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The Pope Died on Sunday - English Text

And so starts what appears to be an ordinary week… or not!

Abstract

Rachel Southern, an American graphic artist who lives and works in Milwaukee, did not expect the week following the death of the Roman Catholic Pope to be particularly notable for her, but boy was she wrong!

From meeting a guy she really liked, to her best friend almost ruining a date with him, to her family coming to visit, to helping organise a “fashion-play”, to pondering the answer to the question of Life, the Universe, and Everything — Rachel’s week proved to be one of the most hectic in her life.

This story is still incomplete, and only a relatively small part of it has been written.

By: Shlomi Fish

The Text

The Text

This is a fictional story that is being written by Shlomi Fish, and is original artwork.

It is made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Licence (CC-by-sa)(or at your option - any later version).

See Shlomi Fish’s Copyright Terms Page for how to comply with this licence.

The pope died on Sunday.

It didn't bother Rachel Southern too much. Even though she was half-Catholic, if you asked her if God exists, she would say: “Even if God existed, he would not expect us to believe in him”. And of course she didn't buy an artificial division of him into three parts, even if she believed he exists. And so she went on her way to work on Monday, on what seemed like the start of a perfectly typical week in the life of a female American bachelor in her twenties.

Rachel did not admit it a lot, but Monday was her favourite day of the week - her most hated one being Wednesday. It was not that she did not like the weekend. However, she loved her work enough to appreciate the beginning of the workdays. She had also liked Monday when she had studied in college, only now she loved it more, because she preferred working over studying.

A graphic artist such as Rachel, could not afford to lose a single moment from that precious day which is known as Monday. Maneuvering between four different software applications (Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Corel-Draw and GIMP), on what was in her own words “that excuse for an operating system also known as Windows 98”, required a large amount of patience and tolerance. Rachel had a severe lack of these qualities, but she actually loved doing graphics work. However, at her home, she had many T-shirts with that perhaps-Penguin-perhaps-Duck, to signify her hope for better days.

Anyway, that day, Rachel was able to catch an early bus, and reached her workplace some time before her work started, at a quarter to nine. She lay down her backpack, and turned on the computer. She checked her E-mail, went over her task list, set up the daily schedule, and then decided to prepare some fruit tea to start the day on the right foot. Therefore, she walked to the kitchen. A few of her colleagues were at the kitchen discussing what seemed like the significant event that took place the day before.

“Well, in my opinion, Cardinal Averus has the best chances of being voted as the new pope.” said Adam Grinsky, who was another graphic artist who worked in the company.

“I’m not sure about it.” said Eva Hallworth, who was an accountant. “When the late Pope was elected, most people thought his chances of getting elected were minimal.”

Rachel went to prepare some Almond tea, and activated the electric kettle, even though she was almost certain the water inside was warm enough.

“Ah, Rachel, ”, Adam told her, “who do you think will be elected as the new Pope?”

“In my opinion, the next pope is a Poisson random variable, with a mean of 0.7, where 0 is Cardinal Averus, 1 is…”, said Rachel.

“Are you ever going to stop stressing the fact that you are a Computer Science graduate?”, asked Adam.

“The time I will stop that is an exponential random variable with a mean of 5 years.” Rachel told him.

“What does it mean?” asked Adam.

“It means that no matter how much time has passed, the chance I will quit within a given time frame of a certain length always remains constant.”

“That doesn't sound good.” said Eva.

“It does not.” said Rachel, as she lifted her cup of tea. “It really really doesn't.”

Rachel went to her computer, and started to work on it. She had a picture she had to finish in Illustrator, but at the same time also read her E-mail.

It didn’t take too long, and Alex Rodman, a young man, who decided to work before starting to learn in the University (“If at all” as he said). He was one of the system administration people, and Rachel found it convenient to delegate some tasks for him to do.

"I finished writing the script you asked me to write for you." Alex told her.

"Alex, " answered Rachel, while not lifting her eyes from the computer, "You are incredibly sweet."

“Ah, if only my dates would say that!”

“They are eventually going to tell you that - believe me. Anyway, how long is the script?”

“I don’t know. 100, 200 lines.”

“And how many greps, sorts, maps and joins have you used?”

“Too many, heh.”

“Well, whatever. Thanks anyway. Anyway, I hated Lisp when I studied in college, and, in my opinion, Perl inherited a few of its features that I like the least.”

“Then you won’t be happy to learn that I used eval to compile some code at run-time.”

“Oh no!” Rachel said, while putting her face in her palms, “Why did you have to do such a thing? I think your destiny is to be a Lisp or Scheme programmer.”

”Do you want me to write the program in a more C-like manner?”

“No, never mind. ‘If it is working - don’t touch’. I don’t know why Larry Wall decided that in Perl, it should be possible to write code that is similar to every other language. I personally would be happy if it was just C with unlimited strings that can contain every character…”

“Regular expressions.” said Alex.

“Yes, arbitrary sized arrays, and all the other sane stuff.”

“I happen to think it is nifty that you can do Lambda Calculus in Perl.”

“For your information, one can also do it in C.”

“Really, how?”

“Something to do with a stack — I do not remember the exact details because I did not focus on it too much, and it was the first thing that I forgot after I took the course. However, one of my co-students used it in C.”

“Really, how was his code?”

“The Lambda Calculus was beautiful.”

“And how was it as a C program?”

“Completely illegible. Eventually, I convinced him to convert it to normal C code. Anyway, I think I should start working a little on my work work. I will already try to digest the script you wrote, on my own.”

“OK, farewell!” said Alex.

“Bye!” Rachel said and went back to work.

Rachel was able to finish the drawing until 11:00, and from then until lunch, she walked around trying to receive feedback from her co-workers. It was not easy, because each one had an opinion that something completely different there needs to be changed. Rachel organised a mini-conference to discuss what should be done in order to correct the drawing, and as a result, it seemed like the lack-of-consensus only became stronger. But then came the time for lunch.

Sometimes Rachel was sorry that she did not work as a programmer, where the fellow programmers were happy that the code compiled and worked at all. “Oh well,” she told herself, “even if I completely get tired of doing graphical work, I can always find work as a programmer. At least now.” She used to look at the job adverts in the newspaper, and most of them were not for graphic artists.

That day, Rachel decided to go for lunch with Alex, Betty Pierce, who was also a graphic artist, as well as Angela Cronman, who was a secretary in the company. They decided to go to a nearby Chinese restaurant, which not only was cheap, but also served pretty good food.

Rachel insisted on eating with chopsticks, and she also noticed that Alex used to do so as well. The two other women ate using a fork and a knife.

“I got a chance to look at your script.” Rachel told Alex as the awaited for the arrival of the main course.

“And-?” Alex said expectedly.

“I have seen easier to understand programs in Scheme that used all the bad things you used: eval, mappings, filters, accumulators, etc.”

“I see. Perl is not supposed to be easier to understand than Scheme.”

“That’s right. But when I write something in Perl or in a different programming language, I try to think of the people who read it. Thus, I very rarely call my variables ‘a’, ‘b’, ‘i’ or ‘j’, and even if they are one or two-letter variables, I add a note that tells me what the letter signifies. I am lucky that, in your case, I knew what the script is supposed to do, or else I completely won’t have understood it.”

“I don’t suppose you gain such practises when you learn Computer Science in college?” Alex told her.

“Unfortunately, the purpose of Computer Science education in college is to teach you completely different things. Like how to implement a self-balancing tree, or how to write a program that calculates a product of two numbers in Lambda calculus, or how to write a compiler. Or a thousand different things that in 90% of the cases you won’t have to use. And in the remaining 10% cases, I am sure that Electrical Engineers, or Physicists or people without any academic qualification could be equally as successful.”

“However, not to write a program in a readable, comprehensible, extensible, and cross-platform manner.”, said Alex.

“Yes, true. I don't know if I helped or hindered my partner for ‘Intro to Computer Science’, which was our introductory course in Penn State. Every idea he had on how to write a program would work, but was just unacceptable from the point-of-view of an experienced programmer. I have no idea how people come to college before they have got their feet wet with programming themselves.”

“Rachel dearest, ” Betty said, “you told us enough how your brother and you were serious hackers in your time.”

“If you call people who programmed with Basic and with 16-bit C++ — without SQL databases, without an operating system with proper multitasking, with no extensive knowledge of mathematics, and with array and structs as the only data structures — “hackers”, then yes — we did it alright. And that was still very impressive for what Bill Gates did in his youth. But in these chaotic Linux times, the experiences of my brother and me in our youth have been depreciated for a long time, like they say.”

“And was that the reason why you became a graphics artist?”

“No, I just love graphics and drawing in general, so I got this job in order to delay the inevitable.” Rachel said.

“Which is working in Silicon Valley?”

“Something like that.” Rachel said and went to eat her food which had finally arrived.

After lunch, Rachel played one game of Freecell, and worked on a new artwork — this time in the GIMP. After everyone returned from lunch, she set up another mini-conference and this time wrote down the comments of everyone and divided them based on what exactly they didn't like in the drawing. Then she brought them to discuss every issue separately and eventually a wide agreement prevailed about what needs to be changed. So she went to do that.

When Rachel finished working on the changes, it was about the time when she used to leave for home, and she decided to postpone handing out the final product to her superior, into the day after that. She turned off her computer, and went out of the complex of the company in which she worked.

When she arrived at the building where she lived, and climbed up the stairs to her apartment, she saw her neighbour, Cliff, talking with a different man. She liked Cliff and therefore stopped to see what it was all about.

“Rachel,” Cliff called as she approached. “Please meet Greg, my friend from university, who relocated to Milwaukee for a new job, recently.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Greg.” Rachel said and took a look at him. Greg had straight black hair, brown eyes, and very interesting face. Quite handsome, at least in Rachel’s opinion.

“My name is Rachel Southern, I live upstairs in apartment 6B. I studied Comp. Sci. in college, but I work as a graphic artist.”

“Very nice to meet you, Miss Southern.”

“‘Rachel’. Please call me ‘Rachel’. ” she said and added, “what do you do for a living, Greg?”

“I’m a civil engineer. There are not too many like me, but there’s only one exactly like me.”

“And where are you going to work?”

“I’m going to work at the Milwaukee municipality as a water infrastructure engineer.”

“Sounds interesting.” Rachel said, even though it didn’t sound too interesting to her and added “Listen, if you are not busy tomorrow’s night, what do you say of the two of us going out on a date?” Rachel could not believe she was able to utter it in one sentence.

Greg thought of it for a moment. “Sure. I know the address because I got here on my own. So see you tomorrow.”

“O.B.K.B. . See you both.” said Rachel, but as she went to go, she noticed that in Greg’s pocket there was something that looked like a Palm Pilot.

“Is this a Palm by any chance?” she said as she pointed at his pocket.

“Yes, why?”

“Aren’t you going to write the date there by any chance?”

“Nah, I don’t forget things like that.”

“Fair enough.” Rachel said, “See you Cliff and Greg — I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She went up the stairs.

That evening, Rachel connected to the Internet, and chatted on IRC. She met there one of her electronic friends, who called herself “Cruella”. They got into a conversation of what happened to Rachel that day.

“And then when I returned home, I met a guy.” Rachel said in the chat.

“Really? And what happened?”

“I asked him to go on a date with me tomorrow.”

“You rule, girlfriend! In any case, what does he do?”

“Water infrastructure engineer, from what I understood.”

“Boooooooooring. And how does he look?”

“Pretty good, in my opinion.”

“Excellent.”

“Anyway, one thing bothers me — he had a Palm Pilot, but he did not use it to take a note of the date’s time.”

“And why is it wrong?”

“I don’t know, maybe he'll forget. Or he is going to become too dependent on that device by then.”

“Get a life!”

“That’s exactly what I’m doing. :-|====>”

When Rachel took the bus that Tuesday’s morning, she got into an interesting conversation with a Black man, who, while wearing simple clothing, was quite rich, based on what he told her.

“Then why are you still taking buses?” Rachel asked.

“First of all, I feel a little loyalty for the buses which I used back when I was poor. And more importantly, I hate the concept of having a private car. It’s simply too much trouble.”

“Amen.” added Rachel, who did not intend on purchasing a private car at least until she had children. “Anyway, ” she added “You lived in the poor neighbourhoods during your youth, and worked doing hard jobs with very low wage — and now you are a millionaire and employ some other people. How did you do that?”

The Black man, that asked Rachel to address him as “Mr. Neimann” said “The turning point in my life came when I understood what is the answer to the question.”

“Which question?”

“The question.”

“The question of life, the universe and everything?” enquired Rachel.

“Yes.”

“And what is this question?”

“Who is the most powerful man on earth?”

“Who is the most powerful man on earth?”

“Indeed.”

“Don’t know. Bill Gates, the president of the United States, whoever will be the new pope. Linus Torvalds.”

“No, no, no and no.”

“Then who?”

“You’ll need to find it on your own. I need to get off the bus here. Farewell, Miss Southern.”

“Bye” Rachel replied and then Mr. Neimann went off the bus. Rachel remained sitting in her chair for a while thinking, and then the bus reached her station. She went off the bus.

Rachel walked down the street and noticed she was walking behind a man who was smoking. All the cigarette smoke reached her, which bothered her a great deal. As a result, she started to run, went passed the man and went back to her normal walking speed. “It's good that I never wear high heels” she thought to herself.

She reached her workplace and again and again placed her backpack next to her computer, and logged into the computer. She sent what she prepared a day earlier to her superior by E-mail, and then went to his table.

“Not bad…” he told her, “just kidding, it’s very nice.” and then he gave her a few new tasks to do. Rachel returned to her desk.

Rachel always wondered if the demand for new graphical works will ever reach saturation, and one no longer will need new graphics. Or perhaps her tasks were like headers of hydra, that whenever one cuts one down, three spring in its place. Whenever a customer was happy from a certain logo, he wanted to integrate its versions in his letter paper, on the company's homepage, on the business cards of the company, in the leaflets of the products, and so forth. This required more and more work.

Rachel was happy that she'll always have more to do, but always wanted some time-out in her life from the time she finished a task until she started a new one. It was always hard to start a new task after an old task was finished, because the feeling of success and achievement used to intoxicate her.

Aside from all that, Rachel’s work day was uneventful. Lunch passed without a lot of conversation, and Rachel felt that she achieved quite a lot that day. She left work in the usual hour, when the tasks she had to perform were more or less half-done. She took the bus home, and arrived early enough to be able to ride her bicycle, what she really enjoyed and looked forward to.

On the staircase, Rachel met Cliff once again, who was accompanied by a man who looked in his 30s or 40s with a moustache and a beard, who seemed familiar to her from somewhere.

“Hi.” Rachel said.

“Hi, ” said Cliff, “Meet Rudolph Eisenberg. If the name is not familiar to you, then you should know he is a German fashion designer, and don’t tell it to his face, but he is also world-recognised.”

“Ah, yes, I heard the name sometime.”

“Actually, I am an Architect by qualification, but I discovered after a while that my personal insanity was more suitable for fashion. It happened when I helped my friend, who is a full-time fashion designer to design his collection, and he insisted on putting my name next to his. And the fact is that there are enough people of a similar taste to mine that they buy my clothes, which confirms my suspicion that I am not the only insane person in the world.”

“Amen to that.” said Rachel.

“Beside all that, ” added Cliff, “he is a genius and refuses to admit it.”

“I am not a genius and I do not refuse to admit it.”

“Anyway, ” said Rachel “what are you doing in this building?”

“Mr. Carter here helps me set up something which is actually a play that will show off my clothes. Sort of a fashion-play.”

“Great idea!” said Rachel. She always thought that fashion shows were incredibly boring.

“If it’s a good idea, it’s a different question. But it’s definitely such a crazy and unconventional idea that I am sure I came up with it on my own. Believe it or not, but it came to me in a dream where instead of walking on the runway, the models started talking to each other and tell experiences from their recent past. I woke up from the dream, and after some mental processing, came up with the idea in question.

It may also work well logistically, because a lot of the models nowadays want to be actors. Or vice versa. As a result, actors who want to be models, or models who want to be actors, or those who wants to be either, or both — will all find a place in such a show. Perfect.”

“Yes, it may definitely work. Where do you intend this show to take place?”

“Right here!”, answered Eisenberg. “Meaning, in the nearby park. I want to do it in one of the suburbs to give it a lower profile. This is just a kind of a rehearsal (although in front of the audience) of the play before a performance with a higher profile in New-York.”

“Interesting…” said Rachel. “So when will it take place?”

“Sunday night.”

“Hmmm… very well, I think I’ll go biking, and I also have a date later on, with a friend of Cliff here.”

“Oh, you did not forget!” Cliff exclaimed.

“No…” Rachel said and blushed.

After Rachel went to ride the bicycle that day, she went to get ready for the date. People in the vicinity of Rachel (men and women alike) described Rachel as “cute”, “gorgeous”, “lovely” etc.: “you look great!”, “you look wonderful!”, etc. Rachel did not believe she was beautiful, but despite all that, spent a lot of time in bathing, brushing, putting make up, dressing, and accessorising in order to make herself look more tolerable.

When she was in the final stages of getting ready, there was a ring at the door. It was Greg, and he was ready for the date. “Wow!” he said, “you look really good”. Rachel sighed in her heart. “Thank you, you also look nice” and thought he may think the same. “Please, come in.” she said and Greg entered the apartment.

Greg noticed that Rachel was wearing snickers. “Aren't you going to wear high heels?” he asked.

“I never wear heals. They make running, walking, biking, exercising and all sorts of activities that I may wish to do sometime much harder. God made women shorter than men, and it’s time women will accept this fact. And besides — it’s part of an encompassing philosophy of mine.”

“Which philosophy?”

“I don’t wear heels, am not afraid of bugs and mice, my ears are not pierced, and I am a qualified hacker (not “cracker” please) of computers. I don’t have a good technical sense, but I invite technicians to fix things in my house from the money that I earn. Long live female liberation!!”

“Amazing.” Greg said and clapped his hands, “by the way, I know how to fix mechanical things and stuff like that — but I am almost clueless around computers.”

“Then we may be a perfect couple.” Rachel said, “anyway, I still have not finished getting ready, so in the meanwhile you can sit on the couch and make yourself at home.”

“Thanks. I’ll wait. I understand you still believe a woman should make herself beautiful.”

“Yes. I don’t find that female quality irrational at all.” and she returned to the bathroom.

A while afterwards, as Rachel was just about to put earrings on her ears the door bell rang again. “Someone else?” Rachel thought and yelled “I’ll get it.”

Rachel went to open the door as she was still placing one of the clips of the earrings on her ear. After she opened the door, she saw Katie Adams, who was her best friend, at least since Rachel moved to Milwaukee. Katie was wearing a large smile on her lips, that Rachel found a bit fake.

“Hi,” Katie said, “you look wonderful.”

“Thank you.” Rachel said, “you too.” even though Katie was dressed far more plainly.

“Listen,” she went on, “you're a little…”.

“Yes, apparently, you have a meeting today, I should have known that… it’s not that every day you look so great…”

“Yes, you are right” Rachel said — she pretended that what Katie said did not insult her.

“It’s just that I have some small problem, and wanted to consult you.”

“OK, what is exactly the problem?”

“It’s about my boyfriend…”

“Who? Roger?” Rachel had a hard time remembering the names of Katie’s friends, but she was with Roger for a long time, and kept talking about him endlessly.

“Yes, Roger.” Katie said, and widened her smile.

“What about him?” Rachel asked. She felt irritated, but hoped she didn’t externalise it.

“Emmm… yes Roger… it’s just that he…”

“Yes?” asked Rachel.

“He dumped me!” Katie cried and burst into tears.

Rachel did not consider herself a sane person. But she thought that if all the people were like her friend, she would be considered the sanest person in the world. So such a behaviour was familiar it. Anyway, she brought Katie closer to her so she can place her head on Rachel’s shoulder.

“It was so sudden… and unexpected… and I thought everything was going well for us. Do you know when we had sex the last time?”

“No, ” Rachel told her, “and it's more than what I need to know. In any case, it is OK — such things happen sometimes.”

“Easy for you to say. You were never dumped by any of your boyfriends.”

“As if!” Rachel thought in her heart.

“What is going on here?”, Greg’s voice came from the direction of the living room, as he went towards the door.

“Nothing, ” said Rachel, “It's just that Katie here…” and then she noticed that Katie looked in the direction of Greg and that her facial expression changed gradually.

“Yes, I just broke up from my boyfriend today” Katie said joyfully as she went around Rachel in order to shake Greg’s hand, It’s nothing really, I feel fine.”. Rachel thought, “What the hell?” and then saw Katie saying “Oh, allow me to introduce myself - Katie Adams. Call me Katie.” and she shook Greg’s hand with both her hands.

“Greg.” he said with a facial expression which Rachel interpreted as between embarrassed and amused. “I’m sorry to hear about you and your friend.”

“Oh, it's nothing, ” Katie said, “Anyway, I presume that Rachel and you intend to go on a date. I am sure that Rachel wouldn’t want me joining you.”

“To be honest, ”, Rachel said, “I don’t have a problem with it.” (and then thought to herself “Why did I have to say that?”).

“I’m also OK with it.” Greg said and looked at Rachel with an amused look.

“Wow, thanks to you both.” said Katie as she arranged her face. To Rachel it seemed like Katie was happy from the entire arrangement.

“OK, shall we go?” Rachel said, “Do we need to order a cab or something?”

“Yes,” Greg said, “where is the phone?” and he took his Palm Pilot out of his pocket.

They ordered a cab and in the meantime Katie told Greg about herself and about what happened with her and Roger, while Rachel was trying to join the conversation. This situation repeated itself in the taxicab as well. Rachel wondered what the taxi driver thought about the fact that a guy and two girls took the cab to a fancy restaurant, and the one who was dressed less elegantly was the one talking with the guy most of the time. Then she concluded that regardless of what the cab driver thought, which didn't bother her too much, in her opinion, the whole situation was awkward and uncomfortable forever. As much as Rachel cared about Katie, she wondered if it was right that she would ruin her first date with a guy that had made a good impression on her.

They arrived at the restaurant eventually, and were seated. Katie and Greg continued to talk, and Rachel asked the waiter to wait before they would order. Thus, some time went on.

“So you said you are a water and sewers infrastructures engineer. Anything new there?” Katie asked.

“New? Yes, there’s always something new.” said Greg, “for instance, I recently read in an article that appeared in one of the papers of civil engineering, that they did a massive change of the infrastructure in large parts of the city, and cut every area from the supply only once, and never more than two hours. They used a computer program to plan everything, and it worked almost according to plan.”

“Really?” Katie said, “Rachel, computer programs are your forte…” (“thanks that you finally including me in the conversation”, Rachel thought) “…, how do you think that this program worked?”

“Don't know,” Rachel said, “I suppose it has to do with Graph Theory, but I am not familiar with the characteristics of the situation.”

“Graph Theory… to be honest - I am not sure what that is. Greg, maybe you can explain the constraints to Rachel, and she will develop an algorithm or whatever it is called? Actually no, I won’t understand anything from that.”

“Yes,” Rachel said, “You may be left out of the conversation.” (“Which may not be a bad thing.”, she thought.)

“Anyway,” Katie said, “I need to go to the bathroom now, so you’ll have to excuse me.” and she rose up, left them both and went to the bathroom.

“All right,” Greg said with a playful look, “what do you want to talk about?”

Rachel thought for a moment and said: “Actually, I also need to go to the bathroom. I think I forgot to do something at home.”

“OK,” Greg said, “I’ll wait here.”

Rachel went to the bathroom, opened the door and saw Katie arrange her face. Rachel went to do it herself. “Greg is very nice.” Katie said, “I’m enjoying every moment.”

“Yes, so do I.” said Rachel without a lot of enthusiasm.

Katie seemed like she was digesting what Rachel just said and then told her: “It doesn’t look like you are having a very good time. Is there a problem?”

“Do you want me to be sincere?” Rachel said.

“Yes, of course, we are after all friends.” Katie said.

“OK, but, in my humble opinion, you won’t wish to hear what I am going to tell you.”

“Why not? They always say that you should be honest with other people.”

“And if you ask me, ” Rachel replied, “what you don’t know, will not hurt you.”

“Believe me that right now, it hurts me a lot. So please share what you think.” Katie said with a chuckle.

“All right, ” Rachel said, “don’t say I didn’t warn you.” and she sighed, “I am not having such a good time, because I think you occupied Greg, and you are ruining my date.”

“I’m occupying Greg?!” Katie cried (Rachel was afraid someone will notice) “What the hell? Are you sure you’re simply unhappy from the fact that I am happy or something?”

Rachel opened her mouth to say something, but Katie interrupted her “Yes, I understand now. Never mind. This is your date. I won’t interrupt you any more because I am going. Goodbye and I hope you enjoy the date. I know when I’m not wanted.”

Katie went away and then turned again towards the mirror “Wait, do I look fine?” she said and arranged her hair in her hand, “Actually it doesn’t matter.” and she went from there with vigour.

Rachel was stunned. “What in the name of all that is holy, just happened here?” she thought to herself. She looked at the mirror, arranged her look a little (it was her excuse for going to the bathroom after all) until she was content, and went away.

Greg sat at the table, and looked bored. Rachel joined him. “Where is Katie?” he asked.

“Katie?” asked Rachel.

“Yes. Where is she?” he replied.

“Oh, she went away.” Rachel answered.

“Oh, all-right.” Greg said and smiled, “OK, so let’s continue with the date? The waiter came here and I told him to return in 10 minutes.”

“No problem, ” Rachel said. “I’m glad he didn’t ask why Katie left” she thought to herself.

Rachel contemplated how to start the conversation.

“So how did you become an infrastructures engineer?” Rachel asked.

“Well, ever since I was young, I wanted to be a plumber.” Greg replied.

“A plumber? Seriously?” Rachel said with astonishment.

“Yes. Very strange, but what can I do — that is what I wanted to be.” Greg said, “I spent a large part of the summer vacations being an apprentice for plumbers and enjoyed every moment. Anyway, after I graduated from high school, I was planning to go through a plumbing training course and to get my qualification. But my father approached me and told me: ‘Greg, my son, I have, thank God, enough money so you study what you want in university. So why not exploit that? If you want, you can become a plumber who graduated from university.’”

And he went on: “So I agreed with him, but decided to study the closest thing to plumbing: civil engineering with a specialisation in the engineering of water and sewerage infrastructures. And surprisingly I realised that a large part of it was quite interesting.”

“So did you become a qualified plumber eventually?” Rachel queried.

“Yes, I passed the course. But I still got a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and that’s what I prefer to do.”

“Hmmm…” Rachel said “Finding a good plumber in this day and age, to say nothing of one who is a university graduate, is hard.”

“Well, I cannot testify that I’m a good plumber. A person cannot testify for his own qualities.” Greg replied.

“Well, even a bad plumber is good enough for certain needs.” said Rachel and witnessed Greg bursting into laughter.

At that moment, the waiter approached the table and smiled due to Greg’s laughter. “Do you want to order anything now?” he asked.

Rachel ordered Minestrone soup as an entrée and steak for the main course, while Greg ordered Minestrone soup and a Hamburger. The waiter took note of the order and went away.

“OK, let’s return to the conversation,” Greg told Rachel, “You said you are a computer developer and you deal with…”

“Graphics, yes.”

“Oh, nice! And are you happy?”

“Yes, mostly.”

“And how did you get into that?”

“Well, it started from an early age, when my parents bought my brother and I an XT machine, and told us we should both sit next to it simultaneously and that we should learn to program it. So that way my brother and I learned how to program various games and demos in BASIC, and later on learned some other programming languages that were available there. Towards the end of high school, we also became familiar with the Internet (on a more advanced computer, naturally) and now I am using it most of the time. Also in university, I became familiar with UNIX machines, and that included Linux — even while working on the local workstation — not while working on a remote server, and I concluded that this is where the future of home computing is.”

“I know what UNIX is, as I dealt with it a little in college, naturally, but I didn’t hear of Linux.” Greg said.

“Well, Linux for simplicity’s sake is ‘UNIX for PCs’ and it also does not usually cost any money, and the code is available under an open-source licence. It also has a cool name, as well as a nice mascot of a penguin called ‘Tux’.”

“All right, nice. So why are you dealing with computer graphics?”

“Well, it’s a talent that I acquired during my studies in college, where I volunteered for various newspapers and pamphlets as a reporter and a designer. It requires me to work with the Windows 98 operating system, which I have unbelievably learned to despise. During my free time, I am still programming stuff, and it also gives me an advantage over other graphic artists, who are less proficient in programming than I am. All in all, the pay is good, and the job is also interesting and satisfying, so that is what I am doing now.”

“Nice.” Greg replied.

“So how were your first days at your work here?” Rachel asked.

“Fine, I am still working on studying the system of this city. It’s quite complicated, but I ran into worse things. As you can expect from a public office, the computer at my disposal is not configured in the best manner, but I suppose I can cope with it, in the ongoing work.”

“Yes, I have heard of that symptom.” Rachel said.

“So I understand you have a brother?” Greg said.

“Yes, I do.”

“What does he do?”

“At the moment, he is working in programming before going to college. He travels around the States, and works at what he can. He is happy from the fact that he is using Linux and I am jealous of him. But overall we are in good relations.”

“Sounds great. I have two sisters - one is older than me and one younger. The younger one is still in high school, and the older one is working on her Doctorate for Linguistics.”

“Linguistics…” Rachel said, “that’s lovely - I always support people who invest a lot of effort in improving their speech and communication. I read somewhere, that the Human language is primarily a tool of thought, and her function as a tool of communication is secondary. They also claimed that by mutilating words, you also mutilate the thought.”

“Yes, I remember something like that.”

Then the waiter brought the food, and the two started eating.

“So what was your minor in college?” Greg asked Rachel.

“I studied acting. But I’m not an actor - I only play one on T.V..”

Greg burst out laughing. “Yes, seems like you have a penchant for logical jokes.”

“Yes, I am a rational girl.”

“Have you always been like that?” Greg asked.

“I’ll tell you a story.” Rachel said, “When I was ten years old and I went one day with my father to the mall close to Christmas, I asked him to stand in line for Santa Claus and ask him for a present. He didn’t let me, and said he would explain why when we arrive him.”

“When we got home,” she continued, “we sat together on the couch and he told me that Santa Claus does not exist, that he is fictional, and that it’s only a man who dresses like him. ‘In short, ’ he told me, ‘if you want to ask for a present, then ask me. I may not agree, but it will still be more efficient for you, if you asked it from Santa.” The day after, I argued with my friends about that, and eventually in order to prove why I was right, we walked in the neighbourhood, and I showed them how there was more than one Santa Claus there simultaneously.”

“Have you always been such a logician?” Greg asked.

“I tend to believe that my logicianness only became stronger in time.

Anyway, a few days afterwards, my friends’ parents complained to my parents, on why they should shatter such ‘harmless’ illusions (as the put them). My father protected his behaviour by saying it’s an irrational belief, with which we shouldn’t feed the children. ‘And what was I supposed to tell her if we were Jewish’ he told them. Some of the parents tried to turn the wheel back by saying that there’s a real Santa Claus in the north pole, but my friends did not believe them.”

“Nice story.”

“Yes.”

Rachel and Greg finished their supper, and ordered a cab back to their homes. After the cab stopped by Rachel’s apartment building, Greg and she went out. “Well,” Greg said, “I had a great time tonight.”.

“So I understand that you like Katie a lot.” Rachel said.

“I’m not talking about her.”

“Wait a sec - you didn’t prefer her?”

“No, I like you more.”

Rachel smiled. “Well, I’m glad that we had a great date.”

And Greg said: “So do I.”. After a while he added: “Well, I’d better take the can back to my apartment. The meter is running.”

“Yes, farewell. We’ll talk.”

“Bye.”

Greg entered the cab, that went away soon after that. Rachel entered the building and went up to her apartment.

Rachel was awaken by hearing the door bell. She rose out of bed, looked at her alarm clock and noticed the hour was a quarter to six. Who the hell had to wake her up a quarter of an hour before her rising time? She wore pants and went to open the door.

As she opened it, she saw her parents standing there outside. “Hi Mum, hi Dad,” she said and her voice did not hide her dissatisfaction from this sudden visit.

“Hi Dear, ” her mother told her, “We just arrived here from the plane, and we decided to visit you in the strange town you dared to live in.”

“You know, there is a reason I did it…” Rachel said.

“Of course there is. You never acted based on impulses alone.” her mother added. (“Not!” Rachel thought).

“In any case what’s up with you and why aren’t you calling us enough?”

“I am fine, and I haven’t been calling enough because I am busy.” (That was the best excuse that Rachel could think of.) “In any case, now is not the best time for you to visit.”

“Why, do you have someone?” her father asked, without a tone of anger.

“To be honest - no.”

“Well, that’s your problem.” her mother told her.

Rachel believed she inherited the sum of her parents’ insanities. Rachel’s father went to Medical school, but after 5 years of treating patients decided to transfer to research. He has already done a Masters and a Ph.D in Biology but still believed he was a doctor by heart. However, Rachel and her brother always said he was “a scientist” because a doctor sounded too mundane for them. Rachel’s mother studied along with Rachel’s father in university, for a B.Sc. in chemistry, but since Rachel was born worked in casual part time jobs that were not related to her qualification.

“In any case, I am busy today” Rachel said.

------------

------------

“You know,” Rachel said, “your character does not add up to a whole number.”

“You are wrong.” answered Rudolph, “My character adds up to a hypercomplexnumber that is 100% whole.”

“The question is whether its absolute value is whole.” Rachel noted.

“I did not think about it, but I think this is indeed the case.” Rudolph answered and laughed.

------------

“Rudolph Eisenberg? Are you kidding? He is dreamy.”

“How exactly is he dreamy?”

“He is a genius!”

“A genius who refuses to admit it, but in fact is certain he is a genius.”

“Yes, in an interview I read with him, he said he is definitely not a genius. Anyway, are you saying he is in Milwaukee now?”

“Or at least someone who claims he is.”

“I’ve got to meet him!”

“Then come to my house on Sunday, because he is doing some kind of fashion show — slash — play, then.” (“Why the hell did I have to say that?” Rachel thought to herself.)

“Really? Thank you. You are the best friend in the whole world.” (And one of the most stupidest too, Rachel thought to herself.)

“So see you on Sunday.”

“Yes. Bye, and I love you.”

------------

A few people helped Ashley lie on the couch. It was obvious from her facial expression and her groans that she was in pain. Rachel looked around. Her parents sat on two chairs besides each other, and did not talk, close to her brother. Her father seemed disturbed from seeing Ashley in pain, but remained seated in his chair. Rachel approached him.

“Daddy, you're a doctor.” she told him. It seems like it took him a little while to digest that and then he said: “Oh! Right!” and then he went to help Ashley. Rachel sat next to her brother. “I hoped I would never have to say that.”

“Yes, so did I.” he told her and hugged her out of compassion.

------------

“So where do you put yourself on the political map?”

“It may sound a little weird for a German…” replied Rudolph, “but I am an Objectivist. It’s just the crazies philosophy that is suitable for my own private craziness.”

“To be honest, one needs to be a little Objectivist in order to internalise the books of Ayn Rand, so the Objectivistification process requires a little bootstrapping.”

“What is ‘bootstrapping’?” Ashley asked.

“It’s a term from computing” Rachel answered, “which means that one needs to use something to build or initiate itself. I’ll give you an example: there’s a compiler of the C programming language called gcc, which is itself written in C.”

“So how do you compile it?”

“You use a different compiler, or an older version of the same compiler.”

“Or you install a package that someone else compiled for you…” added Rudolph.

------------

“‘I am.’, ‘I am.’ !”

“You are what?”

“‘I am” is the answer to the question of Life, the Universe and Everything.”

“Really? I thought the answer to it was 42.”

Rachel really wanted to hit Greg with her fist. But she knew better than to do that, and so only said “Bleh.”, and went away. Greg watched her exit into the balcony.

“What is Rachel’s problem?” Greg asked the attendants of the room.

“She asked me who the most powerful man in the world was and I told her it was me.”

“Well, that explains some things.”

Greg went out to the balcony and saw Rachel standing there and glancing at the script. He approached her. “Rudolph told me that you asked him who the most powerful man in the Earth was. So this is the question of Life, the Universe and Everything.”

“At least for now.”, Rachel said and grinned.

“I understand you had a rough week, and now you need to play in this fashion-play.”

“That is true.” she said and then there was silence for a while.

“I really like Rudolph.” Greg said.

“Really?” Rachel said, “even though he is the most boastful, and in the most (supposedly) humble manner, you ever knew?”

“Yes, I noticed. No, it does not bother me too much. In fact, it’s part of his charm.”

“Hmmm…” Rachel uttered, “to think about it, maybe he is not too bad. And at least he solved the riddle, that's been bothering me since the beginning of the week.”

“About who the most powerful man in the world is?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I am sorry that I said it was ‘42’.”

“Listen,” Rachel said and held his hands, “it will be very important to me if you go to sit and watch the show.”

“Why?” Greg said, “All the action’s here…”

“Still, as… I don’t know… my boyfriend.”

“You consider me your boyfriend?” Greg said as he grabbed her shoulders.

“At least for now.” Rachel replied. She kissed him and they started making out.

“Where’s Rachel?” Rachel heard her mother said from inside the apartment, and then watched her open the balcony’s door. “Ohhhh!” she said as she looked at the couple.

Rachel quickly stopped kissing Greg and told her mother: “Hi, mum, it’s so nice you joined us here. We were just talking about… hmmm… oh well, we were not really talking.”

“I will go to the seats to sea the second part of the play.” Greg said, and passed Rachel’s mother, and exited the balcony.”

“Well, mother, ” Rachel said, “I have a script to memorise.”

------------

“Well, ” Rachel said to the other actors, “everyone know that when it comes to the clothes of Rudolph Eisenberg — registered trademark — limited warranty, all the rights reserved under the GNU General Public License — you should wear at least three pieces of his clothing every day.”

------------

“As opposed to what Rachel said, my designs are not distributed under the GNU General Public License, for those who know what it is. At least not now. But you are invited to buy them anyway.”

Rachel heard Eisenberg said these things as she stood on the sage along with the other actors in the fashion-play. She smiled a stupid smile, stood in a stupid pose, and in general tried to look as stupid as humanly possible. (And in her opinion was quite successful doing that.)

“Rachel replaced Ashley Holloway, who strained her leg. But don’t worry, you’ll see her enough in my next fashion show, whatever its format may be.”

------------

“Tell me, is there a chance that the new pope died today?”

“They didn’t tell it in the news.”

“Did Bill Gates die in a plane crash? (God forbid.)”

“No, he did not.”

“Did a bus hit Linus Torvalds? Again, God forbid.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Great.” Rachel said as she fell on the couch. “There’s a good chance that the upcoming week will be saner.”