Quintus unwrapped a fresh tarot deck.
Are you ready, he said, to receive a card?
Before the game starts, said Marguerite,
I thought you said, some time ago now,
That this sacred rite was done elsewhere,
Inside the Godhead's downtown temple.
Does this change signal a power shift
From Nineveh's Church to its secular State,
A shift that starts by sacking the High Priest?
That's too nuanced a sign for birds like me.
I thought Quintus liked to test nearby
Rather than walk the blocks to God's Temple.
True, said Marguerite. It's a long walk,
Longer still for those with a mystic bent,
Who cut through the town's industrial zone,
Shortest route, no doubt, on higher spheres.
Hit me, I said. And Quintus dealt a card.
Again, I said. He dealt another card.
Again, again and again I drew cards.
Incidentally, a rule change of note
Has been recently instituted, he said.
No longer is a tarot hand nine cards.
No longer is nine card stud played.
And, perhaps most relevant right now,
Five blank cards now terminate files
That Godhead transmits through tarot cards.
I've sent him memos confirming the change.
I didn't upturn the face down cards.
Second sight told me all five were blank.
I snatched the tarot deck out of his hand
And said, okay, that's warm-up enough.
I'm ready to start the game. I'll deal myself.
And my supernatural synaptic gaps
Snapped like alligator castanets
Feeding on a hot jungle beat of glee.
What the dealer gives, he may take away.
To change the King's doom, just change the deck.
By a sleight of hand can fate be determined.
The glory of God is to conceal a thing
And a divine finesse is to palm a card.
But betwixt ideal and real, will and act,
Process and result, and heaven and earth,
Oh surprise surprise, there falls a shadow.
And a foul shadow it was that befell me.
My right hand, charbroil it on hellflame,
Offended me with its poor execution
Of that simple task my cunning had set.
Minor bad timing, major bad luck.
I'd been caught by the king red-handed.
And his hand was preternaturally quick,
And the point of his dagger already poised
In the general area of my larynx
Before I could even launch my Plan B.
Prepare to meet your maker, sir, he said.
One-handed men should not attempt sleight.
I've already met my maker, I said,
Or one, rather, of his authorized agents,
And do not think myself at all improved
By the sorry outcome of that meeting.
It certainly did nothing for your card skill.
It will be mercy to remove from existence
A cardsharp so sadly maladroit.
I looked into his intense face and said,
Which is superior, oh king, luck or skill?
Liber Jonae Contents