NANOWRIMO 2014 -day 8 – a Hewlett Packard laptop



The half term holiday drifts on, she has a raft of genuine tasks to get through, marking, tweaking schemes of work, researching the artists the children will be studying when they return.

She is busy, truly busy, there is no time to sit at the kitchen table, open the manual and set the lap top and besides she needs some time to herself, some time to relax, some time to recharge her batteries.


But, by Thursday morning, with the return to work looming, it’s funny she thinks, Wednesday feels like lots of holiday left, but somehow a few more hours, that movement into Thursday seems to signal that school is just around the corner and she knows that she has run out of jobs, having been reduced to tidying and colour coding the airing cupboard last night, when the holiday still stretched ahead of her, so, she takes a deep breath and puts the kettle on.


Then of course she realises that instant coffee will simply not do and she may, for may read, most definitely will, need a formidable quantity of Marlboro Red, preferably soft pack.


She grabs her coat, performs the usual keys, bag, purse ritual and heads off to the parade of shops at the top of her street. Walking down the road, made suicidally  slippery by huge piles of soggy un- tidied leaves, she remembers Murphy, the invisible dog, her constant companion age 5 to 8 and her right hand curves naturally, rightly around his blue leather lead. She wonders if she is now old enough, sensible enough for a real dog and while Murphy sniffs at a lamppost, she makes a decision.

If she masters the bloody machine still crouched on the kitchen table, then, she will get a dog, nothing too large, too boisterous, a terrier maybe. Murphy’s’ breed was always somewhat mysterious, if pushed, she would describe him as a brown dog and open her arms to indicate his size.

She can see herself walking a medium-sized brown dog, the sort of dog whose tail wags, who lollops along, mouth open in an engaging smile and she cannot help but smile at the image, the almost dog is already making her happy.


Decent coffee, 40 cigarettes and an emergency packet of penguins later, her feeling of resolve is still strong, all she needed she realises was proper motivation, it’s easy she decides, get the laptop working, take it back to work, look for a dog.


This feeling of positivity lasts beyond the first cup of coffee and the first delicious cigarette. She unearths the instruction manual and the plug thingy and even manage to find the on button. It’s going well, the machine makes a happy noise, all she has to do is configure the settings and install the word processing package which is on a disc sellotaped to the manual and then it all begins to fall apart.

The machine is black, the buttons are black, the various holes and slots are also black, she can see nothing which seems to look like the place you might put a CD.

But, In her mind’s eye, she can still see the little brown dog and clinging like a survivor to the wreckage of the good ship positive thinking, so, she refills the kettle, lights another cigarette, somehow just not as delicious as the previous one and decides instead to configure the settings.


7 minutes later, her head is on the table, a badly extinguished cigarette still smoking in the saucer and she is in despair. The screen has gone from a pleasing Mediterranean blue to a frightening black blankness having clicked and buzzed and told her that there had been an error.

When she tries to turn the machine off, by pulling the plug from the wall, there is another strange noise, almost a sigh and then all the little flashing lights go out.


She leaves the lap top on the table until Saturday, hoping, almost praying that it will, as her car has done on many occasions, simply mend itself with no input from anybody else.


Nothing, no lights, no happy noise, no pretty blue screen, even the strange sigh/gasp noise has gone, this is a very dead machine and it’s only now with just over 24 hours to go that she understands the enormity of what has happened.


She prowls around the flat, trying to come up with a solution, something that will believable, not make her look like an idiot, but will also ensure that she is never, ever asked to take any type of expensive machine home again and then, like a bolt from heaven, she knows exactly what to do and she smiles and pops the kettle back on.


As is only right and proper, it is of course, pouring with rain on Monday, all holidays should end in floods and weather disaster. It allows her to take a taxi with no shame and to jolt her into a touch of low-level guilt about her currently dead car, parked or perhaps abandoned on her parents drive, again.


She struggles Into school, laden with marking and of course the box and nestling inside the lap top.

She takes a deep breath and then adjusts her face into an appropriate expression and knocks on the Head Teachers’ office door and begins to speak at the same time as she enters the room.

” I don’t know what to say….I’m so embarrassed, it was a terrible accident…..he didn’t really mean it…”

She allows her voice to trail off and the head bowed, tears at the corners of her eyes, shoulders shaking with emotion, she explains how her dog, Murphy, enthusiastically greeting her, somehow jumped up and managed to knock a whole pot of coffee over the shiny new lap top.


Her remorse and shame is so obvious that the Headteacher struggles to be annoyed, cannot produce her usual withering sarcastic comment and is reduced to patting this new young colleague on the back and offering non school issue tissues. The subject of IT is never brought up again and by the time that all teachers play confidently with PCs and laptops, she has long left education and can continue her Luddite existence.


She lifts the coffee mug to her mouth and is genuinely shocked when she tastes stone cold coffee. Somehow, she has lost half an hour, wasted a cup of good french coffee and even left her chocolate biscuit uneaten on the plate.

Absently, she picks it up and feel a wet nose pushing against her knee, the dog, the current dog, sensing an opportunity is reminding that he is still here, still happy to help with the consumption of unwanted Jaffa cakes.


She jumps to her feet, there are things to be done and she must remind her daughter to buy cat food. She could text, email or even message her on Facebook, but instead she finds the pack of neon post-its and scrawls a note and then she places the uneaten Jaffa cake on top of the post – it stuck to the centre of the table.


In her experience, a post-it and chocolate are the most reliable way of getting messages across to other people.

About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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