Monday, February 20, 2012

"Red Right Hand"

He said his name was Jack. He had been playing poker for a few hours and steadilying losing chips. He wore one red glove over his right hand. He explained it to us while sipping on his Mai Tai. Apparently, he used to work in a factory and there had been an accident with one of the machines and his hand had been crushed, he said.

"The others pitied me at first," he said. "But then we all got used to it. They even started joking around about it. They called me the Handyman or Jack Handy or, the one I liked the best, Jack the Hand. By then, there use to poke and prod it and sometimes, they would even put out their cigarettes on it, 'cause I didn't even feel anything."

Nobody told him to be quiet. He was losing money, so as far as the other players were concerned, he could talk all night long.

It was around two in the morning when one of the other players, a regular called Philby, shivered and said, "It's so cold in here. You guys always have the air conditioning turned up so much, it's freezing." None of the other players complained, so I figured that he was just being ornery because he didn't have a winning hand.

"I know about the cold, believe me," Jack said with a smile. "My old buddies at the factory-"

"I don't care about your buddies," Philby said. "I just wish it wasn't so cold in here."

And then Jack did something. He raised his right hand and snapped his fingers.

"I thought you couldn't use it?" Philby said. "You a liar?"

"Oh, I didn't lie," Jack said. "I never lie. I just said it didn't feel anything, I didn't say I couldn't use it. Anyway, looks like I've lost enough here, don't you think? I should get going." The others grumbled, but that didn't stop Jack from downing the rest of his drink and leaving through the double doors.

As the minutes passed, the room grew steadily hotter. The players started to sweat. Philby wiped his forehead with his sleeve and removed his jacket. "What's wrong with your AC? This some new trick you guys trying out?"

I shrugged. I was just the dealer, I didn't know anything about how the casino air conditioning worked. But as the hour dragged on, it became increasingly apparent that not only was it not working, but the heaters were on, too.

"Turn them damn things off," Philby said and the other players agreed with him, their grumbles making me nervous.

I walked to the door to open it, but it wouldn't budge. I pushed again, but still it didn't move.

"What's the hold up?" Philby came forward. "Here, let me give it a try." He pushed against it and pretty soon, everyone was lined up trying to open the door, like it was the sword in the stone. None of them could move it. "It's locked," he said.

"Can't be," I said. "It's an internal door. They don't have locks."

And yet it did seem to be locked. Someone must have put something in front of it. The players started bringing out their cellphones, each one trying to call either the police or the casino itself to complain.

None of them worked. No signal inside the casino.

The casino phone wasn't working. It had been broken since last week and nobody had fixed it yet.

And so we waited. We waited for someone to open the door, for someone to realize we were in here. But it was a big casino. There were lots of poker rooms, lots of players. And it was so hot. The heat kept rising and rising.

Philby went first. He just collapsed. Then the other players, one by one by one. Until it was only me.

I weakly pushed against the door opened and begged to be let out. "Please," I said.

The door opened and I felt a cool rush of air. "Thank you, God," I said.

"I prefer Jack."

I looked at him and remembered the snap of his fingers, the way he had waited until Philby made his wish and then left. "Who are you?"

Jack smiled. "They called me Jack the Hand," he said as he adjusted his glove. "But I have many names."

He lifted me up with his right hand and it felt strange, like it wasn't a hand under there, but something else. "I just came back to see my handywork," he said. "And to say sayanora." He waved his hand at the dead players. "Sayanora!" And then he swept out of the room, like it was just a show, like the curtain would come down and the dead bodies would come back to life. Like nothing we did mattered.

And I realized: we didn't matter. Not to Jack the Hand.

God help us all.

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