Hoppers Part One
Another beating. “When will I learn?” thought Arnold. He really believed that this time he had hidden it well but he guessed that, like all the other times, he had instead chosen a bet that was just a little too unlikely. Was it that last gamble on red again or had he been spotted earlier, perhaps at the Blackjack table? Either way, not only had it had hurt but he had had all his winnings taken as well. “There has to be an easier way to do this,” he muttered to himself.
There was. Susanne could do what Arnold could but she didn’t take to the casinos to profit. Not the real ones anyway. Susanne made her fortune in the casino that was the stock exchange. She also knew that it was important to hide her ability and so she left the occasional wrong choice un-corrected now and then but the important ones she fixed and through this she quickly rose to ‘Senior deal-maker’ in her firm.
What were the chances of them meeting? If you’d asked me before they met, I’d have said a million to one; especially since they had chosen such different paths to exploit their particular ability. But, then again, maybe they were destined to meet each other. After all, they both could hop.
There is a joke sheet circulating on the internet. It has probably been around, in one form or another, for years. It consists of everyday words, slightly altered and re-defined for the 20th century. One of the definitions is, “the ohno-second”. Like the nano-second this moment is exceptionally brief but it describes the moment when you realise that you have just made a big mistake. Like the split second between noticing that you have accidentally clicked “reply all” and the moment your finger actually hits the send button on that overly amorous reply to that email from Serena in accounts. But then it is too late to stop your finger mid-motion and off the mail goes. Susanne and Arnold never suffered from ohno moments. Sure they made such mistakes but they had the ability, the skill, the super-power if you want to call it that, to hop back in time just long enough to not do whatever it was that they had just, so disastrously, done and undo it; do the opposite.
Arnold thought that this would be useful in the gambling halls but he hadn’t reckoned on the casinos’ rabid dislike of losing. He reasoned that, if a bet came out bad he could just hop back and reverse it. And he did. But it soon got him noticed and he had to start trying to disguise himself in order to get into the casinos that had banned him. When this stopped working he found that he could only get into the, shall we say, less salubrious establishments. Unfortunately, with these, came the risk of the beatings. He had tried to use hopping to get away from these but, as recent events showed, it didn’t always work. It required concentration which is often in short supply when being chased down an alley.
Susanne was brought up on the other side of the tracks from Arnold. From the start, her parents had her destined for great things. Even so, they were impressed at just how great she had become. ‘Senior Deal-Maker at Rose and Thornton; such heady heights for one so young.
The hop was always brief. It could never span the time between Susanne submitting an exam paper and getting the result back and so she had to devise other ways to make the most of her ‘friend’. She nicknamed it her ‘friend’ because that was how it seemed to her. Like someone whom she could always rely on to be there and help her out of scrapes, avoid accidents, un-miss missed opportunities. In exams she used it to avoid getting caught when reading the answer sheet of Carrie, the school swot. If caught, hop back and not do it. It meant that she didn’t have that answer but that was a small price to pay compared with being caught.
Normally, Arnold would never have gone into Bar Zanzi, especially looking like he did but he needed a drink and this was the closest hostelry to where the heavies had dumped him. He noted the barman’s disdain and decided to sit quietly at the back, out of sight, in gratitude for being allowed to even be in there. Susanne’s reason for choosing the dark corner of the Zanzi couldn’t have been more different. She had just pulled off a phenomenal deal but only with the help of one of her longest hops to date. The news she needed to know whether her deal was going to be a winner or a loser was late coming in over the net. Nervously, she had been counting the seconds tick by. Any longer and she wouldn’t have been able to hop back far enough to undo it if it had been the wrong decision; which it had. She was seeking the quiet of the Zanzi to collect her composure and get ready for the adoration. The adoration that would surely be coming her way back in the office, once the rest of the team learn of her amazing decision not to buy that very promising stock which everyone else thought could only be due for a meteoric rise. “Meteors crash to the ground,” she mumbled to herself as she sat down in the booth next to Arnold’s.
“Tell me about it,” said Arnold idly and to no one in particular. Not in a ‘sounds interesting, please tell me more’ kind of way but in the ‘(there’s no need to) tell ME about it’ way.
Susanne was shocked; she thought that she would be alone at this time of day, in the back of Zanzi. “What did you say?” she asked him.
“I said ‘tell me about it’ – my meteor just crashed and I got burned,” Arnold replied.
“You look terrible,” said Susanne, “I thought my day had been bad but what’s happened to you?”
“People don’t like winners, I guess,” said Arnold.
“Funny, I noticed that too,” Susanne said. She had, by now switched booths to sit opposite Arnold having decided she didn’t want solitude after all and that she would be safe (and could hop back if switching booths turned out to be a bad decision).
OK so they have met and soon they will learn that they both can hop (I have no idea how to bring this out.) What would be really interesting would be to ask you all - what would you do with such a power?