When Anton was born, someone turned up the volume of the world to eleven. He spent his life trying to get it turned down again.
His methods were benign at first: Anton was an orderly child. Toys on the floor felt too loud to him. He put them(more) away. He rarely spilled a crumb, even while eating crackers in the van. He slept and woke on a precise schedule. His parents' friends (who were parents themselves) shook their heads, amazed. They called him Little Tick Tock and joked that he would grow up to be the Martha Stewart of keeping your shit together.
Anton was unprepared for the thoughtless cruelty of other children, who called him Freak and Sissy and joked that he would grow up to be alone and poor. They were too loud. He tried to quiet them by stopping their mouths: first with tongue twisters, then jawbreakers. When those didn't work he moved on to more forthright methods of breaking jaws.
No one was surprised by Anton's knack for computer science. With his first paycheck he purchased a blank, silent keyboard and disappeared into his room for three years.
The first systems administrator to hire him described Anton as "was a kid who really knew how to grind gears." Anton supposed that was a colloquialism for "get things done." He didn't really care about getting things done. It was just that when things went wrong, they felt so loud.
His grade school classmates were only partly right in the end. Anton did grow up to be alone. He also profited handsomely after he developed an intelligent personal assistant program and sold it to business owners, and he ran that enterprise like a racehorse until autoimmune inner ear disease finally gave him enough peace to retire.(less)
"Are you building a model kit?" Gotou said as he put down the plastic convenience store bag beside Masayoshi. "The entire apartment stinks like glue again."
"No," Masayoshi said, eyes very nearly crossed as he focused on the model in his hand, paintbrush in his teeth.
"Yeah(more), I'm looking at the mess." Gotou picked up one of the many spread newspapers over his table and was mildly gratified that it didn't stick to the table underneath. "Don't lie."
"It's not a /lie/, Gotou-san," Masayoshi said in exasperation. "I don't lie to you! I've finished building it, now I'm painting it."
"Well, don't glue your fingers together again." Gotou pulled his beer from the bag and sat down with his back against the bed. He watched Masayoshi at work - Masayoshi's hand holding the tiny paintbrush was trembling and making for uneven color along the trim of the mecha model. Masayoshi made a disgruntled sound, holding the paintbrush still for a moment.
"You're making a mess," Gotou observed, sitting forward, and Masayoshi blew out the breath he was holding.
"I AM," he moaned. "It's going to look HORRIBLE, I've never been any good at this." Masayoshi startled a little when Gotou knelt beside him and took the paintbrush out of his hand. "Gotou-san-?"
"My cousin used to build these all the time," Gotou said, not looking Masayoshi in the face, aware suddenly of how close they were. "Hold it still, okay?"
When Masayoshi didn't respond, Gotou ventured a look at the wide-eyed glittering expression Masayoshi was giving him. "O-oi, don't look at me like that, you're creeping me out," he said. "Do you want my help or not?"
Masayoshi was blushing a deep enough red that Gotou began blushing in response. "Oh! Y-yes, I'm sorry. The trim is this red color..."(less)