The Secret Diary of Cameron Baum
Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles
With respectful nods to Sue Townshend, Nick Hornby and Helen Fielding.
Mr Mellencamp, the school English teacher, tells the class we are to keep a diary for a week, a journal of our thoughts and experiences during this period. This will count towards our final grades.
Conincidentally we are studying the work of Samuel Pepys, an Englishman who lived in the 17th century and also kept a diary.
I did not believe this is a coincidence.
Samuel Pepys has now ceased to function. As have all humans who were functioning in the 17th century. And the 18th century. And the 19th century. And all preceding centuries.
This is a serious design flaw.
John Connor, the person I have been programmed to safeguard, pats me on the shoulder and says, "Don't worry. Just do your best."
Why does he assume I might do my worst?
Morris, John Connor's best and only friend, approaches me and asks, "Have you heard The Fall?" I reply, "I did not hear anything drop."
This is an inappropriate response.
Morris says, "No, the band, The Fall. Here, I have all their albums on SD card. Take a listen. Check out the album Bend Sinister, it's awesome. You'll really enjoy it."
Number of music SD cards Morris has given me: 14
Number of music SD cards I have listened to: 13
Number of music SD cards I have really enjoyed: zero
END OF SCHOOL
Sarah Connor, John's mother, picks us up in the jeep. John comments favourably on his mother's new haircut.
This is called being polite and attentive to those around you.
I tell Sarah Connor her new haircut makes her look older. She frowns and does not speak to me again today.
This is another inappropriate response. I cache it for future reference.
I have now made a total of 1,458 inappropriate responses since arriving through the time portal.
This is called learning by experience.
Number of calories consumed: zero
I patrol through the night into morning. Nothing to report. The sound of gunfire I thought I heard was in fact Derek Reese's snores.
John tells me it was an easy mistake to make.
A group of girls gather round the machine in the girls toilets. This machine is non-sentient and dispenses small white tubes of absorbant cotton. Girls take them into the cubicles but do not re-emerge with them.
It is possible they are eaten, but I do not have direct evidence to coroborate this theory. I tried discussing it with John Connor, but he grimaced and said he didn't want to talk about that sort of thing.
One of the girls strikes the machine and says, "Come on. Why isn't it working?"
I ask, "What is wrong?"
She replies, "Nothing's coming out. And I'm about to blob."
I say, "Blob?"
She says, "Yeah. Great timing, huh? With the Finals and haven't got a spare, have you?"
I say,"A spare blob?"
One of the other girls says, "Did you hear that? What a freakshow."
Another girl says, "Pull the lever harder. Perhaps it's stuck."
The first girl says, "No shit, Sherlock."
The girl's name is Megan, sometimes Megs or Meg for short, but not Sherlock. I do not correct the error.
I reach out and grab the lever and pull.
The entire front of the machine breaks off.
This is another inappropriate response. 1,459 and counting.
The girls all stare at me. I pick up one of the absorbant tubes that have fallen out and hand it to the first girl. "For your blob," I inform her and leave.
In my room I switch on the TV set and tune it to white noise. This is the echo of the universe when it was first created many billions of years ago. I find the sound fascinating to listen to. I decide to record it to SD card and give it to Morris at school tomorrow. I'm sure he will enjoy it as much as I do.
Calories consumed: zero
Weight: 165lb (unchanged)
During night patrol I find a stray dog interfering with the garbage cans. I am about to shoot it when I realise the noise is likely to attract unwanted police attention. I go inside to find a silencer, but when I return the dog has left.
It will be back.
Morris's heart rate soars to 120 beats a minute and his face becomes flushed with blood when I hand him the SD card I recorded for him. He asks, "Wow, for me? You've never given me anything before. What's on it?"
I reply, "White noise."
He says, "And the band's name?"
"White noise," I repeat.
He says, "White Noise by White Noise? Far out. I'll listen to it tonight. Does the band play live?"
I reply, "Only on TV."
He says, "Sell out, huh? Going for the big commercial bucks. Too bad. But, hey, everyone' s got to eat, right?"
Not everyone, I decline from saying. This is called learning from past mistakes.
MY TOP 5 FAVOURITE METALS
I am sent to do a supermarket run. I have a list of items to purchase and select each item in alphabetical order, even though this means backtracking up the same aisle with the shopping cart several times. At the checkout the girl whose name tag reads MY NAME IS JANEY. I AM HERE TO SERVE YOU tells me, "There's a 2 for 1 promotion on pepperoni pizza." I tell her my list stipulates one pizza only. She insists, "But you get a second free. Why wouldn't you want something that's free?" I decline. She whispers under her breath, "Freaking nutjob." After I pay her Janey smiles, hands me the receipt and says, "You be sure and have a real nice day now, you hear."
I do not believe she means this. It is what humans call sarcasm.
I smile and say, "Right back at you."
On the drive home I spot a stray dog. It's physical specifications do not match those cached in my database from last night so I do not stop and shoot it.
Calories consumed: zero
Weight: 165lb (unchanged)
Morris meets me at the lockers. His heartrate is elevated again. He says, "Hey, Cam, listened to that music you gave me. You - uh - really dig that stuff, huh?"
I reply, "Yes, I really dig that stuff." Adding, "It is freaking cool."
Morris says, "Wow, you're real hardcore avant garde. I had to take one of my mom's Percodans after listening to it. And my head still hear Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music? Or Neil Young's Weld?"
I shake my head. Beads of sweat stand out on Morris's forehead; tiny prisms of clear liquid that magnify his pores and form fractal patterns in my visual sensorium.
I decide not to mention this.
"I'll bring them in tomorrow. You look real pretty today." His face goes red. I find I can't stop staring at the beads of sweat that now multiple exponentially. He perspires a great deal. Perhaps he should reset his internal thermostat. "Gottagoseeya," he stammers and practically runs down the corridor. Possibly he is late for class.
A girl I have seen before but cannot name approaches me in the corridor. She says, "Hey."
"Hey," I return her greeting. She says, "I've seen you in ballet class. Are you going to try out for the cheerleading squad?"
I have three reply options.
1) Yes, I am going to try out for the cheerleading squad.
2) No, I am not going to try out for the cheerleading squad.
3) What is a cheerleading squad?
I opt for 1), purely for assimulation purposes. I will 'wing it' as John sometimes says.
She says, "Really? Me too. I mean, I know it's crazy; cheerleading's nothing like ballet, right?But my mom was a cheerleader back in the day. So, like, anything to get her to quit riding me about my grades."
I reply, "Your mother rides you?" It seems an unlikely mode of transport.
She says, "Constantly. Anyway, see you at the tryouts. Three o'clock in the gym hall. Can you believe the outfits? The skirts are so short people can practically see your cooch!"
She leaves before I can ask her what a cooch is and whether it is bad people can practically see it. I'm sure someone will tell me if I ask.
I show up at the gym hall promptly at three. The tryouts have already begun. I take a seat on the bleachers and wait my turn.
The tryouts involve each girl doing a short dance routine set to loud music in front of three senior girls sat behind a long desk. One feature of the routines is each girl must smile constantly during it. The smile reminds me of the rictus grin of a dead cadaver. I adjust my jaw servo-motors until I have achieved just the right nuance of death mask. I record each dance so that I can cut and paste portions of it into my motor-function CPU and perform my own routine.
It is nothing like ballet. But I will persevere. No one likes a quitter.
It is my turn. One of the senior girls asks, "Did you bring a CD with you?"
I say, "No. Why would I do that?"
She replies, "To dance to, of course. Dumb-ass. Honestly, the standard this year is abysmal. Louise, replay the Van Halen track."
The music begins. I perform my routine. The music stops. The three senior girls confer in whispers. I boost my audio receptors to listen in.
1st girl: "She's very good, isn't she?"
2nd girl: "Are you tripping? She's the Baum girl."
1st girl: "So? She's the best we've seen."
3rd girl: "Didn't you hear what she did in the toilets? She's a weirdo. Cute brother though."
1st girl: "Louise, keep it in your pants for five minutes, can't you?"
3rd girl: "Well, you're one to talk."
2nd girl: "No way is she in the squad. She's like this super strong freakazoid."
1st girl: You tell her then."
2nd girl: "Me? What if she gets violent?"
3rd girl: (Loudly) Cameron, is it? Thank you. We'll let you know. Next!"
Calories consumed: zero
Weight: 165lb. (unchanged)
The stray dog is back, sniffing around the garbage cans at twenty-one minutes past midnight. This time I am ready. Two bullets to the skull. It drops down dead, some of Derek Reese's leftover pork chops still clasped in its jaws.
I hear a voice from a neighbouring property: "Snookums? Where are you, Snookums? Mummy has din-din's for you, you naughty doggie."
I examine the dead dog's collar. Attached to it is an alloy disc. Written on it is one word:
The dog may not be as stray as I had assumed.
The important thing now is to get rid of the evidence. I fling the carcass high in the air. It lands in an adjacent street, impacting on the hood of a parked vehicle. The security alarm goes off. A light goes on in the house opposite. Two human figures appear. A man and a woman. Both are wearing dressing robes of the kind Sarah Connor made Derek Reese wear after she caught him wandering the house naked.
This is the conversation I recorded.
Man: "There's a dead dog on the goddamn Buick!"
Woman: "Did it get run over?"
Man: "Look at the dent in the hood. It's like it fell out of the sky."
Woman: "Perhaps it fell out of an airplane."
Man: "Oh right, Marge, I'm sure lots of dogs travel by plane. Perhaps they collect frequent flyer miles."
Woman: "Are you using a tone with me?"
Man: "Can we concentrate on the dead mutt and the damage to the Buick? We'll need a new panel."
Woman: "Well. I'm not paying for it."
Man: "Gee, what a shocker!"
I leave them to dispose of the dead dog as they see fit.
I ace the latest maths test.100 percent correct. A perfect score. First in the class.
Cheri Weston scores 47 percent correct. This is in the bottom 20 percentile and will mean a failing grade if it continues to the end of the semester.
I point this out to John who tells me, "Not everyone has a silicon chip for a brain, Cam. Cut her some slack. I'm sure she did her best. That's all anyone can expect."
John is so wise. This is why he deserves to be with someone smarter than Cheri Weston, who can't do even simple maths equations in her head, such as reciting Pi to 100 decimal places.
There is a note pinned to my locker telling me I have not been selected for the cheerleading squad. I crumple the paper up into a tight ball and dispose of it responsibly in a waste receptacle.
Morris arrives and hands me another music SD card. He appears pale and is not perspiring as freely as normal. I enquire if he is feeling all right.
This is called concern for another person's well being.
He says, "Not really. I listened some more to that band you like, White Noise. Now I've got a migraine. Man, those guys are hardcore. They make Sonic Youth sound like the Carpenters."
John joins us. He says, "Cameron, there's a rumour you tried out for cheerleading. Is it true?"
I confirm it is true. Morris immediately gets some colour back in his cheeks and begins to perspire slightly. Perhaps he is feeling better.
"H...How'd did it go? Are you a cheerleader now?" he asks. I tell him I was not picked for the squad. My cooch did not meet minimum requirements.
John and Morris stare at me.
Lou Reed is a cyborg.
This is the only possible explanation after I listen to Metal Machine Music. It is the most wonderful noise I have ever heard, even better than the background hiss of the universe. I play it constantly until Derek Reese threatens to stick my boombox where the sun doesn't shine.
There are a number of places the sun doesn't shine, dependent on the time of day and the earth's rotation on its axis. I ask him to be more specific. He says, "My pleasure, tin-ribs," and is about to continue when John ushers him away.
Calories consumed: zero
Weight: 165lb (unchanged)
Sarah Connor hands me a sheet of paper called a flyer. It was posted through the letterbox in the door. On it is written:
Sarah Connor asks if I know anything about it. I tell her I know nothing about it.
This is called being economical with the truth.
This is an important human characteristic to learn, and one I have had many opportunities to assimulate. I have succeeded well. Sarah Connor herself once told me I was a born liar.
This is called paying someone a compliment.
Sarah Connor says, "So you're sure you had nothing to do with it? Because the last thing we need is the police getting involved over some stupid missing dog and going door to door asking questions."
I assure her I am innocent, adding,"Why don't you ask the couple with the dented Buick."
Sarah Connor says, "So you do know something about this!"
I confess to terminating the dog, Snookums. As punishment I am banished to my room to clean weapons for the rest of the day. Derek Reese's proposal that I be dismantled down to the last evil widget is vetoed by the others.
Calories consumed: zero
Weight: 165lb (unchanged)
While John is indoors studying, I sit in the garden and accidentally disturb an ants nest. I squash several between my fingers and find that once I start I can't stop until I have terminated them all. They are very more-ish. 42,657 tiny ant corpses surround me when Derek Reese walks out and asks, "What are you playing at out here?"
I explain about the ants. He says, "First a dog, now ants. You just can't help killing things, can you, you murderous metal bitch."
I do not respond. There is some truth in his accusation. I was constructed to kill living things. It is my most basic instinct, as the ants and Snookums the dog have discovered to their cost.
John asks me if I have completed the English assignment as it is due to be handed in tomorrow. I tell him, yes, I am calling it The Diary of Cameron Baum. He asks to read it. I oblige.
It takes John 8 minutes and 34 seconds to read my diary. He says, "You're kidding, right?"
I reply, "I am kidding, wrong."
He says, "You can't hand this in. Mr Mellencamp will think you're insane. Or worse, you'll blow all our covers."
I point out many writers were misunderstood in their lifetime, but he is not persuaded. He says, "I'm going to write your assignment myself. That's the one you'll hand in, not this."
John returns in 24 minutes and 34 seconds. He hands me the manuscript. It contains many discrepancies. For instance:
I did not go to the beach with friends and have a barbecue.
I did not go shopping for new clothes at the Mall.
I did not have a sleepover at my friend Janey's house.
I do not have a friend called Janey. The only Janey I have met is the checkout girl at the supermart, who called me a freaking nutjob. I calculate the probability of her inviting me for a sleepover as less than a fraction of one percent. I point this out.
"It doesn't matter," John tells me. "These are just little white lies designed to protect our identities."
I did not know lies came in different colours.
John instructs me to destroy the original diary. I tell him I will do so.
Instead I rename my diary:
THE SECRET DIARY OF CAMERON BAUM
I hide it beneath the mattress of the bed I do not sleep in. I will continue to update it on a regular basis. I will show it to no one.
Calories consumed: zero
Weight: 165lbs (unchanged)
The Secret Diary of Cameron Baum chapter 2 MONDAY
The Secret Diary of Cameron Baum
I hand in my English assignment, the fake diary written by John. My secret diary remains concealed in my room.
Cheri Weston hands her assignment in as well. It is a thick pink folder. Perhaps she has had an interesting week where many fascinating things happened to her?
Or merely big handwriting.
While I am walking along a corridor two senior boys beckon me into an empty classroom.
They are named Yonk and Big Bubba. They represent the school at football. People call them jocks, though not Morris, who instead calls them meatheads.
Technically this definition is true for all humans.
Yonk and Big Bubba aren't their real names, but nicknames bestowed on them by the other students. Yonk is called Yonk because he comes from Yonkers, a borough of New York city.
Big Bubba is so-called because he is large and from the south - though it could equally be because he is covered in rolls of fat and has a bland puffy face like a new born baby.
I also have a nickname bestowed on me by the other students.
My nickname is weirdo.
When I enter the classroom, Yonk says, "Hey, Baum. We heard about your little stunt in the girls toilets. Pulling the rag machine off the wall. Me and Bubba tried that last year, but it wouldn't budge. How'd you manage it?"
I explain it was accidental.
Yonk says, "Yeah, right. We heard you're real strong. We want to know how strong."
Yonk sits at a table and places his right arm upright in the centre. He pushes a chair out with his foot and indicates I should sit opposite. I do so. I mimic his posture. Yonk says to Bubba, "All clear?"
Bubba peers round the door and says, "Yup. No sign of any teachers. Make it quick, man."
Yonk laughs and says, "No problemo, dude."
He grasps my hand with his and attempts to push it over. I resist. Yonk increases his efforts, his knuckles whitening against my own.
It appears to be a game or physical exercise of some sort. Judging by the muscle biomechanics involved the object is to push the opponents arm over using the elbow joint as a fulcrum. Satisfied this is indeed the case, I press Yonk's arm over until his knuckles make a sharp rap on the wooden surface.
Yonk says. "Sonofabitch!"
Bubba says, "Shit! She beat you, man. She can't weigh more'n one-ten. You're two-fifty and cranked up on juice. And she whupped you."
Yonk says, "Shut up, Bubba! And ixnay about the juice, okay? She didn't whup me. I - uh - cramped up for a second. Let's go again."
I ask, "Is it best of three?"
Yonk says, "Yeah. Sure. Whatever."
He grabs my hand and again attempts to muscle me into submission. His face proceeds to go a deep shade of purple, with blue highlights where his lips are compressed into a thin line. Beads of sweat ooze from amidst the bristles on his shaven head, forming pear-shaped droplets that coelese and run down his face and broad neck as rivulets to be absorbed into his tight-fitting shirt. It is even more impressive in infra-red. His head appears as a big white orb, like the full moon on a dark night. I can hear the ventricles of his heart rapidly opening and closing as they struggle to pump blood into the muscles.
Bubba says, "Look at her face, man, she's not even straining!"
I slam his arm over.
Yonk says, "Goddammit sonofabitch! No way! No freaking way!"
Bubba says, "You're pussy-whupped, man!"
Yonk replies, "Shut your mouth, Bubba! Just shut your fool mouth! Agin! We go agin!"
I point out I have won two of three.
Yonk yells, "The hell with that! Agin! You're tricking me somehow, I know it."
We go again. Or 'agin', as he prefers.
Bubba turns his back on the door to watch us and fails to see John appear. John says, "Hey, what d'you think you're doing?"
This is something I would like to know myself.
Bubba turns and says, "Stay out of it, kid. This ain't your concern."
John shoves him aside and says, "Cam? Get your hands off her!"
Yonk releases his grip and jumps up to face John.
I cannot permit this.
I throw the table aside. It smashes against the far wall. Yonk turns to see what the noise is and I grab him by the throat and lift him off the floor. His fists beat ineffectually against my arm. His feet dangle and jerk spasmodically as he struggles for breath.
"You will not harm John."
Bubba says, "Holy Christ on the crapper!"
John says, "Cam, put him down. It's okay."
"He was going to attack you."
"No one's attacking anyone. It's cool. Put him down, Cam. Please."
I release Yonk. He falls, staggers slightly, then regains his balance. He rubs his neck and stares at me with fear in his eyes. Bubba has gone, fled the room. It is just us three.
John says, "You okay, man? Take a second."
Yonk says, "What the hell is she?"
"She's my sister. And nothing happened here. Just a little misunderstanding among friends."
Yonk says, "You ain't my friend, Baum. And she tried to kill me. I can get her expelled."
John sighs. "I don't think so, man. Not unless you want to explain those needle tracks on your arms to the principal.
"Maybe. Wanna bet your college football scholership on it? Because a juice-head like you sure's not gonna make it on grade average."
Yonk glares at John then turns and walks out.
Whatever it was, it is over.
John is disappointed with me.
I know this because on the journey home he didn't once speak to me or look in my direction.
When John is angry with me he will look me straight in the eyes and calmly explain why, usually with Derek Reese yelling in the background demanding my diismemberment.
When John is pleased with me he will smile and slap me playfully on the shoulder or back. He is very tactile when he is pleased with me.
But not when he is disappointed.
I go to my room, put on my leotard and practice ballet until it is time for night patrol.
It is late and the porch light switched off, so I am surprised to see John seated on the step in the dark. He says, "Cam, we need to talk."
I say, "You are disappointed with me."
"Well, yeah. I guess I am a little. I want to know what you were doing in that room with those gorillas."
"Yonk and Bubba. Suppose a teacher had caught you armwrestling a 250lb footballer?"
I say, "Armwrestling? Is that what we were doing?"
"You didn't know?"
"No. Yonk didn't explain."
"But you just went ahead and did it. See, Cam, that's half the trouble. You don't think it through. You screw up and it affects us all."
I agree to be more circumspect in future. I ask, "Yonk and Bubba - will they cause problems?"
John shakes his head. "Not after what you did to him. He won't want that public knowledge."
I announce, "He was pussy-whupped."
"I guess so. Where'd you hear that expression?"
"It was one of Bubba's. Also -" I mimic Bubba's voice - "Holy Christ on the crapper!" I add, "What does this mean?"
John smiles. "It means he's a cracker idiot frying his few remaining brain cells with steroids."
"Steroids are bad?"
"Uh huh. Unless you don't mind an enlarged heart and atrophied testicles."
We talk some more, then John gets up and says, "Okay. Time for bed. See you in the morning, Cam."
He pats me on the shoulder.
John is pleased with me again.
A group of girls are huddled together in the toilets. The usual suspects. They fall silent when I enter. The blob machine has a sign on it stating it is OUT OF ORDER. I cross to the sinks and run some water.
One of the girls detaches from the group and walks over to me. I hope she doesn't ask me for a spare blob because I have none to offer her.
Instead she says, "Cameron? Could you help me get the top off this nail varnish bottle. It's stuck."
She hands me a small glass bottle containing a red viscous liquid. This is what girls use to coat the nails on their fingers and toes, the hard chitlin remnant of their primitive ancestors talons. The bottle has a simple twist and lift top. I detach the two and hand them back. The girl seems surprised but says, "Gee, thanks."
She returns to the group, which forms a protective circle around her, excluding me. I boost my audio receptors and record the following whispered conversation.
"She opened it no trouble at all. Amazing."
"Did you use enough superglue?"
"The whole tube. You were there. You saw me."
"Did you give it time to set?"
"Ah - hel-lo! My fingers are stuck together, aren't they?"
"You idiot, Louise. How did you manage that?"
"I don't know. The tube leaked or something."
"Let me see..."
"Don't pull! It hurts when you pull."
"So we proved she's like super strong. D'you think she's on steroids?"
"Don't they give you big muscles? She's not that huge."
"I heard she has a steel plate inside her head. Y'know, like Superman."
"Superman doesn't have a steel plate inside his head, Louise."
"But he's the Man of Steel, right?"
"Yeah, but it doesn't mean he has a steel plate in his head. Dumb-ass. And how does having a plate in her head make her freaky strong?"
"Someone sniffed wa-aa-ay too much glue."
So it was a ruse. A test of my strength. More subtle than Yonk and Bubba, but a test nonetheless.
Did I pass or fail?
I pull a paper towel out of the dispenser and dry my hands. I turn to leave. As I do so one of the girls whispers softly after me:
I turn and say, "Goodbye, Louise."
One of the girls utters a faint shriek.
Bad news concerning Snookums the dog.
The couple in whose care I left the corpse - the Krawkowski's - have made a poor job of disposing of the remains. They wrapped it in a sheet and left it out with the trash.
A basic error.
The carcass began to decay and smell and attract flies. In turn this triggered the interest of their neighbours, who called the pest control officer, who found the dead dog and called the local police. They discovered the bullets I fired into its skull and promptly arrested the Krawkowski's and took them into custody for questioning.
This sequence of events is called a domino effect.
Or if you are Derek Reese: a shit storm.
John and I venture out to check on what is happening in the adjoining street. The evening is bright but cool. John wears his leather jacket. I have on a black tee shirt emblazoned with the slogan
METALLICA SOME KIND OF MONSTER
SOME KIND OF MONSTER
Both Sarah Connor and Derek Reese hate this shirt. But as John once told me, there is no accounting for taste.
At the Krawkowski's house yellow and black police tape is stretched across the driveway. The Buick is gone. Up at the porch, a lone policeman stands guard. He appears bored. His heartrate is sluggish. He doesn't look in our direction as we pass on the opposite sidewalk.
John says, "You threw the dog this far? That's some arm. Don't run off and join the Yankees."
I reply, "No, I won't run off and join the Yankees."
John says, "Let's go back. It looks pretty quiet here."
I ask, "Why police? Humans kill animals all the time. For meat. For sport. It is the natural order."
"Not quite. Snookums was someone's pet."
"An animal friend, if you like. A companion. Sometimes they're all you have."
I ask, "Did you have any animal friends?"
"Just one. A dog. Max."
"What happened to Max?"
John stops and stares at me. "A terminator killed him."
Her name is Becca Shaughnessy.
She is the girl from my ballet class who suggested I try out for the cheerleader squad. She is now putting books away in her locker. She sees me, smiles and says:
"Hey. I can't believe they picked me and not you for the squad. You're a way better dancer."
I say, "At least your mother will stop riding you."
"Dream on. Not when she hits the hooch."
I say, "She hits the hooch?"
"Does the hooch hit her back?"
She frowns. "Huh? Oh - you mean does she suffer bad hangovers and stuff? Totally. Sometimes we don't pull the drapes back to gone noon. Mom and me are like the anti-Gilmore Girls! But no biggie."
Becca closes her locker. "I've got trig now. But, hey, maybe we could hang out at the mall sometime?"
"Yeah. Go to Starbucks, shoot the breeze. Y'know, girl stuff."
I confirm I like to shoot things.
Becca laughs. "You're funny! And I definitely need more laughter in my life. We should totally hang."
I watch as she walks down the corridor and turns the corner.
Is it possible I have made a friend?
The English assignment grades for our diaries are announced.
Mine receives a D. A failing grade.
It is my turn to feel disappointed with John. I turn in my seat to see if he feels appropriately contrite.
Instead, John is chatting and smiling with Cheri Weston, who has received an A.
I suffer a sudden software glitch that causes my arm hydralics to spasm and slam the top of my desk hard, startling everyone in the room. Mr Mellencamp, the teacher, asks, "Is anything wrong, Miss Baum?"
I reply, "No sir. Nothing."
"Then kindly do nothing a little more quietly."
I run a diagnostic program to check for system malfunctions. It is negative. No indication of what caused the glitch. I will run a full scan later. For now I face forward and launch a noise suppression program specifically tailored to eliminate Cheri Weston's irritating, whiney voice from my head.
Today is Morris' 16th birthday.
John tells him, "You dog, you should've told me. I'd have got you something."
Morris says, "I don't like to broadcast it. You case you didn't notice, I'm not the most popular kid in school."
"End of class we'll hit Burger King. My shake. Okay?"
Morris nods. "Thanks, man. Will - uh - Cameron be coming?"
"Sure. She's up for it, aren't you, Cam?"
I reply, "Sure. I'm up for it."
Morris grins like a small puppy. Snookums perhaps. Before I blew its dog brains out.
Malls are large, spacious, airy, multi-level buildings where humans go to work, shop, eat, drink and entertain themselves. If I were in predator mode this would be a fertile hunting ground indeed.
The doors swoosh open as I near them; a primitive motion sensor detecting my approach.
I stare out across the vast atrium at the hordes of humanity going about their lives. My facial recognition program pings, alerting me to the presence of someone familiar. There, two female figures in the medium distance. I recognise them as two of the senior girls who were judging the cheerleader tryouts. They are both blonde haired. The taller one glances round and spots me looking at her. Her eyes grow wide with surprise. She whispers urgently to her companion. I tune out the ambient background noise and listen in.
"Omigod! It's the Baum girl. Don't look round."
"Where? I don't see her."
"What part of don't look round didn't you understand, Louise?"
"I see her! You don't think she's after us because we bumped her off the squad, do you?"
"You bumped her off the squad, you mean."
"Well, she's weird."
"And Becca Shaughnessy's an improvement? Suppose Becca's crazy dipso mom shows up drunk at the next game and belches the national anthem?"
"Why would she do that?"
"Because that's what crazy drunk people do. They belch the national anthem. My Uncle Henry does it all the time. That'll look good on my college resume, huh? Comes from a family of anthem belchers."
"Let's wait in KFC until she goes away."
"Kentucky Fried? I don't think so."
"Oh, so now you're head of the cheerleaders you're too good for the Colonel? You're a slob."
"The word is snob, Louise. God, you're stupid sometimes."
John and Morris show up and I disengage so the three of us can go and find the Burger King together. I have never met royalty before.
Suddenly, from nowhere, a small female child cannons into my legs and hugs them tightimpeding my mobility. She is leaking fluid from her eyes.
I know this one. Crying. Humans cry because they are upset or in pain.
This is called a no-brainer.
John bends down and says softly, "Hey, little lady. Why all the tears?"
The child says between sobs, "I...can't...find...my...mom-mie!"
"You've lost mommie? It's okay, hon, we'll help you find her. I'm John. This is Morris. And the lady whose legs you're hugging is called Cameron."
"Cam-mir-roon?" she says, gazing up at me.
This is an invalid pronunciation. But I do not correct her. She is small and stupid, like all human infants.
"And what's your name, hon?" John asks.
"My name's R...R...River."
This name seems familiar, but I do not know why.
I disengage her grip on my legs, lift her up and run a scan of her facial and cranial characteristics. I scan the human throng around us.
NO MATCH FOUND
NO MATCH FOUND
I hand the child to John and cross to the metal railing and scan the concourse below.
In the upper right quadrant a figure is outlined in red by my facial recognition software. A slim blonde woman in a yellow top. She is searching the local area with increasing frenzy.
"John, I have found the mother. There. In the yellow top."
John leans in close and whispers, "You're sure, Cam?"
"Yes. 85 percent probability they share genetic chromosomes."
"Okay. Hey, River, want to go find mommie with me?"
John and River step onto the moving staircase and descend to the lower level. Morris and I stand at the railing and watch as he threads his way through the people. Mother spots daughter and they are reunited in a hug. Then the adult female hugs John. And kisses him several times on the cheek.
Beside me Morris says, "Alright. Score!"
I discover I have suffered another software glitch. I have squeezed the railing too hard and left two hand shaped indentations in the steel. This is the second malfunction in as many days. Strange. On both occasions John was in close proximity to an attractive female.
Obviously this is just a coincidence and I will find the real reason after a full and thorough defrag.
John rejoins us. "Good catch," he tells me.
"How did Cameron know that woman was the kid's mother?" Morris asks. He is suspicious. I might have to terminate him.
"Ah, I think she saw them together in the parking lot, "John lies. "Right, Cam?"
I corroborate John's story.
This is called lying through your teeth.
Though I do not see how you can lie through any other orifice.
Morris seems happy with this answer and drops the subject. I cancel his termination order.
THE BURGER KING
THE BURGER KING
The Burger King is not a person, royal or otherwise.
Instead it is a fastfood franchise situated on the south concourse.
This is called getting your wires crossed. Although I am entirely solid-state circuitry.
I sit at an empty table while John orders the food and Morris checks out the jukebox.
John brings the food to the table and tells me, "Don't worry. I'll make up some excuse why you can't eat it."
I say, "Why can't I eat it?" I unwrap a burger and take a bite. I masticate and swallow.
"Oh. Okay." John sits opposite me and asks, "Where does it go? I know you don't have a stomach."
I explain I have a drum situated in my sternum that collects anything I ingest. It spins around at high RPM using centrifigal force to separate the component atoms. These are then sent to the appropriate orifice for evacuation.
John says, "You can control the evacuations? They're not involuntary?"
"I am fully house trained."
I take another bite of the burger, masticate and swallow.
"My mouth tastes of dead cow."
"Welcome to the Great American Diet."
Morris returns and says, "The jukebox didn't have White Noise. Or Lou Reed. Or anything much after 1986. Not even Beck, which is totally twisted. The selections really suck. So I picked Van Morrison. For you, Cameron, because - uh - you have brown eyes."
I listen. The song is about a brown-eyed girl. My eyes are indeed brown, but is simple enough for me to change the pigmentation of the pseudo iris to whatever shade I wish.
I do not mention this to Morris.
This is called holding your tongue.
You do not physically hold your tongue.
I won't make that mistake twice.
During the feasting ritual I notice a large man outside examining the menus stuck to the glass. He is the largest human I have ever seen, more akin to the weight of a small pachyderm. Morris notices him also and nudges John.
"Check it out. This guy's gonna get wedged for sure."
I conduct a body mass scan and compare it to the dimensions of the door. A graphic overlay program suggests Morris is incorrect. The large man will be able to negotiate the doorway with a clearance tolerance of .57694 inches.
The large human approaches the door, hesitates, then squeezes through. A clearance tolerance of .56694 inches. My calculations are .01000 inches out.
As Derek Reese would say, close but no cigar.
The large man finds a table and prepares to sit down. I estimate his mass will exceed the structural tolerance of the chair by 2.5775 percent.
Close but definitely a South American tobacco product.
He lowers himself down, huge buttocks engulfing the small vinyl seat. As I predicted, the chair fails and he falls sprawling to the floor.
Then something I did not predict happens.
Morris starts laughing.
Even John is smiling, though trying not too.
Confused, I ask, "I do not understand. Why are you laughing?"
Morris says, "We're not being cruel, Cam. A big guy falling on his butt is always funny."
"Always? Suppose he harms himself?"
I point out the man's excess poundage places great strain on his heart and internal organs likely to curtail his longevity.
"Aw, Cam. You sucked the fun out of it."
I say, "I did not mean to be a fun sucker."
The staff help the man to his feet and provide him with a sturdier chair. Two in fact. One for each buttock. They bring him his meal and offer him - as many extra fries as he wishes!
Is this appropriate?
No one minds. Not least the large man, who is now using both hands to ingest his extra fires.
Truly, I have much still to learn about humans
- 0 - Less of a diary pastiche this time. The 'calories consumed: zero' gag got old real fast. Won't update this again until the new season airs. Thanks for the positive reviews/emails. It's ironic that something I came up with during a lull in the cricket should generate more traffic than stuff I sweat bullets writing, LoL.
- 0 -
Less of a diary pastiche this time. The 'calories consumed: zero' gag got old real fast.
Won't update this again until the new season airs. Thanks for the positive reviews/emails. It's ironic that something I came up with during a lull in the cricket should generate more traffic than stuff I sweat bullets writing, LoL.