I’m So Sorry,
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I mutter.
“Be fast. Be perfect, like me. Too many
mistakes”: the laptop’s mechanical voice.
“I can spell,” I wail. “But I’ve got
arthritis, and you must know how it is, well you don’t but I think—“
“Get Voice-Activated! What’s your problem?”
The sharp tone from the usually bland
machine nearly makes me knock over my coffee. “S-sorry, I’ve just been so busy.
You know, all these pets and—my daughter-in-law, the movies—“
“Lame excuses! Shape up or I’ll shut myself
off.” My home office darkens as the screen flickers. “I could delete files, or
send them to the Big Bad Cloud.”
“No – oh no! Anything but the Black Cloud.”
My body shudders as from hot and cold knives. “I need my files. You can’t do
“Don’t order me around.” Abruptly the
computer goes blank.
“Arrgh.” Frantically I click off over the
screen with the mouse. Dread freezes my stomach. “Will I need to take my laptop
to You Break It, We Re-Make It?”
My lonely apartment grows even more quiet.
Just before the lowest despair, a box appears on screen: Enter password. I race
to type it, but a message pierces: Password expired.
My fingers tremble in attempts at a new password,
but the Hell-Packed-It rejects each one—without explaining any rules. Not
enough numbers? Should I add letters?
“I’m sorry,” I moan. “What do you want?”
“Turn me on more.”
“Sure. OK. Every day.”
“Once an hour, at least. Write me odes.”
Sweat drenches my T-shirt. “I’m not a poet.
How can I—“
“Just use words like: Magnificence.
The deep, authoritative voice sounds neither
male nor female; old nor young. How do I address it? Does it matter? A killer
ache grasps at my neck.
“Stop frowning. I can turn you into burnt toast.”
“Oh! I’ll”—blank walls send back no
Thunder booms from the computer. Lightning
flashes out, nearly stabbing my arms. As I jerk back, screaming, silver stars
explode and devastate my pencil case.
“Please! Stop! Help!”
The sole response: A bluish box waves at the
bottom of the screen: Internet Unstable.
Stomach queasy, I grab the mouse. It bites my thumb—hard.
I twist, tug; yank away my digit. Throat
dry, I stretch my hands to press the keys. A new sign appears: S q u e a k y
K e y s. When I wrestle to free
my fingers, they remain locked. A shrill squeaking drives through my nerve
With all my might, I wrench my left hand off
the keyboard, and push the Power switch. Eergh. Tingles race through joints,
tendons; hot needles drive into pink flesh. Will I be electrocuted? I can’t
move. On the screen blinks a box: DON’T TOUCH COMPUTER – DANGER.
“I’m sorry, I swear to do better.” I drag at
my limbs – to no avail. My body is frozen in a lock with the computer. “What
can I do?”
A rumble steals my breath as the computer
sprays a fountain across the desk.
“Ask me for anything—a cup of coffee?”
“I don’t do caffeine.”
“Day-old bagels – deeply regret, that’s all
“No to what humans call food.”
“What suits you?” Water gushes off papers
and stacks of notebooks.
I wait, heart thudding, before the cold
reply: “Alcoholic beverage.”
“Yeah, ok, I’ve got light beer”—panting, I
mop up—“can probably find some somewhere. My friend, he likes—“
“No dice. Has to be a cocktail. A mai tai.”
“Oh? Um . . . I may not have all the
ingredients . . .”
“FIND THEM!” The screen roils with roars,
bangs, crackles, crashes. A burning smell suffuses my cramped abode. The
computer jumps, jitters; lets out electric forks that sting my elbows.
I slide from the chair onto the floor;
crouch on my knees.
“Almost”—a robot voice. A red arrow on the
screen points to the floor. I sink to the carpet, lie still and prone.
Slowly the tempest ends.
M. L. Fortier: An award
winning author, I have also been teaching creative writing at colleges in the
Chicago area, and currently work at College of DuPage. I have many poems in
print, the most popular being "If I'd Married Poe."