Queen of Spades

Jimmy had been playing poker for fifty eight straight hours prior to boarding the 3:30 am bus back from Atlantic City to Philadelphia, aside from a few breaks to scarf down a bowl of udon noodles or a sandwich. No sleep. He plopped himself into a window seat and rested his head on its poor excuse for a cushion, and closed his eyes. Exhausted as he felt, he was wired, and found himself rethinking a hand he'd lost a few hours earlier, defeated by the Queen of Spades on the river....

"Anyone sitting here?" She had bluish black hair tied neatly in a bun, and she stood in the aisle looking down at him from above, motioning toward the seat beside his.

"No, feel free."

"Thank you."

She sat and removed a blue and white notebook from the pocket of a gown-like jacket she wore well. Jimmy thought she looked very comfortable. She opened the notebook on her lap, pulled a fancy gold pen from another pocket, and started writing. The pen caught Jimmy's eye: its cap was shaped like a gold and red petalled flower, its alternately circular and pointed design seeming vaguely familiar to him. He thought of asking her about the pen, but instead just closed his eyes in the hopes of falling asleep.

"What's your purpose?" he heard her ask. He wasn't sure how much time had passed since she'd sat down or whether he'd slept.

"Excuse me?"

"What's your purpose?"

Jimmy thought of commenting on the strangeness of her question, but found his mouth moving to answer her.

"I don't know. I like playing poker."

"Hmm, okay." She paused. "So your purpose is to play poker?"

Jimmy shrugged. "Sure, just livin' life, getting by. What about you?"

"I'm a facilitator."

"A what?"

"A facilitator."

"What's that mean?"

"It means I help people make things happen."

In spite of his curiosity, Jimmy was too tired to ask any further questions, and he let his eyes start to close anew.

"Sorry to bother you," she said, "I'll let you sleep."

Her tone of voice had a hint of wanting, as if she'd hoped to engage in meaningful conversation with a random person like Jimmy on a 3:30 am bus ride. Perhaps Jimmy would've filled this need if he weren't so tired – she was cute and had a mysteriousness about her that intrigued him. But he just didn't have the energy.

When Jimmy awoke, the bus had parked at its Philadelphia destination. The seat beside him was empty. He scratched his head and rubbed his eyes and looked around for the girl, but she was nowhere to be found.


  1. Sometimes you desperately need to make a thing happen yourself, even if the right partner specializes in achievement. I was hoping he'd get that happy ending, too.

  2. I was hoping for a happy ending, but this is still beautifully written.

  3. Ah the opportunities are so often missed. Now I want to know more about the mysterious woman.

  4. I loved the descriptions, and unlike the others, I don't see this as a missed opportunity. I want to see what happens next, to see if she did indeed "facilitate" his life.

  5. I liked this! It's something that really does happen all the time -- chance encounters with strangers in public places, where the profound sort of intrudes/manifests itself, yet everyone stays comfortable. Great depiction.