I’m back! I didn’t necessarily mean to take a three week break, but such is life. I’m fighting my usual, sinus malaise that comes with the changing of the seasons, so I don’t have as much energy as I usually have. Also, my spouse and I finished The Big Bang Theory, which we have binge watched during this pandemic, and it was a nice catharsis. We watched the show late into the night as we sat up with our ailing cat Smudge. He’s gone now, at peace, and seeing the words, “The End,” after the final episode brought us both to tears.
We also watched the first part of season five of Lucifer, which may be my favorite current show. That of course inspired another story set in that universe. You can check it out at Archive of Our Own. It’s called “And I Would Have Gotten Away with It, Too, If It Weren’t for You Meddling Kids . . . And Devil,” and it’s the Lucifer/Scooby Doo mashup you never knew you needed. It contains probably my favorite line I’ve ever written. “At that moment, the side door to the church opened and in strolled the Devil with a deli tray.”
Part of me knows I should be focusing more on my original work, but writing fanfiction makes me really happy. And, yeah, part of it is the instant gratification of someone leaving a comment and wanting more. Also, I’m enjoying playing in worlds right now where the structure has already been built. Maybe that’s representative of my other fatigue or the struggle that is 2020? I don’t have an answer to that, but I do know I’ll get back to creating my own worlds someday soon.
Speaking of my own writing, here’s the next edition of my shot story, “Ill Take Those Odds.” When we left off, Charlotte was about to play a game of cards with Death. I’ve included a little bit from last time to get us back into the story.
Death laughed full and loud. “This is different. I’m so amused, I’ll entertain your little game. What do you propose, Charlotte Reeves?”
Charlotte swallowed hard. “A drink and a game of cards.” She indicated the table set up by the window.
Death followed her gaze. “That does look inviting. What are the stakes?”
Charlotte released the crib and folded her arms across her chest. “I win, you don’t take Albert. He gets better and he lives a full life.”
“And if I win?”
Charlotte swallowed again, but her voice was clear. “You take us both.”
“You would do that for him?”
“We’re all each other has in this world. I won’t go anywhere without him,” Charlotte insisted.
Death smiled. “I’ll take those odds.”
And now, here’s part three.
Charlotte walked over to the table. She didn't want to leave the crib, but Albert was safe, at least for now. Charlotte hoped her steps didn't seem as nervous as she felt. Inside, she felt like she would shake apart.
"What game do you propose?" Death asked as they joined her. They unbuttoned their waistcoat and had a seat, eager to begin.
"I get to pick?" Charlotte was surprised.
Death smiled. "No, on second thought, I think it will be dealer's choice tonight." They picked up the cards and began to shuffle the deck. "What game to choose?"
Charlotte refused to look Death in the eyes as they sized her up. She busied herself with pouring the drinks. She had to work hard to keep her hands from shaking. "They just outlawed that stuff, you know," Death pointed out.
"Yeah, I read something about that in the paper." Charlotte handed Death a glass, still not meeting their eyes.
"But here we are nonetheless." Death clinked their glass against hers, and Charlotte flinched a little. "Cheers."
Death set the deck down, satisfied with the shuffle. "I think we'll play a game of Hearts. Seeing as you wear yours on your sleeve, Charlotte Reeves, this game should be right up your alley."
"Fine." Charlotte took a drink and swallowed hard. The whiskey never went down any easier.
"I'll let you draw first," Death offered.
Charlotte took a steadying breath and reached out to take a card. She didn't like it. It was a bad draw. She felt her stomach tense, but fortunately Charlotte had another option. She discarded the first card and drew the second, sending up a silent prayer that this one would be better. She wondered for a second if God was anywhere in the room tonight. If He'd want any part of this?
The second card was better and Charlotte released a breath she didn't know she'd been holding. She was going to have to get control of herself and her poker face. This wasn't poker, per se, but the stakes had never been higher.
"Lovely." Death reached out and drew a card. They decided to keep it.
After that, they went back and forth selecting cards. "You're not the first person who's challenged me to a game for the fate of their mortal soul," Death mused.
"I didn't think I was."
"I've been challenged to cards, baseball, a foot race, a boxing match. I played a rousing game of tiddly winks once." Death smiled fondly and took a drink.
"How many times have you won?" Charlotte wasn't sure why she asked. She didn't really want to know.
"Oh, my dear, I never lose," Death boasted. They took another drink. "But I must say, you're the only person to offer yourself in the bargain. I had a bake off once with a particularly distraught mother, but in the end I took her child, and left her my rhubarb pie recipe. She did have other children asleep in the house, though. You, on the other hand . . ." Death looked around the empty room. " . . . are decidedly alone."
"That's thirteen cards each," Charlotte spoke. The deck had been divided.
"Excellent. Second player bids first." Death set their glass down, indicating they'd like another pour. Charlotte filled their glass as they studied their hand.
"I bid ten," Death decided.
Charlotte nodded and looked at her hand. That was a high and sure bid. "Double nil," Charlotte replied after a moment.
Death laughed. "Bold, Charlotte Reeves, bold. It will be a shame to kill you."
"Bold moves are all I have left," Charlotte explained. She discarded three cards from her hand and took three more from the pile.
Death leaned in, propping their elbows against the table. "Now the question is, did those three cards just help you or hinder you?"
Charlotte licked her lips. "Let's find out."
Copyright Anne G’Fellers-Mason, 2020
That’s it for now. Also, I do not proclaim to be an expert at Hearts. I Googled how to play the game with two people. If I got something wrong, let me know.
To learn more about the flu pandemic in Washington County, TN, check out this virtual exhibit from the Heritage Alliance and the Chester Inn Museum, “If You Don’t Watch Out: The Influenza Pandemic in and Around Washington County, September 1918-February 1919.”
Also, last time I told you I was working on a salmon gelatin mold for work. Well, I completed said mold and even ate it. To see my exploits, check out Homecooked History Special Edition Part One and Part Two.
Take care, everyone, and stay safe.