The room was lit by no more than one lantern that hung above the bed. One by one, Karen flipped her cards. The sound of each card echoed throughout the room as she placed them down on the bed. She giggled with glee. It wasn’t a great hand, but she didn’t care. She knew she was with him, and that was all that mattered to her.
She had first met him 50 years earlier. It was a warm summer’s day, the kind of day where the park was filled with people. As she strolled down the path she liked to look at the people around her. She knew that every person she saw had their own lives, and with those lives came stories. She liked to imagine what each of their stories was. Across the park she saw a young boy playing catch with his father. She saw a couple having a picnic on a blanket in the grass. To her left she saw a family feeding the ducks in the pond.
She stopped in her tracks when she saw him. There was a man sitting on a bench a few hundred feet in front of her. He seemed to be her age, and handsome. Slowly she walked closer and closer, but as she did she noticed something peculiar about him. He was holding a deck of cards. As she got closer she realized he wasn’t only holding the deck, but he seemed to be playing all by himself. She had never seen a lonelier looking person in her life.
“Need someone to play with?” she asked as she sat down next to him. Little did she know he would be the person she would end up marrying.
And now she sat there by her bed, playing cards and chuckling with glee. She looked over her shoulder and out the window, looking at all of the people walking by her house, all of the different stories they had. This was the only human interaction she had anymore. Her husband had died of cancer 10 years earlier. So she sat there, playing cards by herself. She wasn’t lonely, she knew she was with him.
Story by Philip Aidan Leary
“Mommmmm, Nana won again!”
Teddy grasped for the folds on his mom’s dress.
“Oh, I’m sure Nana is just lucky,” she said, shooting a scolding glare towards me when Teddy wasn’t looking.
I laughed. A sweet lavender aroma was present in the room, even with the window ajar. A cool spring breeze crept in.
I couldn’t tell them. I’d been keeping it a secret for thirty-two years now. What would they do if they found out their 79-year-old grandma counted cards for a living? It wasn’t worth the risk.
“You want to know the trick?”
* * *
A powerful flash brought me back to reality.
“Jesus Tony, are you trying to give me a heart attack?”
He chuckled as he waited for the white card to slide out of the front.
“You know I’ve always hated that thing,” I sighed. “Why not just live in the now?”
I rearranged the cards that had been flipped from my jackass partner scaring me. Tomorrow was the big day, and we didn’t need anything, especially not him, messing it up.
There is no “right” way to count cards. Some people have huge teams, like that one M.I.T. team that got busted. They had a good thing going until they got caught and jeopardized their careers. Too many people can make things too complicated. That’s why it’s just Tony and me. Sure, it may take longer, but we’re in no rush.
I always felt more comfortable practicing my counting the night before. It’s all gone well before, but something about tomorrow was different. I tried telling myself it was the regular drill. No one would think anything of us, we’re just an old retired couple coming to have a good time.
But that burning sensation in my stomach was very prominent. This was, after all, the biggest and most heavily guarded casino in North America, and we’re just going to waltz in and cheat the system?
“Remember to not let your nerves ruin your composure,” Tony said. “It’s just another day”.
And that’s what I told myself. It’s just another day.
Story by Daniel Thomson
Hard to Tell
Four of Clubs, she was a doozy. What nerve, to come to that barbecue and pretend she didn’t know who I was. Harry’s fourth. Although it was hard to tell, thinking backwards. We were 27 then. I figured he hadn’t cheated on me except that once with his ex before our wedding, and twice afterwards with those women from work.
I always waited for Harry to come home late, tell his lies. Played solitaire to Fred Astaire dancing, Gordon Lightfoot singing, Judy Collins. Dressed to the nines. My stubbornness grew as the years went by. Sure, I confronted him a few times but he told lies without blinking. Faster than the youngsters. Than my dad. Smiled and groaned about his work, about Dan keeping him longer for a beer, about anything that came to mind. Maybe he spent the rides home thinking up lies since our standoff was to be expected. I’d be up. I’d look great. Dressed just like he might have taken me out that night.
Number nine. She had rubbed me the wrong way ever since Sunday School days. I almost left him then. But didn’t. Habits and no pension. What a sinner Harry was.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Hi Mary! Are you in your room? I got you some fresh peaches.”
Man, that Gary is persistent. Here he is at the door again. He sure is sweet, though. Bringing fruit from the outdoor market. Maybe I should go and sit with him at lunch one day. It’s been hard to be here in this new place without my old routines.
“Mary, you look fabulous. You just don’t let life get you down, eh?”
Story by Sharon Roseman