Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Super Pole

The past few weeks the game was at the heart of the school. It wasn't just the center of the player's lives, that's all they spoke about anyway. The numbers oriented kids calc'd percentages and ran the books. Well, Mr. Thistleton ran the books, but his brightest students were the ones that actually handled things, talked with people, moved money. The kids more inclined to reading and writing played it up like they weren't interested, but they'd all be there when the game was on. Brandon Kingston was privately obsessed with the game, but his friends spoke of it like PETA speaks of bacon.

The game was like the moon. Like clockwork every year it would pull in the tide of excitement, the energy would peak, and slowly it would fade away. It would get to the point where people wouldn't even think about it. Sometimes even the players would get distracted by a television show or a party. The game was like Christmas.

Deborah (Deb) Johnson was one of the, alright let's be honest here, she was the only person in the entire school that could not be less interested in the game. Ralph Bitter had left her 'cause he said she was taking up too much of his time. He had to focus. Jane and Pat get along just fine, and Pat's one of the better players, she said. Jane and Pat both play, he responded. And they're both guys.

She knew others that worked it out, even some that thrived because of the game. Granted, they were generally miserable together when the game was a ways off, and that's probably because they had to spend time together, but that was neither here nor there. Nancy and Kyle were a bright couple always. Deb only knew of one fight they had been in, and it was really kind of a sweet one involving one set of parents wanting to move away.

Anyway, she didn't want to bring it up. She knew it wasn't worth it. Ralph had made his decision, and she kind of guessed he wasn't that fond of her anyway. The game was probably just an excuse.

So she had her mom call her in sick the day of the game. The receptionist said she was particularly sorry that you had to be sick on this day of all days, her mother said. She knows it's a big day for everyone at the school, and she said she's rooting particularly hard for Ralph. I guess she doesn't know we've broken up, Deb thought. That woman's a worse gossip than any one of the students. And I'm sure she's rooting harder for Pat, Reyna said she's got a lot of money on him. Me too, I guess. Better Pat than Ralph.

No, she didn't care. She was done with the whole thing. She just wanted to play Colors with Bobby, her younger brother. She didn't actually, but Bobby wasn't old enough to know anything about the game. Not yet anyway. He'd grow up to win one year, but she didn't know that. She didn't even think about that, or Bobby at all, really. Her mind was being sucked to campus like it was an obnoxious vacuum cleaner, a powerful magnet, and a whirlpool all in one.

Bobby got bored not being paid attention to. He left to play Ring Collector on the TV. Game's got bright colors and neat sounds. He plays it too much, she thought. She went to her room and collapsed on her dark purple sheets. Her phone was on a table next to her bed blinking. She knew it would be. Friends messaging her, wondering where she was. Giving her updates on who was winning, who got knocked out. They were all still very excited. It's not that they were inconsiderate of Deborah's feelings, it was just the game. That's all they could think to talk about.

She closed her eyes, but she could never really sleep during the daytime. The lights were off, but the sun made it's presence well known through her curtains. She felt like she could see the blinking light on her phone through her eyelids, though she definitely couldn't. She picked up the phone to swipe through the messages so they said read. She told herself she wasn't going to read any of the texts. She did.

Jane was doing better than Pat. That was interesting. Hopefully that doesn't ruin whatever they have together, she thought. Pat's a pretty proud guy and they're cute together. Kyle lost to Brandon. Who's Brandon? I don't think I knew of a guy at the school named Brandon who played. Kingston? No, couldn't be. He hangs out with Fred and James. Ralph didn't make it in today, she read. She then read it aloud. Ralph didn't make it in today. We don't know why.

Good, she thought. Good.