Long Live Lenny

Long Live Lenny is a creative short story exploring the good work of the Edinburgh Remakery  through the eyes of an old computer given a new lease of life. It was written by Roz Littwin. 

Roz is originally from north east England and has lived in Edinburgh for 15 years and counting. She is mother to 2-year-old Robin and married to Zak. She is currently developing ninja-like reflexes in the hope of staying one step ahead of her toddler and his Artful Dodger hands.

You can listen to the audio story version narrated by Roz in this month’s podcast episode of 1000 Better Stories.

“I wonder what we are doing today?” thought Lenny, as his arthritic hinges protested the start of a new working day.

His battery port was unmistakably wobbly. His space bar needed to be pressed in exactly the right place, with exactly the right pressure to function. And, although he didn’t like to admit it, his energy levels had noticeably dwindled over the years.

Nevertheless, Lenny loved his work. He felt useful. An online meeting here, a spreadsheet there. It might be routine stuff, but he got to travel, visit new offices and work for new people on interesting projects.

But right now, he was nervous. This place didn’t look like any of the offices he had previously visited. He looked around and, with relief, recognised his workmates, Adele and Ace, being lifted out of the same cardboard box he must also have arrived in. And while the strip lighting in Edinburgh Remakery was reassuringly familiar, he shrank in horror, and mentally hugged his components, at the grotesque circuit board display on the nearby wall.

Later, as he sat on a cold metal shelf, thoughts and other laptops pressing down on him, he felt unwanted, scared, and obsolete. Without understanding what he was seeing, he had witnessed Adele undergo open heart surgery, and it was only later he would discover her delight at no longer experiencing debilitating hot flushes. Similarly, as much as Ace felt the crack gave him a rugged character, he was ultimately thrilled with his screen transplant.

The following day, gloved hands extracted Lenny from the hundreds of other machines. A small screwdriver deftly danced across his back case and a few moments later everything went black as his internal battery connector was unplugged.

When he woke up, he didn’t know how much time had passed. He felt sore and light-headed. The familiar thumb indent on his space bar was missing. The formerly loose “Q” key now felt reassuringly solid. Finally, it clicked. His keyboard was different. Maybe not brand new, but almost certainly different…and better? He cautiously sensed along the ribbon cable and stretched into his new keys to feel a warm glow. His keys lit up! How he had envied others of his model their back-lit bling. And his principal fear – shared by all laptops everywhere – appeared unfounded as the plastic pot beside him held no orphaned, tiny screws. Phew! Unease receded as he began to believe these technology cannibals meant him no immediate harm.

Eager to uncover any further changes, Lenny began to check his system configuration. A frustrating amnesic feeling hung over him. In some ways he felt nimbler and more energetic than ever, factory fresh almost, but something definitely felt like it was missing. 

Hang on. Where were the spreadsheets? Oh, no. And why was the Downloads folder completely empty?! 

Panic set in. His fans hyperventilated. He’d never lost a single file before. His overzealous auto-save policy had always prevented such disasters. He was grief-stricken, now certain he was destined for the scrapheap. 

“You are still needed!” yelled a familiar voice. 

Through a sad, dimmed screen he saw Adele.

“You are being repaired to help someone new,” she echoed across the vast, open plan space. 

“What do you mean?” he asked.

Adele gently explained he had arrived at a technology hospital, and not a morgue, as he had initially believed: it took a lot of raw materials and time to build him and the Edinburgh Remakery, to reduce the environmental impact of using new technology, wanted to help him to live a long and productive existence. 

“Oh, but where will I end up?” he queried.

“I don’t know exactly,” replied Adele, “some laptops are sold via an online shop and others are freely given to those in need via other charities. And because of that all your former files and data have been wiped.”

Lenny was reassured to discover a legitimate cause for his recent memory blank. And while sad at the unexpected loss of his regular, familiar cookies he was open and receptive to trying different ones soon. This surprised him. Anxiety at all these rapid changes was gradually transforming into excitement about what might come next. With a different type of user, he could visit other places and websites. He had been a corporate workhorse a long time and maybe it was time to embrace a new direction. 

He spotted Ace on top of a pile of laptops with a yellow post-it note marked “Done” stuck to his lid.

“What’s happening?” whispered Lenny.

“They want to make sure you are well and fit enough for your next user,” answered Ace, “all refurbished tech is tested before leaving.” 

“Tested?! What happens if I fail?”

Lenny’s blossoming confidence developed an instant fault. He was in the best shape of his out-of-warranty life. But he was still unnerved by the possibility, if he could not ultimately be repaired, of being harvested for parts to fix other damaged laptops. Although was it better to live on, in some form, rather than not at all?

Hands with admin privileges proficiently requested diagnostics and reports. Satisfyingly, his battery report revealed a capacity level well beyond the acceptable minimum. A brand-new battery had increased his stamina. At last, he could work untethered by the need for a constant power connection. After the last test a green sticker was attached to his power cable plug, and he was placed under Ace. To his euphoric delight, he had passed!

Lenny was bubble wrapped, carefully placed into a recycled cardboard box and regifted to local charity, Edinburgh Young Carers. A few days later, small, hardworking, hands hungrily opened his side-tabbed box. A shaft of daylight cut across the internal darkness and a delighted gasp greeted a revitalised Lenny.

By Roz Littwin