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Tamal found the willow while escaping from the Smith brothers. The bullies chased him nearly every day, but on this day Tamal tried another escape route. Muscles burning and breathing hard from the long chase, he was too exhausted to do anything more than huddle beneath the fronds of the willow. As the Smith brothers emerged from the trail nearby, he thought the branches were too sparse to hide him well enough. He expected to be found and braced himself for the beating to come. Just as one of the brothers turned in Tamal’s direction, the willow’s branches moved. He felt no breeze that could have stirred them that way, but they shifted nonetheless. In a mere moment any chance of the brother seeing him was blocked. Frustrated, the brothers moved off, shouting in vain for him. Surprised at his amazing luck, Tamal huddled there beside the willow, feeling…

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Losing My Memory

I needed to know when the dreaded corporate meeting would start. You know the kind. A bunch of self-centered muckety-mucks gathering around a table to discuss the company’s latest problem. This always results in a pattern of “blame-storming” until some poor sap with the least influence and the least to do with the problem gets all the blame. The satisfied attendees will adjourn while the problem remains on the table like a glop of cancerous puss. Uncleaned. Unresolved. Still there.Thinking about painful farce to come, I stuck my finger in my ear and pulled on my lower lip, while balancing on my right leg. The usual maneuvers required to reboot the memory chip failed. I prodded around just behind my ear. That explained it. The chip wasn’t in.

It wasn’t on the little table by the door, on the dresser, or on the microwave. If I only had my memory chip handy I would’ve known where it was. I needed what I already lost to in order to find what I had lost! What ever happened to clappers? I felt again at the slots at the base of my skull. Still forlornly empty. I kept hunting.

Socks, underwear, old restaurant receipts, and tattered coupons for free travel flew about the room as I whirled through my cushy, upscale apartment. All the drawers hung open. Various items of clothing and remnants of documents drooped over the edges of over-turned furniture. It had to be somewhere! I mean I last had it…can’t remember. That was on the chip.

I checked my watch. The company meeting was coming up soon. But I still didn’t know the start time. That made me think about my calendar. So I stuck my right thumb in my mouth and pulled at the skin of my right eye with my left pinkie finger. This is what I had to do to access the files on my memory chip. The action brought up a visual overlay on my retina ( that means I could see it but no one else could ). That provided a file listing that I could point to and select with my left index finger, in the air, but only while grabbing my left butt-cheek with my right hand. Of course, the visual never came up because…ah…gimme a sec…oh yeah, because the flipping memory chip was still missing!

Sounds stupid, eh? Let me tell you it was typical. This is the way it was when implantable chips first started out. The only command protocol that worked reliably was Kinesthetic-Usage for Retrievable Systems Erudition ( KURSE ). You see at the time, no one completely understood the way people and machines worked together. Thinking a certain thing or moving certain way could always be relied upon to fire neurons a certain way. The memory chips took advantage of that. But to be sure you didn’t accidentally fire a command sequence while sipping your Starbucks coffee, you had to do something unusual. And that’s why I went through all the crazy motions. Nobody would dream of doing such things in ordinary behavior. And that’s why the KURSE protocol worked.

My KURSE protocol wasn’t doing diddly for me just now, so I grabbed my coat and left the apartment. There was an outside chance I left the chip at the coffee shop. Why would I take out the chip there, you ask? That first jolt of caffeine in the morning really fires off a chaotic string of neural impulses. Sometimes they just happen to match the control impulses for your chip. You could easily wipe the whole thing if you weren’t careful.

So I trudged down the sidewalk heading for my favorite coffee shop. It was right over…no. Hold on a sec. It was down this block…no. It was…well, frack! The address was on the stupid memory chip! I was going to be late for the meeting and I didn’t know when. Come to think of it I didn’t even know what the fricking meeting was about! Well, I had to do something. So I just started walking.

I passed a young woman standing by a taxi cab. She had her pump heel in her left hand and was pulling her hair so that her head flopped backward. A couple of old ladies were passing her and they commented on how goofy she looked. Rubes! I snorted. The young woman was obviously taking an international call on her implanted phone. Those old ladies had no idea how silly they sounded!

I continued my walk, having no idea what else to do. Without my chip I had no structure. The constant dings and bells of schedule reminders failed to keep me on track. No news items, no spam, no advertisements clamored for my attention. I was really and truly lost. But then I smelled something. What was it? Reflexively, I stuck my thumb in my mouth and pulled on…well, that wasn’t going to work. And then it came to me. Freshly mown grass. Ah! What a treat. I hadn’t smelled that in years.

In fact, I had wandered to the park I used to play in as kid. Long before anyone in my family could afford the chips. I recognized a tree about a 100 meters into the park. Smiling, I headed for it. That was the tree where I kissed Sarah Patterson on the mouth. It was exciting for me because I thought I was the aggressive one. Then she grabbed my butt and pulled me closer for an even deeper kiss. I realized she was the aggressor and had lured me there for much more. My nine-year old boy’s mind freaked and I bolted.

I smiled at the memory. Off to my right, there used to be a stand where, as a kid, I bought ice cream and sodas with my lunch money. I stopped where I was and stared. The old stone facing was still there. Ivy still grew up the wooden wickerwork at the front. The rusting, old-time waterpump still stood off to the side. The wet cement at it’s base brought back hot summer days, ice-cream, and water balloon fights.

My body wanted to go there while my mind dawdled. My legs turned me and walked me closer, as if in a dream. The sign out front no longer read “Tad’s Treats”. Now it had something in Kanji characters and the words, “Bonny Bonsai”. I walked up to the entrance as someone inside shouted, “Farkin’ shite!”

That was how I met, Patrick Hiromatsu. A mixed Irish/Japanese who loved Bonsai Trees. He loved working with them because he said they relaxed him. When I got there he obviously needed help with that. He was a southpaw who had accidentally slammed a car door on his left hand. Most of it was in a cast. And that prevented him from properly handling the tree-trimming clippers.

I stood in the doorway with my mouth hanging open. Shelves of miniature, beautiful Bonsai trees covered the walls. A smile crept across my face. I had never bothered to really look at Bonsai trees in person. The Human ideal of beauty merged with the natural beauty of nature and produced something of heart-warming elegance. I breathed in the scent of fresh earth and water merged with growing things. Forgetting all about the memory chip, I sighed the happy sigh of someone finally finding that ethereal, “it”.

Patrick sighed too, but his came from frustration. He reached up to run his hand through his hair. The cast on his hand got in the way and rammed into his forehead. “Ow!” He moaned. He reached up to rub the spot and hit it again with the cast. “Ai!” He shouted. Turns out he was profoundly left-handed.

I shouldn’t have but I couldn’t resist saying, “Need a hand?”

“Haha, smartguy, ” muttered Patrick. “You here to buy a tree or just yank my chain?”

I held up my hands to show no harm intended. Chuckling, I said, “No. Just stopped to see your place. Your work is just gorgeous,”

“Yeah?” He smiled wanly. “Thanks, man. Any chance you were serious about that help offer?”

“Sure!” I said. Wearing a child-like grin.

He pointed to a dusty, wicker chair beside him. “Take these clippers and clip where I tell you. I need to get this one ready for a customer who’ll be here soon. Do this and I’ll give you a free one from over on that table.” The table held a collection of the most beautiful, cute trees I had ever seen.

One called out to me in particular, like a long-lost brother. It’s delicate trunk zig-zagged back and forth. One branch extended far to one side, gracefully, like a dancer. Small clay sculptures of old men sharing a laugh at tea, lounged in the shade of the puffy boughs of the Bonsai. I wanted to be one of those men. Relaxed and happy in a simple moment with simple joys. I learned later that this was a Juniper tree. A “juniper procumbens nana.” It was so beautiful, and I was being invited to be part of the creation of it. I jumped at the chance.

Half an hour later, the job was done. Patrick looked at me with this odd expression. “What? I hope I didn’t screw it up for you,” I said. Patrick smirked in that odd sideways he manner he had. “No, you didn’t. And that really freaks me out. You did it perfectly. First time! You aren’t at all Japanese are you?”

Well, I’m not, but that hardly mattered. Patrick’s hand never did heal up correctly. His livelihood was threatened. So I stayed on. I potted Bonsai trees and trimmed them until they became the perfect little works of art that Patrick wanted. He couldn’t pay me much, but it was enough to afford a small apartment converted from a garage. Nearby the park.

Every now and then I see the young woman I saw that first day. She still takes a lot of international calls. Arching her back so tantalizingly every time. It’s especially great on cold days. But I only watch from afar. I wouldn’t date a goofy woman like her.

I suppose I lost my job. I never bothered to check. My cushy, upscale apartment probably got rented out to some other corporate dweeb. And if you’re the new renter who happens to find my stupid, useless, missing memory chip; you can keep it.

Way beyond left field

Welcome to The Left Woods. So far out in left field it’s in the woods.