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An Involuntary Intimate:

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Since Nogo’s death, Martin moved through the aisles of computers as if in a fog. He helped people find the cursor, eject a CD, log onto an online literacy site, but his motions were mechanical, and he spoke little if at all. And when left to himself, he just sat and thought in silence.

Ruth stood next to George, who was watching Martin from across the room. “I don’t know what it’ll take to snap him out of it,” she said.

“Another Nogo,” said George, “and there will never be one.”

“Turns out,” said Ruth, “the guy was better at grasping C++ than English. Just two weeks ago, he was actually writing his own programs.”

George was shaking his head, saying, “I don’t get it,” when Martin erupted out of his chair, bent over two pupils who had been speaking to each other, and pointed to the door.

He said, “Get out.”

“Martin!” shouted George, making his way across the room.

“What’s your problem?” said one of the pupils to Martin.

George put his hand on Martin’s shoulder, and Martin shrugged him off.

“I said get out of here,” said Martin, his eyes drilling down on the pupils. Then he turned around and made his way to the elevator, Ruth following.

“Sorry,” said George to the pupils.

“We were just minding our own business,” said one.

“That’s it,” said the other collecting his pencil and notebook, “I’m never coming back here.
That guy’s mental.”

“You gotta excuse him,” said George. “He just lost a good friend.”

“Military?” said one of the pupils.

George gave a nod.

“Good!” said the pupil. “Let them all die over there!”

Before he could register what he was doing, George pointed to the door and said, “Get out.”

The two pupils banged open the door and exited.

For the rest of the day, George manned the computer literacy center alone, and when it was time to close, he made a sign and taped it to the outside of the door. He locked the door, sat down at his desk, and went through the mail that day. The start-up funds had dried up and now they were flying largely solo, just high enough to scrape the treetops. Since Martin loathed asking for money, it fell completely to George to push for funding, which he did not mind so much. What he would find a challenge was if they got a reputation for kicking people out because they had voiced their political views. That, he knew, would be hard to explain to a board of trustees. What the pupils had said seemed less political then an attack on Nogo himself, which was unbearable just then. George sat back and sighed. It was time just to shut things up for a while and take a break and get over the grief.

Ruth came back down and shut off the lights.

“I’m still down here, Ruth,” said George.

“Oh. Sorry.” She put the lights back on.

“How is he?” said George.

Ruth shook her head. “He’s just really angry, and he doesn’t even know who to be angry at. And neither does Nogo’s wife. All she wants is the truth, but whoever she goes to she just gets a lot of finger-pointing. She insists that Nogo did not shoot himself. Martin’s been trying to help her sort it all out but it’s maddening. Pure stonewalling.”

“Ruth,” said George, “I want you to tell Martin we’re closing up shop for a while.”
Ruth sat down. She thought it over and then nodded. “Probably the best thing.”
George picked up the last piece of mail, addressed to him. He ripped it open and read:

“Dear Mr. Fincannon:
For the last several months, you have been daily sending in your resume to our organization. We do not appreciate the spamming. Even so, we now have an opening for a Manager in Sales and Marketing and believe your skills may match this position. We were wondering if you would cease flooding us with your resume and come in for an interview.”

Brows knit, George looked up from the letter and pondered.

“Good news?” asked Ruth.

“Weird news,” said George, and then a memory just before he was kicked out of the apartment returned to him. He had forgotten that on his and Melissa’s computer he had put his resume submissions on autopilot. Various businesses along the entire eastern seaboard had received hundreds of his emailed resumes, and then some.

He wondered if this were a sign that it was time to hand over the whole of the computer literacy operation to Martin and move on.

Down the hall the elevator doors opened, and Martin took his forearm crutches and slowly left the elevator. He stood beside George. “Man I really lost it. Sorry about that.”
George sniffed. “And man you really hit my scotch. Sit down before you fall.”
Martin pulled up a chair. “He used to warn me to keep my cool.”

It was on the tip of George’s tongue. All he had to do was say he was leaving. Somewhere in his bones he knew it was time. He watched Martin scratch his cheek and stew. Martin’s eyes were watering. It was time, but just not yet. “Come on let’s break out the old Outback, Serpentor, and Baroness. Storm a computer.”

Martin shook his head. “He hated those things. Said if I had to do it for real I’d throw them away.”

Cheri knocked on the door outside. George rose to answer it, but Martin was already on his way. Martin opened the door.

“Hi, stranger,” said Cheri, smiling “Aw, come on, buck up. He wouldn’t want you to be so sad.”

Martin read the sign on the door. Slowly he smiled. He gave the sign a nod.

Cheri came up to George and kissed him. George folded the invitation for an interview and put it in his back pocket. “Okay, then,” he said, “It’s Nogo’s Arcade.”

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