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WIRED FOR LIFE/Steve Almond JANIE MET THE ELECTRICIAN Charlie Song in August. The AC adapter to her laptop had frayed, and the connection kept failing. Thus, she was forced to jiggle the plug until the current returned, at which point she would have to remain very still for many minutes at a time—she worked with the laptop on her actual lap, which was ridiculous , she knew, pathetic, but there you had it—lest the sadistic plug icon disappear and the machine revert to battery mode, which was supposed to last six hours but which ran down (and this Janie had timed) Ui seventeen and a half minutes. It was a Uttle like being a hostage. Charlie Song's shop was on a stretch of Mass Avenue that was constantly being torn up. Great chunks of asphalt lay about, while men m hard hats and dirty shirts murmured mto cell phones. They were hostages , too, though they seemed somewhat liberated by their proximity to loud and senseless destruction. Inside the shop, dozens of computers had been disemboweled. The remains were so: dusty circuit boards, magnets, stripped screws, woofers like little black eggcups. Keyboards dangled from their cords. Had Torquemada worked in the high-tech medium, this would have been his style. From the back of the shop, CharUe Song emerged, weaving through the lifeless monitors. He was middle-aged, the color of a weak varnish. He smiled, shyly, as if embarrassed by the size of his teeth. You need help?» Janie said yes and began to explain her situation, rather too elaborately , while Charlie Song nodded and blinked. Power broke? Right, Janie said. CharUe played the plug between the tips of his fingers. He licked his Ups. Okay. We try. Thursday. Oh no, Janie said. I mean, if there's any possible way, see, all my work is on the computer, I'm a designer and I've got these projects, deadlines, so if there's any way, I could even wait— Charlie nodded. It was a complex nod, one that seemed utterly to dismiss Janie's words and yet somehow (was it the mournful aversion of the eyes, the slightly injured stoop?) to acknowledge the panic behind them. He carried the adapter to his work table. The Missouri Review · 133 A pair of pliers appeared in his hand. With these he snipped the cord and peeled back the black casing to expose the wires. The spot where the connection had frayed looked like a tiny copper fright wig. Charlie gazed at it and let out a sigh and played at the filaments with his thumb. Then he turned on the ancient contraption—something like a whisk—at the center of his table. Is that a welder? Janie said. Charlie Song said, Sadder. Sadder? Sadder. Sadder gun. Janie wanted to ask him what did he mean, sadder gun? She had heard of a warm gun, a Gatling gun, even a love gun—and now she thought of Drew, her beautiful boyfriend, whose beautiful love gun she would not be sucking this evening, nor receiving inside her with delicious slow-and-hurried difficulty, but which would, Instead, lie tremendous and pink across his thigh while she quietly pleasured herself and wept, there Ui the dark, quietly. Charlie puUed a spool of silver thread from his desk drawer, and right there on the label was the word he had been trying to say: solder. He grazed the shaft of the gun against an old sponge and Ustened to the fault hiss. The tip came against the thread, and the solder dissolved Into a shiny glob and released a coil of white smoke. Charlie touched at the glob with great tenderness. It was a tricky business, coaxing the wet solder into the space where the wires had come apart. The muscles between his knuckles tensed. His tongue dabbed, a bit rakishly, at his upper lip. Janie felt she should use the occasion to learn a new skill. She might even fix her own adapter the next time it broke. But there was something else. It dawned on her, as Charlie gently replaced the solder, gun in its holster and pressed the fused...


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pp. 133-145
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