Monday, February 28, 2011

Jailed in a FreeCell

I'm beginning to feel like a mad scientist. Not the mad scientist in the middle of the movie, when he has been overtaken by his madness and is intent on destroying the world. Of course, the cinematic mad scientist, besides being mad, is brilliant enough wreak havoc all over the world. That he never destroys more than himself and his laboratory is because the hero is even more brilliant. You know the hero will triumph because he is younger, sexier, has better hair and doesn't have a sinister foreign accent. There is no dashing young hero in my movie. In my movie, the world is made safe by my ineptitude.

But none of that matters, at least right now. My madness has nothing to do with world domination. And at this moment I'm as sane as the next man teetering on the edge of insanity. I am the scientist when he is still aware that his mind is a battleground and that he's going to lose the battle if the cavalry doesn't show up soon. Late at night, in a corner of his laboratory lit by an anemic candle, the mad scientist writes furiously in a notebook. His handwriting is barely legible and, for the convenience of the movie audience, he reads the words as he writes. Given the thickness of his accent, his reading is of minimum value to the audience. But those who are paying attention catch enough to know that an idea - an idea that he can rule the world, that every human can be a slave to his needs and desires - is quickly seducing his mind. He wants to regain control of his mind, to put it to work making the world a better place. His mind, however, has a mind of its own, and willingly cedes it to the evil notions that came disguised as high class street walkers.

So, here I sit at the computer, which happens to be in a dark corner of the house. The only light comes from a small reading lamp - I used the last candle the other night. And, in what's left of my sinister Pittsburgh accent, I read the words as I type them illegibly into a Windows document.

"FreeCell has seduced me," I say as I type. "I don't want to play FreeCell; I don't enjoy playing FreeCell. But it won't let me go. I come to the computer each day hoping to produce something worthy of my talents, or at least something legible. But the moment I sit down, I can feel FreeCell approach me. 'Go ahead, just one game,' FreeCell, a scantily clothed lass with even scantier morals, says softly. 'No, I can't. I have work to do.' 'Work, shmerk,' she says. 'Come on, just a quick game. One game isn't going to hurt.'

"It will hurt," I continue scrawling into the computer. "I know it will hurt, no matter what she says. One game of FreeCell will lead to another, and another and another. Fifty-three games later, I'll still won't be satisfied. I'll play FreeCell through lunch and late into the afternoon. Why is it that I'm so weak? Why is it I cannot resist the urge to play this game? Why can't I stop once I start?"

I sit hunched over the keyboard, typing feverishly, hoping to find the strength, the tenacity, the determination I need to subdue the temptress FreeCell. "Wait a minute," I say to myself, "that might work. That might be the answer. Just maybe this will free me from FreeCell."

I'm boiling over with excitement and anticipation for a new and better life, a FreeCell-free life. The thoughts are coming so quickly. I can master this. I know I can. In the euphoria, my mind becomes a hectic jumble as it devises plans to slay the monster that lurks in the games menu. But I need to get control. I must calm myself and plot at a more deliberate pace. Everything is moving too fast, my blood pressure is rising, my head is throbbing.

"There, there," FreeCell says. "Just play a game or two. It will clear your mind. Then you can sort things out."

"You're right," I say. "But, you know this is the last time."

"Of course. We'll never see each other after today."

"You say that as if you don't believe me."

"I have faith in you," she says coyly.

"What's that mean?"

"You figure it out."

"I will," I tell her. "Just as soon as I finish this game."

She smiles, pulls up a chair and makes herself comfortable.

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