Monday, July 12, 2010

I Count The Cards, The Cards Don't Count Me

The is how I scared myself at 3 o'clock in the morning.

I Count The Cards, The Cards Don’t Count Me


“The cards. The cards. It’s always about the cards.”


But they were wrong. It wasn’t the cards. Not by a long shot. The cards were only a conduit. They helped you see, but they didn’t divine. The divining rod was you and if you had the all-seeing eye inside, well then, there was nothing a silly card could tell you that you didn’t already know deep down in the gushy, old middle of yourself.

I had watched her work in the park before, on a vivid crimson shawl spread out on the ground so the stickers in the grass didn’t puncture the underside of her tan ankles. She looked like a Gypsy, or someone who wanted you to think they were a Gypsy. Long black hair tied up in a loose ponytail at the back of her head, golden-brown eyes that looked like breakfast mush, a sensuous curve of a mouth, heavy bosoms beneath a cream peasant blouse and long, black skirt. Her eyebrows were harsh, like fuzzy-brown rectangles above her eyes. Her nose sloped and curved and bent at an odd angle making her ugly. Her teeth were pale like stone beneath her sensuous lips.

She laid the cards out in front of her, one by one, not using the whole deck. I tried to count them as she worked, but she moved too fast, laying them down then quickly scooping them back up before returning to the deck and repeating. Usually she was calm, taking her time. Sometimes she formed patterns, pictures even, with her cards. Once I’d seen her lay them out like a gallows––but only once. It was for an old man who’d squatted down beside the scarf as she’d worked. When she was done he’d seemed satisfied with his reading and had thrown down a hundred dollar bill before leaving, never to be seen again.

But today was an anti-thesis day.

An opposite day.

Today I would read the cards to see what they had to say.

I sat on a nearby bench, the cold November air biting into the crook of my neck, cuddling my ears and ruffling my hair. I felt its kiss on my scalp and shivered––but not once did I take my eyes off the deck. I may not have been able to count the cards, but I wasn’t about to let them count me. As long as I had my eyes on them, I was safe. Because I knew in my mushy center what was going to happen––just like the cards did.

The Gypsy threw herself forward and gathered up all the cards, conforming them into a neat pile in her hands. The nails were chipped, no polish, I noticed arbitrarily. Suddenly, she sat up, her back ramrod straight like a cat sensing something on the air, its whiskers quivering. She looked around, her eyes darting like bees, but never once alighting on me for some strange reason. Finally, she pulled a red, hand-woven scarf from her bag and wrapped it tightly around her neck as if that would ward away the cold.

She shook as she threw down another configuration of cards.

I guess she was hoping for a better outcome.

Sensing the time was nigh I sat up from my slouch and stood, stretching. I covertly checked to make sure no one was around, that we were alone in the park––we were––then I lazily made my way down the path toward the Gypsy. She looked up at my approach, her dark eyes full of dread.

“No matter how you lay them,” I said with certainty, “they’ll just come out the same.”

I reached down and wound the end of her scarf firmly around my hand.

And then I yanked.







24 comments:

  1. Amber vs the Scarf, the Scarf blinked first!

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  2. Interesting little piece with very strong imagery in a very succinct way. Not like you need me to tell you well, but well done anyway.

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  3. To this I say, simply: Woah. Three o'clock witching hour hits hard some nights. Best time I've found for myself for the writing of stories that seem to come from somewhere else somehow. Lovely stuff- y'know, terrifying, but elegant and lovely.

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  4. Brilliant!

    ps.
    I think you mistyped 'divining' as 'diving' near the beginning; else I didn't get the joke/reference.

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  5. I just woke up and saw this post, of course I should of waited to read it once I saw this is how you scared your self but I read it anyways. It's a little on the dark side for this time of the morning for me and it's kind of changed my mood a little and I don't know why that is. Next time I think I am going to wait till I am more awake before I read some thing you have written cause you certainly have a way with words which leaves the reader feeling....

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  6. Yes, divining, not diving! Thanks for the head's up :)

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  7. Beautiful, Amber! So many beautiful descriptions!

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  8. AV's Vodka BottleJuly 12, 2010 at 9:00 PM

    Amberkins, this was gorgeous! Thanks for the creepy bedtime story and for the awesome surprise ending. We love you.

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  9. If you were trying to scare yourself or anyone else at 3 a.m. -- nicely done! Great imagery, there.

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  10. So richly painted! I am kind of at a loss as to how to compliment you. Fabulous! Beautiful! You are very talented, Amber!

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  11. "I guess she was hoping for a better outcome."

    Sometimes, no matter the context, one sentence just makes more sense than anything else. Thank you for this.

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  12. Really enjoyed it from beginning to end. Dark and beautiful imagery.

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  13. Ahh, I do love the way you string a series of words together into a song of a story. I am drawn in, lead into your journey.

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  14. your one of a few writers that can hold my attention from start to finish i wish you all the success in all that you do xx

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  15. I think there's a typo in your intro sentence. It says "The is how," and I think you meant "this is how." Lovely (and creepy) story!

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  16. creepy. awesome and vivid descriptions, I felt like I was there. Brilliant

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  17. Wow, Amber it's always so ... brilliant! :P Luck!

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  18. Another great story. An anthology of short stories would be great, so keep writing and we'll keep reading!
    A bientôt, Amber!

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  19. Joe aka AmberAddictJuly 13, 2010 at 11:18 AM

    Wow great story Amber!

    This is the second time I've read your story and it was just as gripping! Thank you for keeping me entertained as always! :)

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  20. Perfect way to start my night. Although it did take me until 3am to finally get to sleep! It takes some pretty good stuff (as this most definitely was) to keep me up 3 more hrs after I get home from work. Well done. As always, looking forward to more.

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  21. I love the fight for dominance with the cards, the way it turns into a sort of mutual understanding.
    Lining cards up like a gallows, and the man was never heard from again...wow. Great image, great detail.
    Is the title a reference to the Cheese Man? (My brain stretches things too far sometimes, it could easily have been an unintentional parallel.)
    I'm so glad I found this story, I'm sure to have much more interesting dreams after reading it :)

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  22. Painting Lessons - Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures. Henry Ward Beecher

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  23. You do have a wonderful way with words. One thing I do admire about you most certainly is your style of writing and how visually evocative it is; so much so the reader becomes a part of the weave of the story. It almost comes alive. However, as has long been said of those in the "know," words carry great power. Well done, truly.

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