Narcissistic Solitaire

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic


A poker game between four men devolves into an odd and absurd farce.

Submitted: October 11, 2017

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Submitted: October 11, 2017

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Narcissistic Solitaire

 

Four men play poker on Friday night. They all arrive roughly on time at the poker room each week at eight o’clock. They are all white men, of approximately the same age. Two enters first and cuts on the lights and sets the table. He is tall, wearing a leather jacket. One follows a few minutes after. Two turns.

 

‘Take your shoes off.”

 

“Oh diddly, I forgot! I’m sorry,” One says. He wipes his shoes and places them next to Two’s. Being three feet tall, One can’t reach the coat rack, so he neatly folds up his jacket and places it on his shoes.

 

“Help me set up the chips.” Two says.

 

“Yes sir.” One climbs onto the poker table and counts chips quietly on his knees.

 

Three enters the room at exactly eight. He is just shorter than Two, but his elegant posture and well-tailored clothes make him seem taller.

 

“Two! One!” He booms, “Good to see you both again. Of course, as always, Four is not here on time. I’ll make sure he stays behind to help me clean up, seeing as you two had to go through the trouble of setting up. Two, would you like a drink?”

 

“Maybe later, probably soon though,” says Two.

 

“I’d like a drink!” One says from his near-prostrate position on the table as he pushes piles of neatly counted chips to each seat.

 

“You drink, One? Didn’t mean to leave you out! I had forgotten, for some reason I thought you were on the wagon,” explains Three.

 

Four enters.

 

He is wearing a bandana over his face with large sunglasses. His hoodie is pulled up over his head. He sits at the table.

 

“You look… like yourself, Four,” Three says.

 

The four men sit at the table in clockwise ordinal order.

 

“Music?” suggests Three.

 

“No,” Two grunts. Four shakes his head in agreement.

 

“Ah well, maybe once I get a few drinks in you boys you will change your minds,” Three replies with warmth and a huge white smile.

 

The game begins.

 

Each player draws a card from the deck, shuffled by Two, and places it face up on the table. Four reveals a Jack, Three a Queen, Two a King, and One an Ace.

 

“Fuck that, every goddamned time,” growls Two as he places the dealer chip in front of One.

 

“I’m sorry, I can’t help that,” says One with downcast eyes. 

 

“Just don’t look at my cards,” says Two as he stares at his own hand with an anger. One’s eyes, barely over the lip of the table despite the two cushions he is sitting on, flick briefly at Two’s hand and then away.

 

Money flows around the table. One plays without apparent strategy, winning and losing huge hands. Two plays conservatively, siphoning money from Three and Four, only bluffing once in a blue moon. Four sits without moving. He is bankrupted when he calls an all-in on One and simply slides a one-hundred dollar bill across the table without speaking to buy back in. Three cracks jokes, nearing bankruptcy and then soaring to big-stack without any discernable change in morale. He speaks to each player in order of name, but his eyes blur as they flick ceaselessly from One, Two, and Four’s faces/lack-of-face.

 

One goes all-in pre-flop. It is around his twentieth all-in of the game. Two glares at him for an hour. One begins to sweat and squirms anxiously on his pillow. Three patters around the house and cracks jokes to Four during the downtime. Four sits motionless. One nearly falls off his cushions and has to seize Four’s shoulder. Four points his sunglasses at One’s hand. One regains his balance and clasps his hands, staring at his hands, finally still.

 

“I call,” Two says, as the clock-hand approaches two.

 

One flips his hand over. He had been holding pocket aces.

 

Two is angry. He repeats “god-damnit” and “fuck” to himself for a few minutes. Three pours him a double-shot of whiskey. Two gulps it. Three puts on a playlist. The first song is “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood,” performed by Santa Esmeralda.

 

“Goddamn you to hell, One,” Two says as he sets down his glass and throws a Benjamin onto the table.

 

One sheds a single tear.

 

Three drinks a double. It is his twelfth double of the game, as indicated by the tally marks he discretely tics on his arm with a Sharpy. He shakes his shirtsleeve back down to his wrist before he speaks. “Control yourself, Two” Three says, “you already know how this game will end, anyway.”

 

“It doesn’t have to be that way,” Two says. He shuffles the deck again and tries to make eye contact with Three, or One, or Four, but no one is willing to do so. “We could play a different game this time. You all just have to try to play by the math.”

 

“I can’t do math,” Three says as he distributes the next hand, “I just do people. You know that.”

 

Each player looks at their hand. One, with a tear stuck on his cheek, looks once at Two.

 

“All in,” One whispers. Two is silent. Three gently and slowly slides his chair back from the table, as if he is about to stand up. Four takes off his sunglasses and slides up the sleeves of his hoodie.

 

“Damn you. You can’t have it this time,” Two says. “Pour me a double, Three.”

 

Three stands up and goes to the kitchen, returning with a double.

 

“All in,” declares Two.

 

“All in,” says Three. He looks at each player for a few seconds before pushing his stack in.

 

Four carefully slides his stack away from him.

 

Each player reveals his hand. One has seven-deuce. Two has pocket-Aces. Three has pocket-eights. Four has Ace-King.

 

“Why?” Two asks of One.

 

One shrugs, unable to look him in the eye.

 

Three reveals the flop. Seven of Spades, Two of Hearts, King of Diamonds. Three looks at Four and shrugs in resignation.

 

“Unbelievable,” Two says, “Okay, let’s see the rest.”

 

Three reveals an Ace. Two begins laughing maniacally. Three reveals another Ace, and Two stops laughing.

 

“So it goes,” One says, with two tears rolling down his round cheeks, “fate is a cruel mistress.”

 

The room is silent.

 

“Look at me, One,” Two says. One does not look at him. “Look at me, I said.” One looks at him. “One, did you lose that hand to me out of pity.”

 

Three slowly slides his chair back. Four stands up, and slowly wanders until he is sitting on the table between One and Two’s chairs. He does not turn his head towards either of them.

 

One sits looking at his hands for a full minute. “Two, I think that is a very paranoid thing to say. I was just bluffing. I swear to God. I’m sorry I lost.”

 

“Two, can I get you a water?” Three says.

 

“Fuck you, Three,” Two says. “I know you are entertained by all this. I know you don’t actually like any of us. I know you know what I am holding when you deal out the cards. I think you only play with us because you find us fascinating. That “Oh I’m just a polite-young-gentleman” bullshit doesn’t fool me. You’ve never lost any money here, and that’s partly why you keep coming back. You think I’m ludicrous because I play by the math and you think One needs your fucking protection and you are intrigued by Four’s goddamned contrived mystique and you come here just to be entertained, by our personalities. You’re like a lepidopterist that wants to dissect us and figure us out and pin us to one of your goddamned boards and the moment you figure us out you will never come back.

 

As for you, One, I think you are one of the most contemptible people I have ever met. You could steal all of our money from us but you choose not to because you don’t have the balls to even win the game. You lost that hand out of pity because you were afraid I would be angry with you. I’m not angry at you, you self-conscious worm, I’m angry at the game. I do math. I understand odds. I’m only ever angry at the game.

 

And as for you, Four, I have nothing to say to you, because you are a null-value in my life.”

 

“You’ve had too much to drink,” Three says. He has retrieved a pool-cue during Two’s monologue and is standing behind him. He spins the cue idly in his hand. Two stands up and squares his shoulders. Three and Two stare into each other. One of Three’s eyes stays locked with Two’s two; the other flicks between One and Four. One has laid his head down on the table and is motionless. Four remains between One and Two.

 

“Go home, Two,” Three says. “We will see you next week.”

 

“I fucking know,” Two says. He puts on his jacket and leaves.

 

The remaining three players clean up the chips and cards and glasses and put back the pool cue and Three sweeps while Four cleans the dishes and they turn off the lights and go onto the stoop to smoke cigarettes.

 

“Tonight was a shitshow,” Three says, “and the game wasn’t finished.”

 

“I say we just give everyone’s money back and try again next week,” says One.

 

“I agree,” says Three.

 

“Will you take Two’s money back to him?” One pleads.

 

“I will. I’ll leave after this cigarette and go check on him,” says Four. He departs.

 

One and Three look at each other briefly in disbelief, then shrug and go home. 


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