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The Die is…

Updated: Nov 25, 2023


Caesar stood at the water's edge, on its very shore. The Rubicon. A small river. Shallow. An unimportant watercourse which served at this moment as boundary of peace. On the other side the catastrophic, the bloody, and yet the seemingly inevitable. Leagues away Rome bristled, but this insignificant river, flung like a crimson ribbon across the still quiet land, was as yet untroubled. No hooves or armored feet stamped through it on their way to war.



“Rome,” he thought, “Thatsa some spicy meatball…”



“No.” said the man next to him.”



"What do you mean no? You can’t just say no."



“Yes I can.”



“Sallust… “



“It’s terrible.”



“That’s the best one yet!”



“Which just goes to show how bad the others were.”



The cool morning found its way into his armor, and Caesar hugged his cloak more tightly around him. Rubicon - named for the red of its water. Clay in the ground upstream. But was this red an inauspicious divination, a bloody prophecy of the years to come?



“That’s the way, uh huh uh huh, I like it, uh huh uh huh.”



“What does that even mean?”



“It means that, you know…”



“What.”



“That I like a challenge, something to overcome…”



“But there’s no context! You can’t just out of the blue say you like something. You could be talking about anything! That stone over there - do you like that? Are you talking about the fish you had for dinner? It could literally be - “



“Okay! Okay… I get it…”



In the distance the sound of morning’s gentle stirrings whispered in his ear. But not the lowing of a calf or buzzing of humble bees - instead the glide of whetstone on sword, bringing to deadly sharp the edge of -



“What are you doing?”



“What.”



“You were doing that thing again, weren’t you.”



“What thing?”



“The thing where you narrate your life in your head.”



“I don’t do that.”



“You totally do that! Everyone knows you do that!”



“How could everyone know what I do in my head?”



“Because afterwards you write shit down, and then consult your notes when you talk to us! You look off into the distance, you mutter, you scribble, and then when you talk to us you keep looking at some parchment.”



“That doesn’t mean I - “



“It does.”



“Look, I have a lot on my mind right now - “



“Oh, and the rest of us don’t? For you it’s all “My place in history,” but for the rest of us it’s just regular life or death. What happens in the next couple days is not a philosophical debate or a question of legacy, it’s about whether or not we’ll be triumphant or have our heads on pikes. Either way we won’t be remembered.”



“I’ll remember you.”



“Gee, thanks baldy.”



“DON’T CALL ME BALDY!”



Pause



“Caesar... are you going to cross the river or not?”



“ I don’t know it’s a big gamble…”



“True… and you can never - ”



“HIT ME!”



“What?’



“I got 20, and I’m taking a chance, so Hit Me!”



“You want me to hit you? With what?”



“Get it? Cross the Rubicon, don’t cross the Rubicon…It’s a gamble… Blackjack… so… HIT ME!”



“What the hell is Blackjack?”



“I’m brainstorming here! And you are no help!”



Pause



“Okay… you’re taking chance, a gamble… cross the river, who knows what’s gonna happen…”



“Wait… Sallust, what’s that game the men were playing, where they draw a circle on the ground and then throw a stick into the circle?”



“Stick in the Circle.”



“Yes! “I shall cast my Stick into the Circle, and I know not what will come.”



“I don’t know…”



“What?”



“You’re going to have to ask Rufius about that.”



“Why?”



“He came up with the game. There might be some copyright issues.”



“He can’t copyright throwing a stick into a circle!”



“He’s already talked to some design people. He thinks it’s gonna take off. Rufius says it’ll be the next dice.”



“The next dice? Is he stupid? Nothing is going to replace dice.”



“You say that now, but a couple of years every kid on the street will be all “Got my Circle, got my Stick, got my Stick and Circle trick!”



“What are you, his jingle writer?”



“Yes.”



“You’re a general, Sallust! You can’t go commercial!”



“This from a guy who has already sold books about fighting the Gauls…”



“That was - “



“Commentarii de Bello Gallico, by Julius Baldy Caesar.”



“DON’T CALL ME BALDY!”



Pause



“I’m telling you Stick in the Circle is going to be big. Everybody is going to forget about dice.”



“People love dice, Sallust! You can bet on dice!”



“You can bet on Stick in the Circle.”



“How?”



“Will the stick go in the circle.”



“That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard! And Rufius is an idiot!”



“You didn’t think that when you were going to steal his idea.”



“I wasn’t going to steal it… I was just thinking outloud.”



“As opposed to when you do that thing you do in your head with the notes?”



“I DON’T DO THAT!”



Pause



“Look… Sallust...all I’m saying is Stick in the Circle will never replace dice. There is an absoluteness about dice. You fling them, and you win or lose. That’s that.”



“You don’t fling dice.”



“You can.”



“No, you can’t. Wait… have you ever actually played dice?”



“Of course I have!”



“Did you fling them?”



“Well, I made a sort of flinging gesture…”



“You roll dice. You don’t fling them.”



“I knew that.”



“Or you can say you’re casting them. “



“That’s the same as flinging them.”



“No, it isn't!”



"Yes, it is."



"No, it isn't!"



“Sallust I happen to have a thesaurus right here…”



“You would...”



“Cast, throw, toss, FLING, pitch, hurl, bowl, dash, shy, lob - “



“Saying you are flinging something conveys a sense of abandon, Caesar, of carelessness. Casting something is deliberate, thoughtful.”



“Like casting a play?”



“No, that’s just haphazard faith that strangers can successfully lie in front of a crowd for money.”



“But isn’t that a gamble?”



“I suppose so.”



“And once you’ve done it you have to deal with the consequences of you casting.”



“Good point.”



“So when you've got all the actors you could say “The Die is Cast” meaning you’ve made your decision, committed an irrevocable act, and to a certain extent your future is now in the hands of the Fates.”



“That’s true, Caesar.”



Pause.



“Sallust...wait a minute…”



Pause.



“You’re doing that thing in your head again, aren’t you?”

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