“You look like
you are down on your luck.”
The voice came from a dark, baggy-faced
man. Kind of guy you’d call noir and brooding. “Might say that, mon
ami,” I answered. We watched the croupier rake my last five
dollars off the roulette table.
The Casino de Charlevoix, an
hour east of Quebec, was an old people’s home compared to Montreal’s
casino. More important, I wasn’t in Trois Rivieres where my Jeanette
was home with our petite bébé.
“My name is Grigori. Would you
like to play one more game?” He smiled and a mouth full of brown
teeth showed up.
“I haven’t got a buck to my name.
I even spent my lucky two-dollar bill. Et vous est quoi? Russian?”
“The Ukraine. But not for some
“What brings you to Canada?”
He shrugged. “I am avoiding some
friends. This is a good place to avoid unpleasant people. But
about the game? Take a walk with me.”
He guided me out of the casino
and down to the small park on the street overlooking the St.
Laurent. The river was quiet tonight. It would be covered with
ice in another month.
“I told you I’m broke. Pas
d’argent. Don’t rub it in.”
“Do you see that Mercedes?” He
pointed to a white convertible that gleamed under the street
light. “I will bet you my car against…let me see, what do you
have? I know! Your finger!”
“What the hell are you talking
about?” I laughed. Nervously.
“I have a deck of cards and we
will cut. High card takes the Mercedes. Low card and you lose
the tip of your little finger. Such a small price. You have nine
more fingers, and I won’t take all of one. Just the tip.”
Jeanette was expecting me. No
way could I go back and tell her I’d been laid off, got drunk,
wasted my last paycheck.
“No cards,” I said. “Not with
your deck.” Maybe I was ignorant, but I wasn’t stupid.
“Then how can we play? I thought
you were a gambler.”
“More simple than cards. We play
rock, paper, scissors.”
He frowned. “I do not know that
game. Is it like poker?”
I showed him, making a fist. “This
is rock.” I opened my hand. “This is paper.” And with two fingers, “This
is scissors. Rock breaks scissors. Paper covers rock. Scissors
cuts paper. D’accord? Nine combinations sont possible.”
He bent his shaggy head back
and laughed. A belly laugh that sounded like the devil choking. “Okay,” he
said. “Ten times!”
“No, nine,” I said. “Ten could
end in a tie.”
“One thing,” he said. “You do
not mind that I tie your hand to this picnic table. Just so you
do not change your mind.”
I minded, but I also thought
of Jeanette and the look in her eyes when I rolled up to our
apartment in the Mercedes. He took off his necktie and bound
my arm to the table. The circulation stopped and my hand began
to go numb. His brown teeth gleamed in a strange smile as he
put a set of car keys on the table.
I took the first three, using
rock three times in a row—a good bluff. Grigori took the
fourth and fifth play. The sweat started to pour down my
face as I sat imprisoned under the street lamp. The damp
breeze off the St. Laurent didn’t help.
Six was my win. It was four to
two, and then Grigori took the lead. Quel drag. Each time
he won he banged the table with his big hairy fist. The brown
teeth mocked me.
“We play to nine?” he asked. “We
are now four to four. The next game takes it.” He reached
into the breast pocket of his jacket and pulled out a six-inch
clasp knife. He laid it carefully on the picnic table next
to the keys.
I started to hate this guy.
I wondered if I had screwed up again. Perhaps Jeanette was
right. I was a loser. I told myself, Worry pas ta brain,
“One. Two. Three,” Grigori
snapped. His hand shot out. “Scissors!”
But he had hesitated. My hand
had done up a microsecond before his and my paper was a loser.
“Ah-ha! Scissors cuts paper! I win!”
“Grigori, you bastard!” Two men
walked out of the dark and down the hill to our table. I could
only look as one pulled a gun. “I have followed you from Montreal
to Quebec City and find you still playing games. Only you are
the loser, you double-crosser.”
“Hey, guys,” I said. The odds
had suddenly changed. “Pas de moi. I’m not involved. I
just met this guy. He bet me his car.” The necktie was too tight
for me to move, to run. I was tied to Grigori’s destiny, whatever
that was going to be.
“Vlad, I wanted to pay you back.” Grigori’s
voice sounded like a whore begging. “I tried to find you.”
The goon called Vlad picked up
the car keys and looked at me. Never have I seen such scary eyes. “This
car is not his. It is mine. Everything he owns—including his
“I never met the man before tonight,” I
“What is this stupid game you
“It’s rock, paper, scissors. He
“Shut up.” He untied my arm. “Grigori
always cheats. Get out of here.”
“I won,” I insisted.
The two Russian-sounding goons
looked at each other. Vlad reached in his pocket and pulled out
a roll of money the size of an apple. He peeled off ten hundred-dollar
bills and dropped them on the table. “Scissors cuts paper maybe,
but my gun beats them all.” The other guy laughed. “Take the
money and get out.”
I got back to Trois Rivieres
a day later. Ma belle Jeanette forgave me, but in all
my confessions I never told her how paper can cut scissors.
# # #
published February 16, 2009
Walter Giersbach’s fiction has appeared in Bewildering
Stories, Every Day Fiction, Everyday Weirdness, Lunch Hour Stories, Mouth
Full of Bullets, Mystery Authors, OG Short Fiction, Northwoods Journal,
Paradigm Journal, Short Fiction World, Southern Fried Weirdness, Written
Word and Big Pulp. Two volumes of short stories, Cruising
the Green of Second Avenue, have been published by Wild
more of Walter's work,
visit his Big Pulp author page