Saturday, May 3, 2014


21 by Alan

The odds that the chances of the odds are not quite what they used to be are quite low, I thought in my head. It was a passing thought only really conceived because I think of age when I’m in this town. I think of how lucky I am to be riding through these neighborhoods once again like I did when I was 21 and worked in the assisted living facility. I wasn’t dealing blackjack back then. I worked in the kitchen with the old group of boys. We took long drags on breaks and did everything we could to see them smile.

Gerta’s odds were the same as they always were. The same as all odds are, all the time. Stick around long enough and the thing you’re trying to pull will eventually come out in full bloom. The man pulling radishes and all that. It’s a kind of philosophy on life, a didactic speech from a boss given to her younger employees after locking up. They’re leaning against the car now, itching to go deep into the night, turn off the headlights. She’s still saying to them, still urging them forward with her flashlight.

Gerta loves her blackjack like an old bird loves the limbs it sways on, it sings on, even if the songs are a little more sour now and the beak doesn’t bend a note like it used to. But so much depends upon that table in room when the sixth card is drawn and the number is had and all the money in the world means nothing without the miracle light of luck. So much depends upon that returning home and those rides through blocks that we can never feel the same way again until we do.


The Win by Forrest

I lost it all at Eldergarden, even my last two nickels paired up on the table like my paltry manhood in her clutch. Have rolled, been rolled. I could admire her, I thought. Card after card she draws and still beats the house. Namely me. I get stories about Atlantic City, some place called L'Auberge along the Louisiana bayou Interstate, and the Biggest Little City in America—you know, she sighs fondly, the town with the juiciest cheeseburgers. All those classy joints. She pulls her chair closer to the table. She smiles as if remembering who I am. I learned Blackjack tricks from someone as young as you, she says, perhaps realizing from the clock behind me that The Wheel of Fortune is starting soon—and you're a much better loser than he was. With one finger she pushes a nickel back to me. The other, however, she picks up, kisses, and puts it in her pocket. The room gathers excitement: the returning champion on The Wheel is a retiree, and with sixteen grandchildren to boot. The room chants, Trip to Venice! New Ford with a Hybrid! But she can't be impressed by the mere material as she leaves me for the adult's glorified spelling bee. The winning word of winning is already on her lips: the name of a seventeenth grandchild yet to be born, the name of someone who will flee in a rainstorm with the last hundred and twenty-seven dollars in his world.


Ideophobes and the Self and Ms. Kranston Playing Cards by Lyle

But when it’s clear thought — pure for just a moment even — there’s nothing more real, she said and opened her eyes.

Hit me, she said.


Not like memory, you understand. Not like memory at all. Memory is manipulation. You remember what you want to remember. Bend it to your will, whether you know it or not.

Hit me.


Ah, she said and closed her eyes again, her fingers drumming the table beside her cards, but unconsciously, as if she were far away and her body had taken over — muscle memory bent to her will though that too was gone.

Just now, she said, opening her eyes. I completely lost my identity. You know how they say you can never imagine yourself dead? That it’s always at least you looking down at you or your body? Boloney. Ideophobes. All of ‘em. There’s monks up in the Himalayas that have reached nirvana and are no longer attached to… she waved her hands, palm up, up and down her body and shook her head.

Hit me, she smirked.

21 — Very nice.

She smiled and looked me deep in the eye and arched an eyebrow.

Hit me.


Wizened by Johanna

She never wanted to be old. One day, she woke up and her skin was tracked with wrinkles and blue veins, her bones shifted uneasily in their joints, her muscles refused to stretch. She tried to remember how she came to be that way. For years she partied hard, drinking whiskey like water and smoking anything they passed her. But she could not remember slowing down. Everything was fast and all at once it stopped. She cried a little at her fate. Until she discovered that her untimely decrepitude came with extraordinary power, invisibility. She wrapped herself in an imagined cloak, plum and velvet, and used it to roam the wrong neighborhoods, sneak into movie theaters, pass out sugar to children, and cheat at poker.