He got great marks. Everything an “A” all up and down both sides except for one thing. Penmanship.

His grandmother held the report card in her hand and looked up beneath her eyebrows, not stern but not amused. “Don’t you want to get ALL ‘A’s?”

“hmph – I write clear enough for them to get the gist. I’m getting ‘A’s aren’t I?”

“But you would have perfect grades!”

“Good enough.”

The grandmother didn’t like it. Not because she was a perfectionist, although she was a little that. And not because she was a completionist, although she was a little of that, too. She held an inkling deep down that this little imperfection wasn’t so much just a shortcoming of his. 

“Why don’t we practice calligraphy? They say that will improve your handwriting.”

“Do you know what they say in my science fiction book? That people may never need cursive in the future?”

“Stop it. You need it now.”

“That you’ll type everything on the computer. Even, eventually, just talk to it and the computer will understand.”

“You keep that trash out of your mind. You need to focus on the present. We’ll begin again. Now…”

She worked him every day that year until he was able to write in such beautiful perfect calligraphy and cursive he won the All State Contest copying the Gettysburg Address. He knew all of these silly scribbles would be useless. Unnecessary. 

Until the day he was shot in the back by a robot eighty years later. 

He invented these autonomous robots, but he read science fiction. At the very beginning he inserted a back door, a safety valve, to decommissioning the systems. In essence, he had the password to the master program. 

With his last breaths he scribbled the key to decommissioning the entire army. In his deteriorating state, he lay on his stomach. The cold cement sucked the remaining heat from his body. The puddle formed beside his abdomen coagulated. He dipped his finger and wrote the instructions in perfect cursive on the floor. 

With the final letter, he expired.

Moments later, when they found him, the all-important humanity saving information was still wet on the floor. The perfectly rendered script described the exact process to spin down the master program and save the human race from annihilation by the bots.

The pimple faced private who found him yelled back to others, “He’s here.”

The sergeant approached the near-boy who was built like a man.

“What’s it say?”

“Don’t know. Just scribble to me. Maybe they can bring someone in to read it. Must be some foreign language. I recognize some of the letters.”

A burst exploded through the room. A battle bot cut the squad in half with a .60 caliber machine gun destroying everything at a height of 30 inches.

Nobody would be reading that message. Not today. 

Jeffrey Messineo has spent many years blending technology and creativity for government and business. He lives in Southern California and can be found on Twitter: @jeffmessineo 


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