Nine of Spades Reprieve (a very good very short story)

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It’s was hard to believe 20 years ago he was the sharpest pencil in the box. Now he’s a prison yard squirm. They still call him Mouse, Mousey Norton – what a character! 

Maybe he really doesn’t know me, but I remember him. 

Twenty years ago I walked through the park and a gang of thugs surrounded me. I was going to be their cigarette money and a few moments of entertainment. Then from nowhere, he comes, Mousey. He knew the score right away. He had a deck of cards and enough wise cracks to make a mortician laugh.

I got a card trick for every day of the year,” he said nudging the gang leader.

In your back pocket in a card,” Mousey said. “Leave it there. You’re going to tell me what that card is. And when you do, you let my buddy go.”

The gang leader sneered and looked at the rest of his cohorts. “Sure, but I don’t know.”

How many suits in a deck?” Mousey said.

Four.”

Pick two,” Mousey said.

Hearts and Spades.”

Pick one of them,” Mousey said.

Spades.”

Are you sure me and you aren’t in on this together?” Mousey said.

I’m sure.”

Have you ever seen me before?”

Sure, I’ve seen you around, but never talked to you.”

Now name four spades,” Mousey said. “In a row, if you don’t mind.”

Two, three, four, five.”

That leaves nine cards,” Mousey said. “Pick any four.”

That’s easy; six, seven, eight, and nine.”

Now pick two of them,” Mousey said.

Eight and nine.”

Which one comes first in your head?”

Eight.”

That leaves – ?” Mousey said.

Nine.”

Reach in your pocket,” Mousey said.

He reached in his pocket and pulled out the nine of spades.

Come on, pal,” Mousey said to me. “Any of you guys got a cigarette and a light?”

The gang leader tapped a cigarette from a pack and handed it to Mousey. Mousey grabbed it. “Thanks, forget the light. I’ve been seriously trying to quit.”

We walked away. We became buddies for a summer and one day he was gone. His house was empty and no one knew what happened to his family.

Twenty years later, I’m guard and he’s an inmate.

He was surrounded by a several other inmates. I walked by. He had his deck of cards and performing his card tricks. He glanced up at me.

Hey, boss,” Mousey said. “Ya wanna see a card trick?”

Sure,” I said.

Snake,” Mousey said. “Without showing anybody, look at the card in your pocket.”

The inmate named Snake stood nearly startled to find a card in his shirt pocket.

It’s the nine of spades,” I said.

Hey,” Snake said, “it’s the nine of spades.”

Mousey smiled and for a moment he was the kid 20 years ago who gave me a reprieve from a good beating.

 

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