Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions, Inc. The only recompense
the author expects is her own enjoyment and that of a few others.
This story belongs to the author.
What's In A Name?
It was a dark and stormy night.
Amanda King, who in a very select social circle went by the name Amanda Stetson, was growing weary staring fixedly at her computer screen. She mused that toothpicks would be in order soon, if she was to have any hope of keeping her eyes open long enough to finish the numerous reports she was proof-reading. She paused to close her eyes and rub her temples, silently willing the letters to remain in their proper order.
She jumped as she felt another set of hands covering her own, then relaxed as she realized that they belonged to the only other member of that aforementioned select social circle and the reason she was camped out in front of the computer terminal. Lee Stetson's hands replaced her own and continued the massage from her temples, across the back of her head, and down her neck and shoulders.
"Lee," she moaned softly as her head sank forward to the desktop, "I can think of several more interesting ways that you could wear me out. Do you have to let these reports pile up like this? At this rate, I'll still be proofing these by the time the next camping trip comes around."
"I have a solution to that," Lee breathed softly into her ear. "Don't ever leave town without me. I can't help it that I'm no good with these things. Next time, I'll go camping with the boys and you stay and write reports. Then there won't be any errors to correct."
"Oh, sure," Amanda chuckled, "Lee Stetson in the woods with a pack of adolescent boys--clearly your natural element. Ow!" Amanda winced as Lee's thumb hit a particularly tight spot across her left shoulder blade.
"You should have more faith in me. Then you wouldn't have to suffer so much."
"Sweetheart," Amanda turned to regard him with mock seriousness, "if it's suffering you're after, I can go home right now, and Billy can have these as is."
"OK, OK, I'll be good. I promise." Lee returned to his gentler ministrations. "See, I'll rub your neck, feed you, make you coffee.
All you have to do is correct a little spelling and punctuation. Keep reading," he whispered, kissing the top of her head.
Three reports later, Amanda stopped in mid-sentence and returned to the beginning of the file. She read it again, stopped in roughly the same place, and then re-read the file a third time before calling across the room to her husband who was now sleeping on the couch.
"Lee! Wake up!" she hissed loudly.
Bolting to a sitting position, Lee muttered as he rubbed his eyes, "I'm awake, I'm awake, honest." He jumped quickly off the couch and joined her beside the desk.
"Stow it, Scarecrow," Amanda quipped. "Have you shared these files with anyone, yet?"
"No, of course not. They needed to be proofed first."
"Well then something strange is going on. I got halfway through this last one and all of a sudden your name changed."
"What do you mean, 'my name changed?' What did it change into?" Lee's curiosity was piqued. His hands settled on her shoulders once again and he leaned closer to read the file displayed before her. He breathed in her scent as he leaned over her, his hands moving across her shoulders as more than his curiosity was aroused.
Amanda reveled in Lee's attention, but still squirmed slightly as she scrolled down to let him read the file's new appellation for him.
"Buffhunk?! Instead of my name it says 'buffhunk?' What's up with that?" Lee turned to look into his wife's eyes.
"Well, you are, Scarecrow. Everyone says so." Amanda grinned at his incredulous response.
"Everyone?" Lee was temporarily distracted by this idea.
"Oh, yeah, everyone," Amanda answered, still grinning. "The girls at the water cooler, the checkout lady at the supermarket, that cute little girl at the drycleaner's, Francine, even my mother."
"Your mother?!" Lee choked on the words. "Your mother says this kind of stuff about me?"
"Mother thinks you're an 11 on a 10 point scale, Lee. You're lucky she's not 30 years younger. You would definitely be a feather for her cap."
"Amanda, I can live with whatever gets said at the water cooler or written on the walls in the ladies' room. I can probably get over the idea of my mother-in-law checking me out. But I absolutely cannot have Billy Melrose reading 'buffhunk' in place of my name in these reports. You can fix it, can't you?"
"Of course I can. That's simple. Watch and learn, Scarecrow," Amanda gloated as she moved the cursor to the first occurrence of that word that caused Lee such consternation and quickly typed in 'Stetson' in its place. Her condescension melted into puzzlement as the word quickly changed back to 'buffhunk.' Moving the cursor back again, she typed in 'Scarecrow' instead. This time the word became 'magnetic buns.' Despite her confusion, she laughed out loud.
"What the hell?" Lee stared at the offensive screen, running a hand through his hair. "Did you type that?"
"No, Lee," Amanda continued to chuckle. "I might think it, but I'd never write it into a report." She reached around behind her chair to grab him, validating her thoughts and the new appellative. Her quick squeeze turned into a gentler, more exploring caress as he stepped around beside her to glare balefully at the computer screen.
"Oh, no, Mrs. Stetson," Lee chided as he removed her hand from the magnetic portions of his anatomy. "You have a mission to complete before you can receive your reward." He kissed her fingers slowly and winked.
"Lee, it's 2 AM. It isn't nearly as much fun to tell Mother that I'm working late, when working is exactly what I'm doing. Can't we tackle this in the morning?"
"It is morning, very early morning. And besides, I promise you I did not type that." He pointed to another word further down on the screen. "Care to take a guess at whose name that really is?"
Amanda gasped as the words 'Hot Mama' leapt from the screen. "Lee, nobody knows about that but you. How could this possibly be happening? I thought someone might have messed with the word processing software, maybe set loose some sort of 'find and replace' program, but who around here would know about that shirt?"
"Umm, well. . . . I don't. . . .I mean, I'm not sure," Lee shuffled a step away and contemplated the diminishing storm through the window.
"Oh, Lee, you didn't?" Amanda stood as she pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes and reached out to turn him back to face her.
"It was a long time ago, Amanda. You seemed much more annoying than you are now, and it was funny." Lee tried to keep from meeting her gaze, but failed and muttered sheepishly, "It just sorta slipped out one day."
"Well, I guess it's no worse than some of the things I said about you in the early days, Scarecrow." At his raised eyebrow she continued, "Rude, chauvinistic, and self-centered come immediately to mind."
"I knew you loved me even then," Lee replied smugly as he kissed her gently. He pulled back and nodded to the computer monitor. "Now let's get back to outsmarting that infernal contraption." He regarded his current 'enemy number one' with unconcealed ire.
"It isn't the computer's fault, Sweetheart," Amanda sighed.
Condescension crept back into her voice as she began to explain, once again, the difference between hardware and software and whatever might have caused this programming glitch. Even now, it was gratifying to bring her favorite egomaniac down a peg or two. Besides, she reasoned, it was good for him anyway.
"I don't care how it got that way. I just want you to fix it." Amanda marveled at Lee's ability to deflate her own ego and compliment her at the same time.
"This is probably beyond my capability to fix, Lee," she said sitting at the desk again. "Pull up a chair and let's go through this report together. You wrote it; you know what it's supposed to say. Maybe there's a pattern in how the glitch plays out."
"Pull up a chair?" Lee countered, incredulous. "You were gone all weekend, we've hardly seen each other outside of work for two weeks before that, and you want me to pull up a chair? Now that I know how your mother thinks, I know she had to have raised you better than that. Stand up, please." He took her arm and gently raised her back to her feet, slipping in behind her to settle himself into her chair. Not giving her time to react, he pulled her quickly onto his lap. "You said we should do this together," he said as he held her closer. "This is together."
"Oh, all right," she said as she leaned into him indulgently, "If I have to." Amanda reached out and pulled the computer and its keyboard closer to the edge of the desk. "Stop me if you see something that looks wrong."
Over the course of the next few hours, they detected similar, apparent errors that could not be explained by Lee's poor typing in every remaining report. In place of Billy Melrose, the text read 'Sky Chief'; Dr. Smyth's name was altered to 'black-lunged bastard'; European Ops became 'over the rainbow'; Leatherneck was 'Captain Galaxy.' The list of word replacements grew. Beeman was 'the octopus'; a peacock dance became 'playing backgammon,' a reference Amanda was at a loss to understand; Francine was 'She Who Must Be Obeyed'; a mention of 'Hot Mama's' house in Arlington became 'home, sweet, home.' The Q Bureau read as 'a cozy nest'; the bullpen was 'the seventh level of Hell'; Auggie Swan became 'Swan Lake'; and Amanda's children became 'the puppies.'
Amanda opened a new file and carefully typed a list each word change they had discovered in the reports. As soon as she moved to the next line, the text changed. She growled at the reference to the boys.
"Well, I sure see a pattern here," Lee stated as he rubbed her back in comfort.
"Francine," Amanda stated the name again more loudly, beginning to display some unconcealed ire herself.
Looking out the window at the lightening sky, Lee instructed, "Add our names to the list and let's see if she's in yet." Amanda typed in 'Stetson,' 'Scarecrow,' and 'King' and received the now expected 'buffhunk,' 'magnetic buns,' and 'Hot Mama.' When she typed in 'Lee,' she read 'magic fingers,' and smirked at her husband again. Lastly she typed in her own first name. It changed, but not in any way she had expected. She re-typed it three times; both she and Lee leaned closer to the monitor each time. Every time she typed 'Amanda' and moved to the next line, her name changed to 'Amanda Stetson.'
"Now I'm really curious," Lee whispered.
Just then, the monitor flashed and a completely different message appeared. The large amber letters flashed
NOW THAT I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION.
The monitor flashed again and displayed a form similar to the one they had filled out for their marriage license. Their names, correctly rendered, the date, the location, the Justice's name, even
Mrs. Bowman as a witness, were entered in the form.
The monitor flashed a third time:
I DO HAVE YOUR ATTENTION DON'T I?
Lee and Amanda exchanged a slightly confused, slightly alarmed glance.
The door to the office swung open, despite having been firmly locked the night before. Francine Desmond stood in the doorway, lock pick in hand. Amanda was still trying vainly to rise from Lee's lap, but his left hand had been tucked inside her blouse and extricating themselves from each other proved more difficult than usual. Francine smiled and sent her eyebrows to the ceiling.
"April Fool's, children," she purred softly and walked away.
"Francine!" Lee called as he freed his hand as well as two buttons from Amanda's blouse. "Come back here!"
Francine's laughter floated back up the stairs as she escaped through the elevator door.