Data Miners – Chapter 7

Prad pulled himself out of bed at 8:15 am. One look in the mirror confirms his worst suspicion. He looks as baked as he feels. Crunk hangover, happens when you mix weed and alcohol. Never advisable, but damn if that beer doesn’t feel so much better going down when you’re high. He has just forty-five minutes to get ready and get to work. It’s the latter part of that equation that is the greatest source of worry.

Prad has timed his morning ritual down to fifteen minutes, that’s exactly how long he needs to throw something suitable on, grab a snack bar and get to his car. He has a tube of Speed Stick in the glove compartment and his hair styles itself. He can go days without showering under this regimen. It’s just the grimy feeling that bothers him. His fine black hair requires semi-daily maintenance to avoid becoming greasy. The crotch rot is a repetitive issue as well. He can’t imagine a woman will want to come near it if even he is frightened away by the smell of his own crotch BO. In any case, he can always shower when he gets home and the office provides all the coffee he needs to amp himself up.

His Miata is waiting for him. The cover is up, so when he gets in he’s hit by the smell of contained atmosphere. The interior has lost that new car smell and now smells like fried meat and gandja smoke. But it’s cleaner, due to Tuesday nights little tantrum – if it could be described that way. Really, all he did was clean off the seats of errant wrappers and remove the CD cases that had burn marks. He was somehow unimpressed with himself that they were all still there. And he has to admit, it’s nice to get into a clean car. His Smart phone is plugged into the outlet, and he’s off from the garage by 8:32. He’ll be pulling into work at roughly 9:02, barring any serious traffic delays or tire mishaps.

This estimate is thrown into disarray when he notices the fuel gauge. He has less than an eighth of a tank left, and that might not be enough to get to the office. He could risk it, but if he runs out on the highway, he’s right fucked and will have to wait for an AAA truck. And he’s not sure if he’s paid up on his dues. Can they leave him at the side of the road if he’s behind on his payments? Surely not. Better not take the risk.

Prior to getting onto the highway that borders the Empire State’s property line, he pulls into one of the two gas stations that flank it. A quick consult of the sign lets him know that the current gas woes aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. He can remember when he was a teenager and how people feared the price would be up to four bucks a gallon in the near future. Four bucks a gallon! How trivial that sounds now!

Prepay takes a few painful seconds, then the task of pumping begins. The digital readout and the beating rhythm of the pump remind Prad that time’s against him and he’s rapidly losing this race. He’s already flirted with the idea of filling the tank only half-way and has abandoned it. Might as well expend the extra half-minute and have a full tank of gas. At this rate, he’s going to be late as it is, and thirty seconds is not going to prevent him from getting laid off.

The radio is running as he lets the tank fill. Relaxed rock and morning news, the right kind of thing to start his day off. He’s tried hip/hop and hard rock and they just don’t seem to set the mood for a day of boredom and forced professionalism.

The pump is still going, like a thirsty fucker, the car is still drinking. And all the while, the counter is still rising.

Blub, blub, blub, blub! Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching!

The sound of petrol dollars burning up in a Faustian process known as internal combustion fragment. His mind is inventing some rather interesting imagery this morning, which is probably because of the purple haze he’s got clouding his mind. He doesn’t even notice right away when the glugging stops because the little motor that powers the pump is still humming. It’s soothing vibrations reminds Prad of his bed, where he wishes he still was.

He tells the machine not to bother printing the receipt. Paper is for knuckleheads who can’t remember the passwords to their online records. Now finished, he retracts the hose, seals the cap, hops back into the front seat. His key is in standby, keeping the radio running. He turns it over just as a new story comes after a musical break.

“Congressman Dangle today was the subject of some controversy when a number of photographs surfaced showing him receiving financial contributions from white supremacists…”

“Oh, fuck me!” Prad turns up the volume and forgets about work for a moment. His every bit of attention is devoted to the radio and the report spewing from it.

“The photos surfaced from a number of anonymous sources who claimed that they retrieved the photographs from the FBI’s website. The FBI could not be reached for comment, but already there are a number of online groups calling for a full-fledged investigation into the Congressman’s alleged activities. These include financial ties to the Aryan Union and possible affiliations with the Reverend Fred Johnson, a man notorious with the families of soldiers who died in Iraq. But most damning of all, according to some sources, is the photograph of the Congressman frequenting an adult entertainment shop. No one has come forward to claim responsibility, but a number of people are wondering where these photographs came from, and whether or not the FBI was really in possession of them…”

“FUCKING FINALLY, MAN!”

A loud honk from behind him. Prad sees a big red shiny pick-up making a fuss. That’s when he realizes he’s blocking the pump and is even later for work. He waves apologetically and puts his Miata in gear and heads for the highway. A quick check of the clock causes him to curse his distractibility and makes his foot all the more heavy. His rush to work is hasty but the cloud of elation he’s floating on keeps him light and lively. No need for coffee anymore, he’s got the morning news to get him wired. He just hopes Rohit and, wherever they are right now, the Society are listening in. Contrary to what he feared, he’s looking forward to their next meeting now.

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