Joe considered himself to be a reasonably intelligent individual.
Actually, that's a lie. A lie fueled by mock humility. Joe actually considered himself to be above average in intelligence.
It just didn't show.
It didn't show because the scenario of his life did not allow for his kind of intelligence to shine. In fact the scenario of his life made him look stupid.
This was because he had a specific version of intelligence and a narrowly defined talent that did not lend itself well to predictable every day routines and soul sucking jobs.
That was his life, for what it was worth, and he struggled to make sense of it and to be understood.
Still, Joe knew he was smart and took some comfort in that knowledge.
Except when it came to cribbage.
When it came to cribbage, Joe was a Cribbage Idiot.
His wife, Carol, introduced him to the game through friends, good friends, who played regularly. They drew Joe and Carol into the cribbage circle, explained the game and cut them loose.
During the summer, they met once a week as best they could, in the spectacular setting of Jason's cottage by the creek.
Warm summer nights, the soothing gurgle of the creek, light suppers before play, and then.............cribbage.
There were five participants. Joe, Carol, Jason and then a Karen and a Stacey.
Psychopaths and mental defectives all.
It did not take long for competition to reveal Joe as the weakest link.
Carol, who had been introduced to the game at the same time, picked it up immediately. The other three had been playing since before birth, so it came naturally.
They had cribbage conversations, counted and played quickly.
Joe's contribution to the cribbage conversations was typically a dull witted "Wha?", and he counted and played so slowly the others nicknamed him Cribbage Sloth.
According to National Geographic, the sloth is the world's slowest mammal.
No matter how hard he tried, no matter how hard he studied and practiced, Joe always came out looking like the fool.
His inability to learn the game flew in the face of his belief in himself as intelligent, which infuriated him.
Until he couldn't take it any more.
On July 6th, after a peaceful July 4th weekend and still enjoying a day off, Joe played a few practice hands on the computer and got his ass kicked.
He picked up a gun, held it to his head and fired.
Carol came home that night to Joe's body on the floor amidst one hell of a bloody mess.
Apparently the cats did not find him particularly appetizing, as the pool of blood and bits of skull appeared to be largely undisturbed.
He was still alive.
She cursed him for the mess and maybe even for being alive. Her exact reaction has never been confirmed, documented or admitted to.
One month later Joe woke up in the hospital, his head wrapped like a mummy, allowing openings for his eyes, his mouth and his enormous Italian nose.
Dr. Funkenstein declared Joe's survival a miracle. The bullet had traveled clean through his skull, taking with it only a small portion of brain.
Somehow, someway, Joe was completely functional.
Carol being the persistent, single minded individual that she is had decided that, no matter what, Joe should give cribbage one more shot.
She worked on him throughout his long convalescence, preaching and harping and pushing until, in a moment of exhaustion, Joe agreed to play.
Just to shut her up.
So it was that on July 6th, 2016, Carol and Joe walked back into Jason's creek-side cottage, love nest and booze emporium for the first time in over a year.
Joe's was nervous as hell, depressed in advance and prepared to get his ass kicked as usual. He wanted to get the goddamn night over with so he could go home and cozy up to a bottle of whiskey.
In the first game of the night Joe double skunked Jason and everybody was stunned. Jason loudly and bitterly proclaimed that it was pure luck, and Joe was inclined to agree.
Until the next game when Joe double skunked Carol. In fact they played five games that night and Joe double skunked every opponent. Every single one of them.
Incredible as it sounds Joe double skunked every opponent all summer long and took home the winner's pot of $250, accumulating 40 more wins than his closest competitor.
Joe loved the way it felt. Absolutely fucking loved it.
He quit his job, toured the professional cribbage circuit and got rich. Unfortunately he was banned from competition after winning five national championships in a row.
It didn't matter, though. By that time he had formed a self-improvement company that had already gone global.
He called it "Drastic Solutions."