“Mastering the Madness” (Short Story Excerpt)

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Predicting a perfect NCAA Tournament bracket is nearly impossible, unless you are Holmes Bernard. Now wealthy CEOs, government officials, and cold-blooded gangsters all want the software that Holmes created to predict the perfect bracket. But the surprise he has for all of them will bring a whole new meaning to March Madness.

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Just in time for March Madness, check out my short story, “Mastering the Madness” to see what happens when someone predicts a perfect NCAA bracket. The story, along with a host of other great short stories, can be purchased on Amazon.com in a compilation titled “Independent Author Index Short Story Compilation, Volume 1.” Authors include Joey Pinkney, Faydra Deon, Rochelle Spencer and many more. Check it out!!!

Excerpt:

It was minutes before the start of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and the staff members of Spencer Technologies were all running around like beheaded chickens.  Stewart Scott’s voice rang out from the small radio on my desk.

“The chances of filling out a perfect bracket are one in a million trillion!  I mean you have a better chance of being struck by lightning!”

You have to love Stew because he always gives you the quirky statistics.

I quickly printed out my bracket and inspected it for accuracy.  And that’s when the madness started.

***

Each year, during the NCAA tournament, our boss, Evelyn Spencer, hosts this challenge: her bracket versus the staff’s brackets.  Spencer will match the staff’s contribution and multiply it by 100 if we win.  So with a staff size of 20 employees and a bracket price of five dollars, Spencer would have to cough up $10,000.  And each staff member would win $500.  But in all my years of working at Spencer Technologies, the staff had never won that challenge.  But I felt in my heart that this was our year!

After I turned in my five dollars and my winning bracket, I took a quick glance around my cubicle.

My cubicle.

It really was quite depressing.  Three dingy gray panels with Post-it notes scattered everywhere.  I felt the softness of the cubicle panels and snickered.  It felt more like a padded cell than a work space.

My cubicle.

I’m sorry but I just can’t get away from it.  After spending 23 years in school and accumulating a mind-numbing amount of student loans, I have only a cubicle to show for it.  I wanted to have my own company and not be a lackey, sweating to see if he’ll finally win $500 from the office tournament pool!

I removed my hand from the padded panels of my cubicle, took a deep breath, and decided to get back to work.  But before I did I whispered, “This is our year!”

***

One month and thirty-one games later…

The entire staff of Spencer Technologies was in the home theater of Evelyn Spencer and the headless chickens were in rare form.  Maybe it was the free food and open bar.  Or maybe it was because my bracket had already made them $500 richer.

“How does it feel, Bro?” my co-worker Emory asked me.  “Are you nervous?”

“Not really,” I replied.  “The program I created is great if I don’t say so myself.  But no way do the Wildcats win tonight.”

“You’re gonna make history!” he shot back, clearly inebriated.

“He’s already made history.”

The Queen speaks.

Evelyn Spencer had walked over and joined our conversation.

“By the way, is this your first time visiting my house?” she asked.

Of course it is.  As a matter of fact, this is the first time you’ve ever spoken to me.

“Yes ma’am,” I answered.

“Well let’s give you a tour then.”

The house was massive; rooms everywhere, nonsensical rooms.

“This is my art gallery,” Spencer said, as if she might have been unsure of it.

“And this is the bowling alley.  The balls and pins kinda give that away.”

Yes!  This is the life I wanted; to have a mansion with so many rooms that I’d forget what some of them were used for.

“Now this is my favorite room in the entire house: my home office.”

Spencer opened the large mahogany door and ushered me into her office.

“We’ll get back to the game in a minute.  But first we have some business to attend to, Holmes.”

Wow!  She knew my name.

“Holmes, I am super excited about that software you designed to pick the NCAA Brackets.”

My heart started beating rapidly.

“No one in the history of bracketology has done what you were able to do with your software.”

“I will admit that the program has surprised me as well, Ms. Spencer.”

“No!  Call me Evelyn.”

Wow…Evelyn.

“You’ve gotta tell me how it works, Holmes?  Is it some fancy algorithm?  Have you discovered some new mathematical constant?”

The questions were coming so fast that my head began to spin.

Before I could answer her queries she proclaimed, “I want you to be my partner!  I’m offering you your own corner office, an assistant, expense account, whatever you need to get the job done.  We’re a stat company and people pay us to do the numbers.  I want you to oversee every aspect of running those numbers.”

Wow!  I was finally going to get paid for doing the job I did already.  But how much would I be paid?

“I’ll start you off with $150,000.  How about that?  Double your salary!”

Actually triple, but I wasn’t going to correct her.

“What do you say?” she asked.

“I accept, of course!”

“Great! Let’s get back to the game.”

It was difficult to process all of the excitement of the past month.  If the Wildcats won, I would have done what no other person had ever done: predicted a perfect bracket.  I started getting light-headed.  Worried actually.  But the only people who knew about my nearly-perfect bracket were all in Spencer’s house.  What could it hurt?

***

“The shots away,” the announcer shouted.  “Oh my goodness…HE MADE IT!  The Wildcats have won the game!”

“You did it, Holmes!  You filled out a perfect bracket!” Spencer screamed.

I smiled nervously.  To say that I wasn’t afraid would be a fallacy.  But I reassured myself with the knowledge that no one else knew about it, except for the employees of Spencer Technologies.

“You’re going to be famous!” Spencer added.

Famous? No.  Rich? Maybe.  But definitely not famous.

Spencer put her arm around my shoulder like I was the son she never had.  Then she said to me, “Oh!  Before we get to the reporters, I wanted to tell you that Brower and Hollis are both on board.  Cha-ching!”

Who were Brower and Hollis?  And why was Spencer so elated that they were on board?  On board of what?  And hold on a minute.  What reporters?

The front door opened and the cameras started flashing.  Reporters barked at me with questions and I answered them as quickly as I could, trying to remember everything that I said so that I wouldn’t get tripped up later.  But in my mind I was thinking, “I am in BIG trouble!”

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