The EveryAnimalMachine

In tribute to Steve Jobs (1955–2011), a reading from Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs:

When we returned to the house, my friends were gathered around Mom, in front of a monitor, their faces lit sky blue; they had forgotten to turn on the lights in the kitchen. Mom’s body was upheld by Bug and Abe inside a kitchen chair, with Michael clasping her arms. On the screen, in 36 point Helvetica on the screen of a Mac Classic were written the words:

i am here

Dad caressed Mom’s forehead and said, “We’re here, too, honey.” He said, “Michael, can she speak …”

Michael put his arms over Mom’s arms, his fingers upon her fingers and assisted her hands above the keyboard. Dad said, “Honey, can you hear us?”


He said to her, “Honey, how are you? How do you feel?”


Michael broke in. He said, “Mr. Underwood, ask your wife a question that only she and you would know the answer to. Make me sure that this isn’t me doing the talking.”

Dad asked, “Honey, what was your name for me, when we went on our honeymoon on Mt. Hood. Can you remember?”

There was a pause and a word emerged:


Dad collapsed and cried and fell to his knees at Mom’s feet and Michael said, “Let’s push the caps-lock button. Capitals make easier words; consider license plates. You’re a State of California vanity license plate now, Mrs. U.”

The caps were locked and the point size lowered. The fingers tapped:


Dad said, “Tell us how you feel … tell us what we can do . . .” The fingers tapped:


I cut through the crowd. I said, “Mom, Mom … tell me it’s you. Tell me something I never liked in my lunch bag at school … ” The fingers tapped:


Oh, to speak with the lost! Karla broke in and said, “Mrs. U., our massage … is it okay? Is it helping you?”

The fingers tapped:


Karla looked at the words and, hesitating a second, declared, “I like my body now, too, Mrs. U.”

Mom’s assisted hands tapped out:


Karla lost it and started to cry, and then, well, I started to cry. And then Dad, and then, well, everybody, and at the center of it all was Mom, part woman/part machine, emanating blue Macintosh light.

Thank you, Steve.