a short by DB Rhys

The sun was high in the sky and the billowy clouds in the distance where slowly forming what would become tonight’s reason to stay inside. The grass flowed to and fro with the cascading winds jockeying their position for the rain already being smelled in the air.

I was skipping about having just returned to the highland fields from the mountains lake. In my own little world I let my hands brush lightly the tops of the highland grass, unaware of the eyes that were now watching as I floated along back to the cabin. I spun round and round, my face bathing in what was left of the sun’s warm light, laughing for no good reason but my own amusement.

Spinning, spinning, spinning, arms out to my sides. On one spin I managed to tangle my feet in the grass and found myself staring up at all the passing clouds. That one’s a steamboat, that one looks like a camel, and that one, oh my, that looks like a skull- smoking a long stem corncob pipe, wearing a Viking helmet and riding on top of an airplane.

He looked down at me and said, “Hello little one.”

Being polite minded and taught manners I said hello back of course. Then watched as he rode his plane like a horse into the storm.

The clouds had over taken the sun and I could finally start to smell in earnest the rain heading in to wash the highland fields for a new day.

I heard rustling in the grass and the sound of something quickly moving my way. As I lay on my back Hamburger jumped over me.

Run!” I swear he tells me as he sprints away through the tall grass.

I jump to my feet to see where he had gone just in time to watch him diving head first onto a mountain lion his same size. The fight was dreadful but Hamburger had locked on and was not at all showing any signs of letting up.

I saw two more of the feline creatures stalking closer. The high grass laying down as they made their way to a mortified meal. I felt myself taking small careful steps back. The safety of the cabin seemingly miles away. My heart pounds on the inside of my ribcage.

Hamburger’s got the first mountain lion in between his jaws. With a whip of his head it sails ten feet into the air. It lands with a roll and speeds away staggering from side to side.

Run!” I know I hear him bark at me again.

He sprints at me. Pushing me along with the top of his head stopping and surveying the field every few steps. We were being flanked.

Run!” he barks again before launching an all out attack on the closest foe.

He attacks low, taking a swipe to the face. Unyielding he swipes back. Jumping over the over grown kitty he snares it from behind. Pinned, the beast submits. Hamburger cautiously backs away and watches his catch run off licking his wounds, the third cat following close behind.

You saved me Hamburger. That was a very brave and noble thing to do my protector, my hero, my honorable little knight.” I told him petting his head behind his ears and squeezing his chin. “Now sit.”

He lowers his backside keeping his shoulders proud and tall.

Good man,” I say to him, “for actions above and beyond the call of duty I hereby do dub thee- Sir Wilham Berg, now rise.”

He jumps up on all fours.

Have a shake on it.” I say reaching out for a paw, “Good man, tonight we shall feast in your honor.”

I hug him again and scratch behind his ears before going inside to tell Father what had just happened.

I was just about to call. I suppose you smelled the stew?” he says from the sink. “Come, wash up then you can set the table.”

The entire meal I keep replaying the now famous feline fiasco for Father in my best English actorish voice. Playing the star of course is the newly knighted Sir Wilham Berg.

Completing the stew and my most dramatic presentation of teeth gnashing, snarling, growling and barking I receive a good full belly chuckle. I get a single clap, and the same lecture about straying too far. But Sir Wilham gets a toast.

Sir Wilham!” I echo laughing loud.

Father looks at me from the corners of his eyes and asks suspiciously, “Who’s turn is it?”

As if you did not know fine sir. It is mine.”

And what shall it be then? A book? Another story? A game of some sort?”

Cards.” I say wide-eyed, hands slapping down on the table.

Well then,” he says, “go on, get them. I’ll clear the table.”

I leap from the table so high and fast I almost hit the ceiling. Scamper up the ladder to my loft. Grab the worn pack and fly back down before he’s had a chance to clear everything away.

I deliberately slow my gait looking at him casually while shuffling the cards randomly in my hands. I was staring him down before the match like fierce competitors sometimes do. Circling him like the ill-fated felines from earlier.

Now then snort,” I tell him, “is not unlike every other card game you might or might not have heard of. There are many rules to the game. If you are not quick enough, witty enough, or dare I even say it- dressed in the proper attire, you should not risk to attempt this great and wonderful contest. I, furthermore and hence forth from now until then, must say that snort is similar to, and not at all different- other than name, to another rummyish variety styled game called bullsdung, and almost everybody who is an anybody that has ever played that very vivacious and yet aromatic sounding game can surely play snort. Save the Top Hat of course.”

I shuffle the cards in my hands like a pro wanna-be card dealer.

“As far as attire goes,” I say scrutinizing him over and under and side to side, “I think yours shall have to be just barely on this side of suitable, my fine sir- If I can get confirmation from the judge.”

I point to Hamburger and he bows his head.

“Uh, yes? Ah yes. There you have it, judge says just barely good enough, Sir.”

“Why thank you, you kind and imaginative gentle lady. But I must confess to you that I have heard of not one of these obviously pleasurable and senseless sounding games of which you have made unmemorable mention.” He admits, almost apologetically, straightening out his shirt sleeves and adjusting his missing tie.

“Not to worry my good man- a very good man indeed and for sure. Now, someone as savvy as you obviously must have been in your youth, is most certainly almost to pick it up rather quickly, and I can bet you as to say- not at all. And, of this too I am also most certain,” I shoot him a keen look that catches us both by surprise, he almost chokes on his drink, “it shall be most unforgettable.”

Well then my dear if you would please be so kind as to deal the cards. I am now almost excited and even anxious to begin.”

He coughs as he pats his hands together and cracks his knuckles with a contorted and skewed look on his face that borders on ridiculous.

A sudden feeling, if even for only a transitory thought that left me wondering, was I about to be hustled. A Kansas City Hustle, not the Kansas City Shuffle, which is the much older and more wiser brother of the two. Dumb de dumb de dumb de SMART!

I dealt the cards at a snail’s pace, seven each face down on the table, one for me, one for him, so on and so forth etcetera etcetera. All the while keeping at least one eye looking into his. The eighth and final card I placed face up in the middle of the table. And then I stared at my opponent more intensely than anyone has ever been stared at in the history of staring, before or since I can promise you that! And, of this I am quite certain as well, I stared so hard that my staring eyes began to hurt- but just barely enough to bring water to the snorting table.

The room fell irrevocably silent to my recollection of the passing moment. Although I must admit in my mind, I was off playing in a rather fantastical game of lopsided hula-hoop and hop scotching with the penguins and a certain short necked giraffe with leopard spots named Oodles Freedo. They were all amazing hula-hoopers, but no match for the scotching of the hops which Oodles won neck down.

Sir, it is your play. You must draw and then discard.” I coached slowly like a reluctant contestant at an angry jalapeños eating contest.

He scowled at me for a long moment looking first to my right, my head followed. Then he looked to his right out of the corner of his eye, my head followed that way too. Then slowly he drew a card from the stack.

After what I must say for a snorting tournament was an unnecessarily long time, he began the methodical practice of rearranging the cards in his hand. He looked at me over their tops, just his eyes showing. I continued to stare intensely intense as if staring hard enough would magically make Oodles Freedo’s neck grow out and up to its normal size, of course it wouldn’t though and that was truly a pity. Staring is only good for two things, weird looks and looking weird.

The pressure was mounting to beyond incredible epic proportions. Sweat began to bead on the beverage container amateurously left on top the snorting table. Seconds were amassing almost into a full minute and all of the spectators were entrenched with gratuitous amounts of simulated anticipation.

At a speed of what seemed like the practice of watching one’s hair grow he laid down the very card I was in need of, the 6 of clubs. Unsure of the diversion if any he was attempting to play with my mental abilities and my tightly wound emotions, I decided to go for the sure victory and prolong the game no longer than what, at that time, was absolutely within my shrinking attention span.

I reached for the now single card pile, picked up the 6 of clubs and placed it into my hand. I did a very quick and very random, and, I must say admittedly, a needless rearrangement of the cards in my own hand before I threw them down on the table and yelled, “Snort!” as I quickly stood and craned my head up and to the left with hands on both hips.

What?” his confused pale bearded face asked.

Thank you for a very intense game sir. Yes yes very intense indeed. You had me on the ropes there for a moment and I did not think I was going to be able to pull this one out of the hat as it were. And yet amazingly and with no surprise to anyone whatsoever in attendance, I did. I would love to challenge you again on Any Other Day if you would honor me by feeling obligated with your possession of time, my darling man.”

What?” his concerned reddening face asked again.

Are you quite certain that you are okay, Sir?” I managed to look into his left and right eye simultaneously- a difficult but not at all impossible task, “You might not have known this but I have been known around the gaming circuit to be a somewhat gifted snorter player and I must confess to you fine sir, that it might not have been totally fair of me, if not all together entertaining for myself alone to challenge you today to a game that you obviously had no mental capacity to play.” I was looking at him crossed eye now with my head titled somewhat to the right.

What?” he said blankly for a third time.

My good sir, one more what and I’ll give you a what’s for, for your four what’s if that’s what you’d like instead of a who, where, or why, but I shall keep the win never the less.” I felt obligated to explain in short order the sequence of events. “You see, I dealt these cards and those cards, and then you picked up that card and laid the other card there, and all I had to do was retrieve that card there, from the pile just over there and… it really is all very simple once you think about.”

Shuffle them up and deal them again!” the blue eyed man said excitedly patting his hands and fingertips together once more.

Sir don’t be absurd. I’m afraid that is quite impossible and borderlines itself with the ridiculous and an obscene amount of lunacy. I can do no such a thing even if I wanted to, preposterous now even to mention it. The ramifications alone I caution to even think, uh how just totally laughable.”

Oh?” He muttered from a frown, head turned slightly down.

The rules are quite specific as you must have certainly known or at very least guessed or maybe just figured out altogether for the first time just now. But they are very clear in these matters, one bout per day per player, which must be played prior to 6:13pm. Though, the last is as cloudy as the rest seem to be. Sir! I draw your attention to the time keeper,” I pointed to the clock on the wall, “it is 6:14pm. No sir, no way, no how, and there is not anything further that I can do for you with regard to the redemption of yourself, reputation and overall enlightenment by means of another snorting match today. You will just have to take your defeat honorably, with dignity, and return again tomorrow or any such day thereafter preferably on Any Other Day, refreshed and with renewed skill and vigor. Now, stiff upper lip old chum, head up, stomach in, chest out, and if you please,” I had my hand out palm to the ceiling, standing on one foot, my right foot as it were and bent slightly forward at the waist, “pay up.”

Sir Wilham, what say you?” he asked the judge.

Rough.” He answered shaking his head.

He mumbled something inaudible, reached into his suit jacket pocket and pulled out an orange glowing pixie, stick. Painfully slowly he handed it over. I couldn’t help but think to myself and altogether out loud at the same time, “Wow- that’s rather slow for a pay up.”

My patience in waiting was being tested like no others, and when it finally arrived into my hand I gave a wink, a kiss to the cheek, a nod and a firm handshake with a slap to the shoulder before going off to gaze in wonder at the flying creatures that had recently travelled to the Highland Fields, land of the Mountain Lake Forest Water village peoples.

Come Sir Wilham Berg away with us.”

Father washed dishes as the newly knighted Sir Wilham Berg and myself went off in search for the ever elusive sterling white dragon’s egg.

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