Photo from Ebay
The job, it turned out, fit into my schedule. Tom, the editor who sat on my manuscript for so many months, failed to ask if I was a pilot. I stayed clear of the subject, leading him into the heart of the story I was proposing.
Zeke, my protagonist was helping his late copilot’s wife (they were both air evac pilots in Vietnam) save her flying service business from the overly anxious mortgage holders from grabbing her assets. Bringing two rundown Navy Steadman crop-dusters up to standard was no picnic. But that’s another story.
The new Commodore 64 and Easy Script word processor were humming along like honeymooners in spite of the many questions the programmer’s manual a failed to address, at least in a lingo I could follow. The person managing the local FIDO NET, Dale, had mentioned he operated an Electronic Bulletin Board that was free for the using. He called his Dr. Rom BBS and gave me the modem number. At this point I needed to reach out to someone before this entire project went up in smoke.
I was a bit shy about taking the plunge. It I’d been on stage I would have called mic-fright. But after a couple of days I dialed Dr. Rom. The BBS answered on the second ring and I found myself in a digital world that might not have differed much from the back side of Alice’s mirror – a virtual garage sale, a humor section, several Special Interest Groups and a conversation room. There was also a brief paragraph concerning one Dr. Rom who had that very day escaped from his quarters in the loft above the BBS. I was mesmerized, momentarily forgetting I was witnessing the output of computer program. Obviously, it could be as addictive as The Days Of Our Lives. Before i was finished a nagging bulletin began flashing, announcing that my time had elapsed. Quickly, I typed in a question: How could I activate the Lynx program and what was it’s purpose? And then I logged out.
I was allowed only one visit per day. My number would be turned away for the next twelve hours, the bulletin stated, as well as a reminder to keep an eye out for Dr. Rom.
A week passed and no one had responded to my Lynx question. But that was okay. I had larger fish in the kettle. Tom’s proofreader, Betty, called me late one afternoon.
“How do you want to spell the name of your protagonist?” she asked.
“Z-E-K-E. Is there a problem?”
“Not now.,but you had spelled it three different ways in your last installment’” she said. “But that’s okay. We’ve got it handled.”
I was stunned, Opening the Easy Script database I discovered there was no “Z” file. I was going to have to learn how to write one. And until then I was going to have to read my stuff more closely. Hmm, I was on my way to earning the coveted title of Typo King.
The following day we experienced a widespread power outage. Rumors were that it was caused by a major problem at a nearby substation. As soon as power was restored I logged into Dr. Rom BBS, having come to rely heavily it for up-to-the-minute local news. And there it was: Someone had spotted an individual they thought was Dr. Rom. He seemed to be pedaling a bicycle toward his quarters. The description accompanying the bulletin was vague, but he appeared to have been close to a fire.