The Last Straw Trilogy Part Two:
TALISMAN: THIS TIME ITS PERSONAL
originally posted to RPG.net on 7-24-2008, 09:01 AM
WARNING THE FOLLOWING RANT IS BOOKENDED BY SOME SQUISHY PERSONAL STUFF I FELT ADDED TO THE STORY.
This is the part of the story I’m not proud of, and this is the part of the story that might just bore you to tears but it’s part of the story I have to tell.
I’ve said before that my love life had been one disaster after another; there was the girl that got me drunk and went home with a marine as I sat at the bar trying to explain ‘Doctor Who’s continuity errors to anyone in earshot. There was the girl that dated me, kissed me and ended up dumping me for Kid Snotrocket. There was first date after first date that felt like a bad job interview. There was the one that I didn’t realized liked me until it was too late. There was the other girl that left me for Kid Snotrocket. There was the co-worker that took my offer of dinner as harassment; there was the other girl that was sure I was gay. There was the girl that faked being part of a blood drinking cult to get me to stop calling her. There was the girl that was starting to like me until she found out her mother thought I was great and she dumped me. And then of course there was the third girl that ran off with Kid Snotrocket.
And what I had learned during those four years of accidental celibacy? I mean aside from the fact that Kid Snotrocket was not to be trusted and that he apparently had a monster dong?
I had learned to stop looking for love, I learned to stop trying.
My bitterness was made all the worse by Annoying Girl. I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised at how often I saw her, after all we lived within just a few miles of each other but still just seeing her annoyed me. And whenever she saw me in public she just had to come over and say hello and ask about how my life was going. I talked to her grudgingly and when she suggested we get together sometime I always told her how busy I was.
Why you ask? Because Annoying Girl was fat. Not as fat as Blobert but was way heavier than me. There was no way I would ever be seen with a fat girl on my arm – there was no way I would ever even be friends with one, it was a violation of the guy’s code. At least that’s what my friends and the Media told me.
And I especially wanted nothing to do with Annoying Girl. I couldn’t stand the way she was so nice all the time, the way puppies, kittens and swans gravitated towards her like she was some kind of a Disney character. And don’t even get me started about how the way she once waded into the middle of a traffic accident and managed to keep a terribly injured man stable until the paramedics arrived. I just hated to look at her, the soft sheen of her skin, the dark luminous pools of her eyes and that laugh, that laugh of hers sounded like the giggles of a baby cherub having its belly tickled.
See what I mean? Annoying.
It had been ten days since Weasly’s disastrous turn at running Warhammer Fantasy Role Play and all he had to show for it was a fistful of barf-stained rulebooks and El Disgusto’s unending scorn. In the wake of that latest disaster we had been banned from the Smith family basement by Blobert himself and no one wanted to run anything. I guess we were all a little gun shy.
Or is that GM shy?
Collateral Darren insisted he had the perfect solution to the problem, but he wouldn’t tell us what that solution was. All he did was keep insisting that we all be there. I almost didn’t go. You see I’d just gotten word that my high school crush Lilly had gotten married and not only that she’d gotten married to a guy she’d gone to high school with but barely acknowledged.
Better yet she’d married one of the guys that had been too much of a geek to hang out with Kid Snotrocket, Zapp Foo and myself. The man I’m talking about was Ernie Spoonsucker. In high school he had gotten quite the reputation. He’d divided his time between the boy scouts, glee club and the South Colonie United Republican Varsity Youth movement. I think the things I remember best about old Ernie was his insistence that listening to the music of the Beatles led to communism and his stress agitated colon. What is a stress agitated colon you might ask? It meant that whenever Ernie got scared he would become flatulent, and the more scared he was the more he’d fart. The older boys would beat him until it sounded like the 1812 overture was coming from his pants.
But now of course that had changed. Now he was enjoying conjugal relations with the girl I had dreamed of for four long years. I didn’t want to game, I just wanted to sit in my apartment and hate the world. Over the past few years I had really gotten quite good at it.
Of course I knew myself better than that, I knew that if I wasn’t at a movie or a game by 11 PM on a Friday night I would find myself at a strip club. Truth be told at this point of my life I had begun to suspect that I was spending far too much time at strip clubs.
And when one of the strippers had told me I should really get a girlfriend my suspicions were confirmed. So that is why I found myself driving to Deviant Boy’s place that night.
About halfway there I decided it might be a good idea to get some soda and chips so I left early to stop at the local supermarket; but before I got there I was gripped with this sudden urge to stop by the bookstore at the local mall. There was no reason to do it really, the place never stocked what I was looking for but as the landmarks of Central Avenue bled past me, the itch in my head to just go to the mall, selection be damned, became a full blown fixation.
So I stopped there, the parking lot was crowded, the mall itself even more so. I navigated the crowds to the bookstore and found… nothing. The selection was so poor it was couldn’t even be called generic. The urge to be there vanished. I started to feel even stupider than the time I had decided ‘Boxing Helena’ would be a good date movie.
Back through the crowds I went, blundering past crying children in oversized strollers and fit young shoppers walking at a snail’s pace. I glanced over to the eyeglass shop, wondering if I should try my luck with contacts again. After all what were the chances I might accidentally scratch my cornea three times in a row?
And there she was, dressed in a yellow top and white shorts; she was trying on sunglasses, gauging her reflection in one of the stores many mirrors. The shades she had on now were too large for her head and worst of all they hid her eyes from view… not that I cared.
Still though, I did find my pace slowing, maybe it was the way she held the price tag away from her nose, maybe it was the way those white shorts looked on her. All I know is that I lingered long enough for me to catch her eye.
She hastily abandoned the oversized sunglasses and waved me over to her.
Grudgingly I approached; hoping all the while none of the guys saw me talking to her. Not that I should have worried really, El Disgusto, Blobert Smith and Weasly Crusher had been banned from the mall for life thanks to their random acts of LARPing.
And as for Deviant Boy, no one ever really did find out why the ORANGE JULIUS stand had a restraining order against him.
Annoying Girl: “So, how have you been?”
Me: “Ok I guess… You know?”
Annoying Girl: “What have you been doing with yourself?”
Me: “Stuff I guess.”
Annoying Girl: “Are you going to the Class of 86 fifth year reunion?”
Me: “Only if I can find some way to pre-wedgie myself.”
Annoying Girl: “Hah! I miss your jokes. When we used to hang out with Lilly you always cracked me up.”
Me: “You used to hang out with Lilly?”
Annoying Girl: “Don’t you remember you and I were at most of the same parties, usually we were the ones being ignored by everyone else.”
Me: “I was never ignored. I distinctly remember Lilly asking me to watch her coat.”
Annoying Girl: “…Uh yeah. You’re not still hung up on her are you? I mean you know she’s married now right?”
Me: “Well with the divorce rates being what they are in the country I’m sure I’ve still got a shot. Besides it gives me time to work on my novel and diversify my stock portfolio.”
Annoying Girl: “Well, wow. That’s dedication, but I thought you were with that redhead. You know the one you were going to college with… the one that would fake seizures to get out of her mid terms?”
Me: “Oh. Tallulah? Well we were together for a while but I kicked her to the curb. Maybe I’m just too much man for one woman…”
Actually Tallulah had dumped me for a recently paroled French-Canadian professional wrestler but in the end I got back at her by quitting college and getting a job at an office supply store.
Annoying Girl: “You know we really should get together sometime. We could just grab a bite to eat or a drink. There’s this comedy club up by…”
Me: “Yeah the Chuckle Factory, I’m kind of persona non grata there.”
Annoying Girl: “What happened?”
Me: “Well it was open mike night and I tried out and there was this stampede of people trying to get out of the building…”
Annoying Girl: “Did you start a fire or something?”
Me: “Let’s just say that I learned pretty quickly there is no future whatsoever in funny stories about role playing games.”
Annoying Girl: “We should still get together. I think I gave you my number last time didn’t I?”
Me: “Sure, sure. You know I really have to be going otherwise I’m going to spend the next four hours sitting on an orange crate.”
Annoying Girl: “Ha! See what I mean? You’re hysterical! Here just in case take my number again.”
Me: “But I don’t have any paper with me. Let’s just-”
Annoying Girl: “Here hang on a second…”
She rummaged around in her purse until she found a pen and a scrap of paper and insisted I take her number again. I accepted just to get away from her but Annoying Girl still had one last indignity to visit upon me.
A hug. Right in front of everyone she just threw her arms around me and gave me a good squeeze, telling me how good it was to see me again. I grumbled something gave her a half-hearted smile and got the Hell back to my car.
The supermarket and snacks forgotten I drove the rest of the way to Deviant Boy’s apartment with that hug playing over and over again through my mind. I was sure it was because she had traumatized me, and I was seriously considering litigation.
When I got to Deviant Boy’s apartment I was greeted by the sight of grown men dueling with homemade foam swords. Of course I knew that could only mean one thing.
They’d been watching ‘Highlander’ again.
It was Rehab Boy and Old Yellowbelly that were doing the dueling, with Collateral Darren, Weasly Crusher and Cheating Bastard watching from the sidelines. I parked my car just in time for Old Yellowbelly to throw himself across the hood. Rehab Boy came around the other side, poised and ready for battle. I don’t know what was more disturbing about him, the fact that he was wearing a Sailor Moon T-shirt or that he was wearing a half dozen or so Alcoholics Anonymous chips like medallions.
Rehab Boy: “Tonight you sleep in Hell!”
Old Yellowbelly: “Have at you!”
Me: “Guys… aren’t you afraid of looking like fools in front of the apartment complex?”
Collateral Darren: “Why do you care what other people think? We don’t.”
Cheating Bastard: “People decide within the first few minutes of meeting you what their impression is so trying to project an image of what you want them to think of you is just plain neurotic.”
Weasly Crusher: “What about job interviews?”
Old Yellowbelly launched himself at Rehab Boy his foam sword whistling through the air. I got clear and stood over by the rest.
Collateral Darren: “There is no job worth having that involves an interview, besides it’s all just a scam to sell resume paper.”
Me: “What on Earth are you talking about?”
Collateral Darren: “Look most people get their jobs through recommendations and knowing someone. The whole interview process is just a front to get people to buy specialty papers for their resumes.”
Me: “That’s insane.”
Collateral Darren: “If it’s so crazy then answer me this, when you show up for a job interview with your freshly updated resume why do they make you handwrite the exact same information down on an employment application?”
Everyone froze dead at that, trying to think of an answer, any answer.
Weasly Crusher: “Oh my God…”
Cheating Bastard: “It all makes sense somehow…”
Me: “This is what losing SAN points is like I just know it…”
Old Yellowbelly: “That’s Genius!”
Rehab Boy: “For the Quickening!”
Old Yellowbelly: “Ow! Ow! OW!”
One foam induced Quickening later we headed inside. The first thing that hit me was the smell of gamer sweat and stale cigarette smoke, then I realized that including myself there had to be ten people crammed into this tiny apartment.
El Disgusto: “Too bad Ab3, we called dibs on all the chairs, you’ve got the orange crate again.”
Me: “Asenath? What are you doing here?”
Asenath: “Gaming what do you think?”
Me: “Are you and Deviant Boy back together?”
Deviant Boy: “We’re just friends.”
Me: “Well what about Blobert?”
Blobert Smith: “I can only hope the pain I feel at seeing her again will inspire me to even greater role playing heights. While I may have lost levels in love I truly believe I have increased the THAC0 of my soul.”
Me: “And how about you El Disgusto? Does this affect you in anyway or are you too emotionally bankrupt to care?”
El Disgusto: “What you call being a sociopath I call emotional ninjitsu.”
Me: “I’m really curious to see what kind of a role playing game Collateral Darren has planned that involves nine players.”
Collateral Darren: “Then look around you.”
Me: “Well all I see is the TALISMAN board game with all of its supplements, including the TIMESCAPE, spread out across the apartment.”
Collateral Darren: “Exactly.”
Me: “Exactly what?”
Collateral Darren: “We’re playing Talisman.”
Me: “But I thought we were playing a role playing game, Talisman is a board game.”
Collateral Darren: “Is it? Is it really? Look around you Ab3. I see multitude of character types, each one with special abilities and the capacity to grow more powerful through experience. I see random encounters, miniatures and even a map. This is a role playing game.”
Me: “Yes, except for the fact it’s not.”
Old Yellowbelly: “You have everything for this game, everything.”
Collateral Darren: “I got it all from a guy named Skippy Vanderhausen. He just bought it all and then had some kind of religious epiphany and decided to get rid of it all.”
Asenath: “Skippy Vanderhausen?”
Me: “Why does that name sound so familiar?”
Collateral Darren: “From the Clifton Park Vanderhausens? You must have heard of them.”
Rehab Boy: “Man you did a great job painting these minis. Ever since I dried out I don’t have the brush control I used to.”
Deviant Boy: “You know Asenath you could sit right next to me. This chair is free.”
Weasly Crusher: “I’m sitting right here what are you talking about- Hey quit pushing!”
Deviant Boy: “It’s your turn to sit next to El Disgusto.”
Weasly Crusher: “No! He’s got that cabbage and cologne smell again.”
El Disgusto: “This is my natural musk.”
Blobert Smith: “Colognes are so very generic. I prefer to splash myself with a combination of Absinthe and crushed clove cigarettes.”
Cheating Bastard: “Are we going to play or not? And don’t worry if you’re short of dice. I’ve brought my own.”
Me: “All right. Let’s do this thing.”
I suppose in a way Collateral Darren was right, the game of Talisman is in many ways like a role playing game crossed with Monopoly. Instead of thimbles and racecars you played knights and thieves, instead of chance and community chest cards you had adventure cards that could either help or hinder your Hero. The goal of the game was to have your ‘hero’ become strong enough to reach the center of the main board where you would win the Crown of Command, but your hero couldn’t do that unless they were in possession of the Talisman named in the title of the game.
It sounds simple enough doesn’t it?
Collateral Darren: “Now don’t forget that the version we’re playing only has one Talisman so it will be harder to win. We begin by drawing Hero cards. The sad bastard sitting on the orange crate goes first.”
Me: “I’ve got a Halfling.”
Cheating Bastard: “I’ve got a Warrior of Chaos.”
El Disgusto: “Comeonninjacomeonninjacomeonninja…”
Me: “Just draw already for Christ’s sake!”
El Disgusto: “An Inquisitor? Well I certainly didn’t expect that.”
Blobert Smith: “An Archeologist? From the drawing it appears to be a pastiche of Indiana Jones.”
Weasly Crusher: “Hmmm a Minotaur.”
Deviant Boy: “A Dragon Rider for me… sexy.”
Collateral Darren: “It doesn’t mean what you think it means, it means you can ride a dragon.”
Deviant Boy: “I’m up for it.”
Collateral Darren: “No, what I mean is that if you encounter a dragon you can mount it.”
Deviant Boy: “That’s hot.”
Collateral Darren: “Oh I give up. I’ll draw my Hero. I have a Wizard.”
Rehab Boy: “A Merchant? That’s odd…”
Asenath: “I’ve got the Samurai.”
Old Yellowbelly: “I’ve got a Pirate.”
Collateral Darren: “Ok let’s get playing.”
We each picked out the miniature that corresponded with the hero we had drawn. We rolled dice and moved our pieces around the Outer Region of the board.
Deviant Boy: “…two … three …four. My Dragon Rider is in the Woods I draw a card and hey it’s a Ghost.”
Blobert Smith: “Let us roll to see if your character defeats this foul cardboard revenant.”
Deviant Boy: “Rats.”
Cheating Bastard: “Well look where my Warrior of Chaos has landed, right in the same square as Ab3’s Halfling.”
Me: “Oh great and I’m already down to my last life thanks to that Gargoyle, and the Harpy and Frost Dragon.”
Rehab Boy: “This board is just littered with things you failed to defeat isn’t it?”
Cheating Bastard: “Well I tell you what Ab3, if your Halfling gives my Warrior of Chaos all his gold things might go better for him.”
Me: “Well, all right. Here you go all four gold.”
Cheating Bastard: “Great, and I attack the Halfling anyway.”
Cheating Bastard: “Well I didn’t promise anything, I just said things might go better for him. Roll those dice Ab3.”
Me: “Argh! Damnit! My Halfling’s dead. I’m out.”
El Disgusto: “Ha-ha you suck.”
Collateral Darren: “Actually Ab3 you’re not out. We just keep playing until someone reaches the Crown of Command. You just draw a new Hero.”
Me: “Oh Ok. Let’s see now…well I’ve got a Valkyrie. This could be interesting.”
El Disgusto: “Yeah a whole new character to fail with.”
Me: “Just keep it up butt-knuckle.”
Old Yellowbelly: “Oh I got a lance.”
Rehab Boy: “My Merchant enters the Chapel.”
Old Yellowbelly: “Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married…”
Blobert Smith: “Now I have rolled a two but where shall my Archeologist go? To the left or the right? Which will server his quest for treasure better? Or will he learn that all along that treasure he was hunting for was inside him self all along? To the left then I think and look, I have drawn a Leper. Will he be my steadfast companion?”
El Disgusto: “My Inquisitor moves into the same square as the Archeologist and attacks him. Then he imprisons him.”
Asenath: “Bathroom break. Now where did I put my duffel bag?”
Weasly Crusher: “It’s over there by the Batleth.”
She unzippered the bag and pulled out a small bottle of Clorox.
Me: “Why are you carrying around a bottle of bleach?”
Asenath: “What did you expect me to have in here? Duffels?”
Deviant Boy: “Oh how I’ve missed your jokes.”
Asenath: “One of the cardinal rules of being a gamer chick is never use a gamer guy’s bathroom without sterilizing the area first.”
El Disgusto: “Oh please.”
Asenath: “Hey you forget I lived here for a while, I remember when those bathroom tiles were white.”
Me: “You mean the veins of greenish color working their way along everything from the sink to the shower curtain AREN’T some kind of marble pattern?”
Collateral Darren: “And that’s why Deviant Boy and I get sick so rarely. That bathroom is like a wargame for our white bloodcells.”
Me: “Oh God… I should have brought a Mountain Dew bottle with me…”
Deviant Boy waited for the sound of running water before he started trying to shove Weasly Crusher off his chair.
Deviant Boy: “Dude just move.”
Weasly Crusher: “I’ve got all my stuff here.”
Deviant Boy: “I don’t care move. Hurry up before she gets back.”
Me: “And why should he tell her he moved? Won’t it seem weird?”
El Disgusto: “I imagine after seeing the shape of your head for a few hours nothing seems weird at all.”
Me: “Very droll, it is to laugh.”
Deviant Boy: “I said move!”
And with a final shove one of the legs of the chair that Weasly Crusher was sitting in broke sending Weasly Crusher tumbling to the floor.”
Collateral Darren: “Another chair broken.”
Blobert Smith: “Gamers and poorly constructed chairs are natural enemies.”
Weasly Crusher: “I think I landed on an Elric mini.”
Deviant Boy: “Well we don’t have any more chairs so I guess we need to pull another orange crate out of storage.”
Collateral Darren: “We’re all out of orange crates but we still have about 12 milk crates.”
Old Yellowbelly: “Isn’t taking those things illegal?”
Cheating Bastard: “It’s a non-enforceable law like tearing the tags off of mattresses, trading bootleg videotapes and bestiality.”
Deviant Boy: “And thank heavens for that… the bootleg tape thing I mean.”
Me: “Cheating Bastard, I know you love to give legal advice but don’t you think it would be wiser to get accepted to law school first?”
Cheating Bastard: “I’ve already skimmed the required reading. I know as much as your average paralegal.”
Deviant Boy: “Yeah but most of the paralegals I’ve known go into the porn industry after a few years because they find it more life-affirming.”
Old Yellowbelly: “Wow. I may never look at ‘Teenage Ass Bangers’ the same way again.”
Me: “I didn’t think you could really skim the Law.”
Cheating Bastard: “Oh don’t be silly. Gaming and the law are practically the same thing. All you have to do is read the basic rule set, skim the flavor text and then cherry pick what you need from the supplements.”
Collateral Darren: “Except in this situation the Constitution is the basic rule set, the other laws are the supplements and the case histories are the flavor text.”
Asenath: “I’m back.”
Deviant Boy: “Well have a seat right here on this milk crate.”
Asenath: “Sorry but if I wanted to have welts on my ass...”
Me: “Whose turn was it again?”
The game continued, we moved our heroes around the Outer Region of the board, building them up with magic items, followers and experience points. Old Yellowbelly’s Pirate blundered into the Timescape and ended up getting lost there for a few turns. My Valkrie had a run in with a dragon and a lion but was ultimately killed by Asenath’s Samurai. Then the Samurai was killed by Cheating Bastard’s runesword carrying Warrior of Chaos. Rehab Boy’s Merchant was imprisoned by El Disgusto’s Inquisitor. Blobert Smith’s Archeologist was fireballed to death by Collateral Darren’s Wizard. Deviant Boy’s and Weasly Crusher’s Heroes wandered the board aimlessly, racking up kills and alignment changes.
Me: “So my new Hero is… an Amazon?”
Asenath: “I’ve got the Centaur.”
Blobert Smith: “I am now an Astropath, just like WARHAMMER 40K isn’t it?”
Collateral Darren: “Yeah, there is a lot of crossover between the game and WARHAMMER.”
Rehab Boy: “I sure wish there was a 40K role playing game.”
El Disgusto: “That would be awesome.”
Cheating Bastard: “Nah, it probably wouldn’t make it past the first supplement.”
Collateral Darren: “Ok whose next?”
Old Yellowbelly: “Well I rolled a 5 so I end up on the same square as the Minotaur. I attack!”
Weasly Crusher: “What did I ever do to you?”
Old Yellowbelly: “Hey this is Talisman; it’s every man for himself and God against all.”
Weasly Crusher: “Ok. I rolled a 12.”
Old Yellowbelly: “I rolled a 2. Oh no…”
Asenath: “How many lives do you have left?”
Old Yellowbelly: “Now? None.”
El Disgusto: “Ha Ha! You suck.”
Collateral Darren: “Drop all your treasure into the spot your Hero died in and draw a new Hero.”
Old Yellowbelly: “Ok I’ve got a Dragon Priest.”
Weasly Crusher: “My Minotaur heads to the Chapel.”
Rehab Boy: “Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married…”
El Disgusto: “Ok my Inquisitor has had enough of this crap and he decides to cross into the Middle Region.”
Cheating Bastard: “Are you sure? Your character only has two lives left.”
El Disgusto: “I know what I’m doing.”
Collateral Darren: “To cross into the Middle Region your character must face the Black Knight.”
El Disgusto: “Ok I’m rolling the dice now.”
Me: “And you’re losing a life now.”
El Disgusto: “This never would have happened if I was playing a ninja.”
Cheating Bastard: “And my Hero draws a new Adventure card and gets. A Talisman! All right!”
Old Yellowbelly: “Some people have all the luck.”
Rehab Boy: “And all the armor and all the weapons and mules and unicorns.”
Cheating Bastard: “Well you know what they say unlucky in love and all that.”
Me: “I like to think we make our own luck, either in games or in matters of love.”
Asenath: “Love is just another word for lust.”
Deviant Boy: “Exactly.”
Blobert Smith: “I beg to differ; a world without love is like a version of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS that does not use D12. Can you imagine a world so hellish and broken inside?”
Asenath: “Can you imagine a world where people didn’t get all torn up about what they wanted?”
Me: “No one gets everything they want.”
Deviant Boy: “Hey she’s got a point, in the five years I’ve known you, all you’ve done is search for love and then whine when you didn’t get it. Maybe if you just banged a few chicks and cleared out your snorkel once in a while you might be a little less miserable.”
Me: “And what if I catch a venereal disease? What if I get some girl I don’t give a damn about pregnant?”
Asenath: “Life is full of what ifs. What if you get run over crossing the street? What if you never get published? What if you accidentally tear half your ear off in a freak power window accident?”
Weasly Crusher: “I’m just glad there was an ice machine nearby.”
Collateral Darren: “I myself believe that love is real but it is an ideal that must be aspired to.”
Collateral Darren: “That is why I have vowed only to lose my virginity to Stevie Nicks.”
El Disgusto: “Is this before or after you go to live in Alaska with the bears?”
Collateral Darren: “My life plan is pretty fluid all I know is that our love child will be the Kwisatz Haderach of death metal.”
Weasly Crusher: “Right.”
Cheating Bastard: “Hey can we please get back to me kicking your butts at this game?”
The other players started to converge on Cheating Bastard, each one attacking with every spell and magic item they had. The game rules stated that whenever one player defeated another player in combat the winner could either take a life, a bag of gold or an item from the loser. So everyone was trying to get their hands on the talisman the Warrior of Chaos was gleefully carrying around the Outer Region of the board. Two hours later every other player had died twice and Cheating Bastard’s character had become a wandering god.
Collateral Darren: “You know I think at this point your character should be able to march right to the Crown of Command and win.”
Cheating Bastard: “Where’s the fun in that? I haven’t become the King’s Champion yet!”
Rehab Boy: “Yeah but you’ve already been the Master Thief and the Sherriff.”
Weasly Crusher: “And now you’re the High Mage.”
Me: “Which explains why my Scientist has become a Toad with 5 warrants for his arrest.”
Cheating Bastard: “My Hero visits the Chapel to get healed.”
Weasly Crusher: “Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married…”
El Disgusto: “Was that joke EVER funny?”
Cheating Bastard: “And in my capacity has High Mage I cast a Fireball spell at the Ghoul!”
El Disgusto: “Great now my guy is dead again.”
Me: “Ha-ha you suck.”
Blobert Smith: “And my Gypsy retrieves the Fireball spell from the discard pile and casts it back at Cheating Bastard’s High Mage Warrior of Chaos. I like to think she does so because she was born in the wagon of a travelin’ show and her Momma used to dance for the money they’d throw.”
Cheating Bastard: “Fine then I cast a reflection spell and send it back at her”
Blobert Smith: “And she retrieves that spell from the discard pile and uses it to reflect the reflection spell.”
Cheating Bastard: “Bullshit!”
Blobert Smith: “No it says right here on the character sheet that she can do this.”
Cheating Bastard: “It’s still bullshit and I loathe bullshit in all of its forms.”
Collateral Darren: “But it’s in the rules.”
Cheating Bastard: “Bullshit.”
Me: “The only thing that bugs me is the idea that you could take an entire ethnic group and turn them into a caricature for a board game.”
Weasly Crusher: “But gypsies are in all kinds of stories and movies.”
Me: “Yeah but it is kind of offensive just the same, there is a rich culture and history there that gets completely glossed over in favor of some kind of Universal Horror movie cliché.”
El Disgusto: “Oh my God you are such a pussy Ab3. It’s a stupid board game not an ethnic slur. It isn’t like someone made gypsies some kind of a weird character class in a role playing game.”
Me: “Man that would be tasteless. I just think we as gamers should be more culturally sensitive.”
Asenath: “Tough talk from the guy playing the Zulu.”
Cheating Bastard: “Enough of this. I cast Feeble Mind at the Gypsy.”
Blobert Smith: “And she casts it back.”
Cheating Bastard: “I cast Warp Gate.”
Blobert Smith: “And so do I.”
Cheating Bastard: “Alchemy! I turn my spare sword into gold.”
Blobert Smith: “And I do the same.”
Cheating Bastard: “Immobility!”
Blobert Smith: “Back at you.”
This went on until they had burned through the spell card deck, reshuffled and burned through it again. I started to worry that the two of them might go on like this all night but soon enough an argument erupted about whether or not a magic user could cast Counterspell against the Gypsies special ability. The fight went back and forth until Cheating Bastard made an unkind remark about ‘Fascination Street’ and Blobert Smith attacked looking for all the world like an enraged bull dressed like the vampire Lestat. When we finally managed to pry the two of them apart we made a startling discovery.
Weasly Crusher: “You’ve…you’ve got Talisman cards hidden everywhere. In your waistband, in your socks, in your pockets. Everywhere!”
Me: “You were cheating at Talisman? Do you have any idea how sad that is?”
Cheating Bastard: “Oh come on it’s a game.”
Me: “Yes a game you were cheating at.”
Cheating Bastard: “It’s a game you big baby. What’s the matter Ab3? Is your ego so broken you can’t stand losing? Do you bitch and whine over chutes and ladders too?”
Me: “This is without a doubt the stupidest argument I’ve ever had.”
El Disgusto: “What about the time I said that Doctor Who could regenerate into a woman?”
Me: “Hey! Don’t you start!”
A knock at the door interrupted me before I could remind El Disgusto that the protagonist of the TV show DOCTOR WHO was called ‘The Doctor’ not ‘Doctor Who’. Deviant Boy got up to answer it.
Me: “Oh look. The police- again.”
Deviant Boy: “Were we too loud officers?”
Blobert Smith: “Perhaps so. My battle cry is a high pitched keening thing.”
Police Officer #1: “Do you two idiots have any idea how tired we are of having to come over here?”
Collateral Darren: “Since our taxes pay your salary I think you should be a little more respectful.”
Police Officer #2: “Respectful or not we have a warrant for your arrest.”
Deviant Boy: “I knew those bootleg copies of BIG BAD MAMA would be the end of us.”
Police Officer #1: “No actually this is because he’s been passing bad checks under an assumed name.”
Police Officer #2: “Yes apparently you bought hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise from a local game store with checks belonging to a Skippy Vanderhausen.”
Collateral Darren: “I think you’re very mistaken.”
Police Officer #1: “Who knows you might have gotten away with it if you hadn’t posted a notice looking for players for something called ‘BATTLETECH’ with your real name and address at the bottom.”
Police Officer #2: “I just hope you’re going to come along quietly this time.”
Collateral Darren: “I hope you realize that we’re in the middle of a game here. Maybe you should come back later. I’d hate to have to contact your supervisor.”
Police Officer: #1: “The pepper spray it is then.”
Collateral Darren: “IEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!”
Police Officer #2: “Now what is the deal with all these milk crates?”
Deviant Boy: “I think I can explain…”
Needless to say the Talisman game and accessories were taken in as evidence, so were the milk crates. Collateral Darren, Deviant Boy and Cheating Bastard were all arrested. Cheating Bastard might have gone home that night if he hadn’t loudly started to argue that some of the Talisman cards were actually his and the police couldn’t take them unless they could tell him what the ‘elements of theft’ were. The rest of us stood outside the apartment each of us reeked of pepper spray, bleach and frustration.
Me: “Well here we are again.”
Asenath: “This is the part of our evenings I never missed.”
Blobert Smith: “Perhaps my lady I might be able to offer you a ride home in my Goth-mobile.”
El Disgusto: “It’s a Ford Escort!”
Asenath: “Oh Blobby, I don’t know. I mean I think maybe we both still need some space.”
Blobert Smith: “Space? Why should we allow space to separate us when our bodies want nothing more than to congeal together into a pulsing sensual mass? Join me in my car and after ice cream we will park near the airport and as your feet press against the back window, my body will crash against yours again and again like a fleshy surf breaking against the coastline of your womanhood.”
Rehab Boy: “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!”
We stood there for a moment watching Rehab Boy run screaming into the night.
Old Yellowbelly: “I have a funny feeling he’s going to lose those sobriety chips tonight.”
El Disgusto: “Hey was supposed to be my ride home. Nice going fart-knocker. Which of you losers is going to drive me home?”
Old Yellowbelly: “I would but my car is full of Amway merchandise.”
Me: “I’d rather have hot lead poured in my navel.”
Blobert Smith: “I had planned to wander shirtless through a disused cemetery in tribute to my ennui. You could wait in the car if you like…”
El Disgusto: “Screw that and screw you. Especially you Ab3.”
Me: “Bye now.”
I watched him trudge off and disappear into the shadows.
Blobert Smith: “I must go as well, the broken mausoleum of my dreams awaits.”
Old Yellowbelly: “Yeah I better get home too, I’ve got to get up early anyway.”
Me: “What do you do for a living anyway?”
Old Yellowbelly: “I’m a security guard at a bank.”
Me: “Oh my Lord.”
Blobert Smith and Old Yellowbelly drove off. I suddenly began to feel strangely uncomfortable. I could feel Asenath’s eyes on me. I gave her an uncertain smile.
Asenath: “Well its just us.”
Me: “Well what are you going to do now? Are you going to wait for Deviant Boy or something?”
Asenath: “Hell no. We are the past tense, besides he and Blobert were too needy.”
Me: “Oh? Oh really?”
Asenath: “I am a woman that knows what she wants and what I want is a real man.”
Me: “How very assertive.”
Asenath: “So I think you know what you’ve got to do here.”
Me: “Look I’m really flattered but I’m just not… I mean it’s not the baby arm thing… not that I’m disturbed by it …it’s just that I still believe in love and I know you’re not the one… I mean sure every other girl I ever thought was the one was actually crazy or mean or both so what the Hell do I know… but what I’m trying to say is that I just don’t –”
Asenath: “What the Hell are you talking about? I was trying to get you to leave so Weasly and I can be alone.”
Me: “I... what? Weasly’s still here?”
Weasly Crusher: “Dude, I’m standing right beside you.”
Me: “Oh. Oh my God this is so embarrassing.
Asenath: “Can you go and be embarrassed somewhere else please?”
Me: “Yeah. Yeah sure.”
I practically ran to my car and headed back to my apartment. My roommate was still out, probably on a hot date. Alone in my bedroom I fired up my word processor. It was a suitcase sized affair with elements of an electric typewriter in the back and an amber monitor roughly the size of a paperback novel in the front. Saving and proofreading my stories on little 3.5 floppy disks made me feel like I was truly a part of the computer age. I would feel very different about it a year or so later when the damn thing broke down and I discovered that hundreds of pages of stories were now saved in a specialized format that only that model number of word processor could read. Did I mention it wasn’t made any more?
In no time at all I had lost myself in my latest novel in progress, it was about a group of D&D players who end up having to face a dragon in the real world. I was quite happy with some parts of the story, the funny parts were thankfully kind of funny and the strange parts were pretty strange but whenever I got to the part where the protagonists banded together to win the day the story fell apart. I tried approaching the story from another angle but instead of saying things like “We can do this guys!” or “This is our moment!” my subconscious kept feeding me dialogue like “Ha-ha you suck!” and “Maybe if you just banged a few chicks and cleared out your snorkel once in a while you might be a little less miserable.”
I paused and wondered for a moment what Weasly and Asenath were up to at that very moment but my mind refused to let those images linger. Still though, I had to wonder, were they behaving the way twenty-something’s should be behaving? Was I missing out because I was holding out for an ideal instead of sowing my wild oats?
Did I even have any wild oats to sow? On a night like this I sure didn’t feel like it. I just felt like a punchline, I always felt like a punchline and in a way it was kind of funny, all my life I had been a class clown but sometimes I felt desperate with the need for someone to take me seriously.
Thinking of all the dating disasters I had endured over the last few years I wondered how differently they might have gone if I had been a little more like Deviant Boy and a little less like me. Was I following my heart when I should have been following my prostate?
I have to admit but I had to wonder what it would feel like to break someone’s heart. I always imagined it gave the same kind of satisfaction a Dungeon Master received after plunging a freshly minted player character into a pit trap filled with acid.
Everyone from bosses to my grandmother had always told me that the secret to love was to treat every princess like a whore, that the worse you were to someone you liked the more they would cling to you. They always told me things like “That’s how the game is played.” But I had never had any intention of using that particular rules set.
Now however on the cusp of my twenty-fifth birthday that game was looking better and better.
Annoying Girl’s phone number was in my wallet, I pulled it out and stared at it for a long good while. Would it be so bad – so Lawful Evil? A girl like her… a fat girl … she had to be used to spending her nights alone. She might be glad of a little attention.
And after I used her and never called her again I would know what it felt like to leave someone feeling like the fool. She would be the one waiting by the phone for a call that never came- she would be the one wondering what she could have done wrong. She would be the one left hanging.
I liked the idea because as I writer I knew there was nothing worse than to be left hanging, to be left wondering what was going to happen next.