art by Wi Waffles
The Programmer and the Social Worker, or, A Love Story about Feature Creep
by Tina Connolly
He was the most expert programmer in the world, and yet when his wife discovered the malignant stage 4 paraganglioma, all that perl and C++ and knowledge of forked looped chain arrays could do nothing. So he packed up his seven laptops and his eight monitors and unrolled a spool of CAT6 cable into the cellar. He disappeared from the world while his wife remained in it. While she went about reassigning her cases at the nonprofit, he tasked his IRC client to chat with fifteen of the greatest geniuses in other fields. She went to the drugstore and the ice cream store and the drugstore again, and called someone to cut the grass that her husband usually cut. And at night she finished her library books, one by one so he would not have to remember to return them, while the other side of the bed remained flat.
On the seventh day, he arose from the cellar, eyes caffeinated and bloodshot. He seized her arm, muttering about a new operating system, a new programming language. GACT, he called it, and said it was a recursive acronym for GACT Altered Code Translation, and laughed wildly.
She text messaged work, and she followed him to Sweden, where one of the other geniuses lived. They put her under. They downloaded her--her!--reprogrammed, tested, and uploaded his changes.