The Game

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

The game is dangerous and deadly. It is also a family tradition. The real reason for playing the game is unknown to its participants. The need to protect their business makes insanity seem rational in this family.

 

Aaron Blaine feels the cold metal from the barrel of a .45-caliber pistol next to his temple. It causes a chill to travel down his spine. The gun begins to feel heavy. It will soon be difficult to hold. A bead of sweat slowly slides down his brow. It travels past the gun's barrel. A moist trail is on this face. Aaron's eyes are closed, and his breathing is fast and uneven. Slowly his finger wraps itself around the trigger. He begins to squeeze.

In his mind, Aaron can see images of his mother. He feels her warmth and hears her soft voice. She is playing the game, and it's her turn. Aaron watches his mother put the gun next to her head. She begins to smile and sing children's songs. His mother pulls the trigger. They both hear the click sound. Aaron is happy that mommy has won at playing the game. She smiles and laughs. Aaron always likes to remember these special moments from when he was a six-year-old boy.

He takes a deep breath. The time has come to finish his turn. Aaron's arms begin to tremble slightly. His finger slowly squeezes the trigger. Aaron's face is tight and red until the click sound is heard. Aaron's body then begins to relax. He takes a deep breath. His breathing slowly goes back to normal. He has won the game one more time. It feels just as exciting as it did when he was six.

Aaron always makes excuses for playing the game. He tells himself he can't live without the emotional high it provides. The game makes him feel powerful. His problems suddenly become insignificant. After winning the game, there is nothing in life that scares him. He has just cheated death. Nobody around him could understand what it is like to have such strength.

A knock on the office door breaks his focus. Aaron quickly puts the gun back in its special wooden box. He places the box in the top drawer of his desk. A cough clears the thickness in his throat. When he speaks, Aaron sounds confident.

"Come in."

The door opens, and a heavyset man wearing a black suit and red tie walks in. He has puffy red cheeks and slightly gray hair. His full beard is very neatly groomed.

"We've got to talk, Aaron. I mean we've really got to talk right now."

Aaron doesn't react to the panic in this man's voice. He smiles and remains calm.

"Mr. Jim Radley please come in and have a seat. Feel free to tell me anything that's on your mind."

Jim walks over and sits down on one of the leather chairs in front of Aaron's desk. He nervously runs his fingers through his hair. He takes a deep breath and slowly exhales.

"You know damn well what's on my mind. Don't play that innocent game of yours."

"Let me guess. A beautiful woman wearing no clothes is not on your mind. I imagine if that were the case you certainly wouldn't be here."

Jim's eyes closed slightly as he groans. He quickly raises his hand and points at Aaron.

"Knock it off right now. This isn't funny. We may be in some serious trouble here. The last thing I need is for you to try to be funny."

Aaron sits back and puts his feet up on the desk. He knows Jim very well. He knows what emotional buttons he can push. How to upset the big man and how to calm him. Aaron is in total control of this situation.

"Take it easy. What made you so upset?"

Jim moves uneasily in his chair. The burden of his thoughts makes him feel uncomfortable. He looks down for a moment and sighs. With his head still down he begins talking.

"He knows Aaron. I'm sure he knows. If he doesn't, it's just a matter of time until he figures everything out."

When he lifts his head, intense fear is showing on Jim's face. Aaron shrugs his shoulders before responding.

"Who knows what? Please be a little bit more specific."

"The manager in my department. He's been acting really strange toward me lately. I'm sure he suspects something. It's just a matter of time until they find out I took that money. What are we going to do?"

Aaron quickly takes his feet off the desk. He leans forward and moves some papers.

"The first thing you need to do is relax. I'm sure your manager could be acting strangely toward you for many reasons. Has he asked to take a look at your monthly statements?"

"He hasn't yet. He could still look at them at any time when I'm not around."

"Wouldn't you have noticed if someone had found your secret ledgers? You are a very organized individual."

Jim sighs and wipes the beads of sweat forming on his forehead.

"I do keep them pretty well hidden. I guess you're right. I would have noticed if anyone had moved them."

"There you have it. We have nothing to worry about."

Jim stands up and starts pacing around the office as he continues to talk.

"When I took all that money you told me you'd only need it for a few days. You said you'd replace it so quickly so nobody would notice. We were supposed to be investing in some sure thing and becoming rich. What happened to all that money I gave you?"

Aaron stands up and goes over to Jim. He puts his arm on the big man's shoulder and starts guiding him toward the door.

"Life is what happened. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Winners always must be willing to take a chance. Nobody ever wins the gold cup without putting it all on the line."

"Stop with the cliches. If my manager finds out what happened, I could go to jail. At the very least, I'll be fired. When do I get the money to put back in my departmental account?"

Aaron slowly opens the door and continues to move Jim out of his office.

"I'll talk to my father tonight. He'll give me the money and then everything will be okay."

Jim looks at Aaron with an angry stare.

"This is the last time. Never again do I play with company money for one of your schemes to get us rich."

"Let's hope that it is never again necessary."

Aaron gently nudges Jim into the hallway. He carefully closes his door. Aaron ignores the obscenities coming from outside his office.

 

********

 

It's cold and snowing as Aaron guides his car down a slick asphalt road. He will be at his father's house in a short time. A place he has always hated. Aaron grew up in that house. He even lived there a few times after finishing college. It never felt like home to him.

While Aaron was growing up the story of his grandfather's struggles with coming from the old country and starting a manufacturing plant were a family legend. The plant became a huge success and employed hundreds of people. The accomplishments of Aaron's family were placed upon him like the crown upon a king. Aaron always felt smothered by all the expectations. Hearing about their success only made Aaron feel resentment.

He rings the doorbell of the large house. When he was a child, Aaron would imagine the huge white columns were sentinels bravely guarding their castle. His mother would always tell him the only things to be afraid of were inside this castle and not outside it. When the door opens, a middle-aged Hispanic woman smiles at Aaron.

"Ah, it's you. Go to the study. Your father is waiting there for you."

Aaron walks in and takes off his coat. After the door is closed, the woman takes it from him.

"Is he drinking cognac and listening to a symphony? That means the quarterly profit reports are good, or he is just feeling happy. If he's pacing quietly with a glass of scotch in his hand, the reports are bad, or he is upset. If he's smoking his pipe, it could go either way. What can I expect?"

"I don't know. He seems fine to me."

The sound of Aaron's leather shoes hitting the shiny marble floor breaks the silence in the hallway. He hates walking past the paintings of his grandfather and other family members. They line the hallway on both sides. As a child, Aaron felt those paintings were watching him. He thought they were always passing judgment on everything he did. Aaron could feel their hatred and disgust for him.

"They're just portrait paintings. Why must you always stare at them like that?" The voice of his father startles Aaron back into reality. His father is wearing a standard dark pinstriped suit and vest. The neatly combed gray hair and gold wire-rim glasses are part of his usual look. Smoke from a pipe resting in his mouth slowly dances upward into the air.

"I don't know. I suppose every time I look at them I see something different."

"You've stared at them quite a bit over the years. You should know every small detail of each painting by now."

"Can we go into your study? I want to talk about something."

"I'm sure that's why you are here."

Aaron sits on a chair across from his father. The two men are silent. Aaron remembers being a child in his father's presence.

"I got some bad news today. I'm afraid it's necessary to ask you if I can borrow some more money," says Aaron.

Now it's time for the lecture. That's the routine. He comes and asks for money, and he gets the lecture. The story of how the family business started. Aaron gets to hear about his father's struggles with running the plant. His father will then say how he doesn't feel his oldest son can do the job when he retires. His younger brother Edmond would do a much better job. Aaron has heard it all before. He must be quiet and pretend to listen. It's a small price to pay to get the money he wants.

"When does it end? It seems like I only see you when money is involved. What would happen if I refused to give you the money this time? How would that affect your life?"

Aaron is shocked. His father had broken the routine. Aaron struggles not to scream. He wants to say that quite a large amount of money will be found missing from the plant. An investigation will happen. Aaron will have to explain how he and Jim took a large amount of money from the family business. Does his father want to know how he lost it gambling? The company will want to keep this out of the media. Heartless reporters will descend upon them. The image of his father's precious family business will suffer the most.

"It's not a question of how it will affect my life. It's more about how much it will impact the family business. It will look very bad if a son of the company's owner can't pay his debts. Those who you do business with will ask questions. Will you feel comfortable answering them?"

Aaron always counts on his father doing his duty when it comes to protecting the family business and image. It is the one thing Aaron knows he can depend on. He sits back in a leather chair and waits for his father to say he'll give him the money. Aaron can't help but smile.

"No."

When Aaron hears this word, his face becomes red. His breathing increases and he stands up and yells.

"What do you mean no? You've never said that before. You certainly can't do it now. It's not fair."

Aaron's father takes the pipe from his mouth. He puts it in the pipe holder on the table next to him.

"My oldest son who is fast-approaching thirty needs to start fixing his problems by himself. I'm sure you can solve whatever it is without my help. Why can't you be more like your younger brother? Edmond never asks for my help with anything. He's also quite a good employee."

"Edmond is only my half brother. Both of your wives are dead. What kind of man are you?"

"You need to calm down."

Aaron begins pacing around the room breathing heavily. His lips curl, and his hands turn into fists.

"It's not right. You can't do this. It's not fair. You owe me that money. I want it. I'll tell everyone. My money problems are because of you. Everybody will know it. I promise."

"Go ahead and tell the world. Nobody will care. As long as people can make money selling my products, they don't care about much. "

Aaron yells "I want that money. Give it to me."

His father stands up and points to the door.

"Get out."

"What?"

"You heard me. I said get out. This is my house, and you are no longer welcome in it."

Aaron points to his father.

"Mother always hated you. I have always hated you. You drove us nuts with all your family business nonsense."

"Your mother was institutionalized. I tried to help her. If you ever try to help someone instead of constantly taking from them, you might understand. Now get out of here."

"I hate our family business."

"Then stop working for it. As little as you do, we can hire a competent person at half the price we pay you."

Aaron kicks a table. When it falls, a vase sitting on top hits the floor and shatters. He screams and runs out. In the hallway, the paintings start talking to him. Aaron hears them whispering how he can't do anything right. They tell him that he's lazy and immature. Aaron is crazy like his mother. He cares about nobody but himself. He's a mistake. Aaron's father is ashamed of him. They are all ashamed of him. He's let the family down. He is such a disappointment. The world would be better without him. Why can't he be more like Edmond?

Aaron covers his ears, but the voices won't stop. When he looks at the pictures, their mouths seem to be moving. When Aaron's fist goes through the first painting, he can hear his father yell. A painting comes off the wall, and Aaron's foot goes through it. The Hispanic woman is holding him. Aaron looks around and then runs from the house. He gets in his car. Aaron knows that he has to get to his office. He'll play the game. Everything will be better once he plays the game. Then he'll know what to do. His mother always talks to him when he plays the game. She'll know how to make things better.

********

Alone in his office, Aaron has the gun pointed to his temple. He is playing the game and can hear his mother.

"Why are you so upset Aaron? What has happened?"

Aaron wants his mother to hold him.

"I needed some money from father and he refused. He's mean to me like he was to you. I don't know what I can do about it."

"Have you been playing the game? It always gives us such strength."

"I have been playing it as we agreed. I'm playing it right now. Will it help to make things better?"

"It always makes things better. I've got to go now."

"Oh mother, I miss you so much. Please don't go."

"Be brave my son. I know you are better than your father and his family. Don't let them upset you."

Aaron hears the click of the gun and puts the revolver down. Aaron's clothes are wrinkled and dirty. His hair is a mess. He drinks some coffee from a paper cup on his desk. Aaron picks up the revolver again and spins the chamber. He again puts it next to his temple and closes his eyes.

"Holy crap Aaron. What are you doing?"

When Aaron opens his eyes, he sees Jim standing in the doorway. Jim looks more frightened than Aaron has ever seen him.

"What are you doing here at this time of night? Don't come in here again, without knocking."

"We are in big trouble. They know everything. I had a bad feeling when I left, so I decided to come back. My desk is a mess. The secret ledgers I've been keeping are all gone. What do we do now?"

Jim's eyes open wide as he notices the real gun in Aaron's hand. He takes a step backward out of the office. Aaron laughs.

"Why does this gun bother you? It's the key to solving all our problems. We must play the game."

Aaron quickly spins the chamber and holds the gun to his temple. When he squeezes the trigger, there is a click sound.

"Don't you see? It's not so bad. Playing the game calms you down and helps you think. It's really a blessing. You'll find the power of cheating death is exhilarating. Your turn to try it. What do you say?"

Jim turns and runs down the hall. Aaron can't keep from laughing. The paperwork on his desk now seems so simple. Aaron begins working.

After finishing, he looks up to see a policeman standing just outside his office. The officer has his gun out and is pointing it at Aaron. He is talking very slowly.

"Son, just hand me the gun and everything will be okay."

Aaron laughs.

"Is there some law against playing the game? I don't know of any. Have you ever cheated death? I have many times. Probably more than you."

"Why don't you just give me the gun, and we can talk."

Aaron picks up the gun and spins the chamber. He places it next to his temple.

"What now? Are you going to shoot me for playing the game? You know my mother played the game."

"You don't want to do this? Put it down so we can talk."

Aaron laughs and pulls the trigger. This time there is no click sound. The officer covers his face and looks away from what is in front of him. Aaron's lifeless body slumps forward onto the desk.

********

Sitting in his study, Aaron's father puts his son's gun in its special wooden box. He carefully places the box in a designated area at the bottom of his desk drawer. He picks up his glass of cognac and enjoys the symphony music being played. He looks at his son Edmond sitting in a chair across from him and starts talking.

“My grandfather was right about the game. You only need to suggest playing it to the undesirables in your life. Simply provide them with what's necessary. The game will do the rest. Everyone eventually loses. It's just a matter of time. Over the years, the game has prevented terrible divorces from happening in our family. It's prevented battles for control of our family business. The winner of the game has always been our family business. It is more important than any of us.”

They touch their glasses as a toast to the game. The beauty of symphony music fills the room. The survival of the family business is once again assured.

 

The End


Submitted: October 16, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Nevidomo Istoriya. All rights reserved.

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Ann Sepino

The tension is so palpable that I couldn't look away. Also this suspension of disbelief makes Russian roulette and a crazy, mega-millionaire family sound like a match made in Heaven. Great story!

Sun, October 18th, 2020 12:50am

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Thank you for your comment.

Sun, October 18th, 2020 5:40am

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