The Reporter Speaks
Melinda doesn't have to think about it in a direct manner, but it is more
than obvious that there are some decks which are friendlier than others. She
is playing the robot deck at the moment. The Robots were a hard group to
figure out, their allegiance seeming to shift from day to day. Melinda would
be relieved when she could move on to the Roses. The problem was that you
werenít allowed to move on to the next deck until you lost control of the
current one. Two losses in a row were required for a change of deck.
For five straight games, Melinda had been able to play eleven or
twelve cards, resulting in a total increase of twenty-two dollars, and no
movement in her bottom line. She was going nowhere. She knew what would
happen momentarily - on the next hand, probably - a complete wipeout,
fifty-two dollars in the hole.
Soon she would be able to move on to the deck with the Roses.
Saturday morning had started out well. Melinda had begun her game early,
fresh out of bed, flannel nightgown and steaming coffee. She picked up an
empty pack of cigarettes and threw it into the trashcan. Game one.
She started her game with the deck that has no name, the deck
featuring a partial arm and hand held high against a sunshine yellow
background, the hand stupidly revealing three aces.
She managed to play sixteen cards, which brought her bottom line up to
minus $125. Her cash reserve stood at $28.
Melinda looked around the room. The floor was chaotic with a week of
clothes. The surface of her dresser and desk were covered with short-term
history: dishes, cups, papers, makeup... Her schoolgirl outfit from Tuesday
night was still draped across the back of a chair. She balled up the long
white socks from her uniform and threw them into the laundry basket. Game
Game two is a break even, ten cards, minus three bucks.
Melinda opened up her CitiCorp bill, pulled a checkbook from her J.
Tiras Lizard Fringe Handbag, and scribbled in the Pay to line, the dollar
box, and the alphanumeric amount line. Game three.
Game three is a very quick slam, fifty-two cards played just like
lightning. This is thrilling. Melinda is now up to $233 in reserve cash, and
her bottom line has risen to minus $75.
A slam, however, negates the move to game four; she must return to
game three once again.
Melinda filled in the date, memo and signature
portion of the check
Game three once again. Playing fourteen cards will now produce a
victory. Incredibly, she runs the deck for a second time, bringing her
bottom line to minus $25 and her cash total up to $441.
Time stops. It remains game three. Melinda tears the check out of her
checkbook, stuffs it in the envelope along with the bill, and licks the
envelope. She gets ready to deal a new hand when suddenly The Reporter
chimes in, sending her the following message: 'Look at what you are doing'.
"Who's there," she whispers, and on a gut level that she is not about
to acknowledge, there is the unsettling realization that what she really
means is ''Who am I?'
Melinda sits very still and tries hard to think about The Reporterís
message, tries to capture the scenario and keep the specifics in her head,
but in no way is she really able to think about anything.
ďWhat am I supposed to be looking at?Ē she asks aloud.
This is what I keep doing, she understands with a touch of panic.
Repeating, repeating. I am caught up in a trance. How do I get out of it? Am
I out right now? If I'm thinking about the trance, then I must be out of it.
I have got to bring this sickness to a stop. There is nothing to see. This
has go to be controlled. Why does this have to be controlled?
Melinda wants to start writing about this unexpected stream of thought
in her journal, but when she checks her purse, she remembers that she forgot
to bring her damn disk home. Itís not as if she can just start writing on
one of her backup journals. That would interrupt the flow of the narrative
and destroy the integrity of the whole history. Melinda briefly considers
driving in to work and retrieving the diskette from her piece-of-crap
government computer. She imagines getting inside of her car and steering it
down the highway.
No, that might not be safe.
Melinda opens up a new document. She is trying her best to
concentrate. The disembodied arm with the three aces. There is a storm
occurring inside her, which she is attempting to notice.
She can paste whatever she writes on this blank document into her
current journal on Monday. It doesnít seem like the right thing to do. It
requires an effort. She begins to write.
'I am compelled to perform actions in ever increasing increments. 1 2
3 4 5. I am noticing this. Everything is lined up just so. I seem to be
caught up in the control of numbers. When I was a teenager, I used to
deconstruct words in my mind for fun. I would take a word, say Deconstruct ,
and I would break it down into all of it's component words. Deco, eco, con,
construct, on. Only five points in the word deconstruct. I did that with
word after word. It made it hard to read. I had trouble paying attention to
meaning. When did I stop? Did I stop?'
'Rest me now, all of this has nothing to do with playing solitaire.
Itís not like Iím having fun. Where did this elaborate scheme come from? Why
would I just make it up? I'm not playing the cards anymore, the cards are
'I'm trancing out.'
'Someone is inside of me'.
Melinda reads her words back, they don't sound as though they have even the
slightest ring of truth. I am such a little drama queen, she tells herself.
The words could be true. They certainly donít sound true.
Purposefully, Melinda takes a self-adhesive stamp and puts it on the
envelope of her CitiCorp bill, then fills out the three lines for the return
address on the envelope. That's seven total actions, if you count the three
that she performed before she started writing that stupid entry for her
journal. Seven actions. She is not captive to this numbers scheme at all.
Dumb. What a paranoid thought.
Game three again. This was ugly. She pulls one Ace off of the initial
deal, and that was the game. Lost $47. Balance $397. Plenty of money left.
Game four coming.
Do four things.
Melinda has absolutely no intention of doing four things. She walks
into the kitchen and puts at least a dozen forks, knives and spoons into the
dishwasher. There were many more utensils for later games.
Game four. Melinda was still playing the partial arm deck, and it paid
out once again. Thirteen cards. That was a legitimate score for a win after
two slams. Balance $410. Her bottom line had just increase to $0. She had
already achieved guaranteed neutral, with plenty of cash left to spend.
This was something special. It was early in the morning, and she might
soon have earned the entire day for herself. A bright, promising day.
Do five things.
Melinda did zero things. Melinda started to deal a new game, then
froze in her seat. There were distinct conflicting voices in the room and
she was aware of them as though for the first time. She knew from her depths
that this was not the first time.
One voice told her to play the winning game. You can do it, you must
One voice told her to go and do five more things. 1 2 3 4 5. Right
One voice told her to walk down the street and into the river. Now,
The Reporter said 'watch'.
Melinda said 'Ohhh Jesus'.
What do you think about when you can't let yourself think?
Melinda sat motionless, facing the monitor for a full six minutes. The
voices were buzzing around in her head. She could no longer make out the
individual words. They ricochetedÖ
Melinda snapped to attention, felt her clammy forehead with the back
of her hand, and shook a Kool Mild out of a half empty pack. She dreamily
reached down and turned off her computer at the power strip without first
shutting it down.
The game was gone.
Melinda walked into the kitchen and pulled out a nearly full bottle of
Inglenook Blush wine. She filled up a juice glass decorated with little
oranges, and washed down a multi-vitamin. The wine was so cool, so nice.
She filled the glass again and washed down an Orange Bayer Baby
Aspirin. Her journal updates were gone and forgotten. They had vanished with
a click of the power switch. Mmmm.
She filled her glass again and washed down an Omega-3 and two Ginko
tablets. So cool, so nice.
She took a deep drag on her cigarette, sucking until it had burned
almost down to the filter, then pulled up the hem of her nightgown and
extinguished the smoldering butt on her upper thigh. She inhaled sharply
through clenched teeth.
'I sound like a snake', she thought. The voices were gone.
She took a long steaming shower, endless, and when she emerged, the
morning was gone.