Friday, 20 January 2012

Friday Flash - Fold

Becky and Karl sit opposite one another. A naked bulb hangs above the table, casting a harsh circle of light across the game. Becky reaches forward and tosses another handful of poker chips onto the pile. Karl displays his cards - three of a kind. Becky groans and drops her cards facedown onto the table.

March 23 1997. Becky and Karl walk down the street, discussing ways to celebrate their six month anniversary. They pause at the cinema, scanning the posted list of film times. Becky wants to see Liar Liar, having seen all of Jim Carrey's films so far. Karl insists they see the special edition of Return of the Jedi - he doesn't much care for Jim Carrey. Becky points out she hasn't seen Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back. Karl replies that he is paying for the tickets, so it should be his choice. Becky spends the duration of the film counting the number of times Karl uses money to get his way.

Karl looks at the hand he has been dealt and scowls. He swaps out two of his cards with the third player, a silent figure who sits in the shadows. Karl's expression morphs from annoyance to hope. Becky ups the ante and calls it. Her Royal Flush beats his two pair.

August 13 2004. Becky and Karl discuss their wedding plans. Karl wants a small civil ceremony at the local registry office; Becky wants a big church wedding, followed by a lavish reception. Karl argues about the guest list - he doesn't want to make a fuss. Becky sulks, asking if she isn't worth that much to him. Karl relents, not wanting to start married life under a cloud. They are married at St Martin's, with the reception for two hundred people at the local country club.

Karl pushes his stack of chips around the table as stares at the cards in his hand. He glances at the silent figure. Becky adds more chips to the pile in the centre of the table. A bead of sweat bursts forth on Karl's forehead, and trickles down the clammy skin to be lost in the foliage of his eyebrows. Becky calls it. Karl knows his lowly pair will be beaten; Becky rakes the chips across to her side of the table.

November 30 2008. Becky asks Karl why he spends so much time at the office. He claims he needs to put in the overtime - if he doesn't do the work, they'll find someone else who will. He thinks of Sara, the receptionist with the short skirts and see-through blouses. Becky threatens to leave if he doesn't change jobs. Karl thinks of the expensive dinners and lavish holidays, paid for by Becky's trust fund. He calls a recruitment consultant.

Karl takes two new cards from the silent dealer, slotting them into the fan in his hand. He struggles to suppress a grin - the new King and Queen fit in well with his existing cards. Becky notices the flicker at the corners of his mouth and bites her lip. She calls it, choking back a sob to see Karl's Full House.

May 18 2009. Becky goes to see her sister's new baby, and realises she is broody. After spending the afternoon with her niece, she goes home and tells Karl she wants to start a family. Karl doesn't want children - he feels that they're too much of a commitment. Becky insists that they try anyway. After six months, she visits the doctor, and discovers she can't have children. Karl commiserates with her, and celebrates with his friends.

The third player drops a handful of cards onto the table. A Full House. Becky looks at her mismatched hand, and Karl frowns at his lowly pair. An equal pile of chips sits on either side of the table. Becky and Karl fold, stand up from the table, and walk away.

September 12 2011. Becky and Karl sign their divorce papers.

21 comments:

Carrie Clevenger said...

I like how you compared their life events to a card game. And in present tense. This was clever, Icy. :)

tom gillespie said...

A very original and highly unusual piece. There's something quite cinematic about the intercuts, and the way the card game says so much about their relationship. A wonderful example of how to show and not tell.
Also, some great phrases as always "foliage of his eyebrows"

Tim VanSant Writes said...

Nicely done. Some games, no one wins.

FARfetched said...

Sounds like they were a mismatch from the beginning. For someone never married, you sure do know it well. ;-) The symbolism was thick and tasty in this piece. Loved it.

John Wiswell said...

Sad to see them split; I think they could have bid higher. While I agree with Mr. FAR that the symbolism was thick in the piece, it was applied with admirable complexity. It didn't feel just for display, and even in the showy bits had positive sparkle.

Kim Batchelor said...

Very unusual plotting in story reaching an unexpected end. I was left with the question, how do they both use their money against the other? She has a trust fund, he has cash--is it all about each other's perceptions of how it's used to control the other? I especially like "the foliage of his eyebrows"--perfect description.

storytreasury said...

Lovely piece, like the symbolism and the card game and how you use it to show their life. I think they were never meant to be together.

Tony Noland said...

Fascinating parallels you drew with the rising and falling fortunes.

mgideon said...

Wow, great job, framing the piece around the card game. Sounds like a divorce was maybe a good idea here.

jackkholt said...

Sometimes you just have to cut your losses and get out while you can!

Very nice, Icy.

ganymeder said...

Interesting way to tell the story of their lives. I liked it.

Eric J. Krause said...

Loved the presentation here. Those two were doomed from the start. Too bad it took 'em so long to figure it out.

Steve Green said...

An excellent piece of writing Icy. I can't help but think that they would both have had happier lives if they had walked away from each other outside the cinema.

W. J. Howard said...

Excellent!

Peter Newman said...

Cool device. I think it works well here.

I can't remember whether the special edition is the naff one with the cgi singing. If so then I'm with Becky. If not I'm probably with Karl.

Helen said...

A nice parallel Icy - it's all about how you play the game whether you win or loose, this piece illustrates that nicely. ^_^

Donald Conrad said...

I'm with Eric K. and Steve G. on this one, but life isn't that tidy—is it? This is a fun read and thanks!

Icy Sedgwick said...

I'm really glad everyone has enjoyed this. It's something a bit different for me, but hopefully it still works. I don't normally like to tackle "real life" stories but this one popped into my head after listening to Bon Jovi's 'Hearts Breaking Even'.

Liminal Fiction said...

I love reading anything poker related, particularly when effective parallels are made between poker and real life like the way you've done here, Icy. That's really something that she pulls a royal flush playing draw, one could play for a long lifetime and never hit one.

brainhaze said...

Brilliant!!! - I played a game of poker the other evening and so this was brilliant and to get the card game to represent thier lives was genius - well done

Lee-Ann said...

Great story, love the layers going on here. And I love Hearts Breaking Even!

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