“Good sir,” said Victor to the owner, “kindly pour a shot of gin.”
The owner hesitated; Victor nodded to him; the owner relented. The three men watched the potent liquid flow from bottle to shot glass.
“Now, Keith,” said Victor, “this is a metronome. It keeps time, like a drumbeat. When I set the pendulum here moving like so, you can hear it ticking in time. I can move the weight up and down to make it go faster—like this—or slower. See?”
“I get it,” said Keith, his eyes checking on the shot of gin.
“There are numbers here, Keith, that tell me how many times per minute the metronome is ticking. See here? If I put the weight here, that’s one hundred and twenty beats per minute. Hear that? So let’s play a game of skill. I’ll change the tempo of the metronome, and you guess how many beats per minute it’s ticking at. If you get it wrong you buy that shot of gin, but if you guess right… I’ll buy you that shot—and another. What do you say?”
Victor and the owner studied Keith. His wild eyebrows converged and descended upon his beady eyes, which darted between the metronome and the gin.
“All right,” he said. “But if I win, you have to buy me two shots.”
“That’s the deal. Okay, here we go.”
Victor faced the metronome toward himself so Keith could not see the numbers. He adjusted the metronome’s weight and then set the arm moving—tick, tick, tick. Keith’s face contorted with concentration; his eyes clenched shut. He nodded to himself then opened his eyes.
“A hundred and ninety!”
Victor gave a consoling shake of the head. “Ooh, too bad, Keith. You missed out this time. It was actually eighty-four beats per minute. It was a good guess though. Maybe next time.”
Keith looked at the owner, then back at Victor. “What does that mean?” he said.
“You buy the drink this time, Keith,” said Victor. He gave the owner a wink.
Keith’s already downcast frame sunk even further into despair. He looked at the gin almost heartbroken. After an awkward silence his face became red, he swore and threw his arms in the air.
“Bah! I’m not payin’ for that drink! You’re a swindler. You and your bloody megaphone can get stuffed!”
Keith stormed out of the pub, cursing everyone and everything he could think of as he left.
Victor turned to the owner with a philosophical shrug. “Oh well,” he said, “you can’t win ’em all. He was a tough crowd anyway. More a young person’s game—”
“Keith comes in here every Wednesday,” interrupted the owner. “He usually spends about fifty dollars on booze, and drops another two hundred on the pokies. He’d only just got started today. So you just cost me about two hundred bucks.”
“Well… uh, you can make more than two hundred with a quality metronome at your bar.”
“Look, I understand you’re upset, but just hear me out.”
Victor sighed and nodded. He packed the metronome back into his briefcase. He stood up, finished his beer (failing to do so would violate the family mottos), took his jacket and left.
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