"Gramps, what did you people used to do for fun? You know, before HoloVision?"
The old man's gaze wandered upwards for a moment, as if looking for inspiration from the clouds.
"Well," he started, "we did have television and the internet, you know."
"That's it? Didn't you play games?"
"Well, not Holo games, like you do now," answered the octogenarian. "But we used to play chess, backgammon, bridge..."
"Yes. That was a card game."
"We still play chess and backgammon. How come people don't play bridge anymore, Grampa?"
"That's a long and sad story, Bobby. Come, sit closer, and I'll tell you."
The boy edged over on the porch swing seat as his grandfather wrapped his arm around him. The old one began his tale of woe.
"Once upon a time, thousands upon thousands of people played a bridge. I used to play with your grandmother. You remember your granny, don't you?"
The boy nodded. His grandfather continued.
"Now, the thing about this game was that there were a lot of different ways to play it."
"Different rules, you mean, Gramps?"
"No, no, not different rules. Different strategies. Styles. You know. It's like those who open Pawn-To-King-Four versus those who start with Pawn-To-Queen-Four in chess, remember?"
Again the young one nodded.
"There were two main approaches to the game. Let's call them `innovative' and `cautious'. Cautious players would wait for the opponents to make a mistake and them grind out a win. Sort of like those who open Pawn-To-Queen-Four in chess. Innovative players were more willing to go against the grain. They'd risk losing in order to win, just like those who play the King's Gambit in chess. See?"
Once more the youngster nodded.
"The problem was that there were far more cautious players than innovative ones. When any of the innovative players did poorly, the cautious crowd would make fun of them. They'd say that the innovative players lost because of their approach, see? They'd say that the innovatives were silly to play that way."
"Were they?" asked Bobby. "I mean, weren't there any really good innovative players?"
"Oh, yes," countered the gray haired one. "Certainly no one ever called Zia or Belladonna cautious!"
"Who were they? Were they good?"
"Not bad," the old man understated with a grin. "The problem was at the club level. You know, the average and above average players. Here, whenever any of the innovative players did well, the others would accuse them of cheating."
"Yup. And the worst of it was that they wouldn't even go to the authorities and accuse them, because then they'd actually have to prove it to someone's satisfaction...other than their own, I mean. Nope, they'd just come right out and say it. To everyone. And here's the kicker: publicly accusing someone of cheating was, in itself, against the rules."
"So these people were breaking the rules just in saying that someone else was?"
"Exactly," said the old man.
"Yup. We call that `irony'. Do you know what irony is, Bobby?"
"I think so," answered the lad. "That's grown up talk for `wierd', right?"
"Close enough," the grandfather allowed, smiling. "Anyway, because this mob was part of the cautious majority, the authorities couldn't do much about it. When innovative players figured out that they would have either their honesty or their intelligence insulted, they stopped playing the game. They moved on to other things. Like HoloVision. That's what Zia did. You know him as `The Mighty Mahmood', but he started out as a bridge player."
"Oh, THAT Zia! The HoloTrap player!"
"One and the same," confirmed Grandpa.
"But what about the other people?" Bobby wondered aloud. "The cautious ones."
"That's the strangest thing. At first, they said `good riddance' when the innovatives left. But after a while, the game just didn't seem as exciting as it had been when there was more than one approach to it. Kind of like tic-tac-toe. Too dull...even for the cautious."
The young lad furrowed his eyebrows for a moment. Something didn't make sense here. "Gramps?"
"You said that everyone was arguing, and calling people stupid and saying that they were cheaters. And then they made all the players go away. It's like it divided everyone. Drove them apart. Right?"
The old man nodded. Bobby continued.
"Then why did they call it `BRIDGE'?"