While no one really thought that Franz was doing the right thing leaving high school straight to menial jobs at various groceries stores, the only person to take a moment with him was the principal advisor, who took note of his nimble fingers at the typing lessons, but even him couldn't think of much of a career for him other than web design or construction, and the latter didn't even have anything to do with good typing. Franz couldn't be bothered with community college; the only thing that interested him right then was earning some small cash to pay for better bandwidth than the dial-up connection he was unusually stuck up with at his otherwise well-off home. He eventually would drag his old mattress from his childhood bedroom to the computer room; he would play simple games such as Tetris over the net, and with this he had fun with his nimble fingers.

Franz wasn't brilliant, but he was really better than the lower level jobs, and he soon found a stable job as a cashier at the fruit-centric groceries closest to his home. Job benefits including snacking a moderate amount of various tropical fruits he wouldn't otherwise be able to afford, plus being able to walk downhill from home by the mornings. Sometimes he would think of getting a skateboard to take advantage of the down slope of that route, but he wouldn't want to turn up a high profile among neighbours. With a faster internet connection, he was able to download music from the P2P networks -- though he never figured out BitTorrent, where the full albums where -- which he burned to CDs at a slowly increasing rate. He was happy that he could walk to work listening to his very own unusual combination of pop ditties and obscure 1970s prog-rock he looked up on the online Gibraltar encyclopedia of progressive music.

Even with his fruit cashier wages, Franz was soon able to replace that beat up Sony Discman he had been using with various MP3-enabled portable CD players, and after a while with a flash memory thing which plugged directly into his noisy, boxy beige Pentium 2's USB port; albeit finding the plug hole in the back of that machine was somewhat uncomfortable, it still was better than burning CDs, which he used to merely number and pile up. He had read up some basic web technologies and wrote up an internet page listing the tracklists of his CD mixes; he had no design skills to speak of, and no one really noticed, though he liked having some reference material now that he didn't use CDs proper anymore.

Having become fast with mental arithmetic -- he had taken to calculate returns before punching them in the store machine -- Franz' boss took him over to the back, where his function was updating the paper spreadsheets that kept track of incoming stocks. It was a darker place, lighting-wise, but he didn't have to see his neighbors and former peers on a daily basis, and he could listen to music at work most of the day. Though office supplies were free, Franz bought a knife and enjoyed sharpening his pencils that way. Oddly-sharpened pencils were his only external sign of a distinctive personality trait, and while he wasn't really proud of them like they were sculptures, he thought it was nice to have a quirk people would recognize.

Franz could walk downhill by the morning, but back from work it was steep, so his dad would pick him up at work. He subsequently bought his father a MP3-enabled CD player for the car so they could listen to some music on the admittedly short 10-minute way home. It was unusual, at least for the community standards, that his relatively well-off family still owned the noisy aging computer or that his dad's car didn't have more than a standard AM/FM radio before. Dad was a middle-aged accountant -- possibly where Franz got his taste for mental arithmetic, and generally wore nice suits and took the family on good vacations -- Disneyland,Cancun, one time even Buenos Aires. When he presented the car CD player, his father had admonished about not having any savings, but Franz retorted that he was pretty much done with buying things he needed for entertainment, with the exception of the possible flash MP3 player substitute -- his life would be quite boring without the music.

One job advantage that came with working in the storehouse was sex with the occasionally female trucker. The vast majority of truckers were male, and that gave him an ersatz social life -- Franz would still sneak up some fruit and the truckers would share their sandwiches, but females weren't uncommon, and it was pretty much a given that he'd end up banging them after a short, flirty talk that implicitly established that both weren't really gearing up for a relationship or anything. The girls weren't bothered that he left them at the local flea motel after two exact hours, for which he had a reason: Franz' dad had gotten the memo, and when he didn't find his son at the storehouse, he'd go home, have dinner and then pick his son up at the flea motel. He didn't mind this arrangement much either; there was no reason his Franz couldn't enjoy regular sexual relief, and though he was faithful to his wife, his son had no relationship prospects to begin with.

One day Franz hooked up with a particularly attractive girl. The sex wasn't better than average, but afterwards she let him take Polaroid snapshots of her extremely nice body on various types of lingerie she modeled for him in cliché glamour poses. (Franz suspected she let everyone she slept with do that). That was pretty cool, so Franz snatched up the red lacy panties she was wearing when he first removed her clothes. He wasn't much the criminal type, and he never took mementos from the trucker ladies, but he wanted some physical connection to the pictures so they didn't mean ordinary porn, even though he didn't care much about the about her specifically. With all the Polaroid-taking, Franz took longer at the flea motel, but his dad didn't mind getting a smoking break by the evening after dinner, and he had some music to listen to.

The girl didn't really appreciate having her panties stolen -- they costed money, at least for a trucker, so she tracked him back to the storehouse and confronted him discretely. The following day, he'd take the panties to work, and showed them off to the male trucker du jour (who smelled them for some reason, which Franz found gross -- they had that smell of female horniness which was only nice when actually getting sex). When the stolen panties girl arrived, they went to her home, which Franz supposed was typical of a trucker, though he never followed the truckers home before. She said they wouldn't be having any more sex, to which he replied he never liked to bang the same girl twice. She wanted to be friends and poured him some hot tea. He showed her some music from his mp3 player, and envied her beat-up laptop -- quite an improvement from his noisy beige box at home.

Franz' dad gave up after a while of waiting for him in the flea motel and drove off to get a burger. (That night dinner was broccoli salad, and though he was technically fulfilled, that wasn't a proper meal -- no proteins and whatnot). Franz did figure that out and took a bus to the burger place, where dad bought him a full meal including fries and cola. Dad asked if he was getting attached somewhat -- he had some relationship advice, mostly about flowers and being gentle -- but Franz confessed in a deadpan voice that he had to return some stolen panties. (Dad thought to himself he wished he had seen them before his son gave them back). Franz' father didn't really mind that much either -- snatching used lacy panties wasn't gonna get him in trouble, so they drove home after Franz showed him the Polaroids -- he did sense some residual envy, and the pictures were enough to satisfy his father's understandable craving for young lady panties.

That night Franz removed the Polaroids from the inner pocket of his jacket -- except for a particularly nice one, which he'd keep to show off to the male truckers -- and stored them inside a dusty middle school math textbook. After changing clothes he laid down on his makeshift bed while listening to "Close to the edge" in his computer's tinny speakers with no bass to speak of, and fell asleep shortly after Wakeman's church organ bridge. Man, that was some nice touch to the overall song, even with the poor quality of the family computer's speakers.

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