Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 19



Although I didn’t remember falling asleep, I definitely remember waking up at midnight to the anarchy of sirens, bells, whistles, and bass drums all at once.  I fell from the exam table and ran around the small room in a disoriented stupor.  Seeing my new self in the wall length mirror helped me to gather my bearings, and as soon as I was standing fully upright and away from the sleeping table the awful racket subsided.

    The door was locked.  I dealt it a couple of blows with my shoulder, but it wouldn’t budge.  Before paranoia could set in reason got the better of me and I figured out that this wakeup call was the start of the next test.

    “What’s going on?” I asked nobody in particular, presuming I’d be observed for every waking hour from this point forward.

    After a few seconds of silence, I spoke again. 

    “Hello?  Is anybody in there?”

    More silence.  Not even my own echo.  And then the crackle of an intercom...

    “Sleep deprivation.  Forty-eight hours.  Starting now.” 

    Oh, excellent.

    I laughed at the prospect of being watched for forty-eight continuous hours.  Even just twenty-four hours stuck here again would be less than amusing.  24 as a reality show set in a single room with a camera in each corner.  There’s a real ratings juggernaut for you.  I’d almost rather they follow me around outside on a documentary style adventure.

    I’ve probably had around ten days or so where I stayed awake for a full twenty-four hours.  Granted, lots of them would be boring slices of normal life followed by cramming for a college exam or trying to make a deadline for the magazine.  Also a few nights of insomniatic tossing and turning, which is essentially what these doctors should be expecting out of me this evening.

    On the far side of the room was a sink with cabinets above it and three drawers below it.  I splashed some water on my face and found a cup in the cabinet to drink from.  The drawers didn’t have externally visible locks, yet only the bottom one would open.  It contained just one item:  A solitary deck of playing cards resting in a disorganized pile.  At least I had some entertainment to help me rock around the clock.

    Playing cards are one of the greatest entertainment inventions ever.  Simple and complex at the same time, with so many possibilities out of just fifty-two pieces of laminated paper.  Technically many of the games are just repeated variations on the same five themes: gambling, bidding, rummy, drinking, and solitaire.  It’s not really fun to play cards by yourself, but with a little creativity it’s certainly possible.  Since I was just killing time, I decided to run through every game I could think of.  And since I presume you also have time to kill, I’ll recount them all for you here.

    Poker, Blackjack, Let it Ride (aka: Live Video Poker), Pai Gow, Baccarat, Caribbean Stud, Acey Deucey, Indian Feather (yes, I was that bored), Spades, Whist, Euchre, Pitch, Forty-Fives (all regular and honeymoon style), Rummy (Gin and Classic), Crazy Eights, Hearts (though short lived, as it gave me flashbacks to that day...), War (What is it good for?  Nothing), Canasta, Egyptian Ratscrew (or Ratfuck, depending on whether you learned it from a parent or a friend), Golf, Old Maid, Go Fish, Cribbage (boardless), Spoons (spoonless), Pinochle, and Cassino.

    Drinking games were out of the question.  They all tend to be more about the drinking than the strategic enjoyment of playing them, plus there was the small problem of not actually having anything to drink.  Unless one of the locked drawers concealed a mini-bar, I was out of luck.  (I realize that a lack of money didn’t stop me from trying my hand at the gambling games, but this was a different matter altogether.)  A by the rulebook version of Asshole may have been worth trying, but it’s so associated with getting blasted in my mind that I just couldn’t allow myself to cheapen it.  Besides, does anybody really know the “official” rules to Asshole?  Does anybody really care?

    A reprise of the whistles and bells snapped me out of the trance of the hearts and spades.  Again I didn’t remember dozing off, though I may have had a case of the head bobs.  The doctors must have been playing it safe.  It had only been five hours so far.

    Of all the possible milestones of the wee hours, reaching 5am was always the hardest part of an all night thing for me.  3am and 4am aren’t too much of a problem as you often see that side of evening after a night on the town, a poker game, or a late night club show.  But as you cross the 4am threshold and approach 5am, you start to understand this is no man’s land where normal people just aren’t supposed to be awake.

    When it’s this late, solitaire’s the only game in town.  I had never really understand how old people can play this all day for hours on end until now.  It must just be something to fight loneliness.  Traditional solitaire really bores me now in a hundred different ways, but I had to keep my mind active just to stay awake.  Of all the possible variations I like the simplicity of Aces, where the only object is to end up with all four aces left on the board.  It’s mindless enough to keep you occupied on an airplane and doesn’t take up much space.  It also plays fairly well against an opponent as a drinking game.  Each person has a deck, and you play it out on your own as “Aces Races” until someone emerges victorious.

    After Aces, I thought of the old fortune telling game my sister taught me.  I don’t know what it’s called, but essentially it’s a card based version of “she loves you, she loves you not” with a few interesting rules.  The whole thing is a crock, but like solitaire, it’s something to do.

    Shuffle the cards while thinking of someone you’re attracted to (for example, the cute little redheaded girl).  Deal the cards into four equal piles.  Starting with the first pile, flip each card face up until you reach either the King or Queen of Hearts or Spades.  When you find one, put it back on top of the pile it came from, discard the previously flipped cards, and move on to the next stack.  If you find the King or Queen there, put it back on top, put that pile on top of the first pile, and continue.  After going through all four piles, redeal your remaining cards into three piles and repeat, this time ending with two piles.  Do it all one last time to end with a single pile.  Keep the remaining cards in order and fan them out like a poker hand.  The distance between the Kings of Hearts and Spades represents your feelings for the person you were thinking of during the deal; the distance between the Queens of the same suits represents her feelings.  The distance between the Hearts represents romance; the distance between the Spades represents geographic location.  The fewer cards you’re holding, the better your chances are.  Any other cards in the middle represent potential problems for that aspect of your relationship.  Any extra people (Jacks, Queens, Kings) represent that your other woman’s got another man.

    At least that’s how you’re supposed to play, but as soon as I finished dealing out the first sets of four I noticed something was wrong.  I ended on the first pile rather than the last, which meant I either misdealt or had too many cards.  Assuming I was delusional with the lack of sleep (it was now almost seven in the morning, and I had little more than a power nap before starting this exercise), I figured it was my error and decided to reshuffle and redeal.  Same problem.  I fanned out the cards looking for the joker I had likely left in by accident.  Nope.

    I found the extra card by sorting the deck into suits.  There were two Kings of Hearts.  I thought it was strange that I hadn’t noticed this before, especially with the irony of it being the suicide king.  Pinching the extra king between my index and middle fingers, I flipped it frisbee style towards the full-length mirror.  It spun forward with pretty good speed, clanged off the shiny surface after colliding with itself, and fell to the floor landing face up.  Amused, I practiced flipping the remaining cards towards the wall.  In the midst of this I realized I was dealing one of the games I had forgotten about:  Fifty-two Pickup.

    One by one the cards ricocheted off the mirror and onto the floor.  About half landed face up and half face down, probability doing the job it was entrusted with.  My aim wasn’t perfect, but if I had another day and a half to practice I could see myself developing some expertise.  Reaching the bottom of the deck, I was down to my last card:  the other King of Hearts.  It was fitting enough that this would be both first and last.  I wound up for a mighty heave and flung the card for the mirror.  Perfect spiral, good altitude, reasonable velocity…

    …and then it was gone.  Passed right through the window as if it wasn’t even there.

    Energized, I ran towards the wall that the card had just vanished into.  I was certain that I had blinked back in time off of some card playing memory, and I was getting out of there while I still could.

    My body hit the wall at full speed.   The mirror cracked, my face bled, and I was knocked down onto the cold linoleum below.