Pair of Deuces
He held a pair of deuces, a king of diamonds, a four of spades, and a seven of clubs. He drew three cards and waited to look to see if he’d got the third deuce. If he had drawn it, what? What would happen? What did he want to happen? Warren and Ray and Blackie were arranging their cards as best they could: Warren, shaking with palsy, Blackie, Jesus, Blackie had almost forgotten how to play the game, thought he was playing rummy half the time, and Ray, half-blind, who’d opened and drawn one card, looked irritated, so it was clear that the two low pair he’d probably been dealt had not miraculously become a full house. Even though he’d probably prayed to St. Anselm or St. Jude or the Blessed Virgin, or maybe the Infant Jesus of Prague. He’d Infant Jesus of Prague him right up his ass if he’d got his third deuce. And if he had, a big black Packard would appear on the lawn where they walked the pitiful Alzheimer’s patients around and around. He’d find his beautiful Borsalino on his shelf next to the idiotic baseball caps his daughter-in-law brought him; he’d make sure to lose them, but she brought more. They all had those logos or dim-witted messages on them. The one he liked best matter-of-factly stated: BORN TO LOVE TRAINED TO KILL.What an impossibly stupid woman she was. Well, he didn’t have to live with her. So, he’d have his Borsalino on, maybe that powder-blue tropical worsted suit he’d babied for years and years with the beautiful drape to the pants. He’d step into his Packard. That sweet young girl he’d got half-drunk with about three lifetimes ago in a bar off Gun Hill Road would be on the seat next to him in a little sun dress, a white sun dress. They’d finish what they started, oh the hell with it. What he really wanted to happen was for Warren and Blackie and Ray to disappear, for the Ridge Meadow Manor to disappear, and for himself to be as if he had never been: not to disappear, but to have never existed. Three deuces would do the trick. He looked at his cards, pushing the tight little booklet open with his thumb, card by card. The card that should have been his third deuce was a four of clubs. Ray, squinting as he laid his cards down, won, of course, with his lousy two pair. Well, all right. Tomorrow he’d try another magical route to oblivion.
A Strange Commonplace by Gilbert Sorrentino. Copyright © 2004 by Gilbert Sorrentino. Published by Coffee House Press. Reprinted with the kind permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.