John worked at the college library. One day he told a coworker that he felt bad in the head, bad enough to kill himself. The coworker, concerned about his work friend, warned campus police. The police called an ambulance. They picked up John and strapped him to a bed. John yelled at them, saying it was a mistake, he didn't need to be on suicide watch. If anything, being here makes me actually want to kill myself, he said. The doctor didn't like his humor.
He actually wanted to kill himself the next day when he showed up to work and learned that he was fired. Campus police escorted him off campus and told him that he was banned from the premises. They cited recent events with school shootings and mentally unstable young men. I hate them too but that's not me, John said.
He drove to Dick's Sporting Goods and stood in front of the wall with guns. He called his friend and told him that he was standing at Dick's, looking at guns. He invited his friend to come look with him. His friend called the suicide hotline and they said to stay around him and support his decisions, especially since John had said people didn't listen to him and that he was tired of being told what to do.
His friend hurried to the store and found John standing at the gun counter with his hands in his pockets looking frail and sad with pale sweaty skin while the salesman showed him a 12 gauge shotgun. They stood at the gun counter and the salesman presented another gun. John said he was getting paid tomorrow so it wouldn't matter if he spent all of his money. The salesman asked him to fill out some paperwork and bring it tomorrow so he could buy the gun.
John and his friend visited the Blind Pig bar to commiserate. He kept fixating on losing his job, which made him feel worse, which made him think about the gun. Then he would look at his friend and cry again. He cried about how he always fucked things up, how he's tired of being told what to do, how he wants to be able to make one single decision for himself. His friend sat with him and felt his pain. John ate a turkey sandwich and drank some beer. Sometimes he forgot about the gun.
He went home and asked his roommate to go on a walk with him. They jumped into the gulch down the street. The concrete corridor squeezed between the houses, hidden by overgrown privet bushes. His roommate wondered if John was showing him where to find John's body in the future. Worried, his roommate stayed up with him, playing video games and watching movies. Eventually his roommate fell asleep on the couch.
John was alone and thought about his roommate's shotgun. It was next to his roommate's acoustic guitar that John liked to play. He picked up the shotgun and removed it from the bag. There was no trigger; it was missing the firing mechanism. A month earlier, his roommate had dismantled the gun because he was worried about John's depression.
John put the gun back in the bag. This moment excited him, but not in a good way. He checked his bank account at 7 a.m. and saw his paycheck had deposited. He waited until the store opened so he could go buy the gun.
When John was leaving, his roommate woke up and asked where he was going. John said he was going to buy a gun. His roommate asked if he could come. John didn't say anything, so his roommate followed John outside. The roommate saw that his car's door was open. Somebody had opened the center console and trashed all the stuff. That's where the shotgun's firing mechanism had been hidden, and now it was missing.
John's roommate blamed John for stealing it. John claimed he didn't take anything. He said his roommate was paranoid and didn't believe anything. You don't listen to me, you never do, you always argue, he said. They both calmed down. The roommate apologized for accusing John, said that he was afraid what might happen and didn't want his shotgun involved.
Sometimes my thoughts don't work. I get words mixed up or name something wrong even though I'm talking about the right thing. I freeze up and don't do anything.
I'm learning how to take bad feelings and turn them into good feelings. So I'm going to start writing a grant application to fund a vegetable garden at the public library in my hometown. Consider this my grant writing. It starts like this.
First, who am I, and why should you give me money? I'm Denny. I started off lying as a kid, then I became too honest. Now I don't know the difference. I like playing with computers, but they get me in trouble sometimes. When I was in high school, they loaned each student a laptop computer. The school didn't have WiFi yet, and I discovered an easy way to use the computers to create a local WiFi network. This made it so that all of the students could chat with each other. We messaged on the network with our friends in a classroom down the hall. Somebody else found a way to play multiplayer Mario Kart on the network.
One time I did something especially dumb. Nobody had created a chat network yet, so I created one and named it "I'm Bombing the School Today." I thought it was funny to name it something like that, but really I lacked the imagination to come up with something more clever. I'm not funny, my friend said. A couple of minutes later I decided the name was stupid and told everybody to get off of it. I created a new network named "chat" and everybody joined that network. I saw in the nearby WiFi networks that my poorly named network still existed, even though nobody in the classroom was on it.
The police stormed our classroom and told us to shut our laptops immediately. They confiscated everybody's school-issued laptop, plus my personal laptop. I'd brought my own computer that day because it was a Friday and I wanted to use it when we went on our weekend choir trip. The administrators returned the laptops to every student at the end of class except for mine, which was locked by a password. I went to the principal's office and asked if I could have it back. The school couldn't keep it since it was my personal computer, I said.
The principal questioned why I thought they kept mine. I told her that I had plugged my laptop into an Ethernet cable, and it restarted an illegal download from the night before. I claimed that the action might've set off some alarms on the school's network monitor or something.
She said, "Then you shouldn't have a problem if we look through your computer." I said no because it's my personal property. She told me to go back to class, and implied that the school was exploring the legality of accessing the laptop.
In chorus class, we had this choir teacher everybody hated. I'm not really sure what was wrong with her. Somehow sometime someone had decided that we hated her. We were terribly mean to her. We practiced a couple of run-throughs of Ave Maria. I had the opening solo for the song. My singing made the entire choir go off key unless I started the song, so the teacher gave me the solo. I spent the entire class anxious about the laptop.
After class I consulted with my hacker friends about whether or not it could be traced to me. We decided that the only place they could trace it was in the text box where I had named the network. In that computer's interface, whenever you created a new network, the name of the most recently created network persisted in the text box. "chat" is what the text box said since I had changed the name of the network to "chat."
The principal demanded me back to her office. The room was crowded with police officers, every co-administrator at the school, and all of the district superintendents.
A superintendent said, "So you're the one who has been messing with my computers. Nice to finally meet you." My arms sputtered as I lowered myself into the chair. I thought for sure I was fucked. This is where it gets fuzzy.
I think the principal said, "Are you sure there's nothing you did wrong besides download some music on our internet?"
"Yes ma'am. Last night at home I paused the download and went to sleep. The download resumed when I plugged my computer into the school's wall. Probably sent up some IT red flags or something."
She told me that I must open my computer and enter in the password.
"I don't think you have that right," I said.
Somebody said, "Yes we do. If we wanted, we could search your car. Same applies to your backpack. And your personal computer."
"Have y'all ever dealt with an issue where you had to search somebody's personal computer?" I asked. "Digital space is different."
The superintendent grabbed my forearms and directed them to the laptop. He squeezed as my limp hands hovered over the keyboard. I laughed at him and said I'm not doing it. He squeezed harder. I laughed more. He said stop laughing and I said I couldn't help it. He kept squeezing until my hands were red and I couldn't move my fingers. I was laughing and said, "I can't move my hands to type," and he let go.
I typed the password and did what the principal told me. She walked me through the exact steps I took to create the network. I opened the text box to enter the WiFi name, and the last network showed up. It was named "chat." There was no trace of the bad name. I thought they were going to let me go with my laptop, but some guy in the room knew how to look deeper in my computer. He found the bomb threat network name.
The superintendent said, "After seeing what all you had done with these computers, I knew. I knew you'd either be a convicted felon or a brilliant politician."
The cops slammed me against the desk and handcuffed me. They took my car keys and escorted me outside. All I could think about was the choir trip. I had brought alcohol for the hotel room. Pink lemonade and vodka, hiding in a water reservoir. I told them there was a pink sack of liquid in my car that might look like a bomb but wasn't.
In court they used the laptop for evidence and convicted me for a bomb threat and for the alcohol and tobacco they found in my car. I spent 27 months in federal prison and the school didn't let me graduate.
I needed to share that information since this is a grant application. I made bad decisions, and this grant is my attempt to do right. The school could've done so much better with their money if they gave every student a cheap, modifiable computer, instead of those expensive computers that don't teach a kid about computers. That's why I'm writing to you, government grant agency. I want to start a community garden where we use computers to help the plants grow while teaching people how computers work.
I can program computers. Or, not quite, but almost. I've been learning the Python programming language. I found a tutorial online to build a homemade soil moisture sensor for plants. I can measure the moisture in a pot of soil. The sensor is connected to a computer, and when the soil is dry, the computer shows a message: "I'm dry! Water me!"
I have somebody willing to donate the garden supplies to start a food plot at the library. And the library has some old monitors, keyboards, and mice that they'll let me use. All I need are these cheap computer boards and a few extra parts.