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The Query

Adapted by Rob Collins

Once upon a midnight dreary, fingers cramped and vision bleary,
Program manuals piled high, and wasted paper on the floor,
Longing for the warmth of bedsheets, still I sat there, doing spreadsheets
For the high and mighty deadbeats whom I do computing for --
For the overpaid executives who left at half past four --
                                                            Too important to ignore.

Under orders from the boss to make our profit beat our loss,
I drew old data out of DOS, lured it into Lotus 4--
Skipping sleep and suppertime, working well past eight and nine,
Though I earned no overtime, still I wrestled with the chore.
My career was on the line and a deadline loomed before,
                                                            Too important to ignore.

Ah, I know I did not smile as I struggled with the file
Till the data was compiled. Then I latched the A drive's door.
With a weary, quaking hand I invoked the Save command,
When there came a reprimand, implying damage was in store--
A cryptic reprimand with but three options to explore:
                         Abort, Retry, Ignore?

Much I marvelled: the repeating cursor like a heartbeat beating
Glowed beneath the cheating message that the monitor now wore.
Now I glowered, nearly raving, for the PC wasn't saving
The result of all my slaving, for the spreadsheet wouldn't store.
All my work would be for nothing if it came to nothing more
                          Than Abort, Retry, Ignore?

“What is this?” I barely muttered. “What's this question you have uttered?”
This I stuttered as my floppy fluttered, spun, and spun some more.
“Is my file going to copy? What has happened to my floppy,
To my floppy that you've trapped behind the spinning A drive door?
Answer, damn you!” But the screen displayed the same words as before:
                         Abort, Retry, Ignore?

Visage pale and fingers trembling, slowly toward the keyboard bending,
Hoping for a happy ending, and that all would be restored,
Praying for some guarantee, finally I pressed a key,
But the stubborn VDT displayed the same words as before,
The cathode rays conspired to show the same words as before:
                         Abort, Retry, Ignore?

No result! So twice as hard, to try and catch the thing off-guard,
I pressed and pressed, but still the same canard appeared, until I swore.
Frantically, in desperation, I pressed keys in combination;
Still I read the incantation, steeped in necromantic lore --
Deadly silent incantation, in the same words as before:
                         Abort, Retry, Ignore?

Fearful, desperate, exhausted, by my own machine accosted,
Knowing now my work was lost, I pushed my papers to the floor.
“Ah, ye gods!” I started screaming, “All is lost! I must be dreaming!”
The computer sat there seeming to enjoy the great furore,
Sat there saying the same saying that it said so oft before:
                         Abort, Retry, Ignore?

Now I pounded keys pell-mell, pressed CTRL and ALT and DEL,
Shouted “Dammit all to hell!” with imprecations by the score.
But the PC was unbending as my data's life was ending,
my despair past comprehending: All was lost, forevermore!
My epitaph, it seemed, would bear this question at its core:
                         Abort, Retry, Ignore?

The computer I am hating still is waiting, still is waiting
With its query, unabating, that it needs an answer for.
In the morning, when the office opens up, and then the boss comes,
The screen will offer options for an unexpected chore,
For handling that human in a heap upon the floor:
                         Abort, Retry, Ignore? _

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Rob Collins, Birmingham, Alabama