He aimed the revolver, right in my eye. It was so close that I could see right down the barrel. When they do that in a movie, you think about how dramatic the whole situation is. When it happens in real life, you think about the smell of the gun oil mixed with the spent powder from the last time it was fired. It smells of the unsympathetic and unforgiving workings of machinery. It smells of death. Maybe that was intentional. Maybe it wasn't.
My hand was tied to his with a cotton rope, so that neither one of us could run away. God knows, I wanted to. I think it used to be a clothes line that someone cut down, for this. The once soaked-now dry usage gave it a texture that sanded the skin off my wrist, whenever I moved. To make it worse, my fingertips were turning purple. In a few moments, it's not going to matter for one of us.
It's funny, now that I'm literally looking down the barrel of a gun, it doesn't scare me nearly as much as the look in his eye. He won the hand of poker with a three of a kind to my one pair. As soon as I laid my cards down, he grabbed the gun in the middle of the table and aimed it at me. The look in his eye was pure hate. He wanted me dead. He wasn't just trying to prove to his friends how brave he was. He wanted me dead. I was the only thing in the whole room that he saw or paid any attention to. The lady that I came to find out was his girlfriend, who should be able to get anyone's attention, was standing right beside him. She was so close that he should have been able to feel the heat from her body but the only thing that he saw was me. That's what scared me, right down to my bones. There was nothing I could do to apologize or make it up to him. When he pulled the trigger, I saw the little muscle on the underside of his eye twitch. If his skull were a cannon...
Of course, it's over a woman. That's the only reason people do these things. I don't need a lecture. Anyway, it's too late for that, now. You do your best to try to stay out of trouble and none of it matters. Trouble will still find you.
When I heard the click of the gun, I wasn't sure if I'd been shot or not. How much of a gunshot would you actually hear, anyway? I mean if you were shot in the head. Would you hear the whole thing, echo and all, before your brain died or would you just hear the pin striking the bullet? When his gun clicked, for just a moment, there was no movement in the room. No one even breathed. And then all of a sudden, they went back to normal. Maybe they were just in anticipation or maybe I was in shock. But everything stopped and went back to normal, like nothing happened.
My would be shooter slammed the revolver back on the table. He slammed it so hard, I thought it would go off and still shoot me. Believe me when I tell you, where it was aiming, I would much have preferred it to be pointed at my head.
He didn't bother to say anything. He just stared at me. “Oh darn” or “I'll get you next time” would have been nice, but he just stared at me. His girlfriend, put her hands on his shoulders and looked at me like she was apologizing. The other people in the room stood and watched. A woman that obviously had nothing to do with us was our dealer, to make sure the deck wasn't being stacked. We could only have our turn at the other one if we won the hand and with stakes like that, we both agreed on letting her do it.
Every hand, she shuffled the cards in front of us and let one of us cut the deck. Nothing was hidden or assumed to be fair. It was all on the table, in front of everyone. Then she dealt each of us five cards and put the deck on the table, beside the gun. It was draw poker so we could discard 4 out of 5 cards and replace them with what was on top of the deck.
My opponent used his thumb to drop two cards on the table, put down the hand and drew that many from the pile. I put my hand down, drew out two and slid them to the middle of the table and drew the same amount from the pile. “Two for me.” I said, mainly to break the silence. Of course we were watched very closely to be sure we took only the cards we should have and only from the top.
I looked at my new hand. I don't think I've ever seen a bigger pile of nothing. A feeling started growing in the pit of my stomach. The kind of feeling you have when you know what's about to happen and it's not going to be in your favor.
He put the elbow of his free hand on the table and set his cards in front of me, face up. He had a pair of kings. Their faces looked like they were asking me not to blame them.
As soon as I dropped my cards in front of him, I don't think he even bothered to look at them, he grabbed the gun and pointed it at my head like he was punching through a window. If he was just a few inches closer, he wouldn't have needed to shoot me. When he put his finger on the trigger and squeezed, I couldn't help cringing and looking away. The room was quiet enough that I could hear the gear turn the cylinder to advance to the next chamber.
I looked around and everyone was frozen. It was clear, this time. I could clearly see someone's drink in the act of spilling. Whatever it was, was caught in the upward motion out if a red plastic cup, caused by the girl next to him, bumping into him before gravity took over and made a mess on the floor. They looked like one those bullet time scenes from the X-men movies where they slow everything down and Quicksilver runs around like it happens every day. I even waved my hand in front of my opponent and his stare never changed. It was locked in the 'I would eat your face off, if I could' expression. Maybe there was something to all the stories I've heard where time slows to a crawl during extreme stress. Or maybe I was already dead.
But then just as fast as everything froze, the world hit the play button. That guy's drink fell to the floor and made a mess. The people not distracted by it, said things like “ooh” and “Lucky!” My opponent grit his teeth and sneered. His upper lip quivered when he did, showing a glint of a silver tooth. He slammed the gun down again and I jumped, just like the first time.
The girl came over again and removed the spent cards then shuffled the deck. I wondered how many times she's done this for people. And how many of those times, was this guy involved? She shuffled the deck and sat it down on the table, in front of me. I cut it. She took it back and shuffled further. My opponent shifted in his chair. Probably because he knew there were only 6 chambers in a revolver and 2 were already down. The girl dealt 5 cards to each of us. Just like last time and sat the deck on the table by the revolver, just like last time.
My opponent picked up his cards with his free hand and examined them. A corner of his mouth went up. Then he pushed a card up and let it fall from his hand. He set down his cards, drew one, put it with the rest and took another look at his hand. The corner of his mouth went up a little farther and he looked up at me. The light from the window seemed to glint in his eye. I guess if there's no reason to bluff, there's no point in a poker face. I wanted to run away, but the rope that tied our hands together seemed to laugh at me.
I looked at my hand. You know I really believe that when the game of poker was invented, they had me in mind. That's right. It is my belief that the makers of the game were thinking about me. They asked themselves, “What hands do you think that guy is most likely to get? Let's make sure those lose.” I looked at my hand and wanted to throw them all out the window. Instead, I dropped them to the table, set aside 4 and drew that many from the deck. I wished so hard that any of them would have helped. I had not a single pair nor three of anything. No more than 2 cards were in consecutive order. And from the smile across the table, it would take more than a jack high card to win the hand. I got that feeling in the pit of my stomach, again.
My opponent slapped his cards down on the table, face up. No lie, he had a full house. How many times has he done this? He didn't even bother to let me show my cards before he snatched the revolver and almost poked my eye out with the barrel. It was close enough that I could see the bullet in the next chamber. As he pulled the trigger, I watched the occupied chamber mechanically rotate to be inline with the barrel. When the gun fired, everything froze again. The muzzle flash floated in mid-air around the gun. It was actually mesmerizing, but I didn't have time to gawk at it. I didn't have time to untie the rope and run away. Even if I did, they'd just chase me and kill me for it, later. If I moved out of the way of the bullet, the game would just go on indefinitely. If I turned the gun, the bullet would probably hit the side of the barrel, making it explode and kill us both with shrapnel.
I didn't have time to think of anything else. And the funny thing is, that this only happens when someone can't think of a better idea. Maybe not this, exactly. You see, I got up from my chair, picked my opponent up from his and swapped places. I put him in my chair and sat down in his. When the world came back to normal, I made sure I was holding the gun. When the gunshot finished its echo and the muzzle flash dispersed, my opponent was slumped over in his chair, with a red spot growing on his shirt.
The people in the room, looked at me in disbelief. They looked to each other and murmured. The girl that had shuffled the cards came over and untied me from my opponent. I stood up, massaged the skin on my wrist that had been treated so poorly and walked to the door.
“Wait!” said the shuffling girl as I had my hand on the doorknob. “How did you do that?” She cupped one hand inside the other at waist level, like a school kid.
I turned around and told her, “I have no idea.” Then turned back around and left.