Michael Vail ‘24
Talented Teller of Tall Tales
Oct. 23, 2021, 9:30 p.m. The height of the inauguration celebration on the Kimball Quad. Students enjoy the hustle and bustle of the celebration. We open with the gamblin’ man…
I twiddled the chip between my fingers, lowering the brim of my hat as I peered at my opponent. He stared back, his own fedora casting a mystery over his appearance. His poker face was mindfully established, but my willpower was strong. There was still a gleam in his eyes to exploit. A fatal flaw. Fireworks exploded in the night sky.
“Beautiful, aren’t they?” I observed, attempting to break his complexion.
“Can you please let me pass, dude? You’re blocking the hot chocolate.”
It seems he was not participating in the gamblin’ game. And I was not at a gamblin’ table, but rather, a refreshment line. I don’t even know how to play poker.
* * *
“Now that’s a snazzy tune! Pluck that bass! Get it!”
Snazzy, indeed. The bassist was pluck, pluck, plucking away at the bass, as intended. All the stage lights were on him. It was his moment and he knew it.
At the climax of the tune, he executed the most unexpected of maneuvers. We expected another pluck, pluck, plucking of the bass, but out came the bow! And the bow he used indeed. A lovely addition to the tune by all accounts. The lights were on him. And he knew it.
The crowd clap, clap, clapped in approval. The bassist pluck, pluck, plucked in response. They kept clapping and he kept plucking.
Yet I couldn’t help but notice the drummer in the background. The bassist pluck, pluck, plucked, but what of the stoic drummer, who tap, tap, tapped? I gawked for a moment and we suddenly made eye contact. I smiled at him. Only then did he, with grateful tears forming in his eyes, smile back.
* * *
It was the perfect crime.
The balloon man had been facing the other way, creating the most fantastic balloon sword for another student. It was most magnificent and captivated the audience so remarkably that nobody noticed the missing helium tank, acquired by yours truly. After I had hidden away from the public eye inside the photo booth, I announced, “I have stolen the helium!”
I come from a long line of Helium Thieves, a title I am not yet worthy of, but will surely possess within the next few years, or even months, if I truly dedicate myself. The art of helium thievery is simple but effective: one must hide in plain sight through the ability of vocal deception.
The rate at which I inhaled the helium was ambitious even for the most adventurous of Helium Thieves. As I slipped back into the crowd, still holding the helium tank, someone exclaimed, “It’s him! That man has stolen the helium!”
“It was not me,” I responded, suppressing a smirk.
“He’s right,” another partygoer objected, “This man has the highest of voices. The one who announced the crime had a far deeper voice. This man is certainly holding a helium tank, but he cannot be the culprit.”
Everyone nodded their heads in agreement and left to search for the true culprit. It was smooth sailing from here.
As I exited the premises, a security guard bid me goodnight. Act normal, I thought.
“Goodnight,” I stuttered.
But it was too late, for I had let my enthusiasm get the best of me. I had consumed the helium too quickly and had none left to spare, and so my voice had returned to its normal state, and I was discovered.
I will have to be more careful next time.
Photo via Canva