The words flowed easily this week, much to mys surprise, as I was kinda worried how I would handle the first big dialogue-driven encounter between two of the story's characters. Seems that putting words in one's mouth comes kinda naturally for yours truly. And so the tale marches on!
For Joey Mitchelson, early breakfast meetings were his professional encounters of choice. He considered them a nicely-timed break after already being on the go for about three hours. Calling Joey “hyper-kinetic” was an understatement; he was perpetual motion who lived and slept and breathed self-motivation so much so that the tech Gods he revered—Apple’s Steve Jobs and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to name just two—seemed like slackers in his frothy wake.
Not only was Joey the most influential of the “Speedbump Trio” that convinced Curtis to take the plunge in SnowBalls, he was also the first to clash with the new owners and forge out on his own in pursuit of yet another impossible dream. He had now rid himself of all corporate offices and baggage and morphed his mathematics background and big win into a successful start-up business consultancy (though he preferred the eye-rolling tag of “change agent”); a one-man show, with the emphasis on “show.” For his astute advice, fiery bluster and wide-reaching contacts, he was paid a healthy upfront fee, and took pieces of a company’s back-end (either as equity or stock options or even liens on equipment) as well. He was perfectly positioned, a no-lose situation every time.
While not his best friend on earth, the no-bullshit, iconoclastic, former partner was the one Curtis trusted to be the one to hear—and comment on—his “all or nothing” financial plan before anyone else.
Naturally, Joey was the first to arrive at Skippy’s, the old-school coffee shop turned ne plus ultra hip day-breaker. Sliding arms-up into one of the salmon-colored booths at the back, he pulled out his iPhone and tossed out his 17th and 18th Tweets of the day while waiting. No matter what his primary task, Joey always seemed to communicate elsewhere while doing it. Because of this. Joey had become one of the blogosphere’s fave and most followed fixtures. All the new-world metrics (Twitter followers, Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, Google search results, etc.) combined with his wit, insight and outlandish way of communicating them, made him a pseudo star. Granted, few would recognize him in a bar or on the street or at the back of a coffee shop waiting for one of his former brothers-in-arms, but toss the name Jo•E•Em onto the Internet and almost instantly, you can feel the buzz he generates.
“Sorry I’m late,” Curtis puffed as he crash-landed in the seat across from Joey, “but I had…”
“I had to walk the dogs, and they wouldn’t piss, and they took their time eating,” Joey replied, finishing Curtis’s excuse, as his fingers continued to fly across his phone’s touch screen. “Not only did I expect this, but I actually went as far as to order for both of us, tell the waitress that you’re paying, and that you’ll be leaving her a huge tip.”
Rather than be embarrassed by the call out, Curtis felt comforted. Joey knew his peculiarities and made a habit of overlooking them. More importantly, Joey understood him. They’d been through “The Wars” together, and while not Vietnam or Afghanistan, they’d held onto each other tight on the countless times when SnowBalls teetered on the verge of bankruptcy, closure or irrelevance.
“Joey, I’ve got something nuts to run by you.”
“Something nuts from you? What…you wanna rotate your tires? Buy a new winter coat?”
“I want to change my life.”
“You’re pulling a Chas Bono?”
“Uh, somewhat. Financially, though.”
“Now you’ve got my attention,” Joey said, head springing up and looking Curtis in the eye for the first time since he sat down.
“I wanna go double or nothing with my life…with my life’s savings, I mean.”
“You wanna go in on the Dolphin deal?”
Dolphin was Joey’s latest real estate play, a conversion of six blocks of waning San Francisco retail frontage into Internet-based office, storage and mail-order fulfillment space.
“Nah, thanks but too long to wait for the payoff. If any. What I mean is a literal double or nothing. I want to put everything I have on either Red or Black on one spin of a Roulette wheel.”
“Waitress!” Joey raised his hand and shouted. “Another coffee for me and a demitasse of sanity for my friend here!”
It took him a few minutes, but Curtis massaged Joey’s incredulousness and ridicule into a semblance of cynical comprehension. Joey knew well of Curtis’s monthly volatility crisis, and soon came to not just sympathize with Curtis’s plan, but admire it. He shook his head in slight affirmation.
“You know it’s not an exact 50:50 chance you’ve got on Red or Black,” he said while wiping some stray peanut butter off the side of his mouth. “The Greenies, the 0 and 00, can bite you in the ass. The house has to have some sort of advantage on everything, or it ain’t gonna stay in business. I think it’s more like 47:53…in favor of the house.”
“Spoken like a true ex-programmer,” Curtis laughed. “But in the end, really, how often does 0 or 00 come up?”
“As often as any other number. It’s totally random.”
“So’s my idea.
Joey chewed on his thoughts for a few seconds and leaned in.
“Listen buddy, it’s nuts. Makes no sense. Ridiculous. But so was leaving Speedbump to start SnowBalls and look where that left us. It left you in the position to do something so damn crazy. If you can live with the reality that in one spin, you have to re-set your life back to square one, then more power to you. “
“But there’s an equal chance that the reality doubles my money and clears my head…”
“Not equal,” Joey warned again. “About 47%. And who’s to say that even with double the cash in hand, you still won’t be reading your monthly statements?”
“I thought about that, but no…I know me. I think I know me. I know what’s enough. If I can live with the down, I can most definitely live with the up.”
“Well if that’s the case, you can start right now,” Joey said as he pushed the breakfast bill towards Curtis.
No ex-programmer nor math major he, but Curtis was no fool when it came to playing the odds. Asking Joey for a blessing was a calculated risk, but one tilted heavily in his favor. Had he turned to Miranda, or any one of the Fab Four, or frankly, anyone other than Joey, the result would’ve been different.
“My pleasure,” Curtis grinned as he grabbed the bill and made his way to the cash register. “Didn’t know how you were gonna take this, but really appreciate the support.”
Joey looked down at his phone as Curtis headed towards Skippy’s front door. Amazingly, he hadn’t Tweeted in about 45 minutes. He broke his cyber-silence by typing Tweet #19 to his 274,767 followers:
My former partner @CurtisStan got some mega-balls. About to bet his life savings on one spin of a lucky—he hopes—roulette wheel. #RedorBlack
Joey Mitchelson’s message was made up of exactly 140 characters. As he pressed “Send,” he had no idea how many more characters it would eventually unleash.
To be continued next week...