Thursday, May 31, 2012


A semi-regular customer rents a stack of movies once upon a time. They don't come back for a few days, so late fees accrue. They eventually make their way home.
Problem is that two of the cases are shattered. The jewel cases are one thing, because those worthless sleeves break in hapless shame when Fernando gives them a disapproving grimace. But these are Fernando's outer cases, thick husks of plastic that have a not insignificant probability of out-surviving cockroaches come a nuclear holocaust. These things do not break through accident.
Now Fernando has two of them that look roughly like someone's windshield after a particularly vile hailstorm. Since the movies were already late, Fernando just tacked on an additional charge for the ruined property. As stated earlier, jewel cases being destroyed happens all the time, and they're easily replaced, but Fernando has searched high and low for more of these immortal outer cases and they just don't exist, probably because they stand in violation of some law regulating the potential weaponization of materials.
The irony is that Fernando's transparent orange slim cases, which have potential mortality, remained unscathed.
About a month later the gentleman returns and selects another bunch of movies for his enjoyment. He brings them to the counter and Fernando says to him, “How much did you want to throw onto your late fee?”
Uh, how much is it?”
Twenty-eight dollars.”
What? How?”
You had out four movies for three days, which makes for twenty-six, and then I charged you a buck apiece for the ruined cases.”
Ruined cases?”
Yeah, two of my irreplaceable cases looked like somebody went at them with a sledge hammer.”
The guy's eyes widen, then narrow. His lips press together. “That wasn't me.”
I didn't say it was.”
I'll pay the late charges on the movies, since it was my fault they didn't get back, but I'm not paying for the cases. I didn't do that.”
I mean, then who did?”
I let my friend borrow them. That's why they were late.”
Fernando runs both hands through his hair. “So you're paying the late fee off today, then?”
Yeah, sure.”
Okay, then it'll be twenty-six dollars for the late fee, plus the rentals makes thirty-six fifty total.” The man paid his bill in its entirety and the movies were returned the next day.
Fernando has enough wisdom to comprehend that giving up two dollars to put twenty-six in his till and retaining a not-pissed-off customer is a better alternative than insisting upon twenty-eight dollars and receiving instead an angry man who will owe that money for all eternity.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Price Schemes

A lady and her two kids come into the store one evening. The girl child is quiet and well-behaved, but the boy child is a busybody who insists up and down on renting a particular movie. This irks his mother, who commands him in no uncertain terms to put it back.
But I really want to see it!” he says to her.
Fernando glances over at them in response to the shout. The mother had placed whatever case she was looking it back on the rack and looks down sternly at her offspring. “Use your brain for one second. Why would I pay four dollars for a movie you could watch for less?”
It's not on there!” insists the boy.
I'm not paying four dollars for it, and that's final.”
So the boy comes up to the counter and puts the case down upon it. “Hey, how much is this?” Well-played, son.
Fernando gets up and crosses the office as the mother darts over and snatches the case up. Fernando can't make out the title, but he's familiar enough with the visuals of his inventory to know that she holds The Corpse Bride. “He doesn't need to--” she says to the child.
That one is two bucks,” says Fernando in response to the lad's question. The boy turns to his mother with a smug grin on his face.
We're still not getting it.”
Why not? I want to see it and it's not four dollars!”
At this point the father, who had remained outside with his truck parked in an annoying position directly in the middle of Fernando's parking lot before the door, enters the store, maybe in response to having seen the spat brewing in Fernando's foyer. “What's going on?” he asks.
I want to rent this movie but Mom won't let me!” says the boy.
Mother chimes in. “I won't pay for an overpriced movie like that.”
Father takes the case from the child. “You heard her. We're not getting this if they charge too much for it.”
It's two dollars,” Fernando says, hoping to forestall any potential rumors that he's out to fleece the population of their hard-earned money by pricing his wares at an unreasonable rate. This doesn't work. The father just gives Fernando a death stare for daring to interrupt a rhetorical tirade with facts.
The mother takes the case from the father and looks at the son. “Where did you get this?”
The boy doesn't answer. His father hauls on his forearm and pulls him out of the store. The silent little girl meekly follows.
The mother takes one last look of disdain around the Dominion before she throws the case up on the sales rack. Because, apparently, asking the owner of the store where it should go, or even saying to him, “Hey, could you put this back for me? Sorry for all the trouble,” is asking too much.
Fernando bids her a good evening as she walks out the door. She doesn't answer.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


A girl enters the store one afternoon. She has a smartphone in her hand and she is busy tapping away at the touchscreen. She pulls a tag off a case and brings it up to the counter. Fernando fills out the slip and retrieves the movie, which he sets on the countertop.
She's still engrossed in whatever is going on in the world of electronic communication, to the point that she does not register that Fernando has returned with the movies.
Rather than proceed with the transaction, he waits.
About a minute and two buzzes later she comes up for air. “Oh!” she says, taking the movie in its case. She turns and starts walking towards the door, head buried in her phone-life again.
It'll be three-fifty, actually.”
She stops, looks back at Fernando, down at the phone. Tap-tap-tap. Looks up. “What?”
You forgot to pay.”
Oh.” She pulls a crinkled five dollar bill out of the pocket of her shorts and drops it on the counter. “You should have said something before.”
I didn't want to interrupt you.” He extends an arm to hand over her change. Her face is buried in smartphone heaven. He puts it on top of the case.
She finishes the thing she was doing. “Oh.” She pushes open the door with her side as she departs. Fernando hears a faint buzz. The movie is now wedged under one arm, as her hands are once again occupied by the smartphone.
Fernando's hypothetical offspring would be punished for such breaches of social etiquette.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Elderly Accomodations

It's a slower than slow evening at the Dominion. Graduation season has arrived and the weather is being mighty uncooperative to Fernando, which is a euphemism for 75 degrees and sunny. The door is propped open by an old VHS case and Fernando reads up on how Battleship is being eviscerated by critics. Then the phone rings. The caller ID reads “Hyperline, Inc.”
Hmm, thinks Fernando as he crosses the room to answer. Telecom company, maybe? That's a telecom name. It could be a pornographers' name, and it is the time of year when they ply their wares....
Hello, Dominion of Movies.”
Hey. Do you guys rent video games?”
We have a few here. Why do you ask?”
My name's Denmark and I'm calling from Hyperline. We're a company that distributes gaming peripherals, including third-party ones for older consoles like Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and so on.”
This call's content is something that Fernando had never encountered before, and he has vague personal interest in these things, but from a business perspective he has no money or space to dedicate to stocking twenty-plus year-old hardware, to say nothing of the games he would need to procure from somewhere on top of it. On top of it all, Fernando's customer base these days is more interested in shiny new Call of Duty clones over grueling, “ugly” platformers from the days of yore.
Denmark continues: “If you wanted to give me your name and contact information, email and so on, so we could set you up that would be fantastic.”
Fernando says, “I'm sorry, but I don't have any interest.”
Well, this is the Dominion of Movies and Video, right?”
Yes.” Nobody ever uses the store's full name, but there is in fact a “Video” appended to the end of the name in official documents. Hell, once in a very very great while Fernando comes across something addressed to "Dominion of Movies and Video Club."
Notwithstanding “videos” and “video games” have two different meanings.
Are video games moving slowly for you, then? If you could give me a baseline of what you carry, so that we can get on the same page as to your needs--”
I don't have any needs right now, sorry. I'm not interested. Bye.” Fernando hangs up.
Then he looks around at the empty store and thinks to himself, That was the most interesting thing that's happened to me all day.
Living the dream!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Daily Rate

A lady comes in and rents four movies. “How much would it cost for me to have these out for another night?”
It'd be a buck-fifty for the new release, and fifty cents each for the older ones.”
What about if I kept them for an extra night and brought them back tomorrow?”
It'd be the same. First night's late fee is the same as what it would have cost to rent for two nights anyway.”
Okay, I'll do them for one night then, then I can square up with you when I get the others back?”
Absolutely.” Though it results in Fernando making a tiny bit less guaranteed income, he finds it sensible to grant requests like this because he is not an unabashedly greedy prick.
The next day arrives and Fernando finds two of the movies in the drop box—the new release and one of the older ones. Fernando marks down a $.50 charge on the other two and life goes on.
The day afterwards, the third movie is in the drop box. The fourth is still absent. Since this is a hella-old movie and since the lady had rented four movies and since she expressed initial concern about returning Fernando's things, he only charges her an additional $.50 for the second night as well, rather than the full dollar it ought to have been.
The next day the lady returns with the final movie. She places it on the countertop and says, “I'd like to square up whatever I owe you now.”
Excellent. It's $1.50 altogether.”
$1.50? You said it would be fifty cents each!”
Fifty cents each, per night. You had two out for one night, and this one out for another night beyond that.”
She looks crestfallen. “Oh. I didn't realize."
Fernando has no response to that, so he takes her money and wishes her a good day.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fernando's Adventure, Part 7

Fernando was mighty tired after he wrested the equivalent of victory from the grubby hands of a peevish superhero. He retreated to the bedchamber, where Alfonso and Ronaldo already slept. Sunday was the day on which they must return to their homeland and they must be moved out of their room by 11 AM or Fernando would incur an additional day's charge, something which he hoped to avoid if at all possible.
Fernando set his alarm for 8:30 again and Sunday morning passed much as had Saturday morning. There was one remaining panel Fernando wished to attend, a “wish-list” discussion of the things which people would like to see in 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons. Monte Cook was, at the time, still a lead designer on the project and some of the panelists had an in with the man, so there was reasonable assurance that their words would be heard. It began at 10, which left plenty of time for breakfast.
It was less good this time around. The delectable American fries had been replaced by waffles and the disgusting foreskin sausages reappeared in their serving bin. Everyone loaded up on eggs and waffles and coffee, but since Alfonso and Ronaldo had not finished their morning rituals until nearly quarter to 10, Fernando had to depart so as to be on time for his panel. Not that it ended up mattering because it started late. Andrés made an appearance as well, for the fellow DM had a vested interest in the future of the world's most popular tabletop role playing game.
Like most of the other panels he'd attended, this one was rife with disappointment. Rather than discuss the potential merits of 5E, most of the panelists masturbated furiously over Fourth Edition. The audience, not so much. Fernando sits firmly in the 2E camp, Andrés favored 3E. An older man in his late 50s or early 60s came out as a 1E adherent. Most of the rest of the attendees, which numbered about twelve, threw in their lot with Third Edition. So when, for example, the 1E grognard mentioned that he and his group looked poorly upon the class homogenization that took place come 4E, the concerns were brushed under the rug. “After all,” to paraphrase the most verbal shill, “Why would anybody want to play the stereotypical magic-user and be utterly useless from levels one to three?”
Why deny people that option?” countered 1E Man. “If 5E does not give me what I want, well, then I won't play 5E.” Wise words from a wise man.
Fernando made his voice heard as well in this discussion. “I'm not so much concerned as to which edition it's closest to as to how exactly combat will be structured.”
I don't know what you mean,” said Shill.
My group plays a mutated hybrid that lifts rules from basically everything: First, Second, Third, BECMI, whatever. The thing with 4E and to a lesser extent with 3E is that it basically requires you to have a battle map set up. We tried that, it ended up not working for us, so we use a free-form and abstract style of dealing with combat encounters. It makes it so that, for instance, the party wizard can't exactly gauge where to precisely drop his Fireball as to incinerate the bad guy there but leave his comrade who is meleeing that bad guy completely unscathed. I think that 5E should allow for abstract combat like that.”
Well, you realize that it's been that way since First Edition,” retorted Shill. “D&D has been tactical its entire history. You probably know it comes from wargaming roots.”
Strategic, sure, but not necessarily tactical. 1E doesn't require minis. 2E doesn't. BECMI certainly does not. I understand Wizards wants to make money off minis and pregenerated battle maps and encounters and that's why things are the way they are. But like the guy before me said, if 5E doesn't make it so that my group can play the game in the way that we have always played the game, we'll just stick with what we're doing now.”
If abstract combat is what you're looking for, maybe you would be better off doing that.”
Okay. Andrés and Fernando took their leave of the panel at this point, since it was now blatant that this was not intended to be a discussion so much as a power trip. But, hey, it let Fernando help with the packing and to proceed with check-out.
The four wayward souls reunited in the parking lot to share a final smoke break and to exchange contact information and good-byes in front of Andrés' car. Andrés' hand was shaken, he was wished well, and he vanished from this saga. Perhaps he will resurface down the road. Fernando would be okay with that.
However, there was now the matter of the gift certificate exchange to deal with. Sir Dicks-A-Lot had resumed his Chess Guy persona, for the time being, and he waited near the games room for the rendezvous. They would head out to Misty Mountain Games in separate vehicles (the man had offered to ferry Fernando there and back, but Fernando declined. He liked being alive,) and meet up in the parking lot to split the winnings at the store. Finding it would be easy, even though Fernando and Ronaldo were out-of-towners! After all, Ronaldo had retained the services of Gertrude Pauline Samson, and she could serve as spiritual guide on this journey! Chess Guy insisted on giving Ronaldo his telephone number, though, perhaps because he had entered into a vile contract with GPS and knew what was coming. Alfonso would be sticking around the convention for a short while longer. He wished to browse the dealers' room one last time in case a surprise bargain might rear its head.
The address was entered and they were off, navigating the twisting mess of off-ramps and overpasses! GPS guided them with confidence out an exit, and she told them to take a left up ahead into a strip-mall. Location dead ahead, she intoned!
Except not. In petty revenge for being slighted in favor of Google for the journey down here, she had led them to a place that was not the place which they sought. Fernando cross-checked the address on the gift card with the information he had entered. They were the same. Oh, that bodiless woman's spite!
Ronaldo looked at Fernando with apprehension. “I don't want to have to do this.” He retrieved his phone. His face was pale.
Fernando extended his hand. “I'll do it. Wish me luck.”
-Ring ring ring-
-Ring ring-
Yeah, this is Fernando. The GPS got us lost.”
Lost? What do you mean lost?” Chess Guy was gone, and Sir Dicks-A-Lot had taken the field. His tone was not one of amusement.
We're at where the GPS told us the address on the gift card is, but it's not that address.”
Look around. Do you see the bank?”
Fernando looked around. He saw a bank. “Yeah.”
What about the Culvers across the street?”
Fernando turned his head. There it was. “Yeah.”
Did you drive around the mall?”
We circled it twice.”
What street are you on?”
Fennel? Fennel? Did you go under the overpass?”
Is there another overpass ahead?”
The fuck kind of question is that in fucking Madison, Wisconsin. There's always a fucking overpass in sight. “Yes.”
What exit is it?”
I can't see from here.”
Well, get there and then call me back.”
I mean, it's right there. We just have to take a l--”
Fernando took a deep breath through his nose. “If we didn't have thirty-five dollars in shit coming to us that we otherwise wouldn't be able to spend, I'd just say fuck it and go home.”
Ronaldo turned on his blinker. “I know what you mean.” He took a left out onto the street and a couple of miles ahead there was an exit.
Fernando redails the number. -Ring ring ring ring ring-
While this happening, thanks to how traffic does what traffic does, Ronaldo has been moving in a forward direction. “So are we supposed to take this exit or what?”
That's what I'm trying to fig—”
Yeah, Fernando again. We're coming up on the exit.”
What number is it?”
Take it.”
Fernando repeats the instructions to Ronaldo, who must now move over one lane through noonday traffic over the next half of a mile. Somehow he manages this, and Sir Dicks-A-Lot is not given more ammunition for his crabby arsenal.
Now what?”
Take a left. Go through two lights. The next intersection will have a bank and a Culvers. Take the left there.” Then he hangs up.
God damn it so much,” said Fernando. He relays this information and Ronaldo does as he is bade. There is, in fact, a bank and a Culvers at the intersection in question. Two restaurants of the same chain that is not a McDonald's or a Burger King or whatever within five miles of each other? What are the odds!
Ronaldo wended around the strip mall and there stood Sir Dicks-A-Lot in the parking lot. “It's about time,” he said. “Well, come one. I don't have all day.”
They entered the Misty Mountain and it was glorious. The gaming store in Fernando's area had closed up...Christ, has it been five years already? Regardless, Fernando does not have a readily accessible place to get his nerd on and so this place was a breath of fresh air. Well, recycled ventilated air. A large number of people sat at large tables in the rear area playing a wide variety of tabletop games, and it seemed as though a Magic tournament was going on.
Let's make this quick,” said Ronaldo. “I don't want to deal with that guy any longer than I have to.” Fernando concurred wholehearted with that sentiment. They browsed for about five minutes before they found what they sought: the Game of Thrones tabletop board game. Valued at $59.99, it would set them back a paltry $26 in real money today. It was purchased and the pair exchanged requisite farewell courtesies with Sir Dicks-A-Lot, who chewed on his glasses' earpiece and read the back of the box of a Munchkin expansion and gave them only cursory attention. Societies niceties given appropriate deference, Ronaldo and Fernando left Sir Dicks-A-Lot to his angry self.
On the road again! Fernando and Ronaldo navigated the twisted skein of roadways until they found themselves on a highway heading east, retracing their steps. The drive was uneventful and passed by quickly, for much discussion was had on the horrid D&D panel Fernando had attended and some new house rules that might be put into action based on the meaningful interactions and discussions they had over the weekend. They avoided the war-torn areas of Muskrat Blessing and returned to the land where Perkins reigned supreme. Fuck the Culvers and their being-on-every-streetcorner-ness.
The only remaining bit of interest on the journey was when Fernando and Ronaldo stopped for food in Verdant Cove, swinging by the mall and its food court and its delicious toasted sammich restaurant that was there. Fernando had the spicy chicken teriyaki melt and, though it shames him to admit this, he suffered from hot-mouth. It was not an up-front murder like Dave's, but instead an insidious aggregation of capsaicin oils that slowly gained in fervor until it overwhelmed Fernando's senses.
It was delicious.
In the end Ronaldo guided the car back through Zail-Kanzin and further on into Saladolsa, where the Dominion stands. Fernando disembarked and thanked Ronaldo for his company and for making the weekend overall a success, for it was a success despite the individually horrible bits. Fernando met new people, and bought nice things, and came out a winner for once.
Monday followed Sunday, as it usually does. Fernando unlocks the front door, sorts through the returns, and catches up on the things which he needed to have done over the weekend.
The phone rings.
Hello, Dominion of Movies.”

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fernando's Adventure: Part 6

After dinner, Alfonso rendezvoused with Andrés for cigarettes. Fernando and Ronaldo retired to the games room, where Chess Guy and Chess Kid lurked as they always do. More games of Siamese-style chess were had and the two smokers joined in eventually. Such things were a way to pass the time, nothing more. The real reason for camping the place was the Munchkin tournament that was to begin at 11 PM.
Other people began to filter in starting at about 9, crowding the room and camping the hallway outside. One of them was a lanky man with long hair whose goth/emo/whatever-dressed girlfriend at one point apparently opted for a procedure that surgically melded the two together. Wondertwins never physically separated. When they stood in the hallway, she draped her arm and leg about his front and Fernando couldn't help but be reminded of Zalera, the Angel of Death. When Wondertwins sat down for a game of chess at the behest of Chess Guy (quite probably because he didn't want to deal with Chess Kid any longer), he spun the chair around so the female half could straddle it behind him, whereupon she wrapped her arms and legs around his shoulders and torso like a vast tentacled beast from the deeps that had just seized its prey.
Fernando and Ronaldo took a detour to wander the halls and escape the cloying public display of sentimentalism. They decided to check out the band that was playing in another room, a self-labeled “murdercore” performance troupe. About twelve or so people, eleven of which were female, with the last one an awkward-looking guy standing off to one side, comprised the audience.
Now, Fernando's not all that well-versed in popular music and the various -cores that exist within it, but one would think that by appending the affix “murder-” to “-core,” it would feature a style and theme somewhat similar to death metal, with which Fernando does have passing experience thanks to upstanding gentlemen like Former College Roommate Nataniel and the brave music battles he waged against the dread forces of Generic College Dorm Rap Music. Namely, a lot of guttural growling, fervent guitar riffs, and lyrical content which explores topics like stylized violence or existential nihilism.
Instead, the performance was milquetoast punk. The particular song being performed when the pair popped in was about being yourself despite other people's judgments. A laudable topic, sure, but not really deserving of the label “murdercore.”
Fernando is, however, forced to admit that this band was infinitely better than the drum circle which followed.
The overseer for the Munchkin tournament showed up about twenty minutes after 10 and announced that the tournament's start would be delayed until 11:30. What is it with people and their incapability of adhering to a schedule? The room was cleared and the cluster of nerds now filled the hallway. Fernando stood and swapped more D&D stories with Andrés. Alfonso and Ronaldo joined in for a while, but then went off on their own. Fernando assumed at the time it was solely for a food run, but a plot was hatched and Fernando would only grow aware of it after everything from the evening had played out.
At long last, the tournament began. Alfonso, Ronaldo, Fernando, and Andrés made a pact with one another stating that it was better that one of us win than none of us. The three travelers had only known Andrés for less than two days, but the stranger had wormed his way into their hearts and they would all be okay with him coming away a winner.
An epic spread lay on the three dining room-sized tables: roughly $1500 in Munchkin cards: every base set, nearly every expansion, summing untold thousands of tiny paper rectangles. Overseer Oman laid out the rules, the first and foremost of which was, “There will under no circumstances be any drinks on the tables. If there are drinks on the tables, they will spill, and if they spill, they will get on cards, and if they get on cards, you will be replacing them.”
Winning was determined in the usual Munchkin way: the first person to reach level 10 wins that table. The two winners of the respective tables would square off at the third table for the vaunted Level 11. The table winners would receive a $10 gift certificate to Misty Mountain Games. The loser at the third table would win an additional $50 certificate to the game store and copy of the newest expansion for Munchkin Zombies, autographed by John Kovalic.
First prize was a drawing-slash-card by John Kovalic that would become tournament-legal if Steve Jackson, the genius designer behind the game, affixed his signature to it.
The fifteen competitors were split into two tables, one of eight and one of seven. Fernando found himself divided from his comrades, for Alfonso, Ronaldo, and Andrés were clustered at the other table, along with Chess Guy, last year's champion, a father-son pair, and a teenaged boy. Fernando was stuck with Wondertwins (even now, inseparable, though the female half was not playing) and five other people he'd never seen or met before. The youngest player at Fernando's table was a girl aged maybe twelve or thirteen.
Let the game begin! As Fernando only had real experience with the base set and Munchkin Cthulhu, it is from those decks that he drew most of his cards. Play progressed as it usually does in that game and oh yeah Fernando got eaten by Cthulhu on his third turn because WHY NOT. All fourteen other competitors got to go up a level based on Overseer Oman's ruling of the card's text, and the text-mandated mockery of Fernando's horrible fortune by the other players only rubbed more salt in that wound.
Nothing of interest happened at Fernando's table aside from his consumption by the Great Old One. The other table, though, suffered much drama and trauma. Not long after Fernando's death, a booming howl erupted from that side of the room, rife with indignation and accusation. “I have a right to see what that card does because it is public knowledge!!”
Everything stopped. Heads turned and the sight was awesome and frightening to behold. A man had shed his mortal trappings, unleashing his full potential. Stress and a personal vendetta against Reigning Champ had forced Chess Guy to metamorphose into Sir Dicks-A-Lot, for last year it had come down to Champ and Sir Dicks-A-Lot in the finals, and it all had hinged on a judge's decision.
Oh, it was on now.
Not long thereafter, Overseer Oman gave a ghastly cry of abject torment. “NNNNOOOOOOO!”
The dread prediction had come true. Waterboy had placed his cup of refreshment on the table and Murphy's Law had been invoked. Ronaldo's in-play cards swam in a clear liquid which the world hoped was water and not Sierra Mist. The boy slunk out and Ronaldo lamented that his apparently awesome steamroll had been forestalled by the vagaries of fate.
Long story short, Fernando won his table because everybody thought he was out of the game for the longest time, so he hoarded his power and wealth and came from far behind, leveling from 6 to 10 in a single turn, and the other people at the table could do nothing about it because they had burnt all their cards on the other people on the edge of winning. Fernando had his gift certificate in his possession for only a short while, though, as the other players at his table (except for Wondertwins, who skedaddled immediately after Fernando's victory; and Little Gamer Girl who never saw it coming) clustered up and unanimously agreed to approach Fernando about giving the card to Little Gamer Girl, who had been a simply phenomenal sport about everything.
This seemed like a good idea to Fernando, so everyone left the room to chase her down. Anywhere but a gaming convention five grown men hustling after a pubescent girl would set off all kinds of red flags, but everyone caught up to her and the card was transferred with pomp and ceremony, and even though she rejected it the first time, Fernando insisted. Cheers, Little Gamer Girl!
He spent the next hour standing in the corner of the room near the third table as the other table finished.
It all came down to Team Dad versus Sir Dicks-A-Lot. Ronaldo was still a viable win, but he had put most everything towards helping Alfonso make a mad dash to victory which proved fruitless and left Fernando's brother out the running. Andrés, sadly, never really got any momentum going due to horrid draw luck. Reigning Champ was kept down all game by Sir Dicks-A-Lot, and so Reigning Champ spent his time and energy fucking with everyone equally.
Team Dad had just barely been thwarted on the father's turn. His son did everything in power to ensure Dad's win, but it was only through concentrated effort from everyone else that he did not move on to the finals. Next up was Ronaldo, who was not in a position to win and drew no cards that could help ensure a win. Following him was Sir Dicks-A-Lot. Fernando heard him ask Ronaldo, “Does our agreement still stand?”
Wait what now?
Sir Dicks-A-Lot then powerleveled from 8 to 10 in one fell swoop, slaying a monster he played from his hand while Ronaldo helped him. Wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued from all the other players at the table except Ronaldo, who had something of a smug look on his face.
In exchange for his assistance, Ronaldo received the gift card that Sir Dicks-A-Lot would otherwise have won. Furthermore, he had nothing to bring to the winner's circle, while Fernando still had something resembling an arsenal in his hand and equipped to his character. He knew this, and so he approached Fernando with a proposition: to split the winnings evenly. Half of the $50 gift card would go to Fernando, the other half to Sir Dicks-A-Lot. They would sojourn to the game store tomorrow to split the winnings. Fernando would also have first pick of either the drawing or the Munchkin expansion.
His reasoning was as follows: “Better for both of us to get something than for one of us to get nothing.”
O...okay. Fernando would have been just fine with the picture alone. Now he has $25 in gift certificate money out of it as well, on top of the $10 of Ronaldo's.
So Fernando took the picture. Muchkin expansion boxes are small and easily crumpled and why does he need another copy of John Kovalic's signature when he has the two on his Munchkin boxes and the half-tourney-legal card?
Overseer Oman was okay with this proposal, since it was after 3 AM by this point and he just wanted to go to bed. However, the tournament rules stipulated that the winner of the tournament would be granted ownership of the picture. Since Fernando now had ownership of the picture, Overseer Oman was forced to conclude that Fernando technically had won the tournament.
Fuck yeah.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Fernando's Adventure, Part 5

Yes, I know, this is quite the long series of events.

Morning arrived as it usually does and Fernando's alarm evicted him from Morpheus' realm at precisely 8:30 AM. His vision was blurry and sticky and he wanted nothing more than to roll over and experiment with a different sleep position, but rest is for the feeble. There was much to accomplish on this day and it would not accomplish itself.

Fernando swung his legs out of bed and gathered things to clean himself. Ronaldo and Alfonso yet slumbered.

One shower later, Fernando sits cross-legged on the bed. A television remote had appeared in the room at some point between Fernando's personal experience with utter despondency and now, so he watched a rerun of Law & Order and waited for the rest of the world to awaken. Fifteen or so minutes later, Ronaldo stirred to wakefulness, followed shortly by Alfonso.

The gentlemen went about their morning routine while Fernando sat and waited. By 9:30 everyone was prepared for another day of nerdish debauchery, but the first order of business was breakfast. To the restaurant area, which lay on the opposite end of the building! The journey was arduous, aye. The group passed by the LAN party room, a chamber of secrets which had been reserved by the gaming-inclined members of the nerd family, so that they could have 72 hours of unfettered Call of Duty and whathaveyou.

The room smelled pre~eetty bad when the party passed by the open portal leading to damnation. A miasmatic blend of human underarms and energy drink-scented farts wafted out of the LAN room and this encouraged our heroes to hustle past, and fortunately no one failed his save against poison while traversing the stinking cloud. The pungent odors emanating from the consuite paled in comparison.

Breakfast was a splendor and a delight. Scrambled eggs, absolutely delicious American fries, sausage links roughly the same color and texture as human foreskins, and strong coffee. Seconds of the sausages were not had by anyone. Seconds of everything else were.

No panels of real interest were to be had in the morning, so Fernando crossed the country to retrieve his Munchkin boxes. These would be set up in the gaming rooms and people would be invited to play, and then they would be ready and waiting for Mr. Kovalic's pen when he arrived at 1 P.M. When he passed by the LAN room, a fan had been set up in the hallway opposite the door in a brave attempt to forestall the relentless tides of crushing despair.

The only people in the game room when Fernando returned, Munchkin underarm, were Chess Kid and Silent McGee. They played each other while Ronaldo stood nearby waiting for Fernando to arrive. Upon the game's completion and Silent McGee's victory, the taciturn man spoke three of his eight total words over the course of the weekend: “Want to play?” With nothing better to do and nobody else in the game room, Fernando and Ronaldo played chess for the next couple hours or so. Once that got a little stale, Fernando asked the man, “Want to play Muchkin?”

Word Number Four: “Sure.”

Silent McGee had never played the game before, but it is rather easy to pick up and he performed admirably, and was a good sport about losing. Andrés and Alfonso appeared at some point and they joined in the merriment as well. Chess Guy appeared, his disguise still intact, once the game was well underway and he loudly lamented his inability to join in. He was stuck squaring off against Chess Kid

Once the game ended, Silent McGee shared his final words: “That was fun. Thanks.” It was not yet enough to 1 PM that itchy anxiety crawled up Ronaldo's and Fernando's spines, and they needed something else to do. So they joined Andrés and Alfonso for a cigarette break outside in Purgatory, a stone circle a short distance away from the hotel's main entrance where the ashtray was located.

There leaned Kiltguy, except today he was dressed as a pirate. He smoked a long-stemmed pipe and he recognized Fernando when the crew approached, giving him a curt nod. Fernando reciprocated. The four of them bullshitted and the topic of Andrés' life came up. He had once lived in South Carolina and, by some incredible coincidence and fluke, Kiltguy was familiar with that area himself.

It seemed he had held back on Fernando the previous night, for he shared three more tales with all the world: The time he got an entire hotel chain banned from Scotland because he had been evicted from one of the American branches upon being told it was the chain's policy to disallow weapons on their property, among which is included the sgian-dubh (“It is illegal under Scottish law to forbid anyone from wearing their full national costume, so I called up the Scottish police and they immediately marched down to the Edinburgh branch of this hotel and ordered it closed.”). Then there was the time he was visiting a gun show in Virginia and he shared with us the story of the man who tried sticking up said gun show (“The man attempted to hide in the ladies' room, but it turns out that there were five off-duty female police officers in there and, let me tell you, they were not happy to see a man barging in!”). And there was the time the ex-Scottish secret service guy ran a police bar in Richmond and was held up by two out-of-towners who didn't know they were trying to stick up a police bar. “This man was huge, six-five at least, and he bodily lifted the poor thief off the ground by his wrist. The sound they use in movies when bones break, let me tell you, are not at all like hearing it in real life, and all the while he was shouting, 'YOU POOT A GUN...IN ME FAYCE!'”).

Friggin' Kiltguy. But at least he passed the time until it became time for Fernando and Ronaldo to reenter the den of inequity and pay homage to the man who was the sole reason for this venture: John Kovalic. He waited, quiet and calm, in the dealers' room, at a table with two other guys who seemed pissed off that nobody came to the table to see them. Fernando went to get his Munchkin and Muchkin Cthulhu boxes signed, but he came out with doodles and drawings upon their surfaces in addition to the signature.

Kick. Ass.

Next panel was Star Trek vs. Star Wars. That went as well as could be imagined, somewhat similarly to scenes the Wars v. Trek battles from the movie Fanboys except with less humor. Serious fucking business, people. Ronaldo was as unimpressed with the panel as Fernando. 5/10.

The next panel sounded as though it would be more phenomenal than the previous one: “The Hobbit After 75 Years.” It was advertised as a retrospective on the book and a discussion on the forthcoming movie. Ronaldo and Fernando were on pins and needles.

Four old pedants, all of them active in the local Tolkein Society and all of them with a professional background in teaching collegiate English, shared their personal anecdotes about what made The Hobbit awesome. There was a significant amount of reading directly from scholarly works written on Tolkein's legendarium. Ronaldo up and left after about ten minutes. Fernando stuck it out, hoping things would get better. He'd suffered through boring lectures in his university days. He could survive this.

Nope. Fernando tried injecting a bit of life into the listless plodding verbosity by bringing up Peter Jackson's video blogs when it seemed relevant. That didn't work. Ninety minutes after it started, the panel thankfully ended. Fernando grudgingly rates this panel a 1 out of 10 only because the panelists showed up and it actually started on time.

Dinner time! Away to the Chinese buffet across the street, with its crab rangoons and its sweet and sour chicken and its pad thai and its distinct lack of anything resembling heat in its food! Still, for 11 bucks it suited Fernando just fine and Ronaldo outdid all of them by chowing down on four plates of real food and another two of dessert. Well done, sir.

The time drew nigh for Fernando's moment of triumph, but there were still three hours to go before the seeds of his victory would be planted, and all the world would tremble in awe at his might and splendor.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fernando's Adventure, Part 4

While Fernando was trapped in the horrible panel which had been advertised to discuss women in geekdom, his brother Alfonso arrived at the hotel. He had been unable to join Ronaldo and Fernando earlier because his employer proved to be a right epic prick and forbade him from having the day off (notwithstanding his coworkers hare off pretty much whenever they feel like it). The pair of them wandered far and wide over the surface of the world, seeking Fernando, but they were unable to locate him. Once the panel ended and Fernando, filled with ire, stumped out, he saw the two of them standing in the hotel's lobby enjoying some cold sodey pops they had snagged from the consuite, a room which already exuded nefarious tendrils of nerd stank and hot dogs.

“Where the hell were you?” asked Alfonso.

“I was at a panel,” replied Fernando.

Ronaldo looks around. “So you were in the ceiling.”

“Would've been better off, actually.”

The three of them retired to their rented bedchamber for a while to discuss important matters like procuring food. Along the way, they passed by the stairwell in which rested the Plate Full O' Shrimp. The plate, silverware, and napkins were all still there, exactly as they were some hours before.

The shrimp, however, had vanished. Such mysteries in this life.

Once they got back and the door latched shut behind them, they cracked open one of Fernando's ginger ales to celebrate Alfonso's safe arrival and merriment was had, for much praise was heaped upon the carbonated concoction. They decided to order a pizza from Rocky Ricardo or Rambling Rococo or something, which purported to have a deal with the hotel, and Fernando was left in the bedroom to await the pizzaman's call while Alfonso went to have a cancer stick. Ronaldo joined him so that he would have a means of ingress into the building afterwards.

Fernando spent the time idly browsing his new Deities and Demigods and watching Giada at Home on the Food Network as she prepared a delectable tuna filet with hummus. The phone rang and the man from Robust Rollerblade informed Fernando that the pizza had arrived and awaited him in the lobby. A 16 inch pie (sort of, as it was a rectangle 16 inches on the one side and 12 on the other and therefore contained roughly 5% less pizza compared to the round variety) with one topping set Fernando back $21, not counting the tip. This with free delivery, mind.

There, people. Proof that Bills aren't that expensive. Although Fernando also received 9 plastic forks and 5 plastic knives and 3 napkins with his pizza, so perhaps that accounted for the price increase.

Fernando got a head start on stuffing his face as his sibling and comrade had not yet returned from wherever they'd run off to. The pizza actually tasted alright. Hot sauce would have improved it significantly. Alfonso and Ronaldo returned at some point and the feast began! The pizza was consumed, the ginger ale was downed, and that show on HBO with Ricky Gervais was on TV and no one had any idea whatsoever what was going on, least of all Fernando, who now experienced food coma atop like 40 hours of wakefulness.

Come 8 PM it was time for the opening ceremonies at the far end of the hotel. A rather cheesy albeit endearing play was put on by the convention organizers. Cthulhu was at one point invoked and so Fernando and one other cultist in the audience gave the Great Old One appropriate veneration, which was met with a chorus of disapproving moos from other audience members.


Anyhow, after the opening ceremonies ended and the audience dispersed, the power trio wandered the halls and Fernando came across what had distracted Alfonso and Ronaldo before. It seems they met an upstanding gentleman by the name of Andrés, of similar age with Alfonso, and they swapped cigarettes and D&D war stories. Though the man played primarily 3.5E, he had experience with all editions of the game and so was not a stranger to Fernando's favored 2E. They shared a disdain for 4E and for elves, and gnomes had a special place in both of their hearts. They fetched some wine from the nearby art show without actually attending the nearby art show and sipped at it as they spoke. A couple of hours later, Andrés' girlfriend came to collect him and he would exit from this story until the following day.

At this point Fernando, Ronaldo, and Alfonso entered the games room, where a pair of chessboards were set up. Ronaldo challenged Alfonso to a game and Fernando said, “Since when do you play chess?”

Since always.”

No shit.” Fernando stood nearby and watched.

As the match unfolded a child aged perhaps 11 or 12 bounded in. “I play winner!” he declared. Alfonso and Ronaldo shared a look. Chess Kid had just entered their lives, and he would remain a lingering curse for the remainder of the convention. As far as they could tell, Chess Kid had no family here, no genesis. He was there at any and all hours of the day. He just played chess alongside two older gentlemen, Silent McGee and Chess Dude, who, as Fernando and Co. would later find out, was the alter-ego to a new breed of superhuman warrior.

It was at this juncture that Fernando sat down at a chessboard for the first time in at least five years. He was not particularly good and failed to win a single game that wasn't Siamese chess, in which his partner did most of the winning, but all these losses would be offset by his glorious victory come the morrow.

Finally, at around 1 AM, Ronaldo and Alfonso told Fernando that they were turning in. Fernando figured this would be a good time for him as well. He'd been on the go for 42 hours by this point, even though he was past the point of tiredness by now. Much like in the Days of Yore, before Fernando had crippling amounts of personal responsibility so he and Alfonso and Yago and Catarina and Javier could engage in D&D marathons, Fernando was feeling fine and ready for more.

As the three of them exited the games room and left Chess Kid, Silent McGee, and Chess Dude to their competitions, a lady who had been at Fernando's Females in Geekdom panel approached him. She was a kindly older lady, Cristina, and she trapped Fernando in a conversation about her youthful exploits at conventions long past, sharing her personal experiences with male nerd ineptitude. Other con-goers passed by and she roped them in as well, calling them by their first names and serving as an introduction broker between them and Fernando. One of them was a middle-aged man wearing a kilt and bearing a shillelagh. He was no druid, no, but instead the finest bard Fernando had ever had the pleasure of meeting. Questions were asked of Fernando, the mysterious outsider: where he came from, what he had done with his life, what he was doing with his life.

Fernando answered them all, and some of his responses were met with scorn from his listeners. Upon revealing he had chosen to pursue study in sociology and philosophy in college, Cristina and Kiltman launched into the tirade Fernando has heard far too many times by now about how useless such academic endeavors were, and how Fernando would have been better-served studying something “practical” like business. Because, after all, this is America, and in America critical thinking is for suckers.

Why would I have studied something I despise?” Fernando asked.

Didn't you say you own your own business?”

Right. I never originally planned on owning my own business. I had hopes and dreams once upon a time before reality kind of squashed them.”

You have to admit, it would be better for you now if you had.”

Frankly, if I could have predicted with certainty where I would be ten years down the road ten years ago, I would have just said 'fuck it' and bought a couple of lottery tickets. If I cared enough, had the time, and had the money I could probably get some lame MBA bullshit degree, but I don't, I don't, and I don't. Well, I do, but I have other things I'd rather spend it on.”

Thankfully, at this point Kiltman changed the subject to his previous life adventures and spun long, entertaining tales that were about 80% bullshit for everyone who had gathered. Among other things, he had worked as a chemical and nuclear waste disposal technician (“Though I would refer to myself as a janitor when people asked what I did, so as to invite their disdain and then turn it on them. Some of the projects I oversaw I cannot speak about to this day, as they are so sensitive as to remain classified.”), a sailor (“We had been docked in Chile during the Pinochet regime, and, let me tell you, you have not seen death until you have seen someone be cut in half by a water cannon.”), and a corrections officer (“I would say to him, 'I will give you one carton of cigarettes a week, no questions asked, if you make this man your bitch.' Mind you, there is nothing illegal about that.”)

Fernando finally extricated himself from there at around 3 in the morning. He stumbled down the great long length of hallway leading back to his hotel room only to find Alfonso and Ronaldo still awake, watching Big Stan on TV.

That movie is horrible,” said Fernando. “And why are you still up?”

We were waiting for you,” Ronaldo answered. “Where were you?”

I got hung up by people. You would not believe this guy.” Fernando gave them the short version of the Life Stories of Kiltman. They disbelieved the veracity of his tale, but they would experience the truth soon enough.

Fernando set his alarm for bright and early, 8:30 AM, and clambered into bed at this point. His forty-four hours of being awake ceased, and sleep was finally his prize.