The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 9:45 am Thursday, July 15, 2021

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Windows 25, Satire

By Marie Craig

The date was Jan. 1, 2025, and I had been invited to attend this reunion of previous programmers who had aged out of Microsoft. I had enjoyed some interesting days as a reporter for the local newspaper in Redmond, Wash. But this event and the resulting articles and publicity had been a marvelous boost to my career and talent.

This was a casual event — just old duffers sitting around remembering their days in developing computer programs that would form the basis of study for almost every person in the nation. I refused the alcoholic drinks because I wanted to be sharp in my listening and remembering of this occasion. However, I was the only one who played sober.

Once the drinks hit bottom on empty stomachs, the men began to reminisce. Story topped story as they recalled the fun they’d had hoodwinking the serious computer users.

“Remember the time when we changed all the appearances on the screens for the next version? I laugh every time I think of all the upset people. I guess nobody can take a joke anymore. I know we had to work extra hard to scramble up the directory where their files were stored. Why, we couldn’t keep the term File Manager. That’s too obvious. Just because you manage files there, that’s a dumb term. So, thinking of Daniel Boone, we renamed it Explorer.”

The other men held their sides laughing as they listened to this soliloquy. Another man said, “My favorite memory was when we changed our job descriptions from programming to coding. I didn’t figure anybody would go along with that, but the next thing we knew the masses were humbly following along talking about coding.”

The next man said, “My favorite memory of the whole time I worked there was when we were so successful hiding people’s files when Windows 10 came out. You could almost hear the screams coast to coast. Best Buy’s Geek Squad flourished as our victims paid any amount of money just to be able to locate their dumb files they should have deleted 20 years ago.”

Another burst of laughter shook the windows in the room. The men enjoyed the evening to the max, and I couldn’t wait to get to my computer and write about the conversations that I had suspected were true many years before. What a break I had to advance in my career.

Red Dirt Farm

By Gaye Hoots

This is a story a friend told me about his childhood. He and nine siblings grew up on a red clay farm in South Carolina, where his family tried to eke a living from the soil. He told me numerous stories about growing up there. Mike’s oldest memory was from 75 years ago.

The family did not have indoor plumbing but had a spigot on the back porch. His father spent 12 hours a day, seven days a week, attempting to grow enough food to feed the family of 12. The younger kids played in the yard, while the older ones came in from helping the father in the fields. When an automobile pulled into their yard, a rare sight on their farm, immediately it caught everyone’s attention. Two men in suits got out of the car and started toward the back porch. Mike stepped near the side of the porch to hear what they had to say. Even to a 5-year-old, this did not bode well.

Mike’s father was sitting in a chair near the top of the steps, soaking his feet in a tub of water. He had his overall pants legs rolled up as he washed the red dust off his feet and legs. He did not appear to see the men until they spoke.

“Mr. Foster, we are from the IRS and have a little business to discuss with you. When you filed your taxes last year, you did not include the sale of any lumber. Do you remember selling a parcel of timber in May of last year,” he asked.

Mike’s dad continued the foot wash and replied, “Do you see the yard full of kids here? I work this farm 12 hours a day, seven days a week, trying to put food on the table for them. I can’t tell you what I did last week, much less last year.”

“Well, think hard because failure to pay the tax on it could lead to time in jail for you,” he countered.

Mike was picturing what would happen if his father went to jail and starting to worry. He drew closer to be sure he heard the outcome of the conversation.

“You do what you have to do. I do what I have to do to feed these kids so they don’t go on the welfare rolls. I could use the rest if it comes to that, jail is a lot easier than what I do here, so if the government wants to put me in jail and feed my kids, they can. There is nothing I can do about it. Good evening to you both,” and he dried his feet and stepped through the screen door.

The men looked at each other, turned down the steps, and drove away, never to be heard from again.

“My dad had no education at all, but he was no fool,” Mike told me.

The Summer of the Pies, Part II:

Lessons Learned

By Julie Terry Cartner

“You would think the filling is the most important part of a pie,” Mom told me as she guided my hands through the crust making process, “and though most people might agree, true pastry chefs know it’s the crust that bakers judge, not the filling.  Fillings are generally easy; crusts are where you see true artistry.” I wanted to disagree. I loved the tart and sweet mixture of strawberry rhubarb or lemon meringue, or the creamy sweetness of chocolate or coconut custard. But I had learned early in life it was best not to disagree with my mother.

As she guided me through the steps, mixing the dry ingredients, adding the shortening, blending it in, then slowly, carefully adding ice water, tablespoon by tablespoon until the consistency was just right, she taught me, not only about pies but about life. Being Mom, she couldn’t help integrating a life lesson along with the pie lesson. “Patience. There’s an artistry to pie crusts. You can’t rush the process or you’ll be unhappy with the results. An overprocessed crust will not be light and flaky. Just like anything worthwhile, if you take your time and focus on the details, you will always be happier with the results.”

When the dough was ready, we divided it in half. Then Mom taught me how to roll out the crust and place it, gently, in the pan. Of course, being my first attempt, there were some holes and tears, one side was too long and one too short. Mom taught me how to take the extra dough from one side and patch the problem areas, then seal the edges with a flour covered fork. As we cut off excess dough and patched the weak places, the life-lessons continued. “Mistakes are just mistakes. They can often be corrected in a way that makes the crust stronger than it was before, just like life; the lessons we learn from our mistakes often make us stronger.

We finished the crust and poured in the strawberry rhubarb filling. Strawberries are sweet, rhubarb is bitter, but the combination, with a little sugar added, is a culinary delight.  Like life, we take the good with the bad, the strong with the week, the bitter with the sweet. How nice the sweet times are, but don’t we appreciate them more because of the bitter times?

Finally, we rolled out the top crust, placed it on the pie, sealed the edges and cut slits in the top to let the steam out. And, with that, what I assumed would be my final lesson of the day:  “The steam needs a way to escape, or the pie crust will rupture,” Mom told me. “You’ll lose part of your filling and make a terrible mess.” As I cut slits in the crust according to Mom’s directions, she added, “You tend to hold things in and let them build up. Then something happens and you fall apart. Like the pie crust, you need to create paths to let things go. You’re my quiet daughter. If you can’t talk things out, find another way.” Thankfully, in sports, writing, and the arts, I did find my escape valve.

Placing the pie in the oven and setting the timer, I turned to Mom with a thank you and started to head out of the kitchen. “Hold on, Jule, you’re not finished until the kitchen is clean. Don’t ever expect someone else to clean up your messes.” I was wrong, there had been one more lesson to be learned that day.

So, I cleaned the kitchen, and not much later, I pulled a bubbling strawberry-rhubarb pie out of the oven. I might not have been perfect, but it was perfectly good. My dad, always the diplomat, wanting to praise me but not insult my mother, told me it was the best pie he’d had that day.

RWG Literary Corner

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