“Are you ready?” said Nick. He held up a rectangular plastic box.
Jonesy grimaced in confusion. “Ready for what?”
“Ready for pain?”
They sat in Paxton’s second-floor lounge around a square table, bleary eyed and downcast. “I’ve got enough of that,” said Jonesy. He lowered his head against the table with an audible thunk. “You should have let me die.”
“Nonsense,” said Nick. He placed the box on the table. “We had to save you for a glorious death on the field of battle.”
“What are you even talking about?” Jonesy muttered.
“Only the greatest board game in the history of mankind.”
“Monopoly?” said Jonesy.
“No, fool! Risk! Does this look like Monopoly?”
Carlos poked among the pieces in the open box. “Never played it.”
“And that’s what I’m here for,” said Nick, “to bring culture to you Philistines. You are in for a treat. If you like losing, that is. Which I can tell that you do.”
“You make this game sound like such a blast,” muttered Carlos.
Nick unfolded the game board and placed it on the table. “Remember the epic games we used to have?”
“Absolutely,” said Joe. “Back in high school we’d keep games going for days. Weeks, even.”
“Sounds like you needed a life,” said Carlos.
“Says the guy who spends all his time ‘playing the piano,’” said Nick, making a jerking-off gesture with one hand. “I know what you’re really doing in that practice room. Anyway, the rules are simple, but the strategies will take a lifetime to master.”
“No they won’t,” said Joe. “Just get Australia.”
Nick gave the air a karate chop. “Come on! What the hell’s the matter with you?!”
“Nothing’s the matter with me. They’re smart guys. They’d figure it out in two seconds. It’s so obvious”
“One doesn’t learn if they are given the answers. They must figure them out on their own.”
“Okay Sun Tzu,” said Joe.
“Au contraire, smart guy,” said Nick. “I think that was Confucius.”
“What’s so good about Australia?” said Jonesy. “Do they get boomerangs or something?”
“Yes,” said Nick. “And they ride kangaroos.”
Jonesy’s head shot up, his eyes bright. “Really?!”
“No, not really! It’s all about location!”
“Location, location, location,” said Carlos. “If this game’s about real estate, count me out.”
“Then it’d be Monopoly,” said Jonesy.
As though praying for the strength to teach the hard of heart, Nick gritting his teeth and rolled his eyes heavenwards. “Risk touches on every aspect of the human condition,” he said. “You will learn more about each other, and yourself. More than your own mother even knows.”
“My mother’s dead,” said Carlos quietly.
Nick’s jaw dropped. Joe felt his own mouth go dry. Had she been dead before? Did their meddling with the universe’s clock cause things to go so haywire so quickly?
“Carlos, I’m so sorry,” said Joe.
“I didn’t know, man,” said Nick. “It was just a joke. I feel terrible.”
Joe had to fight the urge to squirm in the midst of that uneasy silence now shrouding the table, all the while Carlos glared daggers at Nick with his jaw set and his fists clenched under the table.
“His mom’s not dead,” said Jonesy at least. “He’s just being a jerk.”
A smile spread slowly on Carlos’s face.
The mood punctured, Nick slumped with unfeigned relief. They joined Carlos in laughing, maybe a little too enthusiastically.
“Good one,” said Nick, pointing a long finger. “Good one. You got us.”
“Us?” said Joe. “Why am I always blamed for the stupid stuff you do and say?”
“Because you look like the kind of guy who does and says stupid stuff.”
“Not really,” said Jonesy, returning his head to his arms.
“Way to throw the guy who saved your life under the bus,” said Nick. “But enough messing around. There is nothing funny about war. Except for the part where Joe loses.”
Jonesy again raised his head and stared glumly at the board. “Can’t we just play video games?”
Joe patted him on the back. “After last night I think you need to decompress with some good, clean fun.” Continue reading “Reset: Chapter 11: Monday, September 3, 2001 (2)”