Chuck Wendig: Third Time Pays For All

This week’s Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction challenge is a pretty good one.  Last week, he invited readers to comment with a submission of a sentence that could be used as the first sentence in a story.  He says he got more than 500 entries.  He selected 10 of them, and this week’s challenge is to pick one of them and use it as the launching for a story.

I have no idea how I came up with what you are about to read.  Not sure it’s even really a story.  I do think it’s one of the strangest things I’ve ever written.  Well, here it is, in all it’s…um…glory.  Yeah, that’s it.  That’s what it is.  Sure.

Third Time Pays For All

The clock struck 12:17 and all I could think is I should have called tails.

At 11:58, The Fez and I had been sitting in the floor of the living room watching Jimmy Fallon, eating stale Funyuns, and drinking Coke Zero.  Neil Gaiman was the guest, which is why we were watching.  Well, we were also hoping that Justin Timberlake would show up and do another in the series of History of Ballroom Dancing bits that he and Fallon had embarked upon last year after bringing to an end their successful string of hip-hop/polka mash-up videos.

Anyway, Timberlake hadn’t shown up and Neil Gaiman was the guest.  We couldn’t believe that someone like Neil Gaiman would go on the Tonight Show.  I mean, Fallon is funny and all, and the Roots are one hell of a house band, but this was Neil Gaiman.  Neil Gaiman is coolCool people don’t do Jimmy Fallon, I said.  They don’t usually do mainstream media at all.  The Fez thought about it and agreed with my assessment.  Then told me that he thought I should be on Jimmy Fallon, since I’m not really cool at all.  I gave him the finger.

Gaiman’s segment ended a little before midnight.  Up next was the musical guest, some guy who could play the trombone while simultaneously blowing through a kazoo stuck into his nostril.  We had already seen all of his YouTube videos so there wasn’t much need to watch any further.  We turned off the TV.

We continued to sit in the floor and start at the blank screen.  At 12:01, I said to the Fez, “What do you want to do now?”  He shrugged and ate another Funyun.

I laid down, stretching out in the floor and raised my legs into the air so I formed the shape of the letter L.  I stayed like that for a few seconds, then brought my legs down and sat back up.  As I did, a Funyun bounced off my forehead.

The Fez sniggered, like that evil cat in the cartoons back in the day.  I gave him my most withering Kiefer Sutherland glare and picked the Funyun up off the carpet, where it had landed after ricocheting off my head.  I regarded it gravely for a moment, then popped it in my mouth.  It really was stale.  No crunch whatsoever.  I pulled a face and said to the Fez, “How do you eat these things?”  He shrugged and ate another Funyun.

It was 12:06 now.  I said, “How about some Ripsdee?”  We called it Ripsdee.  When we first started playing we had called it rock-paper-scissors like everyone else.  Then we had added dynamite to the equation, and rocks-paper-scissors-dynamite didn’t roll off the tongue in quite the same way.  So we’d acronymed it RPSD and decided to pronounce it Ripsdee.

We played Ripsdee all the time.  At one time, if we were really feeling froggy, we’d play for money.  We stopped that, though, after Lou joined our group.  Lou had transformed Ripsdee into something of an improvisational art form.  The Fez said Lou didn’t play Ripsdee; he played rock-paper-scissors-dynamite-laser gun-Death Star-whatever the hell else he made up so he wouldn’t lose.  One time he threw a fist out and said it wasn’t a rock, it was a potato.  A rock, he said, was held with the fist parallel to the floor.  A potato, though, was perpendicular.

“What does a potato do?” I had asked.  I had thrown scissors.  “My scissors cut your potato into French fries!”

Lou laughed and jammed his potato fist down over the end of my fingers.  “Oh, really?  Try it now.”

The Fez was a far more traditional player than Lou.  He stuck to the three original forms.  Every now and then he might throw out some dynamite if he thought he had the element of surprise but usually, he kept to the classics.

At 12:07, we threw our first game.  We each held up a fist and pumped them three times.  I counted it off:  “One.  Two.  Three.  Shoot.”  I put out a rock.  The Fez threw paper.  He whistled in celebration and bounced another Funyun off my noggin.  I took a swig of my Coke Zero.  “Again,” I said.

Over the next six minutes we played nearly thirty rounds.  On the last one, The Fez threw his first dynamite of the night.  I threw scissors.  I cackled and cut his fuse.  I had won.

“Not bad,” The Fez said as the clock turned over to 12:14.  His voice was scratchy and his breath smelled like processed onion dust.  He held up a single admonitory finger.  “Don’t get cocky, though.”  He leaned back as he reached into his front jeans pocket and pulled out a quarter.  He held it up and showed me both sides.  Heads.  Tails.

“Best of three,” he said.  “You first.”

I took a deep breath.  I nodded, and I called it.  “Tails.”  The Fez flipped the coin.  It was heads.  He won the first flip.

“Now you,” I said.  He held out the quarter towards me.  I wiped my hands on the carpet to dry them off, then took it.  I held it up.  He called it.  “Tails.”  I flipped it.  It was heads again.  We were tied one apiece.

“This is it,” said the Fez.  “Third time pays for all.  The pressure is on.  What will you do?”  He balanced the coin on the edge of his thumb and looked at me expectantly.

I pondered.  We had called tails twice in a row, and twice in a row it had come up heads.  What did the odds favor?  A third head, or a new beginning?  I shrugged.  I was feeling lucky.  I followed my heart and called it.


The Fez flipped it.  It landed.


“You lose,” said The Fez.

We stood up.  I sighed as he drew his leg back, and kicked me right in the crotch.  The inside of my body felt like it had been set on fire.  I fell down, severely impained, and rocked back and forth, clutching myself, curling up into a tight ball.  I didn’t scream, but inside I was howling.  I knew I would be swollen and bruised by morning.

Another Funyun bounced off my body, and then The Fez decided to dump the entire bag on me as I continued to wallow in the floor.  “Maybe I should be on Jimmy Fallon,” he said.  “Then again, maybe I shouldn’t.  Cool people aren’t on Jimmy Fallon, remember?  And Fezzes are cool.”  He drained his Coke Zero and headed for the door.

“See you tomorrow, scrub,” he said, and he sniggered again.  “Better luck next time.”  The door closed behind him.

It was 12:17.

I submitted a second story for the challenge.  You can find it here.  Check it out as well!

4 thoughts on “Chuck Wendig: Third Time Pays For All

  1. I liked your take on this. There was no world-ending choice at 12:17, just two guys in a living room. It was funny, and relatable (especially the stale funyun munching).

    Also, I noticed that you’re reading Redwall, which is a good career move. That series was a staple of my childhood. I hope you enjoy it.

  2. Redwall is one of the classics. I’ve read through the series several times over the years. Always one I love to revisit.

  3. Interesting story. I liked how you took the quote and interpreted it as a casual story where all the characters did was watch tv, each funyuns and played RPSD , but you still made it entertaining to read.

  4. Pingback: Chuck Wendig: Snowflakes, Chapter 1 | Writing The Egg 2.0

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