Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Entry #13

May 4th, 2009 by Wordsman


“So,” said Dave, as he rose slowly from the couch and backed away a couple of steps.  “It’s come to this.”

“It has,” agreed Jordan.  He followed suit, leaving the two of them standing at opposite ends of the coffee table, fiercely staring each other down.

“Well?” said Dave after a tense couple of silent minutes.  “Why don’t you start it?”

Jordan shook his head gravely.  “This is a sacred rite,” he said.  “It must be started by a neutral party to be legitimate.”

“Fine.”  Dave glanced around the room, and, failing to find someone who could be neutral on the basis of liking them both equally, fell back on the alternative: someone who disliked them equally.  “Hey Jon!” he shouted in the direction of the staircase.

The walls and floors of the apartment were not terribly thick, so they could hear a couple of muffled curse words before the upstairs door swung open.  “What?” Jon called back.

“Could you come down here for a sec?  We need you.”

There was a brief pause, during which Jon calculated the odds of this problem simply going away if he ignored it.  When the answer came out to be somewhere less than zero, he began his usual angry stomp down the stairs.  “This had better be quick,” he grumbled as he entered the living room.  “This ten-page paper I’m working on is due tomorrow, I hope you know.”

“It will only take a moment,” said Jordan.  “We need you to start.”

“Start?” Jon asked, his natural curiosity overcoming his better judgment.  “Start what?”

“The duel,” Dave explained.

Jordan and Dave were locked in that age-old struggle: who would get control of the television?  Dave wanted to watch a movie on the DVD player.  Jordan wanted to watch one of his favorite TV programs.  Being poor college students, of course, they only had the one television set and, even more importantly, the one couch.  Only one man could have his way.  They had tried to come up with a peaceful solution, but in the end all negotiations failed.  The only thing left was to fight it out, each man wielding the emblem (remote control) of the side he was championing.  The last one left standing would rule the TV . . . until the next time the two of them came into conflict.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Jon.  It was hard to decide which was worse: the fact that his roommates were actually going to fight each other over something as trivial as who got to pick what to watch, or that this monumentally foolish waste of time had to involve him.  “This is going to be really loud, isn’t it?  I’ll never get my paper done now.”

“We duel in silence,” said Jordan.

Jon was familiar with the phrase.  They played foosball “in silence,” which generally only ended up being about as loud as a jumbo jet landing next door.  But he had headphones, he had blankets to stuff under the door, he could pretend that the building was vibrating because of an earthquake.  And it wasn’t like things would go any better for him if he refused.  “So you just want me to say ‘En garde’ or something?” he asked resignedly.

“No,” said Dave.  “Do we look French to you?  You have to say ‘Fight,’ but you need to do it in a really cool way.”

“Fight,” Jon said in his most apathetic, tranquilizing tone.

“That’s no good,” said Dave, shaking his head.  “Say it like you’re some ninja kung fu master guy.”

“Fight-oh?” Jon tried.

This must have been good enough, because Jordan immediately lunged at Dave, who only barely managed to deflect the blow.  “You have fun with that,” Jon grumbled, though they were no longer listening.  “And could you at least try not to break anything?” he added as he went back up the stairs.

“I have the advantage,” said Jordan, as he swung his weapon in a broad arc over the table.

“Oh really?” said Dave, as he ducked and rolled around to the back side of the couch.  “How’s that?”

They had said that the fight would take place in silence, but that was only for Jon’s benefit; trash talking was a major component of the battle.  The Television Rite of Succession Duel, as it was known, was a serious affair, to be sure, but nowhere near as serious as a game of foosball, and thus it could be safely interrupted by talk.

“I have the larger weapon,” Jordan answered.  “Greater reach.”  He made a sweeping cut downward and almost caught Dave on the rebound when his arm deflected off the soft back of the couch.

“Hey, guys!” yelled Jon.  “I’m going to the library!  I’ll be back later!”  No one noticed.

“That may be true,” said Dave, “but my weapon is lighter, more nimble.  I can get in several attacks to every one of yours.”  He tried to demonstrate this by spinning around and getting in a few quick jabs, but Jordan retreated while attacking with a grace that belied his size.

The battle raged on for several more minutes, finally ending when Jordan, in a questionable maneuver, body slammed the couch to try to pin Dave.  He lost his weapon, allowing Dave the easy win with a tap on the forehead.  This brought the lifetime record to 23-20-2.

“There,” said Dave, “now we can finally . . . hey!  What’s going on?”

The television was already on and showing a nature program.  The letters “REC” featured prominently in the corner.  “Jon must have set it to record something,” Jordan said hollowly.

“Do you know how to make it stop?” asked Dave, pressing buttons frantically.

Jordan stared at his remote, as if realizing for the first time that it could be used for something other than combat.  “I don’t.”

They gazed at the television, out of their control until Jon came back.  “Truly,” said Dave, “we have been outmaneuvered by a master.”

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