“Pupusas?” The woman’s nasal voice reached Randall at the back of the bus before he saw her pushing her way down the aisle. He could smell the warm, raw meat smell of his own sweaty body, and his stomached wriggled. He was hungry, but he couldn’t face mysterious little bits of meat.
“Quiere pupusas?” the voice called again, and Randall saw the plump figure with her plastic tub approach his seat.
“Frijol?” he asked, his high school Spanish failing him for a full sentence.
“Sí,” the woman answered. “Frijol y queso.”
“Dos, por favor,” Randall said, and fished in his pocket for a crumpled bill. The woman passed him a paper envelope of warm dough that smelled pleasantly of mild spice and cheese, and he gave her the money. She dug into the frilly, ribboned apron she wore over her cheap nylon shorts and gave him a handful of change.
“Pupusas?” she continued to hector the remaining passengers on the bus, before exiting from the back doors just as the bus lurched away.
Randall ate his warm snack carefully, grateful that they were not so hot as to leak runny beans and cheese all over himself. The corn flour dough was barely warm to the touch, but the filling was good and his stomach momentarily stopped its gurgling. Randall had been riding the garishly painted repurposed school bus for about an hour, heading south, heading away from what anywhere he thought of as civilization. His pupusas gone, Randall leaned his head against the metal side of the bus, and tried to relax.
Brian Randall was a name that wasn’t famous in the way a screen actor’s name might be famous, but he had several thousand online followers, and he couldn’t go to a conference or industry party without a dozen or more fans tagging along after him. He was the first to admit that he loved the attention. He’d enjoyed a good success with several of his online ventures, and the following was one of the perks of this success. Of course, the money was a strong motivator, too. But Randall would have developed cute little gadgets and toys for the online market even if people hadn’t been willing to pay his way. Indeed, he spent the first several years of his career working out of a dumpy apartment in the Bay area, with a pair of equally bookish roommates, coding day and night for the sheer thrill of it. Brian Randall was a natural.
He first struck it big with a tool he called the “all in one reader”. Once he sold it to Google, their marketing people rebranded it Google Summary. It really was ingenious: you could feed the service any kind of file, and it would output a shockingly sensible summary of it. It was not terribly revolutionary for text files, but it worked just as well on audio or video. And much more interesting for the development set, you could upload a piece of code in any of the popular languages, and it would give a text description of what the code would do. What it did with images was much less useful, but absolutely fascinating. Randall had made certain that the output on image files was always exactly one thousand words.
Randall could have lived easily on the sum he earned from the sale of the product, but he still had more ideas. He moved out of the cramped apartment, got a fancy set of digs of his own, and started noodling. After the Summary sale, he was asked to speak at one of the major tech conferences in the Bay Area, and there he got his first taste of fame. He had only just arrived at the exposition hall, and was picking up his conference package, when a tall, attractive young man approached him.
“Are you Brian Randall,” the man asked, a shy smile on his face.
“Yes,” Randall said, wondering if there had been a problem with his registration or something.
“The Brian Randall,” the man continued, “of the all in one reader?”
Randall smiled to hear his own name for the technology. “That’s me,” he said. “You can just call me Randall.”
“Wow,” the other man gushed. “I’m such a fan of your work. My name is Chick Hernandez.” He stuck out his hand, and Randall shook it. “Can I interview you for my blog?”
Randall laughed, and said, “Sure, why not?” They exchanged email addresses and IM handles, and met that night for a beer after dinner. Chick blogged between rounds. After Randall’s talk the next day, Chick Hernandez was the envy of all the major tech bloggers for the scoop. Randall left the conference with at least fifty more entries in his contact list.
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