By Jesse Blake McCann
The burst of blood that erupted from Linda’s neck reminded Jarrett of the cranberry wave on the Ocean Spray bottle. A half-empty bottle sat in the company fridge for weeks before their abduction, and Jarrett wondered who it belonged to and why they simply didn’t just throw it out.
Linda made a wet gag sound and started to slump to the ground, but she was held up momentarily by the machete lodged in her neck bone. Jarrett held it steady with both hands, and eventually gravity and Linda’s own failing muscles plucked her off. She crumbled to the grass next to a tall tree with assorted jingling sounds.
Jarrett took deep breaths. After a few minutes, when his heart no longer pounded at his ear drums, he pulled out a digital tablet from a satchel hanging across his chest. He navigated the bright interface, leaving a single bloody fingerprint in one corner. The digital box containing Linda’s picture faded from grey to red and, after a low beep sound, her listing was shifted to the bottom with several other red boxes containing profile pictures. The number next to Jarrett’s own picture increased by a thousand, and his profile shifted to the third position.
“Great,” Jarrett said loudly, “Only 4,000 more points and I can order a gun. What type of broken system lets you buy a small knife at 200 points, but makes you wait for 6 kills to buy a small pistol?”
He knew the Spectators could hear him. Jarrett had decided if he contributed anything to this game, it was pointing out their janky scoring system.
Jarrett’s finger moved down the list of people still active, now 17 total. His finger stopped next to a picture of an older black man named smiling warmly up at Jarrett. The box was labeled “Phil” and he was tied for last place with 3 other people at 0 points.
Jarrett looked up from the tablet and saw the blood from Linda’s neck was snaking toward one of her limp hand covered in metal bracelets of various colors. He remembered all the times she clank and clanged past his desk with all her arm accessories and broken his train of thought while focusing on a bug report.
Ultimately it was Linda’s bracelets that led to her death. Jarrett was able to perfectly time his ambush from behind a tree by her approaching jingles. Jarrett didn’t know if her death was ironic, or the opposite of irony– he never quite understood the definition. He thought again of the cranberry juice and if it was Linda’s; perhaps she had a bladder infection and then just forgot about the bottle.
“This might help,” Phil’s voice jumped at Jarrett from his memory. Phil pulled out a pair of thick headphones from a battered box in the IT room, “Great at cancelling out sound, kiddo, even the loudest of clanking bracelets,” he said and winked at Jarrett.
Jarrett let out a low laugh in response, “It’ll also help me ignore that new junior QA analyst they stuck with me. I told them I didn’t need someone to work under me, and he’s just been distracting me with all his questions.”
Phil did not respond, but Jarrett remembered his warm smile, the only expression in the whole damn place that seemed to understand what Jarrett was going through.
Jarrett mind snapped back to his current predicament, and his gaze fell on Linda’s corpse, then the base of the tree next to her body, and then up the trunk to the high branches. The jungle held a humidity that was oppressive, even at night. Jarrett’s body screamed for sleep in this horrid weather, and the day had gone on way too long.
As Jarrett started to climb the moist surface, he wondered if images of Linda’s lifeless wrist, decorated with bracelets and hanging over her own pool of blood, would keep him up at nights if he ever returned to his own bed. Then, a much more horrible thought tried to bloom in his mind, but he stomped it out and concentrated on making his way up the tree’s branches.
Jarrett didn’t know much about the Coliseum before his company was abducted by them, nor did he really believe it could exists. This was for two reasons.
First, there was a lot of news to keep up with, and Jarrett wasn’t even a person who kept up with the news. There were hundreds of channels, each with their own anchor, their own angle, their own focus. And then there were countless news blogs and podcasts that would spin information in their own way to the point where Jarrett learned to not trust any of them. Sure, an overload of information is the opposite of any authority that tried to restrict or control its flow, but the effect was the same: what needed to be said was never heard. And in the year 2031, the Age of Information had gone on too long, and there were just too many people on soapbox.
Jarrett did see an online article about the Coliseum a few years ago. It talked about it in the same patient and slightly condescending tone reporters reserved for stories about Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster: “Conspiracist claims secret society of the rich forces people to battle to the death.” “Man with head trauma claims corporations used bloody competition to downsize employees”.
They interviewed a man in a wheelchair who claimed to have won the event. He said his corporation picked his department and threatened their lives if they didn’t participate. If workers still refused, they were shown pictures tinted green with night vision views of their loved ones while they slept.
Jarrett thought the nutjob in the wheelchair was dying to write Hunger Games fanfiction, or was trying to bring to life, via delusion, that one movie with the Japanese kids on the island.
The second reason Jarrett didn’t put much thought in the existence of the Coliseum was just the way business was run these days. Since the early 2000s, the corporate American model became a well-structured cancer that spread to all industries. By the end of 2020s, almost every business was cubicles, stacks of paper, memos, faxes, espresso machines, “tabling it for now”, business casual Fridays, CC-ing on e-mails, motivational workshops, vending machines with discounted snacks, fluorescent (but energy efficient!) lights, and a human resource department if the vast grey and impersonal environment got to be too much you.
If a department suddenly went missing because of some death game, who would really notice? It could be excused as a reallocation of resources due to internal restructuring. Or it could be explained as an overseas team-building exercise that turned into an international leadership program.
Corporate structure was complicated enough that Jarrett figured that it was better to focus on his own job and let the people hired to look at the big picture deal with it..
Jarrett woke up to the sound of Linda’s bracelets jingling. In the half-second before he opened his eyes, he thought he had nodded off in front of his computer desk at the office again. But then he shifted his gaze up and saw grey dawn filtering through large and thick jungle leaves.
Jarrett looked down from his high wooden cradle formed by the branches of the tree. He thought the obnoxious clanging of Linda’s jewelry meant he didn’t finish the job, but then he was staring at the large bald spot of Senior Programmer Harold.
He was a dumpy man with a slightly protruding gut and brown hair circling his rat’s nest. Jarrett noted that, like always, he was wearing the blue polo shirt with the logo of the golf course he frequented. Jarrett was slightly amused see the shirt was stained with jungle debris and sweat.
Harold was searching Linda’s corpse. Jarrett spotted a bow on his back and arrows on his side in a satchel. This struck Jarrett as strange– if Harold earned just 200 more points, he could’ve purchased a crossbow.
Jarrett gripped his machete and quietly started to climb down the tree. Jarrett did not spend his points to get his weapon; he took it from Steve in accounting after Jarrett brought a large rock on his head while Steve was drinking from a stream.
Jarrett was not far from the ground– he could make out the dots of dandruff in Harold’s head– but then he almost lost his balance as he stepped on a branch that was less sturdy than he judged. The leaves rustled like a rough whisper, and Harold looked up in alarm.
Jarrett screamed and jumped the rest of the way down. A piercing pain shot through his left ankle when he landed, but he ignored it and advanced quickly. The senior programmer was frantically reaching for the bow on his back with one hand and using the other to fumble with the arrows.
Jarrett swiped the blade at him, intending to cut across the neck, but Harold stumbled back and fell on his ass, causing the machete to swipe through empty air. Harold was still recovering from his fall as Jarrett leaned down and lunged forward.
Jarrett screamed as he jammed the blade into Harold’s gut, and then Harold screamed too. In his victim’s wide-mouth cry, Jarrett felt specks of blood sprinkle his face. Jarrett moved the blade around, and felt organs tear and burst like gory water balloons. Harold screamed more, but it tapered off abruptly and he put his head on Jarrett’s shoulder like an infant going into a deep sleep.
Jarrett panted, causing Harold’s body to shift against him. Jarrett told himself to think of the times he had gone to Harold and argued about a bug he waived. Harold would shake his head and say “You just don’t understand what it would take to fix” or “That is not a priority right now” and invite Jarrett to leave the same way a parent would dismiss a child who didn’t know better.
“Com’on, kiddo, he doesn’t feel that way,” Phil replied in a steady and soothing voice from Jarrett’s mind. Jarrett was suddenly in the IT room and sitting at the edge of Phil’s desk. Phil’s black skin contrasted with the white hairs just starting to frost his hair. This gave him the look of a man entering his time as a grandfather.
“Whatever,” Jarrett said, “He’ll see his mistake when he sends out that shitty software and the customers send us e-mails saying the damn thing doesn’t work.”
Now in this jungle, firmly gripping his machete, Jarrett said, “Well, Harold, here you are, with your damn bow and arrow like fucking Tarzan. Probably didn’t like the QA guy pointing out your mistakes again, did you?”
Jarrett pushed him away slightly. Harold’s eyes were droopy and unresponsive, and Jarrett had to focus on something else. He looked at the gore between them, and was suddenly aware of two things: there was a blood trail bleeding into Harold’s leaked guts, and there was a piercing pain coming from Jarrett’s waist.
Jarrett looked at himself and saw an arrow sticking out of his left side, still held by Harold’s limp grip.
Before they shipped Jarrett’s company to tropical hell, he was coming back from a food truck carrying a breakfast burrito. Then some well-built men wearing all black emerged from a green van that read “Pest Control” and put a black bag over his head. The burrito dropped and land landed with a “plop”, and he felt himself being pulled into the van. Hours later, he found himself in a concrete room with security cameras. He sat with my arms strapped by leather bands to an uncomfortable metal chair as a man across a wooden table talked to him under a single bright light. As the man spoke, Jarrett had the idea his co-workers were in other rooms right now in a similar predicament. Perhaps even nearby.
“This is not your fault,” said the man, “It was your supervisor, Harold Suttor who mismanaged resources and created a department where there was not budget.”
The man wore a tan business jacket that was one size too big for him. He had brown hair that was pulled back into a ponytail, and his smile was as greasy as his hair. All in all, he looked to Jarrett like a 90s villain from a bad action film. He began to explain Coliseum rules..
“200 points if you hurt another Gladiator, 1000 for a kill,” he said, “And you get to add your slain victims’ points to your own, and purchase weapons and other helpful items via a digital tablet donated by our generous supporters. The tablet lists the remaining participates, shows a map of the arena, has a compass… it’s really just a terrific device.”
The man leaned forward in his seat. It seemed he had arrived to his favorite portion of his speech.
“22 is the largest competition we’ve ever had,” he said with a proud and creepy grin, “It’s going to be a public relation nightmare just to keep it quiet with the press, law enforcement, families, etc., but it’s not like we’re lacking in funds or resources.”
Jarrett informed the man that he should take some of those funds to get a better haircut and then go fuck himself. The man responded to the comment with a patient smile straight from the uncanny valley.
“You’re of particular interest to the Coliseum, Jarrett. In most cases, we can persuade Gladiators to participate by threatening their lives, their family, or using the large cash prize that goes to the winner. But for you, the creators had a wonderful idea.”
He rolled his chair to the corner of the room and grabbed a laptop sitting on a table.
“You see, we’ve been watching your office for a few weeks now. We like to study our upcoming gladiators. For the betting pool, you see,” he said, “And one of our cameras picked up something interesting.”
He rolled back and set the computer in front of him. He opened it, typed a few lines on the keyboard, and then turned the screen toward Jarrett.
“For your viewing pleasure,” he said. The above light cast a shadow over his face, giving his stretched smile and squinty eyes a wicked and dead look.
Jarrett leaned against the rock wall in the small alcove and let out a long sigh. It was the day after Harold got the cheap shot in his side, and the afternoon sun was just starting to heat up the air.
Jarrett no longer wanted to vomit, which was a step up, and the pain in his waist had subsided a little. This was largely in part to the pain meds he ordered last night using the tablet. Navigating the menus, he clicked on vicodin, aspirin, disinfectant, and bandages. 30 minutes later, an eager young man marched up to Jarrett’s spot. For a panicked moment, Jarrett thought one of his co-workers found him, but then he saw the friendly face was no one from his office and he was also holding a small package. The man wore a blue dress shirt and nice pants, but oddly was also wearing a camouflage survival vest.
“I probably can’t say this,” the young man said in a conspiratorial whisper after he squatted and set down the package in Jarrett small cave, “But we’re rooting for you back in the room. You have great odds. Second best, in fact.”
Jarrett winced as he rubbed disinfectant on the wound around the arrow stub still implanted in his side.
“But I put $50 on you because I know you won’t disappoint.” The man winked at him and Jarrett wondered if it would be against the rules to kill the over-excited intern for this murder cult. The young man seemed to sense the tide was turning, and quickly excused himself.
Yesterday, shortly after receiving the wound from the late Harold, Jarrett broke off the arrow almost to where it penetrated the skin. The process caused several searing pains up and down his side, and he spent several minutes on his hands and knees looking at the ground through vision blurred with tears.
There was a period where he wandered the jungle for a few hours, too distracted by pain to really pay attention, until he came across a tall cliff side that stretched up 30 feet and was surrounded by large rocks. Slowly climbing the boulders and causing only a few blood squirts, Jarrett found an alcove he was able to rest in for the night.
Jarrett knew he was lucky– not just because he didn’t encountered any co-workers while wandering in his pain daze, but also because no one spent 500 points to reveal his location for five minutes and ambush him while he was asleep.
“Me versus the entire fucking company,” he muttered and closed his eyes.
“Don’t say that,” Phil said. Jarrett recalled the first day he asked Phil if he wanted to get lunch with him at the restaurant next door.
“Sometimes it feels that way,” Jarrett said, “Sometimes it feels like the entire ship is sinking and I’m the only one who’s running to the lifeboats.”
Phil poked at his spinach and walnut salad with a fork, “I wouldn’t look at it that way. Have you tried to sit down and talk to the people who bother you? Try to work out some solution you’re both happy with?”
“No point,” Jarrett said as he stirred his chicken alfredo absently, “Everytime I bring up something I know would work or suggest ways it could be better, they shoot me down immediately.”
“Perhaps they feel you don’t listen to their concerns,” Phil said.
“I do!” The fork Jarrett was holding clanked down noisily on his plate, and a few people at others tables looked over.
“I do” Jarrett said, lowering his voice, “But they still look at me like I don’t understand anything.”
“Give it chance,” Phil said, “Assume the best of people, and you may be pleasantly surprised.”
Jarrett opened his eyes and looked out at the jungle just beyond his resting spot. The once sunny day now seemed to be sliding away, and the sky threatened rain and thunder. The strange cries of jungle birds seemed to be telling their neighbors to get ready, this one was going to be a doozy.
Jarrett said something and the alcove echoed back a dry voice speaking gibberish. He cleared his throat and tried again.
“I have to talk to Phil about this,” he said.
Linda’s bracelets hanging above a blood pool. The sleepy baby-face Harold made as his life spilled out between him and Jarrett. And the back of Steven from accounting’s caved-in head with a rock nestled into its new home.
Jarrett had seen to the death of three co-workers, and he kept running through the three pictures that his mind had taken after the murders. It was as if he needed reference photos to file away and review later. But instead of doing that, he had the photos spread on his mental desk and poured over them like a detective trying to make sense of the clues.
Jarred broke from his thoughts and glanced down at his digital tablet. He tried to keep up a light run while he moved among the trees. The list showed 5 alive at the top, with 17 red boxes underneath. Phil was the only one who had no points and was still alive.
He had been tracking Phil for over two hours. Unfortunately he was not close to the alcove, and Jarrett’s points were quickly diminishing as continued to use them to make sure he was going in the right direction. He was nearing the border of the arena, where the Spectators said anyone who passed would be shot by snipers hidden in trees.
Jarrett stopped to rest on a fallen tree. It was hard moving for long periods of time; the arrowhead was still in his flesh and every time he moved, it jiggled inside him and caused an inward stab of pain that made him want to vomit.
Jarrett navigated to the map on the tablet. The jungle landscape looked all too similar, and he no longer knew if I was heading toward Phil. He spent the last of his points and once again selected Phil from the gladiator list. The map screen pulsed white, and a purple dot was revealed on the map.
Phil was north of Jarrett’s location, and he was relieved to see he was very close now. Judging from the rate he was moving, he guessed it was probably another 15 minutes.
Jarrett picked up his machete and used the compass app. Jarrett began to move between trees and over jungle debris again at a hurried paced. Despite the overcast clouds, the day felt hotter than yesterday.
There was a tense moment when the digital pad beeped, and Jarrett thrust it in front of his face. He saw the box containing Allison from HR fade to red, and then shift to the bottom of the list. Jarrett was relieved, then felt slightly bad about being relieved, and then quickened his strides.
“Phil!” Jarrett shouted, “Phil, I know you’re here!”
Jarrett was calling up a steep hill covered in vines. It was at the spot where he best judged to be Phil’s location. A light rain had started and Jarrett’s skin and clothes felt damp.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said, and threw his blade to the side, “I just want to talk.”
There was silence, except for the sad and wet breath of the rain. Jarrett stared at the hillside, and saw nothing. Then there was a rustling that he thought was his imagination, until he saw a pair of brown hands part the vines at a location about halfway up the hill..
“Phil!” Jarrett said, and took a few steps and tripped. He felt the arrow dig deeper into his side, and momentarily saw dark spots in his vision through the pain. Still, Jarrett pulled himself up and stumbled toward the vines.
“Phil, I’m glad I caught up to you. I–”
“Keep your voice down,” Phil called down harshly as he fully parted the vines, “Let’s not attract attention.” Phil’s red collared shirt and jeans were also damp with smudges of dirt from the two days in the jungle.
“I’m glad I found you,” Jarrett continued, not adjusting his volume.
Phil came out from the vines and Jarrett observed from the foot of the hill the small cave he emerged from. Phil carefully navigated down the rest of the vine slope and walked up to him, eyes cautiously looking at Jarrett. Phil glanced several times in the direction Jarrett had thrown his blade.
“It’s just me,” Jarrett said, “I don’t have anything else.”
The men looked at each other. The rain, which was now pouring all around them, seemed to create their own personal bubble. Nothing was said for a long moment.
“You’re bleeding,” Phil said finally.
Jarrett nodded, “Yeah, Harold did that. It hurts a lot.”
“Did you kill him?” Phil said this quietly and lowered his eyes.
Another long pause in the rain.
“He bought a bow and arrow with his points,” Jarrett said, “I mean, he played golf. How the hell would he know how to use one?”
Phil continued to look at the ground.
“The men who created this game,” Phil trailed off and then said, “Monsters.”
“The men who created golf?”
“No!” Phil cried and looked up with a fierceness, “This slaughter sport. What type of sick… I can’t even fathom what type of person would do this.”
Jarrett had never seen Phil angry, and it kind of scared him. Now it was his turn to look at the ground.
“Phil,” Jarrett said with a quiet tone of uncertainty, “Are we still friends?”
Phil looked at Jarrett, his eyes slightly wider.
“Friends?” Phil repeated.
Jarrett felt the heat of his face, the fever from the infected wound mixing with his embarrassment.
“Nevermind,” Jarrett said, and Phil took a step closer.
“Yes. Of course we’re friends, kiddo. But this is not the time to be talking about this.”
Jarrett looked up. Phil was smiling, and it was like they were back in his IT office. Jarrett realized these past few days he had been searching for this smile, as if he was trying to replace the horrible mock-grin of the man with the ponytail.
Phil was close to Jarrett now, and he put his hand on Jarrett’s shoulder.
“It’s going to be all right,” he said, “We’ll just–”
Phil was cut off as the left side of his head exploded outward.
The light and comforting weight of the hand on Jarrett’s shoulder now grew heavy as Phil’s body crumpled forward.He stepped back and let the remains of Phil’s head fall flat on its face.
There were two more shots, and Jarrett heard the deadly buzzing as a few more slugs zipped past his head. Somebody had been saving up their points, Jarrett thought as he turned his head to the bullet origin.
The junior QA analyst was pointing a gun in his direction about 20 feet away. His collared shirt was ripped in several places, as if it had snagged on wayward branches. Dirt and dark maroon blotches stained his clothes, and his brown hair was a mess. His already skinny body looked even furthered starved.
He was fumbling for ammo in his back pocket. Jarrett looked at him without moving. The junior QA analyst, named Alan, caught Jarrett’s eye and stopped like a child caught doing something bad. The rain continued its steady drizzle.
“You look like shit,” Jarrett said.
Alan’s face scrunched into a sneer.
“You don’t look any better,” Alan said.
Jarrett look down at the Harold’s gore staining his front, as if this was news to him. Then he looked back at Alan.
“Was I a good boss?” Jarrett asked.
Alan simply gazed at him with a blank expression. Then he continued to pull the ammo out of his back pocket and reloaded at a more leisurely pace.
“No, you were an asshole,” he said,
“Oh,” Jarrett said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“That’s hard to believe,” he was now walking toward Jarrett while reloading the gun. Jarrett now looked away– not out of fear, he realized, but out of embarrassment.
“They made him do it, you know,” Jarrett said. Alan raised his eyebrows as if he was expecting more.
“They showed me a video before they put us here. It was black and white and it looked like a hidden camera. Everyone was in the break room except me. Phil was there,” Jarrett motioned to his body.
“Everyone was venting about me. They said that I was a miserable asshole who was hard to work with.”
“Yes, I was there,” Alan said and Jarrett heard a loud click as he snapped the magazine into his pistol.
“And they were giving Phil a hard time because they said I was his best friend, that he and I alway go on lunch dates. And Phil just smiled and sipped his coffee and didn’t say anything.”
Alan stopped 5 feet in front of me, weapon dangling at his side.
“They kept complaining about me, and they kept making fun of him. They pressured him into saying something. They made him do it.”
Alan raised the pistol and pointed it at him. Jarrett looked at it with vague interest.
“So Phil looked at his coffee, and without looking up, said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ve talked with management. He won’t be here for much longer. It’s why we brought the new guy in.’’”
The junior QA analyst nodded and pulled back the hammer on the gun. Jarrett didn’t noticed.
“The Spectators… I think they showed me that video because they wanted me to get mad at you guys. To seek revenge or some bullshit.”
Jarrett closed his eyes and turned to the sky. He felt the rain drops gently poke his face.
“But… I haven’t felt a god damn thing. Not since the video, not since this thing started. Not since I killed Steve, Linda, or Harold. I keep thinking back to their deaths and I’m filled with a… blankness.”
Jarrett lightly put a hand over his pierced side.
“Even this wound feels distant. And I wonder… I wonder if I would even lose sleep over what’s happen; if I’ll even care when I’m back at home. Or will it just be this… buzzing numbness.”
“I got good news,” Alan said, “You’re not going back home.” Jarrett now looked at Alan and down the barrel of the pistol that was pointed at his face. He saw the dark grey waterslide he was about to ride.
Jarrett quickly moved his hand from his side and grabbed something tucked in the back of his pants. He lifted the object high above his head and charged. Alan was caught by surprise, and his hands went up instinctively to defend himself, though not before firing his gun once.
Jarrett felt something painfully smash into his chest and explode out of his back. His limbs instantly became heavy, but he used this dead weight to bring another of Harold’s arrow into Alan’s face.
The arrow jammed into Alan’s left eye socket and he screamed. Jarrett focused on one thought: keep ahold of the arrow’s shaft. The arrowhead made a gory descent down Alan’s face to his upper lip. When it was loose again, Jarrett gathered the last of his fading strength to lift up his arm and shove the arrow into his former junior analyst’s neck.
Alan stumbled back a few feet and fired two shots into the muddy ground. His neck gushed an amazing amount of blood and made small red puddles around him that were quickly diluted by the rain. Then he tripped backwards on a wayward vine.
Alan tried to twist around to to brace himself, but he only got half way. The arrow lodged in his neck pushed in deeper. Alan did not get up; instead he started to convulse on the ground.
Jarrett observed all of this and, deciding the show was over, tottered over on his back like an ancient tree in a storm. He stared at the tree line and sky above him, occasionally having to blink when the rain splashed in his eyes. He was breathing very fast.
Jarrett knew with mortal instincts that the bullet did enough damage inside him. But he didn’t mind.
Though everything was getting foggy, he found himself creating scenes in sharp contrast in his mind. He no longer thought of the bloody remains of his co-workers. Instead, he saw the eager-faced intern with his face now twisted with rage and yelling at monitors showing the dying Jarrett. He saw the other Spectators too, sitting on leather couches in business suits with cigars in their mouth, barking fits of anger for not foreseeing a double elimination.
Jarrett was also delighted by a curiosity blooming deep inside him. He never put much thought into the afterlife, but now he was excited to find out what everyone discovered but couldn’t tell anyone. He guessed with a strange certainty that it would look like his company’s office. He would be sitting in front of his computer finishing up a bug report. He would get up from his swivel chair and walk down the long hallway, waving to Linda as she jingled by, and go into the IT department. Phil would be there, poking at some exposed circuits.
“Want to grab lunch?” Jarrett would ask.
Phil would look up from his work and see Jarrett and smile warmly.
“Yes, please. I’m starving” Phil would say.
Phil would begin to wrap up what he was doing and grab his stuff. Jarrett would be about to leave and tell Phil to meet in the lobby, and then would pause in the doorway with a thought.
“Let’s ask if anyone else wants to join us today,” Jarrett would say,.” If you don’t mind, of course.”
Phil would stop and reflect on this. He wouldn’t think whether they should invite anyone, but that Jarrett suggested it in the first. Finally he would smile his grandfather smile, and nod.
“Sounds like a plan, kiddo.”