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Fiction #210
(published January 20, 2005)
Shuffle Up (And Deal)
by Susan DiPlacido
It wasn't supposed to be like this.

My leg's still swollen and fevered. I'm swallowing another antibiotic, chasing it with a gulp of martini. Sheila's eyes are still wet with tears and she's saying, "You probably shouldn't be drinking while you're on those."

"Oh, fuck you," I snap. I'm taking another gulp, staring out the smeared window at the twinkling nightscape. I'm sliding my tongue through the gap in my teeth, rolling it around as I lean my head back, blinking and letting my vision fall out of focus.

From this perspective, out there, beyond the window, it's like someone looted Fred Leighton's and then carelessly tossed armfuls of the stolen precious gems against a cheap velvet canvas, streaky and random. Like a jewel-festooned Jackson Pollack, ready to swallow me up. I guess that's the narcotic taking hold. Maybe because it's already swallowed me down, and gagged me back up.

Really. It just isn't supposed to be—

— Like this.

(Fuck this!)

I'd worked for this. I practiced. I planned it all. I focused and analyzed and did exactly what I was supposed to do.

Because this, this was going to be my shot. My big chance to break out and live it up. My chance to finally be something other than a geek.

— A lifelong loser geek.

I'd seen Rounders. I watch the WSOP on ESPN. And every Thursday night I tune in and take note of every word of advice that super-stud, poker superstar Bill Nordon offers on Star Poker Playoffs. I mean, sure, I admit it wasn't the game but Bill Nordon I initially noticed, all six feet six gorgeous inches of him.

Channel surfing one night, I saw him and those long eyelashes of his as he was playing in a no-limit hold 'em tournament. He was one sexy bitch, calling those bluffs and going all-in. But watching him led to a real fascination with poker. I played with my family, with my friends, my co-workers, then in local joints and tournaments. It wasn't so hard, and I did really well.

— Right?


I guess maybe that's because there's a lot of geeks in the poker world. Accountants and financial analysts abound. So since I'm an accountant—

— and a geek— -

It was a natural fit. But the thing about these other geeks in the poker world is this: somehow, when they play poker, they aren't geeks anymore. They're good at something. They're good at something cool. So it has this symbiotic relationship, where they then end up being cool.

— Like Bill Nordon.

I bet once upon a time he was a world-class geek too. But now he's one of the world's most eligible bachelors.

Poker could do the same thing for me.


— Right.

So after chewing up the local games and building my skills and confidence, I made my way to the premier poker palace in the world— Bellagio's poker room.

Rewind two days —

—My arrival in Vegas.

I push through the lobby doors like I'm already the queen of the city that I know I'm destined to be. I don't spend any time gawking at the blown-glass ceiling or watching the parade of new flowers being moved into the conservatory. I'd seen it all before, and this isn't the time for hesitation. I had to be in control, in charge, and in command, just like at the tables. 'Cause in this town, just like in the game of poker, image counts. Confidence, class, swagger. I have it all. I stride up to the check-in desk.

I say, "I'd like to check in."

The clerk smiles and asks, "Name?"

And I say, "Thuthan DiPlathido." I spray a bit of saliva with the unnatural lisp.


(Image counts.)

Ok. Not my most dignified moment. I nonchalantly wipe my lips, and chin, while I press my tongue against the top of the bulky retainer on the roof of my mouth. It sends a mild volt of pain to my gums, but I fight off a wince.

The desk clerk eyes me, politely saying, "Pardon me, what was that name again?"

I take a breath, concentrating to speak slowly, but get a better idea. Instead of speaking, I slide my ID and credit card across the counter to him, and he starts tapping his keyboard, saying, "Ahh, Miss DiPlacido, welcome back."

"Thank you," I say, since I know I can enunciate it. It's only the "S" sounds that give me trouble. So of course I have a particularly sibilant name.

—Friggin' retainer.

Thirty-years-old and I'm wearing a retainer. All because my bridge got knocked out when I tripped over my bathrobe earlier in the week, and the damn dentist convinced me I'd be better off getting a surgical implant instead of another bridge.

The dentist, he said, "You'll be quite satisfied with the results."

He did the surgery a couple days ago, but he can't cap the tooth for a few months so he gave me this retainer with a tooth attached to wear in the meantime so I don't have a hole in my smile.

(So I'm not so geeky looking.)

The doc warned me it'd be bulky until the swelling went down and the stitches were removed.

— Hence, the lisping.

But I'm sure I'll get used to it. It'll be the last of my geek-dom to fall away. I'll practice speaking in the shower, and if I can't at least get the spitting under control, I'll just avoid making raises in denominations of six or seven. It won't be a problem at the tables. I mean, there's no S in "All-in".

But for now, the desk clerk looks back to me and asks, "Would you like a king or a mini-suite?"

It's extravagant, but you've got to think big in every way when it comes to a venture like this. You've got to live it to be it. You can bet Bill Nordon doesn't cut corners. He exudes confidence and class. So I concentrate, push the retainer up with my tongue, lick my lips, and take this as my first opportunity to practice non-geek speak. And I go, "Thuite. Pleathe."

(Thmooth, very thmooth.)

His one eyebrow raises but he nods, clicks a few more keys, and then asks, "Smoking or non?"

I speak slowly, but it still comes out, "Thmoking." Me and the desk clerk, both our eyes follow the arc of trajectory of this tiny spit bubble as it hurtles from my lips and lands on the counter.

That's when he grins and looks back to my face. Prodding, "And you'll be with us for three nights?"

But I'm cagey, I outfox that one and say, "Correct," as I wipe my spit-spot off the counter.

His grin turns to a smirk and he tries again. He says, "For our records, is that Miss DiPlacido or Ms or Mrs?"

— He's toying with me.

(I give him the satisfaction.)

"Mith," I say, glaring at him.

He holds out my key and goes, "If there's anything I can do for you, please just call and ask for me. My name's Sam." He emphasizes his name.

I just nod.

(Fuck you, Tham.)

"Let me write it down for you," he says as he scribbles it on the card with my key. Again boldly, cockily saying his name. "Sam. Ok?"

"Got it," I say, snatching the key and turning briskly. I nearly bump into a workman carrying an armload of potted mums who's walking by. "Thorry," I mumble to him and let him pass.

I try to practice speaking clearly as I unpack, but by the time I'm ready to jump in the shower my gums are sore and even more swollen and the retainer doesn't even want to stick in there. So I take it out and gargle to help the swelling and resign myself to avoiding as many S words as possible.

(I'm not quite satisfied with the results yet.)

Doesn't matter, I'm not here to engage in conversation. I'm here to play poker.

— No! To win at poker.


I take my time getting ready. I put on extra eye makeup to draw attention there instead of my mouth. When it comes to the clothing, it's a tactical choice. The shirt is a no-brainer. I have this tight deep-V thing with ruffles on it. Ruffles to emphasize my girl-ness, so that maybe the guys would underestimate me. The deep V to help distract those guys. Any little edge can help at the poker table.

Then, it's either the tasteful black pants or the slutty tight skirt. It's Vegas, and I have a nice tan. Skirt it is. Checking myself in the mirror, I see the evidence of hours spent practicing at poker tables instead of working out at the gym; a couple of crinkles and some unsightly bulges. In the pre-J Lo days of bone-thin Kate Moss knock-offs, I wouldn't have even owned clothes like this. But since Jennifer's elevated the cachet of a big butt to not just acceptable, but downright desirable, mine's become quite the asset. Even still, sloppy just won't do. I stand straighter, sucking in my tummy.

— Better.

But a little reinforcement won't hurt. So I toss off the small, white lace underwear I had on and pull out the lycra granny-panties and girdle combo and shimmy myself into them. The skirt slides smoothly over it and when I check the mirror the poker hours are magically diminished.

Slipping into my heels, I take one last look.


Sexy, but sophisticated. Sultry, but savvy. I slide my retainer into place and grab my poker cash from the safe and head out.

Downstairs in the casino, it's still early in the evening. I could go over and see if Sheila's on shift at the bar in her casino, but I don't want to get wrapped up talking to her and have too many drinks and not play well later. She's an old college roommate, but I didn't want to stay at her place. I wanted to be part of the action. I can catch up with her later.

(After I've won big, I can treat her to drinks.)

So I do a quick walk-through of the poker room. There's plenty of empty seats, too many. I scan the two sparse tables with action, sizing up the competition for later. The poor guys, they aren't gonna know what hit 'em. But then, I get a tingle of nerves and decide to squelch them with a drink. Just one, to loosen up before I settle in and buckle down. I stroll to the nearest bar and get a dirty vodka martini. As I'm taking my first sip, I see him.

(How could I not see him?)

Everything about him begs to be noticed. All scrumptious six and half scorching hot feet of him. I gulp hard. I can't believe it.

(Is he here to play?)

Of course he's here to play! Why else would he be here, in his favorite casino? I blink, making sure it's not some famous basketball player. But it's not a ballplayer, it really is—

— Him.

Super-tall, obscenely rich, world-traveling, TV commentating, champion poker player Bill Nordon. Bachelor Bill Nordon and his long eyelashes, gliding through the Bellagio casino.

(The ultimate high-roller.)

And he's. . . he's not heading to the poker room, but the lobby.

— The lobby?


Is he leaving? He can't be leaving, the night hasn't even started yet. I grab my drink and purse and follow him as he veers off toward the conservatory. A-ha. He's not leaving. He's just relaxing, taking a stroll before he hunkers down for the night.

I follow him into the conservatory, keeping a respectable distance. I should take his picture! I root in my purse and pull out the camera. Cripes that'd be tacky though, snapping pictures of a celebrity from a distance. But he's so. . . hot! Oh my god, maybe I can get a table with him tonight! Maybe I can actually play with Bill Nordon!

I am so glad I wore the low-cut shirt!

He lingers in front of a display, and that's when I get the thought: I should talk to him.



(I can't.)


(No, wait. What if I disturb him? Oh, shit, what if I annoy him?)

— Nonsense!

Get a grip. That's the geek talking.

(The former geek.)

I'm not that woman anymore. Now I'm young, I'm hip, I'm HOT!

(He's single!)

Dear lord, maybe I can actually talk to him. Maybe I can get poker tips from him!

(Maybe he doesn't want to talk poker. Maybe he'll think I'm tacky!)

This is ridiculous, I think, as he starts shuffling along again, moving from the fresh orange mums to a bed of freshly planted white lilies.



This IS ridiculous. I'm, I'm a poker player dammit!



I have to have guts! I have to take risks! I could, I could get someone to take my picture with him! My picture with Bill Nordon.

I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna go talk to him. Of course he'll like the attention! Of course he'll like me. I'm not some crazy poker skank! I'm, I'm young, I'm hip, I'm hot!

I walk briskly past the orange mums, close on his heels as we pass the lilies, leaving the conservatory. I slide up next to him, and that's when—

— The bee stings me.


The sneaky little bastard must've been hiding in the mums, and he gives me a zippy little jolt, right on the back of my knee. It's not awful, but it knocks me off-stride and makes me squeal.

I stumble, I bump into Bill, jostling me the other way, stumble again, and this time my heel slides on the smooth floor and I go down, yelping again.

(I'm such a fucking geek!)

Reflex, at least my hands help break the fall. But my martini glass shatters, my purse falls, and my knees and chin knock on the ground, sending my retainer skittering across the lobby.

(Jesus, this is so. . . )

A deep voice, from above, "Uh, are you ok?"

(. . . humiliating.)

I push myself up on my hands and catch my breath.

That's when he talks again. In that TV announcer voice of his, Bill, he's saying, "Uh, are, are you ok?"

Following the sound, I look over my shoulder, he's towering above me.

He's really talking to me.

— Bill Nordon, talking to me.

I blink a few times before it occurs to me that I'm kneeling, doggie-style, right in front of him. A broken glass of booze in front of me, the contents of my purse, and the camera, splayed all over the floor.

(I flash on tacky variations of the phrase, "liquor in the front, poker in the back.")

(Oh. A new meaning for when Bill bluntly says, "I'm going all in.")

(And, there's a coy play on something about him "going over the top.")

But beyond the tacky double-entendre of the situation, this is what remains:

— My secret dream has just become a public nightmare.

I look around, the crash of my glass caught everyone's attention and they're staring at me. Directly in front of me, that smarmy check-in clerk Sam is hustling from behind his counter and coming over to me. And I swear, I swear I can see him focusing on looking down my shirt as he's walking over. I peel myself up as quickly as I can, while Bill reaches down and puts a hand on my elbow, steadying me and pulling me up at the same time.

— Just like a perfect gentleman.


I straighten my shoes and pull it together while Sam and Bill pick up tubes of makeup and all my other shit and stuff them back in my purse. Reaching down, I try to pick up a large piece of the broken glass, but Sam knocks my hand away, saying, "It's enough damage, we don't need you getting cut too."

(He's pissed.)

"Uh, oh. Sorry," I tell him. It comes out clearly and for some reason I bizarrely latch onto the pride of that, so I repeat it. "I'm so sorry," I say again. "Really, Sam, I'm sorry."

He just nods and waves to someone else as Bill hands me the purse, looking oh-so-luscious and even slightly concerned.

"Thanks," I smile up at him.

But his smile falters for a half-second. He puts it back on quickly, but for a poker player, that was mountains of information. It's at that point I realize that I'm speaking clearly because the retainer is out, and if the retainer is out, I have a gaping hole where my front tooth should be.

— Geek?


— Or skank?

(Skanky loser geek.)

"You ok?" he asks me again.

Juggling my purse and the camera, my face flaming, I put my hand in front of my mouth, and say, "Thanks," again, taking a wobbly step back. Stuttering, "I, uh, I should be..."

— I'm dying.

I have to get the fuck out of there.

This time it's Sam who takes hold of my elbow, but I pull it back and take another step away. Guilty, I say, "I can help clean this up."

"No, no, it's fine. Really," he says.

— Bill Nordon is staring at me.

Sheepish, I back away another step before turning and picking up my pace.

"Miss DiPlacido!" Sam shouts after me.

I call back over my shoulder, "I'm fine. Thanks. Sorry."

"Um, well," he says and starts coming after me. Now he's stuttering, "Is there, I mean, there's just. . . are you. . . "

He's covering his ass, casinos are always worried that someone who falls is going to sue. I'm not interested in a lawsuit, I'm just trying to salvage the last scrap of dignity I have. So I pretend I don't hear him and just keep walking, right out the doors.

The night breeze cools my flaming face, but my leg still stings from that damn bee that sabotaged me in the first place. I find an empty spot beyond the cab line and decide to regroup with a cigarette. A couple in line for the taxi looks over at me, their gaze lingering longer than normal. I light the smoke and then brush off my knees and arms as I pace, tugging at my shirt and re-arranging my hair. When I turn and pace back towards the cab line, even more people are looking at me, but a lot of them turn their heads quickly.

— Oh, screw them.

They were probably inside and saw me take the header, that's why they're whispering and tittering to each other now, elbowing the other people in their groups. I pace back the other way but turn quickly to catch nearly everyone staring at me.


I take a deep breath and keep my composure. I snuff out the cigarette, feeling defiant about letting them make me feel foolish. It was an accident is all! Cripes! So I literally fell at the feet of the great and handsome Bill Nordon! Get over it people!

I tromp back inside, head held high. After all, everyone suffers defeat sometimes!

— But the best rebound and come back stronger.

I do however, take a moment to scan and make sure Bill's nowhere around.

— He's not.

I go back to the scene of the crime, squinting at the floor, looking for my retainer. They've already got the glass and liquid all cleaned up, and I don't see it anywhere. Worse, people are still looking at me.

Maybe I'm bleeding or something? I feel my chin where I banged it, nothing. The back of my leg is really stinging from that damn bee though, so I make my way through the lobby to the nearest ladies room.

Inside, with my back to the mirror, I twist around to look at my leg.




My face goes red again, my heart leaps to my throat, and my blood runs cold. My skirt is split.

I look away, aghast, trying to catch my breath.


It. . . it can't be.

I turn and look again.


My skirt is split all the way up!

(Total fucking loser geek!)

My entire ass is hanging out. My entire, fatter-than-J Lo's, giant ugly Lycra granny-panties covered ass is exposed for everyone to see.

I flash on when I tripped, landed on my hands and knees—

— right in front of Bill Nordon.

So I wasn't just ass-up, kneeling in front of him, I was ass-up, kneeling in front of him with my skirt ripped apart and these ghastly underwear showing. That's why everyone in the taxi line was laughing at me, not cause they saw me fall.

— I'm going to die.

(I still have to get back up to my room like this.)

— I'm definitely going to die.

(But I don't die.)

I do the only thing I can. I grab the two pieces of material in my fist and hold them together the best I can as I waddle upstairs to my room and barricade myself inside and abuse the mini-bar and satellite TV for the rest of the night.

The replay of Bill Nordon's championship match from last spring is playing.

I change the channel.

(Fuck him.)

The next morning, the seething embarrassment is worn off, in its place is a low-grade festering foolishness. As I flip over, there's something else—

— wrong.

My leg.


Sitting up, I bend it. Or try to.

Big pain.

It's all hot. And swollen. Right where the bee stung me.

But, I'm not allergic to bee stings.



I limp to the bathroom, running cool water over it in the shower, soothing it. But it's swollen and sore all the way down to my ankle. Maybe I am allergic? Wouldn't that be perfectly—

— geeky.

(Of course I'm allergic.)

So I hobble down to the sundry shop and get some Benadryl after enlisting the expert. . .


. . . advice of a housekeeper, some guy in the elevator, and the sundry shop clerk. We're all in agreement. Take the Benadryl, it'll get better.

But it doesn't. Get better, that is. It doesn't get better.

Six hours and four Benadryl later, I have to fold my hand and go to the hospital.

The doctor, he says: "It's not an allergic reaction. It's an infection."


"It just happens sometimes. Very rare."

— something that would only happen to a bona fide geek.

"A dirty sting," he says. "Not your fault. But you should have come in sooner."

(Instead of self-medicating.)

He starts writing a script for antibiotics as I slide my tongue through the gap in my teeth, squishing my puffy, stitched gum against my jaw.

"I'm already on antibiotics," I tell him. "For this." I point to my stitched up gum.

"Those aren't strong enough," he says and keeps writing.

"I'm on vacation," I tell him. "I'm here to play poker."

"Uh huh." That's all he says.

"Well, when will I feel better?"

"Two or three days."


"WHAT? But, I, I'm leaving then. I want to play."

He hands me the script that I'll have to hobble into a drugstore to fill. He says, "Stay off it for two days. Or don't, it won't be harmful to it. But it'll be painful. I'll give you something for that too." He scribbles on another little sheet. He says, "Good luck."

(I'm not pleased with the results, not quite yet.)

— Good luck.

That's what dealers in casinos tell you.

(When they know your geeky ass is going to lose.)

— Fuck them.

So it was a demoralizing day.

(Move on.)

— Suck it up.

I've had a bad, geeky, run of luck. But when Bill Nordon. . .

. . . no, let's not think about him.

Ok, when any big-shot poker player hits a run where the cards are bad or they're reading wrong—

— and everyone hits those streaks—

They concentrate and pull from their reservoir of courage and confidence and battle back.

So that's what I'm going to do.

If I give in and sit in my room nursing this sore leg and being ashamed of a missing tooth the only thing I'll accomplish is to prove that I'm the geeky loser I've always been.

(But I'm NOT that anymore.)

So. I'm not folding.

I'm playing. All in, baby.

I do, however, choose the tasteful—

(and safe)

— black pants for tonight.

The pants, however, are fitted. And they choose to not fit over my grotesquely swollen leg. I cleverly outwit my own apparel and go with shorts instead of another skirt though. I do my eyes up big again. I won't be lisping like a jackass, and I'll just keep my mouth (mostly) shut.

I drag myself. . .

(literally, I have to drag my sore bee-stung infected swollen leg at an odd angle and refrain from trying to bend it, which causes shooting thumps from the thigh to ankle)

. . . downstairs to the casino and go directly to the poker room, limping through the lobby as quickly as possible while determinedly keeping my head high as I'm forced to pass by smarmy desk clerk Sam.

It's fairly empty, but I'm not willing to risk losing my edge by drinking, nor am I willing to endure the pain of a longer walk, because I also forsook the painkillers the doc scripted me, again, to keep my edge. Besides, I can warm up this way. I choose a table with a fortyish professional-looking man, two thirty-something overgrown frat-bulls, and a pixie blonde girl.


—I'm smart, I'm hot.

I'm ready.

I drop my cash, stack my chips, and pull up my chair with a minimal wince and a closed-mouth grin to others at the table. The dealer shuffles, then deals.

The fortyish professional guy chucks his hand. One of the frat boys calls, and it's to me.

I'm on the small blind. I peek at my cards.

(Holy shit!)

Pocket kings.

Bells and whistles ring in my head, but I play it cool—

— really cool.

I stop and (pretend to) think. Of course, I grab my chips. I'm not raising just yet, because I want as much money in this pot as possible and I don't want to scare anyone off. So I call.

The other guy folds his hand, and it's to the little blonde girl. She's on big blind, so of course she stays in for the flop.

The flop, it sucks. But that's good for me. What comes up is a jack, a seven, and a five, nothing suited. So I don't have to worry about a potential straight or flush lurking. And the top pair would be jacks, which can't beat my kings.

The blonde goes first. She checks.

(Excellent. That means she doesn't even have the jacks, or she'd be more aggressive and try to take this pot.)

— If she knows what she's doing, that is.

(Poor thing. She probably doesn't know what she's doing.)

The other guy, the remaining frat guy, he checks too.

I consider raising, but I don't want to scare them off. Still, I want some money in the pot.

I raise.

(Just a little.)

Pixie calls. The guy lays his down.

Hmm, what does she have? Is she hanging in, hoping to get something on the turn or river? I study her. She's not leaning back, she's not leaning forward.

The turn comes, it's another jack. That's fine. Now the board is paired, but I still have my cowboys in hand. I stare at the blonde.

— What the hell does she have? Anything that can beat me?

She swallows hard, and in a squeaky voice she says, "Check."

— She doesn't have anything. She'd have raised if she had anything.

I should raise. I should take this down right now.

She's biting her lower lip, looking a little concerned. I feel kind of bad for her, she looks brand new and green at all this, looks really sweet.

I check.

The river is a queen. Now she bets. Substantially.


— I've got her!

Of course I'm going to call. She probably just paired that queen. But I have the kings. I can call, and take down a decent sized pot now.

— Or.

I could raise it more.



I've got nothing to lose here. It'd be passive to just call and take that pot. She thinks her queens are good now. And she's got a nice sized stack of chips there. I shouldn't feel sorry for her. This is poker, dammit. I don't feel sorry for her.

— If I'm going to kill the geek and live the dream, I have to be bold.

(Am I really going to do this?)

My leg throbs, I roll my tongue around my puffy, toothless gum.

I'm going to do it.

That's when I feel the tap on my shoulder.

(The fuck?)

Aloud, I say: "I'm in the middle of a hand here."

"Ms. DiPlacido. . . "

— You've got to be kidding me.

I turn around. It's no joke. Smarmy desk clerk Sam is standing there. He extends his hand in front of me. He's holding a white tissue, and nestled inside it is my retainer. My retainer with a dorky tooth attached to it. He goes, "I believe this belongs to you."

I snatch it away, put one hand over my mouth, duck my head, and try to pop it in as daintily as possible. I have trouble snapping it in place, but wiggle it with my tongue until it clicks. Pushing back from the table, I hoist myself up with my hands, ignoring the streaks of heat and pressure that surge down to my ankle from that movement.

While I'm doing that, I don't miss the fact that he leans back and looks at my backside.

(Does he really think I'd be walking around with a split seam— again?)

I look at him and say, "Thankth."

He smirks, turns, and walks away.

I look back at the table.

At this point, it's a no-brainer. I put my hands on my neat little stacks of chips.


— Really.

I'm going over the top of her. I push them forward as I say, clear as can be: "All in."

—Right on.

I don't feel my leg or the cumbersome retainer, all I feel is my heart leaping to my throat.

The cute little pixie blonde, the one who doesn't look like she knows what she's doing, she goes, "I call."


I flip my cards, proudly showing off my two kings. Even prouder of how I'd slow-played them and sucked her in. The poor little pixie, I do have a little pang of guilt.

She barely glances at my hand before flipping her cards. Revealing a four and—

— A Jack.



The deceptive, rotten bitch!

She just shrugs and starts pulling the chips her way. She suckered me. She, she trapped me by not betting when her third jack came up.

She won.

I lost.


— As usual.

Busted out by a blonde.

Once again, my secret dream just twisted into a public nightmare.

I shake my head, try to at least retain some class.

— Even if I'm not quite satisfied with the results.

I go, "Well played."

She squeaks, "Thanks."

"Have you been playing long?" I ask her.

"Not really," she says. "But last night I got some tips from this guy, I guess he's a pro or something. Bill, um, Bill Nordson, maybe?"




— Stonefaced poker skank!

"Oh, look," she points behind me. "There he is." She wiggles a couple of fingers in a cutesy hello gesture.

I turn around, there he is, taking a seat at another table. He winks those gorgeous long eyelashes at her. He waves her over.

My head is now burning hotter than my throbbing, infected leg.

Pixie giggles and stacks her chips.

Fuck me.

I pop a couple of pain pills and haul my (loser) self upstairs. I mix a martini from the mini-bar and call Sheila to cry on her shoulder. She wants to come over and see my swank room.

Once she's there, I plop in a chair and let her show herself around. She mixes up fresh martinis. She looks at my leg and says, "Poor thing."

(I know.)

— Poor me. Pity me.

So I hitch a ride on her sympathy bandwagon. Start telling her about what's happened to me.

I'm saying, "Tho there I am, on my handth and kneeth." I can't take it. I pop out the retainer and hurl it against the window, leaving a splotchy spit-streak where it hits. I go, "Right in front of him. With my skirt split up to my waist, my fat ass hanging out for everyone to see."

This is what she's doing: She's laughing.

— Hard.

She's laughing so hard, she's crying.


"You're a bitch," I tell her.

More laughing. She says, "You're such a geek!"

(As always.)

Something in me, I don't know what it is, I feed it. I tell her more. Then, I'm popping an antibiotic, and she's warning me against it. When I tell her to fuck off, she laughs some more.

(The cheeky bitch.)

I lean my head back, rushing with a buzz, let my eyes fall out of focus, see the lights and colors outside swirling around.

"So then what happened?" Sheila's asking.

I'm blinking a few more times, sitting up straight, rolling my tongue around the hole in my mouth as the view pulls back into focus, losing the swirling Pollack confusion, sharpening back to buildings and signs. It's the same view, just a different perspective.

Maybe it's not supposed to be like this.

(But it is.)

Fast forward a few days—

— My leg will heal.

I'll have a tooth put in. And I will —


— as always. . .

. . . be a geek.


— Fuck it.

I'll be satisfied with that.

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