“Say no more,” answered Victor, casting his confident voice to every corner of the room. “Ladies and gentlemen, you are in for a treat. Tonight, I am going to introduce to you the soon-to-be worldwide craze, The Metronome Game—made possible thanks to the good folks at Furbank’s Fine Metronomes, the finest metronomes money can buy. I carry one with me wherever I go.” He slipped his hand into his jacket’s inner pocket, retrieved the little metronome and held it up for all to see.
“Hey, that thing is pocket size!”
“Yes, astute observer,” said Victor. “When you need a tempo on the go, a pocket metronome will get the job done. Now, watch closely…”
To the oohs and ahs of his rapt audience, Victor proceeded to explain the bar room gambling game he had invented three days prior in an attempt to make a sale. As if he had been operating the game for years, he detailed discreet metronome operation, offered catchphrases sure to entice and endear players, and demonstrated the game’s ease and earning potential with the help of two thrilled volunteers. Afterward, he met every audience question with a succinct and helpful answer, conjured on the spot.
When the final question was answered, Victor slipped the metronome back into his pocket and looked at the mesmerised faces before him. Silence reigned for a minute, before a desperate voice in the crowd called out, “I’ll take two!”
“I’ll take a dozen!” followed another.
“Give me nine cases!”
Throughout the room, hands dived into pockets then resurfaced waving cash and credit cards. The pub became a trading floor pit as orders were shouted left and right. The pub owner helped Victor take note of all the orders, and then helped fill those orders by carting boxes of metronomes from Victor’s van at the motel next door back to the pub. It was a sales frenzy, the total order of eight hundred and three metronomes shattering Victor’s previous daily sales record by eight hundred and one. With the transactions complete and the deliveries made, Victor thanked everyone for their business and headed back to his motel room. The Country Pub Owner’s Convention continued long and noisily into the night.
Victor showered, bandaged his right hand, and then laid his head down on the pillow with unspeakable relief. In seconds he was asleep, and not even the shouts of drunken players guessing beats per minute at the pub could disturb him.
Ten o’clock the next morning Victor awoke. Wearing shorts and a t-shirt, he ate breakfast at a café across the street, and then visited the local doctor for treatment of his injuries (stitches and a tetanus shot for his hand, a hospital referral for his shoulder, and a prescription for plenty of rest for his ribs). After checking out of the motel, he tossed his suit in the garbage and threw a plastic bag containing a few belongings into the back of his van. He looked at the boxes still crammed there. “Five thousand metronomes,” he sighed. “Maybe some schools might like free metronomes. If not, I’ll dump them.” With a rolling rumble the van’s side door slid shut. Victor looked up at the clear blue sky and smiled. As he walked around the back of the van to the driver’s side he paused. He went back around and opened the side door, took something from the plastic bag and put it in his pocket, then went to the pub.
A few cars were still parked outside Stork Pub, with men in crumpled suits reclining in the driver’s seats, sleeping off the night before. As Victor entered the empty venue, a forceful aroma of beer contrasted with lethargic silence (apart from the electronic chatter of poker machines). He walked up to the bar. After a minute, the pub owner appeared from out the back, looking worse for wear. He managed a bleary-eyed smile and said, “Well, if it isn’t the metronome man. That was a hell of a night last night—thanks to your game.”
“I’m glad everyone had a good time,” said Victor.
“What can I get you? It’s on the house.”
“Oh, no, nothing for me thanks. I just came to ask a favour. You know that old guy who was in here the other day? Got upset when I tried the metronome game on him.”
“Oh yeah. Keith. What about him?”
“Next time he’s in, would you mind giving him this?” Victor took the water pistol from his pocket and placed it on the counter. The pub owner eyed it suspiciously. Victor slid it toward him. “Please? I think he’ll know what it’s about.”
The pub owner peered at Victor, then smiled. “Yeah, why not? Anything for the metronome man.”
Victor’s Volkswagen spluttered and grunted and then kicked into gear. He drove out of the motel car park, past the pub and down the main street of Stork. Through the sleepy town he cruised, slowing down for one last look at Clayton Street and the rubble pile at the top of the hill. He took the road out of town and then turned left. Six hundred kilometres of straight road, a right turn, then onward and home.
New gimmicks and technological advancements have since swept Victor’s metronome game by the wayside, but if you’re ever in country Australia, stop in at a small-town pub and take a look behind the bar. There, on the shelf next to the spirits, probably gathering dust, you will see an odd contraption, something like a clock: one of Furbank’s Fine Metronomes.
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