“Come on, man, the future of the planet depends on it!”
Jake just rolled his eyes. Charlie was always talking like that. He said he’d die if Christina Aguilera married someone else. He didn’t. He said it would be a catastrophe of Biblical proportions if he didn’t get a Wii for Christmas. It wasn’t, although there were some tears involved.
“I don’t think the future of the planet depends on whether or not I come to your house to play Grand Theft Auto,” Jake replied. The truth was that even though it was after one o’clock in the afternoon, he hadn’t gotten out of bed yet.
“Oh, come on. You’re like the fifth person I’ve called. No one wants to hang out with me. What’s wrong? Do I smell or something. Tell the truth. I can take it.”
Jake just rolled his eyes again. “Fine. I’ll be there in half an hour.”
He snatched a t-shirt off of the top of the pile of clothes on his floor, pulled on a pair of jeans that had seen better days, grabbed his skateboard, and headed out the door.
One of the pockets in his jeans had some loose change in it from a late-night convenience store run. Unknown to him, that same pocket also had a hole in it, and as he was skateboarding to Charlie’s house, a quarter worked its way out of the pocket, down his leg, and out onto the concrete where it bounced a few times before coming to a rest, tails up.
If Jake had not gone to Charlie’s house that day to play Grand Theft Auto, then that quarter–a Hawaii quarter–wouldn’t have landed on the sidewalk.
If that quarter had not landed on the sidewalk, then Arthur Pierpont, an amateur numismatist who didn’t yet have a Hawaii quarter, wouldn’t have stopped to pick it up.
If Mr. Pierpont had not stopped to pick up the Hawaii quarter, then Gerald Greene, who was walking behind Arthur Pierpont at the time and who was also an extreme germophobe, wouldn’t have bumped into him.
If Mr. Greene had not bumped into Mr. Pierpont, he wouldn’t have had to go immediately into the nearest bathroom, which was in a hardware store, to wash his hands. However, the sink that Mr. Greene chose was broken, and after washing his hands for the same length of time as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice (as is recommended to be completely hygienic), he discovered that the water wouldn’t shut off. He decided to leave without telling anyone.
If Mr. Greene had not washed his hands in the men’s room of the hardware store, then James Foster, the store manager, wouldn’t have entered and slipped on the water now spilling over the top of the sink thanks to a plugged overflow and hit his head on the counter, which knocked him out cold and gave him a nasty cut over his left eye.
If Mr. Foster had not slipped and fallen in the men’s room of the hardware store, then Andrew Langley, a cashier, wouldn’t have found his boss lying unconscious and bleeding. Mr. Langley didn’t handle stressful situations well, which was why he was thirty-five and a cashier in a hardware store. In this case, he had a full-blown panic attack. The walls of the tiny restroom seemed to be closing in on him. He started to have trouble breathing. He needed fresh air, so he ran outside as fast as he could. No sooner had he left the store did he collide with Martin Fielding.
Mr. Fielding was an attorney. He was cheating on his wife with his secretary. When Mrs. Fielding had discovered this fact a week prior, she had done the only practical thing she could think of. She took out a $500,000 life insurance policy on her husband and hired a hit man. Unfortunately for her, Mr. Langley came flying out of the hardware store just as Mr. “Jones” the hit man was about to take his shot from the top of a building across the street.
If Mr. Langley had not collided with Mr. Fielding, then Mr. “Jones” wouldn’t have missed, and Mr. Fielding would have been killed.
If the bullet had hit and killed Mr. Fielding, then it would not have hit Remy Fourier, a mid-level thug in a New Orleans crime organization, killing him instead.
It was very fortunate that M. Fourier died.
If M. Fourier had not been killed, then he would have completed his mission, which was to meet with Harvey Dalton, a representative of a rival crime organization, under the guise of working out a mutually beneficial business arrangement. Actually, he intended to eliminate Mr. Dalton by putting rat poison in his drink. Mr. Dalton usually drank really cheap scotch, so M. Fourier didn’t think he would notice the taste.
If M. Fourier had put rat poison in Mr. Dalton’s drink, then Mr. Dalton would have died an hour or so later, but not before going into convulsions. In his desperation, he would have tried to use his cell phone to send a text message to one of his colleagues. However, he would have misdialed the number and accidentally called Mark Thompson, an undercover NSA agent.
While the text message itself would have been mostly incoherent, given that at that point Mr. Dalton wouldn’t have had full control of his fingers, it would have contained a statistically significant number of keywords indicating the possibility of a terrorist cell embedded in Pocatello, Idaho.
Mr. Thompson would have dutifully reported this information to his superiors, who would have given orders to train one of the NSA’s many spy satellites on the fifth largest city in Idaho, where it used to be against the law to look sad. However, the satellite that would have been used was launched in the 1960s and was literally held together with duct tape and rubber bands. The computer command to alter its orientation in order to scrutinize the “Gateway to the Northwest” would have been too much. A rubber band would have snapped, and the satellite would have careened out of orbit.
It would have entered the atmosphere in Russian airspace. At that time, Lt. Evgeni Milutin was the only one left watching for the attack from the West no one believed would come anymore. An alarm would have echoed through the cavernous room, deserted except for him, and an angry red dot would have indicated the trajectory of the wayward satellite on the giant computer screen in front of him. Lt. Milutin would have already been halfway through his bottle of breakfast vodka by then, though, and he wouldn’t have seen just one dot. He would have seen many dots, and he would have believed a full scale attack was underway.
He would have taken a giant swig from his bottle and entered in the 128-character code needed to arm Russia’s nuclear arsenal perfectly from memory. Other nations would have known what Russia had done, and soon the U.S. would also have its nukes armed. What would have followed wouldn’t have ended well for life on earth.
So, actually, the future of the planet did depend on whether Jake went to his friend Charlie’s house to play Grand Theft Auto that day.