Victor clicked open his briefcase and took out a shiny black metronome. He placed it on the bar.
The owner leaned in for a closer look, wiggled his finger in his ear then shrugged. “What is it?” he asked.
“This, my good fellow, is the finest tempo-keeping device known to man. It has a finer tick than a Swiss watch, a steadier pulse than an Olympic athlete, and a better beat than Ringo Starr. From forty to two hundred and eight beats per minute, this little baby is as reliable as the sunrise. Just slide the weight—stainless steel—up or down the pendulum to your desired tempo, and give it a nudge.” Victor set the metronome to work. “Listen to that tick—smooth, flawless, serene. Now, we’re sitting here at a hundred beats per minute, but I can tell you’re more of an Allegro man, so let’s crank it up to one-sixty. That’s where this metronome really hits its groove. Oh yeah. Are you feeling that? I know I am.” Victor closed his eyes and nodded along in time.
“How the hell is that going to sell more beer?” said the owner.
Victor bit his lip and held up a finger, indicating his refusal tarnish this sublime moment with speech. Something was taking place there that transcended business and even the men themselves: time—honest, immovable, fleeting time. Pure in an age of corruption, steadfast in a world of lies; it was universal and therefore defining; irretrievable and therefore precious. And that simple black prism, its arm waving back and forward, back and forward—tick, tick, tick, tick—gave voice to that invisible beauty in whose palm rests the fate of every man. The metronome said it all.
The owner cleared his throat. Apparently the metronome had not quite said it all: there was still the proposed increased in beer sales to be explained. By happy coincidence, Victor’s lengthy silence, while artistically profound, had also afforded him time to conjure an answer.
“You’ve got the pokies in that other room,” he said. “I expect they bring in a fair chunk of your profits.”
The owner nodded.
“Of course,” said Victor. “The lure of a big win—who can resist? The only issue for you then is keeping it fresh, keeping it fun. That’s where this little cash cow comes in.” He patted the metronome. “What’s the old fella’s name in there?”
The owner looked to the room with the poker machines, paused and then looked back at Victor. “Keith,” he said.
“Hey, Keith,” called Victor.
After a moment the old man poked his head around the corner. “Huh?” he barked.
“Keith, my friend,” said Victor, “how would you like to make a little wager—a chance for you to make me look like a fool?”
“You don’t need my help,” said Keith.
“If you win, I’m buying the drinks.”
The old man smiled a smile bereft of teeth, and shuffled up to the bar.
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