Fantasy Fiction Funny


    Bogie (Full name William Bogart and no relation to Humphrey) was an I.T. guy who had worked for Flame Optics since 2012 and had  moved up  the corporate food chain far enough so that he occupied a corner office with a view of Sixth Street. There was a big window which hinged wide open and as the office was  ten stories about the street Bogie loved the luxury on fair days of closing  his door, turning off the a.c. and breathing the fresh air wafting up from the harbor.

    But like so many  semi successful people, his personal life was a mess. Two ex-wives, three excommunicated children and a debt load which rivaled that of Rwanda was only the tip of the iceberg. On paper his income looked good but Bogie lived alone in a middle class neighborhood in a one bedroom apartment having lost a house to each wife. He had maxed out three of his four credit cards, was months behind in child support payments and soon to have his car repossessed. At the age of fifty he also had a bad ticker, a swollen prostate  and creaky knees. Pale and flabby, he pointedly avoided  double mirrors that revealed  the back of his balding head. Ironically, the pandemic had offered a sort of economic reprieve because rent forbearance allowed him to go  a full year without eviction while he tried to juggle his other debts. Money was like water it seemed, always slipping through Bogie’s fingers.  And because Bogie had a growing addiction to gambling, what trickle of cash was left at the end of the month was  soon sopped up on the tables of a near-by Indian casino or the racetrack or an on-line sporting book. The constant debt collection calls went straight to voice mail.

     As he sat at his desk one Thursday afternoon when most of his colleagues had slipped away for an early happy hour or were making their way home, Bogie stared at the screen of his Packwood 900 Series computer and drummed his fingers on the desk. How to avoid financial ruin?   Sure, he could turn hacker and get the drop on some suckers a thousand miles away. Maybe with time he could slip past the firewall of a bank or brokerage and at least nibble on the cheese wheel, but this strategy gave Bogie uncomfortable visions of men with big shoulders and badges pinned to their blue suit lapels  walking down the corridor to his  office, so he discarded the idea.

     And at that precise moment his Packwood 900 desk top with its crowd of icons went completely blank. Without any movement on his part there suddenly appeared the following garble: Powanga Casino tomora  night. Secund placktack table neer  cashier. Too hands then yu wawk away. Can’t lose.

     Bogie grunted. It wasn’t funny. Bill, a couple of offices down, sometimes liked to play cyber cute and was familiar enough with Bogie’s woes to pen something like this. Bogie rose and went into the hall. Bill’s office was closed and dark.   One thing for sure, whoever it was didn’t know syntax or how to spell.   Bogie put his fingers on the keyboard and played along: How much am I supposed to bet on each hand?

    And the screen replied: Whuddever.

    Bogie rubbed his chin and thought for a moment, then typed: I’m broke.  What do you mean ‘whuddever’.

    And almost instantly came the answer: Whuddever you bet your konna cleen up.


    Friday  Bogie went home, made sure his Shatanga (Not ‘Powanga’, another massacre of language) ‘Fantastic & Frequent’ players card was tucked inside his wallet and drove to the casino.   He used his card  to buy himself a discounted buffet dinner which left him over-full and burpy but offered time to think about what he’d read on his computer. It was  ridiculous to think somebody toying with him in cyber space had actually prodded him enough with god-awful spelling to get him  to the casino to try his luck. Weird, yes. But desperate as he was for money, Bogie simply thought to himself what the hell.

    For his stake he’s scrapped together three hundred bucks, a hundred of it borrowed from his dubious downstairs neighbor Harry who said “be sure to win” before forking over the cash.

    Bogie surveyed the casino from the carpeted steps  of the restaurant. The ‘placktack’ (blackjack) table nearest the cashier’s cage had three people seated on red upholstered stools: One was a guy who wore an expression which crossed somewhere between boredom and disgust. The second person was a middle aged woman, a bleached blonde with an ample bosom and a low cut top, and the third a skinny older man who rested his hand on the blonde’s shoulder to let everyone know they were together. The dealer was an attractive young woman in crisp whites with olive skin, her black hair pulled straight back from her forehead and clipped in twin braids down her back.

    Bogie settled himself at the table and his three hundred bucks were rapidly exchanged for twenty dollar chips. He took a deep breath and pushed the entire pile forward which elicited a little smile from the dealer. The other players raised their eyes from the green felt where their much smaller wagers sat,  silently considering the move. In house-banked games, it was each player versus the casino. The cards came out  clockwise, each player getting one and then the second  both face up. Bogie’s first card was an ace. He waited. His second card was a ten. The dealer paid off four hundred fifty dollars for the three hundred bet.  Bogie kept his lips tightly pressed together, an artery starting to pulse in his neck. 

     Two hands.

   Bogie pushed all seven hundred fifty bucks forward. Any motion, any noise in the casino  evaporated and time itself  stopped. He forgot completely about the other people at the table, about the smell of food wafting out of the restaurants, the tinkling of slot coins.

    Out came the second hand.

    The King of Hearts stared at Bogie. Then another ace.  Blackjack again.

    The dealer looked at Bogie, then at her own inferior  cards, and then back at him. This time as she counted out the chips and placed them in front of Bogie,  incredulity shading  her features. 

     Two hands.

     Bogie caressed the stacked chips in front of him and thought: What the hell. A grand and a half up in two hands. Go for a third. When you’re hot, you’re hot, what the hell.                                         But this third time for Bogie it was going to be an act of defiance aimed at whoever was behind Packwood. One more hand  and then walk away. Bogie pushed out fifty dollars in chips. Two cards  landed in front of him: A four and a three. He hit. The dealer sailed the card across. Another four. She had a nine and a seven. Bogie drew a face card  and the fifty dollars in chips disappeared  from his side of the table.


    Monday morning Bogie   was pushed back in his leather chair, the wide window in back of him cranked wide to a  pleasantly mild spring day as he  read through his emails, deleting ninety percent of what showed up in his ‘in’ box as unimportant.  A genuine alert from one of Flame Optics customers who had been hacked over the weekend prompted him to open another window on the screen which displayed the procedures to be followed to wall off any further incursions and  repair the damage.

    Then everything disappeared and he was again staring at a blank screen and a blinking cursor.

    Yu lidn’t dissent tu me. Yu won. But betted thurd time. 

      Bogie bolted forward. Had he been followed to the casino? Weird cyber stuff was one thing. But if he was being stalked by someone… He typed:

    Look, I don’t know who you are.  I appreciate your good guesses  but I’d really like you to i.d. yourself so we can talk about this face-to-face.

      I am dentufyed. Yu  lookink at me rite now. Namz Packwood.

       Bogie decided no matter what the truth, he’d treat the computer as if it really was acting on its own. His return message read:

    I might have lost. So, o.k. smarty. Think you can do it again? Prove it. (Bogie pursed his lips, then continued): I don’t think you can. I think that was dumb friggin’ luck, Packwood. And what do you want?

      Lotto numberts. Nensday Wight. Yu play 5,10, 11,30,40. We see whooze smarty on Therrsday. Tu early to tel yu whad I wont.

    Bogie bought a single lotto ticket with the prescribed numbers during  Wednesday lunch hour and stuck it in his wallet. Oh, the odds, he thought. Only cost me a buck to have the last laugh on Packwood or whoever.

    Bogie ate dinner and threw himself on his couch at 7:57 that evening to watch the drawing live at 8 P.M. On cue his flat screen filled with glitter and lights. Happy music swelled  in the background. A huge unattended glass orb sat front and center with black numbered ping pong balls lying at the bottom like  unborn offspring. From stage right popped out a stunning brunette in a tight dress with a smile  wide enough to reach the international border. From stage left emerged a slender, clean shaven man in a tuxedo with slicked back hair, both of his  hands waving at a wildly applauding unseen audience. “So here we are!” he boomed. “Nobody won the Lucky Loot drawing last Saturday or the week before that. Can you imagine?”

    In fact Bogie could imagine. He knew the odds of winning were about the same as the odds that a pebble from planet Mars would survive entering earth’s atmosphere and lodge in his anus. But OK, the pleasure it would give him the next day if his cyber benefactor should have the guts to show up.

    “Darla, start the spin!”

    And so Darla did, the ping pong balls ricocheting inside the glass, the drama building until the balls were sucked one-by-one out of the orb and along a glass arm, the numbers showing at the bottom of the screen. “ Five! Ten! Eleven! Thirty! Forty! And the Bazillion Bonus number, forty three!” 

    Bogie loosened his collar and sucked for air as he stared at the lotto ticket on the coffee table in front of him.  “Oh, my God.”


    On Thursday morning Bogie handed off a couple  medium-important assignments to other members of the team and made excuses about needing to work on a critical security issue. Then he sat back and drummed his fingers as he stared at the Packwood 900 computer screen. At 9:35 the desk top went blank.

    Hullo snotso smartie. How much yu win?

     Bogie’s hands trembled  as he typed: $25,000.  Thanks. I don’t know how you did it. But you didn’t give me the Bazillion Bonus number. If you had I’d have walked away with millions.

    Yu churt my fellings. No rig beeward this time. I wont sumting.

    Bogie rubbed at his bald spot then typed: OK, I apologize. My bad. And I am grateful. But I’m  in a deep financial hole and I want to get out. How about one more big payoff? I won’t insult you. I won’t doubt you. We’re pals. What do you want ?

    The cursor on the screen froze.  Bogie held his breath. Then: Upgrate to Wavoci 1300 series. I need moar rume. Kramptin hear.

    Bogie’s fingers moved like lightening: No problem, you got it.  All files transferred to the W-1300  after I score. All the RAM you want. But its got to be big. REALLY big.

     The cursor blinked as if thinking. Saturrday is Kantakme Durby. You bet all on horce too win. Yu ket rich. I get Wavoci. Deel?

   Back came Bogie: Deal, Packwood. What’s the name of the horse?



    Bogie went to a website-- his bible--  when betting on the ponies. Fourteen horses, a big field in Kentucky and none had been scratched. And there it was right at the top, ‘Hardplay’, the name naturally butchered by Packwood. The odds were fantastic, a long shot at seventy-to-one.  Bogie swung immediately into action. His first call was to the lone credit card issuer where he could use what remained of his credit line. Bogie grabbed it and transferred it to his account. Then he called  his financial adviser. Against his untapped retirement he borrowed everything.   Then he ordered the broker to liquidate the college funds he’d established for his three children when they and their mothers were still speaking to him.

    “You sure about this?” The advisor asked. “What’s going on?”

    “Don’t worry,” Bogie said. “It’ll all be back next week.”

    His third call was darker. It went out to Louis L, a bookie and loan shark Bogie had come to know through some friends.  He’d managed to stay clear of  Louis even given his desperate financial situation, vowing that Louis, a dangerous man,  was the proverbial line he’d never cross. Now he crossed it.

    “What you need?” The bookie asked. Bogie told him and Louis whistled. “That’s a lot. And you got to pay the ‘vig’ on top of that, you know?” Bogie said he understood. “And you got a week to get the money back to me, that clear?” Again, Bogie agreed. “And you know what will happen if you don’t, right?” Bogie told Louis it was a sure thing.

    By Friday afternoon the entire flood of money had been routed to Bogie’s bank account and from there the bet on Hardway to win.  Bogie calculated he’d first pay Louis back and eliminate the risk to life and limb. Then he’d re-fund his retirement. The kids? Maybe, maybe not. Depended on whether they’d be nice to him.  All the other unpaid debts would be settled, he’d buy himself a house that no ex-wife could get her hands on and he’d take a nice long vacation-- maybe the south of France, maybe Spain-- and decide whether he wanted to return to work or simply live off his investments. These thoughts, sweet as sugar, held him on the drive home.


    Saturday afternoon Bogie went to his office which was empty except for a janitor   collecting some trash bins from a distant row of offices. Next to his Packwood 900 he turned the small t.v. mounted on a wall swivel so he could watch the race from his chair. He  closed his office door, opened the big window to the breeze, flipped the computer and t.v.  on and waited. Five minutes later the monitor glowed with a presence.

    Didn spect yu at the offace, thot you  hom for this.

     You’ve got a Wavoci 1300 in your future, Bogie typed.

    O guddy.

     After forty five minutes of exasperating build-up narration from Churchill Downs  the command ‘riders up’ was finally given and it was post time. Bogie’s eyes zeroed in on one horse, that horse wearing black-and-white stable colors with the name ‘Hardway’ printed on the saddle. The horses pranced toward the start and one by one the track hands coaxed them into the gates. Bogie’s heart beat a tattoo in his chest. 

    “And they’re off!”

    Hardway started square in the middle of the pack. At the first turn he gained ground and moved to the outside. “He’s gonna do it,” Bogie said out loud to nobody.  Hardway swerved left and went a nose ahead of the nearest horse, then stretched that  and was  just a few lengths behind the three lead horses bunched in front of him. Bogie dug his fingers into his thighs. It was happening. Hardway almost reached the flank of the next horse… and then faded. Four, then five, then six passed him. He was all in. Down the stretch he was dead last.

    Bogie opened and shut his mouth like a fish gasping for air. He watched in shock as the winner bearing the stable colors of purple and red entered the flower-lined circle. The jockey dismounted to hugs from the owners and the trainer while a stable hand took the bridle of the animal and started to lead him away and the name ‘Cardplay’ in blazing white slid by on the screen.

    “You sonofabitch of an ignorant cretin computer,” Bogie hissed as  he typed the same words. The  cursor blinked. Wel, sorrie sbout speling, not reel gude at it.

    It was ‘Cardplay’ not ‘Hardway’.

      Thus dis meen no Wavoci??????

   Bogie  got out of his chair, reached for the power plug behind the computer screen and pulled it. He thought he heard a buzzing come from the Packwood 900 as it disconnected but would never know. Then the other plugs one by one he tore from their moorings until the tower was isolated and mute. He turned to the open window. Using both hands, the monitor was first to drop followed by the keyboard and then the speakers. Last went the tower. Ten stories below he watched with a grim calmness as the cement was littered with glass and shattered plastic. Then Bogie stood on his chair, stepped onto the ledge, spread his arms like a bird about to take flight and leaned forward.


    2881 Words.

August 18, 2022 21:47

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