[This story predates by about a year my two recent short stories in the
new style, "Scots Wha Hae" and "Catalogue Aria." It was originally done
as a sketch to see if the new technique could be applied to a novel
length piece of fiction. But whereas my new work, Hand Down Beside Her,
uses 24 different letter sets, "Cards" is about as tightly controlled as
it can get. The five letters of the word CARDS are the prime generator
through most of the story. The letters of the phrase TWO COMMENTS are
also used briefly to generate a few phrases in the middle section, and
used again at length at the end. The original version of this carried
two other historical sections, one dealing with the fall of the Romanovs
and the other with Cleopatra. Due to work on the new novel, I decided
to cut those unfinished sections and finally post the story.]
Letter sets used:
§1. Downtown Spokane's Sputnik Cafe. Afternoon crowd. Aging alcoholics,
rednecks, disabled roofers, dishwashers. Drinking rye after a rigorous
reading day, Rilke and Rothke, Dostoyevsky, darkly serious confessions
all. Cute sassy servers sit, converse, sip cappuccinos. A crowded,
sophisticated dinner set comes afterward. A really dull rainy afternoon,
already relatively dark. Sylvie, Carrie sit down, deal some cards. A
relaxing distraction. Shuffle. Deal. Redistribute diamonds, spades.
Draw, discard, draw. Sylvie slaps down six cards. "Suck'a dildo, slut!"
"Shit!" Carrie says, "cause'a completely stacked deck, slut."
Distraction recedes, additional customers await. College athletes,
confident, cocky. "Corona and Redbull, all 'round." "All righty
'den!"says Carrie." "Remarkable rack, angel." "Rrrrright" Carrie
automatically replies, dryly. "Dickhead" she says silently. Still,
somewhat cute, admittedly amazingly cut. Another rye. Darker still.
Christmas approaching and afternoons run rapidly dark. Sylvie, Carrie
still dealing some cards. A split second serving. Deal. Another rye
against aching cavities. Specialists, doctors rejecting all relief.
"Actually requires dental surgery," seriously costly. Almost continuous
agony absent codeine. "Cha-cha" addicts consulting sleazy doctors ruin
any actual relief dispensing different drugs, dollar signs, societal
disapproval, deserving sufferers don't soon count. Selling codeine
creates avenues, constant supply. Someone drinking some suds, staring
constantly, suit coat cracked and revealing an automatic. A cop,
certainly. Cards. A crazy cosmic alphabet rises, develops. Simple cards
activating a really deep seated cabbalistic craziness. Chosen acronyms
reflecting an assumed reality. Disturbing sentences. Sylvie could've called
a cop acquaintance. Another cop arrives, a conference. "Crazy shit
caught selling drugs." Additional cops arrive. A recovered digital SIM
card, somehow stupidly dropped right around August switching cards. A
card containing semi-confessional annotations. "A real dumb shit"
Detective Schnabel says. "Dropped some cell card containing accounts.
Recording drug sales. Dumb shit." Social deviance requires detention.
Dedicated Spokane cops cuff and rough, drag scumbag suspects crudely,
angled roughly down, sent crashing across a car seat. Detention. Can't
afford an attorney, a resourceful designated Defender argues rehab.
Convicted. Sentenced. Steel doors slammed closed. Strip searched,
§2. Another century, another country. A royal affair, concerts
symphonique. Sweet Cremona strings. Several chosen arias. Rameau's
decidedly sad Castor, syncopated Dardanus. An Austrian composer's
symphonies dramatically rendered. Added contrabasses solidly driving,
development sections stunning concertgoers. "Such superb creativity!" An
allegretto Antoinette admired, afterward remembered as "Reine."
Antoinette considered cold and aloof, another arrogant aristocrat, an
Austrian chatte. A royal residence, all aurum and argentum, rococo art.
A ridiculous diamond scandal. A Rousseauian addition, agrarian, courting
simplicity. Decorous swans, sheep, ducks, dogs, rabbits, roosters
announcing Antoinette's completely average Royal day. Set comically
against several decades repeated drought, skimpy crops. An Austrian
conflict, annual revenues drop, slowly crumble. State deficits rise.
Appointed Royal administrators rehired, dismissed. Soon commodities soar
as Customs and Aides rise. Riots, angry rhetoric. Average citizens
advocating reform, democracy. Revolution. Another calendar, another
clock. Committees, courts. Aristocrats, anyone considered
counter-revolutionary arrested, charged, summarily convicted. Serious
disagreement straight-jacketed, Duchesne's snide condemnations. At city
center a Republican razor raised. Reason dismissing Death, Death
destroying Reason. Antoinette and children also arrested, confined. A
counter-revolutionary attempt, all afterward relocated. A cold stinking
Conciergerie cell. Solitudinous, dismal. Chicken soup suppers,
dysentery, sores, sanguineous cervical cancer. Soiled sheets, soiled
damask dress, aging cranberry silk shoes. Children separated. An airy
courtroom, so crowded citizens sit crazily atop rafters. Awful, crazy
accusations. Abusing a child, spying. Conclusion certainly already
arrived at. Conviction, swift sentencing — death. Dirty silver curls
aggressively cut short. Dress swiftly changed, simple cotton. A country
cart. "Antoinette's carriage awaits!" Angry citizens shout, demand
revenge. Another Capet smooching cold steel. Cold. Climb. Climb steps
slowly. Antoinette's resolve rapidly diminishing, stumbles, courteously
apologizes. Chest suddenly slammed down, shins slid crosswise. Carriage
slid swiftly. Sudden terror. No escape. Neck tugged sharply. The
stockade shoved down. Stop. Drums snare some dark symphony. Staring
down, staring down. Rope dragged, released. Swoosh. Decapitated. Dead.
Startled cheers. Sans-coulettes carry away Antionette's corpse.
Cranberry shoes simply disappearing, separated somehow. Some crude
anonymous cemetary, corpse slung down. Covered angrily, rapidly. Done.
§3. Reverse ahead across centuries. A really dark smelly cell, chlorine
and cheap soap. Convicts clean crappy commodes, slam down supper.
Days reading detective stories, Stoker's Dracula, surprisingly sexy
Carmilla. Some distracting cards, solitaire. Dangerous disagreements,
someone stabbing someone. Sensitive smart convicts are raped daily,
dominants demanding submission. Dragged, rammed down roughly
against a cot. Spin, drift, separate self completely away. Alexandria,
Russia, a cell a Conciergerie. Stay still darkness rests, remembering
Antoinette's cranberry shoes. That sad soul, still sojourning,
transparent, the night triggers spirits that speak. "The shoes, they
were on continuously over months. My executioners noticed the smell.
Two women offered coins." This wretched old carcass, this wretched old
cage. Oh my Marie, every night the terror surfaces, the new trial starts,
the nightmare never totally stops. The staircase to this wrecked world
opens. Climb. Climb. Observe. Centuries of outright madness. Eighteenth,
Nineteenth, Twentieth. Then the sad towers sink. The wars, the wounded,
the widows, the speeches, the twenty sharp salutes. This tiny world,
this world of cards, chimeras, of mere minutes, of memories entering
evenings. Misty mornings, October comes. October writes the saddest
thought. Then November, empty November. Early morning mists offer cold
consolation. Old wintering trees, then snow. Then the solstice, the sun
so seldom seen. The world's order crumbles. Once we're there the world's
too small to need. Escaping Earth, now the soul soars. Transfigured night,
eternal night nurturing the stars. The Seven Sisters, the whirl of our
Creator's creation. "Of me, Master Edward, never think sadly." Swoosh.