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Sins of the Fathers

All Jacob wanted was to replace his totaled car. And his father’s laptop was going to make that happen.

Growing up, Jacob had never considered ketchup an art supply. His mother would not sit in a fast-food restaurant, open packets of ketchup and Chick Fil A sauce and allow him to dip his fingers in and draw broad landscapes on the table. Especially not on a table in a public restaurant. Maybe that is why his dad divorced his mom and married Brittany instead. The same Brittany whose three children were at this moment decorating the window table at the Chick Fil A where Jacob worked. He stood near the counter, holding a spray bottle and cloths and waiting for them to leave so he could clean up. His coworker, Krista, walked over. 

“Isn’t that…”

“Yep.”

“Does she know you work here?”

“Yep. She said hello when they ordered.”

“Does she know someone has to clean up after her and her brats?”

“Probably. She would be the first to complain if she came in and there were no clean tables for her precious children.” Jacob tried not to sound bitter, but why should  Brittany get to load up her three monsters in a cherry red Volvo in the middle of the afternoon. She didn’t even have a job, while his own mother had two.

It’s just not fair, he thought, sweeping up the potato parts his siblings had dropped. He wasn’t sure whether his stepmother came so they could come visit him, or just to rub it in his face he wasn’t a part of that family, his father’s new family.  While he and his mom were walking and biking everywhere, this woman was driving two blocks to the dog park for her King Charles Spaniel. (He only knew the breed because she used it as part of his name, “Toby, our King Charles Spaniel.”)

Well, he thought, it wasn’t this woman’s fault his mom was working more, it was his for totaling their one car. It was stupid, he was trying to show off for his friends, driving with his knees, when he plowed into a ditch. It only took thirty seconds. His mother said over and over, it was just a car, and he could have been injured or killed, but he could tell that she was beyond disappointed in him. He had to find a way to fix this, to replace the car. 

He tried to get more hours here at the store, but his mom insisted that he concentrate on his grades. If he wanted college scholarships, he needed every A he could get. Still, he was nauseated when he heard his mom arguing with his dad after the accident, that Dad should help him get a new car and help with insurance. Surely he could afford it. 

His dad took him aside last weekend during his visit, “Jake, buddy, I know that it’s hard for you right now, but with Brittney and the kids, I just can’t buy you a car right now. But here,” he handed Jacob a neatly folded twenty dollar bill. “Take this and have a little fun.”

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“Goddam technology!” Jacob turned to see a man with a laptop at one of the back tables. The man looked a bit frustrated. Jacob figured it was the free Chick Fil A wifi, which although free, was definitely the same quality as the signature sandwich. 

“Can I help you, sir?” Jacob asked. 

“It’s this damn wifi. I have some work to do, and my kids are having friends over, so I thought I could work here a bit where no one would bother me. And I can’t even log on to my work servers.” 

“Our wifi can be tricky sometimes, can I show you?” The man spun the laptop to Jacob and Jacob tapped the keys, pulling up the network settings. The wifi looked fine. “Sir, does the system you are trying to get to have a firewall? Some companies use a VPN so that you can get around it.”

The man thought a second. “I think I remember an email about that. They just gave me a new laptop, so I thought they would have everything set up.” The man pulled the laptop back and pulled up his email. After a few seconds, he sighed relief, Here it is, instructions for a Virtual Personal Network, is that what I need?”

Jacob smiled. Computer support wasn’t typically one of his duties at Chick Fil A, but the store prided itself at making their customers happy. He looked up at Kristia. She was training a new crew member and not paying attention, so Jacob looked back at the man’s laptop. “Here, I can get you going a just a moment.” He tapped the keys, let the man enter a password, and then pulled open a browser. “What is the site name?”

“Oh,” said the man, “it’s not a site, it’s an internal app.”  He clicked on an icon of a flying eagle and a new window popped open. The top of the window had the bold words, “Icon Breweries” and below were the logos of some of the most popular beers, at least judging from commercials Jacob normally saw during football games. He whistled. 

“Ah,” said the man, “You’ve heard of our products? Not surprised, a young guy like you is one of our key consumers.”

“Actually, sir, I’m only 17. So, I haven’t tried your products yet.”

“I get it,” the man winked.

“No, really, my dad works for Twin Pines, so I have heard of your company, but there is no way I would be allowed to try anything.” Jacob figured the man had heard of Twin Pines, seeing as it was the main competitor of Icon. His father would frequently be on the phone during his visits, talking to someone about what bullshit Icon was shipping lately and calling it beer.

“Twin Pines, huh? I know most of the guys locally there, who is your dad?”

“Clay Morrison.”

“Yeah, ol’ Clay. He and I basically do the same job, just on different sides.” 

Jacob waited a second, but the man did not introduce himself. 

“So how is Clay? Good man, making you work a job so you don’t get spoiled.”

“I guess my dad is fine, I only see him a couple of weekends a month. And I work because I need the money. I am trying to buy a new car.”

“Time to upgrade? Your dad just got a Tesla, didn’t he?”

Jacob nodded. “I’m upgrading from a Schwinn.”

The man was quiet a moment. “Well, thanks for your help, I should let you get back to work.”

“My pleasure,” Jacob uttered the required Chick Fil A phrase and went back to the counter.

“Wifi problems?” Krista asked.

“As usual.” 

“Why don’t you go get on the computer in my office and see if you can figure out how much it would cost to upgrade to something better?” Krista nodded to the back of the store.”It’s a quiet afternoon.”

Jacob could think of nothing better. He wished there was somewhere in town he could work to do real computer support and not just on slow afternoons in a fast-food restaurant, but this would work for now.

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When he got home, there was a note from his mom on the table, she’d be late. She could’ve texted that, he thought, but she still seemed to think a note on the table was the best form of communication. But he was glad to get a few minutes alone. The man with the computer problems had found him at the bike rack after his shift. He talked about a job.  Jacob reached into his pocket and pulled out the thumb drive the man gave him. Five thousand dollars to copy a couple files. Jacob would be able to help his mom get a car. He powered up his computer and went to the public site for Icon, looking for the names of the people who worked there. It took a bit of time, but he found the name of the man, Michael Hamilton, a Vice President for Research. Yep, that was his dad’s title as well. No wonder the man had heard of his dad. 

The following weekend,  Jacob had a visit at his dad’s place. He never really spend much time with his father, who spend the weekends working in his study. This left Jacob mostly with the four and three-year-old while his stepmom was with the baby. Jacob wondered how to get his dad away from the computer. It would need to be something urgent. Turned out, he didn’t have to do anything. 

His stepmom came into the den. “Jacob, we have a birthday party to go to at Chucky Cheese in a half hour. You are welcome to come with us.” She smiled, but it wasn’t a real one. Jacob could tell because her eyes didn’t crinkle up. 

Jacob took a deep breath. “Actually I have a ton of homework to do. Can I just stay here and work on it?”

His dad came to the doorway. “That would be a good idea. It will be nice and quiet for you. Then maybe when I get home, you and I can do something together.”

“Sure dad.” Jacob shrugged. He knew that actually, they would not do anything together. They hadn’t in the years since the divorce, why start now? Unless he knew that Jacob was up to something? No, he couldn’t know, Jacob reasoned. Just feeling a little guilty.

He tried to slow his racing heart once they left. Deep breaths. He wanted to jump on the computer the moment they left, but waited, as it would be his luck they would forget someone’s favorite stuffed toy and have to come back to get it. After fifteen minutes, feeling sure that they were indeed gone, Jacob went to the study. The laptop was closed on the desk. He opened it and realized that it was a corporate laptop, the logo of Twin Pines stretched across the screen. It needed a user name and password. Shit. He tapped the space bar and the user name popped into the field. That was a help. Jacob pulled open the desk drawers, looking for a list of passwords. Really, was his dad this stupid? There it was, an index card with user names and passwords. And most of the passwords were the same. “eyeluvBDGM”. The initials of his stepmom and her kids. Jacob felt the sting of rejection all over again. His father really had left him for this bitch and those stupid kids. He was just an afterthought. 

 He looked around the computer, glancing at the emails first. One subject caught his attention. “New product line.” He opened the email and there were attachments. Just what he needed, the new recipes. His hands were shaking as he fumbled with the thumb drive, trying to get it in the slot, while also listening for the garage door.  His mouth was dry. What would happen if he got caught? Downloading the attachments seemed to take forever.  While he was waiting, he opened the Twin Pines app and looked around, keeping an eye on the clock. He figured he had about an hour. There were the files the man asked for, the research on high fructose corn syrup and addiction. He downloaded them as well. His mouth was dry, but he kept moving files until the drive was nearly full. 

Finally, he thought, he would have a car of his own. Of course, he would share with his mom, but it would be his. He worked for it. He ejected the drive and put it in his pocket.  He felt his pulse slow down. All he had to do now was bring this drive to work next week and give it to the man from Icon. As he was getting ready to close things down, he saw an email subject that looked interesting. “This weekend.”

He opened it. It was from a woman, who wrote that she was sorry that she would not get to see him this weekend. As he scanned down through the email thread, he saw what she was replying to. “My love, I will miss seeing you, but not only do I have a fucking kiddy party to go to, but I also have to spend “quality time” with my damn son, otherwise my ex’s lawyer will hit me up for more money.” Jacob wondered if Brittany had any idea. He read the email again, then hit “forward.” Brittany’s email address popped up as a frequent contact. Send. He’d show her, she wasn’t special, Dad would cheat on her just like he cheated on Jacob’s mom.

Jacob thought about the email and his dad. Is that what he was, a damn son? Someone to do things with so lawyers don’t make you pay more money.  Jacob took a deep breath. He texted his mom, asking if he could come home early. Then he remembered what his teachers always said y about the internet. Things online last forever.  He opened a browser window and using his dad’s open email created a Twitter Account, @TwinPinePirate. Then, he made a google drive account with the password and loaded all the files he had downloaded. After making it all public, he tweeted the link out to the wide world, tagging @Icon and @TwinPine.

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