The Hold (part two)
A tap made him look behind.
“See the phone? If you need anything, pick it up. Operator.”
A bunch of greens fell in a stack, then poofed off, with a shimmery sound effect. More fell, and a solid brick wall of reds formed itself at the screen’s bottom. A blue fell, making every red it touched vanish, dropping lower into a little field of green. Keneliot touched a fingertip to the square. Each green vapored, and a points tally scrolled up, lower right.
Stupid, he said to himself.
Something happened then, two blues collided in a corner. A siren noise, and:
Sorry, Guest, you lose. Start over?
He wheeled his chair back, 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. If he’d come to the House to join a coterie of friends, instead of a couple of snoozy oldsters, maybe he’d blow off these little obligations. But the sooner you got serious committee work, the sooner you got cameras on your face.
Fine… Noble was remote-watching him fart around right now, rolling his eyes, marking a demerit.
Keneliot walked his chair close to the table, flexed his elbows and concentrated. He touched Yes. Again, the message looked friendly and felt condescending.
Okay, Guest. 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, the second your finger lighted, sat suddenly beside a rogue.
But he started grooving into it, getting to Level 2. In less time, Level 3. The whole thing seemed like Zen mode; he could see no distinction between 3 and 1, other than points. He got quicker at spotting the blues. He started thinking, the back of his mind freeing itself to wander, about the 80s. Kidhood. The name given him by his mother. Friends he’d grown up with were John-Michael, Sean-Thomas…
Ken-Eliot fit the trend of the times. By high school, the hyphen got to seem girly. And, as he always quipped, if people can’t figure out how your name’s pronounced, you get to say it twice, three times.
In every interview, every Town Hall. It’s axiomatic that voters go for the familiar.
But he always had signed the cards he sent to the hospital, Ken-Eliot. He thought it pleased her. She was a good lady, his Mom. He loved her. She wanted to be right about things, she hadn’t had…he told this in his stories…any time of day for backtalk. She allowed no workarounds for established house rules.
(2019, Stephanie Foster)