The Reporter Speaks                                               GREEN  4.2

      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 two.
      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 playing me.'
      'I'm trancing out.'
      'Someone is inside of me'.

      When 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 do it.
      One voice told her to go and do five more things. 1 2 3 4 5. Right now.
      One voice told her to walk down the street and into the river. Now, bitch.
      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.


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