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first published in the Houston Literary Review

 

“Good morning, Dash Computers.”

“Hello, this is Jane Ann Titmouse in Alamo Heights, Texas and—”

“Hold please.”

“Good morning, Dash Computers.”

“Yes, this is Jane Ann Titmouse again and—”

“One moment please.”

“Dash Computers.”

“This is Jane Ann Titmouse and my computer won’t work!”

“Hold please.”

“Central Processing.”

“Yes, this is Jane Ann Titmouse in Alamo Heights, Texas, and I recently purchased one of your computers and I can’t get it to work now.”

“I’m terribly sorry, Ms. Titmouse, but your call has been misdirected. Hold please.”

“Marketing.”

“This is Jane Ann Titmouse and you better not transfer me!”

“Yes, ma’am. What may I do for you?”

“The computer you sold me won’t work.”

“Yes, ma’am, one moment.”

“Don’t you—”

“Good morning, Executive Suites. How may I direct your call?”

“This is Jane Ann Titmouse in Alamo Heights, Texas, and I got rights, and you better not transfer me.”

“Yes, Ms. Titmouse. What may we do for you today?”

“Fix my computer!”

“Ma’am?”

“My new computer won’t work.”

“Yes, ma’am, I understand. Now if you will just bear with me a moment, I’m going to put you in touch with Ms. Alice Johnson in our Public Relations Department. I’m confident she can assist you with your problem.”

“Don’t you dare trans—“

“Dash Public Relations…hello?…hello?’

“Is this Alice Johnson?”

“No, I’m sorry, this is Tilly Felston. Alice is on break right now.” May I transfer you to her voice mail?”

“No, no, you cannot, I want help now!”

“Uh, how may I help you, Ms….?”

“Jane Ann Titmouse from Alamo Heights, Texas, and you can tell me how to make this damn computer work!”

“Why, yes, Ms. Titmouse. I’ll be glad to help you.”

“You will?”

“Yes, Ms. Titmouse, at Dash Computers we have a department dedicated exclusively to assisting customers such as yourself on these problems. Now, all you need to do is call this toll-free number and they can quickly resolve your problem.”

“They can?”

“Yes, I’m confident of that, Ms. Titmouse.”

“You promise?”

“Ma’am?”

“You promise they can help?”

“Why, yes, Ms. Titmouse. That’s what they are there for.”

“Okay, let me get a pencil…now, what’s the number?”

“Please call 800-003-DASH.”

“Dash?”

“Yes, that’s 800-003-3274.”

“Okay, thanks, I’ll do that right now.”

“My pleasure, Ms. Titmouse. Now, may I record this as a service call that was resolved with one connection?”

“Are you kidding me?”

“Why, no, Ms. Titmouse, we here at Dash Computers strive each day to create customer satisfaction with minimal delay.”

“Well, you do whatever suits your fancy, but I’ve still get a computer that won’t work and I’m not satisfied yet.”

“Yes, Ms. Titmouse, thank you for calling Dash Computers, and you have a nice day.” Click.

“Heelo, these ees custumar serveece, John Adams speeking, how may I help you?”

“Mr. Adams, this is Jane Ann Titmouse in Alamo Heights, Texas. I recently bought one of your computers and it won’t work. Can you help me?”

“Yeez, Meez Titmouse, of course. Now, first what are the model and serial numbers on thees computer?”

“Where’ll I find them?”

“Eet depends on the model, Meez Titmouse. What series deed you purchase?”

“I’ve no idea. It looks like a big fish eye with a bunch of numbers and alphabet squares on a plate in front of it and a metal box beside it that looks like a miniature of the Wedge Tower in downtown Houston. You know the one?”

“No, Meez Titmouse.”

“Oh? Where are you anyway?”

“I’m een the customar serveece department, Meez Titmouse.”

“Well, never mind. How do I get this thing to work?”

“From your descreeption, I’d say you have one of our new Titan Serees 300 Computers, Meez Titmouse. Now, eef you weel pleez look on the back of the CPU and geeve me the model and serial numbers, perhaps we can geet started.”

“The CPU? What’s a CPU?”

“Ah, the Central Processing Unit. Thees unit fetches instructions, decodes and executes theem and theen in the write-back step—“

“Hold it! What I want to know is what this thing looks like.”

“Ah, thees ees the unit that looks like…um…the miniature tower you jeest meentioned.”

“Okay. Got it. What’s next? Oh, yeah, the numbers: model 654124 and serial number 10132861PD.”

“Yees, leet me repeet the numbers back to you: model 654124 and serial number 10132861PE.”

“No, no 10132861PD.”

“Thees ees what I said, Meez Titmouse.”

“No, you said P and E as in Paul and Edward. I said P and D as in Paul and Dummy.”

“Ah, very good. Now, pleez, teel me the problem, Meez Titmouse.”

“The problem? It won’t work, that’s the problem.”

“Weel, could you bee more specific?”

“Well, when I’m typing along on the typewriter board, the letters freeze up on the fish eye and won’t print out anymore.”

“Ah, yees. Now, Meez Titmouse, would you pleez dismantle the CPU for me?”

“What?! Dismantle it? Do I look like a service technician, Mr. Adams?”

“Um, I don’t know, Meez Titmouse. Ees very seemple, just pull the bottom plate across the front until eet snaps off, then weeth a screwdriver—“

“A screwdriver! Are you kidding me? I’m not an electrician either!”

“Pleeze, Meez Titmouse, stay calm. Um, perhaps there eez someone else there who keen assist you in thees seemple task?”

“Nobody here but me ‘n’ Bo.”

“Bo? Weel, perhaps Bo keen do thees for us?”

“Bo? Well, if he could get his paws around it I suspect he could. He’s a damn bit smarter than some folks at Dash Computers, you know.”

“Pleez stay calm, Meez Titmouse. Perhaps the monitor eez now een the “on” position?”

“The monitor? What the hell is the monitor?”

“Um, the feesh eye.”

“Oh, yeah, it’s on, but so what? It’s just a blank screen now…no wait, it just blinked. What does that mean?”

“Um, perhaps ees winking at you, Meez Titmouse?”

“Winking! Don’t you get fresh with me, Mr. Adams. I got rights, and I paid almost three thousand dollars for this damn thing, and I demand satisfaction. Do you hear me, Mr. Adams? Satisfaction!”

“Pleez, Meez Titmouse. I meent no harm.”

“Is it warm out there in India today, Mr. Adams?”

“Warm?”

“Yeah, ’cause it’s getting really hot on this end of the line…damn hot!”

“Meez Titmouse, perhaps you could press a character for me.?”

“A character? There aren’t any characters here. You’re the only character in this conversation.”

“Um, an alphabet character on the keypad.”

“Oh…which one?”

“Um, any…say the key of G?”

“The key of G? This isn’t choir rehearsal at the First Baptist Church, Mr. Adams. And I told you not to get fresh with me. What are you, a Loony-Toon character for Dash Computers?”

“What eez a Looney-Toon character, Meez Titmouse?…Meez Titmouse, are you there.”

“I’m here…just gettin’ the gun.”

“The gun? Ah, yes, the mouse shaped like a gun. For video games, much fun, yes, much fun, Meez Titmouse.”

“Mouse? Cute, Mr. Adams, real cute. I’ll have you know I don’t have any damn mice in this house, that’s for damn sure, none! Hold on a minute.”

POW!

“Meez Titmouse. What ees thees noise?… Meez Titmouse, are you all right.?”

“Fine, Mr. Adams, just fine. That was the video gun, as you call it, taking care of my problem the way most Texans handle unresolved problems out here. Say, Mr. Adams, you wouldn’t by chance be coming to Texas anytime soon, would you?”

“Um, no, Meez Titmouse.”

“Are you sure about that, Bubba? I could promise you a warm welcome out here.”

“Um, quite sure, Meez Titmouse. Pleez have a nice day and thank you for calling Dash Computers. Now, eef you weel allow me to record thees as a serveece call that was resolved—”

“Don’t even think of going there, Mr. Adams! You do and I’ll come right through this phone and box your little ears. You got that, Bubba?… Mr. Adams?…Mr. Adams?…Hello?”