be sure to check out Joan's latest on her website:

be sure to check out Joan's latest on her website: http://www.joanhilty.net/ (usually she updates her blog every Sunday evening but she can and will surprise you) **Special Note: all of Joan's archives are now up--almost ten years of 'bitter girl.' As Joan says, go wild!**

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ted is Dead, or The Vacation

Ted Sorenson is still asleep when the computer first addresses him.  "Mister Ted," the seductive female voice nasally intones.  "You still need to make a decision."
Ted rolls over his pillow while making an unintelligible groaning noise.
"Mister Ted," the same voice repeats.  "You've had long enough."
"Ted is dead," he replies, still mostly in the arms of Morpheus.  "Long live the king."
"Mister Ted, all of your biological signs appear normal," the voice addresses him once more.  "You realize if you don't pick we will decide for you."
"All right," he capitulates in hoarse agony.  "Cruise."
"A cruise it is," the computer responds.  "Have a nice time."
Ted makes another derogatory grunt before he rises from his bed.

The morning he is to depart he packs enough clothes and personal effects for a week.  Then he leaves for the port terminus.
The sun is fair and bright, clouds are here and there, and the sky is radiantly blue when he boards the ocean liner along with everyone else.  Once he finds his cabin and briefly unpacks, the call for lunch is sounded.
Next door he sees his neighbor leave a few seconds after he locks his entrance.  When they are seated next to each other in the dining room, the young lady introduces herself.  "Hi," she says while offering her hand.  "I'm Emily."
"Hi Emily," he returns while shaking her hand.  "I'm Ted.  Or Theodore."
"Hi Ted or Theodore," Emily replies with mirth.  "How do you like our cruise so far?"
"Love it," Ted responds without enthusiasm.  "To tell the truth, I had to pick something."
"Well, maybe things will pick up," she listlessly drawls in dry imitation of his own manner before she segues to conversation with her broadside neighbor.
She leaves him be until the food arrives.  "Do you mind if I have a taste of what you ordered?" she inquires of him.
He peruses her plate as a response.  "Have you done this before?" he queries her in turn.
"You mean the boat?"
"Yes.  You can have a taste, if I can have some of yours."
She stabs at his plate with her own fork.  "Sure," she interjects between bites.  "I like this."
"So do I," he ventures after he swallows.  "What happens after lunch?"
Emily looks around before she answers.  "I think we have a board game or something."
She is right; Monopoly sets are broken out after everyone is paired off with three fellow players.  Scrabble is announced over the loudspeakers on another deck.
Ted's opponents, other than Emily, are a married couple from New England, retired.  Ted's thimble is second player after Sam's hotrod; Emily's moneybags goes third, followed by Vera's jockey.
Round and round the board they progress; Sam accumulating the most property, followed by Emily, Ted and Vera respectively.  Suddenly Ted had a natural Monopoly--all the reds.
"Well played old sport," Sam congratulates him in the affected manner of an English baron.  "Tell you what--I'll trade you Park Place for your Boardwalk."
"That doesn't make sense," Ted obliquely observes with a peevish squint.  "Besides, neither you nor I have either property."
"Ted," Emily drawls out his name.  "Don't make a scene."
And Vera is enjoining him to be gracious winner, keep the game interesting.
"Off with his head!" Ted just about yells in high drama of the Red Queen.  "Now hear this: all you people of my book."
Presently Ted finds officials behind him and at his side.  "Is there a problem here folks?"  Then, as the big hand is laid on his shoulder, "It's long swim back to shore, sir."
"No problems here fellows," Ted assures the ship's contingent with disarming smiles as he simulates coming out of a daze or recovering from a parapalytic fit.  "Just a simple misunderstanding."
"Well, we do want everyone to have fun," the senior representative concludes as his way of dismissing the others.
Vera and Emily try to form an alliance, but it is to no avail.  Sam would have lasted the longest, had Ted not offered Emily a deal once she lands on Indiana.  "That's nine hundred and fifty--or tell you what.  I'll settle for all your railroads."
"How gallant," Emily responds with enthusiasm, even though her defeat is assured also.
Ted progresses to the winner's table with Emily and Vera in tow; Sam excuses himself but turns up looking for Vera later on.  By the time he finishes there, it's almost dinner time.
"Well, better luck next time," Emily sums up in consolation when Ted finishes second.  "There's Hide & Seek on the main deck--or would you rather eat again?"
"Hide & Seek?" Ted ruminates as he tries to decide his fate.  "How do you play Hide & Seek on a cruise?"
"It depends how many people show up," Emily explains as she takes his arm to guide him out.  "Last time I played you can hide anywhere on the boat except your cabin."
It turns out thirty-eight people have assembled; by random lots Ted is declared It.  "You have thirty minutes sir," he is informed by the cruise director while the other players close their eyes.
Ted decides the bridge is too obvious and the bathrooms too tedious, so he tries another dining room.  He finds what he hopes is a sympathetic waitress named Ginny and paraphrases the situation to her.
"You can," she allows of his request to hide in the kitchen.  "But I have to tell you: that's one of the first places people look."
"I'll risk it," Ted tersely explains to his co-conspirator.  "I'm pretty sneaky when I want to be."
"You again," Ted accuses when the same dog who had begged from him at lunch barks at him, crouching in the corner.  "How is it you have free run of the ship?"
"I think that's the captain's pet," a cook who happens to be nearby and overhears contributes.
"Have you every been tempted?" Ted inquires of the garrulous cook while indicating the cur.  "I mean, puppy chow and all that?"
Soon Emily discovers him.  "How did you find me?" he asks, genuinely amazed.  "Or was I betrayed?"
Ginny smiles at him.  "I saw you two at lunch," she sheepishly advises him on her way back to her job.
"Feel like some dinner?" Emily inquires of him after she announces by way of telephone the search is over.
Some hours later, while walking back to their cabins, Ted advises Emily, "I need a moment alone."
"All right, but don't take too long," she replies.  Both have been drinking and Ted neglected to use the facilities before leaving the bar.
"My Lord--I have news to tell you," Ted mutters to himself as he staggers about the deck.  "When Rostius was an actor in Rome.  Buzz, buzz!"
Unknown to Ted and indeed anyone else at this moment, a tremendous wave, generated by underground seismic activity a few miles away, swells many stories above the average ocean height.  By the time the bridge crew have it on their radar and have sounded the general alert, Ted has fallen overboard while relieving himself along a rail.  In the ensuing pandemonium, Emily innocently assumes she has been unceremoniously dumped.  Even while intoxicated, and wet, arms flailing, he realizes with startling clarity as the ship sails obliviously away that he was originally correct; Ted is dead.