“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with this letter!” I give him the letter anyway, I’m so excited to see the looks on their faces as my games begin. Jerry, the announcer, has no idea what’s going on but he keeps doing whatever I tell him to. I paid for his wife to have surgery to live, he had to do what I say. The envelope in his hand was stained on the edges with coffee and folded in random places.
“Welcome everyone to this fun trip! I’m sure none of us know why we were chosen to come have a ride on this expensive yacht, especially since none of us know each other or who invited us!” Jerry was doing well as he explained how confused all of these people should be. He played his part well, I knew he was the right one to pick. He opened the letter meticulously, probably afraid of what’s inside. These people weren’t prepared!
“This is a letter from the benefactor of this yacht trip! I believe they dug it up from an old homestead in Canada,” Jerry’s improvisation skills still blow my mind, “and we are supposed to read it now.” He finally got the papers out of the envelope and started, “‘Welcome children, though you be my children or not I shall call you this to confuse you.” My laugh startled the crowd, I apologized and tried not to smile after succeeding at my first deception. “‘I hope you are all enjoying your time on this yacht, paid for by my multi-million dollar company. I am so rich that I invited all of you, mostly strangers, aboard a ship. Please enjoy yourselves, and don’t think too much about me. Also if you want a chance to win $7,000 dollars you may solve this riddle: To find the benefactor, search for a hint of laughter. Finding me is finding something free. If you work together it could be the tether. Good luck, don’t get stuck. That’s all, enjoy your time here’”
We all lingered silently after Jerry finished reading. It kind of struck them as a weird letter and everyone had the thought go through their heads, a decision whether searching for the answer to the riddle is worth $7,000 dollars. Mysterious glances were passed between people as we slowly dispersed. I headed away to the cabin but got stopped on the way there by a girl I went to high school with named. She never really cared about me, but the point is to give anyone here a second chance.
“Hey I haven’t seen you since high school, what have you done with your life?” She was wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt without any shoes, very different from her usual high school preppy cheerleader outfit. Her hair had been dyed a few times as well and her face was free of any makeup. I don’t know if that was because she was on a yacht or if it’s because she became as unsuccessful as I always thought she would.
“I’ve been good, I went into business and marketing and I’ve got a six-figure job now.” Not entirely untrue, I only left out the fact that I have two jobs and one of them is a seven-figure job. “How have you been, I haven’t heard anything about you in a long time! We should catch up over a few drinks at the onboard bar.”
“Well I’m kind of tired right now, I was going to go to bed, just wanted to say hi!” She left as quickly as she could, obviously avoiding my questions. I shook my head and continued on my path. I still had a lot of people to meet. Upon entering the cabin I found my old financial lit teacher Mr. Ken. I gave him a practiced and prepared dirty look. He changed his direction from going out to going toward me. I try to walk faster “to avoid him” but really I was giving him an opportunity to try to talk to me.
I quickly stepped up to the bar and got a hot chocolate, very good for your skin. I turned around and there he was old hat and all. He had always been old-fashioned, but that night was even worse. He was wearing an old, threadbare tuxedo with an off-white shirt underneath. He had a yellow-green handkerchief half-tucked into his front pocket. The awful top hat, which he insisted on wearing every day, was about ready to fall apart.
“Mr. Ken, how are you doing?” I didn’t know what else to say, I didn’t practice this part.
“I’m doing efficiently. How are you doing, do you still know how to write a check?” He looked at me sternly, like it was still his job to get homework from me. I nodded my head while sipping my hot cocoa. “Good, I hope that you’re at least renting, instead of living in a box like you always said you would.” I was grateful he was remembering my jokes instead of my grades, but it took everything I had to keep from telling him about the three mansions I own.
“I’m doing fine, and let’s just say $7,000 would be amazing to win.” Bringing up the riddle is an important part of this operation. “Do you think this is kind of weird too? Or is that just me?”
“I think it’s very strange, but I can’t say I’ve ever been on a yacht before so I don’t really mind. Plus I get to be away from my wife, she doesn’t even need to know how much wine I drink or girls I dance with.”
He held out his hand as the music started up, but instead of giving in to the creep I responded smartly, “My husband didn’t get invited either, I kind of wish he had. I love him so much and I could have used this time for a nice getaway. I can’t wait to go back home, even though this yacht is pretty amazing.” He started to reach for me and I could see the wine starting to control his actions more than his brain. “Speaking of my husband, I should probably go call him, excuse me.” As I left, I took out my phone and called Jerry to have him remove all wine privileges from Mr. Ken.
I headed down the stairs towards the rooms and ran into a group of guys I hadn’t seen since college. Rick, Allen, James, and Charlie were all walking together like the frat boys they used to be. I hung out with them all through college but was never romantic with any of them. They were just good friends. After college, we were planning on traveling the world together, we had talked about it for years, but they decided to go on without me instead of waiting for the one week I had left on my internship. I hadn’t seen them since they left.
“Hey, guys! Long-time, no see right?” They looked at me confused for a second and I thought they had forgotten me. Quickly Allen recovered and said hi, followed by the rest of the group. “This is crazy! Must be a small world for all of us to end up on this same yacht.” They didn’t look like they really cared, in fact, they looked uncomfortable.
“Yeah, pretty crazy. What about that $7,000 dollars man? Imagine what we could do with that!” Allen was saving this from being completely awkward. They all looked pretty good, I kind of regretted not ever dating any of them, but that was over. They were still frat boys that travel the world blowing money faster than they earn it, and I owned a big company and a bigger company.
As I walked past them down the stairs I turned back, “Yeah, that money would be pretty useful. Hope you all have a fun time.” It was the nicest thing I could say, keep the encouragement flowing y’know. I continued to my room and, to keep up my honest streak, called my husband.
The following morning was full of more awkward encounters on the big yacht. People kept talking about the riddle but nobody was really doing anything together. I was ready for phase three. I called Jerry and had him make an announcement over the speaker.
“Remember, if you want to win the $7,000 dollars you need to get your answer to the riddle by 5:00.” Mass chaos unfolded, people started asking if anyone knew the answer, trying to buy each other off and figure out the riddle. People didn’t seem to be able to remember the riddle either. I laughed.
“Hey, do you know what the answer is?” I turned around and saw Allen right behind me.
“No, do you? Do you even remember the riddle?” I asked, expecting his answer to be an overwhelming no.
“I don’t know the answer yet, but I remember the riddle. I spent all night memorizing it. I think we need to work together, but the other guys would rather work alone. Do you want to help me? I mean, do you want to help each other? We could split the cash, I mean, you probably don’t need it but all the same.”
“What do you mean I probably don’t need it?” I thought that nobody knew about my fortune, I hadn’t told anyone and none of these people were supposed to know anything about me since I last saw them. There was no way he could actually have meant I didn’t need it, he was probably just being nice and trying to seem like he assumed I was doing well in life.
“Don’t you own some pretty big companies?” How did he know? Why did he know? What was going on? Did this mean that he had solved the riddle?
“I mean yeah, I didn’t think anyone knew about that though.” I talked cooly, calmly, and slowly. I also avoided his gaze, started sweating and began breathing harder. I think the combination of the two balanced themselves out and just left him confused. I needed to change the topic, NOW. “So, do you think we could just solve it alone? Or should we get other people to help too?”
“I was thinking maybe a couple of other people, not too many though, so we don’t have to split it too many ways. Do you know anyone else on board?”
We grabbed Brittney and found a nice spot to think. I had tried to get Mr. Ken but he was too drunk and everyone else was still stuck in the mass confusion phase of the game. We were in phase 4 already. The others didn’t even know. I smiled to myself as we sat down with a piece of paper and a pencil to write down the riddle. After we were done we just stared at it for a second. Suddenly they shared a look and leaped on me, pinning me to the deck of the yacht. They covered my head with Allen’s jacket and drug me around by my legs and arms.
I could only see black and my brain kept screaming to run but I was too confused to do anything. I didn’t know if they had solved the riddle or if they were kidnapping me. When they pulled the jacket off we were at the bar and they were standing interrogation style in front of me.
“What are you guys doing?” I asked, ashamed of my high pitched stressed voice. Allen and Brittney ignored me and told me to get my phone out and unlock it. I did what they said, more out of curiosity than fear. They took it from me and clicked some buttons on the screen. They clicked one more button and the phone started to ring out loud. They were calling someone!
“Yes, Ma’am?” Jerry’s voice rang out clear from the phone. I cleared my throat, uncertain if I was supposed to say something.
“We’ve solved the riddle, please bring the $7,000 down to the bar and pick up our answer. She’s a bit confused.” I was stunned, not only had they solved the riddle but they had done it together without any of the extra clues I had set up to help someone win. My goal was to get to know the people who really cared about me enough to try and split $7,000 with me and instead I got to know some crazy kids who figured it out on their own and tricked me.
“You’ve won the game, but how?” I finally asked.
“Simple,” Allen said, “you laughed at the beginning of the whole thing, plus multi-millionaire. The clues were too easy if you know anything about you.” But the point had been that none of these people knew anything about me! I didn’t understand how or why these two had ever cared enough to know enough about me to solve it. “Thanks for inviting us, we also got to know each other.” They shared a smile and I realized that I was in a weird situation.
Instead of being the protagonist of some fun adventure where I met someone and fell in love, or even just won at whatever was going on, I was just a side character. I just created an obstacle for someone else to become the protagonist. Despite my money, effort, planning, or ideas I was still just someone who got shoved out of the way.
I said sorry and stood up as Jerry came into the room with a check for $7,000. I left the scene, unimportant as I had always been. I went to my room and packed my bags and thought about how money still hadn’t bought me the popularity or love I had always wanted. As I left I walked past all of these influential people from my life and realized that I didn’t need to hold onto the people from my past. I called my private jet and climbed in, on my way home to the people who really love me. As we flew away I saw Jerry, Alan, and Brittney waving at me, smiling. Happy I could at least make their day I decided to wave back instead of ignoring. I ignored as my other guests looked in shock and awe as I flew away.
The game was an illusion, not just for the people I invited, but for me too. I could see now that I was jealous and hurt and thought money could fix it. Nothing can ever fix that pain I felt growing up, but money helps. What helps the most is moving on and finding a new light to forget the old darkness.
That’s why I wrote this documentary, so you, my future Annual Yacht Games attendee can understand the significance of this yacht trip. I hope you have a fun time on your trip and enjoy the relaxation and learning of staying a few days on my expensive yacht with people you may or may not know. Remember, you might be able to find me in the crowd...