The Red Joker's Tale
“Pour me ‘nother, barkeep” the man said with a dryness in his voice. Sounded like a man who said it too many times to too many barkeeps. Sounded like a man who said everything too often and was almost sick of talk. I’spose that was what the drink was for. Knew so too, after he finished.
“I know you?” Barkeep asked.
“Just ‘nother one of dem faces.” The man said as he tapped his empty highball, “Pour me ‘nother un.”
“Got any coin left mister? You’ve been drinking since we’s opened.”
The man reached into his breast pocket. Made an effort to fish around then withdrew his empty hand.
“No coin, eh? Seems you’re cut off.” Barkeep says as he draws another. “This un’s on the house. Only cost is you telling me why you don’t like that liver o’ yours.”
With his glass filled, the man smiled, “I got a story for ya. Mighty fine one, in fact.”
The saloon was empty. All the usual drunks had gone home and all the irregular drunks had been carried upstairs to the beds. They’d be charged for the service tomorrow.
The man slowly reached down to his holster and the barkeep tensed up. “Shit,” he thought to himself, his slugtosser was at the other end of the bar and he sure as fuck would be dead ‘fore he could get to it.
The man produced his shooting iron slowly and the barkeep had a hard time keeping his pant’s fresh if you can kennit. The man was packing a Gun and not one of them Smythes. An honest to God Card.
“I reckon you know what you’re lookin’ at,” said the man. “I’ve grown ‘customed to that face people pull.” He laid the Gun on the bar. “Here’s your story.”
See, there was this man. Lived in these parts all his life. Had a good girl and a steady job making railway spikes fer the local railway. One day, he decides to take the missus out fer a drink at pub like this one, nothing fancy, nothing presummin’. Just a drink.
That’s what he tells her, see. Just a drink and then they’re gon’ go see that travellin’ playwright in the ol’ longhouse theatre.” The man continues. “We’ll, isn’t she just dazzled. She’s the sort of gal who’s into these artsy sort o’ things and her man knows it. Man’s got ‘nother artsy thing for ‘er in his pocket. Real piece of work it is. Got’s a diamond on it the size of, well, it was pretty nice fer it’s time. Cost the man two month’s pay.
Trouble is, he never did give her that ring. Just as they were stepping out to go see the show didn’t four men all dressed in black walk in? They was a hootin’ and hollerin’ and pushin’ people out of their way. Wanted all the guns, money and jewl’ry this here town’s got. Wouldn’t stop at nothin’ short of a full haul.
Now, the man in our story is an honest sort. Never fired a gun save at an animal and never carried. This wasn’t true for the lout behind him nor was it true fer the four black-clad men in front.
The lout, a real talker of a man had always carried about his magnum called it the Widower but no one saw him fire it, he’d never pick a fight and always walked ‘way from ‘un. Seems like the whiskey finally reached his balls tonight ‘cuz he was a’standin and pointing that hand cannon right one o’ them men in black.
No sooner was that lout up was one of them men in black holding a gun in his hand pointed squarely at our man’s forehead. No sooner had he seen this did the man in black pull the trigger. They say the bullet went right between the Lout’s eyes even though he wasn’t close to bein’ in the line o’ sight.
Now the man’s woman was a’screamin and a whole bout of cack phony was in the air. The Sheriff had been sittin’ pretty through this all and had gotten his six shooter out and was quietly aimin’ from his seat.
One of the other black men saw this and hoisted his rifle at the sheriff, one of them revolver models if you kennit. Our man was paralyzed through all of this but noticed two things. One, that gun of the first black man was tha 5 o’ Hearts. Two, that rifle of the other man had 5 diamonds on ‘er.
The sheriff fanned his revolver and sent 6 slugs flyin’ toward the bandits. The 5 of Diamonds fired likewise and wouldn’t you know stopped each bullet dead in it’s tracks.
Fumbling to reload, the sheriff had just got his spent casings out when the third man in black produced a slick back revolver with 5 spades on it. Man pointed his gun at the lamp over the sheriff and all three shots bounced straight down into the lawman’s head.
Now the people were starting to see who they’s was dealing with and some took to running fer tha back door. The last man pulled out a sawed off double barrel. You can guess the Card, you’re a smart fellar. That last black man, he says, “Sorry, the back door’s outta commission” and fired off at the upstairs walkway knockin’ it down blockin’ the way out.
These Gunslingers then went ta taking everything their greed let them have and then they turned to our man’s girl. “We’ll take yer whores too, God knows we need ‘em more than you sorry lot.” The 5 of Hearts said. He grabbed our man’s girl and she took to screamin’ more than a banshee outta Hell itself.
Our man didn’t take a likin’ to this and started to protest. That’s when the 5 of Diamonds’ stock winded him.
“Stay down, dog.” The Diamond spat. “You might get yer missus back when we’re done with ‘er.”
The men laughed as they went back out into the night with our man’s girl in tow. He sat there, humiliated and ashamed while the townsfolk cleared out or saw to the village idiot and the sheriff.
Now, someone leaned down and offered our man a hand up. Taking it, he came face to face with a man in a well-fit waistcoat. The man was holding a deck of cards.
“Looks like you need some help, mister.” The man said as he fanned out his cards. “Play or fold?”
“Mister, I don’t know where you came from but I don’t have time for this.”
The man with the deck of cards was undeterred and stood there with his cards out. Our man wasn’t too bright and the thought never occurred to him that he was talking with the Dealer. He took a card to get the man off his back so he could get his bearings and try to form a posse. Difficult task to do, too if town’s lacking a sheriff.
“Sir, I think you didn’t shuffle your deck straight, see you got this-“ he stopped as the man had disappeared. Suddenly aware of the weight in his hand he looked down at his Card and everything snapped into place. So he set off to get back his girl.
“Oh sure, he got those men, he got them all and he got his girl. Trouble was, she didn’t know who he was no more. He looked different see? Implacable and like a stranger. She thought this was some fifth bandit and after the first 4 were dead she grabbed one of their Guns and pointed it straight at our man’s head. Our man’s Gun didn’t like that and took it upon itself to dispatch the would-be Gunslinger.”
Back at the bar, our half-drunk storyteller has fallen silent. He stares long and hard at his Gun. After the longest pause, he said, “And wouldn’t you know it, she wasn’t the last person our man loved and lost by his sidearm. Much as he tried not to.”
“So there’s your story, barkeep. One rife with heartbreak. Sure, I could go on about it but I haven’t got the time, you see.” He smirked, “Maybe I have too much. I come back here every year and tell you the same thing, after all.”
As the man got up and walked out, our barkeep was left with two images: The diamond ring on a necklace around his last customer and the red-handled Gun with a maniacal jester which seemed to taunt its owner with the steady gaze of hysteria. The barkeep watched him leave and then wondered, “Why is there a glass on the table? This place has been dead empty for the last hour.”
Back to Wild Cards: Stories of the World
|Spades:||2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - J - Q - K - A|
|Hearts:||2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - J - Q - K - A|
|Clubs:||2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - J - Q - K - A|
|Diamonds:||2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - J - Q - K - A|
|Jokers:||Red Joker - Black Joker|
|Introduction - The World - Gameplay - Stories of the world |
On the Attainment, Ownership and Passing of The Cards
Variant Rule: Hands