Melinda loved to play
Her friend Stan Keaton had
told her - of all things - about the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, and
how it applied to real life. For Melinda, it boiled down to this simple
fact: It is difficult, if not impossible, to watch your own behavior
directly. Behavior changes it's nature when observed. Your life becoming a
series of self-referential and inconsequential acts. Or your actions and
thoughts come to a complete halt, leaving you hanging there, disoriented and
Melinda had been practicing a detachment technique that Stan had taught her. He had used it for years, he said, as a way of monitoring his writing. (Stan seemed to know about everything. Susan had no idea just how lucky she was.) The process involved assigning a small portion of the consciousness to the role of what he called 'The Reporter'. That was Stan's name for the assigned segment, but she liked it well enough to adopt it for herself. The Reporter's job was to remember Melinda for Melinda when Melinda remembered to remember herself. She would catch glimpses of herself via the Reporter and retrieve a thought or action to record in her journal.
Melinda's Journal existed
on a 3.5" diskette, currently inserted into her piece-of-shit government
computer's A: drive. She had fourteen backup disks stored at home. Her
journal wasn't all that long, but in the time since she had committed
herself to keeping it, Melinda would save a copy whenever she felt that her
psychic narrative seemed to be shifting. Paper copies were printed at least
once a week.
Not being able to win at
Solitaire, not even being able to return to a zero balance, that was the
risk Melinda faced, and she faced it every day. She had to play the game in
order to psychically begin her day, and the longer she had to wait to get
started, the more anxious she would become. She knew that she couldn't begin
playing before she showed up for work because it might prevent her from ever
arriving. She knew from this from experience. It had happened to her
If Melinda scored fifteen cards or more, she won the hand and could add $25 to her bottom line. This meant that her bottom range could not drop below minus $125. You were already on your way.
A clean sweep was worth $50 against her bottom line, bringing it up to minus $100. Playing all fifty-two cards also allowed her to reduce the number of cards she need to declare an official win - after the first sweep, she only needed fourteen cards to claim her next victory.
A final score of minus $150 ordained a potentially disastrous day. It might not be probable, but it was certainly possible that with a score that low something truly awful might befall her. Anything could happen at those depths. Deck after deck, card after card, the game took real time off her life. She was afraid to measure it.
On the flip side, Melinda also had the possibility of good fortune. Amounts in the positive range would portend an increasingly good day. If her final score reached plus $150, it also meant that anything could happen. Magic!
In theory, a score of zero, or close to zero, meant a day untouched by the fates, a normal day. By not playing the game, you would automatically have a zero sum game and the day would be under control. Or not under control. But this outcome could not happen. It was against the rules.
What would actually happen
at the game's conclusion, was forever the same, regardless of whether she
won or lost. She was condemned to snap back into the world and nervously
am I doing...
The spell would be broken and she would forget the importance of the game,
shutting it down with a frown of disgust. She would not even remember to
think about what a moronic idea it was to use a computer game as a personal
oracle. She would simply have lost a slice of time, a piece of her life she
could never get back.
Melinda heard footsteps
approaching her desk and the sound of a throat being cleared. She knew that
throat. It was Lex. In a moment he would be peeking around the side of her
cubicle. Obviously, he wanted something from her. He had been here earlier,
and she had to pretend to be talking on the phone. Get set.
Because she was reluctant
to travel, citing personal reasons and filing a doctor's letter in her
personnel file, Melinda seldom had any major job responsibilities. She was
not considered a team player, no, not at all. Everyone else had to travel,
and never mind the hassle of juggling childcare and uprooting schedules.
Miss Melinda, thirty years old, childless, and single, was simply
fly. That was the word. Screw her and the horse she rode in on.
Lex is here now, arriving
on little cat feet, peeking down from above her cubicle wall, checking to
see if she was still inside of her box. Melinda worked for Lex as much as
she worked for anyone else in the office, she supposed... She was
theoretically a Supply Systems Analyst, but there was never anything for her
to analyze, and she had gradually settled into the role of an up-for-grabs