The Hold (part two)
A tap, tap made him look behind.
“See the phone? If you need anything, pick it up. Operator.”
A bunch of greens fell in a stack, and poofed off, with a shimmery sound effect; more fell, and a solid brick wall of reds formed itself at the bottom. A blue fell, making every red it touched vanish, dropping lower into a little field of green. Keneliot put a fingertip on the square. Every green shimmered away, and a points tally scrolled up lower right.
Stupid, he said to himself.
Something happened then, two blues collided in the corner, a siren noise, and:
“Sorry, Guest, you lose. Start over?”
He wheeled around in his chair, eyed the wall phone, thinking of coffee. He caught a glimpse of a security camera. This was all, he reminded himself, an act of goodwill, this participation in the idiot things they did, and wanted you to do, too. If he’d come to the House with a coterie of friends, instead of a couple of snoozy oldsters, maybe he’d blow off the little obligations. But the sooner you get serious committee work, the sooner you get to wield power.
Okay. Noble was remote-watching him fart around right now, rolling eyes again; marking a demerit—“This guy doesn’t get national security.” Keneliot walked his chair close, and hunched, concentrating. Someone speeds you through a tutorial and leaves the room, you may as well figure you haven’t been told half the stuff…
He touched the button.
Which had to be cute: Let’s Go!
Look out for the blues. As with all such games, it was the way things fell when a section of the grid cleared, that created pitfalls. Just when the blue was surrounded by green, some critical mass of reds would form and trigger a wipeout; the blue, as your finger lighted, was suddenly beside a rogue.
He started grooving into it, going up to Level 2. In less time, Level 3. The whole thing seemed Zen mode; he saw no distinction between 3 and 1, other than points. He got quicker at spotting the blues. He started thinking, the back of his minding freeing itself to wander, about the 1980s. Kidhood. The name given him by his mother was Ken-Eliot. Friends he’d grown up with were John-Michael, Sean-Thomas…trend of the times. In high school, the hyphen had got to seem girly.
And it’s an okay thing, as he always quipped, if people can’t figure out how your name’s pronounced. You get to say it twice…in every interview, every Town Hall Q & A. It’s axiomatic voters go for the familiar.
But, he’d always signed the cards sent to the hospital, Ken-Eliot. He thought it pleased her. Well, validated her being right. She was a good lady, his Mom, he loved her. But she’d wanted to be right about things, she hadn’t had…he told this in his stories…any time of day for backtalk, or workarounds for established house rules.
(2019, Stephanie Foster)