The Game 

Louis scores the meat gently, but ever since he got the doctor’s news, his hands have begun to shake. He hasn’t looked at the clock once while cooking, even though his whole career is based on precision timing (and occasionally, the wristwatch he’s palmed off a stunned, delighted audience member). What matters now is his daughter Kate, who tries not to cry but wipes her tears in secret with her unadorned wrist.

They make plans as he peels vegetables. She’ll get everything, enough for twenty years, he’ll bet. Is she sure she doesn’t want to visit Mel Saldo? Mel could get her a contract, get her the trick decks and dropcloths and retractable knives and the big hat with the hidden pockets. Really, she’s sure? Aw hell, doesn’t she want to be like her old man?

The carrots and potatoes are fresher than usual−organic, because he’s been buying their groceries at Whole Foods, trying to make up for decades of frozen meals, set before her on rickety orange and gold TV trays before he left for the club on Friday nights, only to be abandoned after two forkfuls. These vegetables are bright, happy, and satisfying. Everything his kitchen isn’t, because he’s barely been home to fix the cracked baseboards, or anything other than the green felted poker table in the basement. Besides, peeling carrots takes longer now, with his shakes.

“They’re gonna ask you how it’s done, and you’re never gonna say a word. I insist!” But he starts to tell her the secret behind his signature Floating Seven Pin anyway, and she’s leaning in close, listening.

As he talks, he arranges the vegetables around the game meat, which has been sitting all night in a giant glass pan. Freed of its head and stiff, but still regal. He rubs oil along its sides, uses nimble sleight-of-hand fingers to rub the sauce into its nooks and crannies, hiding onions and springs of rosemary in the crooks like I’ll bet I can make this quarter appear from out of nowhere! Like he, too, would sometimes appear from out of nowhere and back into her life, once with a woman named Camelot on his arm who smelled of baby oil and likewise looked regal, but she still had a head.

His Kate was a good kid. He bought her flowers once, when she got married, before that rotten schlub left her. Didn’t work, though; at the wedding she still looked at him with that crooked eyebrow, the one she got from her mother who was just as skeptical of Louis as Kate always was. Louis bought new flowers today, though. Seasonal bouquet, they called it. For fancy meals. Kate nodded, so she must approve.

“You don’t have to tell me your most famous trick, Dad.” But he does, because time runs out, and the last of his favorite rabbits is going in the oven now, and she’s the only thing he loves and trusts that he’s gonna leave behind.

Dr. Wendy Maxon

Dr. Wendy Maxon loves writing weird fiction and learning about modern war and art. She appreciates Kafka and Murakami and all things satirical and culturally subversive. She is currently getting her MFA in Creative Writing.


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