YOU PLAY THE CARDS YOU'RE DEALT

Submitted for Contest #34 in response to: Write a story about a family game night.... view prompt

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Submitted on 03/21/2020

Categories: General

"Well, family, what game shall we play tonight?" Papa, as he was known by all, chimed in with this pleasant question. The group, a ragtag bunch gathered from the four corners of Granger Falls, were sitting nervously, fingers drumming on the old fashioned TV trays that sat before each one. "I know!" Papa cried out, "We'll play Old Maid!" A collective sigh arose from every throat and at this Papa glared around. "Do I take that to mean you don't wish to play?" Jason Reeves quickly spoke up.

"Of course not, Papa! You know we want to play that. Don't we everybody?" Several halfhearted replies greeted Jason's ears and he was just about to condemn everyone's response when little Serenity Wilde spoke up. All of 12 she was the youngest member of the crowd.

"I love Old Maid, Papa, but I hope I don't become one!" this little wisecrack broke the tension and everyone moved to the large oak table in the dining room. Outside large flakes of snow were falling and there was an eerie glow. But inside, in front of a crackling electric fireplace, all was well and oddly serene. This, however, would change in time. Gene King, who in another time and place, had been the leader of a jazz band, the Gene Splicers, offered to cut the cards and deal. Everybody was on board with this and soon the game was underway.

"Has anyone seen the latest movie at the Alahambra?" Brad Berry was joking of course. 6 months ago the Alahambra had gone up in flames, as had most of the town. The cause was strange; it wasn't an atom or hydrogen bomb. It was the most massive asteroid to ever hit the planet and it changed everything. Now this group were the last survivors of Granger Falls. When the batteries in the radio were fully charged Papa would attempt again to reach the outside world. As he was wondering who else there might be beyond the limits of Granger Falls, Angie Westfall slapped down a matching pair of cards and said a completely off topic sentence.

"I miss steak." This sentiment was matched by Frank Hall, who had himself been a butcher in the time before. He'd also been the lead singer for the local bar band Lazar Wolf and was known for his love of old radio shows. His vast collection on every imaginable media had been their saving grace, as right after the disaster, boredom had nearly driven them all insane. Now they were so knowledgeable of each program that they could quote them verbatim.

"Does anyone know if the rabbit died?" Frank was fond of saying this as it usually got a rise out of Linda Jones. Linda had been the head of the ASPCA of Granger Falls, and she was still angry at the universe for having sent such a disaster on her little friends. Alden Ayres, who had had Linda as a teacher in the time before, stood and proudly quoted his favorite piece.

"Little Bunny Foo-Foo, hopping through the forest, picking up the field mice and BOPPING them on the head!" Linda looked just about ready to cry and Jenn Dobbs, who had been friends with Linda since kindergarten, could stand it no longer.

"Would you bunch of laughing hyenas just shut up!" Frank and Alden did as they were told and the game began again. "Now," Jenn exclaimed, "we'll sit here, we'll play Old Maid and then we'll listen to Eddie Cantor. And everyone will like it. Right?" Of course all agreed and the game went on for several more hours. Finally, at midnight, after Eddie Cantor and Bob Hope had entertained them, it was decided that it was bedtime for Serenity and, for that matter, Papa and most of the group. As they trudged off to their respective bedrooms, Alden went to the kitchen to put some water on for tea. He'd been a coffee drinker in the time before, but now he drank tea. Really, he drank it very sparingly as when it was gone, it was gone. He walked slowly to the window and stared out into the night. The eerie glow was coming from the nuclear reactors which had, predictably, melted down just after the asteroid hit. The last action of a crippled United States was to put lead lined coverings over the reactors, ones with hundreds of pinpricks along the tops. This kept the radiation levels low and allowed excess heat to escape. Alden took his eyes from the strangely beautiful sight and scanned the surrounding areas. There was the hollowed out shell of what had once been Leeson's Department Store. Across the street from it had towered Bontel's, a finer store not known this side of Paris. Over there, catty corner from the stores, had stood Coventry Acres, a rural themed restaurant that prided itself on Farm to Fork dining. Alden felt a single tear glide down his cheek. He turned just in time to see that his water was hot and he poured it on the tea bag resting in his Disneyland mug. A sultry voice broke his train of thought.

"Can I have a cup?" The voice of Linda spoke from the shadows of the doorway, and Alden could see that she wore as little as she possibly could. He just nodded, as the thought of his teacher attempting to seduce him had him both aroused and confused. She glided as if on air, and her presence was somewhat of an unexpected surprise. He did as she requested and soon they were seated at the little blue table in the corner. As if she could sense his confusion Linda spoke softly, both to calm Alden's fears and to keep from waking up the rest. "Alden, you are a man. Just 17, but still a man. In the time before you'd still be in high school, chasing the cheerleaders and scoring the winning goal. Now, you are a man."

"Does that mean Serenity's a woman?" Alden asked, eyes wide. Linda chuckled slightly.

"No, she isn't. She won't be until she turns 16. She, I and Angie, as well as Jenn, are the Eve's to you and the others Adam's. Except for Papa, the rest of you will have to be ready to help repopulate the earth. And since there was no major fallout, the earth is still inhabitable. It will take a few years, but with the seeds we saved, the books we scavenged and the tools we've stockpiled, we'll be ready to start over."

"Gee," Alden began, sounding for all the world like a 1950's teenager, "I'm not sure I'm ready for this. Do you really think this could work? Aren't you scared?" Linda reached out her hand and took Alden's hand in hers. She looked deeply into his eyes, and every bit of the seductress was gone. Once more it was teacher to student.

"Alden, honey, I'm petrified. We've got no real medical knowledge, our smarts combined could barely fill a thimble and, as you could probably guess, my seduction skills leave a lot to be desired. But, and always remember this, when the world as we know it ends, you play the cards you're dealt."

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