So, I’ve decided to write a novel. It’s going to fall into the “mystical realism” genre, something I feel is substantially lacking these days. Here’s an introductory excerpt. Let me know what you think!
a journey into the shark’s den
A white tube light spans above, flickering its taunting essence down on my head. A dark silhouette sits across the green pasture in front of me. I see only blurs out of the corners of my eyes. They twist and contort upward, blending with the light. Their green inquiring eyes are hungry, hungry for the future, hungry for knowledge. They are silent, but I can hear their muted panting. The room behind the silhouette has already melted and drips down my field of vision like molasses. The floor is filthy; it begins to whirlpool, swirling the dirt, sweat, and blood into a contorted mess. A rat squeals shrilly in the corner. The tiles underneath my feet fall away, leaving me hovering there at my seat. The neck of a brown beer bottle stretches up along the side of my right wrist. I feel the perspiration sliding down it, giving off cool whispers to the air around my arm.
My thumb slides slowly along edge of the cards under my hands, so slowly that the movement is almost imperceptible. I control my breathing, counting the time taken for each laborious breath, making sure to remain consistent. The royal family sits in front of me, with the exception of the queen. She is somewhere in the deck that now lies lifeless in the middle of the table. She has been replaced by a duck, following at the end of the procession. I only know that she does not reside under the hands of the black silhouette. I need him to believe she is under mine.
I am a mathematician. I am a psychologist. I am a philosopher, cognitive scientist, salesman, and actor. I am a poker player. I’m sitting here with two three off suit, trying not to drench my shirt in my own sweat. My heart is thundering in my chest, and I’m trying to pretend like I’m calm and in control. I hit the two on the river, and I’ve been calling this guy down the whole way, planning this very moment. The last card doesn’t really matter to me; I was going to do this regardless. I know he has ace king, top two pair; he has been playing that hand the same way out of position all night. Raise three times the blind pre flop, check if you hit the flop, bet the turn to make it look like a bluff, then check the river to induce a bet. Lather, rinse, repeat. This guy’s game is like the back of a shampoo bottle. I just rattled that bottle; he wasn’t expecting me to push in my entire stack when he checked the river.
I’ve been coming to Catherine’s for about two years now, mopping up scrubs and taking whatever change they have. The place is disgusting, a black pit where the air is ripe with cheap cigar smoke and the lingering frost of bad beats. Everyone in town who dreams of sitting at the final table in the World Series comes here to play almost daily. Every now and then a new player will come in, thinking he’s the next big poker hot shot. I’ll pounce on him like a hungry wolf, devouring his wallet and spitting out the tattered leather carcass. They always leave the same way, calling me a donkey, claiming I sucked out. But hey, if Gus Hansen can play three five off suit out of position at the World Series, then I can play two three off suit on the second floor of a local bar.
I can see the bewilderment and confusion in his eyes. He may not be the best, but he has enough presence of mind to note that I can play almost any two cards in this sort of spot. I could have any sort of queen or any pocket pair. He doesn’t know what to do, like a deer caught in headlights. I’ve seen the look countless times. With my sunglasses and the terrible lighting in this place, I can’t see his face. All I see is shadow. It doesn’t matter. I’m focused, my eyes fixed firmly on the cards. He flicks his cards, clearly agitated. He cranes his head back and opens his mouth, like the answer is going to fall onto his tongue from the ceiling. He cranes his head forward now, looks at me, and grips his cards in between the first two fingers of his right hand. He leans into the light, and I can see his face.
He hasn’t shaved in a few days, maybe in an effort to look tougher. The little flecks of black and grey adorning his chin and cheeks dance mesmerizingly under the flickering light. I can smell the tangy alcoholic cologne he is wearing pierce through the air between us. He lumbers forward, placing his elbows on the table. With a flick of his fingers, the cards flop forward, defeated. “I fold,” he admits.
I smile and look up from the cards. I flip mine over quietly and gracefully, emptying a salt shaker onto that open gash everyone now sees. He grabs what little chips he has left, gets up from the table silently, and goes to the counter to cash out. Jeers, laughter, and applause fill the room. I just quietly gather my chips. I am already thinking about the next guy who’s going to fill that seat. He’s at the bar, and he has been watching me all night. My name is Alex, and this is my world.