about the author

Don Hucks has a crush on game theory—despite the fact that it won’t return his calls and hardly seems to notice that he’s alive. He hopes game theory will read this piece and that it will be moved to send him a kind email and/or look him up on Facebook.

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Asymmetrical Reciprocity in a Two-Player Game

Don Hucks

On April Fools Day my next door neighbor put grease on my doorknob.

I waited patiently a whole year and then I burned his house down. You should have seen the look on his face when he came home.

A year later he repaid me by slipping a ripe trout into my morning newspaper.

Again I waited, and when April first came around, I got up in the middle of the night and took the tunnel over to his place. (I always think ahead, and when the neighbor’s new house was under construction, I tricked the builder into connecting our basements by a secret underground passageway.) I climbed up through the trap door under the dumbwaiter and tiptoed upstairs and crept into his bedroom. (I had, of course, obtained a copy of the floor plan and committed it to memory.) After setting up the isoflurane apparatus, and testing the depth of anesthesia by pinching his toes, I sawed off his right arm at the elbow. I would love to have been there when he woke up. I like to imagine him reaching for the alarm clock and coming up a foot-and-a-half short. But, of course, I had to smuggle out the surgical kit and bury the arm in my garden before sun-up.

A year later the bastard seeded my flowerbeds with stinkweed. I didn’t even know it until the stuff started sprouting in May.

So when it was my turn again, I introduced him to a slutty vampire I met at a Halloween party. She took him for drinks and to catch a band she wanted to see. The band wasn’t very good, but the bass player was an on-again-off-again fuck-buddy of hers. At four in the morning she rang my doorbell about twenty times, and of course she was drunk off her ass, but she had what she’d promised: the son-of-a-bitch’s soul in a Mason jar. I put it on the mantle, opposite my stack of second edition Millers, on the end closest to the window—where I knew, in a couple of hours, the morning sun would bring out its iridescence magnificently.

I sat on the couch and the slutty vampire sat beside me. “It really completes the room,” she said. “What did you have in that spot before?”


“Infinitely better.”

I was still admiring the decor and didn’t even see her lean in. I felt her breath, hot on my neck. And her lips, soft and moist, just over my carotid. And then a little tongue but, to my tremendous relief, no tooth. We fooled around on the couch for a while and then she left.

The following year he left me alone.

And the year after that.

This year I took his soul down off the mantle and carried it next door. I knocked, and when he opened, I held out the jar. I told him he could have it back, that I didn’t want it anymore.

He said it wasn’t a good time but I could come back tomorrow if I liked. “It’s elimination night on Idol.... That English guy’s such a douche.” He grinned and nose-laughed a couple of puffs. “Bloody atrocious,” he barked in a vaguely northern accent and closed the door.

I took his soul back home and poured it down the kitchen sink. It smelled like almonds. I turned on the hot water full blast and squirted some dish soap at the drain, and I turned on the disposal and let it run until the comforting scent of artificial lemon was the only thing I could smell.

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