Poker Night

Lightning blazed through the window as thunder shook the room. No rain fell. The heat from the day had not been tamed by the dark of the night. Sweat poured off of his forehead and dripped off the tip of his nose. He suppressed his laughter as he typed. It wasn’t time for laughter-not yet. The mug of cool water dripped with condensation marring his wooden desk with yet another ring. A crow fluttered to his desk next to the open window. He, the crow, ignoring the sliding shaft of the typewriter, dipped his bill and drank.

His fingers pounded the keyboard of his old-style Hermes Rocket typewriter. The bar raced across the machine. A small chuckle escaped his lips as the bell chimed. He hit the silver bar pushing the roll back to the other side in one fluid motion. The crow on the corner of the desk called out his rebuke for the ill-placed noise. It wasn’t time for the laughter.

A voice with more gravel to it than sound spoke through the open window. Lightning flashed behind him, “Are we ready for the poker game?”

The man’s fingers stopped. “Poker, tonight? Are we to play tonight? It is only Tuesday.”

“It’s Friday,” the voice proclaimed as he stepped into the room. His stone body rattled the floor. “It is always Friday night for poker. We talked about this.”

“I know. I know. It is all set up from last week,” the man’s knobby fingers pounded on the keys.

“Freddy! Oi, Freddy!” the scuffing of stone on wood filled the room as the wings of the gargoyle scraped the floor behind him. A stone hand tapped on Freddy’s hump.

“What?”

“Do you have the chips, dip, soda, beer, or even cigars?”

Freddy stopped typing. He was so close, too. “Of course, I do. I always do.”

“You also thought it was Tuesday.”

“Phil, have I ever let you down?” Freddy’s finger flexed, popping as it went, to start back typing when the strike of a match caught his attention. “You’re not planning to smoke that stinkin’ cigar in here again, are you?”

The smell of foul smoke filled the room. The worn-out poker table screeched as Phil drug it to the center of the small room. “What do you want me to do with your lightning rods?” a tinging echoed in the room as the metal rod rolled onto the floor.

“The priests said we couldn’t smoke up here without the shutters open, latched, and something about a fan going. The incense can’t cover the smell in this heat,” Freddy grabbed the lightning rods and carried them to the windowsill.

Phil looked at the cigar, “They will be here soon enough to tell me themselves. Besides, all the shutters are open.”

The crow fluttered to the table dropping the package of playing cards. He tossed the two jokers to the side and began shuffling the deck.

Freddy focused. He still had time. The lightning was right. The laugh-the laugh longed to live!

A knock sounded at the hatch door in the floor. The thunder stuck so hard it caused the bell to softly ring. The creak of the door opening echoed in the fresh silence. “I can get some oil on these hinges later,” Phil offered as he pulled the ancient priest through the hole.

Freddy typed furiously. The ding of the typewriter slide was almost constant now. He was so close-his lips burned with the desire to…

The floor shook as two more gargoyles stepped through the window. “Where should we put the umbrellas?”

Freddy’s fingers stopped. It just wasn’t fair. “Place them on the other side of the window.”

“By the lightning rods?”

“No, the other side,” Freddy paused. Would it be too early to put up the rods? If he put them up too soon, all would be lost.

“Freddy?” the voice of Father Peter filled the room. “Freddy, what are you up to? Also, where are the poker chips?”

“Oh, I have those,” one of the gargoyles offered. Freddy didn’t know which. His fingers burned.

“I am working on a new masterpiece!” Freddy cut off his laugh just in the nick of time. It wasn’t time to laugh until the lightning hit the rods.

“What is it this time? Not another romance novel?” Father Peter sorted the colors of chips into piles.

“No, I learned my lesson,” Freddy’s fingers slowed. “They are now being read in Hell to torture all the evil English lit and grammar teachers.” He scratched his few chin hairs as he tried to remember the next line to type.

A small, blue dragon landed on the windowsill. He peaked around the corner and spotted the table. His spot was open so the dragon landed in his chair and adjusted his green visor to the appropriate tilt.

Father Peter leaned over, “Sparky, you’re not going to try to set Phil on fire again, are you?”

Sparky looked up sadly as he shook his head, — We were just experimenting.

“I know…but he glowed red for three days,” Father Peter consoled Sparky patting him softly on the back.

Freddy could feel the end coming-but where? The lightning was calling to him. The typewriter roll was smoking and keys were starting to jam. He reached down and added a few dabs of oil to the typewriter. Damn, where are the whiteout slips?

“Freddy, we are waiting on you,” Phil kicked the chair causing it to screech on the wood.

“Go ahead without me for a few rounds,” Freddy pulled out a bundle of cash from his desk drawer. He handed the first inch to Phil, “Here take this and bet for me. I bet heavy on the first three hands. Then on the fourth through the sixth hands fold, no matter if you think I have anything or not. I have a system. I should be ready by then. Oh, be a dear and get a bucket of water ready. I might need it. You know the one for my feet, but not the one for my hump.”

Phil looked at the money, “You want me to play for you? What about my hand?”

“Play them both.”

Phil considered this a no loss-for-him moment and headed for the table. Freddy’s hands burned on the keyboard.

Lightning lit the scene of the village below as smell of fresh rain entered through the window. It was time…but he had more to type.

Father Peter blessed the cards, with a full house. “Freddy, what are you doing?”

Freddy pulled the last sheet out of the typewriter. His finger shook with exhaustion. “Code - I am writing code. For years I have written bugs for software companies. Now, my contract says I can write a plague for the internet.” His lips burned to let the laugh echo through the room-but it wasn’t time yet.

“It doesn't sound very nice to write bugs to the software companies,” Phil said reproachfully.

Freddy lovingly picked up his finished work. “I don’t know, they have me write the fixes too. I understand it is necessary. Either way, I get to release two wild programs a year. They could shut down the internet no more than a few hours but less than three days. These programs… change everything!”

-You have it backwards. No more than three days but not less than a couple of hours. Sparky offered as he was still holding his first hand because he really liked those cards.

Freddy leaned out the window and fought against the rain pouring in sheets. It was a relief from all the smoke filling the room. He jabbed the lightning rods into the side of the roof, pulling the thick metal lines in through the window. He attached the alligator clips onto the makeshift metal table holding his work. “No, I was told things on the internet work the way I said it. It has something to do with Pi. I am not sure.”

-Pie! I like pie! Sparky said hopefully.

A ghost lingering on the far side of the table folded. He whispered to the room, “I’ll get it. My hand was dead anyways.”

The lightning was getting closer. Did he miss his moment? Will his laughter never live?

“Freddy, are you going to play?”

“In a minute, Father,” Freddy’s heart sank. Was this a Heavenly rejection? The lightning danced in the sky but it did…

Light filled the room! Ear-shattering thunder filled the room as if a bomb went off violently ringing the bells in the tower above the table.

Electricity from the lightning raced down the metal lines and hit the metal table with a crackling hiss.

Freddy screamed, “LIVE! I COMMAND YOU TO LIVE!” The laughter he held at bay erupted, “MUWAA-HAAAHH-MUWAAHHAAH-MUWAAHHAAAAHHHHAAA!”

Phil took to cards, “Freddy has been working on his maniacal laugh. We should say something nice when his hair stops sparking. He is getting better.”

Everyone agreed and then placed their bets.

The large pile of papers erupted into bright flames transforming into pure energy and crackling back up the thick metal cables. Once the electricity hit the lightning rods, they hissed as the energy spread through the Heavens. Freddy laughed a glorious maniacal laugh, filling the room with his arms open to the window as the rain pounded in, “IT LIVES! MUWAAHAAHA! IT LIIIVVVVEESSS…!”

The poker table applauded as the show ended. It wasn’t the first time they had witnessed this type of event, but it was still a treat to behold.

Freddy wearily fumbled to the poker table. He hoped he didn’t smell too much like sweat as he collapsed into his waiting chair. A puff of smoke wafted out of his hair.

“Just as a point of interest-what did this program do?” Phil folded.

Freddy smiled as he waited for the next round. “It will correct poorly placed commas and move other commas around. It will place random commas in everything. In code, in stories, in dictionaries, and especially in grammar books… commas will be everywhere.”

“Interesting, but why?”

Freddy looked around the table as if the answer was obvious, “Because they are commas and I like to use them. Commas are the cats sitting on the windowsills of metaphors. They are dots with tails. The reader pauses to pat them on the head and is allowed to move on. Not like a boring old period which just sits there in your way, like the dogs they are. They sit in your way and jealously guard the next thought until you scratch them on the ear, play with a ball, and generally forget what you just read.”

“That makes sense… for you. Congratulations, and I hope it is as successful… as my straight,” Father Peter placed his hand on the table.

“Thank you.”

“What is next? You should put your talents to doing some good in the world. Possibly, you could find something to help ease the troubles of the world or be an inspiration,” Father Peter said hopefully.

Freddy scratched his hump causing it to move to the other side of his back. “I was thinking on writing code to attack written sources which disclaimed Pluto as a planet.”

-Isn’t Pluto a puppy? I like puppies. Sparky leaned over to check Freddy’s cards, and took the ace of spades.

“Yes, but it is also a planet which ‘some educated scholars’ decided was too small. Is a short person no longer a human just because they are short? No! They are just short. Why should Pluto be anything less than a planet just because he is short?” Freddy took one card. His fingers twitched with anticipation.

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