“What’s this? I asked K, and passed him a heavy glass bottle that was vodka, mixed with liq ox, while I pulled out an ornate box I had just found under one of the cushions of this stranger’s balcony.
I opened it and it contained some stacks of laminated cards with finely printed little icons on them. There was also a tissue folded in the box with a pattern on it, I wasn’t sure what the items were or if they had anything to do with each other. I winged it.
“Let’s play a game.” I said.
“What kind of game?” he asked.
“I’m bored, let’s play a bored game.” I said.
He looked at me sluggishly through the syrup of drugs and booze and seemed to register some sort of comprehension. When you were this gone, you looked for something to cling to.
“What’s the game called … buddy?”
He was moving in slow motion now, his gaze anchored like molasses between the tissue I had laid out in a flourish, and my hands that were dealing out the laminated cards.
I rationed out the chips one by one, icon side down, in a pile in front of each of us
He watched with magnetized curiosity back up to my face with syrupy slowness.
I didn’t know where I was going with this but I definitely had his attention.
“The game is called …” and I waited til the last card had been dealt:
He held my gaze.
“Each of these blocks, on the outer squares of the microprint gameturf,” which indeed was indeed a tacky microprint, “marks a finite portion – It could be a resource, person, geographic location whatever, but it represents a portion – ”
The game was seeming more complicated to K now, and he looked like he might have to take a piss.
“- of total control.” I concluded.
He piggybacked a look onto an internal hiccup that sent a ripple up through his neck and conveniently caused his head to burp in my direction, and repeated,
“I’ll show you how it’s done.”
I obviously had to keep this simple. ”Each player gets-” I did a quick spot count of the chips I had in my hand, “-7 cards.”
K looked noncommittally at the chips he held and saw that this was so. He nodded approval.
“If I place a chip,” I flipped a random chip from my hand and it showed an emblem that looked like a construction helmet. “for example, ‘development’,” He peered at the emblem, and saw that this was also so, “I gain one area.”
He stroked a non-existent beard and narrowed his eyes, staring at the small piece of card I had tossed onto the tissue, which, much to my satisfaction, squarely covered one of the eight microchip cores surrounding the graphic of the central processor. He did an apparent mental sum counting the remaining blocks and returned with equal intensity back to his own cards he had tilted towards himself out of sight of prying eyes.
“But I don’t know what the cards mean,” he said, looking piercingly at them, “I’ve never played this before.”
I had no idea what the cars meant either. Mine, minus the construction hat that was already on the tissue, were from left to right: A duck; something that might have been either a stylized cocktail glass or an airborne biogass symbol; a mountain; a blimp; seven vertical bars; and a round circle printed on a slightly different feeling cardstock, which I suspected may be the protective covering these oddities came bundled with. I shuffled them around in what I hoped was a meaningful way.
“You have to interpret.” I said. His eyes were wandering and I could see the spell was breaking.
“All you have to do,” I said slowly, “is justify it.”
His eyes melted back up to mine in a hypnotic trance, then back down to his cards.
He toyed with a card then slid it out and flipped it face up over the chip I had just placed. It had a nicely printed ‘cut diamond’ emblem, and his eyes met mine.
“I’d like to purchase your development.” he said slowly then his eyes returned hungrily to his remaining chips, “and that’s my weakest card.”
We played for a while but then argued about the rules and who had won, and then a frazzle haired woman in a nightgown and apron busted onto the balcony with a knife, at which point the girls woke up in a groggy panic and skirted their way down the back stairs, and I had to run the gauntlet inside the livingroom and down the inner stairs past the floor where the woman’s piggy little son tried to grab me, “There’s another one!’ and trap me into the deadly arcing swings of that crazed kitchen wife.
We piled out onto the patio, pulled up the horse and rode out like cavalry back onto the road and through the other side of the hill.
The sun was coming up as we kept moving east until we crossed thru the plateau and took an express-route down instead of up, and ended up in the old town, marching along and singing shipping songs like a bunch of pirates with Jill riding her horse at a wandering pace, which stopped frequently to munch at the patches of scrubby long grass that grow up through the ancient pavement. After a long while we grew silent.
“Where are we going?” Asked Jill, imploringly.
We were in a deserted industrial remnant that must have been textile factories and warehouses. People hid deep within the archaic stone architecture like polyps and didn’t come out without the sun. It was cold, for a December night, and we found ourselves walking the streets like ghouls.
“I know this area I used to live here in V.”
Everyone ignored me.
“Oh were horribly lost,” mouthed Jill in silent agony. She draped herself over Daisy’s neck.
“We should just keep heading south until we see the shine of the water,” said K, as if it was a last ditch effort for finding any semblance of hope for survival.
“No, guys, I know this area, I used to live in V, this is the old Turcot Interchange, if we keep going down we’ll go through the Atwater tunnel and come up in ST.”
“Look! A bridge!” exclaimed Desra, who was Jill’s friend alternately riding up on Betsy’s back and trailing along by the lead.
“No, you can’t take the bridge, it’s vehicular traffic. I’m telling you, we should go under the pedestrian tunnel.”
But they ignored me and kept taking the upramp or wherever Jill’s horse felt inclined to gravitate, and we ended up walking over the Turcot Interchange. As the main artery connecting upper with lower island, I had thought it was still only vehicle traffic, but we walked laboring up the upslope and from the top I could see there was a lot of pedestrian traffic, on all the ramps. The few cars were beaters and they chugged up the ramp slowly behind the groups of cavorting party goers.
“We’re saved” wailed Jill.
Needless to say Daisy, who got strapped with a cardboard party hat like a unicorn, was a big hit with the commuters.
I was glad to get a few hours sleep that morning.