This story is a personal favorite, but for some reason it took nearly a year to find a home. It ran in the Chicago Point in 1997, and will appear in The Prime of Our Lives.




          Scurrying through the gloom of canyons formed by glass, concrete, and steel, the citizens of this Midwestern gotham were unaware and unconcerned. Unaware that in a dark tower, far above the shadowy streets, a titanic battle raged. Yes, boys and girls, the forces of good and evil, a legion of super heroes and super villains, were at war. It was the CBOB - Crime Busters Of Backgammon - monthly tournament.

          Everyone was there: Anneilator; the Centaur, half man, half horseplayer; the Human Glacier and his even slower rival, the Centurion. It took the Roman Empire 520 years to decline and fall; Centurion’s positions had been known to do it in half the time. In one corner, Harrycane was raining all over Colossal Man. They were playing gin. Colossal Man was confused. The deadliest weapon in his arsenal was rolling jokers, then snickering at his foes. He knit his mighty brow in puzzlement. How was he supposed to roll well, if he wasn’t rolling at all?

          A chouette had formed. Wonder Boy, so called because he wondered why he ever lost - weren't super heroes supposed to win every game? - was in the box. Facing him was the infamous Dr. Giggles.



White, Dr. Giggles, is on roll. Wonder Boy, Black, is the Box.


          Dr. Giggles had Wonder Boy reeling, and hit him with his best shot, which turned out to be double sixes! Everyone agreed the Doc had perhaps overextended himself a little bit with that roll.

          “Serves you all right for betting on me! I knew I was going to roll 66. What else would I roll? I might just as well score myself -6 every game. Why bother to play them out? I'm just glad all your cubes are on 4, so you'll all lose twice as much! You deserve to, the way you all play..."

          We'll leave the merry medico to his happy burbling while we digress. (That is a grownup word, boys and girls, that means to use two gresses.) Once, long ago, while your narrator was conducting an intense, albeit subjective study of the effects of psychotropic drugs on the human brain, a friend, in the middle of his own, rival, study, had told your narrator an amazing tale. It seems that thousands of years ago there was a monastery high in the Himalayas. It was the sort of monastery wherein the monks all meditated for hundreds of years until they began to levitate, and passed into Nirvana. During their student days, they were required, as an exercise, to draw up comprehensive, what kind of dressing did I have on my salad eleven years ago last Wednesday, horoscopes. Of everyone. Everyone alive. Everyone who had ever lived. Everyone who would ever live. That's us boys and girls. These horoscopes were written down in the student monks’ practice books, and some tiny percent are probably still on the shelves of that monastery's lending library. You could go there and look up your whole life. I bring this up, not because it is one more reason to just say no, but because it pertains to Dr. Giggles. The Dr., whose hobby is mathematics, which makes him the modern equivalent of a levitating monk, claims to have figured out the equities associated with every one of his opponents' plays. Their misplays, as he would say. Unfortunately, selflessly devoting himself to correcting other's mistakes has left him no time to work on his own. Thus, he finds himself contributing not just his time, but his money to other's well-being.

          Back at the tournament... the preliminary battles had been fought. The last meaningful struggle had commenced. It would be The Wanderer attempting to silence Mr. Echo. Away from the table, The Wanderer would have an easy time of it. Evildoers everywhere fled in terror as soon as they heard The Wanderer utter the most feared words in all Backgammon: “That reminds me of a story”! At the table, Mr. Echo more than held his own. Mr. Echo earned his name, not just because his last name was an echo of his first, but because his dice echoed. If he rolled 16 off the bar, after you return hit, more often than not his dice would echo out ANOTHER 16! Even more deadly was when the dice echoed each other. Just when the game seemed won, out would fly a 6, then another 6 would come echoing after. It was less than a week since Mr. Echo had stolen this race from Wonder Boy.


White, Mr. Echo, is on roll.

 Spectators are about to confiscate Wonder Boy’s belt and shoelaces.


          Perhaps it was the pressure, they were, after all, playing for the BIG, BIG payoff, the secret decoder ring and all the other valuable prizes, but the match was much quieter than expected. Mr. Echo had hardly been heard from once, let alone twice. The Wanderer had barely told three stories. The Wanderer had Mr. Echo subdued, the match was over, when suddenly, The Wanderer’s mind...wandered!

White, The Wanderer, leads Mr. Echo 10-4, Crawford.

 White to play 42.


          The Wanderer, worried about rolling 33 next time, played 15-9. He was worried about the wrong echo. Mr. Echo’s first die landed on “1”, and then the other die echoed! At which point The Wanderer said something. And I am afraid, boys and girls, that something was not “Holy Guacamole!” In compliance with the Comic Book Code, we must delete the ensuing dialogue balloons, and with them the action, every biff, cracko, and kapow. We rejoin our story much later, when things have again settled down.


Double match point.

 White, The Wanderer, to play 64.


          The Wanderer cleared his 8 point. Then, Mr. Echo rolled 21. Quickly, The Wanderer employed his ultimate defense. Using techniques learned from Oriental Masters, he let his mind wander to a better place. No indignity could debase him; no torture, no matter how grisly, could hurt him. He floated in an equatorial pool, while slippery young undines removed every hair from his body by nibbling them off. He... But wait. Cackling, Mr. Echo flung forth his deadly dice, and they echoed his last roll, 21! Unfortunately, The Wanderer floated, unaware, in his pool full of undines. Meanwhile, Mr. Echo’s dice had a mind of their own, and echoed....


Double match point.

 White, The Wanderer, floats in a pool, while Mr. Echo must play 21.


and echoed...

Double match point.

 White, The Wanderer, floats in a pool, while Mr. Echo must play 21.


and echoed...

Double match point.

 White, The Wanderer, floats in a pool, while Mr. Echo must play 21.


          Finally, someone must have taken pity on Mr. Echo, and slipped him a hacksaw. He made his break, bolting with 52.


Double match point.

 White, The Wanderer, floats in a pool, while Mr. Echo makes a break with 52.


Is this how our adventure ends, with The Wanderer floating while Mr. Echo makes good his escape?


          No! Our hero, turning the villain’s own weapon against him, swooped down from the bar, Vroot Too Doo Doo

and smote Mr. Echo with a 52 of his own. Mr. Echo’s dice echoed helplessly with yet another 52, and soon The Wanderer had him locked away in a prison from which he would never escape. The last thing Mr. Echo was heard to say was “I hate this game! Hate it! Hate it! Hate it!” The Wanderer had nothing to say. He was in a hurry. He was off to see what those undines would swap for a secret decoder ring!        

          Have we seen the last of The Wanderer? I think not. Watch future issues, when we will bring you more thrilling adventures with THE LEGION OF SUPER HEROES AND VILLAINS!