Insufficient Backup Storage Error – Friday Fictioneers

It’s time for Friday Fictioneers, even when it’s Saturday. Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting this group and to Kent Bonham for sharing his cool picture with us.

The challenge is to write a 100-word story based on the photo. My story follows.

PHOTO PROMPT © Kent Bonham

Genre: Humor (98 words)

Insufficient Backup Storage Error

“Have you ever noticed that things that are top secret are marked top secret in big, bold letters?” asked Charlie. For all he knew, Susie wasn’t even in the room until she threw a crumpled ball of paper at his head.

“Wise guy,” Susie said. “We found it buried in a cave. And it’s not marked top secret.”

“Some kid probably buried this mumbo jumbo a long time ago and now he’s in jail, dreaming about his book.”


“You assured me the code was stored in a secure location,” said Tim Cook. “What do you mean it’s missing?”



Tim Cook, of course, is Apple’s CEO. 

To read more stories from the Fictioneers, click here.


Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing

Dear Reader: This is a continuing story. If you like, you can check out these previous installments. 

Part 1: Tessa Takes a Walk in Her Party Boots
Part 2: The Man in the Fedora Hat
Part 3: Tessa is a Messa
Part 4: Joelle Meets the Guy from Last Night
Part 5: A Walk Down Memory Layne
Part 6: Hacking with James

Thanks to all of you for reading.


Tessa let her head sink into a monster-sized pillow, and stared at the mystery phone containing photos from the previous evening. Since Joelle abandoned her, the task of discovery was up to Tessa alone to unveil. With each tap on the phone, Tessa felt dragged further into a foggy dissonance, each new face a nameless body unknown beyond the confines of the photograph, and her role, undefined. She wanted to know these people, but she couldn’t fake it to herself.  She studied body language instead. In a photo of her and Layne, he looked uneasy, his arms folded across his chest with a full drink in his hand, and stood slightly behind her like he was waiting for an elevator.

The next screen revealed a wide group shot at a table with a pitcher of beer in the middle, only Tessa and Joelle had fancy lemon drop martinis in front of them.

“Oh yeah,” Tessa said. “I remember the lemon drops,” she said, calling out to Joelle who was in the bathroom with the door closed.

“Did you say lemon drops?” Joelle turned on the lava lamp, and proceeded to turn on the other two in the room, and knelt next to her. Orange and bluish hues danced across the walls, creating an ambiance best suited for the post-hack chill recovery. James tried to keep his cool, and concentrated on the sound of Joelle’s voice, as they chatted, pressed their heads together and stared at the photo. In it Joelle was the only one looking at the camera. Everyone else appeared in mid-sentence or drinking. Tessa stared across the table at a new face on the scene who didn’t appear in any of the other photos; he had a head of shaggy curls , but with set of deep and narrow eyes that resembled Layne’s, under an umbrella of thick eyebrows. He wore a black tie and a grey jacket, overdressed compared to his fellow clubbers, but not quite up to the task. He looked more like he’d just rolled out of bed. Shaggy chic, Tessa thought, and realized that this idea had occurred to her before.

“The real question is who does the phone belong to,” James said, stepping up to protect his girls.

“Maybe it’s this guy,” Tessa said, holding the phone up above her head. “Layne would have asked for his phone back. You know, when you came to see us.”

“You mean, you. Don’t you?” Joelle flipped back and forth between pictures. “They could be brothers maybe. Maybe James will figure it all out for us. ” Joelle came up from behind James and snuck her arms in around him. “Work your magic, James. Do it.”

Typically, Joelle didn’t support James’s job choice, but her approval sealed the deal. It was the only time Tessa thought she could accuse Joelle of being a snob. James, all in good favor, had saved friends from paying a few parking tickets, changed grades from failing to passing, nothing too greedy after all. Not all hackers were bad, James would say softly to Joelle. Just some of them, and not all the time. Hacking could be a precarious business, not knowing who to trust. James preferred performing his part and looking the other way. A social security number was the key to unlocking most doors, and passwords were easier to crack than a can of soda. People weren’t as complex at they made themselves out to be, relying on a few choice words to fall back on when their memories failed them. A pet, a car, a mascot of their favorite team, the names of their kids, all the things they are told not to use. The simpletons that humans are among machinery baffled James on a daily basis. He wanted a challenge of retrieving data with sweat dripping down the sides of his face.

Joelle spooned next to Tessa by the pillow, and stroked her hair. Tessa acted like it was a normal event, but James pretended they were putting on a show for him. He got busy on his keyboard. Shaking his head, he plugged the cable into the phone and transferred it to the port.

Meanwhile Tessa searched through her purse, and eventually dumped all its contents on the floor. She set aside her wallet, sunglasses and brush, and combed through a pile of gum wrappers and receipts “There it is. I thought I lost this.” She picked up a lipstick and generously applied it to her lips and pouted juicy lips at her friend.

“Nice. It’s a little bright. I don’t think it’s your color. Where did you get this? Not Sultrix,” Joelle lifted it off the floor and turned it on its side. “No, I’ve never seen this brand.” It puzzled them into a quiet stupor borne out of exhaustion and digestion of thick-crust pizza in their bodies, their reflexes and mental processing slowed to a standstill.

“Well, I only have the latest and greatest,” Tessa licked her lips, on display for Joelle’s benefit. Their chatter sounded more remote as James stared at strings of numbers scanning his screen. Together they laughed and put on the lipstick for each other, remarking it was a strange consistency, and that it had little chips in, sparkles they called them.

“Look in the mirror. It’s sparkling. Really,” Joelle passed a compact mirror to her.

“What is this? Wasn’t it pink? It looks greenish now,” Tessa charged for the bathroom to apply more lipstick to get the pinkish hue back. “Joelle, I need your expertise.”

The two of them together applied more lipstick at the bathroom mirror, remarking it was chalky like no other lipstick they ever tried. James thought if he heard the word lipstick one more time, he’d puke, and he remembered why he preferred isolated activity. He blared out to them he was a serious man at work to deaf ears. They came out arm in arm, singing into a brush, their lips a lime green and slightly bubbling.

Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.
Ain’t nothing like the real thing.

“What’s wrong with your lips?” James looked over at them, his concentration lost completely. “You got some kind of voodoo thing going.”

“You don’t like?” and they blew James a kiss, and he wrapped his finger around his neck and play choked himself for full effect.

A red skeleton flashed on the screen and blinked, “What?” James said under his breath. It flashed a few times and then disintegrated into blackness. James mouth hung open. “What just happened?” Equipment in the other room sparked and popped, and the unmistakable smell of smoke had everyone coughing and panting.

The whirring and blurring of his computer shut down into a deadened silence.

“It’s wiped. It’s gone,” James hid his face under his hands. “Whoa. What the hell just happened? This was deliberate. No doubt about that.”

“What? Just now?” Joelle looked at the dark computer screen. James nodded. He took it personally, and raised his eyebrows at the dark screen.

“This is freaky,” James said, staring deadpan at his screen. The machines popped and buzzed and then fell to an eerie quiet like nothing he had ever experienced in the walls of his apartment, and the stillness put him on edge. He pulled on his spiky hair and paced the room in circles. “Shit. Shit. Shit,” Falling, he writhed on the floor, banging his fists on the hard carpet, until he splayed into an “X” formation, and then sprung up in unfashionable quickness for his size and fled to the window.

“It’s pink,” Tessa said, blurting out to James. It was no consolation. “This lipstick is pink.”

“It’s green, actually,” Joelle said. “I don’t see any pink.”

No one had heard her. Pink. The lipstick was pink. Once.

“Don’t you see? This is what Layne wanted. Look what it did. It blew up the computer.” Tessa’s hand shook as she stared at the lipstick like it was a crystal ball.

“Lipstick? You think this, this, is because of the lipstick?” James shook his head. “No, don’t. Don’t blame yourself, Tessa. I’m positive lipstick can’t blow up a computer.”

As soon as James said it, she dismissed the idea, but apologized anyway.

“I think you girls should sleep here tonight.” As if on cue, the dark sedan skid away burning rubber. No, they weren’t trying to hide. They wanted to see the job done. In the orange glow of the street lamp, James saw a pale, gangly face throw a cigarette to the sidewalk.

Tessa shook her head. “Nice try, James. This girl is going to bed. I’m really tired.”

“No, really,” he said. He felt his lips quiver. “I’d feel better if you stayed here. You guys can take my bed, the couch. Sleep next the lava lamp. Whatever.” He could disclose the men he observed on watch outside, but they left arm-in-arm out the door leaving James alone with the damaged goods.

“Just make sure you take that gunk off your lips. It’s giving me the creeps,” he said to them as they stumbled out the door.

He stared at his laptop, dead as a fossil, and as he paced through the room, sparks flew out the machines. “Piece of shit.” James hurled a piece of equipment across the room, smashing it to bits. The lava lamp applauded with oozing globs of bulbous bubbles.

photo credit: Superfloop via photopin <a

Hacking with James

My story about Tessa is back! I apologize for the delay. Here are the previous installments if you are interested in reading the full story:

Part 1: Tessa Takes a Walk in Her Party Boots
Part 2: The Man in the Fedora Hat
Part 3: Tessa is a Messa
Part 4: Joelle Meets the Guy from Last Night
Part 5: A Walk Down Memory Layne

Or, here’s quick synopsis to bring you up to full speed or to jar your memory:

Tessa is a twenty-three-year-old college student who works at Sultrix, a beauty supply store. When we first meet Tessa, she walks through the marshy wetlands to get to her job after a night of partying at the Velvet Crush. She lost her roommate and her cell phone, and has only flashes of a mysterious guy she spent the night with. 

Before her shift at Sultrix, Tessa meets the man with the fedora hat, who whisks Tessa away and treats her to a soothing hand massage. He tells her that he works for Chanel and that she looks radiant.

Joelle, Tessa’s co-worker and roommate, thinks Joelle spent the night in the jungle, and pulls her together for her job at Sultrix. In their conversation, Tessa admits that she is not clear about the previous evening’s events and not even sure if she had sex. In walks Layne, a handsome man who seems familiar, but who tells Tessa he’s not her boyfriend. His visit is prompted by the disappearance of an object that he desperately wants back, but is reticent to identify. All he can tell her is that is pink and that they will meet again.

 The story continues:

Tessa and Joelle lived in a complex of six separate dwellings, housing a few starving college students, a working young couple, and single mom with two kids. A grassy patch in the middle of the complex initially drew her to the place, where she thought she would spend hours reading books, picnicking with sandwiches and fruit under a grand oak tree. That only happened once in the first week she lived there, spoiled by an endless stream of flies landing on her food and pointy rocks on the ground piercing her spine.

James, the resident hacker, lived two doors down from Tessa and Joelle, although they actually became acquainted at a bar a few blocks from their complex when they realized, over a game of darts, that they were neighbors. Truth be told, James knew a lot about Tessa and Joelle, and all of his neighbors, but mostly Joelle.  Just last week, she ordered a red, hot silky number from Victoria’s Secret, a perfect pairing for her fiery red hair and ample bosom, size 36F.  As a hacker, sometimes James wore a black hat, sometimes white. For Joelle, his was an incandescent halo, always wanting to do right by her. When her bank account appeared short on money, he dropped by with surprise Kung Pao chicken. Those small details gave James enough power so that he could form sentences around her.

Joelle didn’t seem to be hiding anything, and James, whose serious hobby, which sometimes resulted in paid gigs of acquiring information about people and places, could relax around Joelle, who seemed to tell him things voluntarily. Gave them up, he thought. In his limited social mixings, he had no way of knowing, that in fact, Joelle was this way with most people.

After work, Joelle stopped at Mario’s Pizza for James’s favorite coupling of pizza and beer. Sausage and mushroom pizza and a case of Heineken and he was that much closer to heaven. He’d drop anything for Heineken, and delivered by his crush, he opened his double-locked door in record time.

“Hungry, honey?” Joelle glided in over dirty piles of clothes with a hot pizza in her hand like it was a magic act. The cold pack of Heineken slid out of her grip on to the table piled high with papers, filled with numbers and code probably detailing indiscriminate amounts of the private lives of terrorists and criminals. This wasn’t laziness on James’s part. He simply didn’t expect visitors.

Quickly, James gathered papers and files up to his chin and dropped them in a big stack next to a wobbly table.

“What do I owe thee,” he kissed Joelle’s hand once she set down the pizza. “Your presence and these most generous gifts. Tessa,” and he kissed her hand as well. His paunch jiggled when he laughed, a mismatch to his multiple piercings and spiked black hair. Most people would never suspect his romantic side, his preference for jazz music, and that he secretly aspired to be a chef. He thought his piercings and spiky hair dyed to a charcoal black adequately met his brand of fringe cool, and frightened old ladies and middle-aged housewives, although in Colinwood, piercings had gone the way of tattoos. Everyone had them. It was still his secret that he liked swing dancing, and dreamed of twirling Joelle around on the dance floor.

James took the phone and pulled the device into a nearby port. “What’s the matter? Forget your password?” James never asked for specifics. It was an unspoken rule that he didn’t ask questions out of respect for privacy, even though typically it was privacy he violated.

Computers and gadgets ate up all the space in his already cramped quarters. The password was cracked before he’d even taken a second bite of his pizza. He threw the phone back to Joelle, who was unprepared, and it landed on top of her slice, greased with cheese.

“Ooh,” Joelle retrieved it, sliding her hot pink fingernails over the dirty screen. She didn’t hesitate to snoop, her fingers greedy for information. “Hmm. Who has only thirteen contacts? And no Facebook App? No Twitter? Who doesn’t have a Facebook page?”

James glared at her. “I don’t.”

“You wouldn’t,” Joelle said, her eyes fixated on the phone.

“You’d be surprised how many people don’t,” James said. “At least the people I go after,” he said more to himself now.

He thought of the scouts he saw positioned outside their apartment complex. A mere mention of clandestine activity usually got a rise out of Joelle, her overflowing bosom bereft of adventure, James hoped, only he could provide. These guys hadn’t moved all day, smoking their cigarettes in a black sedan, just like the movies. Only once did one of them ditch the car to take a leak in a rose bush, spraying his urine all over the siding of Miss Nancy’s house like a pissed off cat. She would not be amused. Amateurs,James wanted to holler to his wall tacked with printouts of numbers, and a small picture of Scarlett Johansson hid from view. Hacking was a lonely business. A dizzying abundance of information could be had at any time, anywhere. He got their license plate and snuck a peek at them every time he got up to drink, eat or take a piss of his own. Before he roamed into his kitchen, he saw they were still sitting as if frozen in time. His unrest turned anxious.

“We have his phone, he probably has your phone,” Joelle said, patting Tessa’s hand. ”Why don’t you call yourself.”

“Maybe he’ll want to talk to himself,” James hunted for napkins in his kitchen even though he knew he was out. He leaned on the counter over the sink and peered through the blind again. If they were good, they’d be gone by now. Amateurs, James decided. He watched the two dudes in the car for movement.

Tessa’s eyes were small slits following him as he circled the kitchen. “You want me to dial my number?” When she got to the appropriate screen, she paused.

“You do know your number, don’t you?”

Tessa dialed her number. “Ha ha. What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

“Well, it could be a set-up. They could track you,” James passed out ragged dish towels.

“James, my God.” Tessa held the phone, her hand shaking ever so slightly. No answer. “The mailbox is full.”

“Oh.” Joelle picked off her sausage gingerly. “That would be me leaving you messages.”

“So much for that idea.”

“Just worried, hon,” Joelle stared at the wall, chewing, then grabbed the phone like it was a new toy, flying through a couple of screens. “Here we go. Time for some photos.” She paused for effect. “Who are you?” Preparing for the big reveal, Joelle tossed her hair and swigged her beer, and Tessa cozied up beside her and looked over her shoulder.

“Thirty-seven pictures?” Joelle and Tessa said in unison, turning to each other. “Now we’re talking.” Joelle pounded her free hand on the table, while Tessa’s mouth dropped, followed by, “Oh, my God. It’s you.” Joelle expelled a deep throaty laugh. “And, you again. God, where am I? Anywhere? Tessa, Tessa, Tessa again…”

Tessa tore the phone away from Joelle’s steely grip. “Let me see it.” Indeed, it was her and, by the looks of things, was from the previous night at The Crush. Joelle insisted on heavy make-up, of course, but her eyes looked red and glazed, and didn’t hide the fact that she was obviously inebriated. Flipping through the string of pictures, she stared at herself with her pouty lips and tousled hair, her head tilted over the shoulder. She had posed for her photographer. “Oh, here you are. Look, a picture of us.”

Tessa passed the phone to Joelle. “Us, and you again,” Joelle didn’t try to hide her jealously. “Whoever took these pictures had a thing for you.” Joelle continued sliding through dozens of more photos as she walked around the room. “Oh wait, this guy. It’s him. My guy. There he is.”

“Baseball cap guy? Layne?”

“Yeah, with you. Where am I?” Joelle dropped the phone on the hardwood floor.

“Hey, don’t destroy the evidence,” Tessa picked it up gently as if it were a dying bird.  “You realize I don’t remember any of this.”

“What do you mean?” James said as Tessa wandered to the corner of pillows.

Joelle mouthed the words, “Roofied.”

“Oh, Tessa.” James held her shoulders and shook his head, and went in for a full, gentle embrace, the one that meant to say he was there for her. “What is going on with you guys? You need to lay down, Tessa. And that’s an order. Let me see what I can dig up.”

photo credit: Mark Nye, via photopin cc