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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2230825-Know-When-to-Fold
Rated: 18+ · Fiction · Drama · #2230825
A What a Character! Contest Entry
The postcard came with a handful of mail and Sean tossed it toward the trash with the junk. It hit the edge of the can, dropped on the floor, and went unnoticed. It was poker night, and the brown-haired man with green eyes had to get ready for his friends. The beer was cold, so it was all about snacks, and he wasn’t going to catch crap by just opening a bag of chips. His apartment was big enough for large parties, but he preferred his small group of friends.

They began to file in a little after 8:00, and the huge plate of nachos was gone by 8:30. Sean had set up the table in the living room, but everyone sat on the couch and chairs. They would be in the much less comfortable chairs soon enough, so they all relaxed with a cold one. While it was a friendly game, no one wanted to lose. They were all competitive like that since high school.

“C’mon, someone cut the deck to see who starts this thing!” Max bellowed.
“Oh, stuff it you big bald bag of bullshit,” Jack replied, “We’re coming.”
“Where’s Devon, anyway?”
“He said he was running a little late,” Sean answered. “He doesn’t care if we start.”
“Screw that! I want his money!” Max retorted and drew laughter from everyone.
“Just draw for positions,” Sean said. “He won’t care.”

Devon did arrive a little late, but everyone was used to it. He grabbed a cold Yeungling from the 'fridge, but stopped for a moment. The postcard was still on the floor, and he picked it up. After studying it for a moment, he brought it to the table with him.

“Did you read this, dude?” He said as he took his seat.
“No,” Sean replied. “It’s just some junk mail.”
“Says here they’ll grant you a wish!” Devon responded with a grin. “You don’t want one?’
“Yeah, I wish it had stayed in the trash.”
“Lemme see that," Max said, grabbed the card, and gave it a quick look. “Well, it has a website!”
“Okay, I changed my wish,” Sean rolled his eyes. “Now I wish a Nigerian prince doesn't empty my bank account.”
“I’m keeping it.” Max slid it under his chips. “If you win it in the pot, you tell us your real wish.”
“You’re ridiculous,” Jack said. He was big as a bear and almost as hairy. “Now ante up.”

They had been at it for over an hour, and although Max was one of the better players, he’d had a bad run of cards. Sometimes they played the same type of poker all night, but often, like tonight, it was dealer’s choice. Currently, it was Texas Hold’em, and Max would have to buy in again soon, so he slid all his chips to the middle. Only Jack was still in the hand.

“I’m all in,” He said. “My first hundred is gone anyway.”
“Call.”
“Two pair,” Max said and flipped his cards.
“Well, maybe it just isn’t your night,” Jack replied. “Three of a kind.”
“Maybe not,” Max grunted. “But it’s too early to turn in. Sean? Chips please?”
Sean took the hundred and handed him a rack. “Here you go, man.”
Max started stacking his chips and said, “Oh, here…” Then he flipped the postcard to Jack.
“Oh, c’mon. This is stupid.”
“Hey, I called it at the beginning of the night! What would you wish for?”
“It’s true, you didn’t protest,” Devon added while Jack looked over the red and black postcard with disgust.
“Fine. I’d wish I could turn invisible when I wanted.”
It went quiet then Devon snickered and soon everyone was laughing. “Are you kidding?”
“He wants to be back in junior high and sneak into the girl’s locker room!” Jack howled.
“Hey!” Jack said loudly and took a swig of beer. “I told you this was stupid!”

It only took a couple more hands for Jack to return the favor. Since no one said he couldn’t put it in the pot at any time, he used it in a call with a lousy hand. He hoped Max would win it back, and luck was on his side.

“Well then, wiseass,” Jack said as Max dragged the pot. “What’s your big wish?”
He only hesitated a beat, “That’s easy. I’d wish for world peace.”
Sean, who was always the quiet one at poker night, blew a raspberry. “Boo!”
“Ha!” Jack exclaimed, “Just what an altruistic trust fund baby would say!”
“What, I can’t want something good for everyone?”
“I think some dictators would hate it,” Devon pitched in, “But maybe he has a point.”
Sean squinted a bit, “What point? I figured the point would be something you wanted personally.”
“Watch the news, Sean.”
“I do watch the news. Seems like the same ol’, same ol’ to me. What’s in it for him, Devon?”
“Looks worse and worse to me,” Devon replied. “If we get into it with a major power…”
Max picked up when he trailed off, “See? Good for me and the world!”
“Yeah, that’s what you meant,” Jack scoffed. “Shuffle and deal!”

The discussion carried on for a few more minutes before turning to other topics. It was over an hour before the card changed hands again. This time, Devon dropped it on Sean, who was the actual recipient. He picked it up and restated his wish that it had stayed in the trash can. His poker buddies weren’t going to let it go at that, though.

“Well, I did think about it,” Sean began, “My first thought was lots of money.”
“Money runs out, though,” Devon responded. “Why not a bank account that always stays full?”
“What currency?” Max queried, then added, “All of them are fiat these days and could be worthless overnight.”
“Even the dollar?” Jack asked.
“Especially the dollar.”
“No,” Sean said. “If I wanted money, I’d wish to be able to see the future. Easy to make it that way.”
Jack laughed. “Our own Biff Tannen!”
“I could see other benefits, too, though,” Max said with the wheels turning in his head.
“Plenty. But one problem. What if I kicked off tomorrow? Then what has the wish gained me?”

The discussion turned to immortality, and the pros and cons were bandied about. It was probably the liveliest card night the four had ever had. If nothing else, the little card had made them all think beyond their usual chatter. Over a few more hands, they had all decided that living forever would actually be a bit of a curse. Sean, who was less vocal than the rest explained his wish.

“Well, at first I thought about living forever, but it would be a curse in the end. But, if you think about human history, the bronze age was only 4000 years ago. So imagine what the next 4000 will bring? I think I’d like to see that.”
Jack smiled. “So you’d rather be Doc Brown?”
“I guess so.”
“You know you’ll watch all your friends die, right?” Devon said.
“Well, that’s just one perk,” Sean replied, drawing chuckles from his pals. “Okay, one more hand.”

Devon stayed for a while after the other two left, which wasn’t unusual. He’d been friends with Sean for longer than the others. He went to use the computer while Sean cleaned up the mess in his usually spotless penthouse.

“That’s weird,” Devon said.
“What?” Sean replied walking up behind his friend.
“I got to that site, but it won’t let me type your wish in the box.”
“Are you kidding me?” Sean howled, “Now I’ll have to have a tech come scan the thing!”
“Oh, relax. You have it done once a week anyway…”

Sean reached over to kill the webpage but just hit a random key. Instead of staying frozen, a letter appeared in the box on the screen. Assuming I was now working, Devon started to type, but again nothing happened. The two looked at each other, both knowing it was impossible for the computer to know who was typing. Sean tried again, and letters appeared.

“How the hell?”Devon asked.
“Beats the hell out of me…”
“You have got to type in your wish, man.” Devon said, and Sean just shook his head.
It took almost ten minutes of cajoling, but Sean finally gave in. “Fine! Get up and I’ll type it.”
“This is awesome!”
“This is a scam…”

Two days later, the street twenty stories below was filled with people rioting and protesting. Sean watched and wondered what was going on this time. He went to bed without turning on the television, so he missed the news regarding the state of the world. Things were collapsing all over the globe. He awoke for just a moment early in the morning to a burning so bad it felt like he had been dropped on the surface of the sun. After briefly feeling the sensation of flying, he passed out from the pain.

When he awoke later, everything hurt. His bones knit quickly and torn ligaments mended. Even the burns over his entire body healed, but all of it was painful. To make matters worse, his throat felt like sandpaper, and he had no water. He knew that hunger pangs would begin soon enough. He finally managed to sit up, and looked at the devastation around him. Everything was leveled, the earth was scorched, and not a living thing moved as far as his eyes could see.

“What have I done? What the hell have I done?!” He put his face in his hands and wept.


(WC:1611)
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