Visions of Genius
"When she sleeps on my couch, I think about all that. Every time. I cover her up, then go to bed and dream. With my eyes open."
-I Am the Messenger
It was a rather dreary afternoon when Jim discovered that he had a gift. Somewhere in between his midmorning death of boredom and the post-lunch lull, where he usually devoted his time to finding some new way of stretching the human capacity for mind-numbing dullness. So far he was up to fifteen straight minutes of uninterrupted staring at that particular fake knot of wood on his desk. He swore it would start smoking sometime, with all that attention focused upon it. But he hadn't made any progress as of yet.
Not that Jim was deterred. It wasn't like he had anything better to do with his time. It had been at least a month since Dunder Mifflin had managed to scrape up a new customer. And Dwight had appropriated most of the existing ones.
Not that Jim had a problem with that either. He was getting paid to stare at his desk for hours on end and eat jellybeans, and up to that particular afternoon the only thing Jim believed he truly excelled at was pissing off Dwight, a good poker face, and the most excellent pursuit of nothing. His philosophy revolved around the belief that there was a certain freedom to be found in perfect lack of ambition. Because- only with no will to move forward could one fully enjoy their current position in life.
Alright. Maybe it was rationalization, because if his paycheck was a bit larger he could actually afford to buy a new stove. (because there were only so many things that could be cooked using a microwave- not that he was much good on a stove. But it was the principle of the thing.) But we all have to make sacrifices for our goals. And if it meant another night of Stouffer's Mac n' Cheese, then so be it.
But not this particular afternoon. Breaking his strict regimen, (10:30- eat jellybeans. 11:00- will clock hands to go faster. 12:30- eat disgusting sandwich. Try not to choke.) Jim opened up a game of solitaire instead. Normally he didn't reduce himself to computer games until around 4:00, and then it was those annoying flash games on the borders of web pages (he liked the one where you pushed the button to shave the woman's legs) so that his computer would get loaded up with a ton of spy ware.
He wanted to see if the Dell would get corrupted enough to eventually blow up. At least that was the plan. Jim would settle for some acrid smoke, if he got desperate. But there was that hopeful side of him coming out again, hoping to outdo Ryan and his cheese pita. But without Dwight singing. He would rather listen to Bohemian Rhapsody on repeat than suffer through that again.
But on this particular afternoon, after Jim won his ninth game of solitaire in a row, he knew something highly irregular was going on.
- - - - -
Kevin: He's like some kind of prodigy or something like that. Like that guy. I can't remember his name though…
Thoughtfully chews sandwich.
Kevin: Little Hercules. Yeah. That kid was ripped.
- - - - -
First, Jim won ten games on his computer. Then ten more on Pam's, just to make sure that his own wasn't rigged. Then a few more with actual cards that Angela had shuffled. Although he only got through three games of that variety, because while a certain peace of mind comes from knowing that your cards were thoroughly shuffled by a fastidious Christian bitch, it also takes much longer than the average game.
- - - - -
Glances around, vaguely resembling some sort of exotic puffer fish.
Michael: … That's what she said!
His peals of laughter are met by silence.
- - - - -
"So, Jim, it looks like you actually are really good at something." Pam is carefully casual, meticulously looking over some blank pieces of letterhead.
"Yeah, I know, my entire perspective of the world has been shaken. I think I'll have to retreat to Tibet or something, to meditate on my newfound gift and its meaning." Jim is delicately sorting through the jellybeans, careful not to reach his entire hand into the container. He knows Pam hates that, and it is rather gross.
Not to mention that it's Dwight's MO. How is it that this annoying man has permeated his every thought? It's a rather disturbing thought, for another time when Jim is lying awake in bed wondering just where he went wrong.
"You need to make sure to use your powers for good, rather than evil. It's very easy to go over to the dark side, you know." She cautiously meets his eyes, her face straight.
"Yeah… I'll make a point of avoiding that. But first I'm going to see if I can make some money off Andy."
- - - - -
Four hundred dollars richer, in addition to now being to proud owner of a convection oven and a black eye, Jim decides that he needs to share his newfound powers with the world. "I could go on Ripley's Believe It Or Not. What do you think? I would get a wax replica of myself in their museum, and my visage would live on forever. Right next to a model of that guy who stuck candles in his head."
Pam is not impressed. "Don't get cocky now. I know that it took some major ingenuity to win Andy's orange and green tie off of him, but I don't think you're quite Ripley's quality."
Jim represses a sigh. "What kind of quality am I then?" He despondently examines the lovely cut-out snowflake he's made, using his scissors to sweep the extra green and orange bits into a pile.
She steals his artwork from him, holding it up to the light. "I love how the cheap satin frays on the edges. You've always been so artsy, Jim. And here I thought that I was the only one who wore turtle necks all through high school."
Jim jims. "Actually, I had a beret. But it's a metaphor for the thread that connects us all, through our mutual toil at our day jobs, despite the distractions of outside life." He smiles, suddenly bashful. "So, again, what am I cut out for? Pun not intended."
Pam grins back, and something about the expression is almost hungry. She's been waiting for him to mention that. "I'll ignore that lapse in taste, but you owe me. Anyway, I was sorting through my email the other day, and someone sent me a flyer for this competition as a joke…"
- - - - -
Dwight: It's just like Jim to pull something like this. I cannot believe that Michael let him go- imagine! Rewarding such deviant behavior with time off from work!
There's something distinctly creepy about his frog-like smile.
Dwight: Of course, such a trait is certainly not at a genetic advantage. Try to match his skill at solitaire with my martial arts training and superior speed and mental acuity. I think we both know which one would get eaten by the irritated grizzly and who would survive to reproduce.
His eyes suddenly go wide, gaze fixed on a very pissed accountant glaring through the window, mouthing "No. More. Cookie."
Dwight: Not that I'm saying that evolution is an acceptable theory… it would just suck to get eaten.
He tugs at his collar.
Dwight: So… how about that new limbless lizard they found in India?
- - - - -
Oscar: Personally, I envy the guy. I mean, any chance to get out of this place is something to get jealous about. But lately… I just don't know. Ryan came in for the first time yesterday after getting promoted, and the way Michael was looking at him…
He takes a deep breath, and looks around nervously.
Oscar: It was really creepy. It was creepy before he moved up to corporate, but I seriously think Michael is programmed to want to sleep with his boss.
Oscar: Generally that wouldn't be the sort of thing one should have to consider before taking a promotion… but I think Ryan could have stood to think about it a little more.
- - - - -
Ryan: I'm considering getting a restraining order. For some reason the higher ups won't let me simply fire him. Why is beyond me.
He sighs, spinning around in his new fancy Corporate leather chair in his bleak Ryan-ish way.
- - - - -
It is the highlight of Jim's existence.
Granted, that is rather pathetic, in and of itself. Hell, it could the metaphor for his entire life. But regardless, it is the final round of the All County Computer Solitaire Showdown, and Jim's gift is holding strong. Apparently, there is a contest for everything if you know where to look, with large trophies no less. It helps to have friend-of-a-friends without a sit down job, a poor sense of humor and an affinity for forwarding to your prospective receptionist girlfriend, though.
The contest itself is in some backwater small town down in Southern Pennsylvania, in the computer lab of some backwater middle school. The chairs are cramped, and Jim suddenly has a vivid flashback of the first time he watched Alice in Wonderland, as he efficiently lays a 5 of spades on a 6 of diamonds on a rundown PC with his knees touching his chin. There are a few other guys and a lady who looks like somebody's grandma left, scattered around the small room. Other than that and the "referee" (mostly the guy just works his way through a six pack of Budweiser rather than actually supervise) the place is completely deserted.
It's sweltering, in this dark room in the middle of July, as the computer's fans whiningly push more and more heat into the air. Visions of solitaire genius play on the edges of Jim's consciousness, of holding that shiny, overly large trophy aloft as cards fall from the air like confetti, as that stupid Mark Jacobs who beat him the 4th grade spelling bee and Trisha who was entirely too hot for sophomore English and whom he never could ask out, look on.
Who knew that winning could feel so good?
He never cared before. But some part of him knows that he's not going to be able to revert back to simply staring at his desk now, now that Jim Halpert has had a taste of greatness.
But perhaps it would be best to remind himself that it is, after all, just some card game that comes preprogrammed on everyone's PC, to play while dial-up users wait for pages to load.
But it's his card game. That dude with the mullet and the WoW shirt is going down.
- - - - -
Pam: I always knew that Jim was cut out for better things… That he was going to be something. Or could be. If he felt like it.
She ponders this statement for a moment.
Pam: But somehow… I think it makes sense.
She smiles, and she's beautiful for just a moment.
- - - - -
It is the final showdown, and the pressure looms, like that colossal clown with the beer breath from the circus when Jim was eight (he still had nightmares sometimes).
It is Jim and Mullet Man, the ultimate showdown: Warcraft versus social grace, ties against suspenders, a party in the back vs. scissors and taste.
And Jim is feeling the heat. Literally and figuratively. How can he ever face anyone if he gets beaten by this guy? Certainly not Dwight or Andy. Or Pam, after she spent so much time getting this planned out, negotiating with Michael to let him come on a work day. The screen is blurring, sweat dripping down his nose, a nose on the verge of a sneeze that he knows is not going to come, and suddenly the moment comes- he can't find a move. The first time in days. Now, now his gift is failing him, like those cheap toys from grandpa when you finally figure out how to use them and Certified Used Vehicles as soon as you drive off the lot.
"Come on, come on, there must be something here…" He mumbles, right clicking, shuffling through the spare deck, pulling down cards he's already placed up top, checking to make sure that all the kings have been moved to empty columns. But there is nothing but panic and the mocking bracket with his name in the final pair on the far wall.
The door opens, bringing a blast of air conditioned coolness and relief in the form of a certain receptionist packing a cooler full of water bottles and a clean, dry shirt. It is bliss, absolute bliss, and unbeknownst to him, a goofy grin plasters itself all over Jim's face, the game temporarily forgotten. The "ref," noticing the convenient distraction, calls a time out, presumably so he can go out and get a fresh pack of beer.
The breeze that pulls into Pam's wake is pleasant, smelling faintly of her perfume, and Jim suddenly becomes aware of his situation. He is covered in sweat, frantically playing solitaire in a pitch black room with some guy named Lewis, who actually wrote his name on the sign up sheet as The Looinator. Lewis, for his part, is glaring at them both for the interruption and clearly jealous, as he brushes his hair out of his face with a snort.
Pam smiles, plopping happily into the molded plastic chair next to Jim, and passing him a bottle of Aquafina. "Hey, stranger! I managed to convince Michael that I had a doctor's appointment, and got the day off. How goes it?"
And it all comes spilling off, like a torrent. "That guy over there? He's writing a book about solitaire. The history, all the different card arrangements- he even gave names to all the techniques and crap. I'm totally screwed." Jim jims pathetically, spilling a bit of water on his shirt. He glares at the offending stain. Just what he needed.
Pam goes quiet for a moment, pondering the pixilated cards on his screen. "Yeah, you're screwed. But hey, do you really want to seriously say that you are the Pennsylvanian Solitaire Grand Champion? It's kind of… I don't know. Absurd?"
Lewis pipes in from across the room. "I want to say that! You people can just shove it!"
The statement is achingly pathetic, but the last comment pokes at Jim's protective, macho side. Some instinct that all men share to make asses of themselves. Perhaps it's just that things between him and Pam are still so new and shaky and he needs to assert himself. Or that Lewis really has it coming. But with no small amount of restraint and a fair amount of internal pummeling and swearing he manages to keep his mouth shut.
But maybe Pam does have a point. If he actually puts a little perspective into it all, it is rather pathetic. And Dwight-ish.
Jim smiles, clicking the window closed. "How about this- we go get some lunch at that little deli in town and we then go hand all those old guys playing chess in the park their asses. Sound good to you?"
Pam sidles up to him, whispering in his ear conspiratorially. "It can be a date. But on the count of three, I'll get up, prop open the door and you grab the first place trophy. We'll make a break for it. Got it?"
He widens his eyes in mock surprise. "Beesley! I'm shocked! I never put you for the criminal type. How am I supposed to have any sort of sex life if you're behind bars and a sheet of plexiglass?"
She pulls him in for a dramatic, martyr in the making, end of the action movie kiss. "You talk way too much. Ready? 1… 2… 3…"
- - - - -
Jim: Everything is average nowadays. But you know what, I'm good with that. Heroes… they're always so depressed. Or dead. Or their girlfriends are always getting kidnapped by some guy wearing tights.
He nods knowingly, and holds up an obscenely large and sparkly trophy.
Jim: Besides, this thing is excellent. It both belittles Dwight and blocks off my view of him from my desk at once. You can't buy that sort of satisfaction.
Jim smiles, eyes crinkling.
- - - - -
Lewis: I'm still searching for those punks who stole my title. And when I do…
He performs a rather obscene gesture. You're just better off not knowing.
- - - - -
A/N: If you can identify one of the two song titles in here, I may just have to set up a fic exchange, or gift fic or something (once summer break starts). Cuz, you know, I'm just cool that way.
Oh ho, and a big shout out to HalloweenJack, for proving that there actually are some funny Office fics out here. Hope this thing lives up to his standards somewhat. You are a he, right? If not, don't be too offended, please. But if you don't review I'll totally shoot you. Believe it.
I'm not sure what's up with the quote in the beginning. Shhh….