Well, the cosmos has seen to dumping a shitload of “major life events” on our author. Nasty ones. Good ones. A couple big ones still pending. So despite the fact that she no longer owns a bikini, she has been riding the waves, and not a whole lot more. We’ve been behaving, and we simply welcome her back when she gets to the keyboard to help us on our way. It’s strange to be her solace and not the pain in her posterior. We’ll deal.
But, because she’s been feeling guilty about keeping you guys hanging, I decided to swipe another chapter. She’s here, kind of, and typing as fast as she can.
In the meantime…
“‘Crazy Eights’?” Holly gasped. “What the heck does that mean?”
“Isn’t Crazy Eights a card game?”
“We’re going to spend the weekend playing cards?”
“Shush and listen,” Claudia yelled. “Kate, lay the rules on them.”
Feeling more confident than I had all day, I reminded, “The bags of bucks and beads are for purchasing meals and beverages. That’s the simple rule.” I cleared my throat and quickly recalled what was my job to cover. “In the spirit of Crazy Eights, you are required to speak in sentences of exactly eight words. If what you need to say requires less than eight words, you need to fill it in until it does. If what you need to say requires more than eight words, you must pause for eight seconds after the eighth word and then continue with another eight words, and so on.” I stopped to let that sink in, because I wasn’t sure there was even a way to explain it without it being confusing.
Apparently, they were brighter than I figured because no hands shot up with the bazillion questions I had anticipated.
I opened my mouth to proceed to the next rule, when Laura’s voice crackled out of Holly’s phone, “Give us an example, Sutter.”
We frickin’ knew someone would be smart-ass enough to request that, and their suppressed laughter convinced me they figured the same. We had wagered it would be Laura or Janice.
I seized one I had memorized for this predictable occasion, “This is a sentence that contains eight words.” I raised a finger as I slowly enunciated each word.
Not missing her cue, Claudia immediately said, “This is a sentence with more than eight”—1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8—”words, and I paused to count to eight.”
I could feel a cocky smile spread over my face, and before they could pull something else, I said, “Also in the spirit of Crazy Eights, you can only walk in bursts of eight steps. If the distance you need to go is less than eight steps, you must step in place to get the correct number. If the distance you need to go is more than eight steps, you must pause for eight seconds and then continue with another eight steps, and so on.”
“That one is pretty simple,” Claudia immediately said, “and since you’re all relatively intelligent, you won’t be needing an example. I need to get back to work so you’ll get to hear about the penalties from Kate. Give her a hard time,” she threatened, “and I’ll come up with some extra special penalties.” Then, she said, “Kate, honey, I promise I’ll be there as soon as I can. I love you, and have fun.”
I returned the sentiment, we disconnected, and I was on my own. That didn’t feel nearly as horrible as it would have without the conference call.
Keeping the momentum going, I quickly continued, “The penalties for failing to follow the rules are quite simple. You have to pay one buck and one bead for each word or step that is less than or more than eight. At the end of the weekend, whoever has the most beads and bucks gets to take Bimbo Babe home for the month. So, with that in mind, it’s to your benefit to police each other.” Because I can’t frickin’ do it all myself. Crossing my fingers there wouldn’t be any, I asked, “Any questions?”
“What happens if we run out of money or beads?” Maggie inquired.
Holly laughed and with fast flipping fingers replied, “You will really fast with a question like”—1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8—”that, Maggie. It had ten words in it.”
Why the hell did it just frickin’ figure that Holly would be good at this?
Maggie shot me a panicky look, and I assured, “We haven’t officially begun so you won’t lose any now. And to answer your original question… We have eight activities planned so you can earn bucks and beads.”
Maggie nodded, and as I waited for another question to be posed, I took a quick survey of faces to gauge reaction and the potential for revolt. It was damn easy: Holly looked happy, and the rest were quite the opposite. I knew damn well which group I would have been in. Claudia and I spent a whole evening attempting the eight-word, eight-step thing. I sucked at it, she didn’t do much better, and we both decided it was goddamn frustrating. All the more reason to do it, she had joked.
“Any other questions?” I asked and quickly added, as though an expert, “They’re those kind of things that are easiest to learn by doing.” I hope you have better luck than we did.
Holly and her fast flipping fingers said, “It sounds pretty simple and fun to me.”—1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8—”What about you, babe? Any questions from you?”
I realized everyone covertly flipped fingers right along with her, and when she effortlessly hit the required number, they rolled their eyes at each other. As hostess, I refrained and did my best not to laugh.
Holly’s phone relayed Laura’s laughing reply, “I think I’m going to stick with what I’m good at: eating Danish and drinking other people’s coffee.”
“Don’t you dare, babe!” She wasn’t flipping her fingers this time, and I figured she had once more shown her weakness: Laura. But then, she said, “Get your butt here,” and all eyes rolled again.
I suspected they all hoped she was klutzy and less precise with the eight-step walking portion of the program.
As that thought left my mind, I realized I had omitted something extremely important from the list of penalties. I scrambled to figure out how to get it into the mix while saving face.
After Laura assured Holly for the hundredth time that she’d be there as soon as Claudia-possible, I half-ass admitted, “There’s one more penalty, I neglected to mention.” Then, I outright lied, “I saved it to the end to tell you because it requires more of an explanation.” That sounded damn good—well, to me anyway; their expressions said otherwise. “In addition to losing beads and bucks, you have to match that amount with wood you have to split.”
“Split wood?” Ginny shrieked. “We have to split wood?”
Instead of explaining that splitting wood was, in essence, the cabin rental fee, I summoned my best smart-ass tone and said, “Remember that Halloween scavenger hunt you and Kris sent us on?”
“Backwards!” Laura yelled.
“In flippin’ backwards costumes!”
“We sure looked stupid!”
“And wet from blown boobs.”
They were glaring at the professors, but laughing as well.
I glared at them, too, and continued, “Remember Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart and how you had us trying to fit floorboards in our cars because you needed wood for your backyard?”
That caused all to go off on them, including Holly’s eight-word plus eight-word plus eight-word diatribe about how the board didn’t even fit in her little car. Suddenly, I knew that splitting wood was now Ginny and Kris’ fault, not Claudia’s and mine, just as Claudia had predicted.
Before the professors could counter, I recapped, “Penalties are bucks and beads and the matching amount of split wood. Except, the wood splitting does not apply to Susan.” I looked at her and clarified, “Susan, if you’re penalized for anything, you may designate anyone other than your hostesses to do the splitting for you.”
She smiled rather broadly, and all but Maggie groaned.
“Nobody piss Susan off,” Janice warned and then quickly finger-checked her word count, adding, “Susan pissed … not good.”
Susan laughed and said, “We’re going to sound very pre-literate.” She quickly finger-counted her words, and the lone thumb of her second hand caused her to blurt “pre-literate” two more times. This proved her point rather well.
While obviously not thrilled, they did not seem confused so I braved another, “Any other questions?”
“So this is all about revenge, Sutter? … Sutter.”
Obviously, we could not see her finger-counting on the other end of Holly’s phone, but we knew damn well she had, and that made us all silently titter.
Laura said, “We do not need to know how much”—1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8—”wine you had that night. Way too much.”
“No kidding!” the redhead shouted.
A second later, every index finger in the joint thrust in her direction.
Suddenly aware of her oversight, she frantically blurted, “Crap! Crap! Crap! Crap! Crap! Crap! Crap!”
“Crap! Crap! Crap! Crap! Crap! Crap!”
“Okay, that’s sixteen.”
I was not about to point out that every frickin’ one of them who called her on the error did so with sentences far shorter than eight. Frankly, I was just grateful they were counting and not me. What the hell had we gotten ourselves into?
“What a flippin’ frustrating game, um… this is. Crap!”
“It was not!” the redhead with the red face snootily defended. “I counted.”
“‘Um’ is a word. That makes it nine.” The vegan had hands on hips when her face whipped to me. “‘Um’ is in the dictionary, isn’t it, Kate?”
“Aha! Pay up!”
“Yeah, I’d like to see the wood splitting,” Alison said, much to Janice’s shock and obviously great displeasure. “Sorry, Janice, but I’ve never split wood before.”
I saw fingers flipping all over the place, trying to nail Alison, but apparently eight-words sentences came naturally to her. Who knew?
“Fine, I’ll split the flippin’ wood.” Her fingers madly flipped, and she added, “Crap! Crap!” for perfect measure.
All eyes turned to me, and I gestured to the door. I tried like hell not to laugh, knowing it was either going to be frickin’ hilarious watching them do the eight-step or frickin’ obnoxious when they confronted those who forgot.
Surprisingly, all of them remembered, but they didn’t actually step. It was more like a choreographed and completely ungraceful lurch-stomp or something, a faaa-boom. It didn’t even take eight faaa-booms to get them to the door, where they arrived as a unit, one that had no clue how the hell to get through the door. They had fingers raised to remember step-count.
Jesus, I needed to laugh—frickin’-ass hysterically.
They bitched and moaned and poked and pointed—all without a word.
Eventually, they were all out front, in another mass, staring at me, with seven fingers pointed upward.
I gestured to my right, the direction of the woodpile they’d find behind the cabin.
They all took one step, stopped as though they had forgotten how to walk, and after the silent count of eight, they faaa-boomed forward. Seriously, I had to turn completely around to hide my desperate need to laugh. I enjoyed this far too much, and to bring myself back under control, I thought of something very, very heinous: Claudia’s going to be stuck at work until next Tuesday.
I chanted that all the way back to the woodpile, refusing to let myself look at them faaa-booming in front of me.
Then, with them all huddled around me, I pointed to the pile, the hatchet, and the stump. That seemed elementary enough not to require words, not even eight of them.
“Do I have to split one whole one?” Janice asked, her flipping fingers helping her avoid any further mob behavior.
I told her she did, and with a dramatic groan of exasperation, she grabbed a hunk from the pile. After standing it up on the stump, she grabbed the axe and raised it above her head. Wisely, everyone backed up two paces, and then made six obnoxious in-place stomps. Once more, I tried like hell not to laugh.
The axe came down and became stuck halfway into the log. She swung again, and then the log became two pieces. Without asking whether she even had to, she proceeded to do the same to the half-logs, and then she placed the four pieces into the long neat pile that butted the cabin. Pretty damn good, I thought, and obviously so did they, for they applauded. She bowed … eight frickin’ times.
Then, Alison waggled her hand high in the air, and all the other hands readied to count. “Is it okay if I try splitting one?” she asked.
Like I was going to argue? “Go for it,” I told her.
She smiled at the woodpile as I would never have done. Following Janice’s example, she grabbed a hunk and placed it on the stump. Then, she wielded the axe with great uncertainty. I cowered when it rose and flinched when it came down. But, shocking the shit out of me, she had split the thing in a perfect half, and I looked at Janice in time to see her jaw drop.
She twice repeated the procedure and added the pieces to the stack. “Okay, I think I can split wood now,” she said.
I realized everyone was as stunned as I and gaping at her. Perhaps we had only seen her pacifist strength, and the log had encountered a much different kind. Something. Something I couldn’t explain.
Trying not to get sidetracked by stupid thoughts, I said, “Janice, you owe me a buck and a bead. Just give them to Alison since her labor was volunteered.”
“You mean we can earn bucks and beads?” the vegan began before pausing for the group-wide count of eight, “by splitting wood … um … by splitting wood … huh?”
Everyone snickered, knowing Susan was correct in her assertion that we’d all end up sounding pre-literate. Well, except for me, of course. I could be my literate self.
The snickering stopped, and all eyes turned to me. It took several seconds for me to remember I had been asked a question, one for which I didn’t have an answer, well, at least not an answer that Claudia and I agreed to. In fact, we hadn’t discussed it at all. In awarding Alison bucks and beads, I was guilty of making shit up. Reneging would not be good so I diplomatically said, “For now, you can earn bucks and beads for splitting wood, but I need to make sure that’s okay with Claudia when she gets here.” I hoped that the mention of Claudia would stop them from taking advantage of me and my lonesomeness.
Then, I imagined my favorite cheerleader project manager clapping her hands to secure their undivided attention, and subsequently, I nearly shouted, “Assemble out by the van, and I’ll get you started on the first activity.” I sounded pretty damn in-charge, and I quickly sped ahead of them so my laughter at their eight-step couldn’t undermine something so hard for me to sustain.