52 Week Short Story Challenge #6 – Always Check the Reviews

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This week’s prompt was suggested by the fantastic Squirrel of Doom!

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I tried to make it feel a little mundane, like something that could happen to any of us, but I’m not sure I succeeded.

Always Check the Reviews

When she walked into the computer repair shop, Seo-yeon Kim wasn’t sure she’d come to the right place. There were only two men in it and one of them was apparently having an argument with someone on the phone while he stared at the computer on the table in front of him. She couldn’t help thinking that this wasn’t the most professional way to behave with a customer in the shop but he didn’t so much as bat an eye when she came in.

“How may I help you?” The second man got up and Seo-yeon saw on the tag on his shirt that his name was Brent.

“I’m Seo-yeon Kim, I think we spoke on the phone.” She opened the bag slung over her shoulder and took out a black box. It took more strength than she was accustomed to, and Brent’s eyebrow raised slightly.

“Yeah, I remember you. This is your mom’s computer, right?”

“Right,” she said, setting the laptop on the counter. “And as I’m sure you can tell, it’s been a long time since it was in warranty.” Brent spun the computer so it was facing him and opened it. Its screen remained dark and Seo-yeon rummaged in the bag. “Sorry. I don’t know when the last time she charged it was. It doesn’t hold a charge for very long anymore anyway.”

“We can get her set up with a new battery,” Brent said. “Provided we can fix it. Sometimes with these older models it’s cheaper just to buy a new value model, especially if she’s not using it for any heavy lifting.” He took the charger from her and plugged it in. “What’s going on with it?”

“I’m not entirely sure. She just called me up last night and said her computer wouldn’t work, then asked me to come fix it.” She sighed. “I have no idea what to do with her computer, I make pottery.”

“Pottery?” Brent smiled. “That sounds cool.”

“It’s pretty fun. My brother and I do it together and sell it online. That’s pretty much the extent of my computer knowledge, though. Twitter, Facebook, and Etsy.” Seo-yeon watched him boot up the computer.

“You don’t have a website?”

“We do, but it’s pretty basic. We’re looking for someone to make us a real one now that we’re making some money.” She leaned over the counter and looked at the screen. The Windows screen was still on it and she looked up at Brent. “Do you know anyone?”

“I do a little web design in my spare time,” he said. “If you’re interested, I can give you my info.”

“That’d be great,” Seo-yeon said, her eyes widening. She and her brother had been looking for a web designer for months and hadn’t found anyone that was both in their budget and professional, but if he worked at a computer repair shop there was a good chance this guy would work out. The computer had come on by that point and Brent was looking at it curiously.

“Hmm,” he said. “This is interesting. I’ve never seen this happen before.” He turned it to face Seo-yeon and she could see that the screen had gone to black, and windows were opening and closing all over the place. From what she could see before they disappeared, long strings of gibberish filled them. As much as she hated to admit it, she had halfway been expecting to see porn windows. After all, her father used it too and he wasn’t terribly internet-savvy.

“What is it? Do you know?”

“A virus, I’m sure,” Brent said, turning the computer back to face him. “I’m sure I can fix it, it’ll just take me a couple of days. Do you know if your mother backed it up anytime recently?” Seo-yeon sighed heavily.

“I doubt it. I don’t think she even knows what a backup is.” To be fair, the only reason Seo-yeon had experience with backups was because her brother insisted she do them regularly. He was the one who took all the pictures of their work for the listings and he didn’t want to lose them to something as stupid as a power surge. “She’s going to lose everything, huh?”

“I’ll do my best but that’s probably the case.” Brent looked over his shoulder at the other technician, who had taken a short break from shouting. Seo-yeon assumed it was because he’d hung up the phone and she couldn’t help being a little relieved. She hadn’t realized how hard it was to hear herself think until he’d stopped. “Give me—“ he looked at his watch, then back at Seo-yeon “—an hour with it. I’ll see if I can get a better idea of what we’re looking at, then I can give you a quote.”

“Sure,” she said. “I’ll go grab some lunch. Thanks.” They shook hands and Seo-yeon headed for the door with her phone in hand, intending to find someplace cheap and cute in the neighborhood. She stood outside the shop and looked around, trying to see what streets were nearby. Nothing looked familiar so she decided to let Yelp’s location finder do the work for her.

She was just opening Yelp when she heard shouting coming from the shop behind her, loud enough to make her jump. It didn’t sound like the first technician’s voice and she hoped he and Brent hadn’t gotten into an argument.

What could they have possibly gotten into a fight about in less than five minutes? Curious, she backed up to the shop so that she was closer to the window while still looking at her phone. She shifted her eyes to the shop with her head still bent, keeping herself behind the window decal that read ‘Computer Repair’ in tall blue letters. Her mouth fell open when she saw what Brent was shouting at.

He was standing in front of her mother’s computer, looking down at it. Unlike his partner, there was no phone in his hand or any indication he was talking to someone else. From what she could see, it looked like Brent was shouting at the computer.

What the hell is going on here? Seo-yeon forgot that she was trying to be subtle and stared into the shop. She couldn’t tell exactly what Brent was shouting about but he was really getting into it. It didn’t look like he was even doing anything to fix the computer, just yelling at it. While she was wondering whether or not she should go back in to see what the problem was, the other technician started shouting at the other computer. His voice was louder than Brent’s and Seo-yeon could hear him cursing, berating everything from the operating system to the hard drive.

Stunned, and at a loss for what else she should do, she looked up at the sign. WYACR Inc. was written over the door and Seo-yeon frowned. She’d never considered what the letters stood for when she looked them up, only that she’d found them under Computer Repair on Google. It had been a promoted ad and they’d had the lowest price she could find so she’d thought she would give them a chance. Now it seemed like a good idea to find out.

Since she already had Yelp open, she typed in WYACR Inc. and tried to ignore the two voices shouting behind her. She was dismayed to see several one and two star reviews at the top and scrolled down. One review caught her eye and she paused.

* DO NOT TAKE YOUR COMPUTER HERE. I brought my computer here because it wasn’t turning on and they not only didn’t fix it, they kept it for two weeks and I had to call them to find out what was going on. Turns out they don’t even know how to fix computers, they just take your ‘consultation fee’ and tell you to take it somewhere else. I should have known better than to trust guys from We Yell At Computers Repair Inc.! I have no idea how these guys are still in business. STAY AWAY! —Viveca A.

Seo-yeon looked up from her phone and into the shop. Brent was still yelling at the computer and his face had turned red from the effort. Deciding she wasn’t going to wait another forty-five minutes, Seo-yeon turned around and went back into the shop. Both Brent and his partner stopped shouting and looked at her.

“Miss Kim? Is something wrong?” There was sweat on his forehead and she looked from him to the other young man. She was literally speechless, so she did the first thing she could think of. Without a word, she reached across the counter, grabbed her mother’s laptop and ran out of the store. “Wait, Miss Kim! Come back!”

Halfway down the street, she realized she’d left the charger in the shop. Deciding she’d just buy her mother another one, Seo-yeon pointed her car in the direction of the nearest Best Buy and started driving. “Should’ve just gone there in the first place,” she muttered to herself. She sighed.

Her brother was never going to believe this.

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