“Solitaire, huh?” said Private Witherspoon, “Sounds dangerous.”
“Oh? It may be,” said his commanding officer, Grumbles, “I’m not sure.”
Witherspoon glared out of the window and thought of pianos and Prague. He liked things that started with the letter P. He liked pickles, too. But he didn’t like cards. All those faces glaring up at him. They were all dead. Jacks, kings, queens. All of them staring at him, dead. Dead. It reminded him of the shit. It made his head go all fuzzy and his bowels run in reverse. The shit.
It had been four days since he had been in the shit. It was his cousin’s birthday, and they were celebrating with a joy ride through Taliban territory. They were hammered. At the time, it seemed like fun. But in retrospect, it was probably a stupid-ass idea. His cousin kept saying things like, “We’re in the shit, now!” and stuff. And Witherspoon kept on ignoring him. The shit. What a dumb-dumb.
Suddenly, their car vanished. Vaporized by lasers. I can tell you, it didn’t end well.
And now there was Witherspoon. Going on another mission. What a dumb dumb.
At, oh, eight hundred hours, Witherspoon sat down with some crunchy crackers and a block of old cheddar and some cards. One deck, to be precise. The military all crowded around. Anxious for him. Whispering prayers under their breath and fingering themselves through their pantaloons.
“Klondike,” he said, and the dealer dealt a pile of cards into specific rows. Then Witherspoon sorted them into more piles and piled them on top of one another in order. “Again,” he quavered.
The dead. They were looking at him. He looked away.
This time it wasn’t as easy. He couldn’t get an ace out from behind its own two. Eventually he jumped it to a three, but not before he had stabbed a knife into his leg in frustration.
This time, he had no hope. The cards just weren’t falling right. It wasn’t his fault, but he took it hard.
Everyone reached for their pistols. A gotterdammerung. That was what was needed. One bullet for each man.
“I should have played alone,” said Witherspoon. “I shouldn’t have brought you all into this.” His was holding his pistol to his head.
“It’s okay,” said the crowd. “It’s okay.”