"I win, again!" Doug exclaimed. His joy was far beyond rational, and had anyone else been in the room, it would have certainly frightened them to into leaving.
"This sucks," typed Stan from some anonymous place in cyberspace. "Yeah," added Joey from his own spot in the vast nothingness of the Internet. "He's like some sort of savant! It's practically cheating!"
"PLAY AGAIN?" asked Computer. "Sure, guys!" typed Doug.
"No!" typed both Stan and Joey. And a moment later, they had both exited the game.
"Gosh, Computer," Doug typed. "Why does that always happen after only 3 or 4 games?"
Computer didn't respond. "Fine," said Doug. "Be that way!"
Doug canceled the Hearts program on his desktop, feeling quite forlorn.So Doug left the computer, entered his sensory-deprivation room and crawled into bed in his custom-built ergonomically-correct Sleep-Chair.
He tried a couple more hours of Cribbage, Gin Rummy, and then even moved on to Mah Jong, before upsetting all the other online gamers there as well.
"This just isn't my night!" said Doug. That's when he noticed the time.
"Four-thirty A.M.?" he shouted. "Mother of Peril! I need to get some sleep!"
And although Doug had been liberally gulping down can after can of Super-Mega Hyper-Bolt energy drink cola, he knew it wouldn't effect his ability to fall asleep. He'd been drinking this particular beverage for years now and had built up a bit of a tolerance to it... but not so much that it didn't affect his dreams.
He strapped himself in with his lucky pillow, put on his "magic hat" (which he believed kept his hair from being stolen in the night by the elves that dwelt under his sleep-chair), put on his headphones, listened to a looping cassette of Bill Cosby's voice saying the words, "Eat the puddin'!" over and over again, (he'd had it since he was a kid - it was his favorite,) turned on all the lights (the elves hate the light, Doug reasoned) and drifted off into a deep slumber.
He slept for a whole five hours that night - which was pretty good, considering the copious amounts of caffeine in his system combined with his endless night terrors - and awoke happily around ten o'clock in the morning.
"Ten o'clock?" thought Doug, as he awoke and scratched his head. "What the hell does 'o'clock' mean? Is it Scottish?"
"Shut up, you stupid elf!" Doug screamed at the small hallucination scampering about on the floor beneath his sleep-chair.
"You don't know anything!" shouted the elf.
"Go away, you awful, awful, troll!" cried Doug with his eyes closed tight and his fists clutched tightly over his ears. He rocked back and forth until he felt the tingling sensation - which he always felt after waking up - had subsided. He slowly and carefully opened his eyes, and everything was back to normal.
Doug carefully stepped out of the sensory-deprivation room and went about his day. He didn't feel like showering or shaving or even getting dressed, really. So he just wore his pajamas and his wool cap and headed out to do some shopping, drop off some DVDs at the rental place, and stop by the bank.
"How odd," he thought. "Usually they're all standing up. It must be some sort of holiday I don't understand! Crazy religious nuts!"
He stepped over several of the bodies lying prostrate on the marble floor and headed toward the teller.
"Hey! No line!" he noticed happily.
"Hey!" roared a voice from the back of the room. Doug spun around to see a nervous, jittery man in a maroon suit, pointing a rifle in Doug's direction and shouting at him. "Whatcha think you're doing!?! Get on the floor! Now!"
"Oh, I'm sorry," said Doug, starting to kneel down. "I don't understand this holiday!"
The man in the maroon suit, holding the rifle was tall and lanky. He was standing on one of the desks in the back of the room. He brushed his long bangs of hair out of his face, his eyes nervously twitching about, when another man came out of the bank vault with a hand gun. This man was shorter, with much wilder eyes than the first man. He lead a female teller out of the vault at gun point.
"Okay," he said to her in a very demanding tone, "Get down on the floor with the rest."
Doug ventured to sneak a peek at the second man. He was much more commanding, Doug thought. More driven. The teller woman knelt down very near to Doug and lay face down on the floor.
"Psst!" Doug hissed at her to get her attention. She looked at him as he whispered loudly to her, "What day is this?"
"What?" she said, perplexed.
"What holiday!?" he explained. "I don't understand the customs of this one! I've never been very observant of these more obscure religious holidays... is this Lent?"
"Hey!" yelled the second man with the wild eyes. Doug felt that this was projected towards himself. He was right. He felt a hand grab the back of his shirt and pull him to his feet, which knocked his wool cap off his head. Before he knew it, he was being pushed hard against the glass of the teller window with the gun grinding into the back of his neck.
"What do you think you're doing?" demanded the man with the wild eyes.
"Mmmfmmfmmmfffm!" Doug said, his mouth obscured almost entirely by the glass.
The man pulled Doug an inch or two away from the glass. "What did you say?"
"I said..." Doug muttered through tearful whimpers, "I said I just don't know the proper rituals for Lent!"
The man stood there, stunned into silence for a moment, before he threw Doug back to the floor. "Keep quiet, nut-ball!" he said.
"Okay!" yelled Doug, putting his wool cap back on his head as the man walked away. "I WILL!"
"Shhhhhhhhh!!!!" hissed all the people laying on the floor. Doug sunk back onto the floor, feeling very embarrassed.
The man walked over to the other man and they moved to a corner of the room where they could talk in private.
"What are we gonna do?" the man with the wild eyes told the man in the maroon suit. "The vault is practically empty! I told you we shouldn't have come before noon! If I told you once, I've told you a thousand times: People make deposits at the end of the day! The end!"
"Yeah," said the man in the maroon suit.
"But... you know I hate to miss Judge George, and he's on at three o'clock! And besides, what else were we gonna do all morning?"
"I could have SLEPT IN!" was the other man's response.
Meanwhile, Doug whispered to the female teller next to his spot on the floor.
"Pardon me, miss! I really hate to interrupt the ceremony here. Could I just ask you where the Change-of-Address forms are?"
"What?" the woman said, again. It seemed to be the only thing she could say to Doug.
"The Change-of-Address forms!" He reiterated. "You see, I just moved to a new apartment, but all my mail is still showing up at my parent's house and I..."
"What are you talking about?" she hissed at him. "This isn't exactly the time or the place! Besides, banks don't have those! You're thinking of the Post Office!" Doug lit up with a gasp.
"You're right!" he exclaimed. "I gotta go!"
And with that, Doug stood up, crossed the bank floor, stepped over the people near the door and exited the building.
"Can't!" Doug yelled back. "Gotta get to the Post Office! Time is money!"
The man feared to exit the building, but ventured a look outside. "You moron! I've got a gun! Get back here!"
"Go climb a tree, you bully!" he spat back at the man. "Gosh," Doug the said to himself as he walked away. "What a meanie!"
The man stood there, shocked, watching Doug walk away. Then he ducked back into the bank as several police vehicles came screeching to a halt at the doors. Doug continued walking down the sidewalk and around the building, but offered some advice to the officer that had crouched nearby pointing a handgun toward the bank door:
"If you're going in there, I should tell you - they're doing some weird religious stuff in there!" But the officer didn't seem to hear him, so Doug kept on walking toward his car.
When Doug arrived at the bank, he encountered a short line, as it was still only midday. He stepped up to a Postal Clerk who appeared happy on the outside, but whose aura visibly burned with the deep inner despair that only comes with a sense of a wasted life.
"I'd like to ask you a question." Doug said to her.
"Okay," she said.
"May you what?"
"May I ask you a question?"
"You just did."
"What?" Doug said, puzzled.
"You just did ask me a question."
"You've just asked four questions."
"Are you sure?"
"Okay, now I know that's not true!"
"What's not true?"
"Six is not five!"
"What is your question?" she asked after a brief pause, without ever changed her facial expression.
"I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of the Change-of-Address forms?" Doug asked.
"I'm sorry," the woman said. "I believe we've just run out of them."
Doug's face displayed his obvious dismay at this news.
"Oh, but..." the woman continued, as Doug simply stood there looking sad for several silent moments, "I, uh... I suppose I could go check in the back to... see if we have more."
Doug just frowned at her.
After a moment, the woman moved toward the back of the post office where Doug could no longer see her. He felt deep in his gut that she would never find any Change-of-Address forms. He knew his day was doomed. He knew, somehow, that this was not going to end well.
The woman came back and Doug could see she didn't have any Change-of-Address forms in her hands, and he felt his heart sink even deeper in his chest, and his breathing started to grow shallow. The edges of his mouth twitched sharply as the tears welled up in his eyes.
The Postal Clerk looked at him without any change of expression.
"I'm afraid we don't have any Change-of-Address forms in the back, either." she reported.
Doug struggled to maintain composure as his vision was blurred completely now with the bitter, salty sting of tears in his eyes. He began to make little hiccup noises as he made short gasps for air, but his cries bested his attempt to keep them at bay.
"But..." the woman went on, "If you have Internet access at home, you can do it online now. Just go to the Post Office website."
Doug was visibly happy to hear this news.
But he didn't move. He just stood there, grinning. Perhaps he was paralyzed by the sudden onset of overwhelming joy.
At any rate, he was starting to stir an actual, honest-to-God emotion in the Postal Clerk standing in front of him, which was the first she'd felt in as long as she could remember. She recognized the emotion after a few moments as fear, and her eyes started to widen.
And yet, Doug just stood there.
"Do... you need to change your address?" she asked.
Without a shift of expression or even saying a word, Doug simply moved his head in a nodding motion to indicate an affirmative answer.
"Do... you have Internet access at your home?" she asked.
Doug nodded again, but this time his eyebrows raised a bit.
"Well..." she continued. "Why don't you... ya know... go to your home and get on our website from there?"
Doug nodded his head at an almost dangerous pace this time. The woman's eyes widened even more.
"Okay, well, good luck!" She said now with an almost terrified tone in her voice. "Why don't you just head out through that door back there? Go on home and change that address!"
And now Doug was able to regain total motor function and happily skipped out of the Post Office.
When he got home, Doug did as the nice woman had advised him and logged onto the Internet on his Apple Desktop Computer.
"No time for you, Hearts!" he boasted.
"No time for you either, Cribbage!" he smiled, eagerly.
"And forget about you, Gin Rummy!" he bounded as his fingers clicked and clacked on the keyboard.
"What about me?" asked Mah Jong, meekly.
"Aww, I'm sorry, Mah Jong. But I just can't right now. I have some very important things to attend to!"
Mah Jong hung it's head and exited the conversation... somehow.
Doug felt bad for a moment, but his excitement at the opportunity to correct the Postal Services record indicating his true address, once and for all, easily overshadowed his remorse for his good friend Mah Jong.
As he was about to bring up the Internet browser on his computer, he felt something move near his feet under his desk.
It was that mean old evil elf who had called him names that morning.
"You!" he screamed at it.
"You!' it screeched back at him.
"You get outta here!" Doug commanded with a sense of purpose. "This is no place for you, and I have important work to attend to!"
"Don't end your sentences with prepositions, you overgrown, nog-swilling twit!" said the elf.
"FINE!" Doug shouted. "I have important work TO WHICH I MUST ATTEND!"
"That's better!" the elf said, "But you're still a twit!"
"How dare you! Get back in under that Sleep-Chair with the rest of your kind! That's where you're supposed to stay!"
"Don't you push me around, ugly!" screeched the elf. "You don't get to tell me what to do anymore! Better hang on to your magic hat, tonight! We have a big plan for you!"
"Huh?" asked a puzzled Doug.
"That's right! We've been studying BRAIN SURGERY!"
"BRAIN SURGERY!?!" Doug gasped. "Aw, you don't scare me! You're just making that up! How could you have learned brain surgery when you spend all your time living underneath a Sleep-Chair?"
"Haven't you even wondered..." said the evil little elf, "... what I'm doing out here by your computer?"
Doug didn't inquire further, but as the gears in his imagination were turning, he looked back at his computer screen. There was already an Internet browser up and running. It had only been minimized on the screen. He clicked the "maximize" button and the window popped up, displaying a web page that bore the title:
"HOW TO LOBOTOMIZE THE GIANT THAT IMPRISONS YOU UNDER HIS SLEEP-CHAIR"
Doug gasped again.
"That's right, smarty! We're gonna cut you GOOD!" croaked the evil little imp.
"Oh, yeah?" asked Doug with a disrespectful edge in his voice. "With WHAT?"
"With THIS!" spat the elf, revealing a large knife.
The moral of this story:
Don't go out drinking with your buddies in South Africa. You'll just end up getting lobotomized by an evil elf.