If a One-Handed Tree Claps...

My life has so far been normal. I grew up with a good family, did well in school and moved on to college to do less well, but get more drunk. Quite drunk actually. I find that any good degree should also list the amount of alcohol consumed during the period of study for it. Quite a time in my life really. In fact, it still is, me still being in college and all that. For my alcohol, I needed money. For money, I needed a job. I didn't want a job, doing productive things was never really one of my fortes. Eventually though, I found a backdoor: Banks. Banks like to give students lots of money, because they reason that students are stupid and will inevitably get a loan they don't need to buy booze. They're right. I, however, had come up with a plan to get away with the money and never have to pay it back.

I was on the bus when it happened. Pulling up to a stop in the rain I was thinking about my severe lack of funds. For one brief moment I considered getting a job, but then the bus jolted suddenly. It had apparently hit an old woman who couldn't tell the path from the road. Thank god. Her eventual death after several agonising weeks in intensive care changed my life. With that jolt I dinged my head off the pole in front of it. It didn't hurt, but I was pissed off. Then the idea hit me. I needed to get a loan; it would solve all my financial woes. That night I got to work on my plan.

I spent most of the second term that year focusing on the bank loan problem. Every lecture, every lunch, every extended stay in the toilets trying to keep the glory hole blocked up with tissue. I paced back and forth in my bedroom, racking my brain to find the answer. All I needed was simple: a way to keep the pile of cash without ever having to pay it back. There were ways, but most involved major lifestyle changes, like leaving the country. I liked Dublin; I didn't want to move. Or change my identity. Or walk very far. I'd heard that fugitives do a lot of walking. Running too. It wasn't worth it. There was another way and I could find it.

Then came April 6th, the day I figured it out. No exclamations of joy. No 'Eureka!' When the idea came to me, I simply leaned back in my seat and smiled ever so slightly with a great satisfaction. I knew I was going to get wasted that night. I headed in to the bank just before lunchtime, ahead of all the nine-to-fivers. After some chat with a loan advisor type there I was handed a loan application form and brought into a private cubicle. Standard form: name, address, earnings etc. Of course, any person who wants a loan has to fill the bank form in. That's the way it works. You can't just make something up or the whole thing crashes down. Only if you actually plan to do things the old fashioned way though.

I wasn't.

So I had a little fun. Name? See page 167. Address? I lost my pen last Friday. It still hurts. Date of Birth: I've always wondered why they make tarmac such a dull colour (that one was hard to fit in a mere six boxes). They also needed my passport and some proof of address. I had those prepared already: a pair of shoes that had been soaking in a combination of my sweat, a bum's urine, three-year old mayonnaise and a rather dodgy looking can of Tuborg lager. I had actually been planning to use the shoes as a birthday present for a rather dislikeable acquaintance, but this was a greater use for them.

The main loan guy walked in sat down at the other side of the desk from me. His nametag said 'Colin Cook'. He introduced himself to me and I got the niceties out of the way fast. He read my application form and gave me what can only be described as a 'look'. I gave a sort of shoulderless shrug with a knowing grin as Colin looked at me. He was speechless for a couple of moments and then I piped in with:

"Do you need to see my proof of address?"

He didn't say anything, so I just took the two shoes out of their tub and put them on the desk. He stared at them for a second and then caught a whiff of them. He stood up suddenly, backing into his flimsy cubicle wall.

"Sorry," I said and picked up the shoes. I looked around and just threw them over the one point five-metre tall wall.

"What the hell is your problem?" Colin asked.

"I just want a loan," I replied.

"Leave. Before I call security."

"Come on Colin, don't end this now. We're going to get to know each other over the next few hours."

Time to start the plan. I whipped out my tools: a pair of guns. I pointed the one in my right hand at him and the other one at my own head. Only mine was loaded, but he didn't know that. In the blink of an eye Colin's skin lost all colour. He seemed quite faint.

"Now, don't move just yet Col. You wouldn't want either of these going off. I mean, I could leave quite a mess on your lovely stack of papers there. So, all you have to do is agree to my terms."

"W-w-what terms?" Colin stuttered, most likely hoping that security would arrive at any second to take me down.

"Just a little wager. It's quite simple really. I will shoot myself with this gun at point blank range," I wiggled the gun in my left hand a bit. "If I die, oh well, game over. If I live however, I will get my loan and I won't have to repay it."

"You're – crazy," he drooled out.

"Maybe so, but this is all going to go down well. You'll be fine. You'll even have a great story to tell people this weekend. Now, there's going to have to be some solicitors and stuff down here to make sure you and the bank don't try to screw me over. A nice contract will be drawn up."

"Why – why would we do that?"

"Well, the way I see it – right now you're thinking I'm going to die. No way I can survive. Therefore, your bank keeps the money. So, really, to you, this is a no-lose situation. So just pick up your phone there and get things moving. And one more thing – don't jerk me around fella, you'll be fine if you do as I say."

Several hours passed. Security didn't try to take me down – mainly because security was a couple of guys in their early sixties whose armament's strongest weapon was a packet of XXX strength mints. The contract was written up, I made sure it was in nice plain English for us all to read. Then, just for a laugh, I told them to draught it in Irish too. I was thinking of pushing for French, but it was getting late. Eventually all was complete.

"OK, OK. This is good. You've done well Col, your son would be proud – you know, if he hadn't cut all ties and left the country and all that. Anyway, now for the moment of truth."

I pointed the gun in the air and shot the ceiling. Quite a lot of plaster fell down.

"Now you know the gun's real. I'm not trying anything with you here. So, let's do this."

I pointed the gun at my head and closed my eyes. My whole plan was resting on a near non-provable theory, only I could prove it. And I could prove it only to myself. I pulled the trigger and the gun rang out. I fell down. Everything went dark.

But it worked.

I was lucky, you might say. Somehow, just somehow, the bullet had jammed in the barrel of the gun. Nearly impossible. One of the least likely things that could ever happen. You'd be more likely to win the lottery every week for ten years, just finding the ticket on the ground every time, than for this event to occur. But it did. And I knew it would. In fact, in an infinite number of alternate realities I had just died. But in this one, chance deemed I live. I knew it would, because I could only continue to experience a reality where I was alive, and my mind was forced into it when all the others were cut off. A bit off the wall, but I was right.

I stood up. The shock had given me quite a bang to the head, but no bad damage. I walked over to Colin and hugged him.

"Nice work Col, some damn fine work."

"But – b-but – how?" he asked.

"Pseudo-philosophy posing as physics, my dear Colin. Why, there's a lot of other versions of you who are right now staring at my dead body and wondering if the smell will mask the funky shoes' odour. Well let me tell you something Colin. No, it wouldn't mask the smell. I put a lot of effort into those shoes and I'll be damned if my own rotting corpse would destroy that effort."

I picked up the big sack of cash on the desk. I had put a clause in the contract demanding a bag with dollar sign on it. I love clichés!

"It's been a pleasure guys, but I'm off to get wasted now," and with that I threw the bag over my shoulder and strode out the door, confident that I wouldn't remember the rest of the night's events. It was a great time for all. Well, just me really. Damn do I love booze.