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Flight Engineer

Page history last edited by rsb 6 years, 6 months ago

 

It was early.  Tom was tired.  But it was already a beautiful morning.  Excitement was in the air.

 

As Tom climbed the steps of the 747, he was impressed with the presentation of the craft.  The paint was a sparkling red and white that was almost too bright in the morning sun.  The Veridian Experience logo jumped out of the tail like a high-tech ninja star.  At the top of the stairs his new boss, Al, gave him a firm handshake and a genuine smile.  The sky was clear, blue, crisp, and bright.

 

"Tom!  Thanks for coming in early on your first day.  Boy, are we glad to see you!"

A fetching stewardess appeared in the doorway, alongside Al, with a tray of champagne.

"Here, have a glass.", Al said, and handed one of the tall glasses to Tom as he downed one himself.

 

The plane was fully boarded and all hustle and bustle.  Tom could see through the twenty or so first class seats to cabin class, packed with men and women in suits.  The customers in cabin class were all wearing VR helmets - totally isolated from reality.  They were half helmets, so their nose and mouth were exposed.  Some were just looking about, others were grasping at the air in front of them, or contorting their hands in some way.  Still others seemed to be deep in meditation.

 

Al led Tom to a first class seat, and immediately introduced Tom to Bob, the CEO.

Tom sank into the white leather, impressed.

 

"Welcome aboard, Tom.", Bob said with a smile.

"Thanks.", Tom replied.

 

Bob took one look at the champagne Tom was about to sip and interrupted.

 

"Whoa, Tom, lets get you the good stuff.", Bob said.

"Cindy!", Bob called across the plane, "Get Tom a glass of the good stuff!  It's his first day!"

A stewardess ran across the plane and snatched the glass from Toms hand, expertly maneuvering around others in the aisle.

"Be right back!", she said with a smile as she disappeared.

"Thanks...", Tom began, "I'm looking forward to implementing safety controls on your zero gravity applications.  I think testing is the most important..."

 

Bob interrupted, "So, I've heard that you think on your feet, Tom."

"Uh...", Tom said.

"...which is excellent.", Bob continued.  "That's exactly what everyone here needs in a director of engineering.  We've got a special business here, with a unique business model, and unique challenges.  Our customers are all in cabin class back there having a unique experience, and the staff is up here making that happen.  The last engineer left abruptly, with a few things undone.  Did Al tell you about the cockpit controls?"

"No."

"Well, it's minor, but it's something we need to look at before we do anything else.", Bob said.

 

A pilot tapped Tom on the shoulder.

"Hi there!", he said.

Tom turned and responded with a somewhat confused look, "Oh...Hi...There."

 

The pilot had a formal-looking uniform and an impressive smile.

"Bob, do you mind if I steal the new engineer for a moment - just that little issue of the controls - hehe!", he said.

"Sure!  Well Tom, great to meet you.  We'll catch up more soon.  Rain check on that drink?", Bob said with a wink.

"Oh, sure.  O.k.", Tom said.

 

The pilot motioned Tom to follow.  Tom did so, passing through the rows of champagne drinking, laughing, uniformed staff.  He was thirsty.  He felt underdressed in flip flops, jeans, and EFF t-shirt.

 

Just before entering the cockpit, the pilot ripped open an access closet, and pointed to its insides.  A piercing beeping came from within.

 

Never losing his smile the pilot said, "Well, we've isolated the problem to this closet, here. It's definitely affecting the controls - accelleration, handling, you name it!"

 

"Are you sure...", Tom started.

"Got to get to work, but let us know what you find.  We really need this fixed...by 9AM.", the pilot said.  

 

He pushed a handshake at Tom, which Tom awkwardly accepted before turning his attention to the closet, which was packed full of...

 

"Is that insulation?", Tom asked, but the pilot was gone.  

 

A process in Toms mind tried to force a thought into the forefront.  That thought was "It's after 9AM!"  But the beeping sound drew his attention away. 

 

"Why insulation?", he said to no one, staring at the oddball closet.  But then his sense of duty and urgency took over.  

 

"Well, I've been here before, I suppose.  Emergency measures.  Get Things Done!", he thought.

 

He ripped into what turned out to be a closet full of asbestos, fiberglass insulation, and fresh rat crap, holding his breath as best he could.  The more junk he pulled out of the closet, the louder the beeping became, finally reaching a piercing creschendo as he hit the bottom of the closet.  There, he discovered a display console glowing red with flashing indicators.  Built-in signal speakers were screaming alarms.  Examining the stituation, he deduced that the panel laying on the floor before him was originally on the other side of the wall, as evidenced by the gap cut in the wall and the thick complement of control cables running through the wall to the cockpit.  He picked it up and oriented it correctly.  

 

Text embossed in the metal across the top of the panel read: "Aircraft Engine Alarms".  The outline of the aircraft had been deeply stamped into the metal top of the alarm panel.  Lights flashed red where the engines were indicated.  Lights next to the engines flashed as well, indicating "TEMP" and "FUEL", "SENSOR", and "SERVICE".  A sticker on the side declared the date of last maintenance as five years ago.  

 

Tom set down the panel and jumped up, but was thrown down to the floor as the plane tilted skyward.  The stewardess staff, looking tall and quite elegant with drinks in their hands, eyed him with disguist as he wrestled with the pile of insulation-asbestos-rat-crap, ultimately gaining unsteady footing, having lost his flip flops.

 

"We've taken off!?!?!", Tom asked.

 

A tall, toothy male stewardess dismissed him with a wave of his hand at the wrist, and turned back to his discussion.

 

Tom spun around and pounded on the pilots cabin door.  He shouted, "Sir, we have to return to the airport!"  He repeated the shout and the pounding until he got a response. 

 

"We can't hear you over that beeping - get that fixed, Tom.  Thanks!!"

 

Tom shook the handle on the locked door.  Nothing.  He searched his mind for a way to get through to them.   

 

He took a step back.

 

Inside the closet, he spied the gap at the bottom of the wall, evidently where the emergency control panel was shoved through.

 

He climbed into the closet and pressed his head to the floor so he could shout through the gap.

 

"It's not the controls!!", Tom shouted.

"What!?!", a voice on the other side said.

"The engines are in alarm!  We have to land!"

"Can't you just shut off the alarm!", someone shouted back.

"No!  The engine would still be failing!  It's an emergency!  You have to land!"

"Can't do that, we're on autopilot."

"But the engines may give out!"

"We're a fast-growth company!"

"What!"

"We gotta grow!  Ask management."

 

Tom paused at that.  The hairs on the back of his neck were tingling.

 

He was about to attempt a logical argument, proving that landing the plane and repairing it was the only reasonable choice, starting with first principles, and ending with the growth of the business as a goal.  But he knew he didn't have time for that.  Besides, someone had just stuffed a towel into the gap through which he had been speaking.

 

He stood up and looked at the pile of crap next to him, wincing as the bits of fibreglass insulation that had embededd themselves in most of his skin pierced the bottom of his feet.  He wondered what kind of bacteria might be entering his bloodstream.  But that thought was gone in a flash - some process in his mind was pretty certain he had antibodies for whatever it was from his last job.

 

Bracing himself, he dug through the biohazardous, razor-sharp, cancer-causing pile until he found his flip flops, flailing comically enough with the jostling of the aircraft to elicit titters from the stewardesses, whom he then turned to face.

 

"Where's Bob!?!", Tom asked.

"I *know* you are going to clean that up.", one of the tall stewardesses said.

The rest of the stewardesses tittered again.

"And we NEED internet access.", a second stewardess said, in his bitchiest tone of voice.

"What?", Tom asked.

"I cannot work in an environment like this...and that alarm is louder than ever.", said the first stewardess.

"Seriously, have some priorities.", said the second.

"You have p-poop on your face.", said another, causing them all to break down into titters again.

 

Tom raced past them, through closed curtains into first class, where eight of the luxurious leather chairs had been spun around to face one another around a sleek white fold-out table, which had, impressively, risen from the floor.

 

Al was sitting at one of the chairs, as was a young, vest-wearing gentleman with a mustache and six other cabin crew.  The mustacioed man shook a drink mixer with both hands, slowly.

 

"Have a seat, Tom.  We have a few things to cover.", Al said.

 

Tom looked around him and didn't see anyone making room for him, so he remained standing.

 

"Tom, its about time we had this meeting.", Al said.

 

"Meeting?", Tom asked.

 

"We've had some complaints from the pilot that you have not addressed the control issue.  And the stewardesses are saying that it's gotten worse.", Al said.

 

"And we need internet access.  That should have been your first priority.", the man in the vest spoke with a french accent.  "...but we have no...whatever it is...service provider agreement...I think you need to wait for the cable guy or negotiate a bill or something."

 

"There is also that videoconferencing system that Tony has ideas for - the one that last engineer totally failed to create.", said a stewardess.

 

Tom felt the hairs on the back of his neck tingle again.

 

"Listen.  We need to land the plane.  Immediately.  Right now.  The engines are proabably about to fail.", Tom said calmly.

 

Murmurs rumbled across the table, people leaned over to one another.  The bartender-looking fellow with the mustache whispered into Als ear.

 

"Well, now, everyone calm down.  Listen everybody.", Al said, gesturing as if to push their complaints down into the table.  "Tom is new here.  It's his first day.  He knows as well as anyone that we need to maintain growth.  That's still our priority."  

 

This brought a "hell yeah!" from a few people.  Several others clapped or shook their fists in the air.

 

"There is no problem we can't fix while continuing to fly this plane to our destination and meet our goals."

 

Tom gasped, but was cut off.  

 

"We have faith in you, Tom, that you can work with us as a team to fix this.", Al said, "Phillipe here says that he has a solution to the engine problem that will replace the current engines.  Phillipe?"

 

"Don't worry. We are on it.  But we need internet access.  I thought that was his first priority.", Phillipe said, looking around the table and poking a thumb at Tom.

 

"Let me get this straight.", Tom said, "You do not intend to land the plane?  That's crazy.  We have to land the plane.  And we have to get that engine alarm panel back in the cockpit, and then we have to make sure that never happens again.  But first things first.  Get this plane to an airfield."

 

Phillipe harrumphed, but Al calmed him down.

 

"Tom, we have to fix problems when we're in the air.  That's part of being an agile growth company.  That's just the way it is.  We always do this.  It *is* possible."

 

Tom just gaped, jaw open, at the stupidity of it all.

 

"And besides," Al went on, "We had the last engineer put a constraint on the plane when he redesigned it - you can't just manually land the plane - it always flies on autopilot.  The pilots don't really control anything.  Manual landing is a time-wasting crutch that kills productivity."

 

Toms jaw dropped a lot further.

 

Al continued, "Now, Phillipe here worked with the last engineer, and, while were on the ground, he helped add a new, better engine to the aircraft, which he says he can bring on line in half the time it took you to make that mess in the closet hall...or...investigate the control issue...I'm sure you are doing your best...anyway...what we're saying is, Phillipe has a better solution to the engine problem, and all we need from you in that regard is to take responsibility for it."

 

"And you believe that there is *any* way you are going to swap out the propulsion systems while flying?", Tom asked.

 

"Heck yeah!", Al said, "Right, Phillipe?"

 

"You know it!  No downtime.  We just need to bite the bullett and get it done.  Should be easy...as long as Tom can fix a simple internet problem...it will just come right up.", Phillipe said.

 

"I don't know how we are going to keep the current engines running - we don't even know what's wrong with them.", Tom said.

 

"Listen, just maintain those old, useless engines as needed for the next hour or so, and we'll be flying high on a new engine system, which you can then support.  Just make sure you get the internet issue solved, which should be trivial, and you can go back to helping customers, or whatever it is you do...", Phillipe said.

 

"Um", interrupted a stewardess, "We do have some customer support issues right now...since your only job is creating email addresses...I don't know why you can't respond to them..."

 

"O.k., I don't think you need to blow this out of proportion.  I mean, the engines are probably fine, Tom.  I'm sure whatever you did to them you can just reverse, and then that beeping will stop as well.", Al said.

 

Tom fumed.

 

"They are almost certainly not fine!  And having a bartender redesign the plane just before takeoff was most certainly why!  I doubt I can fix them and I doubt they will last long enough to get us to our destination.  If we lose power, we're looking at a crash landing!"

 

"If the engines are losing power, why don't you just dump the luggage, or get on top of the plane and flap your arms or something?", Phillipe suggested.

 

"It's not like the engines are on fire or anything.", Al said.

 

Tom practiced a breathing technique his mom had taught him when he was a child.  

 

"Now remember", Toms mom would say, "You breath like this, and you will calm right down.  You might be mad at people, but you can't kill them, even if they desperately need it.  You just have to breath."

"But why, mom?  Why not punish them?"

"Because that's not legal, son.  Besides, everybody dies.  I like to believe that god sorts em' out."

And so Tom became one of the faithful, and he never had a violent moment in his life.

 

Tom breathed.  He barely heard the rest of the meeting, waiting until he was dismissed.  He was directed toward the back of the craft, where the last engineer had installed a mechanical closet, under Phillipe the bartenders supervision.

 

He walked to the back of the craft like a zombie.  He had been handed notes on a piece of notepad paper, written in pencil.

 

Tom entered the tiny closet, and a light came on.  A nest of wires and tubes hung from the ceiling.  

 

There was enough room to stand in front of a little shelf at standing-desk height.  

 

He closed the door behind him.

 

A wiring diagram of the plane covered one wall - structural and mechanical diagrams were taped to the wall around it.  A small piece of notepaper was thumbtacked to the wall above all the other things posted there.  Scribbled in capital letters it read: "IT IS *NOT* GOING TO BE O.K."

 

The other two walls were filled by communications patch panels.  

 

Tom closed the door and looked at the notes he had been handed.

 

Apparently, he had left the meeting with 12 more meetings scheduled, as well as the following task list:

 

1) Get the internet working - and get us a website!

2) Stop that damn beeping

3) Fix the engines - if there is anything wrong with them

4) Look at that problem with the controls

5) Implement and take responsibility for consequenses from speculative videoconferencing system idea that Tony came up with

6) Deal with customer issues

7) Dump the luggage

8) Climb on top of the plane and flap arms

 

He looked back up at the wiring diagram, studying it for a moment.  

 

Pulling his backpack off, he took out his personal ham radio and patched it into an unused antenna on the aircraft.  He connected that to his laptop, and then connected the laptop to the aircrafts wireless infrastructure.  After a few minutes of typing and head scratching, he pulled out his cell phone, and got on the aircrafts newly functioning internet access system.  It was slow, but it worked.

 

After another 15 minutes or so, he had a basic website up for the company, e-mailing the receipt to Al.  The email bounced.  He spent more money on his personal credit card and got their email addresses working again.  He got them a few online tools set up while he was at it.

 

For a moment, he thought that he might take the time to turn the receipts into pdf files, then email them to someone with an expense report filled out.  Then with a sinking feeling in his stomach, he realized he was too conscientious to do that.  This was an emergency.  He had to get things done.  But he knew not filing those receipts was a bad sign.  It always was.

 

Looking at the mechanical diagrams, he found that he would actually have to exit the plane to fix the engine.  "That doesn't seem possible.", he said to himself.  But he was too tired to worry about it.  He simply exited the closet and popped open a door at the back of the plane.  The wind whipped and screamed.

 

Along the side of the plane Tom saw a ladder he had not seen before.  The ladder ran along the plane from front to back.  He climbed out onto it.  

 

Toms hands gripped at the steel rungs for dear life.  The wind ripped at him.  His feet nearly slipped.  He felt sweat and fear on every square inch of skin.  The door closed automatically behind him.

 

He pulled a screwdriver from his backpack and held it in his teeth, pulling and pushing as hard as he could with his hands and feet as he climbed his way toward the engines.  Through the fuselage windows, he saw executives in VR helmets rolling their heads around.  One was kissing another, another was probing the first passengers ear with a swizzel stick.  Stewardesses and staff were celebrating and handing out drinks.  A few took time out to point and laugh as Tom passed by.  On the laptop in the bar, porn scrolled choppily across the screen as Phillipe desperately mashed at the monitor controls.

 

Looking away from the windows, Tom saw that, yes, indeed, the engines *were* on fire.  The ladder branched off, and he took the branch out onto the wing of the aircraft, heading toward a burning engine.  

 

A small, green, gremlin-looking creature lost it's grip on the leading edge of the wing, and flew by Tom, nearly hitting him.

 

When Tom arrived at the section of the wing directly above the engine, he unlocked a compartment with the screwdriver, and it snapped open in the wind.  Tom yanked out some protruding asbestos insulation that whipped away.  He poked a rat until it ran deeper into the wing.  With a clear view of the engine plumbing and electrical, Tom could see at least two hack jobs presenting problems.  First, the alternator was being used to drive something in addition to what it was intended to drive.  Second, the engine cooling, HVAC, bathroom plumbing, and fuel systems had become hopelessly intertwined - there was literally *crap* in the fuel.  

 

Tom left the electrical problem alone, and addressed the more obvious problem of crap.  He was immediately sprayed in the face by the first pipe he touched, a leak he plugged with a finger as quickly as he could.

 

"Really!", Tom begain to say, "how many kinds of crap am I going to have to deal wi...?"

 

As he said that, however, a bird on the leading edge of the wing laid a big one, which the wind blew into Toms mouth.  

 

Tom sputtered and spit.

 

Another gremlin, who had been laying in wait on the leading edge of the wing, dove at the bird, missed, and flew directly into Tom.  The gremlin clawed and tried to bite at Tom, while Tom wriggled weakly, barely holding onto the wing of the aircraft.  The gremlin was about to bite Toms neck when Tom pulled his finger back out of the sewage pipe, which sprayed sewage directly into the gremlins face.  The gremlin gagged and lost its grip on Tom.  Tom laughed triumphantly as the gremlin bounced off the aircrafts tail while it flew away.  The laugh was short lived - choked on the very same stream of crap.  

 

Tom shoved his screwdriver into the sewage pipe, wedging it securely, sealing the leak.  He then laid forth a stream of invective a drunken sailor would have found shocking, and returned to his work.  

 

Tom worked in the zone for a few minutes.

 

When he had redirected the sewage into the proper channel, and improvised a fuel filter out of insulation and a rat carcass, the engines immediately began to cool.

 

He turned his attention to the electrical issue.  

 

Tom often subvocalized when he worked, thinking through a problem.  In this case he thought, "It's clear that..." before a boot drove his chin sideways.

 

"Get away from the power!", a voice rang out in a french accent.

 

Peter, holding onto the wing, was kicking madly at Tom.  

 

"The power we need for the fusion engines!", Peter screamed.

 

"They're not fusion engines!", Tom yelled back, dodging strikes by Peters fashionable boots.  The boot strikes made Tom realize self-consciously that his flip-flops had once again gone missing.  His feet felt that they would slip off the ladder rungs any moment.  They were cold.

 

"I've got my hands full!", Tom said.

"But you are solving the wrong problem, idiot!  This new engine solves all our problems!!!"

"I'm not even messing with that thing!!!"

"Yes you are!!! You idiot!!! It runs on biolectric!!"

"What???"

 

It was a struggle.  Tom dodging and Peter kicking.  Tom reasoning and Peter countering with questionable assertions or downright fallacies.  But ultimately, Tom agreed to fix the "fusion" engines, that ran on "biolectric".  He also agreed to remove the "old-fashioned unproductive engines".  Tom knew that it would never work, and that he would do nothing of the sort, but this calmed Peter down, who stopped kicking at Tom.

 

In parting, Peter said, "Customer service is furious with you!  The customers have been trying to reach you for hours!" 

 

Peter stabbed a finger at the cabin windows as he said it.  Most of the customers were in full-on lovemaking mode, while the staff had closed the curtain to the customer area and called an all hands meeting.

 

Tom looked at his phone and saw there were 874 voice mails.  He turned on the ringer and put it back in his pocket.

 

What seemed like hours later, Tom had fired up Peters very sleek electrical motor, which had been mounted on the top of the aircraft.  It was a beautiful but functionless thing.  

 

As he climbed past the door that he had come out of, he wondered,  "What the hell are the bartender and the stewardess doing bolting on another engine?"  At the same time he saw the future - anyone could build an aircraft.

 

Tom left the port wing and climbed along a conveniently placed ladder to the other side of the aircraft.  He repeated a simliar process on the other wing - putting out a fire, and filtering out some crap.  

 

He pulled out his list to check his remaining tasks.  Almost instantly, most of the ratty notepaper ripped away in the wind(a seagull choked on it), leaving only a small part in his hand.  Two tasks remained documented:

 

7) Dump the luggage

8) Climb on top of the plane and flap arms

 

Sullenly, Tom pulled and pushed his way along the ladders to the lower half of the plane.  He gave a passing glance into a single passenger window, but the VR wearing passenger puked on the window, obscuring Toms view.  He plodded ahead.

 

When he was in sight of the lower half of the plane, it was dark.  None of the running lights were working.  Everything was obscured to him.  He had to grope in the dark for the next rung.  The wind kept whipping.  He felt something mushy when he grabbed for a rung.  Tom squinted against the dark and slowly, the mushy things around him began to resolve into shapes.  He could hear a cackling sound.  That's when things took a turn for the worse.

 

The bugs swarmed him all at once.  Biting and gnashing.  He wasn't certain if they were after his health or his sanity, but if he had to guess, he would have said "both".  

 

In the first few weeks of his battle against the bugs, the best he could do was to try to size them up.  He was simply overwhelmed.  They came from everywhere.  Every part of the plane.  Bugs sprouted from bugs.  Every time he tried to squish one, it caused a dozen more to pop up.  Most of the time, he was never sure he had killed a bug.  They would come back to life as often as not, making him pay for his hubris with a larger bite.  After a month or two of counterproductive bug crushing, he had twice as many bugs to deal with as when he had begun.  But patterns had begun to emerge.  

 

He stopped fighting them.  He knew which bugs bit the hardest, which bugs he could squish, and which he could not.  He continued to study them, experimenting on them, getting to know them and where they came from.  They had a language all their own.  On the day Tom achieved the seemingly impossible feat of learning the common language of all bugs, one particularly large bug, named Elezando Mountain Dew Macho Camacho Overflow, which Tom knew could not be killed without replacing every piece of metal in the entire plane, adopted Tom.

 

Overflow was a massive bug.  He looked vaguely presidential.  An Immortal Bug, the other bugs would say.  They had long talks together.  Overflow would teach Tom how to use bugs to do amazing things.  Little by little Tom became more accustomed with thinking like Overflow.

 

"You know, you're a bug too, Tom.", Overflow would say, "To the other humans, at least.  Something to be fixed."

"It all depends on your perspective, I suppose.", Tom would say.

 

In the end, Overflow convinced Tom that he could never protect himself or anyone else against the bugs.  And Tom knew he was right.  He had to learn to live with them - adopt a new perspective.

 

One day, years later, Overflow sat Tom down on the windy rung of a ladder.  Tom smiled.  Little bugs chewed at him.  He loved his talks with Overflow.  Overflow told Tom that there was nothing left to learn.  Tom could not hold enough architectural discussion, abstraction, and transacting events in his mind to advance further.  Besides, Tom would gain no more benefit from knowledge of conventional bugs.

 

"I would have to introduce you to the various Physics Bugs, if I thought you were meant to move on to further mastery.", Overflow said.

"But, I feel like I *am* meant to be here, debugging, forever, with you."

"No, Tom.  It is time to achieve your true destiny."

"W...wha...that's a thing?", Tom asked.

"Yes.", said Overflow, "it's a thing." and handed Tom a very old, yellowed, and torn scrap of notepad paper.

 

It read:

 

7) Dump the luggage

8) Climb on top of the plane and flap arms

 

Tom knew it was true.  There was nothing left to discuss.  He said his goodbyes to the bugs, and restarted his plodding journey to the luggage compartment.  He pulled the convenient handle marked "Luggage Release" when he arrived, and the doors flew open.  A few dreams flew out, along with one set of car keys, and a lot of unmatched socks and pens, but the baggage wanted to stay.

 

Tom wanted to say something poetic and meaningful about that, but instead he kicked and shoved at the baggage, and beat it with his fists.  He kept at that longer than he thought reasonable.  It felt good.  In the end, he was never sure how much baggage remained.  But it would look good if anyone checked his work.

 

By the time he reached the top of the plane, it was light, and he could see clouds ahead.  Sitting atop the plane, flapping his arms, he felt he was generating a tiny bit more lift than the electric motor that Phillipe had him get spinning.  It was irrelevant to the aircraft as a whole, of course.

 

As he flapped his arms, the gray and white clouds below the plane cleared.  He could see the airstrip they took off from.  He realized the autopilot was taking them in ever widening circles over that airstrip, now many kilometers away.  

 

Then the clouds ahead of the plane began to clear.  They were on an imminent collision course with a mountain of preposterous size.  The autopilot had them on this track all along.  As the mountain approached, dwarfing the plane, Tom flapped his arms a little faster.  He had to laugh.

 

Just then, Tom felt a shove on his shoulder.  A bright light in his eyes.  The feeling of a sheet being pulled and a soft voice in his ear.

 

"Tom,", his girlfriend said. "you were flopping all over the bed, laughing boy."

"Hgnuh mphphht.", Tom said, and made an inglorious smacking sound with his dry mouth, weakly commanding his eyelid muscles to peel one eye open a bit further.

"The cat was trying to knead you and you just scared it right off.", she laughed.

Tom slowly rose to one elbow, noting his feet were sticking out of the sheets, and that there was no blanket on his side of the bed.

"I, I had a dream.", Tom said.

His girlfriend laughed and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

"Well get up, you'll be late.", she said.

"It was about...my job.", Tom said, "Crashed into a mountian."

"Awww.", his girlfriend said, "Poor baby.  Your job crashed into a mountain.", she said, and gave him another kiss on the cheek.

 

Tom spotted a cup of water on the nightstand, half drank by the cats during the night.  He downed it.

 

His girlfriend gave him another smooch, told him to "Have a great day at work!", and bounced out of the house.

 

"It's o.k....I was never going to find those receipts, anyway.", Tom said.

 

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