Annie and I sit next to each other – she with her bucket between her legs, I with my head in my lap.
Tooth gives us both the once over.
“Do you two really
think the rest of the world should be more like you?” he says.
“Why not?” Annie says.
“So you’re the standard to which all others should aspire,” Tooth says, gesturing toward the bucket as if to reiterate the Really?
“I wouldn’t go that
far,” I say.
“But you’d go part
of the way,” Tooth says.
Tooth thinks a bit.
“Ok,” he says with hand clap. “Let’s try an exercise.”
“Exercise?” Bandana says. “Been reading those psych books again?”
Tooth ignores the comment. “We’re going to have a Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament,” he announces.Just like a Laker fan.
Brings paper to a shark knife fight.
Some groan. Others look excited.
Patch scoffs. “That’s a game of luck,” he says. “There’s no skill involved.”
“Precisely,” Tooth says. “The winner will be determined entirely by chance. We need to learn to accept that winning and losing is often beyond our control.”
“I already know that,” I say.
“But you don’t handle
it well,” Tooth says.
“So you want me to feel good
about being a loser?” I say.
“Listen to how you phrased that – being a loser
,” Tooth says. “I want you to accept losing, not being a loser. Winning and losing does not define
you. You need to stop treating it like it does.” Tooth stands. “Alright, let’s begin.”
He pairs us into twos and reminds us of the rules – rock breaks scissors, scissors cut paper, paper covers rock.
“Each round will be a best of 7 series,” Tooth says, with a wink to me. Amusing.
For starters, Annie and I face off.
“You ready to rock?” I say to her.
Squinting with concentration, she puts down her bucket and nods.Rock, paper, scissors, shoot.
Now you might think I would go paper, given that Are you ready to rock?
sounds like an attempt to put rock
into her head.
Women have an inherent disrespect and distrust of men. Realizing
I’m trying to make her think rock, Annie would expect me
to go paper. To defend against this, she would go scissors.
Which she does. I go rock.
Rock breaks scissors. I’m up 1-0.
“Don’t rock the boat now,” I say.
Again with the rock. Will I go rock again? She either thinks
I will, or thinks I’m expecting her
to do so, which means I’m going rock or paper. In this case, her safest move is paper, giving her to the best odds to win or tie.
So of course, I go scissors. 2-0.
“This is strange,” I say. “On paper, you should be better than me at this.”
Now I’ve got her on the run. She hopes I’ll go paper, so she goes scissors.
I go rock instead.
I finish her off in 5.
The next round is Patch. You wouldn’t think a person playing Rock, Paper, Scissors would have a tell, but Patch does. His middle finger twitches before rock, he makes a tight fist before paper, and he opens his hand like paper before scissors. I polish him off in 6.
Finally, it’s me and tooth. Standing, he and I face each other while the rest of the group circles us like it’s Fight Club or something.The first rule of Rock, Paper, Scissors is: you do not talk about Rock, Paper, Scissors. The second rule of Rock, Paper, Scissors is: you DO NOT talk about Rock, Paper, Scissors.
I’ve never looked at Tooth quite this close before. His wisp of a beard looks like something only a 12-year-old would be proud of.
“You and me in the Finals,” he says, grinning.
As I’m staring at Tooth, trying to concentrate, I get dizzy. Something unpleasant is about to happen. I can almost feel the neurotransmitters in my brain firing in preposterous directions…
…the Finals. Seven-game series…
…colors changing…bad sound effects…
…Cirque de Soleil acrobats everywhere…
…baby bear plodding around...
…Cub Scouts with vampire teeth and blood drenched lips…
…Fiona chugging five-hour energy drinks and screaming “FREEDOM!” like Braveheart…
…Patch taking in the whole scene with an ecstatic, childlike smile on his face, screaming “THIS IS AWESOME!”…
Paul Pierce. The Truth. You can’t handle the Truth.
“So are we gonna play, or what?” The voice is dark and sinister.
The acrobats morph into Laker cheerleaders. The bear grows into Kobe Bryant. The Cub Scouts turn into…well, larger
Cub Scouts, but now their uniforms have a yellow and purple theme.
“What are we waiting for?” he says.
I’m too afraid to reply. Maybe I’m waiting for him to pull out an axe and say Heeeeeere’s Johnny!
That’s right. Him
– the most sinister, powerful, profoundly in-your-face Laker fan in the history of Earth – Jack Nicholson.
“What are we waiting for?” he says in that distinctive baritone.
My perception of him spins as if he’s staring at me from inside a front loading dryer, and when he steadies, he’s become the cartoonish Joker character he played in that 1989 Michael Keaton Batman movie.
“Tell me something, my friend,” he says. “You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”
“I always ask that of all my prey. I just like the sound of it.”
“I thought I was a Pisces.”
He smiles. I mean, in that make up he’s always
smiling, but his cheeks curl up even further with that knowing Jackness.
“Do you remember what I did at the Boston Garden in Game 7 of ’84?” he says. “When you guys stole that championship from us? You remember what I did to the Boston crowd?”He wouldn’t dare,
I think to myself. Please, if I’m hallucinating, don’t let me hallucinate that. Wake me up. Or kill me. Yes, I’ll take death over having to see Jack Nicholson’s hairy ass.
That’s right. Jack Nicholson, dressed as the Joker, moons me.
“What do you think of that?
” Jack taunts, still turned away and bent over.
I’m shaking – terrified, but also furious. I say the only thing I think could fluster Jack Nicholson.
“Heath Ledger’s Joker towered
over yours!” I say.
That bothers him.
Perhaps more than I want it to.
Jack slowly pulls up his purple trousers and faces me. He wears an expression that makes me think his eyeballs alone could end my life.
“You really want to go there?” he says.
I’m frozen. The half of me that was furious is now pee-my-pants terrified.
Jack’s next aggravated words make me tremble like I’m in an earthquake. “It was 20 years
between the two films!” he growls. “At the time, I was sinister, edgy, and cool, and you know it.”
“Yes, sir,” I say. I can’t believe I’m cowering before a man who just mooned me.Why...so...serious?
for what you just said!” Jack commands.
“I’m sorry, sir,” I say.
I can’t go out this quietly. I just can’t.
I need something.
“May I request one thing, sir?” I say. “Just one?”
Jack gives a lordly nod.
“On the rare occasions that the Lakers do
lose, could you not schmooze the winning team?” I say. “It’s really obnoxious, and it just reminds me how much better your life is than mine.”
“I know,” Jack says, unblinking. “That’s why I do it.”
He unleashes that high pitched Joker laugh, and the sound of it crumples me like I’m an old newspaper in the wind.
My vision shrinks into darkness.
Next thing I know, I’m lying on the floor with Tooth kneeling beside me. The group stands in a circle above him, looking only marginally concerned for my well-being.
“You ok, Doug?” Tooth says.
“Did I win?” I say.
“No,” Tooth says. “You went rock seven times and then fainted.”
“Seven times?” I say. “So I took it the distance.”
“Yeah,” Tooth says. “I didn’t think you’d keep going rock, but at some point I realized you were having a nervous breakdown. So…I won.”
I’m breathing slow and heavy.
“Must be…Game 7,” I say.
Tooth nods, and as he nods his face transforms back into Nicholson’s Joker.
The Joker starts to cry. His tears, dyed white with joker make up, drip onto my face.
Now I know
Jack Nicholson does not
Links: Travelling: Intro / Book Jacket
, Chapter 1: Cribbagegate
, Chapter 2: Two e-mails
, Chapter 3: Pattern
, Chapter 4: Shattered
, Chapter 5: Hilarious Pee
, Chapter 6: Suicide
, Chapter 7/8: Coaching High school, Shark attacks and appetizers
, Chapter 9: June
, Chapter 10: 18 and oh no
, Chapter 11: DNA
, Chapter 12: Peanut Butter Sandwiches
, Chapter 13: Tom Brady and the McGuffin
, Chapter 14: Game 1
, Chapter 15: Who the H is John Havlicek?
, Chapters 16 - 17
, Chapter 18: Game 2: Great White
, Chapter 19: Pickle
, Chapter 20: Marty McFly
, Chapter 21 / 22: standard deviation, all the pretty flowers
, Chapter 23: Game 3: Black Hills
, Chapter 24: Twister
, Chapter 25: Game 4
, Chapter 26: Patriotic Agony
, Chapter 27: Locusts
, Chapter 28: skype
, Chapter 29: Click
, Chapter 30: Superman
, Chapter 30: Ass Brunch Chapter 32: Mammoth
, Chapter 33: Pathetic
, Chapter 34: Purple and Gold
, Chapter 35: Chowdah
, Chapter 36: Mastermind
, Chapter 37: m&m cookie dough
, Chapter 38: taste
, Chapter 39: Dance with the Devil
, Chapter 40: Game 7
, Chapter 41: 17 to 11
, Chapter 42: One Mold
Labels: chapter 39, dance with the devil, traveling