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Apologies for no HHG movie this week / Born Loser: Chapter Four

So... regular readers might have noticed that the regularly scheduled Hipster Holy Grail review that should have come out at 9:00 this morning did not, in fact, get posted.  It's a shame, too, because I actually watched a legitimately good movie for once that's worth writing about.  Despite having some rape in it.  Okay, despite being almost entirely about rape.  But, still.

I don't have any good excuses.  I simply ran out of time.

Chalk it up to my busy day job, chalk it up to having two small kids, chalk it up to planning for one of those kids' birthday parties, whatever.  Anything I might say is little more than a crappy excuse and it doesn't change the fact that I missed an update.  That's on me.  I'm sorry for anybody who might be checking in week by week to see what I'm up to, especially since I'm sure there's not many of you and I don't want y'all to go away.

Next week I'll definitely have a new movie review for you.  Until then, I wanted to make sure I posted something work reading, so I figured, why not release another chapter of my latest book, Born Loser.  If you missed it, I posted chapters one, two, and three last time I didn't have time to work on my blog, so today is more of the same.  If you like what you read, please consider dropping a couple of bucks on the Kindle version, or at least go to Amazon.com and leave me a review.

Apologies again for the lack of a legit update, and thanks to everyone who may have stopped by today.



Nobody wanted to buy a car.  “It’s risky,” Drew kept saying.  “Every license plate has to have a name attached to it.  The second somebody knows it’s your car, you’ll get drawn into the investigation.”

And because he kept saying that shit, nobody wanted to do it.  So even though we had been having Game Nights every night – usually away from Sarah’s prying eyes – and even though we were putting together all the other pieces of the puzzle, the car was still suspiciously absent.  No car = no plot.  Simple as that.
“I could just take my own car,” Clara would say.

And then the room would click their tongues or hum with anxiety.  The protest would come back: “No, no, that’s too risky.  It needs to be a car we can ditch somewhere.”

But nobody offered.  We were stuck.  And that’s when Lacey’s heart broke.

I hope you don’t read too much into this and think I’m some kind of pathetic loser here.  I mean, I know I’m a loser, but I’m not that kind of loser.  Just because a woman can’t get what she wants doesn’t mean I have to treat her like some kind of fussy child.  I get that.

It’s just that the thought of Lacey being in despair got me so deep in the gut that I couldn’t focus on anything else.  And who knows?  Maybe if I stepped up and was a hero for her in that minute, she’d pull me aside and say, “Gee, I never realized until just now how sexy your fat folds are.  Let’s screw.”

Guys do dumb shit all the time to get the attention of attractive women.  They write sappy songs, they put on stupid outfits and become actors, they go to war or protest against war.…  Why not rob a bank?

So there we were, a Thursday night meeting of the Thievery Club at Mark’s factory, and Lacey was heartbroken.  And I decided to do the single dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  I volunteered.

“I’ll get the car,” I said.  “Tomorrow morning.”

Sure enough, Lacey’s face brightened immediately.  That excitable rush of near-idiotic glee.  The game’s back on, guys!

Hell, she even said, “Thanks!”

And then Drew cut in with an abrupt, “Good.  Don’t spend too much.  We’re in this to make a profit.”

As if I didn’t know that.  That smug son of a bitch.

We went back to work sorting out the materials.  Lacey and Clara were working on our decoy – just a plain black duffel bag that they were stuffing with old gym clothes.  (Clean, of course.  We weren’t out to disgust anyone.)  Mark and Drew were going over a map of the city and putting down little Risk flags to mark the sequence of events.

There was a finance office on the ground floor of the factory where we were going to keep all of our stuff.  It was locked by a keycard – usually only Mark, Sarah, and Lacey had access, but he had grabbed a couple of extra cards for us.  Just in case.

Once we had all our gear in order, the office was locked and we came back to surround the folding table where Mark’s map was set up.

“This Saturday,” he said, his voice filled with spectacle and awe.  “You guys ready for it?”

A smattering of pumped-up truisms and half-cheers.  It was as excited as a crowd of our size and background could get without watching a game of Formula D.

“We should talk about the money,” Drew said.

“What about it?” Mark said as he folded up the map.

“How are we dividing it up?”

“Fifty thousand each?” I answered.  “Three hundred split up six ways.”

Drew shook his head.  “Nah, that doesn’t add up to me.  Not everybody’s doing the same work.”

I just gawked. I knew Drew was an asshole, but I didn’t think he’d pull this kind of stunt.  Especially this close to the action.  “How would you do it?”

“Some of us are taking more risk than others.  And some of us need the money more than others.”  He motioned to Clara and Mark.  “These two oughta get a larger cut.  Seventy-five apiece.  Then you, Lacey, and I each get forty.  And John gets thirty.”

I considered the elegant ways I could tell Drew what he could do with his plan.  Meanwhile, John was far more eloquent: “What the fuck?”

“You’re not really doing anything!” Drew said.  “You should get thirty!”

“He’s taking as much a risk as anybody else!” I whined.  “It’s his bank!”

“We’re not robbing the bank.”

“Whatever!  The point is that he’s got as much on the line as we do!”

Clara stammered.  “Sorry, guys, but Drew might have a point.  Mark and I could really use the money.”

Then Lacey turned to John and said, “Thirty thousand is still pretty good, John.”  Sensing that she wasn’t making her case, she quickly added, “There’s no tax on it.”

In a parallel universe where we were all cartoon characters, John would have had thick black smoke pouring out of his ears.  As it was, he had to settle for flared nostrils.

“Screw it,” I said.  “John, I’ll split mine with you.  Thirty-five for each of us.”

“You don’t have to do that,” Mark said, patting me on the back as if I was his son who just lost a soccer game.

But he didn’t have anything to add.  It was just the “nice” thing to say.  I guess.

“Alright,” Drew shrugged.  “Mark and Clara get seventy-five each, Lacey and I take forty, and you and John get thirty-five.  Happy?”

If you come to the table to make friends, you’re gonna lose.  I sighed.  John and I exchanged a “can you believe this bullshit?” glance, and then I said, “As happy as I can be without a six-way split.”

“Then it’s settled,” Drew said.  He scratched his nose, and then, as if we had just been discussing the weather, he said, “So are we all on for Game Night tomorrow?”

*****

That particular Game Night was actually a pretty important part of the plan.  For one thing, it gave a couple of us alibis.  For another, it kept Sarah in the dark.

It was a typical Friday for all of us.  Those of us with paying jobs toiled for people who made more money than us, and those of us with severe debts played a delicate balancing act between fearing for the future and realizing they had a nifty ace up their sleeves.

When seven o’clock hit, Sarah was almost certainly going to be getting the snack bowls set up on the folding card table in the Whittles’ living room, the way she always did.  If we didn’t show up, she’d know something was going on.  So we all went to Game Night as usual.  Just an ordinary Friday night.

Mark went a few steps ahead and invited a couple of extra heads to join us.  A few more witnesses to back up our alibis.  A few more people to distract Sarah.

He even invited Alex Berger to join us.  Fucking Berger.

Man, anytime I thought Drew was an asshole, all I had to do was spend two minutes listening to Berger go on about his stupid organic rooftop garden and his Indigo Child sister.  I didn’t think it was possible to meet somebody who could be both a self-centered materialist and a douchebag hippie, but Berger found a way.

“What is that, the Glenfiddich?” he sneered, seeing me pour more of Mark’s booze in a glass.  “I prefer the Glauschenweitz myself.”  Then, a cupped hand to his mouth and a smarmy twang on his brow, he said, “Not many people know this, but Germans make the best whiskey.  You should let me buy your scotch next time.”

I downed the Glenfiddich and poured another while undressing Berger’s wife with my eyes.  She was just as irritating as he was and not especially attractive, but maybe if I hit on her it would piss him off….

“Anyway,” he said, popping a pretzel and chewing with his mouth open, “you up for another round of Innovation?  Ready for another clinic?”  Then he started laughing.

I had to walk away.

Berger didn’t mind.  He just moved on to his next victim – in this case, Mark - and started talking about his job and his opinions and why Joss Whedon is basically just the New Shakespeare, a theory for which he had several spreadsheets.  It didn’t actually matter if Mark was listening.  Berger was unstoppable.

I found myself plopping down at the game table between Clara and John, the only others who had taken up a station.  Clara was looking over a pad of paper and poking the eraser end of a pencil into her mouth, contemplating the pad carefully.  John, in the meantime, just sat there in a spaced-out daze.

“You need to talk more,” Clara said, poking John in the shoulder with the pencil while still staring at her list.  “You’ll give us away.”

John brushed the pencil away with his fingertips.  “I’m just thinking,” he said.

“Well, don’t.  I’m doing that.”  Clara pulled the pencil back and pointed it at the pad, running through what seemed to be a checklist.

“Is that for tomorrow?” I asked.

She nodded.  “Just trying to be prepared.”

I whispered back, “That could be evidence.  Maybe not a good idea?”

“Preparation is everything,” Clara said dismissively.  “You can’t leave anything to chance.”

She would know.  Clara and David had each been preparing for the apocalypse ever since they were in high school.  Funny that they still bothered to open a business.  But then again, I’ve never tried to figure out that mentality.

“You guys think Sarah knows?” John asked, as quietly as he could.

Sarah sat down across from us with a fresh bowl of popcorn.  “Hey, guys!” she beamed, a perpetual source of energy and light.  “What’s up?  Whatcha working on, Clara?”

Clara set the paper down and said, “David and I are buying a bug-out cabin in the woods.  You know.  Just in case.”

“Oh,” Sarah nodded, having no clue what Clara was talking about.

“I’m just making a shopping list,” Clara continued, ripping the top sheet off the pad and shoving it into her pocket.  “Bullets and water and stuff like that.”

“Sure,” Sarah said wanly.

Only Clara could cover up a crazy scheme with an even crazier scheme.

One by one, the rest of the guests gathered around the table as we set up Mark’s copy of Bruges.  We exchanged the usual jibes and jokes.  And I drank.

Then John got up and used the bathroom, and Berger sat right next to me.

So I drank.

And I drank more.

And then Berger said, “Did I tell you guys about my sister’s power?  She can predict the weather with only her knee and a book of matches.”

And I drank some more.

I drank so much that I started to play shittily.

And that was good – because, for once in my life, I had a good reason to get drunk.

Eventually they would need to clear out the house, and I needed a good, natural reason to leave my car at Mark’s house.  Being drunk was the perfect excuse.  So while Berger prattled on about his genius decision to start wearing flannel underwear and how much he was helping the environment, I imbibed like there was no tomorrow.

By midnight, I could barely stand up on my own.  Sarah, always the gracious, non-judgmental hostess (who probably secretly told Mark that I had a problem and he needed to talk to me about it), offered to drive me home.

She pulled into the parking garage at my apartment building and let me out by the elevator.  “You okay?” she asked.  “Need me to walk up with you?”

“Naaaaahhgotit,” I said, and I staggered out of the car.  I basically remember getting from there to my bed.  I think.  What I know for sure is that Sarah waited until I was inside the building before she left.  The kindest soul I ever met, that one.  I can’t think of a single bad thing to say about Sarah.

I suppose it’s poetic, in some way, that Sarah was the last person I talked to before I went to bed on Friday night.  The weekend that followed was the worst one in my life.