets for a lighter ignoring the tall man standing next to him that had reached inside his coat and pulled out a metal object and held it next to Fat Rummy's face.


The tall man lit Fat Rummy's cigar.

“Mr. Bortelli!” Fat Rummy said, “Where have you been? You missed my joke! You know Sylvia right?”, He motioned towards his Sylvia who was in utter shock. She shook and her eyes filled with tears.

“Sylvia darling, Mr. Bortelli will be escorting you home this evening.”. Fat Rummy's henchmen all turned and looked at Sylvia who was now crying. They knew. They all knew.

The tall man reached under Sylvia's arm and escorted her out of the restaurant. As he did Sylvia suddenly felt relieved that it would all be over soon as she was led into the cold, dark night.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Story From My Past #1: How I Learned to Play Yahoo! Hearts

This is a series of stories that I tell people all the time but have never put down in writing until now.

My last semester in college I had a cushy job working as a UNIX computer operator that basically let me just do my homework and watch T.V. for 9 hours a day. The only problem with the job was that it was an hour drive from my house one-way. I was finishing up college and I knew I wouldn't want to move to this area so I had to keep my options open. That was when I got the call from Brian, a friend of mine that I went to college with.

At that time, Brian took  up a job working for the county of Riverside at the Office of Education  managing their computer systems. He really liked working with me on our senior project and we both shared a similar twisted sense of humor. He offered me a little extra money and that was enough to send me packing.

It was my first day and Brian, my new boss and friend, set me up to be trained by Ron. Until I began working there, Ron was affectionately known as the "new guy". Just to give you a little perspective on what I was up against,  Ron was the last guy they hired to work in the information systems department. By comparison to the other people working there he was still just a rookie. He had only been working there for 10 years.

So here I am, exactly half the age of the "new guy" (it is awkward when your coworkers ask you if you went to high school with their daughters) learning the ropes of the information system department's HP-UX server. After a long period of time (approximately 30 seconds) I figured out that Ron knew very little about HP-UX (and computer systems in general).

Ron began by telling me about his daily tasks. He had a cheat sheet that he wrote up so that it would be easy for me to learn and take over his mundane work while he pursued more fruitful endeavors (like playing Yahoo! Hearts).

Every half-hour, Ron had to go to a terminal and enter in a set of commands at the HP-UX command line. This was a simple enough task but the commands were pretty intricate and, once a command was completed, Ron had to write the results down in a "command results log" along with the time and date the command was executed. The commands didn't take very long to run and if there was an error Ron was instructed to just make a note in the log and send the manager an email.

After observing Ron do his routine every half hour (which took about 20 minutes to complete because he had to write out all of the results from the command) I had to ask, what seemed to me, to be an obvious question: Why not write a shell script?

I might as well been speaking Chinese because Ron, who had been working with this very system for only 10 years (and me for about an hour), had no clue what I was talking about. I explained that a shell script  was somewhat like a movie script, but instead of telling actors what to do the script told the computer what to do.

Ron was flabbergasted! This was the most amazing thing he has ever heard! He said, "So all I have to do is run this script every half-hour and write the results in the log".

I said, "Well we can instruct the script to write the results to a file that you can print out at the end of the day. And you don't have to run it every half-hour yourself. You can set up the script in the cron and it will run the script automatically. In fact, we can also set up another script in the cron to print out the results at the end of the day. We can also write into the script to email the manager when an error happens during processing".

It took me about one hour to write and implement the script. Once the script was implemented, it ran like a charm and the mundane part of Ron's job was but a memory.

I said to Ron, "OK, that's done. What else do you do during the day?"

Ron said with a shrug, "Nothing."

"Well then what do you want to do?"

And that is how I learned to play Yahoo! Hearts.