A Friendly Game

This is story #4 for my 12 stories in 12 months challenge. I’m not at all thrilled with this one. The prompt was “cut-throat” and the word count was 750. It was fairly easy to write, I can toss off 750 words in my sleep. But the prompt left me cold. I’m pretty sure the only time I’ve ever used the expression cut-throat is playing cards. So that’s what you get, a conversation among four friends as they play cards.

“Okay, we’re playing cut-throat tonight. No teams. If you’re set, you lose points and money. You can only score what you bid. A dollar a point and a twenty-dollar ante,” said Carol.

Jim replied, “Twenty bucks? I don’t have twenty bucks on me.” Everyone else groaned.

“You need to get a real job, man,” said Dave.

“Well, you just got a real job a month ago. You know where I am. You’ll have to spot me the ante. I’ll pay you back when I win.”

“Like you’re gonna win.”

“I might. Besides, if I don’t play, there’s only three of you. The game’ll take ages and Jack’ll get all whiney.”

“He’s right,” Jack said.

Carol added, “Just spot him the money, Dave.”

“Fine, Jimbo.” Dave took a twenty out of his wallet and flicked it across the table. “Next time, bring some money with you.”

“Remember when we used to play for m&m’s?” Jim asked.

Jack shuffled the cards and said, “That wasn’t as interesting.” He dealt.

“That’s cause you were the first to leave. This used to be a work game, remember?”

Carol said, “Pass. That job sucked.”

“Of course it sucks. All jobs suck, but I’m still there,” Jim answered. “I’ll bid three.”

“You’re brave with other people’s money. I pass,” said Dave. Jack passed, too.

Jim tossed the queen of diamonds down. “Admit it,” he said, “none of you like your ‘real’ jobs.”

Carol shrugged. Dave said, “I don’t hate it, yet.”

Jack said, “As long as it pays.”

Jim won the trick. He put down the king of diamonds. “That’s no way to live. Thanks for the ten, Carol.” She saluted Jim as he picked up the cards. This time he led with the ace of diamonds.

“Who shuffled?” Dave asked.

“It’s skill,” Jim answered.

Dave said, “Jack’s right. At least we get paid. Your job sucks and you’re barely making more than minimum wage.”

“Teach me to major in something interesting.” Jim collected the cards. Only Jack had trump left. There hadn’t been a jack or a two yet. Jim debated whether to throw another trump before settling on the seven of diamonds.

“What did you major in?” Carol asked.

“Philosophy.”

“Jeesh,” she said. “I though you said ‘interesting.’”

Jack was out of trump, so Jim took the cards. He had his three, but they played the last two tricks as a formality. Jim won one and Jack won the last.

“I told you I was gonna win,” Jack said as he wrote down a three next to his name. “It’s more interesting than communications. Or the business degrees these bozos have.”

Carol collected the cards and shuffled. “I hated my intro to philosophy class.” She dealt, “Besides it couldn’t get any less practical.”

“Pass,” Jim said. “We use it all the time. There just aren’t any jobs in the field unless you have a PhD.”

“Which you don’t have. I’ll bid two,” Dave said.

“Three,” answered Jack.

Dave said, “Someone’s gettin’ set.”

Carol said, “It’s yours,” to Jack. “Like I said, not practical,” to everyone.

Jack led with the ace of clubs. Everyone followed suit without face cards.

“I’m better able than most to make excuses for my lack of material success,” Jim said.

“Real practical,” said Jack as he put down the two of hearts. Carol followed with the ten of hearts.

Jim put the two of clubs down and Dave followed with the ten of clubs. “You’re done,” he said to Jack as he collected the cards and threw down the king of clubs. “This was the suit I was going in.”

Jim said, “Look, it’s not my fault the economy’s been bad since we were in high school. A degree like philosophy used to be more than enough for most jobs.”

“Whatever,” said Dave as he gathered the trick. He led the next round with the queen of diamonds.

Jack said, “I really am set,” as he trumped in with the jack. “I’m only getting two. Anyone have trump left?” Everyone shook their heads and threw their cards into the middle of the table. “I only got high and jack. Dave got low and game.”

Jim wrote a negative three next to Jack’s name. “You didn’t play that right,” he said as he took the cards and started shuffling. “I don’t need to make more money if this is the best you’ve got.”

“Dude, you gotta get a real job,” Jack said.

Carol interrupted, “Can we please talk about something else?”

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