God is hosting the monthly deity poker night. Everyone could make it for once, which is a rarity. In December God never shows up. He has to prepare for Jesus’ birthday bash, so it’s understandable. Satan missed a couple times this year because it’s such a long trip from the deep south, but we don’t miss him much. He’s kind of a snake the way he plays. He tempts everyone into betting against him and wins. You would think we would’ve learned by now. Vishnu made it to every game this year, which was nice to see, but I’m not sure he enjoys playing. He tends to lose the most, playing four hands at once. I keep telling him to learn how to count cards, but he doesn’t believe in cheating. If I was losing as much as that guy was, I would certainly make an exception. The last of the typical poker crew, is Allah. He brings Muhammad with him from time to time. I’d say we go to their house half of the time we play. Who could honestly pass up playing poker at a place with 72 virgins? Just because they are all gods doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy the scenery. As for me, I am Tim, the dealer. The gods caught wind that a young, Vegas poker dealer had just gotten struck by lightning and died. I think I got the job because God felt badly for dropping the bolt on me, but who am I to question him? The perks of being the deity dealer have been terrific. I have my own house next to the gods on Sky Street, and get all the invites to heavenly parties and barbeques. All is good.
This night though, God was up big. He was getting lucky cards all night, although I would never credit God’s success to ‘luck’, at least in his presence. It wasn’t until about an hour and a half into playing Texas Hold ‘em that I knew something bad was going to happen. God started getting cocky and was betting a little too much; meanwhile, all the other gods were trying to cover their losses.
“I’ll see your 72 virgins and I’ll raise you, all the Catholics.” God said with a stern poker face.
“Ah, what the hell, I’ll call with hell.” Satan said
I had to step in at this point; I mean if one God had rule over the heavens and the earth, I can’t imagine what kind of turmoil that would create.
“Guys, guys,” I said raising the palms of my hands; “Don’t you think this is getting a little out of hand?”
Satan shouted, “You know what’s a little out of hand, the fact that you have a God Damn house in heaven and I don’t.”
“He’s right.” God said, looking at Satan. God always took my side, “You’re our dealer, not our mother you jackass. I ought to turn you into a pillar of salt for questioning us.” I stared at him, wide eyed, mouth agape. God glanced at everyone at the table and said, “Are you ladies in or out?”
“I’m in,” Vishnu called out.
“What could you bet that is even remotely close in value to what we have, you spider?” Allah teased.
Vishnu proceeded to dislodge one of his arms and set it on the table, “You happy?”
Buddha’s face grew pale; he looked at Vishnu and said “Chaos is inherent in all compounded things… I fold.”
“Oh can-it Buddha. Why don’t you leave the wise sayings to me, alright?” God said. “O.K., now will you please deal Tim?”
With every card I flipped, my heart pounded, harder and harder. I was trembling violently, to the point I was afraid the cards would shake the cards out of my hand. Finally I got to the last card, but for some reason instead of dealing it face down, I dealt Satan’s card face up. It was a King of Diamonds. This is typically a small blunder and worth some ungodly hazing and teasing. However, these were high stakes; I knew I was in some deep trouble.
“Um, what are you doing?” God said peacefully. “You know those are supposed to be face down right?”
“I…I… I’m sorry God, I didn’t mean to.” I stuttered, bracing for the impending ass kicking to high heaven.
“It’s O.K. my son, it’s an honest mistake. New game.” God said, tossing his cards to the middle of the table. Allah and Vishnu, visibly relieved, did the same.
I slumped in my dealer’s chair embarrassed, with my face in my hands. I could feel Satan’s red, fiery eyes burning in the back of my head. The room grew silent and the air filled with a smell of fire and brimstone. He flipped his cards over onto the table and slid them under my slouched head so I could take a good, hard look at them. Satan would have won.
“Take it easy Satan, the kid made a mistake. Would it make you feel better if I punished him?” Allah said.
Satan sat back in his chair with his arms crossed, “No, it will not make me feel better. Heaven forbid we hurt Tim’s feelings.”
Buddha, patted Satan’s back in comfort and said, “Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the only one that gets burned.”
Now I was terrified, but mad that Buddha would throw me under the bus like that. It didn’t make sense to me. I thought he believed in peace. The worst part about it was everyone nodded in agreement, even God said, “You make a very good point; I may have to borrow that line from you.”
“Fine, let’s make a little wager.” Satan hissed. “I want Tim’s his house on Sky Street, and free passes to go on earth whenever I please, no questions asked.”
“I think we can accommodate that request.” God responded. “What game shall we play?”
“It’s not we, my bearded buddy,” Satan said looking at God. “This is between Tim and me.”
There was a chorus from the gods of, “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” “Hold on now,” and “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.”
It was nice to see they had so much confidence in me. But in all fairness, I had no intention of competing against Satan. I wasn’t so concerned about Satan having a free pass on earth. To be honest, I just didn’t want to lose my house next to the gods on Sky Street.
Allah, jumped into the conversation, “Wait, let’s see what he has to offer. C’mon, hear him out.”
“I guess you can call this predestination… am I right?” I said jokingly, in attempt to diffuse the situation.
In unison, the table shouted, “Shut up Tim.” I slouched back into place in my chair.
“If Tim wins, I will stop bringing evil unto earth, but more importantly, unto poker nights.” Satan said.
Just as I suspected, everyone agreed, except for God. He sat in silence staring at me, while everyone discussed the game to play.
I folded my hands, bowed my head and prayed, “God, please bail me out of this. I don’t know what to do. If you could give me some kind of sign…”
“I’ll deal.” God said proudly, with a shit-eating grin on his face. “Tim, I created you, I guided you through your life, but to be honest you are the worst human ever.” He continued, “Your lawn is completely overgrown and it looks atrocious, you painted your shutters a fecal brown which is an embarrassment to the rest of the neighborhood, and please tell me you didn’t pay much for the Buddha statue in your front yard.”
“Oh, gee thanks, I thought it was a nice housewarming gift.” Buddha interrupted.
“And you think it is O.K. to blast your Michael Bublé, music till 3 A.M,” God said.
“I’m sorry, I had no idea.” I said.
“And another thing,” God said, as he stood up towering over me, now shouting. “Your dog craps in my yard every morning, and guess who has to pick it up? To be honest, I’m pretty sure I’m willing to give Satan the world to have you out of my neighborhood.”
It was now clear: I had no choice but to play. I turned my green eyeshade visor backwards, and then rolled up my white dress sleeves. “Shuffle up and deal,” I said, sneering at Satan.
Allah took the deck of cards explaining, “Gentleman and Satan, the game is 5 card war. I will deal you both five cards, and we will flip them individually. Whoever wins the best of five series, wins the bet.”
“I’ll bet a steak dinner Satan wins.” Buddha said, salivating.
“You’re on,” Vishnu said. Backtracking, Vishnu said, “Oh, you said, steak didn’t you? I can’t make that bet, not allowed to eat beef.” He winked at Buddha and mouthed over to him, “We’re still on.”
God dealt; sliding the cards perfectly under our hands, with only a flick of the wrist. I flipped over my first card. King of spades. I exhaled, the pressure off, I was going to win this hand. Satan flipped his card; an Ace of hearts. You cannot be serious, I thought. I flipped my second card; Queen of diamonds. Satan flipped his card; it was another Ace, the Ace of clubs. I was now down by two, and I had to win every hand to save my house and the earth, no pressure, I thought. I flipped my last card; it was a King of clubs. Satan reached down and grabbed the card, with his giant, claw like hands. A bead of sweat trickled down the middle of my forehead. Everyone’s eyes were glued to the card. Satan picked up the card and held it in front of his face. He smiled at me with his wolf like fangs and then he hammered the card down flat on the table. Ace of spades.
I looked around the table, astonished. Satan danced and pranced like a child on a sugar high, “I can’t believe it, I won, nothing this good ever happens to me,” he drew his index fingers from his fists which he pumped in the air, and directed them at God, “Stick that in your book God.”
“Moses split the Red Sea to save the Jews; Jonah was eaten by a whale and survived, and Satan won the most important poker game of all time. Very heroic, it would fit well,” I said. Honestly, I knew I was a goner at this point, so what difference did it make? If I was going down, I was certainly taking some of Satan’s satisfaction with me.
“You know what’s funny,” God said, poking his head around Satan to see me, “You lost.”
The ground began to rumble, and the marble floors began to crack. Out of the ground rose a familiar bolt of lightning. It ascended in to God’s open palm. He grabbed the bolt, and pulled it back like a lever, smiled and said, “Have peace on earth and mercy mild.”
I looked down, as the floor began opening up around me. I grabbed the table with all my strength, “No don’t make me go. I’ll be good please, oh, please God let me stay.”
“Let go of the table you dunce, we still need that,” Satan said.
“Don’t worry Satan, my kid’s a carpenter,” God responded.
I looked around, waiting for someone to stop this madness. Vishnu smiled, and waved all six hands goodbye. Allah, gave me a thumbs-up, a wink, then a salute. Buddha was my last hope. “Come on Bud, can you help me out?” I said.
Buddha began sweating more than usual. He was breathing heavily and a look of concern masked his face. Buddha then stood up, looked at me, and sprinted out of the room at a walkers pace. “Just great,” I said under my breath.
The clock had struck twelve on my time in heaven. The floor was opening more every second.
I looked down at the long drop I had waiting for me, made the sign of a cross and let go of the table. As I fell Buddha poked his head through the crack shouting, “No, wait, you forgot something.”
He lifted his arms above his head and heaved the Buddha yard statue through the crack.
The next thing I knew I hit the rock-hard ground. It was at that moment, or the moment after the Buddha statue landed square on my nose, that I had clarity. I knew what I had to do with my life back on earth.
“That is why I am here today, to share with you my fight against gambling addiction, so you don’t have to face the same pain-staking rejection,” I said to the group, pointing to my Buddha statue next to me. “So before you burn your house down to get the insurance money, or decide to rob a liquor store to cover your gambling debts, just think, ‘what would my friend from Deity Straits think if he saw me do this?’”
There was a silent pause, followed by a roar of laughter. I continued, “Remember our motto here at Deity Straits,” I set my hand on the Buddha statue, “Chaos is inherent in all compounded things, just fold.”
-Current student and lacrosse player at The University of North Carolina
-Former student of Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish
-No prior work published