The Twenty-Sided Die 

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“I know it’s…ambitious,” Aaron said, pushing a piece of paper across the desk. Steve read the number scribbled there. “But in six years, I’ve grown our subscriber base from six thousand to eight thousand, when there is an industry-wide declining rate of subscriptions. I deserve a sizable raise this year.”

Steve sighed. “The subscription rate has grown thanks to our dedicated email converter campaigns, which are Claire’s responsibility.”

“I helped with that,” Aaron said.

“Look, I can give you cost of living. Three percent.”

“Three percent!” They were both silent a moment. Then Aaron said, “How about a little wager?”

Anything to get this over with, Steve thought. “What did you have in mind?”

Aaron set down a twenty-sided die on the desk. Steve wasn’t sure where it had come from. “You roll it. I guess the number. If I’m wrong, you don’t even have to give me three percent. But if I’m right, I get ten.”

Steve hefted the die. He remembered using them to play Dungeons and Dragons as a teenager. He wouldn’t actually have to deny Aaron the three percent raise, and it would put an end to this encounter. “Deal,” he said.

Aaron shielded his eyes. “I’ll call it when I hear it hit the desk.”

Steve rolled and Aaron said, “Seventeen?” The die came to a stop on…seventeen. “Was I right?” Aaron looked. “Oh shit, no way!” He laughed. “Let’s go again, okay? Double or nothing.”

Steve rolled again and Aaron said, “Four?” The die showed a four and Steve felt his stomach knot. How was he supposed to explain to the Board a twenty percent raise for the laziest member of his team?

“Oh shit,” Aaron said again. “Okay, sorry, boss.” His happiness was palpable, and despicable. “One more time.”

“I’m not giving you any more money,” Steve said.

“Okay, how about something else? How about…your job?”

“You must be crazy.”

Aaron raised a hand. “Do you want to explain yourself to your boss? How will you explain my twenty percent raise?”

“I owe you nothing—” Steve said.

Aaron was calm. “Come on, man, one more roll and this is all over.” His teeth, when he smiled this time, were gleaming with saliva. Steve looked away. “I’ll call it before you even roll this time,” Aaron said.

Steve felt his bowels loosening. “Fine.”

Aaron said confidently, “Eleven.”

The die felt like a living thing in Steve’s hand, a thing with twenty little wiggling legs. He threw it down just to stop touching it. He knew it would be eleven.

Aaron scooped up the die. He looked expectantly at Steve, who got up from his executive chair, took his half-empty coffee mug, then walked to the door and opened it. When he turned back, Aaron was settling his soft rear into Steve’s chair.

“Do you want me to leave this open?” Steve asked, one hand on the doorknob.

“Close it please,” said Aaron. He picked up the phone.


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Syche Phillips writes plays and fiction of all lengths. She has been published in Seele Literary Magazine; Mused, the BellaOnline Literary Review; and The Penmen Review. Her plays have been performed with The Bench Project, Ohlone College Playwrights Festival, and the Third Eye Theatre Festival. She blogs at about children, humour, and finding silver linings. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, two blocks from the ocean, with her husband and two perpetually wide-awake young children.

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