The low grumble of voices shared greetings and platitudes. Hands with no callouses or hangnails clasped, and occasional forearm grip breaking the rhythm of mechanical pumps. Everyone asked about kids or the business; no one listened to the answer. Something heavy and wooden was banged, calling for everyone to take a seat.
Once everyone was settled around the large round table, all the men present placed their hands on the traditional green felt. A layer of hazy smoke hovered around the ceiling, though no one had lit up inside for years thanks to burdensome regulations. The room was quiet.
From the shadows, a man called out: “Go.”
The hands jumped off the table, snapping to each face like a catapult. Within a second, each man sat with index finger against his nose in a pick-not-scratch, position. “Not it,” they shouted as one.
Replay technology had eliminated do-overs and tie-breakers. Looking up at the screen, they watched the super slo-mo, seeing who had moved slowest. Once identified, the man with the graying temples slouched. He stood up, buttoned his suit jacket with a wince, waved at his compatriots, and went to be measured for the kevlar and talking points. Too slow, he thought to himself. Just too slow this time.