another pSecret pSociety pshort pstory
December Delirium by Mike Bozart (Agent 33) | DEC 2015
It was a leisurely, albeit quite smoky, teenage drive with future Agent 107 (the late, great Frank N. Peck). We were in his 1975 burnt orange Ford Maverick, driving northwest into Charlotte from Matthews on US 74 in December of 1981. But, as he slowed down for a stoplight, we advanced thirty-four years in 3.4 seconds. Yes, it was suddenly December 2015, and Frank is now just a serene, ashen-faced ghost.
“That department store was there, Frank. Yes, on that corner. Buick Drive at Independence Boulevard. Or, was it Electra Lane? Oh, well; it’s not important now. Notice the overpass they recently built. Conference Drive. Yeah, the retail outfit over there was called Service Merchandise. Such an odd combination of nouns. Yep, I remember it.”
“Are you sure?” a holographic Frank asked from the driver’s seat, sensing my flickering (and faltering?) memory. His neural circuits are going, but he doesn’t realize it. Not yet.
“Yeah, yeah; that’s where it was. Maybe it closed before you guys got down here in ’79, or shortly thereafter. I remember the LED watches in their one-inch-thick catalog. Remember those store catalogs? They mailed them out. [chuckling] LED watches were a relatively new thing then. And, they weren’t cheap. Some models were well over $100. One hundred 1981 dollars, that is, Frank. Oh, Pulsar was the daddy brand. We all wanted one. And, get this, all the LED watches were set to 11:49 in the catalog. Don’t ask me why I remembered this.” Were they set to 11:49 in the store, too?
“AM or PM?” the Frank apparition quickly asked.
“Not sure on that. However, I often wondered if the 11:49 display time was to show off as many LED segments as possible. But, as I thought it out in my mind, that hunch would prove to be wrong, as the numbers 6 and 9 have six segments each. The number 5 has five, and the number 4 has four. I realized this after waking up at 6:54 one Saturday morning in June.” Yeah, I’m sure.
“So, 6:59 or 9:56 would display the most LED segments, right?” Frank asked with a lost-in-thought look.
“Well, let’s see, Frank. There are seventeen LED segments in 6:59 and 9:56. There are only fourteen in 11:49. Thus, be careful. Your bane isn’t totally braked yet, Frank.” The bane of cold rain.
“Bane braked? Now, listen to you. You’re the word murderer of the century. Pure linguistic poison. Yeah, your brain is toxic linguine.”
“Maybe so, maybe sew. Hey, what about 12:59?”
“What about it?” Phantom Frank quipped.
“I count eighteen segments in that time. Looks like I win.”
“Eighteen segments in that time. Sounds like the title to a novel, Tryke. [my nickname] Yeah, your addition is correct: Eighteen LED segmentations it is. Perhaps you got me this time.”
“You can post 12:56 and we’ll call it a draw.”
“Will you let me post 12:99 in overtime?”
“Only if I can post 12:66,” I retorted.
“Well, if we’re going that far off the conventional clock, I’ll post 99:99. That’s a total of twenty-four segments for that 24-karat gold medal.” Fool’s gold.
“You haven’t taken the gold medal yet, Frank. 12:99 equates to 1:39.”
“Equates to 1:39. What in the world!”
“Yeah. Sure. 12:00 plus 99 minutes equals 1:39. Therefore, my eternally stoned comrade, your LED segment total is only thirteen.”
“Yeah. Number 1 has two segments; number 3 has five segments; number 9 has six segments. Two plus five plus six yields thirteen.”
“And, what about your time?” My time while still alive?
“My time of 12:66 equals 1:06. There are fourteen segments in that LED time.” LED, Life Externalizing Diversion.
Frank was quiet for a few seconds, scratching his brown beard with his right hand. He was cranking through possible digits in his head. A THC-fueled numerical analysis was in progress.
“Ready to throw in the towel and buy me a frozen yoghurt to ameliorate my scorched throat?” I finally asked with glee. Tryke’s got a big surprise coming.
“12:58,” he suddenly blurted. Damn, that might be the winner.
“Darn, how many segments are in that diode time?” I asked knowing that the answer was probably higher than eighteen.
“Nineteen. You can’t get any more than that with a legal twelve-hour time. It’s the absolute max. Looks like you’ll be buying again, sport.” Darn, how did I overlook the seven-segment number 8? It’s the equivalent of the letter Q in Scrabble.
“Maybe we can amend the rules to make it more interesting,” I ruefully suggested.
“Take your loss gracefully, pal. Don’t dig a deeper grave.”
“The hours are numbered 1 to 12, just like the months of the year. So …”
“So, so, so. No, no, no. However you are trying to extend this match of wits – just forget it.”
“Don’t you want to hear me out, meta-real one?”
“The minutes go up to 59, whereas the days in a month only go up to 31 in the longest ones. No correlation. So, I don’t see how you extend this, Tryke. Accept certain defeat.”
I brooded for a few minutes and took another drag on Frank’s chrome peace pipe. The hash was cross-hatching my neurons. I was clawing for a clever thought, and sliding further into insipidity. Finally, I thought about December dates. I realized that today was the 8th. Eureka!
“That Moody Blues concert was a week ago tonight. So, what is today’s date, Frank?”
“Uh, let me think … December 8th.”
“And December 8th is commonly shortened to what series of numbers in America?”
“At 12:08 PM tomorrow, you can buy me a mushroom and onion pizza at Godfather’s on Albemarle Road.” Damn, 12:08 has twenty freaking segments! Is that the most? The winning time?
“Hold on,” Frank muttered. “Let me have a few minutes to run some more numbers.”
“The clock has started. Start renumerating. [sic] You’ve got two minutes. And not a second more.” He sounds just like a referee.
Frank was looking down. Then, after twenty-two seconds and one mighty drag on his Winston cigarette, he looked up at his stereo’s display in the middle of the dashboard. The time was 10:08. Oh, dear. Trouble in red-clay city.
“You see what time it is, Tryke?” Frank asked as he exhaled a huge plume of grey smoke with a big championship-winning, ready-for-the-trophy grin on his face. Has he really found a time that tops 12:08?
I looked at the time on the stereo’s faceplate. Damn. 10:08. Two plus six plus six plus seven. That’s twenty-one segments. I bet nothing tops that time for number of LED bars. Yep, that fawker [sic] got me!
“Time for you to buy me twenty-one slices of pepperoni pizza. But, not all at once; I’ll take it on an installment plan. Three weeks of Italian pie courtesy of my friend who finished in second place in a contest of two.”
“Very funny, Frank. Very funny. Hardy-har-har-har. Hey, it’s not over yet!”
“Oh, it’s very much over, Tryke. In fact, we are driving to the pizza parlor right now.” Oh, jeez. How much money do I have on me? Where’s my wallet?!
I then felt a nudge on my left shoulder.
“Honey, who are you talking to?”
The author (future agent 33) and his now-deceased cohort in mind, Frank N. Peck (future agent 107), take a smoky drive in east Charlotte in 1981 (which is retraced in 2015). The topic of LED time displays soon takes over their conversation and turns into a mental contest. Who will win and have to buy the other one 21 slices of pizza? Another tale in the psecret psociety pshort pstory pseries. A quick, fun read. Approx. 1200 words. No sex. No violence. No Mr. Malloy.