My fingers fly across the keyboard, executing a wide array of well-timed keyboard shortcuts with my left hand while my right expertly manipulates the mouse, furiously clicking and dragging, shaping and composing. The process is almost automatic, yet evident in my quick actions is a kind of hidden artistry that could never be replicated by machine, and the practiced perfection of my craft has placed me in a serene reverie.
The final touches to this, my next masterwork, are almost complete when I am ripped out of my creative climax by the ringing of my phone. Not without annoyance do I answer the call. “DownToBuck here. Highlights for hire. Get on with it,” I say to the interrupter.
“Hey DTB. It’s Zach LaVine.” is the response.
I struggle to contain a sudden outburst of ironic laughter that threatens to escape my mouth. The video I had been editing not fifteen seconds before is Zach’s 2015-16 Season Dunkilation. Some videos are destined to be made without any outside financial backing; a dunkilation from one of the premiere young dunkers in the league falls unequivocally into that category.
Having taken a few seconds to compose myself, Zach fears that he has done something to offend me, as if his audacity to call the great DTB himself has stunned me into silence. “Sorry,” he says uncertainly, unsure of of what he is apologizing for.
“You want a dunkilation,” I say.
“Yes,” Zach confirms, sounding relieved that I have not yet hung up the phone.
The nearly-complete video waits patiently for me to resume work, staring at me from one of six 4K monitors which decorate my desk. Despite its presence directly in front of my eyes, I lie easily, “I don’t know if I can spare the time. Convince me.” I know that, when it comes down to it, a large sum of money will be the true convincer.
Zach sounds confident of his credentials, as he should be. “I won the dunk contest.”
I scoff. My thoughts on the outcome of the dunk contest have been well publicized. Zach is apparently aware of my opinions on the matter. “I know you think Aaron got robbed. That’s fine. But, man, I won the thing. History’s going to look back and say I was the winner. There’s nothing that can change that. Don’t you think the winner of the dunk contest, the NBA dunk contest, should get a dunkilation?”
It secretly pleases me to hear another person use my term for a dunk compilation. “But Aaron won the dunk contest,” I respond, knowing that my joking obstinance will pay dividends.
“Okay, fine, he probably should have won it. Happy now?” Zach says, clearly frustrated, but unwilling to step away from the bargaining table.
“Somewhat,” I answer, then pause. “Let’s just say I theoretically make a dunkilation for you. Are you aware of the magnitude of such an undertaking? My time is not free, Mr. LaVine, and my rates for dunkilations reflect this.” I am relying on Zach’s ignorance of the highlights business, an assumption that proves to be correct based on his reply.
“I get it, believe me,” Zach says quickly, eager to placate what he interprets to be a disgruntled highlight maker. “Whatever your price is, I’ll pay it.”
Those are the words I have been trying to coax out of this potential client, an entire conversation steering him towards those few words. I resist the immediate inclination to vastly overcharge him by an order of ten, not because I believe he wouldn’t be able to afford it, but because I know that the continued success of my business relies on the (occasionally coerced) trust of those who I do business with. “Fifty thousand. Hand-delivered.”
There is a small period of silence; Zach is clearly shocked by the number I just quoted him. However, he eventually agrees. “Okay. Fifty thousand.”
“Pleasure doing business with you, Mr. LaVine,” I say cordially, now unable to mask my delight at being paid a small fortune for work I already had completed for free. I end the call, but don’t immediately return to work. The flawless success of my most recent transaction calls for a celebration.
My cat, Japurri Purrker, senses my good mood and hops on my lap to receive scritches behind his ears. From the mini-fridge below my desk I pull a bottle of premium Russian vodka, imported at great personal cost. From my shelf I retrieve a bowl and a half-finished box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Combining these things in the bowl, I happily take a few bites and savor the delicate mingling of flavors. Then, the mostly-full bottle of vodka proves too tempting; I shrug, grab it by the neck, and take several large swigs. Then, the final touch: I dump the remaining cereal on top of my head, catching a few falling pieces with my tongue. Japurri sniffs a cinnamony square with interest as his owner laughs maniacally, drunk not just on alcohol, but on his own power.