Short Story: "A Long Day At Work"
This is just a short story I wrote some time ago. I’d submitted it to a publisher, it didn’t work out, so I published it on my old site. I’ve made a tweak or two, but otherwise it’s pretty Flash Fiction-y. Enjoy!
As the acrid smell of the welding torch's telltale smoke slithered under Manuel's face-guard, he couldn't help but think of the all-too-happy, thin-lipped, bald and wrinkled reverend he had accepted this burdensome job from in the first place. At the onset, the forty-six year old jack-of-all-electronic-trades had been contracted to make a simple little fix to The Church of The Eternal Sapience’s air conditioning system.
The two sides had gone over his credentials, namely his degrees in electrical engineering, computer programming, and radio-frequency bandwidth modulation, and decided that he would have an easy time with repairing a few circuit cards in their server cooling system's mother-board. They'd even offered to pay him extra for coming in the next day, and to double that bonus tidbit if he could figure out a way to repair the contraption without having to shut off network access to their worshipers. “Up-time is real time,” the priest had insisted.
“Padre Puta's got me more than a little mad; damn thing works just fine,” he whispered behind that ubiquitous metal mask, shivering as the heat from his blowtorch failed to even mildly off-set what felt like a still-functioning freezer. As soon as he spoke, he felt a twinge of guilt. 'But if that second half don't work by Thursday, it might not keep on a hot summer day.'
This twinge of guilt was quickly replaced by another mote of annoyance, one matching the flash of metal that jumped up at him from the metal he was welding together. The circuitry he'd needed to slap back into service was an easy fix: It turned out there had simply been an error with its internal clock, one he'd easily erased with the turn of a few screws and the flipping of a few switches. If that were all he’d needed to do, he would have been more than satisfied.
Then, he'd been asked to weld a broken bit of ducting together, since he'd been contracted to fix 'the entire system.' The Reverend had stressed that Thursday's heat was going to keep a lot of his believers indoors, and if they were indoors they were probably going to be hooked up to their Heaven-In-The-Head apps. The techno-priest promised to sweeten the pot with a free six hour app pass, but Manuel had declined, claiming that he didn't have a proper set of electrodes to enjoy it with. This only elated the mad priest, who threw in a set of plugs that was vastly inferior to the ones Manuel did, in truth, have at home. He was, after all, a professional technophile.
After calling his buddy-in-the-business Carlos, who advised him on how to weld with a draft and dismissed the reverend's offer as a way to get Manuel hooked, he'd stopped off at the local Happy Home to pick up up a tank of propane, a roll of solder, and some sheet metal. Within an hour he was in the air conditioning vent like a latter-day action movie hero, facing down brutally cold gusts as he sealed last of the holes shut. There had been six such gaps in total, five more than the reverend had mentioned.
However, here he was, finished! Manuel cut the torch, checked to make sure the entire duct was smooth and hole-free, and lifted his visor in an act born of habit. He normally wiped the sweat from his forehead at that point, but in this case he was simply happy to set the shield back down. He just wanted warmth, so he grabbed his gear, took a brisk pace through the catacombs of the server farm at the Church, then passed through the heavy pair of doors that kept the faithful's most secretive thoughts safe – at least, so long as they rode on the Church's app! - from the outside world.
Breathing a heavy sigh of relief as he was finally able to remove his winter coat, ignoring that he would – within moments – curse the hot Nevada summer, Manuel darted out to his truck. An old, 2043 Silverado on its second engine and nearing its 140,000th mile, he'd picked it up and painted his business’ name on it: Santiago Electronics. He was a freelancer in an otherwise-corporatized world, willing to do gritty work for the right amount of money, and willing to get it done on his client's time-table if the take-home matched. He was also authentic: He really did have those degrees he'd thrown in the face of the reverend, unlike many of his competitors, and as he loaded his truck up with the propane tank he realized something monumental:
'The loco preacher-man actually believed me without me shoving a transcript in his grill. The last guy nit-picked my middle initial being on it, as if Manuel M. Santiago had to be a different guy than the Manuel Santiago with the same Social.'
He considered, for just a moment, whether it really made sense for him to be so irritated that he'd been continually asked to expand the scope of his contract. He absolutely hated 'mission creep,' but since he didn't have a corporate pay-check to back him up if he said no, he'd had no choice in committing. On the other hand, the priest really did give him a job that a lot of people would have lied to get on no more credit than faith in his fellow Human.
Manuel decided he would do the honest thing and return the electrode-set he'd gotten from the thin-lipped heaven-peddler. As he walked back into the converted two-story storefront that served as the Church's headquarters, who did he see but the Reverend, running out to see him.
“Brother Santiago!” he shouted, securing a purple, wide-brimmed hat over his pale, already-sunburned head. It struck Manuel as both ostentatious in its overwhelming color, yet oddly fitting as a contrast to his dark robes. Breathing heavily, he looked the repairman over. “Thank Deus De Machina you didn't leave!”
Fighting his disgust at the idea that one might thank the 'god of machines,' Manuel sighed in resignation. “Yes, reverend, I actually wanted--”
“My son, you must come quickly! Our wireless router has crashed. I remember you're certified to manage them?” He was a mess, and rightly so; his parish might well dissipate like the radio waves of the WIFI systems they craved being hooked into if they weren't reconnected soon! “I've tried unplugging and plugging it back in, but, still! Nothing! Do you think it might be a bandwidth problem?” He swiftly slipped an arm around Manuel's shoulder. “Come check it out for me, brother?” Before the contractor had a chance to consider the offer, the community chief slapped him on the back warmly. “I'll count this as over-time pay!”
Gritting his teeth as he went back to his truck to get a proper laptop for network diagnostics, Manuel decided quite fervently he would think twice before accepting another day of work at this Church. 'Puta priest,' he thought to himself, checking to make sure he had some spare cables on his belt, 'Just for that, I'm giving my little daughter her first set of electrodes! But, I ain't takin' his free app for her, either!'
Jesse Pohlman is an author from Long Island, New York. If you enjoyed this story, please consider supporting me by picking up one of my novels through my Amazon storefront! If you dig this Sci-Fi vibe, Protostar: Memoirs Of The Messenger might be right up your alley!