Lost Moments: "17th Place: A Short Story"

“I once placed 17th in a Backgammon tournament”-- Hugo Reyes

“Dude, I think I’m gonna hurl!” Hugo Reyes said, as he glanced around at the ever growing crowd. “Aw, keep your cool dude!” his best friend Johnny replied, “you already hurled twice on the way over here! You’re gonna rule! You’re the best player here, man!” “I don’t know, dude,” Hugo said, “I mean, there’s guys from all over California that have entered this tournament! Guys who can really play!” “I believe in you, man,” Johnny said, “just be confident!” “Yeah, I’m confident alright,” Hugo wearily said, “confident I’m gonna hurl again!” Hugo quickly ran to the restroom. “Aw, dude,” Johnny called after, “if you keep this up, I’m gonna start calling you “Hurley”!

A few minutes later, Hugo wobbled back to table #8. “Hey, check it out, dude!” Johnny said, punching Hugo in the shoulder. “Oww, man,” Hugo reacted, “cut it out Johnny, that hurts!” “But look who’s here, dude,” Johnny said, pointing towards the entrance, “its STARRRRLAAAA!” Hugo glanced over to see a thin, cute brunette, walking through the gates. “Oh, man,” Hugo said, “as if I’m not nervous enough!” “HEY STARLA!” Johnny yelled out. “Dude! What are you doing?!” Hugo said. “Bringing over your true love, dude!” Johnny smiled, “she’ll bring you luck!” Starla glanced over, smiled, then slowly walked over to their table. Hugo thought she moved like an angel!

“Hey Johnny! Hey Hugo!” Starla said, “you ready to play, Hugo?” Hugo’s face turned red, as he smiled. “Of course he’s ready to play,” Johnny said, “and ready to awesomely dominate!” “Well, I’ll be rooting for you,” Starla smiled. “Thanks,” Hugo replied. Johnny suddenly poked him in the ribs. “Oww! Uh, Starla?” Hugo nervously stammered, “yyou think that mmaybe after the and I could go and get something to….” “HEY STARLA! WHAT ARE YOU DOING TALKING TO THESE HOSE HEADS?!” the voice was very loud with a healthy heap of arrogance. “Oh great, its Robbie Nations!” Hugo mumbled.

“Hey, Robbie!” Starla smiled, “I didn’t know you had entered the tournament!” “Of course, sweet cheeks!” Robbie replied, as he glanced around the room, “not much competition here. It’ll be an easy win!” “An easy elimination in the first round for you, dude!” Johnny spoke up. “Shut up, twerp!” Robbie replied, then turning to Hugo he said, “It’ll be fun, Reyes, if we get to go up against each other. Fun to show you what a loser you are!” Hugo just glanced away. “C’mon, Starla,” Robbie said, as he put his arm around her shoulders, “after I win this contest, I’ll take you over to Mr. Clucks. My brother is closing tonight, we can get extra wings!” “Good luck, Hugo!” Starla called back, as Robbie led her away.

“What an arrogant s.o.b.,” Hugo mumbled. “Dude!” Johnny said, “he’s stealing your girl!” Hugo frowned, “she’s not my girl, dude!” “But she will be when you win!” Johnny replied, “you can buy her the Mr. Clucks jumbo pack with the prize money!” “Aw, girls like her don’t go for guys like me!” Hugo replied. “That’s her loss, dude!” Johnny said, “besides, this is only the beginning of your professional backgammon career! Soon, you’ll have your share of groupies!” “Groupies??!!” Hugo gasped, “there’s no such thing as backgammon groupies!” Johnny laughed, “there will be when you start winning!” Hugo just shook his head! Suddenly, the announcements began. “WILL ALL ENTRANTS PLEASE APPROACH THE RULES COMMITTEE TABLE TO FIND OUT WHO YOUR FIRST ROUND OPPONENT WILL BE!” “This is it, dude. Good luck!” Johnny said. “Yeah, thanks man!” Hugo replied, as he slowly headed over to the table.

In the first round, Hugo easily defeated some guy with a lazy eye from Huntington Beach. Hugo glanced over to the stands to see Johnny giving him the thumbs up. Three rows further up he could see Starla smiling at him. He quickly looked away. He couldn’t afford to loose his concentration. He had a little harder time, in the second round, against some slacker from Sacramento. But he did manage to pull off another win. After a short break, the third round started. It was then that Hugo’s worst nightmare began.

“Well, it looks like I’m easily moving on to the fourth round, eh, clunker?!” Hugo looked up to see Robbie Nations standing before him. “Oh, great!” Hugo mumbled. “You want to forfeit right now, Reyes,” Robbie taunted, as he sat down, “it’ll save you a lot of embarrassment!” “Lets just play, Robbie, okay?” Hugo replied. The game began. Hugo once again glanced up into the stands. Johnny was still smiling stupidly and giving him the thumbs up. Starla was still smiling sweetly. However, Hugo noticed someone else up in the stands. Someone he hadn’t seen in awhile. Someone he didn’t want to see. Someone who didn’t even exist! Two rows further up from Starla sat a pudgy, bald headed guy. Two rows further up sat Dave!

“Oh, God!” Hugo mumbled. “You say something, chump?” Robbie said. Hugo didn’t answer. He glanced over once again. Dave was now standing up and waving. He was saying something Hugo could hear in his head! “Hey, dude,” Dave said, “what are you doing playing a kid’s game? Let’s split this nerdorama and go out for a thick, juicy cheeseburger! I’m buyin! Have your girlfriend join us. Ask if she has a sister!” “No! Shut up!” Hugo mumbled. “What’d you say?!” Robbie asked. “Nothing, dude!” Hugo answered. “If you’re trying to play some type of psyche out game on me, man,” Robbie said, “its not gonna work! You keep it up and I’m calling over a referee to get you disqualified!” “C’mon, man!” Dave continued to say in Hugo’s head, “if ya don’t want cheeseburgers, then lets go for a thick crust anchovies pizza! What do ya say?!” “Not now! Get lost, Dave!” Hugo whispered. “Okay! That’s it!” Robbie cried out, as he signaled for a referee.

An older, prim woman, with her hair tied up tightly in a bun, approached their table. “What is it?” she impatiently asked. “This guy is trying to cheat by constantly mumbling to distract me!” Robbie said. “Is this true, young man?!” the woman said, turning to Hugo. He glanced back over to the stands. Johnny was still grinning. Starla was still smiling. Dave was still in his head! Hugo looked up to the woman referee. “I’m waiting for an answer, young man!” she said.

Suddenly, Hugo hurled up all over the woman! The tournament was immediately halted! Clean up crews were immediately called and Hugo was immediately disqualified! Later, as Hugo cleaned up in the restroom, Johnny walked in. “Well, dude,” he said, “I’ve got good news and bad news. Which you wanna hear first?” “How can there be any good news in any of this?!” Hugo replied. “Well, the good news is,” Johnny answered, “Robbie didn’t win, he finished 11th. But you, my friend, despite being disqualified, still ended up 17th!”

“What’s the bad news?” Hugo asked. “Robbie just left with Starla!” Johnny replied. “That figures!” Hugo lamented. “But,” Johnny continued, “I hear they’re headed over to Mr. Clucks. I say we go over there and while I distract Robbie by talking trash, you steal Starla away with all your natural charm! Besides, I think they still have the Clucker’s special! What do ya say?!” Hugo thought it over for a minute, smiled, then said, “Lets go!” “Sweeet!” Johnny replied. “And while we’re there,” Hugo added, “we had better ask for a job! I hear they’re hiring!” The End. Next Story: “That Summer in Paris”

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