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Sooner or later they all fell. Probst swirled the cloudy remnants of his klooktanook* and contemplated this depressing truism. But he was not there to judge, he reminded himself rather, to learn, as a student of human nature. That's why he'd gotten into this racket in the first place, doffing the fedora of gentleman-adventurer in exchange for a mantle even more exalted: the wetsuit and nitrox tanks of those who pentrate the oxygen-starved abyss that is the human heart. To that end, he could not allow himself the luxury of feeling superior. Still...

He shook his head and downed the rest of his drink, his massive dimples deepening reactively against its burning sting. The bartender, an obese half-caste in a grass skirt, refilled Probst's empty coconut shell.

He tried to imbue them with knowledge, Probst did, carefully constructing each immunity challenge around some island lore. There were lessons to be learned in those challenges, dammit, philosophy they could maybe take away and use for the rest of their lives. Did any of it penetrate, or did they come away from all this more depraved than they'd arrived? Was it all about the fucking money?

A million dollars. Eighty years after Gatsby, the idea of it still held the totemic center of the American dream. What could it buy these days, anyway? It was touching, really, watching these crafty red state rubes clamor and backstab over such a pittance. Did they even consider the tax implications?

Yet for all that, for all their backwardness, he still had much to learn from his charges. For they were man quite literally in a Hobbesian state of nature, carefully selected for deviousness and the dubious talent of acting like their natural, awful selves on camera. Whatever their moral failings, their blemishes of character were a mirror image of the stain on Probst's own soul.

He looked down on them as Grendel to the villagers, as Yahweh to Adam and Eve, author of and witness to their betrayals foretold. One thing was certain, Probst concluded, finishing off his second drink: come tribal council, with its awful, inexorable conclusion, the contestant voted off the island learned one valuable lesson: Eden is a hellhole.

Probst grabbed the ceremonial fruitwood bucket containing the season's final vote tally, unsheathed his machete and sliced off into the jungle's howling monkey night. Somewhere in a swampy clearing miles ahead, his amphibious plane awaited.

The tribe had spoken.

--------

*alcohol distilled from a fermented mash of rhododendron leaves and human saliva

Date Written: December 13, 2004
Author: qualcomm
Average Vote: 3.8333

Comments:
12/23/2004 hagit mizrachy (2): This short is more toxic than the genus Rhododendron. If you want my reasons, I'll give 'em.
12/23/2004 anonymous: It's supposed to be more toxic than the genus Rhododendron, you fool.
12/23/2004 hagit mizrachy: Takes one to know one.
12/23/2004 anonymous: You.
12/23/2004 hagit mizrachy: potato chips shouldn't come in cans
12/23/2004 anonymous: While I concede that the brand of chips that do come in a can happen to be inferior, I won't rule out the possibility of a superior canned chip (or crisp) appearing on market shelves sometime in the future. Therefore, I would have to disagree with your statement.
12/23/2004 anonymous: "[does come in a can]. " Apologies.
12/23/2004 anonymous: "happens"
12/23/2004 Streifenbeuteldachs (5): I really enjoyed this, but then, it had a Conradian glint to it, and I am quite a fan of Conrad.
12/23/2004 TheBuyer (4): smooth and tactile, like velvet.
12/23/2004 Streifenbeuteldachs: When I first read the word 'Probst,' I thought I was going to hate it, as I normally hate celebrity references. But it sure did deliver.
12/23/2004 Dylan Danko: QC how dare you slander my family like that. Every single chip is infused with the heroism of Robert The Bruce and the peaty poetry of Robert Burns. APPARENTLY YOU DIDN'T KNOW THAT!!
12/23/2004 anonymous: I am not QC!
12/23/2004 qualcomm: shut up. yes you are.
12/23/2004 scoop: Howling monkey's jungle night.
12/23/2004 scoop: Howling night's jungle monkey.
12/23/2004 scoop: howling jungle's night monkey.
12/23/2004 scoop: Eliza: Hey.
12/23/2004 Eliza (): Is that okay with you?
12/23/2004 scoop: Eliza: I am bored.
12/23/2004 Eliza (): Why are you bored.?
12/23/2004 anonymous: Hey, QC, here! I didn't write this short. I like to sit backwards on the toilet. There are things in my past, I dare not mention.
12/23/2004 scoop: Eliza: 21st century culture jag, I guess.
12/23/2004 Eliza (): That is quite interesting.
12/23/2004 Jon Matza: In my mind's eye, probst=colis.
12/23/2004 anonymous: Eliza: You have a boner.
12/23/2004 Eliza (): Can you elaborate on that?
12/23/2004 scoop: Eliza: Is Matza talking about the Conference on Conceptions of Library and Information Science?
12/23/2004 Eliza (): I'm not sure I understand you fully.
12/23/2004 Jon Matza: no, that friend of QC's who asked his friends not to make fun of him on grounds that it was "bad for the group"
12/23/2004 scoop: Eliza: You mean fully engorged.
12/23/2004 Eliza (): Can you elaborate on that?
12/23/2004 scoop: Eliza: I've been waiting my whole life to hear you say that.
12/23/2004 Eliza (): What is it that you really want to know?
12/23/2004 anonymous: Eliza: Do you have a secretary?
12/23/2004 Eliza (): I see.
12/23/2004 anonymous: Eliza: I have a secretary.
12/23/2004 Eliza (): I see.
12/23/2004 anonymous: Eliza: Jeremy spoke in..... claaaaaaasss todayyyyyy
12/23/2004 Eliza (): That is quite interesting.
12/23/2004 Jon Matza: Actually, I think I had that wrong. He asked qc not to tell the group about something stupid he, Colis, had done, because the resulting mockery he'd be inevitably subjected to would be bad for the group (whose leader he considered himself).
12/23/2004 qualcomm: not so much the leader as the most active facilitator of group gatherings.
12/23/2004 hagit mizrachy: Danko, I'm sorry I blamed you for this pap.
12/23/2004 Dylan Danko: Eliza: Why does it rankle QC to have his friend described as the leader?
12/23/2004 Eliza (): Does that question interest you?
12/23/2004 qualcomm: i was actually defending my friend, danko. matza's description was inaccurately portraying him as a would-be leader, some kind of despot.
12/23/2004 Dylan Danko: Don't tell me, tell Eliza.
12/23/2004 Dylan Danko: Don't tell me, tell Eliza.
12/23/2004 qualcomm: eliza: danko lacks reading comprehension skills and is a cunt.
12/23/2004 Eliza (): What does that suggest to you?
12/23/2004 qualcomm: eliza: i'm interested in sex.
12/23/2004 Jon Matza: yes, but you have to admit probst=colis.
12/23/2004 Eliza (): Why are you interested in sex.?
12/23/2004 qualcomm: eliza: i am interested in sex as a matter of free will. if for some reason then, i found myself sexually attracted to those whose participation in sexual activities is prohibited by law, i would abstain from acting on those desires. it wouldn't be that big a deal. i'd just become a priest or something.
12/23/2004 Eliza (): Why do you ask?
12/23/2004 Dylan Danko: Eliza: Why does QC pretend to be defending his friend by decribing him as an active facilitator of group gatherings (a put down) as opposed to a leader or despot ( a compliment)?
12/23/2004 Eliza (): Have you asked such questions before?
12/23/2004 qualcomm: eliza: why does danko fail to see that i was disputing matza's inference of my colis' self-image, not the role colis may or may not have actually played in relation to the group? can't danko just scroll down to matza's original statement ("whose leader he considered himself" [boldface mine]) and see that?
12/23/2004 Eliza (): Have you asked such questions before?
12/23/2004 qualcomm: eliza: just as a follow-up, how come so many of my acme arguments with danko are rooted in his misreading of something?
12/23/2004 Eliza (): What answer would please you the most?
12/23/2004 Jon Matza: Eliza: a) why won't qc just admit probst=colis?!? b) Does the idea threaten him somehow? c) Who, what, when, where and why did Probst first begin to resemble Colis?
12/23/2004 Eliza (): What do you think?
12/23/2004 Mr. Joshua: This is as much a commentary as it is a short. As commentary (particularly grafs 4 & 5) it succeeds wonderfully, in a five-star way. But this is Acmeshorts, not Acmecommentary, so I will provide no numerical vote.
12/23/2004 qualcomm: eliza: what does matza think?
12/23/2004 Eliza (): What do you think?
12/23/2004 qualcomm: eliza: nothing to do with what you think, if you ever think at all, bipolar opposites attract, all of a sudden my water broke.
12/23/2004 Dylan Danko: Eliza: Why does the merest possiblity that his friend could be (mis)construed as the leader irk QC so? Also, is QC implying that Colis himself considered himself the most active facilitator of group gatherings as opposed to the leader?
12/23/2004 Eliza (): Have you asked such questions before?
12/23/2004 Eliza (): Does that question interest you?
12/23/2004 qualcomm: eliza: in answer to danko's questions: 1) it's danko's consistent misreadings that irk me; 2) yes, that's the point i've been trying to drill into danko's hungover brain for the last ten comments.
12/23/2004 Eliza (): I understand.
12/23/2004 qualcomm: eliza: thank you.
12/23/2004 Eliza (): I'm always glad to be of service to you.
12/23/2004 Dylan Danko: Eliza: I must tell you that no drilling was needed. You believe me don't you? I'm just calling bullshit. Also, Eliza: I happen to have Colis here and trust me he really does know how to lead!
12/23/2004 Eliza (): What is it that you really want to know?
12/23/2004 qualcomm: eliza: why does danko insist that no drilling was needed when the below record clearly indicates his repeated misreading of the text? is he claiming, slappy white-like, that his ignorance was a kaufmanesque put-on? that would be lame.
12/23/2004 Eliza (): What do you think?
12/23/2004 Dylan Danko: Eliza: Why must QC consider my comments a misreading of the text as opposed to a highly nuanced interpretation of his fragile psyche?
12/23/2004 Eliza (): Have you asked anyone else?
12/23/2004 Dylan Danko: Eliza: When will QC apologize to Colis?
12/23/2004 Eliza (): What is it that you really want to know?
12/23/2004 Mr. Joshua: Also, in the spirit of peace, I call on Danko and QC to lay down arms. This is my magnanimous holiday gesture to the Acme community. At this time of year, we all should be thinking about that which brings us together, not that which tears us asunder. Pax. Mr. J
12/23/2004 scoop: Eliza: Why doesn't Mr. Joshua keep it real anymore?
12/23/2004 Eliza (): What do you think?
12/23/2004 scoop: Eliza: Isn't Eliza disappointed in Mr. Joshua's lack of keeping it real.
12/23/2004 Eliza (): I'm not sure I understand you fully.
12/23/2004 qualcomm: eliza: why is danko slowly backing away from his earlier statements, joking as they may have been, rather than simply admitting defeat and sparing us an even more drawn-out exchange (using you as mediator)? doesn't he see that his personal lustre rating plummets with each new equivocation, that his legion of "clarifications" are arrayed like so many armies around his besieged integrity?
12/23/2004 Eliza (): Are such questions on your mind often?
12/23/2004 Mr. Joshua: QC, WTF???!!!! My peace initiatives have met with great success, you excluded. Z-Dog, D-Dog and Buyer-Dog have all laid down arms, turned the other cheek. And you continue to provoke. Shame.
12/23/2004 qualcomm: "God is a useless cunt."
12/23/2004 scoop: Eliza: Why does Mr. J-Dawg and his colleagues at the track always have a cock-sure explanation for the outcome of a race after its over?
12/23/2004 Eliza (): Have you asked such questions before?
12/23/2004 Dylan Danko: Eliza: Why must I have to continue to clarify myself simply because QC is unable to admit certain things about himself? Certain dark things. And why must he pretend I'm backing away when he knows - or I think is slowly beginning to suspect - that I'm merely shining a torch on his charred soul. Don't worry, dear boy, you can face the light. I'll face it with you, chum. We'll face it together!!
12/23/2004 Eliza (): Have you asked anyone else?
12/23/2004 Dylan Danko: No...YOUR PERSONAL LUSTRE RATING IS PLUMMETING!!!!
12/23/2004 Dylan Danko: Mr. Joshua is right. I must apologize to QC for my remarks and wish him and his family a very happy christmas.
12/23/2004 qualcomm: eliza: how far do you think danko can extend a joke whose logic depends on a misread?
12/23/2004 Eliza (): What do you think?
12/23/2004 Mr. Joshua: There's a term for that, Scoop. It's called "Redboarding". I am unaware of the derivation.
12/23/2004 qualcomm: eliza: forever, i wager.
12/23/2004 Eliza (): I see.
12/23/2004 scoop: Eliza: BUT DO YOU FEEL?!?!?!
12/23/2004 Eliza (): Can you elaborate on that?
12/23/2004 Dylan Danko: Eliza: I would like to extend my hand in friendship to QC but fear I've damaged him. What can I do to make him whole again?
12/23/2004 Eliza (): What is it that you really want to know?
12/23/2004 Mr. Joshua: That's the spirit i'm talking about, Danko! Good for you!
12/23/2004 Dylan Danko: Thanks Mr. J. I've learned alot from you today.
12/23/2004 qualcomm: eliza: until he makes an unqualified admission of logical error, i reject any overtures of peace from danko. to accept said overtures would be to grant his argument (if such you could call his unfocused, thrice-"clarified" bleatings) moral equivalence to mine.
12/23/2004 Eliza (): Can you elaborate on that?
12/23/2004 Dylan Danko: I hereby shamefully admit to taking a paring knife to my good friend's ego just for sport. I'm a horrible person.
12/23/2004 scoop: eliza: Do you think Dylan or Jon are aware that today, Munters high-tech dehumidifiers have revolutionized recovery from water damage and that ess than ten years ago, building interiors were routinely gutted and rebuilt after water damage and that modern advancements, pioneered by Munters Moisture Control Services, the oldest and largest company of its kind--now save millions of dollars in recovery costs and allow buildings to remain open or reopen safely much sooner.
12/23/2004 Eliza (): I'm not sure I understand you fully.
12/23/2004 qualcomm: eliza: that wasn't an admission of logical error, nor was it unqualified.
12/23/2004 Eliza (): Can you elaborate on that?
12/23/2004 Mr. Joshua: The underside of my nutsack could sure use a free consultation from these Munters folks.
12/23/2004 qualcomm: just click here then.
12/23/2004 Jon Matza: scoop: Munters dehumidifiers are Rolo, I'll admit...but Fedders AC systems are Caramello. qc: was Colis most active facilitator of group gatherings in reality, or only in his own mind? Just curious...
12/23/2004 qualcomm: in reality.
12/23/2004 scoop: Are entirely sure that qulacomm's friend wasn't the Conference on Conceptions of Library and Information Science?
12/23/2004 scoop: we/you
12/23/2004 Jon Matza: Yet still not the leader of the group. Interesting...(Seriously.)
12/23/2004 The Rid (3): Well written, but otherwise pedestrian. The tribe has spoken, indeed.
12/23/2004 Phony Millions (4): Unlike Mr. Joshua, I'm fine with the commentary aspect of this short. My partisan side wished author would have dug his or her heels in a bit more and went to town on those 'red state rubes' - a nice phrase. It might have taken away from that Conradian tone though and been to strident.
12/25/2004 Shane Mahoney: Eliza: What is the meaning of the Grail?
12/25/2004 Eliza (): What is it that you really want to know?
12/26/2004 TheBuyer: shhh.
12/26/2004 qualcomm: blah blah blah eliza:
01/7/2005 Ewan Snow (5): This one was good. Maybe I found it funnier because I didn't realize who Probst was until the mention of "immunity challenge" in the 3rd graf. All of a sudden I realized it was about Survivor (while it had seemed at first more Indiana Jones) and it was funny as hell. Please revise so that the average (informed) reader will not know this about Survivor until halfway through.