It was 2007, or 2008 -- Jomon "Biggy" Mara did remember it was at one of the first NACGPAPC events -- that the big board covers first became tres "de rigueur". But this was getting ridiculous.
Jomon had been shambling down the convention center corridor, his head in his ebook. This was not, as those who saw him might have suspected, because of his mega-autism or mega-introversion, or any of his other megas, but rather a strategy for averting what would certainly have been bookoo akinesia accompanied by vomito, if he allowed the poxy hotel breakfast churning in his gut to combine with the paisley-Warhol-on-LSD pattern on the carpet. In other words, his breakfast panini *would* combine with the carpet. Not that it would be distinguishable from the design.
'But what's the diff?' he thought, as he lowered the ebook and pulled out his earbuds. 'Everyone thinks I'm a hoser anyways. It's not as if I'm improving my vocab.' Game 11 was to start in 2 minutes, give or take 40 for shushing and announcements, and more than a few layins were bound to show up even later -- the fest in room 45622 had gone on till dawn, and some guest rooms were several kliks from the playing hall.
What should appear to his bleary sight as he pushed his specs up his nose but one of those merch tables near the wall charts. It took Jomon a moment to realize these weren't SamClocks or HamClocks or GreenEggsandCheeseClocks or tile bags or franklin caddies or protyles or intricately chamfered mega-racks suitable for exponentially escalating toroidal SOWPODS clabbers.......
They were selling board covers -- judging covers, table covers, whatever people called them -- but these were mere cousins to the bland cardboard versions with the stencilled words 'JUDGING IN PROGRESS' that had first come out. Like their prototypes, these were big enough to cover a deluxe turntable, both racks, clock, and scorepads, but they were collapsible, too, and came in a dizzying array of fabrics and colors.
Jomon's nervousness for the day's competition (he was 3-7 in Division J, vying for 63rd place -- though he was pretty sure he had a lock on high game with his 872 in round 5) faded into the background as he surveyed the covers for sale. He'd been thinking of just upgrading to a SamDome, but that was so yuppy. How had he missed this table yesterday?
There were covers of nubuck and dacron, vampy covers of mylar, covers in lucite, covers of recycled levis, foldup covers with matching kitbags and slieves. Dadgum, if he were a klepto, he'd have snarfed one already. Instead, he went practically drooly, admiring the appliqued dinos and hand-stitched slogans, broidered manga, quippy haikus in anglo and latina.
Jomon started to reach for a handsome model with the pomo saying "JUGDING* IN PORGRESS*," when one of the boho womyn behind the table snapped at him, "Prebought!" The other, grokking his downcast expression, relented, "Another can be fedexed. Fab, isn't it?"
But Jomon had already glommed onto another selection. It was the one. $89.99. This tourney was going to end up being even more expensive than Phoenix -- there, he'd incurred $1,235.50 in minibar charges, and all he'd had was a couple of olestra-laden gateaus. Well, it would be worth it. Jomon forked over the denari, tucked his new judging cover boxily under one arm, and honestly felt sorta taller as he entered the cavernous playing hall. No longer a newbie. Real cred.
Jomon made a decision. 'Shazam! Why wait to show off this thing? I'll challenge the first word played, no matter what it is!' As he threaded his way thru the long rows of tables, looking for pink placard #31, he pictured his opponent's awe at seeing Jomon unfold the new cover over their board and tiles as they stepped away to the Zyzzywhat. Jomon actually snorted to himself with glee as he recalled the magnificent sphynx in gold and silver orlon nestled under his bicep, and the mucho witty phrase stitched around the perimeter: "PARSLEY STRONGYL AUCTIONED."
'And they call us wanks and yutzes,' Jomon thought, as he passed a sensei pro tossing flashcards like frisbees at his dweeby mentee. 'We amateurs may be sucky, but we are maxed out on the accouterments.' He paused for a second, lost in thought. 'Hey. If my opponent opens with COUTER, and I my rack is ACEMNST....' He reconsidered, and took a deep breath. 'Okay,' Jomon counseled himself. 'A 13 would be so purty. Maybe I won't challenge the first play automatically.'
As he took his seat, scooched it forward, and laid out his eight color biros on his teflon clipboard, he had that jivy feeling he loved. He was amped, his brain was online, and he was about to whup some Scrabble ass.
(Thoreau Maskin had no part in this work of fiction. Any resemblance to a real person is entirely coincidental.)