Unprogrammed

Most of us have a sound opinion about the beauty of computers, but we have an odd friend who collects the things. He has a roomful of them, all kinds, shapes , and sizes, and he likes to program them so they will play cribbage with him on lonely evenings. He showed me a new one, and when he punched something it spelled out his name. Yes, he said, he always programs a new computer so it will give off his name. That way, he can identify his propety if it gets stolen. Which naturally led me to go around all afternoon wondering what kind of an idiot thief would steal a computer, particularly one that plays cribbage.

These new-day dinguses can get us into trouble, or haven't you heard what happened to Maynard? You haven't? Well, Maynard lately got himself one of these dingley-dingies; it hangs on his belt and when his wife wants him at the house she pushes a thing and Maynard's belt goes ding-ding-ding-ding. He spends his time variously about the dooryard and along the shore, and he has a side-business of antiques and cultch, so now if people come to dicker Maynard can be called right up.

So about a week ago, I think it was Tuesday, there was a white frost, and when Maynard went down to his boathouse in the morning he sees some footprints coming out and going along on the frost over toward the Blethen place. Young Buster Blethen had had the word against him of late that he was touching up things that don't belong to him, so Maynard naturally presumed that during the night he had enjoyed a visit from Buster. This was not so, it turned out, as Buster had gone to Digby for a load of bait and was away for three days, but Maynard didn't know that and he follows the tracks hoping to find an answer. He came up to the Blethen barn, and hesitated just a moment, sort of planning on what to do next.

Well, sir, he was looking around, and he whips out his bandanna to blow his nose, and out with it flips his jacknife. Down it flies, hits a rock, and caroms in under the Blethen barn, which is posted about a foot and a half off the ground. So Maynard goes for his knife, and as it is beyond his reach he lies down and rolls in under until he can get to it. Just now he hears some footsteps, and he looks out to see the pedal extremities of Mother Delia Blethen -- later on we found out she was taking a dish of kitchen orts out to throw to the biddies. Mother Delia gets so she can see footprints in the frost, and she stops to look at them, being right where Maynard has just rolled in under the barn.

Just then Maynard's dingley-dingie went ding-ding-ding-ding.

Mother Delia let out a squawk that stripped shingles back on the roof of the barn, and as Maynard looked out at her feet they hoisted off the ground and ran about fifteen miles without going any place. Then Mother Delia came down and made contact, and off she went for the house squealing and shrieking. Maynard then rolled out and headed for home, dinging as he went, but he hadn't gone more than twenty yards when Asa Blethen came out at his wife's yodeling to catch sight of Maynard high-tailing it. You talk about a hue and a cry.

Naturally Asa accuses Maynard of being a thief, and this tends to exonerate poor Buster for the things they'd been saying about him, and Maynard's story is so unlikely he won't advance it in his own behalf. Goes to show how the innocent can suffer in strange ways. Maynard hasn't worn his dingley-dingie since, and he spends more time than usual down in his boathouse where people can't find him. He tells me he didn't have time to pick up his jackknife and it is still there under the blethen barn. Doesn't plan to go back for it.

Our odd friend, the computer buff, says he gets the best cribbage games out of a seven- dollar model made in Hong Kong. Some of the others do all right, but if he can beat a machine two games out of three he retired it. The Hong Konger takes him almost every time, and skunks him two-three times a night.

Seems to me there was something I was going to relate, but I got off on that story about Maynard, and I forget now what it was.

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