In all

going? It’ll be a world completely burned out. A world staggering around, dragging itself along, unable to bring itself even to full waking consciousness. Sound familiar?” He was breathless for me to connect the dots.

 

Everything about Jason telegraphed that this conversational territory had become for him not only customary but also well-mapped.

 

“I get it,” I said without commitment. “Slow, gradual apocalypse. Frog in the pot.” Despite the slipperiness of his slope, its overall sense was not dismissed without a thought. “I guess you could say it would be a gentle apocalypse. The zombies won’t be trying to eat you.”

 

“They’ll eat you now,” Ran said without hesitation. “If you think that’ll change when the world is in a constant fog from irreversible adjustment to its own drugs, beyond the reach of any stimulant or stimulation, think again.”

 

Ran’s enthusiastic sincerity was as perpetual as his lighthearted comedy. They were often tough to distinguish. It made weighing the attitude with which he treated even serious subjects a difficult judgment. Ran was aware of this and used it with strategy.

 

As his gist began taking shape in my mind I asked him outright what he was getting at. He went back to his electronics without answering.

 

Minutes later he broke the silence, “Have you met Tiffany?”

 

I told him I had not.

 

“She’s our third shift on this house.”

 

“That was random,” I smirked.

 

“Well, you know, it’s the ADH—whoa! Wait a minute, can you say that?” He pointed at a plaque high on the wall of the adjacent dining room. “Can you say, ‘their marbles’? What was it you were saying the other day about agreement in number between the subject and—you know, whatever it was? You know what I’m talking about. Shouldn’t it be, ‘his or her marbles’?”

 

It was embroidery stretched over a frame. The precision of the needlework depicted Chinese checkers, Aggravation, and a few other games all with a common theme. These appeared in a row. This pattern repeated a couple times, rimming the rectangular face of the plaque, and forming a border around the central text:

 

IT’S ALL FUN AND GAMES

UNTIL SOMEBODY

LOSES THEIR MARBLES

 

“Yes,” I affirmed his grammatical assertion. “That’s true.” I studied the plaque. “Very true.”

 

“That’s the first time I noticed it was written like that,” Ran mused.

 

There was a knock at the door.

 

Jason opened it. “Hey, Tiff.”

 

Ran hugged her from the side. “What’s up, Tiff?”

 

“Hey, guys,” she smiled. She was a middle-aged woman, tall and attractive. “How did it go?” She referred to the shift.

The End

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