What follows is a response to the Red Dress Club prompt:
This week, we want you to recall the games you played when you were young.
Did you love Monopoly, Yahtzee, or Uno? Or did you prefer backgammon, Trouble, or Scrabble?
Write a piece that explores one of your memories.
Let's have a 600 word limit.
Baby Card Sharks
The carpet pressed into the backs of my crossed legs, and when I got up I knew I would have tiny stress marks all over my pale skin, but I didn't care. I was in the throes of a serious competition, and I couldn't be bothered to move. He sat on the floor across from me, eyes intense on the stack of cards in his hands. Neither one of us was any good at shuffling, but we liked to pretend.
"We're playing five-card stud." He explained. "You remember how to play, right?"
No, I didn't, but I wasn't going to tell him that. As an adult, I learned that we were actually playing five card draw. As a child, I simply nodded and watched as his hands clumsily moved the cards around in a semblance of a shuffle. We had just finished playing War, which was always intense with the two of us. Losing simply wasn't an option, a little healthy competition between cousins. The stakes of this game were much higher though. They sat in the crystal candy dish on the floor beside us.
Having satisfactorily mixed up the cards, he dealt. "One for me, one for you. Two for me. Two for you." And so on. With each card dealt, I grabbed it up off the floor lightning-fast and held it close to my chest. There would be no peaking with me around. When he finished dealing, he carefully stacked the remaining cards in between us. "Who should go first?"
Of course, I thought I should. I told him so. This led to a complicated and very intense argument of which I will spare you the details. We were seven year-old cousins; we hadn't quite yet found our patience and understanding with one another. Nevertheless, the fight somehow resolved itself, and we were back to the serious matter at hand.
He grabbed the crystal candy dish, carefully opening the lid and revealing its delicious bounty. Dozens of gold wrappers met our hungry gazes, a virtual treasure trove of Werther's Originals candies. "We'll divide these up and use them as our money."
All I wanted to do was start eating them. I managed to refrain as he carefully counted them out. To take my mind off the thought of the milky caramel melting away in my mouth, I looked down at my cards. I had a pair and three of a kind. If we were playing Rummy, I'd be in the money.
"How many are you going to bet?" He asked, looking puzzled over his cards.
I diverted my gaze, twirled my hair, and hummed. Several moments passed. He made an annoyed sound. I twirled my hair some more. "I'll go all in." I said finally, pushing my candies in a pile between us. My feet were long past asleep; I wondered briefly if I'd ever be able to use them again.
Not to be showed up by his younger-by-six-months girl cousin, he pushed his candies into the pile. I remember feeling defeated. He grinned, knowing he'd bested me. "Show me your cards."
Reluctantly, I flipped them over. Later that day, I learned that my hand was what was called a full house, which beat his pair of twos into the ground. I also learned that eating ten Werther's Originals in one afternoon would make you sick as a dog.
We should have been playing Life or Monopoly that afternoon. Pictionary or Scrabble. A normal game for normal kids. But instead, there we were, two baby card sharks, playing poker and losing all our candy to the habit.