Every morning started out the same. One of the roommates came out of his room at around 5, he sat in the living room and started his work for the day. Around 7, another roommate finally decided to roll out of bed. He didn’t immediately jump into his work, he had a routine to check off. It started with a shower. The last of the three roommates finally woke up from his groggy slumber and shuffled out of his room and into the kitchen. He grabbed the coffee from the cupboard above the fridge and dumped a scoop into the machine.
The machine whirred to life and started sputtering the boiling, black liquid. The aroma of the coffee quickly filled the apartment. The trio’s noses perked up. The smell was officially the start of their days. Their fuel was being pumped into the carafe and soon would be sipped into their bloodstreams.
The early riser looked up from his cup of joe as the others took nice long sips.
“Guys, I have an idea.”
The groggy roommate looked at the early riser with a blank stare. It was way too early in the morning for another idea from the early riser.
The roommate with the routine obliged the early riser’s invitation to start a conversation.
“Alright, I’ll bite. What’s the idea?” He said before taking another long draw from the coffee. He perked up as the liquid ventured down his throat and brought him to life. The early riser smiled.
“Well. You know how we all really like to drink our coffee?”
Nobody nodded. They all knew it was a rhetorical question. They didn’t just like the coffee, the coffee was their life. At least, it was the start of their lives every morning.
“Why don’t we start our own coffee plantation?” the early riser stated.
The groggy one let out a long sigh.
“Well, for starters, we don’t have the money to just do that…” He started.
“Yeah. I know that,” the early riser quickly responded. “But, I’m saying when make our money. Once we graduate from school and everything, why don’t we start our own coffee plantation. We know how much we need our coffee, so let’s start supplying it too!” His voice got louder and louder as he revealed more of his idea to the other members of the trio.
“Alright. But where would we start this new plantation?” The routine roommate inquired.
“I’ve been giving that some thought too…” the early riser started.
“I knew this wasn’t just a spur of the moment kind of thing…” the groggy one muttered under his breath.
The routine man raised his hand to quiet the groggy one. He was curious as to how much this idea was thought out. Sure, most of the early riser’s ideas were kinda far fetched. But, some of them really had some merit to them. This one in particular seemed like it could actually be kind of interesting.
“Yeah. I’ve been thinking about this a little bit more every morning and I’ve been really trying to grow this idea.” The early riser started to defend his project.
He looked over to the routine roommate to address his previous question.
“We grow it in China. When I went over there, I saw some great stuff. The country is ripe for this kind of thing! I can’t think of any coffee that is grown there. We could be an exclusive import for awhile. We’d be corning a part of the market and we’d be doing it pretty cheap too.” His smile grew wider as the other two roommates realized just how much he had actually thought this whole idea out.
The groggy roommate squinted while he thought about the idea more. He swallowed another wave of the black coffee. It burned in the center of his chest. To him, the burn meant that the coffee was working. He swore that he could feel his brain coming fully online with each sip of his coffee.
“I see what you’re saying… I think this could actually work…” The groggy roommate finally started to come around to the idea.
“I’m telling you, this idea is going to work. I’ve thought it out way too much. And with your help, we can fill in all the missing problems of the argument and perfect it all.” The early riser stated with extra enthusiasm in his voice.
The other members of the trio nodded in unison. Then took a sip from their mugs.
The three of them smiled as they realized that this idea could actually work. This time, they all took a sip of their coffees at the same time.
The early riser smiled as he thought back to that fateful morning from eight years ago. He couldn’t believe that his dream actually came true. Well, that’s not entirely true. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into this project. He always admitted that he couldn’t have done it without the help of his two former roommates. Between the three of them, the business grew in no time and within a few years, they were a worldwide phenomenon.
Just as he always did before, he got up at 5 o’clock in the morning. He opened the blinds of his living room and revealed at the sight that was in front of him. The sun shined down on the plantation of coffee plants. He walked over to the kitchen of his pristine house that overlooked the fields.
He reached into the cupboard above his fridge and pulled out a small tin canister. He twisted off the top and breathed in the fresh aroma that emanated from the now-open container. His nose perked up. He scooped out some of the freshly harvested coffee beans and popped them in his roaster. The scent now filled the entire house. He could feel his body waking up the more he smelled the coffee. Even after all these years, every morning started out the same.
Trevor ran for what felt like hours before finally coming to a stop. He looked around at his surroundings to figure out where he was. The whole trip felt like a blur to him. His heart rate kept at the same nervous throbbing pace as he realized where he was. It was the old abandoned apartment complex that was at least thirty miles outside of town. Paint chips drifted off the walls as the air disturbed them for the first time in years. Trevor shuffled his feet on the tile floor and kicked aside the chips of plaster, paint, and dust. He looked down at his watch.
That couldn’t be right. He flicked his watch to make sure all of the hands were moving properly. The second hand ticked on at it’s usual rate. Trevor reached into his backpack and pulled out his phone. The time synced up with what his watch was telling him. His heart rate still didn’t slow down. In fact, it now started to beat even faster because of the realization that was dawning on him. Trevor just ran at least thirty miles in about just under two and a half minutes.
He quickly shuffled outside and looked at the landscape. It’s exactly where he thought he was. But, there was no way that this was actually happening. There was no way that he could possibly run that fast. He did some quick mental mathematics and figured that he had to be running just about as fast as a speeding bullet. His eyes popped as the realization officially dawned on him. He actually did run that fast.
The next question was ‘How?’
It had to have been because of Fred and Tommy. They were the typical bullies at school. Trevor never thought that the bullies that were always shown in movies and TV shows could possibly exist in real life. Yet, Fred and Tommy always prowled the halls and would beat up unsuspecting freshman. Today was Trevor’s unlucky day.
Earlier, Trevor was walking down the hall between his algebra and english classes when he saw the duo round the corner and snicker as they saw Trevor all alone. They marched down the hall towards him and Trevor tried his best to not make eye contact or acknowledge the pair at all. He looked down at his watch and noted the time. As he kept walking towards the two, he could feel their presence looming without even looking up. Suddenly, one of them bumped into his shoulder hard.
Trevor was knocked off balance and stumbled backwards into the old, white cinderblock wall. Before he even got a chance to see which one of the two bumped into him, he felt a massive dull pain in his right side. He looked down and noticed a fist being pulled away from his abdomen. This was it. This was the day Trevor was finally going to get the crap kicked out of him.
Trevor closed his eyes and hoped that it wouldn’t be as bad if he didn’t fight back. He felt a hand clamp around his wrist so that he couldn’t run. Then, another blow was dealt. This time into his stomach. He felt all the air leave his chest. Trevor’s lungs burned as they struggled for air and he felt his diaphragm spasm as it tried to maintain order in his body. That was quickly defeated by yet another blow to his gut.
After another blow was delivered to his chest, Trevor knew that this was not going to end anytime soon. He had no chance to fight back against the attackers that towered over him. The only option left was simple: run.
Trevor twisted his arm to free it from Tommy’s grip. At first it felt impossible, then he felt his hand just barely begin to slip free from Tommy’s grasp. As he twisted more and more, his hand loosened its way out of the pin. Within seconds, he was free.
Trevor knew he didn’t have much time. He used all of his strength to barge past the two attackers. He felt the bruises that were already beginning to form ache as they crushed against the bodies of the bullies. Now, he ran. Trevor ran as fast as he possibly could. His legs burned as he made it down the hall. Before rounding the corner, he looked back and noticed Tommy and Fred standing still, frozen in the same stances that he left them in. Trevor thought they must have been stunned that he was getting away. But, Trevor didn’t care. He knew if he waited, they would just continue after him and dish out more of a beating.
So, he ran. He ran down the hall, past the corner, down the stairs to the first floor, through the main hall and out the front door of the school. Then, he was on the old winding road that led up to the school. Beyond that, everything was a blur. Trevor couldn’t remember the rest of the journey at all.
But, that didn’t matter. What mattered to Trevor right now was just how fast he ran that journey. He thought back to the stunned bullies. Maybe they weren’t stunned. Maybe he was just moving that fast. Trevor’s mouth went from his jaw hanging open to a wide grin. He looked down at his feet and chuckled. The only thing that made sense to explain all this was that he had to be a super human! This was his origin story! Now, only one thought occupied his mind.
Could he repeat it?
He walked out of the apartment and onto the street. He looked down the road that stretched for miles with no cars in sight. Trevor took a deep breath and started off at a slow jog.
He sped up more and more.
Soon, the trees were whizzing past him.
The lines on the street faded into a solid white blur and his smile grew wider and wider.
Gregory chewed into the nail of his index finger as he impatiently stared at the phone sitting in his lap. Any second now, an email would be coming in. He needed it five minutes ago. The conference was still continuing in front of him as he sat in the audience. In fifteen minutes, he wasn’t going to be in this chair anymore. He was the next presenter up on stage.
He finished chewing off the bit of nail and swiped down on his phone again. The circle spun a few times as the app refreshed. It disappeared and in it’s place a red “one” stared back at Greg.
With a twitchy finger, Greg tapped the new message. He read the first line and felt the blood drain from his face. His eyes darted around him to make sure that nobody else could see his phone.
“The system is down. It won’t be ready for the presentation” the email informed him.
Greg swiped past the message and clicked the phone number that sat in the auto-generated signature. As he raised the phone to his cheek, he left his seat. The guy next to him was too into the current presentation and Greg fumbled past his legs. Greg could feel the man’s condescending stare seer into the side of his head but chose not to acknowledge it. Instead he was focused on the sweat that was building on his brow. The phone started ringing.
Once outside of the conference hall, he made sure nobody was in his immediate vicinity. The ringing stopped.
“Greg…” The voice on the other end started.
“What the fuck do you mean it’s down?” Greg shouted into his phone. The vein in his temple flared from beneath his skin and throbbed.
“The system is down. We don’t know what happened. But, the system is…”
“You don’t know what happened? How could you not know what happened? You built the damn system. It’s your creation. How could you not know all the ins and outs of the god damn system?!” Greg spat out again. He watched a drop of spit fly across the hall.
“I… I don’t know…” The other side tried responding but his voice kept cracking.
“Then, how the hell are you going to fix this?” Greg said, lowering his voice. The question sounded more like a death threat.
“Well… we… we…we…” The other voice was struggling with his word’s again.
“We… we… we… WHAT?!” Greg screamed into his phone again. He listened to the man on the other side of the phone take a deep breath.
“We already tried rebooting a couple of the secondary systems but none of that is helping.” The man finally came around to saying.
“Then, why did you waste my time rebooting systems that WON’T HELP?” Greg could feel his heart pounding in his chest.
“Well, we were hoping that it would fix the problem” the engineer replied.
Greg pinched the bridge of his nose. He ground his teeth. He felt the knot in his neck get pulled tighter and tighter.
“It was a rhetorical qu… never mind.” Greg spoke through his clenched jaw “What are you doing to fix the problem now?”
“The only option we had left.” The man answered. Greg paused for two heartbeats, waiting for more.
“And, that is…?” Greg pried with a seething tone.
“We rebooted the system.”
“So, why are we having trouble?” Greg asked.
“The system is currently going through it’s self-diagnosis process and it needs another nineteen minutes.” The man answered while audibly cowering away from his phone.
Greg pulled the sleeve back on his dress shirt. His smart watch’s screen woke up. The digital second hand on the clock ticked forward. He only had eleven minutes left till the presentation. Greg let his sleeve back down and walked to the auditorium doors. He pried one open and peeked inside. The presentation before his was wrapping up. It was time to start making his way to the backstage prepping area. He did just that. He also returned to his phone.
“How long have we been working on this project?” Greg asked in a professor-like tone.
“A…about three years…” the other side responded, not quite sure where this was going.
“Three years. You’re right. And, do you know how long three years is in Silicon Valley?” Greg continued his line of questioning.
“It’s a God damn eternity.” Greg paused. “We have been building this app for three years. For three years, we’ve told the world that we were going to revolutionize the way we used computers. Not only did we tell them that we were going to revolutionize the world, we were following through with it. And now, you’re telling me that our system…our great and magnificent system… is down for our first presentation.”
“Yeah. That is what I’m saying.” The other side responded.
“Fix it. Now. I don’t care what the system is doing. When I get on stage, the system needs to be working. And if it isn’t, you can forget the idea of ever working again anywhere. Speed up the reboot process.” Greg ordered, his demeanor now cold and quiet.
“It’s impossible. I can’t do that. I simply can’t.” The engineer stated.
“Find a way.” Greg retorted.
“That…that would take an act of god…” The engineer desperately tried convincing his boss.
“Then, get off the phone with me and get Him on the line. I will not let your incompetence be the end of me. Fix it.” The last two acidic words hung in the air for a moment. Greg pulled the phone away from his face and mashed his thumb into the touchscreen, ending the call.
He made it backstage. A team of assistants charged up to him and began attaching a microphone to his lapel and strapping the transmitter onto his belt. Greg slid his phone into his front jeans pocket. He took a deep breath and walked on stage.
Oh, what I would give to see my dad’s face right now. It has been twenty two years since I last saw the man. Twenty two years since we started working on this project together. I remember when we first drew the designs for this thing on one of mom’s napkins in the kitchen. Boy was she ticked off when we did that. But, that rough sketch was the start of a dream. A dream that I am currently living.
We used to work out in my dad’s workshop on the weekends. Looking back, he had a pretty dang good collection of tools. And, a ton of machining equipment. That came in handy for the project a lot. I remember when we didn’t quite know how to work the old lathe we bought from the machine shop downtown that closed its doors forever. We used to stare at library books together and step each other through the processes. Some safety inspector out there is probably cringing as I mention the fact that I first learned how to use that lathe at the age of seven. And, it wasn’t exactly formal training. Anyways, every weekend for five years we used to go out into the shed together, dad would pop open a bottle of beer and I would pop open a bottle of pop and we would get to work.
The nozzles were pretty easy once we figured out the lathe. Dad machined them while I made sure that the designs matched up with all the ones in the books. We needed to make sure that these things were perfect. After all, we needed as much lift as we could get with the least amount of fuel.
Fuel was one of the biggest problems we always had. We couldn’t just use regular old gasoline, you see. Actually, we couldn’t use gasoline at all. We ended up finding the right mixture from a friend of a friend of a friend. I never actually knew who that friend was. Probably for the better. If the government ever found out about who that friend was, our whole project would be ruined. And, failure was not an option.
At least that’s what we always claimed to believe in. But, there have been plenty of failures over the years. Fuel tanks ruptured. Various parts melted. It took us thirty three iterations to find out that the shop selling us the metal we used was selling us the cheap stuff, after all. We eventually found another shop that had the right grade of metal we needed. But, that didn’t fix all of our problems. Fuel lines would randomly burst into flames. The throttle on the dang thing twisted off I don’t know how many times. To be honest, failure was a way of life for us. But, we kept pushing on.
We kept pushing until my dad couldn’t push anymore. My mom took it pretty hard. I tried not to show it, but I took it hard too when dad was gone. It just wasn’t fair. Plain and simple. After he passed, I didn’t touch his workshop for a couple of years. It was too hard. There was so much blood, sweat, and tears poured into that shop.
It took me over two years till I set foot in the shop again. I flipped the breakers on the inside wall when I first walked in. The fluorescent lights flickered to life. The air was filled with the musky scent of sawdust. I walked over to the lathe and wiped the thick layer of dust off the top of it. Curious, I flicked the on-switch and sure it enough, the dang thing whirred to life. A little spark of joy went off in my head when I heard the motor reach full RPMs. Soon enough, that spark turned into a fiery passion again. I pulled out the part that we were working on before he collapsed in the workshop. Then, I grabbed the prototype from the cabinet at the far end of the shed and plopped it on the workbench.
Five weeks later, I added the final touches to the thing. I didn’t just want it to work, I wanted it to look beautiful. I polished up the chrome details. I made sure all the parts were properly lubed. And, I grabbed my paintbrush and added the final touch. It needed a name. We always referred to it as a “she.” But after everything, I had to name it Ray in memory of him. I finished off the last brush stroke and it was done. I couldn’t believe it. The project was finished!
The next day, I grabbed my motorcycle helmet and went out into the field out back after grabbing the project from the shed. I slung the leather straps onto my soldiers and pulled the helmet onto my head. I primed the pumps a few times and made sure that everything was working right. I flipped the switch cover and held my thumb over the starter switch for a few seconds.
“This one’s for you” I smiled.
I flicked the switch and the jetpack roared to life. The nozzles spewed their fire just as we had planned. I gripped the throttle and slowly twisted my wrist. The exhaust grew hotter and the fire stretched out of the nozzle further.
I felt my legs slack a little as my heels left the ground. Then, I was on the tips of my toes. And then, I felt nothing below me. Next, I started shifting my weight to see how it maneuvered. After a few successful flips, I had the hang of it! Now, it was time to have even more fun!
I cranked the throttle to 50% and soared towards the city. Within minutes, I was zig-zagging through the skyscrapers as I grinned from ear to ear with only one thought in my mind.
Oh, what I would give to see my dad’s face right now.