Fiction Writing Friday – The Ultimate Gambit

Originally posted 2016-03-18 12:00:07.

So, this story is related to Luck almost as loosely as you can get.  In this story I (attempt to) pay homage to one of the greatest personifications of Death ever…Terry Pratchett’s Death.  This was originally part of a oral presentation that I did for a freshman seminar that I only recently committed to paper.



Connor McCloud was a truly despicable man.  He had been so ever since the day he was born when he kicked the doctor in the face for smacking his behind.  Throughout his entire life, he was loathed by those who came into contact with him.  He was a liar, a thief, a cheat; he smoked, swore, gambled, and drank heavily.  He was everything that the respectable men of society looked down upon, but he never let that stop him.  He lived a life of sinful pleasure and overindulgence; he had broken every commandment and committed each of the seven deadly sins.  His life was ruled by two things: anarchy and poker.

There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Connor McCloud was not a man you wanted to meet at the poker table in a seedy bar.  He’d rob you of your cash, credit cards, family heirloom pocket watch, wedding ring, car, and house deed in fewer than five hands.  He wasn’t that good of a player either.  He’d just apply his sinful tendencies at the table as he did in his daily life, meaning that there was always something up that sleeve of his.

But this story isn’t about Connor McCloud’s life; it’s all about his death.

Connor had just cleared another poker table in another nameless bar and decided it was time to head home for the night.  He was a wee bit on the tipsy side . . . strike that, he was utterly and completely tanked.  He was staggering through the streets cramming his massive winnings into his pockets when he stumbled into the street and was promptly hit by a speeding bus.

He woke up several minutes later only to be greeted with the sight of seeing his body being shoved into a black, vinyl body bag.  He stuttered and stumbled around the street in a bewildered daze demanding that someone explain to him what was going on.  Everyone ignored him though and he couldn’t for the life of him understand why.  He then attempted to tap someone on the shoulder only to have his hand go through the person.  He did what any sane person would do in such a situation.

He screamed.

“Please will you stop with the screaming,” a deep bass voice resonated from behind him.  He shut up for a moment and turned around slowly before opening his mouth and screaming again.

Standing before him was a tall figure in billowing black robes leaning on a wicked-looking scythe for support.  Connor gaped as he stared at the skeletal skull framed by the black trim of the hood. The figure had ice blue pin-pricks in the gaping voids that must have been eyes at some point in time.

“A-a-a-are you D-d-d-d-d-death?” Connor stuttered.  The bony figure sighed and smacked his hand to his forehead.

“No, I’m the Easter Bunny,” he grumbled, “YES! Of course I’m Death!”  He held out a skeletal hand and beckoned to Connor, “Now come with me.”

“No,” Connor insisted, “I don’t want to die; I’m not going with you.”

“Please,” Death moaned eerily, “it’s been a really long day and I’d just like to take a nice, hot bubble bath.”  Connor shook his head adamantly.

“Nope,” Connor said as he crossed his arms and leaned against a light post (which he passed through), “I’m staying right here.”

“Look, we can do this the hard way or easy way,” Death attempted to bargain, but Connor was unmoved.  Death swung his scythe towards Connor who barely leapt out of the way.

“Watch it!” Connor shouted, startled.

“You have the power to end this,” Death retorted as he swung at Connor again.  Connor, being the quick-thinking con-artist he was, looked around for a way out.  All he seemed to take note of was the bar where he had just cleaned out several men.  A sly smile spread across his face.

“I challenge you to a game,” Connor said loudly stopping Death mid swing.

“What?” Death asked cocking his head to one side looking like a confused child.

“I challenge you to a game,” Connor repeated as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, “Death never turns down a challenge.”  Death seemed to ponder this for a moment.

“I suppose a game of chess wouldn’t hurt,” Death mused; “The last decent game I played was with that Bobby Fisher fellow . . .” Connor couldn’t help but snort indignantly.

“Who said anything about chess?” He asked, “I mean a few rounds of Seven-Card Stud.”

“Poker?” Death asked disgusted.  Connor nodded with a mischievous smile on his face, “Very well then.”  With a wave of his hand, the street vanished from around them and they were seated in a smoky bar at the opposite ends of a green, felt topped table.  Connor let out a low whistle.

“That’s a handy trick,” he murmured as Death motioned a man dressed in heavy armor over to the table.

“War, we need a dealer,” Death said flatly obviously wanting to get this over with.  The rider of the Apocalypse dubbed War picked up a deck of cards and began shuffling.

“Texas Hold’em?” he asked in a metallic voice.

“No,” Death replied, leaning back in his chair, “Seven-Card Stud.”  War nodded and began dealing the cards.

“Best of three,” Connor said before he looked at his cards.  Death nodded in agreement and the match was on.

The first two rounds were slow going as the players sized each other up.  They had used strange coins of varying sizes for the pot since no real money was on the line.  Connor played boldly having his hand set with the sixth card.  He had a beautiful first hand: full house, aces and sevens.  The end of the hand came, and all Death had a pair of twos.  Wisely, Connor palmed his two aces and slid them up his sleeve when he pulled the pot towards him.

The second hand didn’t favor him so much.  All he had gotten was two pair, threes and sevens, while Death got three of a kind.  Lord knows that Connor tried to bluff his way out of that situation, but it was to no avail.

It all came down to that last hand.

War dealt the cards mechanically and Connor looked at his two cards that were dealt face down: a deuce and three and his one face up card: an ace.  Messing with his pile of strange coins he glanced over at Death’s up card, a four of spades.  Confidently Death pushed all his coins to the center of the table.

“How about we go all in this last round?” Death asked.  Connor nodded knowing the stakes, but as he pushed his coins to the center of the table he switched out his two down cards with the two aces he had palmed earlier.  He pulled back and Death motioned for War to continue.  War flipped over another card for each of the players, Death got a five of spades and Connor got a queen of diamonds.  After that came the two of hearts for Connor and the ten of spades for Death.

The next cards went down and Connor just about wet himself.  He got the final ace, with the two he had smuggled, he was set!  There was no way that Death could beat four of a kind with the horrible hand that War was dealing him: the four, five, and ten of spades and the jack of clubs.

Connor didn’t care about his last facedown card, nor did he care about Death’s; all he knew was that he had four of a kind in aces plus a queen.  That was a tough hand to beat.  Connor flipped his face down cards up and laid them out for Death.

“Nice try, Death,” Connor said cockily, “but you can’t beat the master.”  Connor then made to leave.

“Wait a moment,” Death said slowly with a hint of amusement and Connor froze where he stood and looked back over his shoulder at the table.  Death calmly and slowly flipped over his three facedown cards: the six, seven, and eight of spades.  Connor gaped at the cards on the table.  Death had him beat with a low flush.

“B-but how?” Connor demanded in a state of shock as Death loomed towards him chuckling deeply.

“It was an excellent attempt at cheating, lad,” Death murmured extending a hand towards him and placing it roughly on his shoulder, “but you can’t cheat Death.”