26 Riffle the Deck

        “Pendejo clowns.” Joel says under his breath.

        “Relax, Ouchy, you would make a great clown.” Ethan smirks, “In the center circle, it’s the clown everyone loves to hate, Ouchy, The Uncomfortable.”

       Joel shakes his head and no one else at the party notice Ethan’s announcer voice.

       Bridget giggles along with him, “After we eat and get another round. I’ll tell your fortune, Ethan.”

       He looks up and smiles as he chews.

       “Yeah Ethan, the future will reveal the squeaky little red nose in your pants.” Joel taunts.

        “What? What does that even mean, man?” Ethan shakes his head; his eyes mock confusion.

        “Little… red…” Joel repeats and sighs. “You know what I mean.”


        Steve McSwain slides over from the passenger bench in the Ford to the middle spot as Sefa returns to the wheel, and as Scooter sits, the 70’s spring suspension let’s out a muffled groan. Gravity pulls Steve towards Scooter and he bumps his head on his shoulder.

       McSwain blushes.

       “No problem, man. Touch is love and love is all good.” Scooter says as McSwain rights himself.

        Sefa turns the ignition key and the starter spins but nothing happens. He turns it again and the Ford bucks a little, but no ignition.

       McSwain inhales and closes his eyes. His lips and jaws squirm.

       “Don’t worry, chief, after it’s cold, old red always starts on the third spark.” Sefa proclaims. He turns the ignition, the Ford bucks, coughs, and starts. “See.”

       McSwain exhales and forces a smile.

       On there way back to the job, Scooter opens the glove box and pulls out a bag of white chocolate chip brownies. He pulls one out the bag and breaks it into two halves. “Want some brownie,” he asks? He motions it to Sefa and Steve.

       “Break it in half again, Scoot. We’ve still got the job to finish.” Sefa says.

       Scooter pops his half into his mouth and gently breaks the other into quarters as he chews. Sefa takes one and Scooter offers the other to Steve.

       McSwain looks at him suspicious and puzzled.

       “Go-won dude.” He motions it towards Steve’s mouth, “it’ll help your digestions.

       McSwain shakes his head, no, “I’ve got a job to finish and I don’t want to fall asleep at the wheel.”

       “Don’t worry, grandma always uses bright with white chips. It won’t put you to sleep.” Scooter again moves it towards Steve’s mouth.

       “Bright, what is that?” Steven asks.

       Sefa interrupts, “it’s an Indica strain from the islands. A quarter will just will take the edge off, but not get high” Sefa explains. “You’ll feel a little relaxed, but still full of energy. You won’t fall asleep or bounce of the walls. You’ll still be able to focus and not get snared down the rabbit hole.”

       “Okay.” Steve doesn’t usually say no, and since these two seem down to Earth with a safe vibe, “why not.” He’s still got to make a train in Berkeley and the evening is going to be spent, too late to plan anything after.

       Scooter hands the quarter and reaches in the glove box for another, “our grandma makes these with white chocolate chips and pecans.” He repeats to Steve.

       Sefa stops him, “Scoot, we’ve still got a job to finish. You can have another when we are done.”

       “Brooo,” he whines and puts the bag back.


       Lieutenant Inspector Emily Cochran inserts the key to the passenger door on the San Francisco Police Depart cruiser and opens the door for Seven Bardo.

       “You’re going to let me sit in the front?” He asks.

        “As long as you don’t touch anything,” she answers.”

       “Yeah really, I think you would like that too much.” Seven snickers.

        She turns the key, and he immediately reaches for a toggle switch labeled, “package.” The emergency light bar comes on as well as the siren.

       “STOP.” Cochran shouts, and turns it off. “I’m not going to warn again.”

       “What does this do?” He reaches for another switch.

       “Please Seven, don’t make me cuff you and throw you in back,” she slaps his fingers, “I’m not in the mood for childish games.” She pleads.

       “Okay, okay, I’m just trying to lighten your mood. “ He smiles. “You don’t really think they’ll bust you back?”

       “I don’t know.” She sighs. “Chief Cummings wants to cum on you and my career. My tenure is somewhat frayed at the moment. I don’t think they would bust me to patrol, but more likely put me on a file desk or missing persons.”

       “I just can’t believe that. You’ve lots of friends in the hierarchy and you’re one of the best they’ve got.” Seven encourages.

       “Times change. There are many more woman on the force and a few are in plain suits.” She shakes her head. “ I just don’t know. I took a lot of heat in my early career, but that fire has burned out; and after Sargent Samson got his hand cut off.” She pauses. “They don’t like untidy endings with bizarre, mid-evil consequences.” She turns on to an entrance ramp to Interstate 880. “Did you know that the body from that man or what ever it was went missing?”

       “Missing? What do you mean? The Feds?” Seven asks.

       “I don’t know.” She responds.

       “No. They don’t know and no one wants to talk about it.” She looks over her shoulder to merge into traffic, across three more lanes to get to the Bay Bridge access. “A lot of doors closed on me, and I’ve heard a lot of whispers with their backs turned.”

       “Come on,” he pauses. “Don’t get paranoid on me.” Seven lays his hand on her shoulder. “It’ll pass; you’ll see. It always does and the next crisis will fill the channel.”

       “I just don’t know anymore? Maybe patrol will be enough?”

       “You can always go into the snoop business with me, Emily?” He adds.

       Emily turns to look at Seven for a moment and laughs out loud. “Me and you working together?” She continues to laugh; his face turns read.

       ”Yeah, yeah. You know, Holmes and Watson, Charlie Chan and number one son, or Spade and Archer.” Seven smiles, then frowns, “it’s not that funny.”

       “Are you kidding? Seriously, Seven,” Emily laughs harder, “I think it’ll be more like Lloyd Christmas and Harvey Dunne, and we all know who’ll be dumb and who’ll dumber. Or maybe, more like Burt and Ernie.”

       “Burt and Ernie?” Seven asks.

       “You know, PI, Sesame Street on PBS?” Emily laughs again, “childhood, Big Bird?”

       Seven is shakes his head no, puzzled. He never watched PBS when he was a child.

        She sighs, softens to a chuckle, “you always were a big yellow chicken,” she says; and drifts a little in the next lane occupied by a silver BMW. That driver honks and Cochran centers the patrol car. The driver raises his hand with an incomplete three-finder salute, but transitions his gesture to a what-the-hell open palm and wave. Emily stares him down and he smiles, politely, as he passer her.

        Shit. Ha, ha, yuk, yuk, laugh it up, Lieutenant of zero faith.” Seven looks out the passenger window. “I’m olive skinned not yellow.”

       Cochran just shakes her head.

       He turns back to her and asks, “Hey. Are you hungry?”

       “I could eat. It’s no hurry to get back to the station.” Emily answers. “You’re asking; are you buying?”

       “Well, kind-of. Remember my friend, Comma Nado?” Seven asks.

       “Comma,” she exhales loudly, almost to a whistle “the bin-diver? How could I forget; I could smell him a block away when we first met.”

       “Well, he and his girlfriend, Phoebe, are having a barbeque tonight and I want to go. But, I won’t if you need to get back fast.” Seven explains.

       “He has a girlfriend?” Emily is surprised.

       “Yes.” Seven taps the point of his nose. “He doesn’t always smell like, uh, garbage.”

       “I hope not or that she doesn’t have a nose.” She snipes.

       “She’s actually quite nice and manages his smell, I mean his composting, his lifestyle well.” Seven answers.

       “I don’t know, Seven, the cruiser?” She hesitates.

       “Come on Em, what can they do to you? It’ll be fun. It’s for some of their circus friends?” He pushes a little.

       “I can’t drink and drive this cruiser.”

       “You don’t have to drink. It’s just a bite to eat and then you can go?” Seven adds


       “It’ll cheer you up and you don’t have to stay. I can find a ride home.” He pauses. “Come on Em. After Commander Prick, you could use a break.” Seven pushes a little more.

       “Uh. Okay. But, I can’t drink and I’ll have to get the cruiser back right after.” Cochran gives in.

       “Good. It’ll be fun, and I’m hungry.” Seven smiles. He explains to her how to get to the loft in Berkeley from the freeway. They’ll have to turn around at he last exit before the Bay Bridge and then head north.


       Phoebe stands next to Comma at the grill, picks up a glass brick sitting on the table as a trivet, and clangs her favorite chef’s knife on it. “Does anyone need anything from me?” She asks. “I’m going to sit and eat, now.”

       The crowd is quiet for a moment and Bixxter, who has filled in as ringmaster in his family’s circus, stands up. He announces in his best deep boom, “AND NOW, on the center slab, our beautiful and most gracious hostess, The Amazing Phoebe, will take a break to consume a meal not since served before the time of the great burning barbeque of 1917, when the hills were just green grass and swamps at the bay, when lesser people cowed under the province of such a glorious being. Disturb her at your peril, Phoebe.” He points his open hand towards here.

       The party-sans clap ecstatically, and many whoops of appreciation echo off the back walls of the dwelling. Leaps, aerial summersaults, cartwheels, and handstand punctuate the outcry. Phoebe blushes and covers her face with her hands.

       Bridget, Ethan, and Joel stand at ovation until the affirmation dies down.

       “Are you finished eating?” Bridget asks. She takes a pack of Tarot cards out of her purse and pulls the deck out its box. “I’ve only used these a few times.” She shuffles through the deck and pulls out the insignificant cards, placeholders, and directions. She returns these to the box, and it to her purse.

       Ethan scoots around to the opposite side of the spindle and sighs. Joel stands and picks up their plates, “I’ll take these to the trash for you guys. Do you want anything?”

       “I’ll take a beer,” Ethan says and hands Joel his glass.

       “Me, too,” says Bridget. “Thanks.” She smiles and winks at him.

       “De nada, at your service, Madame.” Joel bows and sweeps his hand out.

       “Seriously, dude?” Ethan says.

       “Yes, my good man. I’m here to please, sir. “ Joes is more exaggerated than before.”

       Ethan sighs, “and check on your date,” he yells at Joel’s back.

       Joel bows again.

       Bridget shuffles the Tarot cards. “I’m going to use a Celtic Cross.”

       “What’s that? A talisman?” Ethan asks.

       “No, “ Bridget smiles, “it’s just a western traditional pattern to lay the cards down for divination.” She explains. “ It’s like a circle cross with a staff.”

Celtic Cross card order in a tarot reading

Celtic Cross card order in a tarot reading

       “I need you to think about any questions or problems you may have at this time in your life. Meditate about actions, ideas, anything that you may need help with.” She says.

       “Okay. So am I going to win the lottery?” Ethan asks.

       “He, he, he,” Bridget titters, “no it doesn’t work like that.” She blushes a little. “It’s like an oracle, it doesn’t give yes or no answers, or specific information. It provides a metaphor for you to interpret as you are living your life.”

       “You don’t really believe this do you?” Ethan simpers.

       “I believe it can tell you things to help you find your way, Ethan.” She answers, confidently.

       “Okay. So, I think about anything in a general way that I want help with, right?”

       “Yes.“ She separates the cards into two stacks and weaves them back together; and repeats. On the third separation, she places both stacks on the table. ‘Okay, cut the deck, Ethan.” He choses the left pile.

       “Hey, uh, Bridget, right?” Asks Comma. He has left the grill and is moving from group to group as the thoughtful host. She stops, looks up. “Are you telling fortunes?”

       “I’m telling one fortune.” She responds.

       “Wow, could you tell mine, later?” Comma asks and smiles, big.

       Bridget sighs, but doesn’t drop her smile. She looks around before answering. Anyone who was following Comma is looking at her activity. She shrugs, “sure, I couldn’t turn down our wonderful host. But, I’ll have to charge you.”


       “We could use another round when the time comes.” She smiles.

       “No problem.” He answers. “I’ve got some really good Tequila; I’ll save a shot for all at your table.’ He practically leaps to the next table over the prospect. It’s a huddle of acrobats.

       “Perfect,” she answers.

       “Did I hear, Tequila?“ Joel asks and sits three beers down on their table.

       “Later, Joel,” Ethan looks his way, “thanks,” and takes a sip of the cold beer.

       “Which stack did you pick, Ethan?” Bridget queries.

       “The left,” Ethan touches the left stack again.

       “Okay,” she picks up both stacks, one in each hand. “I shuffle as you think about your question,“ She says. “I’ll explain the cards as I go.” Bridget riffles them together, pushing her thumbs through the center as the snap to overlap edges, and then up with her fingers through the bottom, and the two stacks become one. She looks up and smiles at Ethan. She separates the deck into several smaller stacks, on the spool table forming a star, and then re-combines the deck in a different order.

       “That’s probably enough,” Joel interrupts. “He’s not that complicated.”

       “I’ll know when it’s time, ” she quips, creates two stacks again, “which now?” She asks Ethan. He chooses the right stack, and she riffles the two into one again. Bridget holds the deck in her left hand and moves the top card to her right hand. She chooses a few cards off the top of the left desk and places them on top of the right deck. She takes a few more cards off the top of the deck in her left hand and places them on the bottom of the deck in her right. She continues this pattern until all the cards are in her right hand.

       “What kind of shuffle is that?” Ethan asks.

       “I think it is called a,” she thinks for a moment, “a Mongean shuffle. It’s named after a French mathematician.”

       “Really?” Joel is incredulous, “are you making that up?”

       “No, no, really. I learned it from a Berkeley student who was studying probability.” She explains. “In fact, If you follow the pattern enough times, you arrive at where you started.”

       “I find that hard to believe.” Joel smirks.

       “Hi guys.” Phoebe is standing over them and all three look her way. “Mind if I join you?”

       “Not at all,” Joel stands up, “take my chair.”

       “Are you sure?” Phoebe sighs and smiles. She carries a plate with steak, potato salad, a couple of tomatoes and onions wrapped in lettuce in one hand; and her favorite chef’s knife and a glass of wine in the other.

       “Yes, yes,” Joel answers as he stairs at the tip of the blade for a moment, “I’m going to go call my, date?”

       “Thanks.” Phoebe sits in his place and sets everything down on the table. . “A break to eat,” she exclaims, “then, party games.”

       Ethan cheerily shouts, “ALIGHTY,”

       Bridget riffles the cards one last time. “I think that’s it.” She looks up to Ethan. “Are you meditating on your question?”

       Before he can answer, Phoebe says, “fortunes. I love it when you tell fortunes.”

       Ethan turns to her and “shhh.” But it is too late. Three of the acrobats form a human pyramid behind Bridget. A couple of the clowns stand behind Ethan, mimicking the sound of the cards.

       Bridget looks around the circle.

       “Me, next. No, me. My name comes before yours. I’m taller. No, me next. My nose is redder.” The cacophony cannot contain its enthusiasm for the future.

       Between chews of steak, and bits of lettuce sandwiches, “Calm down, calm, the fuck down, guys. I’m sure she’ll get to you.” Phoebe says, “for a fee.”

       “Ah, no. Me next. No me. I can trade my nose.”

       Phoebe shakes her head, sighs loudly, but smiles.

       Ethan grabs here wrist as she holds the deck. “Don’t worry, Bridget, I can handle these clowns.”

       Everyone laughs and Bridget strips one card then another off the deck. She lays one at a 90-degree angle over the other.

       Gasps and giggles are heard from her audience.



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