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Gadfly

Salvatore Difalco

I use an ear-trumpet to annoy the other players at my weekly poker game. One of them watches me lift my coffee cup with great interest. Due to the blunted fingers and thumb and the clinodactyly of my pinkie, the hand clutching the cup looks rather like a foot. Both my hands suffer from this condition. The other players, all suffering from cataracts of varying severity, take little notice, flailing in the cobwebs of their memories, fishing through the mental pockets of their regrets. My jacket—purchased at a vintage secondhand shop and redolent of horses—matches the green baize of the table, another psychological ploy I use to confuse and defeat my opponents. For me, winning means a good night’s sleep more than anything else; I despise losing so much it will keep me tossing and turning for days. Come on, you cowards! I shout. Gamble it up! Gamble it up! They shout things back and I use the ear-trumpet to catch what they’re saying. Someone calls me a fraud. This is poker, I cry, where being a fraud is a winning strategy. Have you donkeys not figured that out yet? Is that why I always crush you? Sometimes I go too far, true. I blame it on my parents. People always blame their parents for everything. But my parents raised me incorrectly, or rather, poorly. Alas, the faces of my fellow players flake like beige snow, cover the green baize before them, and surround their leaning stacks of chips. What kind of game is this? you may ask. What kind of men are these? They are men who probably belong to another era. I have revivified them for this occasion. Loneliness leads to invention. Under the table, eel-like legs writhe and wriggle and yet the table does not buckle. I ask a player wearing a Detective’s cap if he’s holding up the table with his knees? Look at my face, he says. Am I not ugly enough? I nod. Indeed, ripe boils cover his face. Of course he is ugly enough. Try not to anger him, I think. A man like that is always ready to blow. Deal the cards, someone says. I second that, says someone else. I’m glad we’re all friends here, I say. But we are not friends, we are not friends, and I have nothing more to say.

Salvatore Difalco is the author of five books, including The Mountie at Niagara Falls (Anvil Press, 2010), a collection of micro fiction.