Dogs Playing Cards
“I already said I don’t”—followed by a snort and a nose lick.
“You don’t have any threes?"
The Pug glanced at his Great Dane counterpart, who was studying both him and his cards with furrowed contempt. The Dane slid his cards one way, then the other, before slipping what the Pug correctly guessed was an ace into the left corner of his closed paw.
The Pug used to love the game. He had loved the idea that sitting down to this decked out green table with a Dane, a Saint Bernard, and an English bulldog, he had nothing to fear as they played into these thick late-night hours where card deals did not pause for meals or snacks.
That had been the beginning of their evening together.
Now he was bored, and his politeness and fur itched.
The only pleasure he got from the game anymore was telling his fanged companions to “Go fish.”
Interminable, he growled to himself.
He thought about cheating once in a while, taking two cards instead of one, lying to his three canine companions about what cards he had. Something always held him back from doing it.
It wasn’t fear of the others. Their sizably larger bodies and jaws meant nothing to him or to each other. In the game room, weapons of power and predatory thinking were obsolete, relics of some gnash-and-grind world whose occupants had scratched, clawed, and bit each other to death to survive. Dog eat dog.
Survival was not the objective of this game.
The Pug’s own instinctual weapons of alertness—the drive to yip at or flee an encroaching threat—he could not feel. They were threads of an unraveled dream that consciousness wouldn’t let him twist back together.
He didn’t have any threes. Or twos. Or goddamn sixes. S-i-x. Three letters. T-h-r-e-e. Five letters. F-i-v-e.
The Great Dane hadn’t reached the Pug’s level of boredom, but he paused before thrusting his paw into the pile of discarded cards and pulling one out. He stared at it a moment—the Pug assumed it wasn’t a three, two, or six because the Dane hadn’t grouped it with any other cards—before disappearing it into his massive golden paw.
The Pug wanted to say he was bored, that he wanted to play a different game, or at least try.
He’d read in some magazine while sitting in the waiting area of his veterinarian’s office (rabies booster) that all games eventually devolve into “Go fish.” Some kind of common root, like spelling out all numbers eventually leads to the number four. For instance, “n-i-n-e-t-e-e-n” had eight letters and “e-i-g-h-t” had five letters and “f-i-v-e” had four—four suits, four decks of cards, four dogs to fish.
Hell, f-i-s-h and c-a-r-d both had four letters. And d-o-g-s.
And they all still had so many damn cards to play. P-l-a-y.
Paint by numbers.
The Pug floated a suggestion: “Anyone want to play poker?”
Brennan Thomas is an associate professor of English at Saint Francis University. She has published short fiction and poetry in several online magazines, including Fairfield Scribes, Microfiction Monday Magazine, The Quint, and The Lehigh Valley Review, as well as more than a dozen nonfiction articles on film and popular media studies.
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