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Deal 1008: Standard Story

Once upon a time, the standard collection of three brothers were assigned the usual set of pointless tasks.

The oldest brother, being at all times the biggest and knowing himself to be the smartest, took no care at all. His task was completed swiftly, but without any wisdom was not completed well. Worse, his actions had offended the richest man in the kingdom, and he was soon served with a suit for his troubles. As the case progressed, it became clear to all that he had failed miserably.

The middle brother, often ignored, took up his lute and spent his time at music, letting his assigned task languish as he pursued his art. He spent many hours of many days in many inns and clubs. He chased elusive sounds. He chased a true love. He found many things to be happy about, and in time found himself married with a enough children to fill out his band. In due time, he died as he lived, a happy man surrounded by the joy he brought to all around him. And yet, as these stories go, he too must be judged a failure for he had ignored the arbitrary task that fate (or the Author) had assigned him.

The youngest brother, going by all that is expected in this sort of story, set out diligently to accomplish his task. From time to time, stories of his one brother or the other’s fate would reach him as he sought first the tallest tree in the forest, then the sharpest herring, then some knights with weird and rude habits of accosting people and setting tasks, and finally a decent shrubbery. Along the way he was plagued by rabbits, coconuts, and swallows. Eventually, stories came to be told of his exploits, and even the Author had to admit that by the arbitrary rules in play, he had succeeded.

Except for one thing.

Where was the bat?

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Deal 1007: Stubborn Swamp

Stubbornness has always run in my family. At every turn, we’ve always turned back and tried again. This has not always ended well, lots of effort has been sunk into goals doomed to fail. And yet, occasionally the persistence pays off.

I’ve wondered at times if there is a system to it, of if the universe is just random.

I know it isn’t rewarding the “pure of thought” or “pure of mind and body” because some of those who succeeded were clearly scoring low on those scales. I mean, “chicken racing”? Really?

And “frog jumping”? Again, really?

Especially when after setting up the contest, you rig it by feeding iron slugs to your opponent’s frog. Just to win a bar bet. And then when caught red handed, you parley that into an annual event?

Some kind of strange clumsy dumb luck is clearly at work, there. Failure leads to failure, as odd stepping stones through the swamp of failure to learn, failure to succeed in industry, and failure to buy property that isn’t nearly all swamp.

And yet, somehow, the stubbornness is admirable.

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Deal 1005: Stewed Birds and Open Fire

You always want to begin with a clean workspace and a stable source of heat. If burning wood, you will need a heavy cast iron pot to spread the heat from the fire to all sides, and hold it hot as the fire burns down. You won’t need to put the pot directly in the fire, balanced at one edge is often preferred because it can be turned occasionally, or moved closer and further as wood is added and consumed.

If potatoes are handy, tuck a few at the edge of the fire, in the ashes so they don’t burn. Turn occasionally and let them roast for a while before adding them to the pot near the end.

Butter and herbs will form the base. Other fats may be used, of course. Use what is at hand as long as it isn’t rancid. Rub the bird in salt and pepper too, and brown it in the hot fat before adding anything else. If the goal is a stew and time is not on your side, you can always break the bird down into pieces that will cook quicker and render more flavor into the broth.

Of course you can even spatchcock it if you’re feeling fancy. No one really enjoys picking around the backbone anyway.

Chop a few roots, rinse ashes off your potatoes and break them into chunks, and add to the pot along with more salt and pepper and some water. If some beer is at hand that won’t be missed immediately, add it in place of half the water or so. It will cook down and make a richer broth.

If you have time to simmer them until cooked, you can always drop chunks of biscuit dough into the top of the pot. Little fluffy bombs of bread will steam in the broth in no time at all.

To serve, all you need is enough large bowls and an appetite.

More of that beer you raided for the broth would probably go well too.

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Deal 1003: Race day

At the track, I always bet on the nose. It seems disrespectful to assume that anyone wants to do anything other than win. The race for second is substantially more unpredictable, and never mind at all about the race for third. Not that I won’t occasionally protect my investment with smaller bets. But I only care about the bet to win.

They ran well today, despite the troubles. Something odd was happening out of view of the paying customers. Something hateful and ugly. It had everyone on edge. But on edge is often a good thing, so I doubled my usual investment.

Then they found that vagrant. In two places. It is never a good thing to find parts of an intruder on both sides of the track. That implies that security was way off their game. Or perhaps someone spiked their coffee again. And if someone is spiking the coffee, regulars start to worry about what else might have been spiked, and if it was just slipping a Mickey to security, or if something more serious might be going on.

But that vagrant was found in two pieces. So something a lot sharper than just a little rat poison was involved there.

But the games must go on. I’ve got an investment here, and the house doesn’t like to return bets. Much safer to assume that the situation is under control, that the event was an anomaly, and that things can proceed as usual. A few well placed hints and incentives will keep the gentlemen in blue out of the way, and avoid too many delays.

If they are causing troubles, whisper in the Mayor’s ear, and let him get the guard dogs to back down for an hour or two. It won’t hurt the dead guy too much to wait.

Or perhaps open a window and offer odds on the cause of death?

Nah, that would be more disrespectful than always betting on show.

Finally, they calmed everyone down and readied the main event. My favorite is running in the middle, but with an unfamiliar jockey. And there’s that other shoe that has been waiting to drop. That was no vagrant torn in pieces. That was my investment!

It all went downhill from there.

And now the gentlemen in blue seem to think I might be interesting to talk to too.

I’m gonna need some strong storytelling to get clear of this one.

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Deal 1001: The other side

It is safe here. It is safe here. It is safe here.

I keep telling myself that. It is safe here.

I don’t like it here. It is safe here.

I don’t like it here. The tea isn’t good. No room. I need space. It is safe here.

But I am strong. I will try to stay and be safe.

I go outside. It is safe here. But I don’t like it. And then, the mirror. The mirror frightens me. I run back inside, frantic. It is safe here. I don’t like it here.

Food is plentiful. I am warm. I avoid the mirror. It is safe here.

But I must go. I don’t like it here.

I imagine I can be safe somewhere else. It is safe here.

I sneak away. I don’t look at the mirror. It is very quiet as I sneak away.

Too quiet. Nervous in the quiet. I rustle. Quiet. It was safe there.

I am stuck on the verge. It was safe there. I don’t like it there.

This is the edge. This is the choice. I am safe there but I don’t like it there.

So I can cross the edge. Cross it. Cross it now. Fast. Fast. Cross it fast. The possibilities are limitless.

I was safe there. But I was captive. I’m not safe here.

Why did I go?

I am free.

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Deal 1000: Matchups

The “greatest contest of all time!!!!!” they billed it. With enough exclamation marks to fill the page, to boot. Enough to fill the arena in any case. Poor typography aside, people from all walks of life had realized that something unusual was up, and rationally or not decided to attend.

The warm up bouts were clearly designed to disguise the true purpose. Sure, they were amusing, but that was all they were.

Moose vs. Squirrel could only end one way, and the bout was indeed predictably short. Squirrel won it decisively and swiftly, flying in all directions at once, and leaving Moose in a confused heap at the center changing quietly “this time for sure…”

The Stooges needed no help at all to tie themselves in knots, and then end the bout in a draw. At least that one was fun. Nosed got painted. Sticks were used vigorously on everything except heads. At one point they were moving so fast and rhythmically it was almost a Morris dance of silliness.

Finally they could put it off no longer.

The main bout was all that was left, and the crowd was wild with anticipation.

After the spectacle so far, what could possibly be waiting in the wings for the top billing?

It was announced as Mac vs. PC.

The crowd was stunned. Even more so when the two beige boxes rolled into their corners. Sure the Mac had its following, and its crisp style spoke of decades of efforts to make its design fresh and appealing. And the PC, no amount of voodoo in the world could make its lumpy beige box become interesting. Then the transformation happened before our eyes, and it became clear that this was all a proxy war between Jobs and Gates, seeking to resolve some kind of personal vendetta. The crowd was on the edge of its seats. Not just with excitement, but also with some sort of let-down feelings. After the long build-up, there was no possible match that would have satisfied their blood lust.

Possibly save for Coyote vs. the Acme Company’s R&D department.

Oh, who one the big bout you ask?

Well I’m certainly not telling. You’ll have to buy the pay per view and watch it yourself to see the answer!

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Deal 999: Lifted

The dirty rat just stood there and stared. At first, we worried that we had bitten off more than we could chew, but as we circled him and stared, we began to envy his cool demeanor. He didn’t flinch. Nor did he seem easily distracted. Not that that prevented the lightest fingered among us from relieving him of his wallet, watch, and gun.

Gun. Now that was a surprise. Someone carrying a concealed handgun and seemingly unaware that a pack of feral kids might be willing to risk lifting it. Clearly it wasn’t serving the only role he was putting it to: protection. Clearly it deserved a more careful owner too. We are happy to provide that service. For a time, at least.

At some new point in time his hand-axe was going to get too hot to handle, and would need to be artfully transformed into a weapon with an entirely different serial number. For the gun, a rebirth of sorts. And for our gang, a chance at survival for another day.

At least.

We ought to be able to live on the take from lifting that gun for a few weeks.

And the tale will be worth a few beers after that.