Sven Goes to War. Part 4. The Card Sharks.
The Card Sharks.
Each morning there was a klaxon which woke them from their bunks, then a roll call on the former prison yard, then six hours of card sharp techniques:
- sleights of hands
- false shuffles
- false cuts
- mixing the deck
- bottom dealing
Sven was so bored, had so little interest in the card tricks, that while the other boys were mixing their decks,
over here Jimmy, give me five
he would sit at the back of the room transcribing onto the face of his designated set of cards, treat them as you would a woman, woo them, fondle them, be gentle with them, stories he had made up about the former prisoners of the facility, grainy black and white photos of whom lined the long corridor walls, spiralling his words around the hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades.
On 23rd September 1889 Étienne Cœur from the 14th arrondissement of Paris was sentenced to 23 years for murdering in cold blood his mother and father.
He did it in the cellar of the immeuble where they lived, chopped them up, and served the pieces to his girlfriend for un petit goût over a period of three months.
‘Cœur always had the cold dark eyes of a killer,’ said Evaline, the girlfriend. ‘But it was normal stuff, like snakes, rats, beavers, raccoons, that he killed. Stuff that everyone kills. I never thought he’d progress to actual people. Or make me eat them. I almost regret having ever met him. But he was the most tremendous lover…’
The Spade was the South of France’s most renowned criminal. Women loved him, police feared him, dogs wanted him to be their master.
But no one knew his biggest secret.
From midnight to nine am everyday The Spade turned into a spade:
A regular garden one.
With earth stuck to his sharp spade-like part.
With a wobbly handle.
With no extraordinary love life to speak of.
That was used by Tristand Dennel, resident of Beaulieu-sur-mer and former stalwart of La Résistance, to dig graves for the paupers, buried overnight, in the graveyard of L’Eglise Saint Michael, for just enough money to buy himself une clope and ‘cinq minutes’ with Anastasie, the whore he had had a violent crush on since he was a young, more handsome, and noble, man.
Filipp Filippovich Fokin was the Russian President’s first choice Ninja.
Kill a Ukrainian general
Slaughter a foreign media baron.
You got it.
Then he was tasked to kill Kolzak Kolzakovich Kutepov, a lowly pickle factory worker from Nizhny Novgorod.
For two weeks Fokin faithfully followed Kutepov, (he liked to study his marks, iron out any room for error) and standing behind him in the supermarket queue, taking a seat near him at the boxing match, the mighty Igor Yakovlevich Vysotsky vs. some patsy posted in from Samara, (feeling with him every punch, every recoil), even pissing next to him at The Lenin Pivnaya after four пинт (pints) of Permskoye Gubernskoye he felt he had got to know his man.
And one question burned.
How could this Kolzak Kolzakovich Kutepov, with his long sinewy thighs, dimpled cheeks, slightly longer than average ash-blonde hair, be a threat to the magnificent president of our glorious motherland?
Then on the 15th of the month Kutepov changed his routine.
A train journey. A bus. A hike up a mountain. A secluded cabin.
Peering through a crack in the window Fokin saw it all.
The tucking up and taping of the penis.
The bra with built in implants.
The perfect make up, the face becoming as smooth as a Ukrainian boy’s bum.
And now he understood.
For as Kutepov turned, the light angled in a certain way, there on the wall Fokin saw a montage of Our Great Leader’s, Bow Before Him All You Serfs, face.
This was it.
Kutepov was to seek out the leader.
Faced with such beauty the leader couldn’t help but fall in love.
They would be married on the steps of the Kremlin.
Tralala. Here comes the bride.
Etc. Etc. Etc.
And when word got out that The President of the most Precious State had married a man their country would be a laughing stock.
Borders would fall.
It would be the end.
Fokin sat back on his haunches. He was sure now he would carry out the deed.
But first he wanted to make beautiful love.
A chance like this came but once in a lifetime.
Etc. Etc. Etc.
When Sven was alone he liked to put on his X-Ray specs, fingerless gloves, lime green socks given out at Chippy Chips with every 10th fish supper served on a Friday.
The glasses were huge on his face, the fingerless gloves pink, the socks, defects probably, going right up his thighs to his crotch.
Then he would sit quivering on his bottom bunk imagining he was Jackie O on that day in Dallas, sitting in the back seat of her Lincoln Continental, her philandering husband’s brains just blown across her pink Chanel suit.
When he wasn’t alone Sven was teased most mercilessly by the other boys.
Oy! Whippet! Show us yer fanny!
It was like on the mudflats again when, being the smallest and the least likely to succumb to gender specified roles, he was the most susceptible to damage.
The other boys would bite off their toenails and put them in his mid-morning tea, serve him earwax on toast, use his little face as a whoopee cushion.
Bert the boxer from Boosbeck was his biggest abuser.
On the first morning, seeing Bert shirtless, muscles rippling, he couldn’t help himself, just sprang forth, Sven had pointed out that the tattoo across Bert’s chest, IT’S A DOGGIE DOGGIE WORLD should actually read, It’s a dog eat dog world and it was downhill from there.
- Chinese wrist burns.
- Frogs in his bed.
- Prawns stitched into the seams of his underpants.
- The head of his toothbrush put up Bert’s bum.
- Having to sleep on his bed naked, with no covers, with ice cubes on his body.
- Shower in his clothes.
- Stand on his head naked in the corner of the room while the other boys pinged elastic bands at him.
- Eat cornflakes that had been peed on.
- Having to answer only to the name Flaps.
- Eat cat food. On his hands and feet. At Bert’s feet. While Bert called him a snivelling little weasel, and other much worse things, that cut to the quick.
Sometimes at night, to escape, he would go up onto the roof of the prison and stare up at the stars, Antares, Pleiades, Betelgeuse or out across the mudflats where the fishermen would gather for their bacchanalian parties, naked dancing, magic mushrooms, worshipping of lobster pots and plankton net draping, and he would imagine his future.
Where would he be in twenty years, thirty?
And he could only see himself here with Bert.
This is what he dreamt but what a boy dreams should be written in the wind or the fastly flowing water for, out of the blue, Stanley arrived.
And everything changed.
Corb Lund - All I Wanna Do is Play Cards - https://youtu.be/NnZwYkfxWvY