Here’s a tasty crumpet of micro-fiction I stumbled upon recently on a site called BRILLIANT FLASH FICTION. Reproduced with kind permission of the author.
Scissors Paper Rock Bottom
By Glen Donaldson
Only a madman would draw paper three times in a row, thought Miles Munro, four times World Rock Paper Scissors champion to himself as he again tried to predict what his four-fingered opponent Birch Prendergast would do next.
A prodigiously-gifted ‘blitz’ player who’d established his psychological bona fides by studying game theory and reading William Poundstone’s seminal The Art of Outsmarting Almost Anyone many times over, Miles sensed his mild-mannered adversary didn’t really like being around people at all, excepting this once a year opportunity to showcase his prodigious brand of finger-dazzle.
Miles, or as he was known in tournament circles “Masterchief Munro” was, so to speak, a practised hand in the black arts of competitive mindgames: double-thinking and psyching-out challengers while all the time clawing for advantage using pattern recognition, body language analysis, passive-aggressive cloaking moves (his favourite being the kamikaze-styled and devicefully named three scissors in-a-row Toolbox) and the finer points of the old mentalist trick ‘Sicilian Reasoning’. Heck, when it came right down to it, Miles wasn’t even above trash-talking his foes to throw them off balance.
Recently he’d taken to wearing dark sunglasses to make it harder for his opponents to read his expression. This lasted for a brief time up until the decision by the Executive Board of the RPS International Governing Body moved to outlaw such practices.
Yet amidst this great hall of mirrors, engineered by an unmistakably severe intelligence, near psychic ability for prediction and a psychopathic lust for winning, Miles himself somehow made the transparently rookie error of tucking the tip of his thumb into the crook of his index finger, thus telegraphing an obvious rock. In an instant Birch Prendergast, surprised as anyone, was able to read it like an oversized newspaper headline and at the speed of thought produce the final stunning play in his counter-intuitive signature move The Bureaucrat (paper-paper-paper).
It was all over. Along with the look of baby surprise frozen across his face, Miles made a noise with his lips, noticeably lowered his usually hunched shoulders then immediately relaxed, like a lobster rubbed on its stomach. It was a crushing defeat for the child prodigy on a scale that dwarfed everything in his life that had gone before. Worse was to follow as it signalled the beginning of an evolutionary cul-de-sac for the once all-conquering, all conspiring, all configuring former champion who inexplicably commenced losing to a string of much lesser rated opponents and in a short time found himself competing amongst the ranks of lowly amateurs in the myriad of 2nd tier competitions spread across the country.
Early retirement saw Miles retreat to the open-air solitude of bass fishing in his aluminum-hulled skeeter dingy on nearby Lake Prime where he was regularly spotted challenging invisible opponents to games of rock paper scissors. Rumoured plans of a comeback against the headline-making University of Tokyo’s RPS playing robot were shelved sometime back. This came about as a result of it being made known that by using high-speed cameras and recognising within half a millisecond which shape the human hand was making and then producing the corresponding winning shape the android-machine was able to achieve a 100% winning rate.
Away from the glare of superstardom, the once mighty competition warrior formerly known as The Masterchief set about applying his algorithmic mind to the almost infinite combination of weights, shapes, colours (some painted with his daughter’s nail polish) and materials for lures and jigheads along with their matched propensity for catching both freshwater and marine species of fish.
Happiness, something that had never really been an arrow in Mile’s quiver but instead resembled more an intermittent radio signal he could never quite get a lengthy fix on, now seemed much more attainable. He wasn’t winning anymore but ironically he felt much more like a winner. Life was good again and he let the happiness soak right into his bones. He’d covered his last rock, smashed his last pair of scissors, cut his last bit of paper and executed his last meta-strategy. Miles Munro was finally going random. It was time to develop a whole new set of moves.