The Ghost of a Computer


One night, not too long ago, the ghost of a computer rose up from the garbage dump. When he was a real live computer, he’d had so many adventures. Perhaps, he thought, it’s time for one more.

Over the garbage, over the trees he flew. Soon he came to a quiet street. He saw a restaurant, and a fire hydrant, and a — what was this? An old man? Shouting? The computer decided to investigate.

“What’s the trouble?” the ghost asked the old man.

This,” said the man. “This is the dang trouble.” He held up a flat, shiny object the size of a playing card. “It’s my new computer,” he explained.

That’s a computer?” gasped the ghost. He’d never seen one so small. “I really have gotten old,” he said to himself.

The old man continued. “I’ve been tryin’ to type, How ya doin’, Jeremy? on this thing for an hour, but the buttons are so dang tiny it looks more like Jpe upi fpom, Krtruu? Now what the heck’s my grandson s’posed to make of that?”

“Hmmm,” said the ghost. “You have a point.” He thought for bit and then said, “I may have a solution.”

“What the heck is it?” asked the old man excitedly.

“Just a second,” said the ghost. “I’m processing.” He was a very old computer, so it took him a while to finish. Finally, he said, “Processing complete. My solution is this: Why not send the message on me?”

You?” The old man almost fell over.

“Of course,” said the ghost. “I may be old, but I have a large keyboard on which you could easily type your message.”

It was the old man’s turn to process. Finally, he said, “Well, Mr. Ghost, I guess it’s worth a shot.”

So he typed out his message and pressed Send. A minute later, an answer popped up on the screen.

“What does it say?” asked the ghost.

“Let’s take a gander,” said the old man, adjusting his glasses. “It says, I’m doin’ . . . just . . . fine . . . Gramparoo!” The old man chuckled. “Gramparoo! He called me Gramparoo!” And he walked away, laughing and laughing.

The ghost moved on. He flew over a church, and a baseball diamond. He flew over a parking lot. There was a woman in the parking lot. She was crying.

“Why are you crying?” he said to the woman.

“It’s my cellphone,” she sobbed. “I can’t find my cellphone.”

“There, there,” he said. “I’ll help you find it.”

“But how?”

“I have an extremely large monitor,” said the ghost. “I could use its bright light to assist you in your search.”

The woman agreed that it was worth a try. She and the computer looked everywhere in the parking lot. At last they found the cellphone in a shopping cart. The woman was so happy that she kissed the computer. His monitor glowed even brighter after that.

The ghost flew over a playground next. He saw a young boy sitting alone on one end of a teeter-totter, looked very bored.

“May I be of assistance?” he asked the boy.

“Nah,” the boy said. “I’m grounded from my video games. There’s nothing in the universe to do besides video games.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” said the ghost. He sat down on the other end of the teeter-totter. And the boy, who was on the low end . . . rose up into the air!

“Hey, how’d you do that?” he cried. “My computer can’t do that!”

“New computers,” the ghost explained, “are far too light. I weigh 34.9 kilograms.”

“Awesome!” said the boy. He was actually smiling. The two teeter-tottered and laughed for an hour. But then the boy said, “I’d better get going. But promise me one thing, okay?”

“Anything,” said the computer.

“Promise me . . . you’ll never get too old to go on adventures with me.”

“I never will,” said the computer. He didn’t even need time to process.

“You’re the best!” cried the boy. Then he ran home.

The ghost moved on. It had been a long night, full of fun and adventure. He soared over the playground, the parking lot, the quiet street. He breezed back to the garbage dump and hovered above the enormous pile of electronic waste.

Good night, he whispered to the camera, the fax machine and the videocassette recorder. Good night, they whispered back.

The computer settled down in a soft pile of floppy disks. Then he yawned, stretched his cords out all the way . . .

And switched his monitor off.

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