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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Download/Upload (11/17/11)

TITLE: Man Versus Machine
By Ebony Murdoch


"No. No … NOOOO!" Beth banged the keyboard several times before plopping into her office chair in defeat.

Carol, the manager, buzzed on the intercom. "Is everything okay out there?"

"I hate this machine. Why is it that every time I go to download something, it crashes?"

"The nature of the beast, I guess." She walked over to Beth's desk for a better look. "Could it be the website you're using? Maybe the trouble's on their end."

"Who knows? Nothing's going right in my life this week. You know my boyfriend and I aren't speaking, right?"

"Andy? You're kidding. Why not?"

"Long story. Lies and more lies. Can you hand me that bag of pretzel sticks?" Carol obliged.

Beth clicked the mouse over and over, but to no avail. Finally, she powered down the computer and waited. "I guess I'll just have to reboot." She swung in her chair to face Carol. "Now back to Andy. He told me he had to work late two nights ago. Well, a friend of mine saw him at the florist's at the exact same time."


"So I didn't get any flowers that night, or the next night, either."

"Did you confront him?"

"Of course." Beth started up the machine again. She held those pretzel sticks like a chain smoker.

"I said, 'Hello! Do I look stupid to you? Who were you sending flowers to?' But, of course, he denied there was anyone else."

Carol smiled warmly, nodding in agreement. She eyed her watch. Beth's expense reports were late, but she couldn't exactly rush on that dinosaur PC.

"I told him I needed space. This morning, I got an email from him with a large attachment. It's a video file, called 'Let me explain.' So, I'm thinking, 'This had better be good.' But wouldn't you know, the darned thing froze!" And with that, she gave the keyboard a fierce shake.

"Beth, I'm sorry … can we pick this up later? Let me know when you can get those reports out."

"Okay. Sorry for rambling."

With the PC running smoothly again, Beth uploaded her work to the office server. By the time she finished, it was almost time to head home.

Carol had spent the afternoon in meetings, checked in one last time. "Any luck with that e-mail from Andy?"

"I didn't go back to it. Hold on, let me try now." She logged into her account. This time, she found a second email from Andy, with the subject line "new format." She downloaded the message as they looked on together. "I can't imagine how he'll get out of this one."

The video began with Andy sitting in a fancy restaurant. The camera panned around, revealing extravagant dιcor and lush food. Live piano music swelled in the background. He cleared his throat. "I left work just a teensy bit early the other day. I stopped in here to make reservations for us … for tonight."

The scene changed, and Andy reappeared holding a small, oddly shaped box, gift wrapped and tied with a bright red ribbon. After leaving the restaurant, I went to the mall, because, well, I had ordered something for you and had to pick it up … Did anybody ever tell you that you tend to overreact? Why do you listen to those gossipy friends of yours anyway?"

"I don't really do that," Beth retorted out loud. "Anyway, what's this got to do with those flowers?"

As if on cue, Andy stared into the camera and said, "As for the flowers, they were for you, too. Delivery was scheduled for this afternoon. I hope you like them, and we'll get to speak later." End of video.

Carol dipped into her office and returned with a box of long-stemmed roses addressed to Beth. Beth's jaw hung. "Wow. He planned this … Carol, you were in on this the whole time!"

"He wanted to surprise you. I told him I'd be glad to help."

I know exactly what's going to happen, next. He's going to propose. Oh! I knew he was a good guy. I'll really have to eat crow this time. I wonder what kind of diamonds …

Just then Andy popped into the office, grinning broadly. "I come bearing gifts!"

Beth ran over, threw her arms around his neck and grabbed the gift box from his hand. Her soul sank as she realized what it was.

A new memory card for her PC.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 12/01/11
Love this! Oh I could so relate! Computers break down on me the minute I walk into the room! The ending made me laugh out loud. The message is so wonderful. You delivered it in such a loving, caring way without coming across as preachy.
Dolores Stohler12/04/11
I love Christmas stories and this one was no exception. Your character is so true to life. We could all use a little more patience and a lot less frustration. Good job.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 12/16/11
Congratulations for ranking 9th in your level!