Rev. Random the Other

cmcjp02@nt.com

1997/11/09

alt.slack

 

The Game

 

The owner of the company insisted that the test results be completed in

time for lunch Monday at the Governor's Inn. I was running late, and

was met with glares and scowls when I finally did arrive. Defensively,

I said "Well, I'm only five minutes late, after all." "No," the owner,

Bill Russell said. "We've been waiting for an hour and a half."

 

I assured the man who paid my check that the schedule I received from

his secretary listed the luncheon as beginning at 12:30. Bill merely

shook his head in disgust, and motioned for me to take a place at the

table. Stockholders and major contributors, potential contributors and

speculators looked to President Russell, who acknowledged their interest

and smoothly looked to me and asked, "So, tell me that the test results

promise a bright future for National Arsenomide. I've been promising

these men a share in the latest technology, and in spite of some

unfounded concerns, I believe that we are poised to deliver."

 

I smiled, looked the President, and delivered a focused assessment.

"Failed miserably," I said. "I need to repeat some of the tests,

though," I added. "Perhaps it might still work. Perhaps."

 

My words prompted a flurry of action from around the table, investors

pulling out electronic stock readers and cell phones, excusing

themselves for taking up so much of Mr. Russell's time as they left the

table. When we were alone, I again noted that I needed to repeat

several of the tests, and was quietly told to report to his office in

two day's time, 1:30pm. I smiled as I made a notation in the book I

carried. Fifty points.

 

I had two days to devote to my hobby and to indulge in idle speculation.

I called a popular mail-order music service and subscribed, getting 10

free CD's, giving the wrong address, marking one point in my book. I

ordered a pizza, and had it shipped to the building next door. One

point. I made an appointment with the barber. One point. I discarded

the email from the executive secretary reminding me that I had a meeting

scheduled with Bill for 2:30pm on Thursday. I called my brother at the

State University.

 

 

My brother is a Player. He had joined a Fraternity two years ago, and

told me how me picked up 20 points just the other night off a dweeb who

wanted to join his house.

 

The dweeb had passed their many repulsive initiation rites and was

invited for a final beer drinking and banana-in-the-toilet fest that was

to lead to membership. My brother congratulated the queasy winner, and

then told him that there was actually one more test...the very last one,

he promised.

 

He handed the dweeb a cue ball off the pool table, and said "Stick this

in your mouth, and you're in."

 

The dweeb looked at the cue ball, looked at my brother, and asked

"That's all?" That's all. "Do I have to swallow it?" No. Just pop it

in your mouth, then spit it out and you are a member. This is the last

ritual, the "mouthing of the orb."

 

The dweeb held the ball up to his face, estimated the size, then opened

wide. He had to shove pretty hard, fitting it between his somewhat buck

teeth, but actually managed to somehow convey a smile as the cue ball

slid firmly home. "DuhhhDuhhhh!"

 

The twinkle in the dweebs eyes turned to horror, my brother related,

when he failed in dislodging the ball, his fingers stretching his

already yawning expression as his face reddened.

"Ahhhkaanngahhihhooowwww," the dweeb related with a finger and thumb

wrapped around the cue ball, pushing it from within, eyes watering.

 

After a time, and a few more beers, they drove the dweeb to the

emergency room, where a snarling nurse informed him that if he had

vomited, as drunk as he was, he could have choked to death. My brother

insisted that the vomit would have shot out of his nose: "I've seen

that happen."

 

The nurse snarled some more, then injected a muscle relaxant into the

gaping jaw in six or eight places with a nasty, long needle. While the

dweeb lay on the examination table, waiting for the drug to take effect,

my brother shook his head sadly and informed him that he had failed the

last ritual, that he was no longer considered for initiation. The dweeb

groaned. All he had needed to do, my brother told him, was refuse. The

dweeb was crying as they left him, mentioning to the nurse as they left

that his nose was fast becoming clogged and his breathing labored.

 

 

I left work early, walking cheerfully through the light drizzle, and

headed for the hardware store. A woman stopped me to ask directions to

Belks department store. "About six blocks that way," I pointed, "then

turn left and go another four or five blocks." She smiled as she

thanked me, my book already in hand.

 

I ran into one of the suits from the luncheon, who recognized me and

offered his commiseration. "But the last series of tests were

successful," I told the surprised bigwig. "It was just a calibration

problem with a piece of test gear." He sputtered as he said "How can

this be? I just got off the horn with Russell not ten minutes ago, and

he was quite distraught. Doesn't he know yet?"

 

I told the man that I had not yet talked to Bill, that my meeting was

not until Wednesday at 1:30. The suit hurried off, and I stopped

briefly at a pay phone to call my own broker and make a note in my book.

On my way out of the hardware store I met the Belks woman, who flagged

me down all out of breath and asked again after the location of the

department store. "How could you have missed it?" "Well, I walked down

there for six blocks, turned left and walked and walked..."

 

"Left?" I said. "Oh no, you must have mis-heard me. I said turn

RIGHT. Go six blocks, turn RIGHT, then another four or five blocks.

You can't miss it." The woman, harried and puffing, still found a smile

for me as she thanked me. Two points for the second time.

 

 

I stopped briefly at work the next day, long enough to set the voice

mail in one lab to indicate that I was in the other lab, and visa versa.

No points for that, but I needed to check my mail and to automate a few

test sets to make it seem that work was in progress. An email from the

bossman caught my eye, as it was marked certified to alert the sender

the moment that I opened the file. Hmmm.

 

I copied it unread to disk, then opened the disk copy so as not to

trigger notification. Bossman had been told by several of the investors

that they had heard the tests had passed. I called my broker, then

opened the original mail and responded that tests were still negative,

that I was having to deal with multiple equipment problems and

calibration issues, and that would be working late into the night. I

waited until the stock price dropped to add the entry in my book, with a

mark to indicate that it was circumstantial and would have to be

verified in conversation with Bill the next day. There are strict rules

for accounting, and I fully intended to have every point accepted.

 

At home, I dialed up the page where this Quarter's points are listed,

looking down the list until I found reverand and my last score. I added

up my new total, then pulled up the screen listing the top ten scores at

last update. It was a tight race, and I knew I would need every point

just to stay competitive. I was gambling on the big score, which is

riskier than it seems. Much easier to gain onesy-twosy's, but the

reward for the harder stuff is much higher. I decided to offset my risk

by placing several catalog orders, and making several dinner and movie

dates. And call my broker. It was early afternoon when I called the

President.

 

"Rheta, let me speak to Bill."

 

"I'm sorry, he's stepped away from his desk..."

 

"Nice try," I said. "I'll beep him if you wish."

 

The next sound was the phone ringing, and Bill answering. "It works," I

said, trying to sound excited. "It works. I was going to wait until

tomorrow at 1:30, but you wanted to know ASAP. It will be a success. I

only have a few more simulations to run, but I can tell you right now

that this baby is on target!"

 

The phone muffled by his hand, I nonetheless heard Bill bellowing for

Rheta to set up a conference circuit and to contact everyone on his

short list, then he spoke up. "Great. Really great. Have you seen the

stock prices? I was getting ready to jump out the window. Look, I

still need you to give a demo. In my office, tomorrow. I'll set it up

for 1:30. This is really great news."

 

I spent the evening updating my resume, not worried too much as I had

already deleted most of the circuit design and tech trial info from the

database at work. I had copies secure. I could sell myself for far

higher than what Bill was paying me, anyhow. The Game can be quite as

addictive as any drug, and I valued the respect of the other Players far

more than the execudroids and collargeeks at National Arse, even though

I knew the identities of merely a handful of Players. I mean, the real

identities. The pseudonyms were legendary, though, and I nodded with

pride that I still made the top lists every quarter even though the

ranks were growing exponentially. One last call to my broker.

 

I stepped into the plush reception area with it's massive oak desk, and

waited while Rheta finished telling someone over the phone that Mr.

Russell was in Europe for the next six weeks. "One point," I said

cryptically, waiting to fill any question with one of my own. Instead,

Rheta arched her eyebrows, smiled, and asked "You a Player?" I answered

a cheerful "Yup" and asked her how she was doing. I didn't expect a

precise score, and was not surprised. I did take the time to give her

some advice. "Ones and Twos do not a big winner make." "How would YOU

know?" came her riposte, then laughed and said that the President has a

full house, and I could probably rack 'em up. She pressed the button on

her desk that unlocked the office door, smiled, and winked. I smiled

back and twinkled.

 

Bill's face split into a broad smile as I was ushered in, not noticing

that I carried neither equipment nor laptop, just my pocketbook.

"Gentlemen, here is the man who will send the stock soaring. When news

hits the market of our stunning success, you will all see your

investment reap untold rewards. I fully predict that each of us will be

upgrading country clubs in the near future!" This was met with drinks

raised, cheers, and congratulatory pounding of backs throughout the

large room. After a long minute, President Russell motioned for

silence, and then all eyes turned to me.

 

I smiled. "Obviously you have been celebrating here for quite some

time." This was met with more cheers and smiles. I waited until it

quieted down. "What I mean is that, well, at lunch several hours ago in

the cafeteria I was the center of attention from what seemed like most

of middle management. I was quite surprised to see so many suits in the

cafeteria! They had heard of your meeting, today, and cornered me to

hear the good news." Clapping, much laughter and jostling, amid hushed

comments of stocks-are-up-already.

 

"Err, what I mean is, stocks have plummeted. Nearly rock-bottom. I

already told them hours ago that the trial was another miserable

failure. It will never work as planned. Word must have gotten out. I

guess nobody here has checked their stock market readers..."

 

The stunned silence lasted only a brief moment, then shouts from all

corners of "RUSSELL, you will PAY for this" "I'll never do business with

you again," "I'll see you in court, Russell," "You will never work

again," and more. Russell red faced and shaking. I laughed.

 

I was caught totally off guard when President Bill Russell leaped out of

his chair, knocking over the podium, and wrapped his delicate hands

around my throat. It was my last memory.

 

 

 

Perfume. White....gauze? Strapped...down. Sore throat. And neck.

Can I...hear...? The mists cleared somewhat, and it was Rheta. "Don't

try to move, you have an IV in your arm. You're OK. You're in the

hospital."

 

I cleared my throat, twice, then managed "Hi, Rheta". Some of the

meeting came back. "What happened?"

 

"What Happened? Mr. Russell tried to kill you, that's what happened.

Don't you remember?" Her eyes were shining with a strange light,

looking for all the world not just in awe but in admiration. I tried to

shake my head, but my neck...

 

"He did. He actually tried to kill you. He would have, too, but he had

a massive heart-attack. He's in this hospital too, in intensive care.

I heard what happened from the group in his office. They told me what

you had done. They were furious." Still that gleam in her eyes.

 

I managed a smile as I remembered.

 

"I called the ambulance," she said. "I found your book. You are

reverand."

 

I smiled at her as my eyes danced, and said "Yeah, big Player. You know

me now." Then I added "Not too many points lying here, though." I

closed my eyes. Groan.

 

"Oh no, not at ALL. I contacted the board last night and reported your

points."

 

My eyes snapped open.

 

She actually blushed. "I found your book, right? They are compiling

the Quarter now anyway, and I didn't know how long you would be in

here."

 

"I told them about your last Play. My God, no one had EVER heard of

anyone actually trying to KILL over a Play! You were awarded..."

 

She cleared her throat. "Well, it's just unbelievable. You are six

thousand points in the lead. You have the YEAR tied up. Completely.

Incontrovertibly. Player of the Year."

 

 

Rev. Random the Other

 

Perhaps twenty years ago I read a story about The Game, much better

developed than what I wrote here. I have asked around for years, but no

one has ever seen the original. Tonight I decided to write my own

version, just so. If anyone has any information regarding a similar

story, PLEASE email me - not at this, which is my work address, but at

reverand@mindspring.com.

 

ps - Talk about the perfect job....