Cats and Crocodiles, Rain By S. J. Esterházy

October 5, 2015 Comments Off on Cats and Crocodiles, Rain By S. J. Esterházy

I stayed up all night in the trailer park casino, playing blackjack with the dealer, an amiable dwarf in a frock coat and green bowler hat. He had the smile of a Cheshire cat, though I was no Alice.

“Hit me again,” I kept saying as my pile of chips kept dwindling. “Then hit me again with another shot of bourbon.”

The dealer was the bartender, too. He grinned that inscrutable grin as he poured me another shot of whisky. He wasn’t stingy. He dealt me another card. I turned it over. It was a seven of clubs.

“A king, a six, and a seven of clubs,” said the dealer. He chuckled. “Twenty-three, you’re bust.”

I can smile, too. I grinned at the dwarf. I leaned back in my chair, waved my hand at the pile of chips before me, now almost gone.

“That pile of chips,” I said, “is almost as short as you.”

The dwarf cracked his knuckles, puffed a little on his cigar.

“World’s gone wrong,” he said.

“Ain’t that a Dylan song?”

“He sang it.”

“What’s your name, anyway?”

“You never wanted to know before.”

“I want to know now.”

Fleur-de-lis was his reply.

Off to the side of the trailer, a house cat jumped on top of the microwave, the sound of a pickup truck filtered in from the highway, and the pitter-patter of rain had started tapping on the metal roof of the trailer.

My nemesis dealt me two more cards. Turned up, the queen of diamonds. With a trembling hand, I curled back the other card.

It was a three of spades.

“Got a spade,” I said as I turned over the card.

“You gonna dig a grave with that?” The dwarf blew a puff of smoke in my face.

“I’m gonna bury your cat.”

Fleur-de-lis chuckled again, hollered to his cat.

“You hear that, Sylvia?  Mr. Lucky here’s gonna dig you a hole with his three of spades.”

I brought my fist down on the green velvet, and then reached across the table, grabbed the dealer by the lapels of his frock coat. The bowler hat fell to the floor.

“Listen here,” I said. “My name ain’t ‘Lucky, it’s Jerome.”

“Jerome, when’s the last time you spoke to your sister?”

I let go the little man’s coat. Cleared my throat.

“Since she wandered round these parts, ain’t heard no word.  Tell me.”

“Ain’t been since she took off in that semi, with that red-headed, sneering—”

“Sob away, little man.”

“I got a big spirit, Jerome.”

“You got lucky cards,” I said. “But Sis was a bad draw.  Tell that God-darned cat to come here. I want to pet something warm and friendly.”

The dwarf’s eyes were marvelously blue.

“Hear that pitter-patter?” he said. “Hear that rain?”

I nodded my head.

“Gonna be an apocalypse soon. Ain’t no cat gonna live through The Apocalypse. Just crocodiles and cockroaches.”

The rain was falling harder now. I stumbled after the cat.  It fled.

© 2015 S.J. Esterhazy

S.J. Esterhazy lives in the Florida panhandle. He presumes his distant ancestors to be Magyar princes.

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