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Tuesday, 29 July
Noir Dire

I sat in my dusty cubicle looking out the window at the noonday sun and thought about going downstairs for a gasper, but the oppressive heat changed my mind. Walking outside was like entering the center of a freshly baked pie, and the winos and the skells would be down in the gulag, puking freshets and rapping their scabbed knuckles on the chain link. Nothing I couldn't handle. Those mooks from Cytogenetics were all talk.

But what I needed was a job. The phone hadn't rang in months and my dame was nagging me about it. I leaned back in my chair and fetched a bottle of Mr. Pibb from my desk drawer and took a long pull. It wasn't whisky, but it would have to do. I tugged the brim of my fedora down and settled in for forty winks while wrapped in the embrace of my battered trenchcoat.

Moments later, there was a rustle of fabric and a gentle tapping at my half-wall. I peered up from under my hat and checked out a broad. I knew her. I knew her well. Well enough to know that she was trouble. Angie. She slinked around the corner of the cube, hips moving under her Dockers. She gave me a smile like an Escoffier recipe: saucy and impenetrable. She wanted something.

"Kurruk," she said in a voice like a sack of tenpenny nails dropping into a vat of sweet molasses. The Estonian plosives of my name sounded good in her mouth. Too good. "I have a job for you."

I let the corners of my mouth twitch up into a flinty smile. "A job, huh. What brings little Angie slumming all the way down from glitzy, ritzy AppDev to my humble little flop?" I motioned for her to take a seat, remembering too late that I only had the one chair.

"This project," she said, her mouth disgorging the words like a mother bird feeding her young, "is delicate. That's why I came to you."

Right. Delicate. Skot Kurruk is about as delicate as a solid brass crapper, and she knew it. I let it pass with a hard smile and shot a Camel Ultra Light out of the pack. Delicate. I put the coffin nail in my mouth and then casually didn't light it, because of various workplace regulations.

She continued. "We've got this specimen tracking project," she breathed, probably in order to live, "and it's got to have everything. See, someone wants to send a tissue sample to a lab, and then the lab needs to log receiving it. But then say the lab needs to cut that sample into slides--"

"Stained or unstained?" I barked. It was all I knew about slides, but I wanted to knock her rhythm and see how she danced then.

"Who cares?" she said. Damn. She was a killer.

"Go on," I retorted. My unlit cigarette was getting damp.

"So they cut the tissue into slides, and then they send some of those slides to another lab. But it's all part of the same original sample, with the same identifier, but now it's actually two or three or for different samples--sometimes they're called aliquots--and maybe it's in two or three different places. You getting this?"

"Sure, babe." Pure chin-waggle. She was being as clear as Kurt Vonnegut.

"Good. That's the job. You need to figure it out." She pulled out a thick sheaf of greenbacks--what we in the trade call pieces of paper. "So, Skot," she purred and laid down the stack on my desk. "You think you can handle it?" Pure challenge.

I couldn't believe her guff. If she were a guy, I'd have him rubbing his jaw and picking himself off the floor by now in my mind. But I stayed cool and gave her another smile from my dusty gray filing cabinet of Damn Good Smiles. I reached inside my trenchcoat and pulled out my gat, a beauty I liked to call Bess. I held it up in the dusty fluorescent light, the metal cold and heavy in my hand.

"I think old Bessie and I can help you," I said, cooler than Zima. I put Bess down on the stack of papers and she winked in the light. Angie stared at it.

"That's one . . . big stapler," she breathed admiringly. She raised one eyebrow into the shape of a provocative, hairy tilde.

"Loaded for bear," I grunted. "You better scoot now, sugar," not actually saying "sugar" due to various workplace regulations. "I'll call you when I'm finished."

She squeezed out of the cube, then, pausing momentarily to run a finger over the broken thermostat regulator hanging from the wall. She looked back at me, a vision in khaki. "Thanks."

"It's my job." Snap of the brim, and she was gone. I looked down at the papers and heaved a sigh. My job isn't usually pretty, and this was no different. I was up to my armpits in stink, and I didn't have a menthol rub in sight.

I picked up Bess and started the worst of it: the wetwork. Bess screamed like metal falcon as she ate holes in the stacks of paper, her exit wounds neat and compact; Bess is a precision instrument, and it didn't take too long to achieve Max Collation. Finally, it was done, and I sat back wearily. I'm getting too damn old for this, I thought. I wondered about what to do next.

Aliquots, I thought. It sounded like . . . salvation. It also sounded like a brand of almonds, or possibly a remote South Sea island. Aliquots. Aliquots. I whispered the word in my mind as I slipped into a troubled doze.
Aliquots. I have no god damned idea what she's talking about.

And slept the sleep of the ignorant.


Note: Comments are closed on old entries.

Comments

It's time for you to stop fucking around, Kurruk, and write a novel. I mean it. If you try to weasel on me, I'll tell Johnny Thirteen where you live.

Comment number: 003381   Posted by: senn on July 29, 2003 10:53 PM from IP: 208.27.203.119

Well done. I can almost see the thick smoke filled room (except for the various office regulations) and the maltese falcon in the corner. Looking out the window I can see the lingering fog and shimmering streets from the recent rain (except its 90+ f'n degrees in Seattle today).

But I was beginning to think I was stupid for not knowing what the hell Aliquots meant. I realize now that I'm not alone, but even after pulling my desktop "Websters", I too will sleep the sleep of the ignorant (my wife and kids don't think that is anything out of the ordinary however).

Comment number: 003382   Posted by: Mojomark on July 29, 2003 11:10 PM from IP: 209.162.200.94

hayzoos f. g. kristos!

"She gave me a smile like an Escoffier recipe: saucy and impenetrable."

buh

oui fait le grand novel awreddy!

Comment number: 003383   Posted by: mike on July 29, 2003 11:46 PM from IP: 216.173.212.234

I have to sort samples in a database in a lab all day and have recently been dealing with aliquots myself, though I did not know that is what they were called. What a pain in the ass...

Comment number: 003384   Posted by: sam on July 30, 2003 06:39 AM from IP: 146.243.108.234

Snuh.

That was probably the most eloquent re-telling of a boring office story I think I've ever read.

Comment number: 003385   Posted by: Ryan Waddell on July 30, 2003 09:09 AM from IP: 206.47.252.98

I agree with Ryan. I love the way you can make something boring sound exciting!

Comment number: 003386   Posted by: Stacey on July 30, 2003 12:06 PM from IP: 129.106.21.180

Oh, but are aliquots are so very boring.....

Aliquots are used in analytical chemistry to measure a small amount of bigger homogenous mixture. (a mixture that is uniform throughout). If one had 100 ml of blood and wanted to analyze it, a 25ml sample might be portioned out - an "aliquot". I chose blood to make this more exciting (addin' the ew factor), but any fluid will do. See, the aliquot is supposed to act as an exact representative of the whole - but smaller and easier to work with - sorta like a minnie me. Plus one doesn't use up all the original sample if tests need to be run again.

This message brought to you by a girl that has studied waaaay too damn much science.
(I am not only a member of the Geek Club for Girls, I am also it's president.)

Comment number: 003387   Posted by: heather on July 30, 2003 12:36 PM from IP: 207.225.34.211

Can't believe I just posted all that....

Comment number: 003388   Posted by: heather on July 30, 2003 12:37 PM from IP: 207.225.34.211

Me neither, Heather. YOU'RE BANNED! BANNED FOR EXPLAINING THINGS WELL!

Let that be a lesson to you all.

(Ignore previous heatstroked rantings.)

Comment number: 003389   Posted by: Skot on July 30, 2003 12:45 PM from IP: 140.107.120.123

Skot, you don't actually know how to ban people. Don't make me rumple you hair and say how cute you are when you're ineffectually cranky.

Comment number: 003390   Posted by: Steve on July 30, 2003 01:41 PM from IP: 198.151.13.8

Skot! I had a dream that my blood cured cancer, and the government wanted to capture me and bleed me dry. This would never happen would it?

Comment number: 003391   Posted by: Johnny13 on July 30, 2003 02:26 PM from IP: 163.192.21.4

This would never happen would it?

Of course not. We wouldn't tap you dry; there's too many sufferers for it to go around. We'd bleed you very slowly, on a daily basis, just enough to keep you weakly alive, forever. You'd just lie there for eternity, barely strong enough to lick your lips, but knowing that you were helping all those cancer victims out there, especially the deadbeat ones who don't have insurance and get treatment free of the public's dime.

Comment number: 003392   Posted by: Skot on July 30, 2003 02:34 PM from IP: 140.107.120.123

My 3rd worst nightmare come true!

Comment number: 003393   Posted by: Johnny13 on July 30, 2003 03:24 PM from IP: 163.192.21.3

Jesus H. Crab Dip on a Cracker! Saucy and impenetrable like an Escoffier recipe-- BRILLIANT!

What kind of bribe will it take to motivate you to commit to writing long-form-- novel, stage play, screenplay--something, ANYTHING?! What kind of whiskey and how many cartons of cigs? I know you've got a price, so just name it and we'll take up a collection. The people are clamoring for it, myself included.

Stop hoarding your talents to yourself, you selfish bastard!! It's still too damn hot to mount any effectual kind of resistance...So would you cave to the pressure, already?

Comment number: 003394   Posted by: S on July 31, 2003 02:28 PM from IP: 63.228.103.10

Why should Dave Barry get paid to do what you do so much better?

Comment number: 003395   Posted by: Krizzer on August 7, 2003 04:32 PM from IP: 12.229.253.255

what the hell are all of you people talking about....please tell us because you all are kinda weird and freakin us out so if u could throw us a bone here...that would be great, thanks for the help.

By the way....WE BEAT BESS!!!!

Comment number: 003396   Posted by: on October 28, 2003 06:48 AM from IP: 209.68.98.215

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