Featured Review on this writing by Criss Sole

Drain On Society

Reads: 381  | Likes: 21  | Shelves: 18  | Comments: 5

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination – Oscar Wilde

Submitted: November 18, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: November 18, 2018



I didn’t set out to be a drain on society.  Sometimes things just happen.  It’s not my fault I was born rich.

My grandfather was John Jurgen Wellington.  You never heard of him.  He was into rivets.  He invented a machine that made them fast and cheap.  Sold the company for millions.  Dad was more into investing than rivets.  Bought IBM and other blue chips in the 60s and 70s, sold them in the 80s and 90s.  Turned millions into a lot more millions.  Then there’s me.  I’m more into spending money than making it.

Being John Jurgen Wellington III has not been easy.  Ask anyone who inherited a lot of money and never had to work a day of their life.  You can get really bored.

Anyway, that’s the excuse I use when I get into trouble.  “I was bored.”

The first time I got arrested I was twelve.  I didn’t consider breaking into school a crime.  I was setting up a practical joke.  Coach McSweeney made me run laps for cutting PE class. He got coated with a bucket of slime when he opened his office door the next morning.  

Who knew there were alarms in school?  The police met me on the way out.

“Kid, what do you think you’re doing?”

“I was hungry.  I went to the cafeteria to fix a sandwich.”

“You won’t be cracking jokes in the holding cell.  You’re under arrest for trespassing.”  

Of course, Dad had a lot of clout and knew every bigwig in the county.  He got the trespassing charge thrown out.  The judge gave me a lecture that seemed to go on for hours.  When he was done, he asked, “Have you learned anything from this experience?”

“Yes sir, I’ve learned not to break into school when I’m bored.”

In exchange for dropping the charges, the judge ordered me to write a 10 page essay about citizenship.  It was no problem.  Arnie Rucker was a library rat, straight-A student, and a wannabe author.  Since the 3rd grade, I’d been paying him to do my homework.  He made overtime rates that weekend.

Things like that eventually got me kicked out of public school.  A string of private schools followed.  Thanks to misdemeanors of all sorts, I never lasted a full year anywhere.  Court ordered military school resulted when I “accidentally” set fire to the science lab at Morris Academy.  

At Braden Military Institute, I knew I’d met my match.  There was to be no bullshitting the people here.  So I did the logical thing.  The first night I was there, I escaped.  No easy task since the Institute was on an island in Lake Superior.  

La Place, Wisconsin seemed barely habitable as the ferry approached.  I glanced back at our departure point, a village called Baytown.  My 17 year old brain told me, “Sure, you can steal a  boat and get back to Baytown.”  I had enough cash in my wallet for a bus ticket.  That night, I snuck out of the dorm, climbed the fence, and made my way down to the water.  I found a rowboat.  I pulled it into the water, jumped in, and started rowing.

Not all rowboats are created equal.  This one was homemade.  Nothing more than canvas stretched over a wood frame, then coated with waterproof paint.  Strictly for use in calm water and daylight.  If I had any experience in boating, I might have known that lakes sometimes have floating logs.  If I had paid attention in science class, I might have known about hypothermia.  When the boat struck a log, I learned about both.

The sound of ripping canvas was followed by the sound of gurgling water.  The boat quickly filled.  It wasn’t going anywhere but down.  Fortunately I’d only traveled a few hundred yards.  I could swim back to shore.  

Lake Superior was cold.  I’m a pretty good swimmer.  But it’s hard to breath in cold water.  I’d barely started when my muscles cramped.  My arms and legs got numb.  I’m not sure how, but I managed to make it to shore.

I was spent, and freezing cold.  The adrenaline stopped pumping when I realized I wasn’t going to drown.  I couldn’t feel my extremities, and exposed to the wind, I got colder.  I laid on my back and prepared for death.

Just before unconsciousness, I heard the sound of running boots.  A flashlight blinded me.  I croaked “Get that goddam thing out of my eyes.”  The beam moved up enough for me to see a teenager’s face.  An Institute student.  He turned and shouted.

“Sergeant, I found him!  He’s still breathing!”

Who knew the fence surrounding the Academy had motion detector cameras connected to the security office?  

When the alarm went off, they did a roll call.  No one answered when they called my name.  I barely remember the helicopter ride to the hospital.

The Institute expelled me the next morning.  I was a Braden cadet for less than 24 hours.  Dad took me from the hospital to the courthouse.  The judge was in no mood to play games.  

“Son, you’re just seventeen.  With your rap sheet, you’d be doing time in the state pen if you were an adult.  I’m going to give you one last chance.  You’re obviously not school material.  But I can tell, you’re not stupid.  So I’m putting it all on you.  In nine months, you turn eighteen.  I expect you back in this courtroom on your birthday.  If you don’t have a G.E.D. certificate in your hand, I will send you to prison.”

It wasn’t the threat of prison that motivated me to follow the rules for the first time in my life.  It was Lake Superior.  The knowledge that my own stupidity nearly caused my death humbled me.  

Like before, I hooked up with Arnie Rucker.  Not do do my work for me.  This time, to be my tutor.  For eight months, except for classes, I barely left the house.  The judge actually smiled when I showed him my G.E.D.

Dad got me a job at the arcade in a nearby mall.  Not for the money.  I’ll never need more of that.  Just to keep me out of trouble.

It was easy work.  I was on my best behavior.  Every time I got bored, I remembered Lake Superior.  Fear is a good motivator.  For the first time in my life, I was on the right track.  That’s when I met Sanji Udala.

He was a regular at the arcade.  Still in school, good enough at video games to have his initials all over the high score displays.  A quiet kid, I didn’t pay him much attention.  One Saturday, I’d worked the early shift and was on my way out the door.  Sanji had been at the arcade and was in the food court.  I paused when I noticed him playing a game on his phone.  One I didn’t recognize.

When he looked up, I said, “Sup Sanji?  What’s the game?  Looks like fun.”

“It’s called Epic Journey.  I wrote it myself.”

“You write video games?  You wrote this one?”  I was astonished.  “Dude, you have to let me try that!”  He handed me the phone.

It took a minute for me to get the hang of it.  And another minute to get addicted.  It was mesmerizing.  Sanji and the food court disappeared and I was in the game.

Next thing I knew, someone was shaking my arm.  It was Sanji.  “You okay bruh?  You were doing good for a while, but then your eyes glazed over and you stopped playing.”

Wow.  The game was like a drug.  I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.  “Man, that is a killer game.  You should be selling it.”

“I donno man.  The game industry is dominated by big corporations.  It takes a lot of money for a little guy like me to get a foothold.  I don’t know any rich people.”

“Yeah, you do.  You know me.”

Granted, I knew nothing about the video game business.  I knew nothing about any business, beyond selling tokens to kids.  But I had an inside track to people who were experts.  Dear old Dad.

Dad’s speciality was research.  He’d made a ton of money by doing his homework.  He didn’t just study the companies before he invested in their stock.  He studied the people running the companies.  His favorite comment about work was “I don’t invest in businesses.  I invest in people.”  I invited Sanji to eat supper with us, and show his game, and himself, to Dad.

After the meal, Dad got down to business.  He wanted to know anything and everything about Sanji.  He was a solid kid.  His parents were immigrants, both worked long hours to support the family.  Sanji was a top student, he’d aced his SATs, and had scholarship offers from several universities.  His goal was to get a degree, then a job designing games.  Sanji was pretty much the opposite of everything I was.

On the other hand, like Sanji, I was a connoisseur of video games.  I’d played them all, and mastered the ones I liked.  Dad had never played before, so he watched as I went through the first level of Epic Journey.  He asked a lot of questions.

Dad was impressed.  Who knew there was such a thing as video game consultants?  

The man told us we had two options.  The easy way was to sell the game to one of the big gaming companies, such as Nintendo or EA.  But they would take most of the profits.  The hard way was to form our own company and do our own marketing.  That would take money, expertise, and a lot of work.  I had the first, Dad knew the right people for the second.  I was confident Sanji could pick up my slack on number three.

We called our company Journey Games.  Sanji set up a website and we were ready to go.  All we needed were customers.  It was my idea to rent a booth at Comic Con.

People were lined up by noon the first day, waiting to play our game.  The three consoles we’d set up were not enough.  Selling Epic Journey tee shirts was Dad’s idea.  Before Comic Con ended, they were everywhere.  Our website crashed when too many orders queued up.  Sanji upgraded.  The cash rolled in.

I became the public face of Journey Games.  Sanji was an introvert and wanted nothing to do with fame.  I, on the other hand, reveled in the attention.  When GamePro Magazine called and said they were putting Epic Journey on the cover, I did the interview.  

Unfortunately, my new celebrity status made me forget Lake Superior.  I should have never let GamePro’s photographer take a picture of me lighting a cigar with a dollar bill.

Who knew something so good could turn out so bad?  It started when a teenager walked into traffic playing our game.  Similar stories popped up.  Then, people stopped showing up for school or work.  They were found, in bed or on their sofa, totally sucked in to Epic Journey.  Some had gone days without eating.

That was just the beginning.  We’d already sold millions of copies.  Hackers broke the encryption Sanji used, and began distributing Epic Journey on the internet for free.  Everywhere the game went, trouble ensued.  In a matter of weeks, addiction to Epic Journey had become a global problem.

Across the planet, businesses were struggling.  So many employees were staying home playing the game, factories began to shut down.  The domino effect rippled across the world economy.  Stock markets collapsed.

Farmers were just as susceptible to the game as anyone else.  Panic ensued when grocery store shelves went bare.  Rioters took to the streets.  One by one, countries declared martial law and mobilized their armed forces.  Pundits began speculating that World War III was imminent.

Then, the tsunami ebbed.  Turned out that addiction to Epic Journey was like having a bad cold.  Eventually, the body fought it off.  Recovering addicts tended to have one thing in common.  They now hated the game.  Sales plummeted as photos of people burning their Epic Journey tee shirts went viral.

Slowly, the world returned to normal.  But the damage had been done.  Economists estimated the losses during the weeks of madness at two trillion dollars.  Then, the New York Times put the photo of me lighting a cigar with a dollar bill on the front page.  The headline read “Drain On Society”.  I became the world’s most hated man.

The lawsuits started piling up.  Fortunately, Dad’s attorney had set up a bulletproof corporation.  The company’s assets were at risk, but not our own money.  Journey Games declared bankruptcy.  We let the lawyers handle the details.

Dealing with the death threats wasn’t as simple.  I ended up hiding in a hunting cabin in rural Montana.  Owned by one of Dad’s golf buddies.  It pays to have rich friends.

So here I am, soaking in the hot tub.  The cabin overlooks a pond.  A miniature version of Lake Superior.  Maybe I’ll go snowboarding tomorrow.  I dyed my hair and and let the beard grow out.  So far, no one has recognized me.  My driver’s license says my name is Arnie Rucker.

I’ve learned my lesson.  No more hard work.  Never again will I do anything resembling a job.  If I’m going to be a drain on society, I’m going to do it my way.

© Copyright 2019 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments: