Poker Symptoms – A Poem

The room wasTarockkarten_in_der_Hand_eines_Spielers

filled with smoke

when I came

in. They all

looked up at

me: Frank Fatigue,

Bob Balance, Steven

Speech. Travis Tremors,

Brian Brain Fog.

Sergio Spasm was

there too as

well as two

other shadowy shapes.

I looked at

all of them

and wished all

of them away.

Seven could see

the look of

distaste I wore.

“Come on, don’t be that way. Take a seat. We’re playing poker.”

I grumbled something

about needing a

cup of tea,

but Brian waved

a hand at

me. He let

out a laugh.

“Come on, it won’t take long. We’ll make it a short game. What’s the harm?”

The harm was

that I didn’t

like any of

them, that I

wanted all of

them to go

away and leave

me as I

was, as I

had been. Brian

was especially perceptive,

and I knew

he could read

my mind, having

shared so much

of it with

me. He nodded.

“We don’t like it much either. You’ll have to take that up with Max Shadow.”

One of the

shadow shapes moved

into the light

and I saw

Max Shadow for

the first time.

He was thin

with pallid skin

and long greasy

hair. He looked

like what I

imagined Flagg from

the Stand would

look like. He

smiled at me.

“Did someone say my name?”

He said, his

voice as oily

as his hair.

The other shadow

moved into sight

and I saw Cedric

Paulson for the

first time. He

looked like me

from a younger

age, but stretched

into adulthood, as

if he was

not fully in

control of his

thin limbs. He

looked as if

a stiff wind

would knock him

over and his

hands were shaking.

“Well, if you’re playing, so am I.”

He said. His

voice sounded unsure

of itself, as

if he was

not used to

standing up for

himself. He sighed

and his shoulders

dropped, though the

rest of him

still shook slightly.

“That is, if there’s room.”

“Of course there’s room.”

Travis said. His

voice was cheerful,

even though it

shook. He gave

me a smile.

“Come on, we saved a seat just for you.”

Sergio motioned with

his hand, also

smiling at me.

“Come on, it’s a good seat. Look, I have a cup of tea right here.”

He reached for

a cup on the

table, but back

chose that moment

to seize up

and when he

spoke next, it

was with obvious

pain. I motioned

to Sergio flippantly.

“Will he be all right?”

Max Shadow gave

me an oily

smile and a

small mirthless laugh.

“Of course he will. You’re okay, aren’t you?”

I didn’t know

how to answer

that question, so

moved through the

fog of smoke

and took my

seat. They watched

me as if

afraid I would

bolt from my

chair and run

from the room.

They all puffed

smoke out of

their mouths. I

did not, but

watched as the

smoke formed animals,

like each one

of them had

a Patronus of

some kind, an

animal that represented

their force. I

coughed and waved

my hand through

the smoke. Cedric

let out a

laugh and passed

me the deck

of cards. He

motioned to me.

“It’s your turn to deal.”

I took the

cards in my

hand and went

to shuffle them.

It was then

that I saw

they weren’t playing

cards. They were

tarot cards. I

looked up at

all of them,

not understanding. They

looked back at

me. Finally, from

inside a cloud

of smoke, Max

Shadow spoke softly.

“The game is simple, really. Draw five cards and see what they have to say.”

“What kind of poker is this?”

“Well, the stakes are a little high, I’m afraid.”

He smiled, his

teeth shining through

the smoke, and

held out his

hands to the

side, as if

to say mea

culpa. He motioned

to the cards.

“You just have to see what they say. We’ll all be playing along with you.”

“How is that possible?”

“We’re part of you and anything is possible. Haven’t you figured that out by now?”

I blinked my

eyes and they

were gone from

the room. However,

I could feel

them in me:

Frank, Bob, Steven,

Travis, Brian, Sergio.

Max and Cedric

were there too.

They were all

looking through my

eyes. I sighed

and shuffled the

cards, thinking my

question silently. I

closed my eyes,

just for a

moment. Then I

drew three card

and looked down

at what the

cards had to

say.

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