by Mark Finn
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Chapter Ten: The Mislaid Plans of Mouse and Man

Larry operating a computer was a lot like guiding a rhino through a hedge maze. It was doable, but only if you didn't mind how your hedge maze looked when the rhino was through with it.

In all fairness to Larry, he did not have any kind of state-of-the-art system, like Burt. His computer was pretty fast, four years ago. In computer terms, however, that meant it was a dinosaur in a tar pit.

Burt had long since given up on trying to fix or upgrade Larry's system. "This is, like, already a Frankenstein machine," he told Larry the last time he'd been asked to take a look at it. "You really just need to get a new 'puter."

"But that's a lot of money," Larry said. "Plus, I've got all my files on there," he pointed out.

"Yeah, for now. I'd make a back-up disk or two, just in case. And pray," Burt added.

All Larry ever used his machine for these days was the occasional character sheet design in File-Right Plus, and of course, e-mail. It was the latter activity that demanded all of Larry's concentration on Thursday afternoon. He typed slowly, with his tongue poking out of the side of his mouth. It helped him to concentrate. When he concentrated, he made fewer typing mistakes, which meant he spent less time jacking around with his ancient mouse and its subsequent jittery pointer. It would have taken Larry less time to use the directional arrow keys to get the cursor to the offending misspelled word than it would have to try and position the jittery pointer over the word and click the cursor into place. Peripherals, Larry felt, were there to be used, and so he gamely struggled with his mouse as he tried to perfect the error-free e-mail.

To: You Know Who You Are


Subject: The Last-minute checklist

Okay, this is the final checklist before we take off for Tempe. Call me if you don't have all of your bases covered.

Everyone: $250.00, change of clothes, and sleep gear (just in case).

D.J.: food and the cooler to keep it in. Get Mountain Dew!

Burt: fake ID.

Turk: costumes and props.

Me: backhoe info (we'll rent it!)

I'm picking up D.J. first, then we'll drive over and get the college boys. D.J., I'll be outside your house at 7:30 AM. Don't make me honk. We should hit Tempe by no later than 9:00 PM. After that, Operation Get Rich, and then we're going home with the Phallus of Ebon Keep! Cha-Ching!

Get some sleep. You'll need it.


Larry paused and reread his message again, wondering if he should have put everyone's detailed lists in the e-mail. On one hand, it never hurt to be too careful. He went back in and typed up their assignment sheets he'd handed out on Tuesday, then went back in with his jittery mouse and deleted them. They'll think I'm trying to boss them around, he decided, or maybe baby them. This e-mail will do. If there's something on the list that they had forgotten, this e-mail would serve to remind them.

Beaming at his logic, Larry brought the shaky pointer up to his address book and double-clicked. A list of groups of people tumbled forth, and Larry carefully positioned his cursor over the list entitled "GUYS, THE" and double clicked, filling the "SEND TO" box with addresses. Larry glanced up and saw D.J.'s address, and, satisfied that all was right with the world, pressed SEND. The E-mail was away, and Larry got up, stretching, and went outside to make the back of his van suitable for humans.

Unfortunately for Larry, the second he double clicked on his intended e-mail group, his shaky pointer zigged when it should have zagged, and instead filled the "SEND TO" box with the group entitled "GAMERS I KNOW." Ironically, D.J.'s e-mail address was at the top of both lists, as Larry had long ago culled out his three friends from the almost anonymous group of role-players scattered across the country.

So, instead of hitting Burt, Turk, and D.J. with his perfect e-mail, Larry sent their final checklist to forty-eight different gamers from the Bay Area to Pittsburgh, PA.

Next Chapter

Chapter One: The Navel Adventures of Larry Croft
Chapter Two: 1123 Miles to Tempe
Chapter Three: Enter the String
Chapter Four: The Waiting is the Hardest Part
Chapter Five: Rutlege's Story
Chapter Six: The Plot Thickens
Chapter Seven: The Fifth Man is Revealed
Chapter Eight: It's a DRY Heat
Chapter Nine: Preparing to Lam
Chapter Ten: The Mislaid Plans of Mouse and Man
Chapter Eleven: The Danger of Talking to God
Chapter Twelve: Anchors Aweigh, Let's Go Men
Chapter Thirteen: The End is Near
Chapter Fourteen: Roll to Hit
Chapter Fifteen: Six Feet of Beef Stick for the Soul
Chapter Sixteen: Hello, My Name is Indio, California
Chapter Seventeen: Threadgill Takes Charge
Chapter Eighteen: The Players on the Other Side
Chapter Nineteen: On the Road to Perdition
Chapter Twenty: Welcome to Tempe
Chapter Twenty-One: The Game is Afoot
Chapter Twenty-Two: Should Have Known Better
Chapter Twenty-Three: Test-Run at the Waffle House
Chapter Twenty-Four: The Supply Run
Chapter Twenty-Five: The Backhoe
Chapter Twenty-Six: A Frank Discussion
Chapter Twenty-Seven: A Brief History of Larry's Van
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Go Speed Racer, Go
Chapter Twenty-Nine: The Owner of the Thumbscrews
Chapter Thirty: Brain Teasers
Chapter Thirty-One: Frick and Frack Check In
Chapter Thirty-Two: Scouting
Chapter Thirty-Three: The Stakeout
Chapter Thirty-Four: The Food Fight
Chapter Thirty-Five: Time to Dig
Chapter Thirty-Six: Deep in the Night
Chapter Thirty-Seven: Paydirt
Chapter Thirty-Eight: The Phallus of Ebon Keep
Chapter Thirty-Nine: Otto and Stacy Make Good
Chapter Forty: Thieves in the Night
Chapter Forty-One: Critical Failure
Chapter Forty-Two: Downtown
Chapter Forty-Three: The Hoosegow
Chapter Forty-Four: An Emergency Breakfast
Chapter Forty-Five: Two Early Phone Calls
Chapter Forty-Six: Threadgill Meets the Gang
Chapter Forty-Seven: Back to the Van
Chapter Forty-Eight: Five Days Later
Table of Contents

About the Author

Mark Finn is the author of Blood & Thunder: the Life and Art of Robert E. Howard, which was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. He also writes excellent short stories, essays, articles, and reviews. In addition to his regular gig at the Vernon Plaza Theater, he can be found intermittently on The Clockwork Storybook blog and RevolutionSF, holding court or damning with faint praise.