“Life in a box”
Story Idea and Concept by Gertrude “Trudy” May Faulkner,
Story written by David Stegmaier,
based upon my Pops , Kent “Bucky” Faulkner
I always dread that call. The one where you are asked to pick up the personal items of someone you love. It is never easy. This was a plastic box, containing among other things, a journal. What is written in the journal tells a story. How it is written, the changes in the writing, the changes in the pens, the “voice” of what is written, tells another. From this journal and from other testimonials comes the following story.
. . .
I startle from my troubled sleep, disturbing and conflicting images fleeing from my consciousness. I experience a moment of confusion until I see my box. It is on the little sliding aluminum table that seems to be in every hospital room. Next to my box is my cell phone and the remote control.
It is not a large box. It is of transparent plastic so that I can see it holds my possessions. I reach out with my right hand to touch the box, comforted in its proximity. I pat it gently with my fingers. It is the only certainty I have these days. Next to my box is my phone and the remote control that goes with this room and is used to control this Television. Every time I move to a new room I always make sure that it is at hand, and I ask for instructions on how to use it. Right now it is next to my box and that is good.
I struggle to sit up better, aided by the motors that lift the back up on this bed. My wife is there in the room and she brings me some water and a small basin, and a washcloth. I pull the table in closer and I open my box carefully. I lay out some of the items, one at a time, onto the tray: A brush, comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, Carmex, lotion, a football squeeze, and one of the elastic bands. The other elastic band I leave in the box underneath the two small handtowels still in the box. I line them up on the tray, a nice neat little row. I take a drink of water before I start the process of brushing my teeth. It was easier when I could use a sink but I have it down to a routine now. Rinse my toothbrush by pouring water from my water glass, the basin underneath to catch the falling water. I use the water sparingly as I don’t want to send my wife back multiple times to get more. I put some toothpaste on my brush and I brush my teeth, being careful to lean over the basin and using it to spit. I rinse with some water and spit that into the basin. My mouth feels better and I take another drink of the water. I rinse the toothbrush again and then carefully place the toothbrush and toothpaste back in line on the table with my other possessions. The washcloth I use to wash my face and around my neck and that feels very refreshing. I fold that twice before putting it next to the used basin so they can be taken away. Next in line is my brush and I pick that up. I brush my hair straight back. I do not part it like I used to. I brush it straight back. My grey hair, growing longer now, being brushed methodically, is part of my daily routine. My wife says that she likes how my hair looks.
She also says that she is going to put that into a pony-tail. I smile a little at that, thinking that is a race against time. Will I still be around for my hair to grow that long?
My body, ravaged by the modern disease known as Diabetes, is failing. A bodies organs, bathed in excessively high blood sugar levels for many years, deteriorate. The exact mechanism behind this is unknown. What is known is that I am 70 years old, have had Type 2 Diabetes for decades. I have had a heart attack with a quadruple bypass surgery years ago, I have been on Dialysis for three years, and I have spent the majority of the last three months in the hospital. During these last couple of months I have had plastic piping replacing blood vessels in one of my legs. The other leg could benefit from such a procedure but the doctors don’t think I could make it through the surgery. A couple of infections after the surgery and other complications have me bedridden with one of my legs dying and the other without viable strength. My body’s organs and circulatory system are unable to sustain me.
The “Doctors” say I will walk out of here. I don’t believe them. With much effort I was able to stand for about an entire minute yesterday, sweat popping out from the exertion. I did my absolute best, concentrating willfully, and all I got was about a minute. Atrophy of my leg muscles has reached that point. I don’t know how it could possibly be that I would be walking out of here. I can’t control my own legs, my body failing day by day. Or have I failed my body? Sometimes that line is wide, gray and fuzzy.
I have lost so much control over my life. The only thing keeping me going is routine, and the only routine thing I have control of is in my box.
The next item, from my box, is the lotion that I use to put on my hands and my feet. I take particular care of my feet as they are so dry. The ulcer on the top of my big toe of my right foot is looking better than it used to, the lotion is helping. One of my family is waiting with the pillow for when I am done with the lotion. The pillow is placed precisely under both legs so that the heels of my feet just hang on the other side of the pillow. This has been found to be the best possible way to elevate my legs slightly while reducing the pain in my feet.
The elastic band is used to strengthen my arms and I put some Carmex on my slightly chapped lips before I start the workout portion of my routine. I can’t get around like I want to, so I work on my upper body strength. My family helps where they can but they sure can’t lift me from place to place. I must be stronger where I can.
The workout leaves me slightly sweaty and I wonder if that is because it is warm in the room or just from the workout. I have hot and cold spells so there is no telling what the temperature might be in the room on any given day. I might feel like I’m freezing and my visitors are sweating from being in the room.
I have finished my morning routine. I have taken care of myself as much as I can and I carefully put my organized possessions back into the box, except for the Football Squeeze that I like to use as I watch TV.
The colored swirls of the TV are not actually watched but I listen to the programs and sometimes enjoy the kaleidoscope of colors. I have to memorize where the buttons are on the TV remote as I cannot read them and sometimes I hit the wrong button and that is sometimes very frustrating. I can’t afford too much of that. I squeeze the Football. The abyss of anger and helplessness waits for the smallest slip.
I try and put on my best face. I remember times that I failed at this. That did not end well. I put on my best face. I have my phone nearby and there is one of my family nearby almost always. I also have a large window that lets me see outside. I am on the first floor so I can see the traffic from the nearby road. I call it my picture window. The artist must have been lacking in some technique because the picture is always blurry. Or my eyes are going too. I sometimes have trouble with the phone, all I can do is get the last person called and ask them to send a message to the one I wanted to speak to. It is hard.
I drift off for a moment and remember the time when I was the “Go To” engineer working at Clark County Sanitation District. I had started back when a slide rule was used and precision drafting and calligraphic lettering was a standard. Time had changed since I had started but it became the standard among the Engineering firms that, when you needed something done, and done right, to ask Bucky. That would be me. That was before I retired, after 42 years (plus 3 years as a consultant), a decade ago. They still had to hire two engineers to take my place. That seemed so long ago that I speak of it in the third person. So far, those memories, from today, and I drift on, not quite seeing the room around me and my picture window. A twinge, a spasm, brings me back to my room.
My body is uncomfortable to be in. The pains, here and there, and always THERE, are a constant unwelcome companion. It is not just the physical pain, it is also the emotional trauma that I must deal with. The most difficult part to deal with is not my own but rather how will my wife be without me. It is only her that I live for now. Were it up to me I’d have long since gone. My life is over but how can I leave her?
My wife, my family, and my friends, are a godsend, as they have helped me make it to today: Brandy, Cindy, Debbie, Jesse, Darrell, David, and all the rest – children and grandchildren, and my wife, Trudy, most of all. It is good to see them. I wish they did not have to see me in this way. I love them all. I try to look my best and now I wait for the nurse.
The nurse comes in, always a little fussy; making sure everything is alright as I hasten to get my journal from my box. I like to keep track of things and I write in my book what meds and when they are taken. It is so hard to keep proper track of things these days. The nurse brings a little cup with all the meds I am taking. There is medicine for high blood pressure, gout, and the pain meds. I write down in the book what is brought. Getting the meds just right has been quite the rollercoaster ride. Too much pain meds and I would lose entire days, too little pain meds and the days would last an eternity. The high blood pressure meds can add their own little spice to life. I would be working out and have my blood pressure drop just a little too low. I faint. Or I just get dizzy and can’t remain upright. Either way there is a rush to get me lying down with my feet elevated so the blood can return to my heart in the low pressure system. So you can see that getting those meds just right, well, let’s just say it has been trial and error. Gout can be quite painful on the feet and I take those meds twice a day. The nurse will be in several times a day and twice that would include the gout medication. I write all this down. I have to write rather large now as it is getting more difficult to see. Finding the pens sometimes has been one of my trials as it is so important to leave something. I write other things in those journals; Personal things. It can be very frustrating to have something I need to write down, now, as I remember them and not be able to find a pen. Oftentimes, sometimes too late for the particular thought I wanted to write down, the pens are found among the blankets on my bed. This can be one of those times it is a bit difficult to put on a good face.
It is time again for me to get my things out of my box and line them up: toothbrush, toothpaste, brush and comb, lotion, Carmex, elastic band, and Football squeeze, all lined up neatly on the tray. I brush my teeth, I brush my hair, and then I comb my beard. You know what happens next.
When I am finished I carefully put my life back in the box.
10 November 2014
The frequencies were alive. Each segment using various modulations and encoding, sometimes encrypted, sometimes not. Some tightly beamed information required holographic interpolation of molecular vibrations which then allowed recreation of the original signal.
Bob was rapidly ingesting all these signals on the ships neural net. Bob was an artificially created intelligence whose capacity for correlating signals was unrivaled. He was created for this job of data gathering. Signals, data gathering, work, work, work.
There was however one strange use of signals that was apparently used for pleasure. A modulated, varying audio signal, patterns repeated, often staying within a few specific frequencies. It was known as music.
Music fascinated Bob, he had never heard of such a thing. Bob’s job called for discretion but his fascination required additional investigation, or so he reasoned. He needed a location where the bizarre was common place. He decided on New Orleans.
Bob, Bio-Aware Observation Being, was quite adaptable in shape. He could create any number of extrusions, model shaping, movement programming, sensory development, etc. He could make himself a human, in appearance at least. He would have to increase his density tremendously to get down in size to a “Human” but as long as he did not bump into too many other objects it should pass cursory inspection. Duplicating clothing might be an issue as textiles was not something that was ever planned for. Creating gold coins was easily done however. Bob snuck down into a nudist colony with a box of gold coins.
Bob had miscalculated. It seemed that everybody knew everybody else in the “Nudist” colony. He had, though, been able to obtain some coverings for one of the gold coins. Not knowing what to do with the rest of the 199 gold coins he ate them.
It was not exactly “eating” in the human sense, Bob did not do this. But observably he was seen to open his mouth and pour down the contents of the box. The drunk that saw that crossed himself, muttering, and went around the corner and urinated on the building. He was not to ever drink again.
Bob now had practice as a human, had clothing and was wandering around in the “Mardi Gras” festival. Bob had originally modeled himself as a male of the species but apparently there was a ritual that included males giving females linked beaded objects that they wore. It apparently consisted of the females showing off the front of their torso by pulling up or moving aside their clothing. Some had even gone so far as to discard entirely the upper garments. Bob considered.
Bob found an isolated area and made a few changes. Longer hair, changes in shape and texture, absorption of one extrusion and extension of two others. Bob became Bobette.
Bobette now had 30 strands of Mardi Gras Beads of various designs and lengths hung around her neck. There was a certain fascination at the ritual that seemed to cause such excitement in the males but is was not the reason for the excursion. A brief moment in an alley and Bobette again became Bob.
There apparently was some kind of issue with going down alleys. At least that is what the apparent leader of the small group of people was saying. Not interesting to Bob, he ignored them. A moments contemplation of what he had learned thus far.
After hurling various solid, electric, and chemical items, which had absolutely no effect on Bob, but which did cause several holes in the clothing, and it started smoldering in two places. This was not optimal and now “Bob” asked what is it they wanted?
A demand for all his money seemed unreasonable but Bob thought one coin was not out of bounds. He reached in with an arm and grabbed out one of the coins. He only had to extend his arm a little to reach the internal repository of coins via his mouth. Retrieving the coin he moved to give it to the group but they must have had an urgent meeting as they were all stumbling over each other to leave. A few seconds and they were all gone except for one poor fellow that had stumbled and fallen. Looking pale and staring at Bob, his mouth was working like a fish out of water. Bob shrugged, flipped the coin onto the supine form and left the alley.
The many modalities evinced by the street musicians in New Orleans in the creation of music was phenomenal. Bob went from one group of musicians to the next marveling at the apparent skill and dexterity required. At each location he left one of the gold coins. The incorporation of singing into the music by some of the musicians allowed Bob to get a basic understanding of Vocal Music Production. The particular resonances enjoyed by some of the performers certainly seemed to increase the number of coins and bills that went into the “Hat”. Sometimes that “Hat” was actually a bowl or even an open guitar case. Bob enjoyed the flipping of coins into the receptacles, multivariate equations flashing through his consciousness briefly before the coin hit precisely the predicted location.
Bob understood there was a deficiency of practical math used by “Humans” in their everyday life. It made somewhat incomprehensible the ability of several musicians and vocal artists to create such intricately detailed compositions. The precise wave formations, reinforcing and attenuating, combinations mathematically improbable, seemingly tripping easily from master musicians made Bob feel something. It was not that he could not sense almost any input. His entire being was created for the sole purpose of observation. Rather it was in internal stirring, not resonance exactly, as the insides of Bob were not subject to that, safeguards were in place that made him impervious to most energies. It was an internal stirring, or feeling that came about as a reaction to the music. He rather enjoyed the feeling.
Having spent nearly all his coins and the sun was just coming over the horizon as shown by the lightening sky, Bob considered his next actions. He did not want to go back to his ship just yet.
He was just off the beaten path by a couple of streets and he scanned the Homes nearby. He noticed one that had several guitars and other instruments in one room. And, no one was home… If there was ever an opportunity to try for himself, this was it!
The second story balcony was open so Bob hopped up there. There was only a token groan from the structure as it accepted his weight. He walked into the room. Bonanza! Eureka! Hallelujah! How do you say your journey has ended, that you have finally found your goal? If Bob had the reference the phrase “Kid in a candy store” would have made sense. Bob went to the middle of the room to admire all before he suddenly quadrupled in size and additional appendages sprouted, reaching for and bringing in all 8 guitars. There commenced a momentary cacophony of sound as each instrument was tested for tonality and resonance. Bob had plenty of capability to give each one his full attention. His mental processes were not subject to “normal” comparisons. Quantum computing, envisioned on the forefront of human capabilities, was out paced millennia ago by his makers.
Tuned and ready to go the four Electric, 2 Acoustic and two Bass Guitars were each supported by their own pair of arms. A slow riff and the well known song starts, the vocals kick in, then a chorus, bass and guitars all playing in perfect synchronization. The words drift outside … “There is a House in New Orleans… they call the rising sun…”
Sam nods appreciatively at the tight integration of the band and the pure vocals as he rounds the corner on his way home. With a start he realizes that it is coming from his balcony! Not even stopping to dial 911 he runs around to the front of his building so he can get to his condo on the second floor. Even in his distraction he appreciates the artistic ability of the intruders. Key in the door he pauses for just a moment, now considering that there had to be at least six musicians inside. Now would be a good time to call 911! He steps back from the door to make the call as the last of the notes from the stellar performance fades away and then. Silence.
Sam had lived in this condo for many years, even walking around made noise. Sam tilts his head, intent on listening, before rushing forward with his key to open the door.
A quick survey of the inside reveals that there is nobody there. The only indication of any violation was in the music room. Each Guitar was off the wall. All eight were perfectly balanced against each other in the center of the room. On each guitar was a particularly large gold coin. Sam grabbed one of the coints and did a careful examination of the rest of the house before coming back to the music room. He glanced down incredulous at the coin, raising his gaze to take in the other seven coins. A smile creeps in and won’t leave his face as he shakes his head before closing the balcony door.
Bob reporting sirs, Yes Sir. Intelligent Life. Yes Sir. Recommend letting them develop on their own. No sir, I do not recommend Imperial Takeover. No sir. Yes Sir. See you in 10 years. Thank you sir, I will be glad to get back home. No disrespect sir, but have you ever heard of “Music”? No. Well yes sir, I will be glad to show you.