Saturday, January 18, 2014

Country Gone Hi-Tech

            Hey y’all!  Welcome back to Flowers on the Fence Country.  Pull a chair up to the table and grab a coffee cup. Been awhile, I know.  Time has a way of movin’ on, and before you know it—pfft!  The whole day’s gone. Or in my case, the whole week. Okay, the whole month. Or the whole last six months.  Oh, things have been going on, you understand. It’s not having nothing to write about that’s the problem.  It’s finding the time to write about it.

            So let me re-introduce myself briefly.  My name’s Gail Roughton Branan, has been for 39 years.  I’m a Legal Assistant by day, specializing in trouble-shooting.  Find me some trouble, I’ll shoot it for you. Been doing that for 39 years, too.  At night and on the week-ends, in what’s laughingly called my “off” time, I write books. As Gail Roughton.  Using that name, well, it’s sort of a love song to my Daddy.  Besides, nobody can spell Roughton but at least they know it.  Branan, on the other hand, has a multitude of spellings, and B-r-a-n-a-n is not the first one that comes to most folks’ minds. 

            Writing books doesn’t work like most folks think it does.  You don’t sit down in front of a computer and start typing and just type and type and type.  Well, you can, but only if you’re typing “See Spot run” or the like over and over again. You have to pause and savor, listen to the voices in your head, follow directions from the characters. Sometimes it does come in fairly long straight-forward streams but mostly it’s a stop and start process.  And even if it’s coming in a straight-forward stream, writers are also doing that thing everybody else does. That thing called living.  Life intrudes. Children and grandchildren and friends and pets have to be tended to, listened to, laughed with, fed, hugged and kissed. And thank heavens for that, because without living life, how the heck would we write about it?

            My family’s particularly tight-knit.  My youngest son Lee’s the only child far from home, he’s a Navy Corpsman, currently stationed in Portsmouth, Virginia, but even so, he checks in regularly—at least with his brother and sister, with whom he skypes regularly.  My oldest son still lives at home. And that’s fine with all of us. He hasn’t found his other half yet. That’ll come and of course when it does, he’ll move out. In the meantime, he has a great job, pays his own bills, comes and goes as he pleases, I don’t wash or fold his clothes, wait on him hand and foot, or cook him anything special. Or cook much, actually.  If I do, and he’s home, he’s welcome to join in.  It’s an arrangement that works well. We’re all happy.   

            My daughter lives right up the road and works afternoon and early evenings. My son-in-law is a deputy sheriff so his hours aren’t what you’d call consistent.  Ergo and therefore, my husband Randy, already retired, is chief cook—well, scratch that, he doesn’t cook—and bottle washer for our seven year old grandson and year old granddaughter. He says it makes him feel like a “useful engine” (ala Thomas the Tank Engine, young grandchildren tend to keep you abreast of all popular cartoons). Hence, my nights are particularly hectic, but full of prized moments.

            Our grandson Austin received a Kindle Fire HD from Santa Claus this year. He loves it. It only leaves his hands when manually pried therefrom, which my daughter does every morning before school. She slips it into the bag holding Austin’s after-bath comfy clothes and brings it with her when she brings Kinsley and her bag to Randy.

            There’s no way Austin doesn’t know where his Kindle is. So I was a bit surprised to receive a call from my husband Thursday around noontime.

            “Did Austin forget his Kindle last night when I took him home?”

            “Nope. It was in his hands when he walked down the steps to the truck.”

            “Then what’s this one on Patrick’s bed?”

            “I guess Patrick got a Kindle and didn’t mention it yet.”

            “Oh. But it’s not Austin’s?”

            “Nope. He was still gamin’ away when he got in the truck.”

            I walked in that afternoon to total disaster. At least, Austin thought it was.

            “Grandmama, Grandmama!!  My Kindle’s broke, you got to fix it!”

            I looked down at the screen.  Then I looked again.  Sure ‘nuff, the screen was full of indecipherable gobbedly-gook. I looked closer.  Spanish?  He’d managed to change the language settings, no big deal if you knew where the settings were in the first place, but I didn’t have a clue as I don’t have a Kindle.  I did have some basic Spanish, but none of these words seemed to fit.

            “How’d you do that?”

            “I don’t know, I picked it up and my games were gone, and I tried to get ‘em back! And I hit some buttons and I got an email from some person I don’t know and I don’t know what it said, and now it looks like this and I can’t play my games, Grandmama, fix it!”

            “Baby, that’s outta Grandmama’s league. Mimi (Austinese for his mother, no one knows why) or Uncle Patrick can fix it, but Grandmama’s not that good.”

            “But Grandmama—”

            “No buts. Grandmama ain’t touching this with a ten foot pole. Where’s your case? We’re just gonna put it up and wait for Mimi or Uncle Patrick.”


            Austin! Case. Now.”

            “Okay, okay, on the piano.”

            I went and looked.  Nope. No case.  Patrick’s room, probably. And then it hit me. Patrick’s. Room. Where a Kindle had been charging on the bed.

            “Austin, it’s not on the piano.  Did you even take your Kindle out of your bag after Granddaddy picked you up from school and you got home?”

            Doubt flitted across his face.  “Yesssssss….I think I did.”

            “Randy, did you call me this morning and tell me Patrick had a Kindle charging on his bed?”

            “Oh. Crap.”

            I raced for Austin’s bag.  Definitely a squarish hard object contained therein.  I pulled out Austin’s Kindle, safely tucked inside its lime green case.

            “Would this be yours?”

            Sunshine glowed from the face. “Thanks, Grandmama!  Look, all my games, and now I can play and—”.  Dark, incoming clouds pushed out the sunshine.  “Oh, no!!  I broke Patrick’s Kindle!  I broke my uncle’s Kindle! Oh, no, he’s gonna be so mad at me!!!”  Austin wailed for all the world like the uncle he had wrapped around his finger from birth (he had both his uncles wrapped around his finger at birth, actually) habitually threatened him with loss of life, limb, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.          

            “No, he’s not. Uncle Patrick can fix this in a heartbeat, Grandmama’s just not techy enough to know how. Don’t worry about it.”

            He subsided and resumed the important business of helping the Digimon somethings convert into something else (I think) and the nightly routine continued.  Every now and then a new shadow slipped across his face. 


            “Patrick is not goin’ to be mad at you.  He can fix it.”

            Randy left to take the troops home before Patrick came in from work. Hmmm.  How best to bring this up? While I was cogitating my approach, Patrick walked in his room.

            “Did Austin find my Kindle?”

            “Wellllllll, yeah, he did.  Sorta. I didn’t know you had one, when’d you get it?”

            Patrick laughed.  “Couple of days ago. Bet it drove him crazy.  It’s got a Password and he don’t know it.”

            “Wellllll, that’s not entirely—accurate.”

            “What the hell?” Patrick looked blankly at his screen At the foreign language thereon none of us spoke.

            “Austin. He thought it was his. And he—kinda changed the language settings. To Spanish, I think.”

            “He couldn’t have, it’s got a password.”

            “The same one you have on your phone?”

            “My phone’s a swipe pattern, this is a password.”
            “You need a better password, son. He felt terrible, he said you were gonna be so mad at him.”
            “He did not think I was gonna be mad at him.”

            “Yeah, he did.”

            “He was scared?

            “Probably not, but he knows how to put on a good show.”

            “Okay, let’s see what’s up.” Patrick sat down and got to work. “But this ain’t Spanish. Don’t know what it is.” Nimble finger flips.  “Oh, good Lord!  It’s Portuguese!  The little pipsqueak! How did he do that? Okay, all fixed.  Wait a minute! This can’t be right.  Where’s all my apps?”  More finger flipping.  “He’s reset it to factory settings! It’s like I just bought it! It’s not even registered.  How the heck did he do that?!”

            “Never underestimate the power of a seven year old in search of his games.”

            “Well, maybe when I re-register it—ah!  There they are.  The Kindle Cloud’s downloading ‘em all back on.”

            Bless you, Kindle Cloud.

            “Okay, all fixed.  So he got by my password, changed the language to Portuguese, and then reset the whole thing to factory condition!”

            “Like I said, never underestimate a seven year old who thinks his game apps are gone.”
            The small dramas in life are the sweetest.  I went back to my laptop and heard Patrick on the phone through the door, on the phone with Austin.

            “Okay, it’s all fixed, everything’s fine, don’t worry about it, okay? You just gotta tell me one thing.  How did you get by the password?”

            I smiled. Just another night in Flowers on the Fence Country. Another story to pass into family folklore.  The night Austin decided we needed to speak Portuguese.  Y’all come back now, hear?