Return to Cactus Jack.

We were taking a Sunday drive and happened to wind up in Rainbow. It had been nearly two years since we first visited the Rainbow Computer Emporium and its cranky owner “Cactus Jack”. “Why don’t we drop in on Cactus Jack to see how he’s doing”

Nome glared at me. “If you stop at Jacks, I’m not getting out of the car” she snorted. Nome can’t stand Cactus Jack. She says being around him is like watching your house burn down. I kind of like him. There is something refreshing about his complete absence of virtue.

Rainbow Computer Emporeum sits in a dusty scrub oak grove on a dusty crossroads East of Rainbow. The store is a weather beaten old bunkhouse with a corrugated roof. A wide wooden porch runs the entire length of the building. The sign over the door read, “If I ain’t got it, you don’t need it” Cactus was rocking on the porch.

Nome sat in the car with her arms folded and stared blankly out the window. I got out and walked up the steps. I started to introduce myself but Cactus Jack cut me off.

“I know who the hell you are. You’re them flatlanders that’s got a computer store down in San Marcos. Why ya here?”

“Well neighbor”, I said cheerfully, “we were in the area and thought we’d drop by to see how you’re doing”.

Jack pushed his sweat stained Stetson back and squinted. “ I’ve got bad knees, hemorrhoids and a prostate the size of a grapefruit, but other’n that I’m doin fine. Business ain’t never been better”.

“That’s great Cactus, did you hire some help?” I asked.

“Help” Cactus snorted, “I got plenty of help. I got Gateway, Dell and Compaq building junk for me to fix, I’ve got thousands of idiots writing virus and spy-ware for me to dig out of folks computers and everybody seems to have a brother in law or computer genius nephew willing to screw up their PC for em. I’ve got more help than I need.”

“So the repair business is good, are you still building new PCs?” I asked.

“Nope”, said cactus, “If one of my customers wants a new one I buy one of them $199 “Great Quality” computers down at Fry’s. I just paint over the name, charge em $600 and tell them it’s the latest thing”.

“You must be joking Cactus” I said in disbelief, “Those things are garbage, you actually lie to your customers?”

Cactus slapped his hat on his leg and hooted, “ well la-ti-da, welcome to the computer business,” Jack continued, “Intel found a cheap way to make CPUs and called it the Pentium IV. Did they bother to tell folks that Pentium III was faster? No they didn’t. Dell tells folks they got“award winning customer service”. Do they tell you it’s somewhere in India? I don’t think so. Fry’s calls their ultra cheap PCs “Great Quality.” Bet they’re still laughing about that one. Don’t even get me started on Microsoft.”

I must have looked stunned because Cactus looked almost kindly as he stood up and put his hand on my shoulders. “Look here, If you two greenhorns are gonna make it the computer business, you gotta know rule number one. The one who tells the biggest lie makes the most money”.

We drove in silence for a few miles. Finally Nome said, “I don’t know how that man sleeps at night”. “Yeah, yeah, whatever” I said, “How about we stop in at Fry’s on the way home”?