Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. amber leaf

    amber leaf New Member

    Jan 8, 2007
    Likes Received:

    Sparky McDrew

    Discussion in '"Consequences" Short Story Contest' started by amber leaf, Jun 7, 2008.

    Sparky McDrew (4816 words)

    It’s probably true to say that any given minute at any place in the world there will be someone who has just haste-fully pressed the ‘enter’ button on their keyboard only to send the heartfelt message they had been pondering over for hours to not only the intended recipient; but their entire address book. Many interesting and heart-breaking stories could be told about the aftermath of this one simple action and of the harsh consequences that occur afterwards. I’m not going to bore you with another one of those clichéd tales. I am going to tell you of the eventualities that spawned from a long series of decisions. I am going to tell you about Sparky McDrew.

    Now back in the days when the only means of contact long distance was the letter and the telephone it made people think a little bit more about what they were trying to communicate. If they were writing a letter; several scrunched up pieces of paper with draft after draft could end up in the bin before the final statement/s were made. It wasn’t just like the letter took off with flight and flew to its intended either. It had to be wrapped in an envelope and stamped. This gave the writer time to ponder any doubts about its content. The best thing of all, though, was that only one address could fit on the letter. This meant it reached its intended destination and avoided any hurt.

    The phone had a little bit more potential to be able to create a knock-on effect of the wrong thing expressed to the wrong person. For a start you didn’t have time to go over and re-edit the words you intended to use; you had to say it there and then and there was always the chance you could be put in a position of interrogation had the person on the other end startle you with an unexpected question.

    Either way both were practically flawless at ensuring the message you wanted to say was said to the intended person. Only one address could fit on the letter and the phone number given would only call the person whose number it was. Maybe once and again a wrong number would be dialled or a letter posted to the wrong address but in each of these cases, respectively, the content of communication would be stopped by the mail being re-sent or the respondent indicating you had dialled the wrong number.

    The inability to accidentally send confidential information to everyone you knew meant a slow, distant and sometimes costly approach to communicating but saved a lot of embarrassment and having to explain your actions.

    Someone who preferred the long and costly procedure of un-electronic mail was a fifty-two year old office clerk from Bradford called Andrew Cristlin He had worked at Bradford Metropolitan Council for thirty-six years and at the time he worked in the Highways department in the reception office for the yard that dealt with the repairs taken out on every street in the city.

    If someone complained he was your man. He wore a stony coloured shirt with a green tie every day except Friday on which he would perk up a bit and wear a white shirt with a blue tie. If it was the weekend before a bank holiday he would wear a blue tie with a sparkly effect just in case there were after-work drinks in the pub. His hair had gone prematurely white and had receded back behind his ears. It was always immaculately trimmed though; as his shirts were starched and ironed.

    His job was his life. Every morning he would get to the yard at 7.30am to open up and take the book that logged all the incidents that had occurred during the previous night from the duty manager - Tony. He would then write a report about each incident and file it away into one of the many heavy duty grey steal filing cabinets placed around the office. With his pen he would tap his moustache and mumble the occasional ‘humph’ as he pondered a picture, turned it upside down and then the right way up again.

    Around 10.30, after his tea-break, he would then start to telephone different departments of the Council to liaise about matters that affected them both. There was a familiarity in all the departmental calls as at one time or another, Andrew, had always worked with the person on the other end; be it in Trees, Drainage or even Parks. His dry wit made him humorous to talk to and popular with staff members. He loved to flirt with female members of staff and he had earned a nickname, Sparky Mcdrew, which he had obtained whilst trying to fit a light-bulb when working for Housing.

    Sparky knew Bradford Metropolitan Council inside out. He could tell a real complaint from a made up one as well. His vast knowledge and experience had taught him when somebody was fibbing him and he considered himself in general an astute and observant man.

    So when his manager, Richard (slick blonde hair and film star teeth), announced one morning that the new computers would be coming on Friday and that today (Wednesday) and tomorrow should be taken up with ‘system’ training his technophobia kicked in.

    “Do you think we’re bloody daft? Those bleeding boxes are going to end up taking our jobs and have you seen the programmes on the telly – there’s nothing to say that they might not take on some kind of personality of their own and turn on us. They have a higher intelligence than most of us in here.”

    Richard laughed to himself as he thought of the fact that a box was probably more intelligent than the fairy argumentative yet strangely curiously odd people that he managed but he thought better of making it obvious as to not upset them.

    Then one of the curious odd people agreed with Sparky.

    “What about what I’ve seen on telly?” Asked Michelle Hurst; a plump administration clerk who aided Sparky by typing letters in response to complaints. “They’re like super type-writers. They’ll be able to do my job and I’ll get the sack.”

    Debbie, the young, blonde, receptionist asked:

    “What if it starts coming onto me like in that film ‘Electric Dreams’? I’m not working in an office with it. It’s scary.”

    Richard was a good manager and had respect from his team. He had managed Sparky since he was twenty-one (ten years) and though they bickered constantly; Richard had respect for Sparky even above his superiors (and vice-versa). Sparky always got on at him about how he wasn’t enjoying his life and how he should find a nice girl and settle down a bit from his ‘daft partying and scrounging floozies’. Richard would argue that the advice was a bit hypocritical coming from someone who spent the entirety of his life at work. When this was said Sparky always used to reply:

    “I had the love of my life and now she’s gone.” And nothing else would be said of the matter. Richard would sometimes try and pursue a line of questioning, sometimes suspecting a heart-breaking love affair or the young and wasteful end to the life of someone he once cared about so much that he was happy to put up with the drudgery of an existence he seemed to enjoy but Sparky never wanted to talk about it.

    Richard insisted that no-ones job would be taken and was quite amused that Sparky, with his speculation and over-acting, could have worried half of his staff into fearing the consequences of the new and expensive machines that everyone else was saying could half workloads and were the way of the future. He just said:

    “Training starts at 10.00am in office 3. Bring a pen and some paper.”

    Sparky didn’t like the thought of missing his morning phone calls and protested;

    “But I have to speak to Elaine about the tree that got blown over last night and Ian about the sandbags that are needed near the river.”

    “It’s ok.” Richard tried to reassure him. “Tony’s come in for an extra two hours to help us out. I’ll see you after your break.”

    Sparky sat back in his chair and humped at the fact that his routine was now going to be interrupted by not only having to take his break a whole half and hour earlier than usual but by him not getting to speak to Elaine. Everyone else thought he was playing with his moodiness and sarcasm but in the back of his mind he really did fear the new machines and the consequences that may occur from Richard's decision to have them in the office.


    Lara Turnsdale had studied Computer Engineering at Huddersfield University for four years before completing a PHD in System Applications. With it being 1989 and computers having been around for a good decade; she had introduced the up and coming technology to numerous companies and Government offices all around England. She had trained the most inept and apt of potential users how to use the software on the machines and she considered herself an excellent teacher who was able to make the information she was trying to convey accessible to all learners.

    That is, of course, until she met Sparky McDrew. Little did Lara know that on that cold and rainy Wednesday morning when she entered office number 3 of the main yard of Bradford Metropolitan Council’s Highways Department that she would be facing the most challenging individual she would ever teach.

    She often came across the occasional person who would challenge the need for the computer and therefore she was prepared with the answers to any doubts about their usefulness that may have occurred. Confidently she stood up in front of the three trainees and introduced herself:

    “Hi, my name is Lara. Today and tomorrow I will be giving you software training for the new computers that your manager, Richard, will have told you about.”

    Turning to look at Richard in the corner of the room; she gave him a smile and he responded by giving her a thumbs up to indicate that she was doing ok. It was in her favour to get to know the trainee’s manager first as to be prepared for any personality disorders that may potentially affect her work. They had met at 9.00am so they could agree on a time limit for the training and so he could arrange cover for any necessary work that needed to be done.

    Sparky whispered to Michelle:

    “Can you see that? It’s a bit obvious how Richard came to suddenly realise the use of these bloody hindrances.”

    Michelle giggled just a little bit too loud and drew the attention of Richard who had completely missed Sparky’s comment. He looked up from the gaze of Lara’s tight-fitting black shirt and mumbled:


    “Look at that! Michelle exclaimed in an extremely amused manner. “Old Sparky – observant as ever. They should take Roger Cook off the telly and put him on instead. There wouldn’t be a single cowboy builder left in the world.”

    Lara and Richard who were oblivious to the joke chose to take the high ground. Richard pulled Sparky a look of ‘don’t start’ and apologised to Lara for the interruption and asked would she please continue.

    “Now have any of you heard of a thing called Electronic Mail on the news in the last year or so?” She asked.

    Debbie put her hand up. Ten or so fake gold bracelets jangled down her arm as she did so.

    “I saw it on that film with Whoopi Goldberg. It was ‘Jumping Jack Flash’. Will I be able to talk to spies like the guy in the film?” Her eyes lit up with excitement. Sparky thought of how fickle she was considering earlier she thought the computers would take on a life of their own and now she was fantasizing about meeting some handsome gent who would take her out of her boring job. ‘Bloody stereotypical women’ he thought to himself although didn’t say it out too loud as to not offend the majority of the room. The screwed up look of discontent on his face said it all.

    “Well it’s not quite like that.” Lara responded. She had been asked the same question by hundreds of young and dizzy Debbies. “There’s a lot of difficult work that goes into making sure that the computer can communicate with another at a separate location. For one both your computers and the computer you wish to send a message to must be equip with a modem for it to be able to connect to the telephone line.”

    “But why get the computers to talk to each other on the phone when we can do it with our mouths?” Debbie asked.

    Pleased that she had broken the ice by the invitation of the question, Lara went on to explain:

    “Well a computer can do a lot more than just talk. You can use it as a word processor or a calculator. It can contain all the information from all these filing cabinets and still have space for more. Imagine that you needed to send a letter to Sheffield City Council or to Barnsley Metropolitan. You could type the letter on the computer. You don’t have to worry about wasting time and paper if any mistakes are made because there is a button that will delete any of them. After you are satisfied that the letter you have written is perfect you can then choose to either print it off on one of the new printers that will be installed with the computers or if you are sending it to another department or company with the ability to accept electronic mail then you can just simply press a button that says send and it will be transferred through the modem and across the phone wires to wherever you would like it to.”

    “Wow!” Debbie said with her mouth opened up in awe.

    “It sounds like an expensive over-rated facsimile to me.” Sparky grumbled. “We’ve only had the fax machine for a year and a half and now you’re replacing it with something that does the exact same thing. No wonder half the roads in this city are full of pot-holes. This is all to make the councillors look good in front of each other. It’s another waste of time and tax payers cash if you ask me.”

    “Nobody has asked you.” Richard piped up in defence. Sparky pulled him a face like a told off child and allowed Lara to continue.

    “The computer does a lot more than just the facsimile… erm… sorry what was your name again sir?”

    Sparky, already disgruntled by being told off was now less than impressed with this young looking girl forgetting his name. Her long brunette hair and soft features quelled his anger though and he responded politely;

    “It’s Andrew. My friends call me Sparky McDrew.”

    Lara struggled to contain a laugh at the nickname. She didn’t want to offend the obvious already irate man she was training so she decided to take the approach of befriending him through familiarity and asked:

    “Sparky McDrew, that’s quite impressive, how did you get a name like that?”

    Michelle laughed a loud laugh that rumbled up through her oversized belly and echoed through the office and down the corridor. Sparky went a little red in the face.

    “How did you get your name?” Debbie asked. “I thought it was because of your sparky sense of humour.”

    Richard couldn’t resist making a remark about the new line of questioning.

    “Come on then McDrew; tell Lara and Debbie how you got your name.” His face shone with delight at the prospect of embarrassing his most difficult team member.

    Sparky had earned his nickname after working at the Council for just a year. He was seventeen at the time and worked as a junior in the Hebdon Street Housing office. His manager at the time was a hard faced, temperamental man called John Sergeant who sparky feared immensely. John’s voice boomed louder than any of the other managers and when he called Sparky to do something; the sound would near terrify him.

    One dark November morning, Sparky was typing letters of response to un-happy Council tenants when the light-bulb in the office flickered and died. John Sergeant, sat at his desk, ordered the young Sparky to go to the stock cupboard and fetch a new bulb Wanting to impress his difficult manager he got both a bulb and a torch and set about climbing onto one of the desks to fit the replacement.

    As he was only five foot nine at the time he struggled to grasp the socket and he wobbled as he tried to fit the light. John, who was impatient and irritated, shouted;

    “Come on boy, it doesn’t take an idiot to change a light-bulb!”

    This made Sparky jump and there was a flash of light and sparks as he attempted to fit the bulb without realising he hadn’t flicked the switch to turn the light off. The shock made Sparky fall to the floor unconscious and he woke after twenty or so minutes to a lit room with both John and his secretary Alice stood over him.

    Shaken from the incident he stood up to gather himself and then realised that something was not quite right. He felt the back of his trousers and to his horror found that they were damp. The smell told him what had happened before he looked and he ran into the toilet, embarrassed. Alice calmed him down, John lent him a clean pair of trousers and he had a tea break to settle his nerves before getting back to work.

    Rumours of what had occurred spread through the department and he went from being Andrew Cristlin to Sparky Mcpoo. It was fortunate for him that the office that he worked in was populated with staff that were a lot older than him. The nickname only lasted for two months before he moved to Drainage. Once in his new workplace he started to work with Michelle. She had heard he had a nickname and he told her it was Sparky McDrew and explained, to an extent, the story of the light-bulb. John retired around the same time he was transferred and Drainage and Housing didn’t really communicate with each other often so he managed to escape the burden of such a horrid nickname by slightly altering the one he had.

    It still bothered him though that one day someone may realise the true story of how his name was obtained so whenever anyone asked him about it he became nervous and edgy. What he didn’t realise, though, was that everyone did know his real nickname. It was only because he was a popular guy that everyone saved him the embarrassment of bringing it up.

    That was of course until the day Lara Turnsdale came to teach him about computers. Michelle’s roaring laughter made it apparent to him that almost everyone did in fact know. As to not let on that there was anything amusing about how he came to get his name he told the story of the light-bulb (minus the trousers) and a few other stories about his experiences with different items of technology exploding after he had touched them.

    “We’ll have to keep an eye on you then.” Lara said. “Looks like you may be a bit cursed when it comes to technology.”

    This made Michelle laugh some more, Debbie more confused and Sparky more than a little bit worried that Lara was in fact right about her statement and that the new way of working was going to be anything but a pleasurable experience for him.


    After three hours of system training Sparky was starting to realise that he may actually have some kind of curse laid on him when it came to electronic devices. It was coming up to lunchtime and already Michelle and Debbie had managed to grasp how to use the word-processing and database facilities the software allowed. Sparky hadn’t even got passed the stage of turning his computer on. Every time he pressed the button the black screen would come up, some white writing would appear that he didn’t understand and then it would disappear into a white dot as the monitor would suddenly turn off.

    “It looks like we may have a problem with your machine Sparky.” Lara mused as she opened up the base unit to check for any irregularities.

    “Bloody typical.” Sparky spat. “You may as well have given me a slate and chalk to do my work on rather than this expensive, useless piece of drivel. You can be guaranteed that if I’m given anything technological to work with that it will break before I even have chance to turn it on. It was the same with the franking machine.”

    “Now don’t get prematurely upset.” Lara tried to reassure him whilst fiddling with a loose wire inside. “It may be just a simple problem that I can mend by the end of lunch.”

    Richard, amused by Sparky’s ability to destroy anything electrical that came into his presence, asked that everyone came back in an hour to complete the days training. Sparky sullenly got up and made his way to the staff canteen.


    As Sparky, Michelle and Debbie ate their lunch Richard and Lara spoke in the office.

    “He’s a difficult character isn’t he?” Lara said as she continued to play around with the wires.

    “Tell me about it.” Richard said whilst secretly admiring Lara as she bended over to mend Sparky’s useless machine. “It all seems quite humorous but I am in a difficult position. Sparky’s been with us for thirty-six years and is loved by most people here but he really does have a blind spot when it comes to keeping up to date with advancements. It sounds bad but the budget could be spent on employing someone who actually knows what they are doing and is able to pick things up without stirring up a posse of mindless support just because they don’t understand the meaning of the word ‘new’. In a year from now the computers will be doing the majority of the work and if old sparky can’t figure out how to use them then I really can’t imagine how he’ll be able to do his job.”

    Lara looked up from the unit.

    “Harsh.” She stated. “Poor old guy. He seems harmless. It’s going to be a shame if I can’t teach him what he needs to know. At the end of the day though; you can’t stop progression.”

    “No, you certainly can’t.” Richard agreed and he smiled at the pretty tutor that stood before him. She smiled back before returning to mending the computer.

    “But I won’t be winning any favours with the rest of the staff if I choose to force him into retirement. I wish decisions were as easy to make as you make it look easy to fix that box in front of you.”

    “Well thank you for saying I make it look easy but I can assure you it can be quite tricky as it’s proving to be now.”

    Just as she had made the statement the power supply of the base unit started to hum with life and the monitor came to life showing a black screen with the same writing as the other two monitors aside of it.

    “At last!” Richard exclaimed, glad that Sparky would at last have no excuse for learning how to use the new computer. “I could kiss you.”

    Lara quickly turned to Richard who was already going a shade of crimson.

    “I...I mean….err well…” He had spoken too hastily and for once was flummoxed as to how to remedy the situation. There was a beautiful young computer engineer in front of him, a professional, and he had just said he could kiss her. It was rare that he got embarrassed but embarrassed is what he was.

    “Could you?” She responded, smiling slyly.

    He coughed nervously.

    “I’m sorry. It wasn’t meant to come out like that. Err… I mean… oh.”

    She turned back to fix the side of the base unit back on and said;

    “That’s a shame.”

    Richard’s face went from a shade of red to a grin that spanned from ear to ear. As he was thinking of what to say the sound of Michelle’s over the top laughter travelled into the room from outside the door. A moment later and the trio in training walked back into the room; Debbie had just asked again how Sparky had got his name. Sparky sat at his computer looking more miserable than ever.

    “I’ve managed to fix your computer.” Lara said enthusiastically. “The hard-drive had come un-done from the motherboard and…”

    Before she could finish Sparky spurted:

    “The what has come undone from the what? Are these things made by bloody aliens?”

    “I don’t get what you mean.” Lara asked, confused as to what he meant. She turned to Richard to see if he could make sense of him but he shrugged his shoulders in response.

    “The mother ship? Who sends these electronic letters?”

    Richard and Lara laughed at the misunderstanding and Lara took time to explain to Sparky the inside of the base unit. Although he couldn’t get his head round micro-chips (“You can’t have chips in something electronic!”) the lunch break must have given him a better outlook on the situation because for the next three hours he managed to learn to use the word-proccesor, the database and even a little bit of programming that Lara taught him so he would have a better understanding of how the machine did what it did.


    Towards the end of the day, Richard, got a moment on his own with Sparky and thanked him for learning to use the computer. Sparky grumbled about how it was nothing and why should it matter him but then he said:

    “Richard. I had a girl as beautiful as her once.”

    “You what?” Richard asked, a little bit confused.

    “Don’t end up like me. When you get her, don’t **** everyone else in the office.”

    “I don’t understand.” He was now even more puzzled.

    “I saw you both together today in that training room. Men like us; we love our jobs that much that we go for the girls we work with. I saw the way you two were together; you were meant for each other.”

    “I....I… err don’t know what you mean.”

    “You and Lara; you reminded me of when me and her first met.”

    “You and who?” Richard was taken aback by Sparky’s sudden trip down memory lane.

    “Me and Elaine. We were in our late twenties. She had come to do a days training on file-o-fax when she worked in Human Resources and I worked in Parks. We went out for a meal that night and ended up spending the night together. We were inseparable. I loved her more than my family but I got cocky and arrogant and Rita from Payroll came onto me and I thought I had it all but after several affairs; Elaine found out. That’s why I was so upset about not getting to talk to her earlier. The only time we can ever chat and I can hear her happy is when I make my morning calls to Drainage and hear her beautiful voice.”

    “I didn’t know.”

    Sparky put his hand on Richards shoulder and said:

    “Ask her to dinner, for me, for everything I threw away.”

    Richard was absolutely stunned by Sparky’s sudden openness. He saw the look of sadness on his face and there was suddenly a mirror in front of him. He saw his future self in old Sparky and his advice echoed through his mind. ‘This is must be why he’s always telling me to settle down’ he thought and he hugged Sparky and made his way over to Lara to ask her out to dinner.

    Michelle and Debbie observing what had just happened walked over to Sparky. Michelle whispered in his ear:

    “So, did you get him to ask her out for dinner?”

    “Look for yourself.” Sparky said.

    Michelle let out another one of her rumbling rolls of laughter strait from the gut. The high-pitched squeal that followed it was almost deafening and made everyone in the room turn. She looked to Richard and shouted out:

    “I can’t believe you fell for Sparky’s bull**** you gullible twat. That’s ten quid I owe him.”
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page