Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Monocle

Morescombe had simply burst out laughing when the candidate walked in. Then, realizing from the man's quizzical stare, he quickly sucked his breath in and stood up to greet him. "Uh. Here for the interview? Mr. Charles Dayton?"

The man shuffled slowly into his office. He was supporting himself on a sturdy cocabolo wood cane, and looked earnestly at Morescombe from an ornate gold-rimmed monocle as he approached. "Yes sir, I certainly am," he said, puffing heavily as he finally reached the desk. He was wearing a light brown cashmere sport jacket, and a rather long, broad maroon tie.

"Lyle Morescombe, CTO" said Morescombe, putting forth his hand, and then immediately regretted this. Dayton was struggling in front of him, trying to shift his walking stick into his left hand as quickly as he could. "No, no," said Morescombe, quickly taking the man's left hand with both of his and shaking it comfortably. "Please, don't worry about it. Please, Mr. Dayton, have a seat."

"Thank you," said Dayton, and sat down slowly. Morescombe, already in his seat by now, studied the man with interest. He looked nervous, and a little embarrassed -- because of the handshaking mishap, no doubt. Morescombe smiled warmly at him, and then lied, "I was reading your resume just as you walked in. Very impressive. Very impressive indeed."

This seemed to calm the man down a little. "Thank you, thank you," said Dayton shyly, spreading a demure smile that went inward, almost disappearing away into his significant orange beard.

Now that everything seemed to be at ease (and his utter insensitivity hopefully shoved away, deep into the annals of the past), Morescombe proceeded through the normal process of the interview. He raised his eyebrows as he glanced at Dayton's resume. "Says here you helped to write the initial operating systems for the first internetwork routers. That's quite amazing."

"Yes," said Dayton, still looking down, "well, they were quite small at the time, you see." He let out a shy stifle of a laugh, and then added, "Well, actually, I, uh ... actually I also helped out with the protocol itself."

"The Internet Protocol?"

Dayton nodded, still smiling his self-eating smile, but now began to turn his cane a little nervously in his hand. He was shaking a little in his brown coat. Morescombe studied him carefully. He had seen people like this through his long career in the IT industry. The true developers -- the people who did the real work. Most of them ended up like this, because of some incident or other -- broken, disheveled. They did not deserve this, this terrible outcome for all their hard work. He decided he was going to probe Charles Dayton -- try to bring out what really happened. "Charles," he said now, his voice stern, "I don't think you are telling me everything. Let me know, and I promise you everything will be fine."

Dayton began wheezing in his chair, turning the cocabolo stick even more furiously. He stammered. "Mr. Mores-scombe -- s-sir -- I - I don't know what --"

"Don't lie to me Charles!" shouted Morescombe suddenly, making the man nearly leap from his chair. "I want to know. I want to know what happened to you." He peered at the squirming man -- this was not an easy thing to do, bringing it all out, but in the end, it would be for the best.

"A-alright, alright," screamed Dayton, streaming tears down his cheeks and soaking his beard. "It was me! I wrote it all! The routers, the Internet Protocol ..." He sank his face into his hands. "My goodness me -- I even wrote TCP." He sat there, weeping into his hands. "Those bastards -- Cerf, and, and, that Kahn. They took it from me, okay?" Now he stopped crying and raised his head, sniffling a little over his beard, and stared at Morescombe from his clouded monocle. "They told me that if I did not let them have it all, they would woo my sweet Elouise away from me. So I gave it to them -- what could I do? Someone like me?" His voice had become broken, tattered, and now he bit into his lip. "So they took it all from me, and then -- then, they still wooed my Elouise away from me anyway." He collapsed now, whimpering into his hands. The cocabolo cane had fallen from his hands and was lying, dead on the floor.

Morescombe, who had been sitting with eyes wide open as this breakdown occurred in front of him, rushed over to Dayton's side and gently picked the crumpled man up. He pulled a tissue from the desk and dabbed his cheeks, and he also wiped the monocle clear. Finally, when Dayton was able to sit up again, Morescombe returned to his seat.


They spoke for a long time -- longer than any interview Morescombe had ever conducted. They spoke of old, fond things, like how it was those days, long ago, at Berkeley. They spoke about all the people Dayton had met and known -- both friends and enemies. And they discussed the more sombre topics -- what was the world was really coming to, in terms of IT? Who really was in control? These kinds of things. But finally, it was time to call it a day, and Morescombe knew that the little hand on the clock was almost reaching Five.

"Dayton," he said, looking deep into the man's face, "I want you to work for us." He looked affirmatively into Dayton's face, smiling.

It was at this that Dayton was genuinely shocked. And by 'shocked', I mean he was so surprised that he suffered a nervous twitch and accidentally triggered the switch he had been holding in his left pocket all this time, sending a small wireless signal to his trick monocle, which flew right off his face via a spring mechanism. His eyes opened wide, and now truly startled, he grabbed his fake beard in both hands, so that it would not fall off onto his lap. "I'm sorry, y-you're what? You're actually g-giving me the job?" His voice had changed completely -- he sounded much more ... youthful, now.

Morescombe just kept smiling assuringly into his face. "Surprised, eh?" he said, raising his eyebrows. "I knew you would be. By God, man -- you're so surprised, your monocle just popped right off your face!"

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