Friday, May 7, 2010

Love's Fiery Imbroglio

** A Long Tail note to the readers of posterity before we begin: when you're done with this one, if you like it, evidence suggests the odds are good you'll also enjoy my conversions of Choose Your Own Romance and A Dark And Stormy Entry up here. **

At long last, we conclude the hypertextification of our largest work covered here to date, a venerable piece of computer hyperfiction dating back decades.

Love's Fiery Imbroglio by Natasha Mirage: The Torrid Tale of What Could Turn Out To Be THE Perfect Date

The story was originally a "Choose Your Own Adventure" written by "Natasha Mirage" [perhaps [Dec 2011: Confirmed!] an alias for Pinnacle programmer Timothy S. Campbell of Pyroto Mountain fame?] for a system named PINNTALE marketed by Pinnacle Software. Those of you interested in an excellent system specifically designed for developing and playing "Choose Your Own Adventures" [were] encouraged to buy PINNTALE from Pinnacle Software at the address given below. The price [was] $20.

This story was converted to the Adventure Game Toolkit by Mike Ryan as "Love's Fiery Rapture", a port described by Graeme Cree thusly in a review in SPAG #11 (Sept 1997) "[Its] primary value is as a programming model for others wishing to create this same type of adventure." A_Gamebook_Fan must agree that the AGT source code was most useful when converting the game to HTML in late 2009-early 2010; the port also helpfully set all the proper noun variables in stone.

I'd like to thank the following people for helping me with this story...
Thanks and many hugs to: Alice, Bev, Diane, James, Lana, Lynda and Steve!

If you'd like to write to me, here's my address:

Natasha Mirage
C/O Pinnacle Software
P.O. Box 163, Cartierville Station
Montreal, Quebec, Canada H4K 2J5
(Converter's note: please consider for yourself that however meritorious this work of hyperfiction, the address as posted was current in 1988, over two decades ago, and the author will in all likelihood not receive correspondence sent to that address today.)

— — —

By the by, this story will be a "straight" encounter. You know ... boy meets girl. If you want boy-meets-boy or girl-meets-girl or android-meets-llama, you'll have to look elsewhere.

Is a "straight" encounter what you were hoping for?

  1. Yes
  2. No

— — —

Oh, well. Maybe I'll write a non-straight story next time.

Wait a sec ... I'm getting an idea already! It will be entitled:

The Joy of Socks

It'll be an exciting foray into the mysterious world of foot-wear fanciers! Imagine the fun of snuggling up to some nice wooly slippers! Getting kinky with a new pair of sandals! Having your way with freshly buffed loafers!

Yup, I'll start writing that story right away. Well, not RIGHT away. I just noticed a saucy, bewitching pair of boots under my sofa.

I'll get back to you.

(Try again?)

— — —

Okay, now here's the important question:

Are you male or female?

  1. Female
  2. Male

— — —

Hey, this story is supposed to be for gals! Go AWAY!

You wouldn't want to read it, anyway. It's all about knitting.

(Try again?)

— — —

It's a dreary day in San Franscisco. You stand at the window and watch the rain splattering against the glass. Nothing's going right, today. You nicked yourself quite badly while shaving your legs, and you ruined a good pair of nylons. (That'll teach you not to shave with your nylons on!)

Rain, rain, rain! What's the use? Turning around, you spot a big pile of laundry that you've been trying to avoid. The hangers in your closet are conspicuously bare of clothing. What a depressing day!

What do you do?

  1. I do my laundry.
  2. I keep staring out the window.

— — —

After doing your laundry, you feel much better! Doesn't it feel good to look into a closet full of fresh, clean clothes, knowing that you won't have to do another "load" for a while?

With your mood greatly improved, you decide to continue staring out the window. Those dismal depressing rain-drops no longer worry you. Now they're exciting elegant rain-drops!

Suddenly, the phone rings. "Who could that be?" you wonder. Since it's not likely that you'll be able to figure it out without actually asking, you lift the receiver and say, "Hello?"

"Hello!" His voice seems confident and self-assured. But you get the feeling that he is maybe a little bit fretful.

"Who is this?" you ask. You're certainly entitled to ask such a question! After all, it isn't every day a girl gets a confident, self-assured "Hello!" Maybe this guy is a confident, self-assured NUT!

There's a pause. The fellow seems to be at a loss. Perhaps his notes don't cover that kind of response. But he forges ahead. "Hi. My name is Bill. A friend of mine gave me your number. He said that he thought you and I should get together. Are you free tonight?"

What do you do?

  1. Hang up the phone.
  2. Tell him that, by some amazing fluke, you're not busy tonight.

— — —

Well, you're safe from strange callers. You're also alone.

Since you're afraid to take a few risks, you'll probably live the rest of your life in peace and security.

And this is how the story ends: Amy lived peacefully ever after. Alone.

(Restart the story?)

— — —

"Marvelous!" he exclaims. "Is six o'clock okay with you?"

  1. Tell him it's just perfect.
  2. Tell him it's a little late for you.
  3. Tell him it's a little early for you.

— — —

Six o'clock is a little LATE? You must live some kind of exciting life!

With a slightly distainful sniff, Bill says he'll check his schedule and get back to you.

Needless to say, you never hear from him, again.

You blew it, sis.

(Back up a step or restart the story?)

— — —

Bill proposes to drop by at 8:00 PM, and you agree.

Unfortunately, at 7:55 PM, he encounters another girl and gets caught up in a fascinating conversation. By 9:30 PM, he realizes that he's stood you up. In an effort to atone for his sin, he joins a mission and spends the rest of his life tending to lepers.

So maybe you didn't get a date. It still worked out pretty good for the lepers, so your little mistake actually brought more joy into the world.

Don't you love a happy ending?

(Back up a step or restart the story?)

— — —

Okay, so he's going to be here at 6:00. You frantically tidy up your place, throwing the worst of the junk into a closet and hoping you won't have to go back in there for some reason.

Now what do you do?

  1. Take a shower
  2. Take a bath

— — —

Are you NUTS? Didn't you see "Psycho"?

But you take a shower anyway. The hot, stinging blast of water revives and invigorates you, mind and body.

Meanwhile, a crazed killer with a foot-long knife is lurking.

But that's okay -- he's next door. Not only do you enjoy your shower, but you get to read a very interesting story in the paper the next day.

— — —

Ahhh, a lovely bath! You sprinkle fragrant powder into the water and settle down to luxuriate in the dainty bubbles. Everything seems beautiful!

But suddenly, you run out of hot water. The tap is gushing forth luke-warm liquid. This (ahem) dampens your mood somewhat.

Okay, so it's not a big disaster. But OoOoOooo is it ever ANNOYING!

Hey, this is a true-to-life story! What did you expect? Martians?

— — —

You towel yourself off then wipe off the mirror to stare at your face. A thousand questions are banging around in your head. (You can't see this in the mirror; you'll have to take my word for it.)

What'll he be like? Will he like me? Will he like my face? Will I like him? Will I like HIS face? What'll I be like? Will I like it if he likes me? Is it likely that he'll be like I want him to be like? Like, will he?

Likely -- er -- luckily for you, you bought a new outfit just yesterday. You know it makes you look GOOD: emphasizing the bits that need emphasizing and pushing, pulling, slimming, trimming and generally sprucing up the other parts. It's daring without being saucy, respectable without being stodgy, fashionable without being outrageous.

Have you got a picture of that outfit firmly in your mind?

  1. Yes, I can picture it perfectly
  2. No, I haven't the foggiest idea

— — —

Good. That means I don't have to describe it. I've haven't a clue how any outfit could be all those things.

If YOU can picture it, maybe you should consider a job in the fashion industry.

— — —

You haven't the foggiest idea? Well ... wait a sec ... try wiping the mirror again. Any less foggy now?

No, I didn't think that would work. After all, you're standing there stark naked. Just take my word for it that such an outfit does exist. Yeah. And you can wear your glass slippers, too.

Go get dressed!

— — —

Still steaming a little, you give yourself the "once over". Legs shaved, eyebrows plucked, all systems go. You check your purse for all the essentials. Tissues, three shades of lipstick, sundry powders and sprays, tour guide of Leningrad (how'd that get in there?), all the necessary feminine supplies including -- a monkey wrench? Gotta remember to return that.

Staggering a little under the weight, you deposit your purse by the door.

Suddenly, there's a knock at the door. What do you do?

  1. Answer the door.
  2. Yell out "Be there in a minute!"

— — —

Ahem. You're still naked -- remember?

The delivery boy hands you a bouquet of roses and stands there, staring. You can see that he's calculating what kind of tip he's going to get.

What do you do?

  1. Tip him a dollar, plus an extra five bucks "hush money".
  2. Invite him in and make wild, passionate love.

— — —

Quick thinking, Amy!

The lad accepts the money and scampers off. And being utterly honest, he nevers breathes a word to anybody about the incident.

No, never a word.

Too bad you didn't notice he had a CAMERA.

Your reputation shattered, you have no choice but to become a nun. But even this vocation ultimately eludes you when you appear as the center-fold in a publication entitled, "The Evil of Sinning, Illustrated".

Finally, in desperation, you marry a computer programmer. Oh, well.

(Back up a step or restart the story?)

— — —

Shame on you! He's only half your age! A mere lad!

I refuse to continue telling you this story, you wicked woman. No, no more stories. Enough is enough.

However ... while we're on the subject, perhaps you'd like to forward your address to me. I know of a particular Boy Scout who is exceptionally eager to do his "good deed for the day".

Let me know how it goes.

(Back up a step or restart the story?)

— — —

Hastily tossing on a bath-robe, you open the door. A pimply-faced delivery boy thrusts a bouquet of roses into your hand, then trundles off.

Amongst the dozen deep red roses, you notice a single white rose, with a note attached.

— — —

How unromantic!

Just for that, I'm going to invoke my right as an author and do away with the main character.

The toilet backs up and floods the bathroom. You try to escape, but the bathroom door mysteriously turns out to be LOCKED! (You hear the sound of an author running away, cackling.)

You drown.

So there.

(Back up a step or restart the story?)

— — —

Here is what the note says:

                ¦ Just from our brief conversation, ¦
                ¦ I feel that you are the kind of   ¦
                ¦ girl who stands out from the      ¦
                ¦ crowd.  I'm looking forward to    ¦
                ¦ seeing you, tonight.              ¦
                ¦                                   ¦
                ¦ I have a fine restaurant in mind. ¦
                ¦ Do you like continental cuisine?  ¦
                ¦ Carry this rose with you tonight  ¦
                ¦ if the answer is "Yes".           ¦
With wings on your feet and a song in your heart, you get dressed and give extra loving care to your make-up. And now...

— — —

Oh, come on! Give the guy a break, will you? Do you have any idea what roses COST, these days?

Since you're obviously not getting into the spirit of this story, let's have something utterly unromantic happen, okay?

Darth Vader smashes open the door and looms over you, breathing menacingly.

"That breathing!" you exclaim, "You're that obscene phone caller!"

"Yessss," he proclaims. "And now, I will kidnap you and take you to a planet in a galaxy far far away!"

Now, this might strike you as pretty romantic (if you happen to find men like Darth Vader exciting), but that's a totally different story, which we don't have time for.

A brief synopsis is in order, though: it turns out that you're the long-lost half-sister of C3PO, and while you're wired for 12 volts, Darth is running at 110 volts AC. There's a big explosion and the Empire wins.

(Back up a step or restart the story?)

— — —

At precisely 6:00, there's a knock on the door.

  1. I open the door.
  2. I pretend I'm not home.

— — —

Okay, fine. BE like that!

Eventually, Bill wanders away -- right out of your life.

The End.


You've got to learn to be a little bolder! I'm going to give you a second chance. I'm going to assume that you changed you mind and opened the door, anyway.

Is that okay with you?

  1. Yes.
  2. No.

— — —

You open the door.

Standing before you is ... a demi-god. Let me describe this hunk!

Bill is just a tad over 6 feet tall, with wavy, sandy-coloured hair, and sparkling blue eyes. He looks trim and marvelously fit, and is sporting a perfect tan. Something tells you (without even looking) that he's probably got great buns, too!

All this hits you in the first half-second.

During the next second, you quickly assess his attire. He's wearing a sharp, dark blue suit with a subtle pattern to the weave. This goes well with his tie (light and dark blue stripes) and his shirt (palest azure with tiny black pin-stripes).

You become conscious that he's using this slight pause to size you up as well. You feel you should say something, but you've GOT to check one last thing.

Ah, yes, his socks go well with the shoes!

"Hello, Amy."

You smile. What a wonderful voice he has! He sounds MUCH better in person! There's that same self-assurance, but you sense a profound gentleness in him.

But you can't lose your cool. Trying to look unaffected by his charms, you step aside and say, "Come in. I'm almost ready."

He sweeps gracefully by you.

Is this guy something, or what?

  1. He's okay.
  2. I hate him.
  3. Pardon my rapid breathing.

— — —

Merely "okay"?

Well, there's still hope. Let's see what happens next.

— — —

You hate him?!?

What's your idea of a perfect date, anyhow?

Maybe he'll grow on you. Give him a chance.

— — —

As he sweeps by you, you catch a whiff of his after-shave. Now how on earth did he know to pick THAT particular fragrance? There's something about THAT after-shave that brings back those kinds of memories ... memories you didn't even know you had ... something primordial, perhaps?

You become aware that you're standing there inhaling a lot. Bill looks at you curiously.

"Oh, um, well, just sit down on the couch. I'll be with you in just a bit."

You retreat to the washroom and do a last-minute appraisal. Every hair in place? Good. Make-up hunky-dorey? Good. What else? Maybe one extra teensy little spritz of perfume ... there. You're perfection itself! What a lucky guy he is!

  1. I fling open the door and shout, "Take me, you beast!"
  2. I stand in the foyer and say, "I'm ready, now."

— — —

Whoa, Amy! Too fast, too fast! Take your time! The night is still young.

Now, calm down. Shut that door, again. Take a deep breath. Hold it for a count of five.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five.

Okay, now go stand in the foyer and say, "I'm ready, now."

Shame on you!

— — —

Bill arises from the couch with a single, fluid motion. It's marvelous, just watching him walk towards you!

You wave the white rose around in what you hope is an inconspicuous manner. In your mind's eye, the white rose becomes a white flag -- a sign of surrender? You scold yourself: No! Don't think like that!

He holds open the door and says, "I'm parked out front."

  1. Now that his guard is down, I give him a swift karate kick.
  2. We go out to the car.

— — —

Who do you think you are? Rambette, the female Rambo?

He shrugs off the kick with a grin and says, "I like a girl with ... SPUNK!"

For the remainder of the evening, nothing more is said of the incident. He does, however, watch your feet more than you'd normally expect.

Anyway, back to the car...

— — —

His car is a two-seat convertible of some kind. It looks faintly familiar, but you're not sure where you've seen it before. In a movie, perhaps? You ask him what kind of car it is.

"Oh, that. It's not really the best choice, but my BMW is in the shop."

"Oh. But what kind of car is that? It looks familiar, somehow..."

"Well, that's a nice compliment. A buddy of mine was opening up a fiberglass shop and I figured I'd help him test out the new equipment, so I whipped up a replica of an A.C. Cobra."

The sleek yet brutal appearance of the vehicle impresses you. "It's very nice," you admit. The car is certainly exciting, in a faintly menacing way.

"Thanks. But I really should have taken a little more time. As you can see," -- he tugs on a handle -- "the doors stick a bit."

  1. What a dummy! Can't he even get the doors right?
  2. I tell him it's very nice anyway.

— — —

Geeeeez, you really DO want the PERFECT date, don't you?

Sorry, sis, but ... not on THIS planet!

Will you accept anything less than TOTAL perfection?

  1. No. My men must be absolutely perfect in every conceivable way.
  2. Okay, okay, I'll give him another chance.

— — —

Oh, and I suppose YOU'RE perfect, Miss Goody-Two-Shoes?

Hmmmph! Well, I never!

You're not going to be in MY story!

(Back up a step or restart the story?)

— — —

He starts up the engine. It roars to life, then settles into a heavy, throbbing rhythm. You can feel the steady beat of the cylinders in your tush. You experience a sudden attack of panic.

"You're not going to drive too fast, I hope?"

Bill tosses back his head whimsically. "Oh, no, I don't need that. I take this thing down to the track every couple of weeks. I feel safer there than on the highway with some of the nuts we have on our roads!"

You both laugh lightly, and you relax.

"Okay, the restaurant's about 20 minutes away," says Bill. "I'm afraid it gets a little noisey in an open car like this, so ... is there anything you want to say before we leave?" His playful grin melts your heart.

  1. I tell him I've changed my mind and we should go for 'burgers.
  2. I make small-talk for a few minutes then say, "Okay, show me what this baby can do!"
  3. I make small-talk for a few minutes then say, "Okay, let's go!"

— — —

Hey, c'mon, honey-child! Where'd you learn your moves?

I'll assume that you are worried that maybe this "continental" restaurant is going to be expensive, and you don't know yet if you're going "dutch".

Well, it just so happens that just last week you found a wallet with a thousand dollars in it, and a note reading:

               ¦ I'm always losing things!  If you ¦
               ¦ ever find this wallet, please do  ¦
               ¦ not contact me or return the      ¦
               ¦ money.  It's about time I had a   ¦
               ¦ strong reminder that will keep me ¦
               ¦ more attentive in the future.     ¦
               ¦                                   ¦
               ¦ Thank-you very very much!         ¦
So let's just assume that you're rolling in dough and a measly little meal isn't going to break you.

— — —

Very bold! But it so happens that this is an old-fashioned kind of guy.

You know men ... you can't come on TOO strong, right away.

You've worried Bill a little bit. But he's a resilient fellow, and he'll bounce right back.

Just try to take it a little easy, okay? Let him do his number. Don't forget what's going on, here! It's the "battle of the sexes". Let him reveal his battle-plan, then ...


Sorry, I got a little carried away. Oh, dear ... that was a MAN who said that, wasn't it?

Well, strategy is strategy.

— — —

Bill's powerful car hugs the road and leaps eagerly from curve to curve. It's not that Bill is driving FAST, mind you. You've been covertly glancing at the speedometer and it seems that he never exceeds the speed limit. But when the speed limit changes, the car seems to react instantly. And when you go into a corner, Bill doesn't slow down.

"I'm not driving too fast, am I? I can tone it down, if you'd like!" he shouts over the blast of the slipstream.

  1. I tell him to slow down.
  2. I tell him, "That's okay! This is fun!"

— — —

Tut, tut!

Oh, okay. He slows down. Bill is a nice fellow, and he just wants to make you happy.

Maybe, later on, you can make HIM happy by telling him it's okay to speed up, again. It's not as if he was SPEEDING or anything.

You are now crawling along at half the speed limit. You could probably WALK to the restaurant in less time.

It's a good thing that Bill is so darn understanding...

— — —

You pull into the restaurant. It's located in what appears to be a very old house that has been refurbished -- probably at great expense. The sign outside identifies it as:

                      ¦                             ¦
                      ¦   Le Gastronome En Extase   ¦
                      ¦                             ¦
Bill leaps from the car and circles round to hold open your door. (This takes a little bit of struggling, since, as we've already noted, the doors on this car stick a bit.)

"We've got reservations for 6:30," he comments. He glances at his watch. "Well! Good timing! It's just a few seconds after 6:29!"

You enter the restaurant, and for the first time, you notice that Bill is strutting somewhat proudly. You ponder this for a moment, and watch him as his eyes survey the place. And then you realize what's going on.

There's a gleam in his eyes. It seems like a challenge to all those who are assembled in this restaurant. He's saying, "Look what I brought! Look at this woman and marvel! I found her! And that's why she's here with ME, not you!"

Oh, MEN! *GIGGLE!* Like, you really hate this, don't you?

  1. His attitude is terribly demeaning.
  2. Oh, you know men!
  3. Maybe I'm reading a little too much into his strut.

— — —

It's demeaning to have somebody who's proud of you? It's demeaning to be thought of as beautiful?

Well, maybe his wording is wrong.

The thing is, he didn't SAY any of that! He just looks like he'd LIKE to say those things.

We all have primitive urges deep within us. Now, Bill is a modern fellow, and doesn't want to be demeaning, so he tries to give women the respect they deserve. He's pro-feminist, you know! Why, he even read a copy of "Ms." once!

Can you forgive him this slight lapse?

  1. Yes
  2. No

— — —

Good! You show great sensitivity to Bill's needs. No wonder he's so taken by your charms!

— — —

Oh, well, I guess he wasn't "The Perfect Date" after all!

Geez. What do you expect from a computer program? Perfection?

(Back up a step or restart the story?)

— — —

Yes, we all know about MEN! Men are beasts! Men are animals! Men only think about one thing!

Of course, depending on who you ask, that "one thing" might be sex, or football, or golf, or something equally evil.

Isn't it amazing how men are all thinking about the same multiple thing? Wait a second ... that doesn't make sense.

Maybe we don't know men as well as we thought...

Let's just watch Bill and see what he does next.

— — —

It may well be so! Maybe you're interpreting his actions incorrectly.

Or MAYBE you are projecting your inner complexes upon him in some way. Maybe you have a secret desire to be ... dominated?


Or maybe not.

Maybe you're just plain wrong about his strut.

Maybe I'm wrong and shouldn't try to psychoanalyze people.

Maybe we'd better just see what happens next.

— — —

The maitre-d' approaches you and addresses Bill with a pronounced French accent, "Do you have a reservation, sir?"

"Oui, nous l'avons," replies Bill. The maitre-d' grins. The two proceed to banter in French for a short time, after which you are led to your table and handed your menus.

You glance at the menu -- noticing that there aren't any prices on your copy -- and say, "You seem very comfortable with French. Where did you learn it?"

"Oh, well, my family lived in France for a while. Quite close to the Riviera, in fact. Lovely country! Lovely climate, too!"

"Sounds ... lovely! Where do your parents live now?"

Bill's expression clouds briefly and he stares at the table. "My parents are ... no longer ..." His voice trails off.

Mortified, you stutter, "Oh, I'm so sorry. What ... happened?"

He looks up at you. "The past is the past. I'd rather not go into it. Perhaps some day we can discuss it. But for now, let's enjoy our meal." He tries to maintain a stoney expression, but you notice the pained furrowing of his brow.

Hastily opening your menu, you exclaim, "There sure seems to be a good selection, doesn't there?" You feel crass; you feel heartless. You know there's no way you could have known, but you feel bad anyway.

Looking up from the menu to gauge Bill's reaction to your last outburst, you see that he seems more relaxed, now. Perhaps he really does have the ability to bury the past! He says, "Yes, they have a fine selection, and it's always prepared to perfection. Have you decided what you're going to have?"

"Well, since you seem to know this place, why don't you pick out something that you know is really special?"

Bill nods, and studies the menu. "Ah, I know just the dish!"

At that moment, a waiter appears. He's a tall, wirey fellow with a thin mustache gracing his boney face. "Are we ready to order?" he asks.

Bill looks up at the waiter with a start and asks, "Lyons?"

The waiter looks surprised. "Why, yes. How did you know?"

Bill grins. "Your accent. Just a guess. It's harder to pick it out when somebody's speaking English, but ... well, I got it right after all! Did you ever visit 'Bistro Chez Louis'?"

The two chatter for a while about their exploits in Lyons. But finally, the waiter notices the critical gaze of the maitre-d' and repeats, "Are we ready to order, then?"

Bill replies, "Pour nous, numero cinquante". The waiter bows slightly and scurries away.

"What did you order?" you ask.

His eyes shine as he says, "Get your taste-buds ready for the experience of a life-time! French restaurants aren't known for their pasta, but this is an incredible concoction of Fettucine Verdi avec Jambon et Fromage." He leans forward in his enthusiasm. "It's not the basics that make this dish special. It's the spices! I've had this dish many times and -- for the life of me -- I can't figure out what the spices are! Oh, sure, I can spot the obvious ones, such as oregano and estragon -- pepper, of course -- but there's something extra they add, and I JUST can't figure what it is!"

  1. I suggest that the secret ingredient is salt.
  2. I nod a lot.
  3. I'm a gourmet, and I can probably figure out the magic formula.

— — —

Bill looks at you in amazement. "Salt?" he gasps. "Salt?!?!"

Somehow, you get the feeling that you've insulted his intelligence.

The rest of the evening goes by reasonably pleasantly, but after that, Bill walks out of your life.

It's not that Bill doesn't like salt, you understand. It's just that any gourmet can identify salt with his tongue blindfolded.

When you suggested "salt", you insulted Bill's prowess as a gourmet. It's hard to say how insulted he was, but maybe this is an indication: when he finally left you, his parting words were, "Good night, stupid."

Maybe you should take that comment "with a grain of salt".

(Back up a step or restart the story?)

— — —

That's a considerate reaction. And let's face it: why get into a big debate when there's a yummy meal coming up?

— — —

No way!

It just so happens that the "secret spice" is harvested from a mutant bush that inhabits a tiny area of southern Malaysia.

This spice affects the taste-buds the way LSD affects the brain.

The only people who know of this spice are a few pygmies. And Gaston, the master chef of this restaurant.

Now, you might ask HOW Gaston knows of this spice. But that's another story. Maybe I'll get around to writing it, some day -- unless I get hit by a poison dart. (Those pygmies really guard their secrets...)

— — —

You and Bill chat pleasantly about meaningless things as you await your meal. One thing catches your eye: Bill surreptitiously picks up the wine list, scowls briefly, and deposits it on the table behind him. You don't comment on this.

The waiter returns with two steaming plates.

  1. I'd like to know more about the waiter.
  2. Who cares about the waiter? Let's eat!

— — —

The waiter's name is Phillipe. As I said, he's a tall, wirey fellow with a thin mustache gracing his boney face. Did you think I was fibbing? I wouldn't lie to you about something like that.

He doesn't seem as interesting as Bill, but sometimes looks can be deceiving. In fact, Phillipe has what may be the world's largest collection of coffee stir-sticks! Is that interesting or what?

  1. Okay, enough of him. Let's eat!
  2. Tell me more about the waiter!

— — —

Well, let's leave the story for a moment. You can interview Phillipe.

Amy: Phillipe, what would you say is the most interesting thing about you?

Phillipe: I'm a waiter.

Amy: Did you have to study for that or something?

Phillipe: No. I started out at the bottom, though. I worked in greasy spoons for years, then moved up to hotel restaurants, and finally I arrived here!

Amy: That's nice. What else is interesting about you?

Phillipe: Well, I ... I keep getting this recurring dream. It's been with me ever since I worked in a "greasy spoon". But you'd have to have been a waiter or a waitress to understand it.

Amy: Well, tell it to me.

Phillipe: Okay. In this dream, I'm standing at the end of a long, long, hall. It stretches out to infinity. And on either side of the hall are booths. In each booth sits a couple, with their hands folded in front of them, waiting patiently to get served.

Amy: That doesn't sound too bad.

Phillipe: Yes, but I'm the only waiter! And I know that the further I go down the hall, the longer they'll have been waiting, and the more they'll tap their fingers and look at their watch and try to catch my eye and cough and make funny sounds or ...

[Phillipe is getting a little upset at this point]

... or even whistle! And there's millions of them! And they're getting --

[Phillipe is now clearly whimpering]

Amy: -- Okay, Phillipe, thanks for sharing that with us.

Phillipe: [Sniffling slightly] Thanks. I needed to get that off my chest.

Now that we've gotten Phillipe to "really open up", let's eat!

— — —

Good company makes for good appetite, so you pick up your fork and attack the pasta with relish. (No, no, the pasta doesn't have relish on it. You're relishing the pasta. Okay?)

Your tastebuds soar with ecstasy! The flavour-centers of your brain are singing with joy! Even your gums are enjoying this!

"This is quite good," you concede.

Bill nods and continues eating. Little is said until you both finish eating. You have a strong urge to lick the plate clean.

"Well," says Bill, "was I right about that dish?"

  1. "Yes, you certainly were right!"
  2. "Not bad!"

— — —

Are you trying to hurt his feelings?

C'mon! Remember the fragility of the Male Ego.

Let's do this until you get it right.

— — —

Bill orders dessert. The waiter brings you a tasty spice cake. No icing, not too sweet. A perfect sequel to the main course. You chat some more, and linger dreamily over coffee. Bill tells you that the waiter is personally responsible for making the coffee and that he makes the best coffee in the world. Sipping the hot, fragrant brew, you have no reason to doubt it.

You are relaxed and ... happy! And it's not just the food that's making you feel this way.

You're glowing with enjoyment. When Bill speaks, you hang on his every word. Music is playing in your head. You're a little short of breath.

— — —

Let me give you a few more hints, Amy...

Bill seems to be the most wonderful man in the whole world.

Bill seems to be the most beautiful man in the whole world.

Bill seems to be the most intelligent man in the whole world.

Bill seems to be the wisest man in the whole world.

Now, nobody can REALLY be all those things.

Now, let's give you a test. Fill in the blank in this famous saying:

"____ is blind."

  1. Pizza
  2. Pizza with anchovies
  3. Love
  4. The industrialization of Europe during the 18th century

— — —

Nope. Wrong-o. Try again.

  1. Pizza
  2. Pizza with anchovies
  3. Love <----------------- (HINT HINT!!!)
  4. The industrialization of Europe during the 18th century

— — —

Yes, Amy! It seems that old magic spell has once again grabbed you! Your heart is doing cartwheels! You have a desperate desire to get shipwrecked with Bill on a desert island.


(Let's take a moment to catch our breath and think snuggly thoughts.)

You're suddenly burning with curiousity: how is it that such a hunk is unattached? You deftly swing the conversation around to "friends", trying to find out something about his last girlfriend, but it doesn't work.

The waiter arrives with that little platter that you always dread. He places it in front of Bill.

You quickly say, "So, what does my part come to?"

"Thanks for the offer, but I can handle it. I just got a royalty cheque from my poetry collection."

"You write poetry?" you blurt out.

"Yes," he says absently. He reaches into the inner pocket of his suit and pulls out a billfold. As he does so, a napkin falls out and flutters to the table. You notice that it's covered in ball-point pen scribbling.

  1. I grab it and daintily wipe my mouth with it.
  2. I ask, "What's that?"

— — —

Bill snatches the napkin from your grasp and cries out, "What are you? Some kind o' nut?"

That was a pretty rash action, Amy!

He apologizes for his outburst, but the evening's fun is quickly concluded. You're left standing outside your home, with only your memories...

But as the weeks go by, you come to the conclusion that Bill wasn't serious when he apologized. Because on the weekly anniversary of your disastrous date, the mailman brings you a special-delivery parcel, postmarked London.

Inside the parcel is a nut.

I think you offended him, Amy.

(Back up a step or restart the story?)

— — —

Bill stares at the napkin in surprise. "Oh, dear," he mutters. He smoothes it reverently, folds it, and places it in his left pocket.

"That was a poem I was writing for my ... ex-fiancee."

"Oh," you reply.

You notice that he's not looking at you. He's now looking THROUGH you. He seems lost in some poignant reverie. When he comes back to reality, he speaks haltingly and his pain is evident.

"Her name was Julie. I was going to ask her to move up the wedding date with that poem." He brightens up a bit. "It was going to be cast in a Shakespearian mode. I re-read 'Romeo and Juliet' and I consulted with a local thespian company to check on the fine points. But ..." he deflates slightly, "it never came to pass."

"What happened?" you ask tremulously.

His head snaps up and he replies, somewhat savagely, "The past is the past. I'd rather not go into it. Let's blow this joint." He stands up, hurls some bills on the table and gestures towards the door.

You follow after him meekly, mumbling platitudes.

Once outside, Bill takes a deep breath of fresh air. His dark mood has passed like a brief summer thundershower. "Let's head into town," he suggests. "I think San Franscisco has some of the best window-shopping around."

  1. I press him on the subject of his ex-fiancee.
  2. I agree with him because I like window-shopping.
  3. I agree with him even though I abhor window-shopping.

— — —

Heartless beast! Can't you see he's in pain?

Y'know, just for that, I should change the story, so that every time he refers to his ex-fiancee, he calls her "Ralph".

Lucky for you, I'm a nice person. How'd you like to spend the rest of your date, competing with the memory of "Ralph"?

Anyway, it just so happens that he's going to bring up the topic again.

— — —

As you're getting into the car, Bill says, "Sorry if I snapped at you. I really loved Julie, you know. She was intelligent, she was witty, and she was beautiful. Oh, was she beautiful!"

Suddenly, his expression changes. He obviously realizes that he's putting you on the spot: can YOU be as intelligent, witty, and beautiful?

You try to come to his rescue by attempting to steer away from the subject. Even as you speak, you realize that your approach isn't quite right. But your emotions are in turmoil, and you're fighting a reckless urge to hug him and soothe his torment.

"I know a girl named Julie," you say brightly. "Isn't it amazing, the way there are so many weird coincidences in life?"

"Coincidences, yes," he says distantly. "What was -- I mean, what is she like?"

You want to terminate this line of inquiry and move on to other subjects. So you deliberately play down your friend's charms.

  1. Why would I do that?
  2. That makes sense.

— — —

Why? Because ... because ... oh, why do I have to tell you these things?

When a guy loses a girl (as opposed to dumping her) he seeks to replace her with someone who's just the same. Any girl who has the same NAME has got a running start at winning his heart.

But you're not being selfish if you prevent this kind of thing. A relationship based on the urge to relive the past is doomed to failure.

Isn't this story educational?

Anyway, now that we know all about that, let's see what you say next.

— — —

"Oh, nothing special," you tell him. "Just a girl I know. She's okay, I guess. Not what you'd call 'beautiful' by any stretch of the imagination!"

You snicker. "In fact, I know a few guys who say she's a real dog!"

Bill jerks as if he's grabbed a wire carrying 10,000 volts. "Don't you EVER say that about ANYBODY!" he bellows. Then, looking a little sheepish, he explains, somewhat lamely, "It's just not fair to judge people that way."

  1. I think he's over-reacting.
  2. I don't quite understand what's going on with this guy.
  3. I guess he's right.

— — —

No he isn't.

If only you knew! If you were in HIS position, you'd also react the way he's reacting. There's a common thread to all of this.

All this will become clear to you if you keep reading. Bill is really a nice guy, but circumstances have conspired against you.

I wonder how many people have missed out on potentially perfect relationships simply because they didn't have a friendly author standing by to tell them when they've got the wrong idea?

— — —

Be patient, Amy. It will all become clear, shortly. And when that happens, you'll find this guy even more attractive. Trust me!

Have I lied to you yet? That you can detect, I mean.

Never mind. Rhetorical question.

— — —

Behind the wheel of the car, Bill brightens up considerably. As you charge down the highway, the crisp country air refreshes you. It's still difficult to talk above the slipstream and the unmuted growl of the engine, but you can plainly see a smile on his face, which greatly diminishes your unease. And from time to time, he glances at you and his eyes shine enchantingly. You settle back comfortably in the seat and watch the approaching lights of San Franscisco.

You ponder the situation. The evening has been plagued by blunders. But surely you couldn't have known about his parents, or his distaste for certain words. How does it all fit together?

But above all, one question burns in your mind...

  1. How do I skip ahead to the sexy dirty parts?
  2. Does he like me?

— — —

Hey, this is a carefully crafted narrative you're reading. It's designed to move in a carefully paced manner. This is quality writing, you know!

Wait a sec ... are you SURE you're not a guy?

— — —

Well, just between us gals, there might be some action later on in the story. But these things take time...

Let's start by finding out "Does he like me?"

— — —

That was a dirty trick!

Heh, heh, that's okay, really. This story is just as much for guys as it is for girls. How about that car the guy is driving? Pretty neat, huh? And there's some other stuff hidden in this story that I wrote just for you handsome guys out there.

Okay, I'll give you a little glimpse of the sexy bits, and then we'll get back to the story. Okay?

— — —

We interrupt our story for some "sexy bits", extracted from ANOTHER story, entitled, "Nymphomaniac Nurses Do San Franscisco".


Savagely he grabbed her lustful body, pressing his naked flesh against her naked flesh. She grabbed hungrily at his body.

"OOoooh," she moaned huskily, "DO me, you savage he-wolf!"

He grabbed her XXXXXXX XXXXXXX, XXXXXXX the XXXXX XXXXXXX with passion. She moaned with pleasure, while XXXXXXXXX his XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXX with excitement.


Well, what do you know? The censors got to it first! You'll have to wait.

Now, go back to pretending to be a girl. The question uppermost in your mind is "Does he like me?"

— — —

In his frequent glances, you can see in his eyes that he really does like you. You also notice that he glares accusingly at the gas gauge, which is obviously not as close to empty as he'd like it to be.

The lights of the city rush towards you. As the car slows down, you're once again able to talk. "Window-shopping!" you say. Somehow, with the present company, it sounds like a mysterious, exciting event.

He skilfully guides the car into a tight parking space, cutting the engine as you roll to a stop. "Window-shopping!" he assents. You giggle lightly, evoking one of his magical smiles.

— — —

The next hour passes very pleasantly. Arm in arm, you wander along the streets. Not in a hurry. Going nowhere in particular. You stop from time to time and comment on the items behind the glass. He demonstrates a detailed knowledge of Swiss watches, French pastries, Japanese bonsai, Indian carvings, Turkish rugs and generally has an amusing anecdote to relate to any particular store's wares.

It's a splendid, entertaining way to pass time! And it's giving you a chance to learn more about Bill's personality and background.

One particular episode gives you some insight..

You're passing by a pet shop and an adorable cutesy-wutsey itsy-bitsy puppy-wuppykins catches your eye. "Ooo, what a nice little doggy!" you shriek with delight.

Bill puts on a stoney face. "Let's move on," he grumbles.

You deduce that Bill is one of those fanatic cat-lovers. You resolve to ignore any pet shops that don't give prominence to adorable cutesy-wutsey itsy-bitsy snuggle-soft huggable playful galavanting kitty-kats!

You suddenly note that -- quite naturally -- his arm has slipped around your waist. You're walking close together, and passers-by nod knowingly.

— — —

Guess what happens next?

  1. I've got a good idea, but I'll wait and see.
  2. I have no idea whatsoever, so I HAVE to wait and see.
  3. We spend another hour window-shopping.

— — —

Okay, if that's what you want.

The next hour passes very pleasantly. You wander along the streets. Not in a hurry. Going nowhere in particular. You stop from time to time and comment on the items behind the glass. He demonstrates a detailed knowledge of Swiss watches, French pastries, Japanese bonsai, Indian carvings, Turkish rugs and generally has an amusing anecdote to relate to any particular store's wares.

Some of those anecdotes are starting to wear a little thin.

So, then...

— — —

You pause by a china shop. "Oh, there's a beautiful vase!" he exclaims. "Here, step into the doorway; you can see it better."

You join him in the cosy alcove of the doorway and invitingly bump your hip against him. He slips his arm around you. "I guess you can't see it better from here, after all. The lighting's terrible."

"Yes," you concur, "it's pretty dark here."

"Yes," he says, moving closer. "I don't think anybody could see anything in here, do you?"

"No, no," you reply, "I don't think that anybody..."

His lips meet yours and he holds you gently but firmly. He strokes your hair sensuously; you can barely hear his laboured breathing over the hammering of your heart. The moment builds; you want him to hold you forever and ever! You squeeze him tightly, feeling his taut muscles yield in response, bringing you ever closer.

Your emotions are in turmoil. You feel that this is happening too fast, too soon. Part of you insists that you pull away, yet ... it feels so good! You want to be cautious. But -- no! This is real! This is wonderful! You press your lips against his with strong resolve and ever-growing passion.

His grip relaxes slightly and his burning lips move to caress your forehead. He gazes down into your eyes. "Well," he says inadequately.

"Yes. Well," you agree. A sudden thought occurs to you, and you glance out into the street. "Uh, it's not as dark here as I thought."

He nods and licks his lips delicately. "Shall we go back to my car, then?"

  1. No, I don't think so. Get me out of this, author!
  2. Let's go back to the car.

— — —

You shake your head. "This is moving a little too fast for me," you murmur. "Are your intentions ... honourable?"

Bill looks at you in surprise. "Honourable? There's an expression you don't hear too much, any more. But, yes, if you want to put it that way. They're honourable. That's what I like about you: you're an old-fashioned girl at heart!"

You both continue to wander the streets until you've recovered from your moment of wild abandon. Eventually, you agree to let Bill take you home.

— — —

Standing at your door, Bill asks longingly, "Will I see you again?"

  1. I tell him maybe.
  2. I tell him that yes, you'd very much like to see him again.
  3. I tell him no.

— — —

Bill stares at the ground. "Oh," he mumbles. "Well, I want to thank you for a lovely evening." He holds your hand briefly, giving it a gentle squeeze, then turns and departs, a broken man.

(In case you missed it, or in case I didn't write it clearly, this is one of those situations in which "Maybe" means "No, I think you're a scuzz-bag." Oh, well. Plenty of fish in the sea, tra la la.)

(Back up a step or restart the story?)

— — —

Bill grins joyously. "Splendid! I'll give you a call!"

He gives you an hasty impromptu hug and quickly strides back to his car, bouncing on his feet with excitement. He roars off with exuberant spinning of wheels.


The next few dates aren't in this story. But I'll let you peek at the ending...


and you got married and lived happily ever after!



The End. (Back up a step or restart the story?)

— — —

Not very tactful, are we? You could have accomplished the same thing with a "Maybe".

Oh, well. Sometimes a straight answer is best.

And so it comes to pass. You never see Bill again. But you'll always remember him fondly.

( or restart the story?)

— — —

The evening's chill is setting in as you stroll back to the car. Bill draws you closer and you enjoy sharing the warmth.

The lights of San Franscisco are sparkling magically. It's as if you're seeing them for the first time. You feel full of giddy energy.

"What shall we do next?" you ask.

"A movie, perhaps?" suggests Bill.

  1. I agree that a movie would be nice.
  2. I suggest we head back to my place; there's a really good show on TV.

— — —

"That sounds like fun," replies Bill. "Ah, here's the car. What time does this show start?"

  1. I just made that up -- I don't have a particular show in mind.
  2. Hey, there really IS a good show on! I mean it! Really!

— — —

Sure, sure.

Millions wouldn't believe you.

In fact, I don't believe you, either!

Get into the car, you rascal!

— — —

You mean ... you don't really have your mind set on watching TV?

What on earth could be on your mind?

Perhaps you'd better tell me.

  1. Actually, I meant "listen to the radio".
  2. That's for me to know and you to find out.

— — —

Listen to the radio?

You're going to listen to the radio.

You and that gorgeous hunk Bill are just going to listen to the radio.

Okay, I'll take your word for it.

(Wink, wink)

— — —

Ah, but I already know! You see, I cheated! I peeked at the last chapter!

I won't give away the ending, though. Let's just say that you and Bill get --


The Editorial Staff



Okay, I'm not supposed to give you any hints about the ending. Let's see what's happening back at the car...

— — —

"Let's see what else is playing," says Bill. "I mean, assuming you want to see another movie. Do you?"

  1. Yes, let's!
  2. No, so I suggest we drive over to my place to watch a good show on TV.

— — —

Okay! Let's have another look at the paper.

My, what a fine selection!

— — —

You settle into the seat as Bill cranks the engine to life. Once again, because of the noise of the engine and the slipstream, you're alone with your thoughts.

  1. What the heck IS a slipstream, anyway?
  2. I already know what it is. What am I thinking about so hard?
  3. I don't know and I don't care. What's on my mind?

— — —

It's the whooshing sound that the air makes as it blasts by the car -- especially the windshield, in this case.

You see, the sound is created at the pressure differential interface between the air stream and the cavitation layer.

Isn't that interesting?

  1. No.
  2. Yes! Tell me more!

— — —

So sue me! Can I help it if I dated an aircraft engineer for two years?

But I guess you're right. There are more important things to think about. Such as...

— — —

I'm glad you found that interesting. It's a very useful thing to know. Just think of all the times that that topic comes up in daily conversation.

But you can't spend your whole life thinking about such things. Right now, you're pondering something a little more serious...

— — —

You look at Bill. He's got his attention on the road (which is as it should be). There's no denying he's stunningly handsome. But he seems to have a lot of ... secrets. Why won't he talk about his parents or his ex-fiancee? Why is he so upset by certain words? Was it wise to invite him over to your place?

Presently, you arrive at your place. Bill kills the engine, slings one arm over the seat, turning to face you. "Here we are!"

  1. I think I'd better find out about his "secrets" before we go on.
  2. I'm sure he's a nice enough guy. Let's go on inside.

— — —

Bill notices your pensive expression. "Is something ... wrong?" he asks.

You clear your throat and try to look him in the eye, but you feel a little embarassed. Might he say that you have no right to pry into his personal life?

  1. I've changed my mind. Let's go inside.
  2. No, I've GOT to know.

— — —

You sigh. "No, just a little tired, I guess. It's been one of those days, you know?"

Bill nods supportively. "Yes, we all have them."

— — —

You gather your courage and face him. "Bill," you begin, "you're a very VERY nice guy. But ..."

He looks worried. You forge ahead.

"It's just that I think I've said a few things to upset you, tonight. I'm just ... uncomfortable ... thinking I might say something else about ... whatever ... you --"

Bill holds up his hand and nods solemnly. "I understand. You're right. It's nasty of me not to tell you --"

"-- no, I wouldn't say 'nasty', Bill!"

He smiles ruefully. "You're kind. But I really shouldn't keep you in the dark..."

"You want to talk about it, then?" you ask earnestly.

He takes a deep breath and exhales noisily. "Yes," he declares with sudden conviction. "I like you -- a LOT -- and I don't want you to feel uncomfortable. What do you want to know?"

You weren't expecting to be asked to conduct an inquisition, but you realize that this is simply his way of moving into the subject.

"Well, what about your parents?" you ask quietly.

He shivers slightly. "They were out one night. Walking our dog. A drunk came blasting by in his car and killed them."

You don't know what to say to that, so you give one of the usual responses. "Oh, I'm so sorry."

"Yeah." The word seems to echo in the silence. One sharp syllable, filled with sense of loss and intense pain.

He raises his head valiantly. "That's the whole story about my parents. The past is the past. What else do you want to know?"

His words sound like a defiant challenge, but you can understand his defensiveness.

  1. Okay, I've put him through enough. Let's go inside.
  2. I've got him talking; I might as well see this thing through.

— — —

"It's okay," you reply softly. "I was wrong to make you relive those painful memories. Let's go inside."

He sighs a sigh of relief, swallows hard, and manages to force an somewhat unconvincing smile. "I've always told myself: the past is the past. That's the only way you can deal with life."

He resolutely slaps the steering wheel and you can see that he has filed away the entire episode in some never-to-be-opened vault in his mind.

— — —

You're exquisitely miserable, but you decide to go on.

"Well ... your ... girlfriend?"

Bill's nostrils flare angrily. You're momentarily afraid that you have gone too far, but then you notice that he's not looking at you. He seems to be wrestling with some demon of bygone days.

"Julie --" He chokes on the name, then starts again. "Julie was a loving person. She loved everybody. Every living thing. She was too good for this Earth. That's what killed her."

You are puzzled by this enigmatic statement. Bill notes your look of incomprehension, and continues, "She loved ... too much! She wouldn't look out for herself. And that's why..." he struggles to go on "... and that's why, when she saw a little puppy run out into the street, she ran out to save it ..."

You lean towards him expectantly.


You hold your breath.

"...some drunken bastard in his damned car!"

  1. I try to soothe his pain.
  2. Good grief, author! This is SO melodramatic!

— — —

"Oh, I'm so sorry," you say again. This suddenly strikes you as fairly vacuous, so you catch his eye and say, "I really AM sorry. I really mean that. I wish I could say something to make you feel better. I'm really sorry that I brought this up --"

Bill states, "No, you had to know. It was IMPORTANT that you knew. I don't want my past to get in the way. The past is the past and we have to deal with it, then get rid of it."

You understand that you've uncovered his basic defense mechanism. You file this information away for later reference. For now, though, you feel his pain acutely. You reach out and touch his hand.

"Bill," you say gently, "I really appreciate the fact that you told me all this. You're honest; I really like that in a guy."

He clenches his teeth for a moment, then arranges his features in some semblance of a smile. You can see that he's masking his distress, but you also see in him the strength that enables him to deal with his grief.

"The past is the past," he repeats. He then adopts a charmingly brave demeanor. "Let's not let that interfere with the present!"

He now seems to have put the entire conversation out of his mind. Given your new insight into his personality, this doesn't surprise you. You feel that, at some later date, you'll have to lead him through this again, in order to truly put his emotions at rest. But for now, it seems that the best thing is to share an enjoyable evening with him.

— — —

Hey, you're entitled to your opinion!

Actually, it just so happens that I agree with you! Let's face it: this isn't Tolstoy or Dickens you're reading, here.

Let's not talk about MY deficiencies, shall we? Bill is hurting bad. I think it's time for you to salve his wounds.

— — —

Bill hops out of the car, not deigning to use the door. (It's a convertible, remember! He's FIT, but not fit enough to jump through a roof!)

"Let me get the door for you," he says eagerly, as he trots around to your side. Either he's a real gentleman, or he's embarrassed that the doors stick.

You take a quick, covert peek at yourself in the rear-view mirror before getting out of the car. Gad, you're lovely!

  1. How true!
  2. Yes, I can agree with that!
  3. No doubt about it!

— — —

That's the spirit!

Once inside, you suggest that Bill turn on the TV and get comfortable on the sofa, while you freshen up.

In the inner sanctum of the washroom, you check out your make-up carefully and verify that your deodorant and perfume are doing their jobs properly. You brush your teeth, fluff up your hair a bit, and stand back for a critical appraisal.

"Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who's the fairest of them all?"

You say this to yourself -- not out loud. But you feel that if he'd heard you, he wouldn't have hesitated to tell you that YOU are the fairest of them all! That's how he's affecting you; he makes you feel so ... beautiful!

But your blissful mood is momentarily soured by a passing thought: What do you do now? What is he going to want from you? And when he wants what he wants will you want him to want that?

There's only one way to find out, Amy! See if you can pick the right one:

  1. Mail him a questionnaire.
  2. Go on out there!
  3. Lock the bathroom and hope he forgets you're in there.

— — —

No, that'll never work. Anyway, you're out of stamps at the moment.

Speaking of questionnaires, I hope you'll fill out the one that can be printed at the Help menu. I'd like to know how you're enjoying this little story of mine.

But you'll have to get out of the bathroom to do that. Go on out and find out what happens! You can mail me the questionnaire later.

— — —

Nope. Bill has a very good memory.

You'll just have to go out there and face the music.

Or the TV, in this case.

— — —

Bill looks up as you come out of the bathroom. He's got the TV on, but the sound is turned WAY down.

"What are you watching?" you ask.

"A documentary."

"Oh? What's it about?"

"Primate mating rituals."

Uh-oh! This is moving a little too fast! You think quickly. There's one strategy that might cool his jets. It's a calculated risk, but it's worked for you many times before. "I think Star Trek is on, right now..."

"All RIGHT!" he exclaims, leaping at the dial.

Yup! Worked again!

As the exploits of the Starship Enterprise hold his attention, you sit down beside him. He's engrossed in the show. A little TOO engrossed, for your taste. You wanted to cool his jets, but now he's going Warp 9 in the opposite direction.

You emit a polite little cough.

"Oh," he says, "I didn't mean to ignore you! Anyway, this is a repeat."

"No, you go ahead and watch, if you want."

Do you REALLY want him to "go ahead and watch"?

  1. No, I just wanted to see what he'd do if I said that.
  2. Sure, let him watch!

— — —

That's very understanding of you! And he DOES watch. The whole show.

By the time another aspect of the Final Frontier has been suitably explored, you're fighting an urge to bite your nails. Or maybe keep the nails and use them the way a lion would when it's annoyed.

Mind you, lions don't watch much TV.

But despite all this, you do enjoy his presence. You like watching his expressive face react to the action on the screen. It's a nice, homey scene. Just you, Bill and a bunch of people waving around phasers.

— — —

Bill turns to you. "I think it's a little loud, don't you?"

The television is barely audible. "No, it's okay." you say.

"Well, we don't want to wake up the neighbours." He turns down the volume a little more so that now, if you were to jam your ear right against the speaker, you MIGHT be able to hear what's being said. He then flips the channel a few times, finally settling on a Disco Revival Telethon. (The Big Board proclaims "HOUR 157!" and "$000004".)

He returns to the sofa and sits next to you. REALLY next to you. The almost-on-top-of-you kind of next to you. He puts his arm around your shoulder.

  1. His "moves" are kind of obvious!
  2. Is this guy ever smooth!

— — —

Hmmm. Listen, Amy. Have you ever heard the expression, "I can read him like a book"? Well, in Bill's case, try to picture a Grade-1 comic book with extra-large type for the benefit of the people with bad eyesight who like to read in the dark.

Right now, he's being about as subtle as a jack-hammer in a library.

Lucky for you, Bill is about to realize that he's coming on a little too strong.

— — —

Bill is silent for a moment. He seems to be reconsidering his approach.

His sense of occasion apparently wins out over his hormones. He gives you a little more room, so that it's now actually possible for you to breathe. His arm, however, is still around your shoulder.

  1. I wish he'd take it off my shoulder.
  2. That's fine. I like it there.

— — —

Bill notices that you are uncomfortable with his closeness. He backs off.

The rest of the evening passes very pleasantly. You can sense a animal passion in Bill, and so you're appreciative of the fact that he respects you enough to keep it in check.

Eventually, you look at the clock and say, "I guess we'd better call it a night, Bill."

— — —

The TV forgotten, you make small talk.

To call it "small talk" is a bit misleading, however. Your "small" conversation lasts something like 5 hours.

You find out SO much about him in those 5 hours! And almost all of it is good!

  1. Tell me the nice parts!
  2. Tell me the bad parts.

— — —

You find out that ...

Bill is currently doing some volunteer work to help a local hospital deal with some governmental red tape that is preventing them from opening a new wing.

Recently, Bill's poetry collection ALMOST won a very prestigious award, and about a third of the judges are lobbying on his behalf to have the results of the vote reassessed.

Bill recently saved a friend from some extremely unpleasant side-effects by insisting he consult a pharmacologist about the possible interactions of some prescription drugs he was taking.

Bill has lots of money, moves in high circles, knows all the right people, is utterly brilliant, and really wants what he calls "a girl with a good heart".

(Be sure to write letters to all your girl-friends about this, Amy. I think the basic premise of each letter should be something like: "Nyah-nyahh!")

— — —

You find out that ...

Bill once got a parking ticket.

Bill once got a SPEEDING ticket!

Bill once swerved his car to avoid hitting a pothole, and struck down a rabbit!

Bill once let somebody copy his answers in a high-school exam.

(All this might be known as "Praising with faint damn".)

  1. Could you please explain that last joke?
  2. Let's keep going, shall we?

— — —


There's an expression: Damning with faint praise. That's when you pretend to be speaking highly of somebody, but what you actually say is so mundane that it works the other way. Here are some examples:

"She's somebody who really knows not to wear green lipstick to a funeral!"

"She never misses an opportunity to give constructive criticism!"

"She'll never turn away somebody who really begs for help."

"She will NEVER spread gossip that she doesn't think is true."

Now that that's cleared up, let's get back to the story...

— — —

It's getting late. You know you should be tired, but you feel super-charged with energy. And you DON'T want to let this guy slip away!

But ... it's late! You really should call it a night! It's all been very very nice, but ...

Oh, darn it! You've got to make a decision!

  1. I make it clear to him that he's welcome to spend the night here.
  2. This is our first date. Let's not go overboard.

— — —

Wise move! Quite often, things that seem "too good to be true" turn out to be just that!

When you arise from the sofa and tell Bill that it's getting late, he gets the point. You can see that he's trying to think up ways to prolong the evening, but ... you've made up your mind.

He can tell that you're going to stand by your decision, so he gives you a careful little kiss on the cheek, and heads for the door.

— — —

As you snuggle up to him, Bill gets your message. It's hard NOT to get your message. You're broadcasting it at 100,000 watts!

But that's good communication. Words aren't necessary.

He takes you in his arms and looks at you ever so warmly. You are lost in the sparkling pools of his bright blue eyes.

"You are SO beautiful!" he says feelingly. "I --" he falters. "I --"

He can't seem to finish the sentence. But he gathers his wits and speaks candidly. "I ... want you," he says, simply.

You worry, for a moment, not quite sure how to interpret his words. Does he want you -- for you? Or is just a physical thing?

You survey his face -- the tightened lines around his eyes, the grim desperate tightening of his mouth, the hopefulness depicted by the raised muscles above his cheek-bones.

And suddenly, you know. You know it's true. He wants you! He yearns for you. You can see in his eyes that he needs you to make him complete.

  1. How nice.
  2. Wow!

— — —

Bill senses that you don't quite share his enthusiasm and his ardour. "Don't you feel the same way?" he asks, stroking your cheek gently with his fingers.

  1. I tell him that these things take time.
  2. Oh, okay ... WOW!

— — —

Bill moves away, crestfallen. He says, "I thought we really had something good going, here."

You repeat that these things take time. He evidently understands that you simply wish to approach the relationship in a level-headed way. He nods in agreement.

Slightly stung at the rebuff, Bill rises stiffly from the sofa. "Well, I guess it's getting late." he sighs. He heads for the door.

  1. Hey, I didn't want him to LEAVE!
  2. Boy, is he ever touchy! Let him go!

— — —

Okay. I guess you're level-headed, but there's still room for a little WOW in your heart!

"Don't leave, Bill!" you exclaim. You pat the sofa beside you. "I didn't mean it like that! Let's just take things one step at a time, okay?"

He rejoins you on the sofa.

— — —

All right. You're confusing him with your mixed messages, but I think he still likes you.

— — —

Yes, WOW's the word! Remember that word! A relationship without WOW is like a day without sunshine!

Your trembling lips meet his ... and ...

 ÍÍÍÍ   °ÛÛ           °ÛÛ  °ÛÛÛÛÛÛÛÛÛÛÛÛÛ  °ÛÛ           °ÛÛ  °ÛÛ   ÍÍÍÍ
 ÍÍÍÍ   °ÛÛ           °ÛÛ  °ÛÛ        °ÛÛ  °ÛÛ           °ÛÛ  °ÛÛ   ÍÍÍÍ
 ÍÍÍÍ   °ÛÛ           °ÛÛ  °ÛÛ        °ÛÛ  °ÛÛ           °ÛÛ  °ÛÛ   ÍÍÍÍ
 ÍÍÍÍ   °ÛÛ    °ÛÛ    °ÛÛ  °ÛÛ        °ÛÛ  °ÛÛ    °ÛÛ    °ÛÛ  °ÛÛ   ÍÍÍÍ
 ÍÍÍÍ   °ÛÛ    °ÛÛ    °ÛÛ  °ÛÛ        °ÛÛ  °ÛÛ    °ÛÛ    °ÛÛ  °ÛÛ   ÍÍÍÍ
 ÍÍÍÍ   °ÛÛ    °ÛÛ    °ÛÛ  °ÛÛ        °ÛÛ  °ÛÛ    °ÛÛ    °ÛÛ        ÍÍÍÍ

Is this guy ever a good kisser!

I leave it to your imagination what happened next.

Sure, sure, you might want to read all about it, but would you really want me standing there, taking notes?

So I don't know what went on. But there are ways I can figure it out.

The next morning, Bill was seen buying eggs and milk at the corner store. For some reason, he seemed extremely cheerful.

He was last seen heading back to your place, whistling a happy tune. People he passed looked at him rather strangely, wondering how anybody could be so full of life, this early in the day.

His mood became even brighter as he approached your door. There you were, arms open, awaiting the return of your knight in shining armour, with the eggs and milk!

I strongly suspect you didn't get around to making breakfast until noon.

(The End.)

— — —

So, you're going to go see a movie. But which one? Bill just happens to have today's newspaper in his car, and points out some films that are playing, close by.

"Which one would you like to see?" he asks.

  1. "Cannibal Zombies, Start Your Chainsaws".
  2. "Flash Jetblast Meets Dagger Lord".
  3. "Kute Kitty Kuddles Katches Kold in Kalamazoo".
  4. "The Pensive Haunting Wanderlust of the Twilight of Life".
  5. "The Return of the Brash Unbridled Vixen Nymphettes".

— — —

"That starts in just a few minutes!" exclaims Bill. You both jump into the car like Le Mans race-drivers and streak down the road towards the newly-built Supercineplex-57.

Outside the theatre, you navigate your way through a surprisingly diverse crowd of movie-goers. These are, no doubt, the afficionados of the "Cannibal Zombies" series, which includes such fine fare as:

  • Cannibal Zombies, Destroy Your Enemies
  • Cannibal Zombies, Eat Your Elected Officials
and the perennial classic...
  • Cannibal Zombies, Maim Your Relatives
You find a pair of seats which are (mercifully) far removed from the main mass of the audience. Here is a brief excerpt of the action on the screen:


SOUND: ChuggachuggabbbrRZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!
VOICE: *Scrreeeeeeeeaaaaaam*
VOICE: Nyah hah haaaah!
SOUND: WhirrrrrrrCHOP!
VOICE: YeeeeaAAAaaAAaaaAArgh!
MUSIC: [Brief dramatic chord]
SOUND: ChuggachuggabbbrRZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!
VOICE: *Scrreeeeeeeeaaaaaam*
VOICE: Nyah hah haaaah!
SOUND: WhirrrrrrrCHOP!
VOICE: YeeeeaAAAaaAAaaaAArgh!
MUSIC: [Brief dramatic chord]

And so it goes...

Greatly edified by the movie, you emerge into the darkened streets.

Suddenly, you hear a sound: ChuggachuggabbbrRZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!

Bill extricates himself from your impromptu bear-hug and dryly remarks, "Don't worry. It's just some lunatic with a tape recorder."

"Boy, some people are really SICK," you remark.

— — —

It just so happens that the theatre is next door. You stand in line amongst a few hundred acne-ridden boys -- most of whom seem to have pen protectors in their pockets. A few of them are waving calculators around, and you spot a lad wearing "Spock ears". One of the boys inspects Bill quizzically.

"You a Flashie?" he inquires in a garbled way, mouth full of candy.

Bill looks down at him. "No, this will be the first time I've seen a Flash Jetblast picture. But I've been told that it's a marvelously camp juxtaposition of the B-grade idiom and current effects-laden approaches to speculative fiction."

The boy considers this for a moment, then says, "I like the laser scenes!"

You survive considerable jostling as you manage to get a seat near the back of the theatre (very close to the exit). Let's watch the movie!


SOUND: (in the far distance) >bang<
Flash: Is that what I think it is?
SOUND: (in the distance) Bang!
Flash: I was right! Here comes Dagger Lord's Death Squad!
SOUND: BANG! BOOM! FvvvvzzzzzzzZAAAAP!!!
Flash: Look out, Dr. Jones! Get behind me, Amy!


Hey, what do you know? The heroine has the same name as you!

Back to the movie...


Amy: Oh, Flash, it's no use! We're surrounded!
Flash: (Stoically) You're right, Amy. (Shouts) WE SURRENDER!
[A panel opens in the wall and a grim, mustachioed figure steps out.]
[The audience boos lustily.]
Flash: Just as I thought.
Grim Figure: Yes, Flash Jetblast. [Pause calculated to outlast boos.]
'Tis I! Dagger Lord, Savage Power-master of Ultimate Evil Mega-Doom!
Amy: Ick!

"I guess I heard wrong," remarks Bill. "This ISN'T a marvelously camp juxtaposition of the B-grade idiom and current effects-laden approaches to speculative fiction."

"Yeah," you agree. "It's STUPID!"

"Uh-huh". You leave the movie, dodging spit-balls as you depart.

— — —

"Okay, but we'd better hurry," notes Bill. "It says here, 'Coming SOON to a theatre near you.' And it gives the time as -- only three minutes from now!"

You hop into the car and lay a little bit of rubber. "Ooops," says Bill, as a flashing red light appears in the rear-view mirror.

"Okay," bellows the officer. "Where's the fire?"

  1. I tell him, "The fire is the one that is burning in my heart!"
  2. I think I'll just let Bill do the talking!

— — —

OoooooOOooOoo! Listen, I know I'm not the world's greatest writer, but ... really! Why are you putting a line like that in MY story?

  1. Because it's my story, too!
  2. I'm sorry. Let's see if Bill can talk us out of this one.

— — —

Okay! Tell you what ... if you want to write the story, then all you have to do is buy the story-compiler program! Send $20 (certified cheque or money order) to:

                    P I N N A C L E    S O F T W A R E
                    P.O. Box 163, Cartierville Station
                    Montreal, Quebec,  Canada  H4K 2J5
Didn't you just KNOW I'd figure out some way to slip in some advertising?

Let's back up the story a bit...

— — —

Thank-you. You don't know how much better that makes me feel.

Let's find out how Bill handles the policeman...

— — —

Bill smiles at the officer. The officer doesn't smile back.

"No fire, sir," explains Bill politely. "I was just ... well, there's no real excuse. It's just that ..."

"Yes?" inquires the officer sternly.

"Well, we were just going to go see 'Kute Kitty Kuddles Katches Kold in Kalamazoo'".

The officer glances at his watch. "But ... that starts in only two minutes! You two had better get goin'!"

"Thanks, officer!" says Bill, waving as you roar off towards the theatre.

  1. Tell me more about that officer!
  2. Let's go see the movie.

— — —

That was no ordinary officer, you know! That was ... Sargeant Jake Barnes!

Who is Sargeant Jake Barnes?

Well! Sargeant Jake Barnes is an all-around swell guy. A real family man. Involved in the local Rotary Club. His wife does work for charity. His son George flings a mean football, and his daughter Brenda (now in college) was recently given a big award for demonstrating the link between the Theory of Relativity and the street map of San Franscisco (1972 edition).

But that's not all. Sargeant Jake Barnes seems to have an air of mystery about him. There is an element of the arcane in his manner.

And what is his secret?

I have no idea.

Just kidding! Actually, Jake Barnes is one of the world's top amateur pump experts. You name a pump: impeller, reciprocating, electrostatic, hydrofundibular, paratechnubular -- whatever!

Isn't that great? Isn't that exciting? Isn't that just ... so ...

Okay, okay, so it's not that interesting. But take my word for it: Jake is a one heck of a nice guy!

Let's go see the movie, shall we?

— — —

Dashing into the movie house, you realize that you've missed the beginning. Another couple arrive just behind you. She's decked out in furs and jewels, and he's wearing a slightly natty tuxedo.

"Damn!" he mutters. "If you miss the first few minutes you can never figure out the rest of the movie!"

"Shush, Winfrey," she advises. "Remember what the doctor said."

"What? What did he say? I forget."

"Come now. You remember: if you get upset your amnesia comes back!"

"Who are you?"

You depart from Winfrey & Wife and find a quiet seat in the back in the corner in the dark etc.

In accordance with copyright laws, I can only give you a brief excerpt of the movie. But since you and Bill are snuggling, this is about all you hear, anyway.


Kute Kitty Kuddles: Hi, Perky Puppy Poodle!
Perky Puppy Poodle: Hi, Kute Kitty Kuddles!
Kute Kitty Kuddles: Hey, let's go to Kalamazoo!
Perky Puppy Poodle: No, let's go to Pawtucket!
Silly Samuel Skunk: No, let's go to Saskatchewan!
Kute & Perky: No, YOU go there and we'll stay here!

[Much uproarious laughter from the other animals]

Suddenly, the film breaks.

Half an hour later, you both notice this and leave the theatre.

— — —

The theatre is only a few blocks away, so you decide to get a bit of exercise and hoof it on down to the movie.

The folks in line are quiet and reserved. Most of them look like they could use an antacid tablet. "What a strange bunch of people," you whisper to your date.

"I wouldn't say 'strange'," he whispers back. "They do seem pretty much lost in thought, but that's what this movie is all about..."

The ticket booth opens up and girl behind the glass somberly accepts the money and grimly proffers a movie pass to each person.

Once inside, you're struck by the brooding disposition of the other people. Something tells you that you're about to be either profoundly moved or profoundly bored.

The movie starts up. That is to say, the lights go down and there are some images on the screen. But given the content of the film, it's perhaps a little daring to say that the movie has actually "started up". Let's have a look...


IMAGE: Giant, limpid eye.
VOICE#1: Is this all there is?
IMAGE: Long-distance, inverted view of a pier.
VOICE#2: But ... who can say?
IMAGE: Swans taking to the air.
VOICE#1: THAT is the point.
IMAGE: Long-distance, inverted view of a pear.
IMAGE: Same giant, limpid eye.
VOICE#1: Is THAT really the point?


You successfully fight a desperate urge to throw a tomato at the screen. Mostly because you don't happen to have a tomato with you.

You wake up Bill.

"I don't think this is really for us," you posit.

"This could be true," he avers.

You ultimately wend your way out of the theatre.

— — —

"Wait a second," interjects Bill. "A buddy of mine left the video for that movie in the trunk of my car." He flips open the trunk and rummages around. "Ah, here it is!"

"What good is that?" you ask. "We don't have a VCR!"

As you're saying this, Bill is pulling out a VCR. "I wired this to work with 12 volts. Pretty silly way to spend an afternoon, but I enjoyed it..."

This seems fairly impressive, but you continue, "Well, that's good. But we still need a TV set."

Bill stares into space for a moment. "Did I bring a branch connection?" He looks back in the trunk. "Ah, good." He pulls out a tangle of wire and what appears to be a sheet of paper.

He looks around with a conspiratorial air and waves the sheet in front of you. "I'm not supposed to show this to anybody, but ..."

With boyish exuberance, he leaps into the car and unfolds the sheet. This he connects to the VCR and the wires. The whole mess plugs into the cigarette lighter.

"There!" he announces triumphantly. "Let's fire it up!"

Well, more prophetic words have been spoken, but not recently. The whole contraption emits a vast quantity of smoke and sizzles into a blob of smelly goo.

Bill looks a bit upset. "Wait a sec ... POSITIVE is the RED wire on this thing. NEGATIVE is the BLACK wire! Hmmm. Well, let's go for coffee..."

So, you go for coffee, and chat amiably for 20 minutes. All in all, it's much more enjoyable than a movie. It's CERTAINLY more enjoyable than watching "The Return of the Brash Unbridled Vixen Nymphettes"!

By the way, when you were in the Coffee Shop, Bill got involved in an interesting philosophical discussion with somebody.

Is it likely that you would pay attention to such a conversation?

  1. No, I'm not interested in philosophy.
  2. I'm not interested in philosophy, but I'd listen anyway since it might give me some insight into Bill's personality.
  3. Philosophy? Yeah! I'd listen!

— — —

Well, that's okay. Philosophy is such a waste of time, isn't it?

Bill didn't notice you weren't listening, either!

— — —

You're sipping your coffee, minding your own business. Bill is playing footsy with you under the table.

Suddenly, you're approached by somebody who looks like a refugee from the 60's: longish hair, white loose peasant shirt, serious shoes -- and a flower in his hand.

"Are you ... Saved?" he asks cheerfully.

You study Bill carefully to note his reaction.

"You're asking me if I believe in God?" he says.

"Yes, that is the first step, of course," nods the missionary.

"I like to keep an open mind about these things."

"An open mind?" says the stranger. "You don't mean that you believe in evolution, do you?"

Bill ponders this question for a moment. "Let me explain my position on THAT subject." The stranger leans closer as Bill continues, "Picture the Earth. The whole Earth. With vast, rolling oceans. Soaring mountains. Trackless deserts. Mile upon countless mile of land and sea. Think of the giant forests. Think of the sprawling jungles. Are you with me so far?"

The missionary smiles and nods.

  1. My guess is that Bill isn't exactly going to agree with the other guy.
  2. My guess is that Bill doesn't like Darwin very much.

— — —

Ten points and a kewpie doll for Amy!

Good guessing!

Read on...

— — —

Tut, tut! Don't you know the #1 rule of multiple-choice questions? If you have to GUESS, always pick the longest answer!

Here's an example from a local driving-school test:

    When you get to a stop sign, what do you do?
    1. Speed up like crazy.
    2. Honk my horn THEN speed up like crazy.
    3. Come to a full stop, ensuring that my wheels have ceased turning entirely, look both ways, check the rear-view mirror, gas gauge, barometer (if available), listen for sirens, then proceed cautiously across the intersection, avoiding any squeeling of the tires.
    4. Take up skydiving.

If you chose #3, you're RIGHT!

Back to the Coffee Shop... (read on)

— — —

"Now," continues Bill, "picture what's INSIDE the Earth. The crust. The mantle. The molten core." The stranger is looking a little puzzled, but says nothing.

"Try to hold that in your mind," says Bill. "The whole Earth. The whole vast, incredible, awesomely huge Earth. Have you got that?"

The stranger wrinkles his brow. "Yes! And it's amazing! Now, surely --"

"-- wait a sec," interrupts Bill. "I want to be sure you've REALLY got that image in your head. Have you got it?"

A long pause. "Y-yes. It's almost beyond imagining, but I think I've got it, more or less."

"Okay, then ... how much does all that WEIGH?"

The stranger is taken aback. "Weigh? What do you mean, 'WEIGH'?!?"

"How much does the Earth weigh? How many pounds?"

"I have no idea. It must be a HUGE number. What's your point?"

"There are roughly as many planets in the universe as there are pounds on and in the Earth."

"I see," says the stranger, grimacing. "This is a pro-evolutionary argument, then, isn't it?"

"Not necessarily," responds Bill.

"Not necessarily?"

"No. It's just that, with THAT many planets out there, I wouldn't be in the least surprised if SOMETHING funny happened from time to time."

The stranger smirks, nods forgivingly, and bids you goodnight.

  1. I liked his little joke!
  2. I hated his little joke!
  3. I question your statistics, author.

— — —

Bill catches your grin and smiles back.

"So you're an atheist, then?" you ask.

— — —

Bill notices your scowl.

"You probably think I'm a lousy atheist," he says.

"No," you reply, "you seem to be pretty good at it."

"Let me explain!"

— — —

"You shouldn't get the idea, from that little joke of mine, that I'm an atheist. I'm not. I'm not an agnostic, either."

"So what are you?"

"Well, as I said, I keep an open mind. I'm always listening to what people have to say --"

"-- Like just now?" you counter playfully.

Bill clears his throat. "Ahem. As I was about to say ... I'll take the time to listen ... unless they interrupt me when I'm enjoying the company of a beautiful girl!"

Boy, what a ham! Still ... who could disagree with the obvious?

Let's get out of this Coffee Shop before something else happens.

— — —

Well, I worked it all out on paper, so maybe I dropped a few zeros. Just because I WRITE on a computer doesn't mean I have it with me when I get these weird ideas.

Look, there are an estimated 100,000,000,000 galaxies in the universe, with an average of 150,000,000,000 stars each (give or take a few), and it's reasonable to figure that the average star has, say, five planets. So get out your paper and pencil, because most calculators can't handle a number as big as 750,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Now somebody once told me that if you could weigh the Earth, it would tip the scales at 6,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons. Get a fresh new sheet of paper, and figure out that that means it weighs 12,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds. (And you worry about your diet!)

So what does this tell us? It tells us that Bill was WRONG! (Hey, you don't think I'm going to take the blame, do you?) He was off by a factor of a million or so, if those estimates are accurate. Of course, those estimates are probably off by a factor of a million, so he can still argue the point. Unless you have an irresistable urge to be smug about all of this.

But I still think you should forgive him. After all, he grew up in Europe, so he thinks in metric. Kilograms, not pounds. So he made a little boo-boo.

Let me put it this way: the universe is BIG. Really, REALLY big. But then, you've probably heard that one, before.

Let's see what happens next...

— — —

With caffeine coursing through your veins, raising you to new heights of peppyness, you decide to return to the car.

Now, you'd think that the car would be a mess, considering the conflagration that had transpired half an hour ago.

No need to worry! Russian agents have stolen the glop that resulted when Bill crossed his wires!

Just think! Russian agents have stolen the secret of the ultimate flat-screen video display! What will they do with it?

No need to worry. Right now, they're having their minds turned into a somewhat similar kind of glop. They're watching "The Return of the Brash Unbridled Vixen Nymphettes"!

— — —


  1. I can put to rest your speculation ("perhaps an alias for Pinnacle programmer Timothy S. Campbell of Pyroto Mountain fame?"). The answer is "Yes."

  2. Always so nice to set the historical record straight. I forgot to mention, for those who enjoyed this game's cheeky verbiage, you can find more of it in Pinnacle Software's "VariTale" BBS door (or at least hints of it in my screenshots of said program at ) ... Mr. Campbell perhaps missed his true calling as a comedic writer of the surreal. The CYOA threads are incomplete, but the individual passages are a larf riot.