Mothers and Daughters
Copyright© 2017 by Lazlo Zalezac
Sherry hit the key combination that would save her document. She sat back and rubbed her temples, trying to ease the headache she was developing. Never, in her entire life, had she worked so hard as she had over the past six weeks. She had put in nineteen hour days, with almost no breaks except for food, the bathroom, and naps.
Alex looked over her shoulder at the computer screen. When the hour glass icon disappeared, he said, “You’re done.”
“Yes, I am.”
“With the papers, too?”
“Yes,” she answered.
She had written three different papers on various aspects of her research. There was one paper that compared a dozen different neural net implementations against the same set of training data, for speed of processing and accuracy of categorization. There was another paper comparing and contrasting a variety of filtering algorithms, for increasing signal to noise ratios in vibration sensor outputs. There was a third paper presenting the results of her experiments with data from the lathe.
“That’s good. I guess you should e-mail them to Gary,” Alex said.
“Are you sure that you don’t want your name on the papers?” she asked feeling guilty that he didn’t want to be recognized as a co-author on the papers despite how much he had contributed to her thinking on some of the issues.
Alex said, “Dr. Dimwit would flunk you in a minute if he saw my name on a paper with you.”
“Dr. Tiege said that, too,” she said.
“Dr. Dimwit can’t remember a damned thing, except an insult. It’s all those meetings he goes to,” Alex said.
“Meetings?” Sherry asked.
“Each time you sit in a meeting with other faculty members, your IQ goes down a tenth of a point. It isn’t all that noticeable at first, but by the thousandth meeting even the most brilliant person is reduced to a drooling idiot.”
Sherry laughed. “I’ll remember that.”
“Have Gary schedule your defense. That will be the first tenth of an IQ point you’ll lose; but it could be your last, if you’re smart and avoid academic institutions for the rest of your life. I highly recommend that you consider a lifetime of self-employed intellectual self-indulgence,” Alex said.
“I’ll keep that in mind. In the mean time I’ll stop by and see Gary, this afternoon,” Sherry said.
“You missed the afternoon. It’s now evening.”
She looked outside and noticed that it was getting dark. With the house adjusting the interior lights, it was easy to loose track of the time. It was kind of like living inside a casino where one didn’t know whether it was day or night. She could understand how difficult it would be to keep regular hours working like that.
“I guess I’ll see him tomorrow,” Sherry said disappointed that she wasn’t finishing everything today.
Alex said, “I’ll call Harry and let him know you’ll be there next week, with your program.”
“Where will I be going?”
“I’m not sure. He said that he’d find a couple of customers who have machines that are acting up for you to take some samples on. You’ll probably end up going to a dozen places to get enough samples to train your software.”
Sherry didn’t need to ask about the kind of equipment that she was going to be working with. The company that had purchased her program manufactured packaging equipment for wrapping things like candy bars. Until she had talked with Harry, she had no idea how much money was involved in equipment of that nature.
Sherry said, “I have to admit that I’m a little worried. What if it doesn’t work?”
“It’ll work. You might have to make a tweak here and there, but you’ll get it to work. In the worst case, you’ll only be able to predict the most obvious case failure modes since they’ll probably have the most extreme precursor symptoms,” Alex said.
“I’m still worried,” Sherry said.
Alex said, “You’re tired. You should probably take a day or two to relax.”
“I should head home and let my parents know I’m still alive,” Sherry said.
She had been staying in his guest room. Initially, he had offered her the use of his bed since it was large enough to hold both of them, but she had gently refused the offer. It took him a few minutes to catch on to what she was saying. He had turned bright red. It had not occurred to him that they might end up in bed at the same time. That same day, Alex had gone out and purchased a bed for Sherry to use when she got too tired to work.
“You’re welcome to stay here,” Alex said.
That was about as close as he could come to saying that he would miss having her around. It had been nice having someone around who could discuss things of a technical nature. Over the past six weeks, her knowledge had increased dramatically and each discussion had become increasingly more pleasurable.
“My parents are probably worried about me.”
“You mean your mother is worried about you,” Alex said.
She looked around uncomfortably and then added, “Besides, you probably want to entertain one of your visitors.”
“One of my visitors?” he asked initial puzzled at the suggestion that he had visitors, but then it dawned on him what she meant. Turning red, he said, “Oh, yeah.”
There had been an embarrassing moment about a week after Sherry had started working at his house. One evening a young woman, dressed quite provocatively, had arrived at the front door expecting to have a date with Alex. Acting quite nervous, he had stood there looking from the young woman to Sherry while trying to figure out how to handle the situation. He was a little too slow in coming up with something to say. The young woman’s comment that she charged extra for threesomes had left no doubt in anyone’s mind as to why the woman was there. Alex had looked like he wanted to crawl under a chair.
Sherry had immediately returned to work and studiously ignored the discussion that took place in the living room. She did know that the young woman left after just a few minutes. Alex hid out in his office for several days. Until this moment, neither one of them had mentioned the incident in even the most circumspect manner.
After sending an e-mail to Gary with the papers and dissertation attached to it, Sherry packed up her laptop. She figured that she’d collect her clothes at a later time. It was much latter in the day than she had thought. She said, “I guess I’ll see you in a couple of days.”
“Sure,” he said standing there shifting nervously from one leg to the other.
“Mrs. Fields is driving by again.”
The announcement by the computer made both of them laugh. The day after Sherry had moved into the house, the security feature of Alex’s home system had identified a strange car that slowly passed by the house several times a day. It didn’t take them long to discover that it was Sherry’s mother, particularly since every drive-by was followed ten minutes later with a telephone call from her.
“I’d really better get home.”
“If you leave now, you can be in her driveway about the time she’s talking to Secretary.”
Sherry laughed and headed to the door, carrying her purse and laptop. He stood at the window, watching her get into her car. She waved to him and he just nodded his head. She started her car and pointed it in the direction of home.
She stepped in the house in time to hear her mother say, “I hate talking to that stupid robot. Why can’t they answer the phone like regular human beings?”
Her father answered, “She’s busy working on something or another.”
“That dreadful man is probably working something or another on Sherry. She’ll come home pregnant.”
Walking into the kitchen, Sherry announced, “The implantation was successful. I’m going to have a boy.”
“What?” her mother screeched.
“I’m just kidding,” Sherry said.
Her father burst out laughing. He wished he had a camera to take a picture of his wife’s face.
“That’s not funny,” her mother said grumpily.
Sherry went over to the refrigerator and grabbed a soda. She sat down at the table and opened it. The one thing that Alex didn’t stock at his house was diet soda. In fact, food had been one of those items that just didn’t seem important there. He called out for delivery food most days, nuked frozen dinners when he got hungry late at night, and went out for coffee upon waking.
After taking a long drink from it, she said, “I finished the dissertation this afternoon. I’ve got three publications ready. I’ll be delivering the program next week and starting to earn some money.”
“That’s great, honey,” her father said.
Like a lot of parents of a college student, he had been worried about her chances for employment upon graduation. The fact that she was starting her own business with a major sale already lined up did much to minimize his concerns. In fact, he was rather impressed with what she had accomplished.
“I’ll visit Dr. Tiege tomorrow and then take a few days off,” Sherry said.
“What will you do?”
“I don’t know. I guess I’ll get a little sleep,” she answered.
“We could go shopping,” her mother said, despite knowing that Sherry disliked shopping for clothes.
Sherry said, “That’s a great idea. I’d love to spend a couple hours browsing through the aisles at the downtown Mega-Computer Store.”
“I was thinking more along the lines of shopping for clothes,” her mother said looking horrified at the suggestion of going to the computer store.
“I don’t know, Mom. Strange people hang out at those clothing stores,” Sherry said in a worried tone of voice.
Her mother was speechless. Her father was chuckling. He was happy that his daughter had inherited his sense of humor since his wife didn’t have one. Sherry had to hide her grin behind her hand.
“You’ll need some nice clothes when you start traveling on business,” her mother said.
“I don’t know. I’d probably get more business, naked,” Sherry said.
Sherry realized that dressing appropriately could be a bit of a problem. Showing up in jeans and a tee shirt definitely would give others a bad impression. On the other hand, she could just imagine walking around a factory wearing a dress. It didn’t seem like the best idea to her.
“Your mother is right. You’ll probably have some business meetings and dress is very important in making a good first impression,” her father said.
Her mother said, “Listen to your father. He’s a salesman and knows those kinds of things.”
“I’ll also be going into manufacturing areas,” Sherry said.
Her father said, “Wear a nice pantsuit for the first visit, while you’re checking out the environment. Use that first trip to decide what would be appropriate to wear when you actually have to get to work there.”
“That’s a good idea,” Sherry said.
“She could take one dress with her,” her mother said.
Sherry frowned thinking about all of the things she was going to have to purchase over the next few days. She was starting a business and that would require her to spend some money that, as a student, she didn’t have.
She said, “I know that I’ll be getting a pretty good paycheck, but I’m going to be a little short of cash until I get paid. I’m not sure that I can afford to spend too much money right now on clothes.”