Good god: that self-satisfied voice, going on and on:
“The extraordinary mirror relationships of hacking itself and anti-hacking–or hacker-hunting–programs form a prism where every angle essentially reflects the same exact structures…”
Andrew hadn’t stopped talking about his work since she had been introduced.
That old desire to leave, to close up an oldSamsonite suitcase and just take a powder, but she couldn’t– only five minutes ago they had picked up Joan’s nephew for lunch. He’d been waiting in front of his corporate headquarters, which, like a sudden huge toadstool, had taken over a solid New York City block.
She had mentioned to Joan, her old friend, that she’d been pining for Mexican and knew of an excellent place just around the corner and Joan as always had been agreeable, but Andrew said he’d made a reservation at a “brilliant” Japanese place (on his famous aunt’s dime, of course). Andrew didn’t seem to hear Joan saying that her friend had just returned from Japan and might like a change, but Bad Kitty waved her hand, dismissing it as an issue.
Andrew only grew more technical after they were seated. She didn’t need to look at the menu to know what she wanted or how costly this whole meal would be, and tried to tune out his bragging about the huge breakthrough the company (with his help) was making in the field of anti-hacking programs.
“It’s literally a quantum leap: no one’s ready for it—we’ll have the element of surprise. I wouldn’t even be telling you,” he snickered at his aunt, “if I didn’t know you hardly know what I’m talking about.
It was a long lunch.
But, sitting there, she had a breakthrough of her own, involving her old cellphone (which she only had with her because she’d imagined—before actually meeting him—that as always with the young, she’d take advantage of their ease with such things and that Joan’s geeky tech nephew might wipe it clean for her while they ate lunch so she could donate it to a shelter). And suddenly she echoed Joan’s excitement about a tour of Andrew’s offices.
Yes, as he preened himself more and more on their “breakthrough,” she had an idea and she’d popped that idea into her mental perambulator and, though no longer listening to Andrew, she nodded smiling at him every so often which was all that he required by way of a conversational partner– she was walking that baby off into a leafy, happy, profitable mental park….
“It is rare that we get to bring anyone in but I told Ian you were here for the first time in years Aunt Joan–and Ian of course knows who you are but also he’s really making an exception cause he knows you helped put me through MIT…”
She felt the pain of some boss knowing who Joan was, but the schlemeil not knowing his aunt at all.
Joan paid for lunch (hundreds of dollars), but Andrew did not thank her; he kept talking all the way back to his building, stopping only when the ladies had their pictures taken at the security desk for large visitor tags.
“Now remember: no photos, no notes–that is really verboten.”
Ian didn’t seem so bad–in fact he had a full head of hair, he wasn’t wearing glasses, was much less awkward than she had expected and better looking too: tall, and in a way quite handsome.
She reflected on her prejudices.
Ian was beaming at Joan, saying he’d like to talk with her when she’d seen everything.
Andrew took them on a short, guided tour and then left them at his work station and went to the bathroom. Sinking into her nephew’s chair, Joan looked worn out, but tried to disguise the fact by attending to a text that pinged in on her phone. And Bad Kitty whipped out that old cellphone and quickly took several pictures of two large whiteboards scrawled with formulas in bright markers. Tucking that away, she was holding up her current iPhone just as Joan turned to her, snapping a few pictures of her beautiful friend.
Then Andrew walked in and was horrified.
“WHAT are you doing!??”
He actually screeched at her.
“Nothing,” she said, turning her astonished face to Ian who’d just walked in as well and stood behind Andrew.
Internally she felt the comforting fact that she was fortunate that none of her three nephews screeched. Without having anything to do with it, living halfway across the country, she felt proud of that.
“Have you forgotten: there are absolutely no photos allowed–“ and as Andrew peremptorily held out his hand for her phone, Ian nodded.
“But it’s just your aunt! She’s so proud of you…”
And then, looking hurt, she handed over the new iPhone.
Aggressively yet obsequiously, glancing at Ian, Andrew flicked his wrist, playing back the photos: he was turned carefully so whatever he saw was also displayed to Ian. He swiped past the ones of his aunt at his desk, looking at the last few days and even a rainbow from last weekend, and then slowly swiped forward again with that white forefinger white as only a white computer geek boy’s finger could be. He frowned as he hit upon the last photos, of his aunt, shrugged, and then deleted them one by one, as if squashing ants–and aunts, it occurred to her–saying, “Sorry…sorry…sorry…sorry.”
Andrew handed her back the phone.
“Such a sweet visit! “ Joan piped up brightly: “ But we should be toddling off—“
Ian, clapping Andrew on the shoulder, apologized for the cautiousness, assuring the ladies that he would walk them out and take a group snap with the great background of the corporation logo.
As soon as they were alone, Joan put her hand on Bad Kitty’s arm looking at her as if to say, let’s forbear comment and when she smiled back, Joan got chatty.
”Oh, I know that was not very polite, Andrew checking your phone, and erasing those sweet pictures of me, and all that, but you know he can’t help it. He’s a little Asbergian. A sort of idiot savant…”
And Bad Kitty thought: syndromes are by their nature enough to make anyone tired–and yes Joan looked exhausted.
She proposed a quick Pick Me Up, and sitting in their booth at the El Quijote, they were both, in their own ways, quite happy.
Quite a pretty penny could come from Ian’s breakthrough, she knew. Chatting away with Joan, a suitcase of cash from a start-up revolved in her brain along with a Chinese connection of a friend of hers…But Bad Kitty decided to put all that out of her mind until she got back from her favorite country house in the world that old friends had on the most beautiful river—clean, partly a national park—where she’d be the next week.
And there, lolling on the front porch, it came to her how Andrew only reminded her of Harry’s awful daughter Celia the least little bit, despite the fact that they were both “geniuses of technology”.
Tedious, in a different key from Andrew (his all bragidaccio; hers all sulky silent superiority), Celia was a mousy contrary little girl before she had blossomed into a full-on politically extra-right ratty thing: scornful but vain about Stanford, referencing it almost as often as Andrew mentioned MIT. Celia also explained overmuch about “code”: she was the IT specialist for a militant splinter branch of Green Peace.
With fluorescent green hair and Bernie t-shirt, Celia expounded her vegan philosophies alongside a screed about the coding of cells as well as screeds about the evils of other creatures’ blood cells being absorbed by non vegans—
Celia had never learned that the more she talked the less people listened. Celia’s teenage tirades had been so collegiate and so tedious that Bad Kitty had for years avoided Harry’s house when Celia was in town.
And when she remembered, amazed, lolling there, so happily with the hummingbirds, that Harry too had made the exact same “idiot savant” excuse, again she thought, pulling herself up off the couch for a swim: the important part of that phrase is idiot.
And in the river, she was blissfully floating downstream.
First, she had struggled, walking upstream with the water up to her chest: a noisy struggle; now she was gliding back in the quiet flow.
The easy part. And she knew just what to do next with those white-board-formula photos.
A few days later, after many swims, driving back down to the city she stopped in a town about an hour south of the river house, found the little town library, borrowed one of the public computers, and mailed herself the white board full of formulas photos: she dragged them out of her gmail and then onto the library desktop. And, with a very short Note from a Friend of the Earth, explaining that these were advance anti-hacking codes, she sent the pictures to Celia.
The fact that she hadn’t seen Celia in a few years and that they didn’t like one another made this perfect, possibly. In any case, erasing all she could from the library computer, she smiled.
And not even a month later she was smiling every morning as she opened the paper.
The EPA chief was under indictment and the whole upper echelon of the department had left in disgrace, some pending trial for corruption, influence-peddling, and embezzlement. Every day brought new scandals. Polluters and lobbyists alike were flushed out like rats from a sewer. Bank deposits, illegal transactions, kickbacks, the works – all the hacked leaks were credited to an anonymous friend of the Earth.
Celia had liked that moniker.
As the scandals piled up, burying the corrupt chief of the EPA himself, that self-styled “clean businessman” so proud of raping federal lands, and as convictions of several staffers resulted in both civil penalties and jail time, she felt just proud. All this was further paving the road to the total disgrace of the worst president in history (though, she knew, since he knows no history this may not trouble him).
And that Celia, she has some good points–no matter how irritating she can be about leather shoes and handbags… –BKE