“Volcano. Noun. a mountain or hill, typically conical, having a crater or vent through which lava, rock fragments, hot vapor, and gas are being or have been erupted from the earth's crust.”
I typed into the Chirper client, and then erased. We liked attention at Lovelace-Hopper Dictionaries and Pocket Translators, but I wanted to get out on time today, not argue with the rabble about whether, in fact, we had a volcano in Central Park, or, as popular opinion ruled, a very large hill. Smoking. Burping lava. Occasionally ejecting loosely-packed soil-like emissions that jingled pleasantly when they bumped down the hill. Or so it was said. Not a volcano, because nobody wanted to admit their luxury condos and exotic petting zoo/early mammal sanctuary was right in the line of an explosion to rock us back to the Pre-Cambrian. Or something. My specialty was words, not paleological eras.
Noodle licked gently at the arm of my glasses, snorfling at my hairline and giving a gentle nibble. I nudged her away, cleaning my glasses on my tee and sliding gently, gently down onto my desk, forehead meeting cool Formica. Noodle took this as a sign to groom the back of my head, preening with her beak and squawking her “give me a task or I’m going to wreck the office” chirp. Tossing a stress ball without looking, I listened to her claws clicking gently on the tile in the general direction of away, and turned back to Chirper. Sighing, I pressed send.
Within moments, the telltale ping came, the first of many problems I would need to block, I assumed. When I replaced my glasses, I looked, and smiled with delight. It wasn’t a flame, or even a snarky cigarette butt of a reply, but an account I hadn’t heard of, @parkcentralgonewild
“Central Park boasts unique geological features, such as natural rock outcroppings, brittle faults, and a volcano.”
The icon was a tiny picture of the Delacourt Clock, with the not-to-be-mentioned lava-spewing hill in the background. I clicked and scrolled through the prior Chirps.
“Remember to bring snacks and heavy, preferably fireproof boots if picnicing in the park this afternoon!”
“It’s going to be a scorcher today! Belvedere Castle and the Carousel are both lava-proofed, so take shelter when the siren goes and take plenty of water!”
“Lava plus water is explosive! Keep away from the reservoir when the sparks start flying!”
Now, if I knew my New York City politics, the Parks Department was firmly on the “it’s just a very hot hill” side of the narrative. I shrugged, figured a disgruntled employee was looking to clock out or be tossed in the hot hill early, and signed out for the day. Noodle recognized the computer shutdown chime, and was back at my shoulder, sniffing in my hair for treats.
“Settle down, Noods,” I told her, handing her my uneaten lunch--a granola/chia/acai/cacao bar, locally grown. “Mama’s done for the day.”
“All logged out, Havela?” Chad, my boss, wasn’t tall enough to peek over my cubicle, but his blonde flat top showed over the wall. I nabbed Noodle just in time, as she was keen to get her little paws on his fur “spirit hood” for her nest in my cube.
“Packing up, boss.”
“Did you return all silverware to the kitchen, Havela?”
“Personally, boss.” Noodle liked to steal spoons and teethe on them when her beak was shedding. And bowls for her bower-bird-like nests. And boxes of cereal to scatter all over the floor and roll around in as a makeshift dust bath. I scratched her head fluff, and she cooed.
“No damage today, Havela?”
I shouldered a Strand totes, and gently stuffed Noodle inside, her crabbiness dissolved by an apple core and my fidget cube to gnaw on. “None, boss.”
“And the follower count?”
“Solid growth, boss.”
“We’re counting on you, Havela. People just don’t understand how safe pocket dictionaries and translators are. How portable and luxurious.”
I knew, personally, having one of the 5-lb tomes and taco-shaped 5-language models at home, respectively.
“We need to be bold, but play to their best interests. And their interests are safe with hip, retro technology.”
I sighed, and shouldered my Noodle, tucking a new Abridged Abridged model in by her side. “Goodnight boss.”
“What do you think of expanding into wildlife guides, Havela?” said Chad, but I was already out the door.
Focusing the webcam, I cracked my knuckles and fired up the Chirpr Live app, briefly startled by my reflection in the black screen. Glasses, pink hair, owlish expression, Noodle quorking happily at her own reflection, head tilted with curiosity, before hopping off my lap to take her place as company social media mascot.
@mustlovewords Logophile Happy Hour is open, friends of Lovelace-Hopper! Fire away with your wild word origins, pet pics, and questions for the team! Remember, troubleshooting is available at @wordsneedhelp!!
I switched the camera to Noodle, adjusting slightly to capture her grey-blue scales, focusing on her bobbled head crest and the golden fuzz surrounding it. She was working on her cubicle nest of last year's editions, stacking carefully, testing balance with a focused expression in her huge eyes. If she had lips, she'd purse them. I could almost see her scratch her head and fold her arms in thought.
@thedinoguy hey @mustlovewords what kind of dinosaur is she?
Noodle looked up as I typed a response, quorking curiously. She knew clicking keys meant Momma was working, but couldn't resist their tappy noises. (I had to talk to the tech team, see if they had an old keyboard she could occupy herself with.
@mustlovewords @thedinoguy she is a Hypsilophodon - ornithiscian. probably some Blue Macaw and Himalayan Monal.
@mustlovewords we thought bower bird, but it turns out it's a species thing. climbing is from the macaw, feathers from the monal. Smart smart orni brain.
I smiled at her, and she danced in place. The customers never needed to know her other job.
@bintudoronron @mustlovewords will your pocket edition fit in a pocket?
@mustlovewords a cargo short pocket! It's kind of a carry-over from the student editions. Still light enough for travel!
@chasingthe sun @mustlovewords are your thesauruses safe?
@mustlovewords @chasingthesun all of our digital products are programmed with 100% safe hard coded hyperlinking! We do all the work to link all our words!
@mustlovewords no dangerous generative programming!
I sat back and smiled. Our crowd was in a pretty good mood, and Noodles was at her charming best, hanging upside down from a shelf she'd constructed. I chatted about the singular they as a pronoun, how many words Shakespeare added to the English language (spoiler: he recorded the vernacular--and a LOT was coined by women), and the best breakfast and dinner in Greenwich Village (Veselka and Veselka).
@parkcentralgonewild hey @mustlovewords can you tell us about the different forms of lava and their names?
Huh. Same name I saw last night, same Delacourt Clock framing the Very Hot Hill.
@mustlovewords @parkcentralgonewild. Two main types. pahoehoe , the shiny hard bloopy stuff. a'a, lightweight jagged dense rock. Jingles when you toss it
@mustlovewords Trivia: eruptions can also produce gorgeous strands of pahoehoe, that shine gold in the sun. Called Pele's hair for the volcano goddess of Hawaii
@parkcentralgonewild nice! give Noodles a pat for me. Back to rangering!
Huh. So she was a park ranger in Central Park, and--possibly, unless she was just a hobby vulcanologist--stirring up some talk. I smiled, tapped away at the keyboard, while Noodles shredded my W2 for a nest. I was so chuffed, I didn't even care.
Our dashing new temp looked over her shoulder. Tall, dark haired and nattily dressed, she smiled and got away with all kinds of insubordination, from calling the boss Chadster and Chaderino to his face to sitting in on all kinds of media meetings and making suggestions they actually listened to. We hadn’t really talked, but I liked her attitude. She had one of those smiles that made you smile back, and she grinned as she answered, pushing a cart of dictionaries past the cubes.
“Yeah, Havela, right? What’s up?” She leaned on the cart’s handle, casual as anything. If it wasn’t a startup office, I’d imagine her lighting a cigarette and sipping a cocktail. Maybe after hours.
“You’re really into social media, right? Do you know anything about this parksdepartmentgonewild account that keeps tweeting us?”
She grinned again. “There’s no volcano. Just like there are no dogs in the dog park.”
I was puzzled. “There’s no dogs cause all the designer proto-primates took over.”
Marisol shook her head. “You and I need to talk podcasts sometimes. Yeah, I know about them, but I don’t actually know them. Our hobbies are convergent. We’ve talked a little bit, mostly publically. I like them, I like their work, I’m also really happy I live down in Chelsea, not in the shadow of a volcano.”
“It’s a very hot hill.” I smiled at her again, and she grinned back, offering a hand to sniff to Noodles, who’d climbed onto my shoulder and was peering over the cube wall, clinging with her dear little front claws.
“Right” Marisol winked. “Gosh, she’s got thumbs. That must make your living together really interesting.”
“Forget toddler proofing--toddlers can’t usually climb on top of the fridge or take apart your computer piece by piece or sneak into the neighbor’s apartment and eat all their rice pudding.”
“Rice pudding? I’ll have to bring her some of my nana’s” Noodles, instantly charmed as we all were, was pleasantly murring as Marisol’s red-tipped fingers scritched her head feathers, carefully avoiding the delicate bobbers, flat against her head as she closed her eyes with relaxed joy. “What a cutie you are, no wonder you’re the mascot.”
“So, Marisol, this Parks Department renegade--would you be able to put us in touch? In case Chad ever wants to collaborate. You know how he loves controversy, says it’s good for business.”
She rolled her eyes. “Sure. Gosh, Chadster, it’s not like we would want to be on the right side of history or anything.”
“The one without the lava.”
Marisol laughed, a short surprised snort. “Right. You should speak up more often, I mean, without the keyboard or the webcam to help.”
“Some hypsolophidons have been taught to speak, but you need to split their tongue and I think that’s cruel.”
“You’re changing the subject.
I held my elbows, hugged myself, looking away. “I….it’s not my strong suit, Marisol.”
She nodded, eyes soft with understanding. “Gotcha. My best friend is the same way. Brilliant with a blowtorch. Everyone’s got their thing, you know? And your Instachat Hour is about to start.” Marisol waved genially, sauntering casually away and whistling “Margaritaville.” You almost wouldn’t notice she was wheeling the cart of dictionaries towards the service elevator, which she summoned and slipped away to, waving at me as the doors closed.
Noodles was my personal spam filter. Chadster loved his post-its (and insisted the office hand-wash and recycle the bamboo paper and reapply the sticky part--productivity what?) She liked to hamhock herself into my in tray, and usually kicked up his notes and scratched them to illegibility. When I came back from lunch in the courtyard, though, there was a note directly attached to her, completely unnoticed as my dino snoozed.
Hava. 112 E 96th Street at 5. It’ll be a good time, I promise. Don’t reuse this note, no matter what Chadmeister says. -Sol
After work? Not like I had plans anyway. I was totally in.