One-Eyed Jack

by Dr. Ruthless


     Date: Sunday, September 01, 2002 12:25 PM
     Rated: PG for implied slash
     M/K
     Disclaimer:  I don't make money off them.  They belong to 1013, and
     the song belongs to Sting.  
     Feedback if you like it.  sashworth@shaw.ca
     This was written for the most recent Lyric Wheel.  The song follows
     the story, and is called "Shape of my Heart."

One-Eyed Jack, by Dr. Ruthless

They don't know me. They don't see me as they walk by, all those men and women scurrying out in the morning with somewhere to be, and later, creeping home, grey faced, from the day they've had. Me? Nobody sees me. I'm nobody but seeing that you've noticed me, I'll introduce myself.

For years I've lived behind this dumpster. I'm called One-eyed Jack by the others that live in my layer of the underworld, and I'm a bum; I collect the stuff that others throw away, sleep beneath cardboard, and watch you all as I deal out my cards.

I was a soldier, way back a peacekeeper was what they called us. That was a laugh. When I lost the peeper and was invalided out of that fucking disaster that ate so many of my buddies, I came back home to Alexandria to sit in the Vet's hospital and play cards, until they told me I was better and sent me off back to the home I no longer had.

Somewhere along the line, something had died in me, but that was the day I noticed it had gone. At the time it seemed like a tragedy, but as the years have gone by, it feels to me as though it was a gift, because nature abhors a vacuum, you know, and that empty place within me has been filled. Now, I have something other that dwells within me.

Time is the key. I have endless time, and I've found that I can see things in my cards see things that can change lives in a way that the military would love if I were ever to go back. It's all here in this pack of cards that came with me back from `Nam. And that's why I'm a vagrant. They won't find me, and the world will continue. It was never meant for changing. I merely observe and don't attempt to alter anything, but the bastards that run our country are different. Those brass hats in the Pentagon would love to see what I can see in my cards.

Knowing this, I believe I will stay forgotten, un-noticed, in my dumpster.

~~~~~~~oo(O)oo~~~~~~~

The man with the sad eyes has noticed me once in a while. He's the one that goes out running in the breaking dawn, long, strong legs pumping with the singing blood that feeds them. He doesn't say much, but once in a while, on his return, he'll hand me coffee and a cinnamon bun fresh from the bakers, with a, `there ya go, buddy,' that tells me he respects me in a manner that's all too rare.

I've watched him. I've dealt the cards for him, and always they show terrible things that will happen to him. I've often wondered why some people attract bad luck, and he, more than most seems to collect it a rangy lightning rod for trouble. And that, my friend, is why I finally decided to try switching one card for another to see what would come of it.

I'd seen death in his cards - death, despair and suicide. He'd always been solitary except for the arrogant-looking, little red-head he was with so frequently, and she had disappeared. That had seemed to me unfair, so, invoking the sacred geometry of chance, I removed the ace of spades from the hand I'd dealt for him and replaced it with the queen of diamonds.

As my friend ran by me on his way to his car, I could see by the smile that split his face from ear to ear that something good had occurred. A few days later, she was back, arrogant as ever with that long, finely boned nose of hers. I'd helped him out, although at what cost I didn't know. For a long while, I walked in fear of the retribution I might face for altering the wheel of time. I think that perhaps I still do.

~~~~~~~oo(O)oo~~~~~~~

There's another man that sees me I mean he sees me. He's dark, and moves like lengthening shadows. He and the sad-eyed man are bound together; this I have seen in the cards, king of hearts and king of spades, bound together in a hand that comes up again and again, and always telling the same tale death and gloom.

These men seem to have a cloud over them a pall that fades them to memory even as they move through life. When I deal their cards it makes me wince, and sometimes it burns me that I can't do something to help them. On days like that, I have to leave the cards and go elsewhere to avoid changing the balance. Somehow I'm aware that it's wrong to do what I know I could.

Today, the king of spades came early. The sad-eyed object of his affections was away somewhere, and I sensed the king as he rounded the corner on his way to whatever darkness fate intended for him this time.

"Hey, buddy. How's it hanging?" His voice, as ever both a promise and a denial, made me glance up from the remains of the cold chicken McFilth that I was eating and look at him I mean really study him.

He was thinner than when I'd last seen him. There were dark shadows beneath his eyes that told of things he'd had to do. I could relate to that. I'd been there.

"Hanging too near the fucking ground for me, Ace. It's been cold." My growl covered the surprise I'd felt seeing him like this, somehow different, hurt in a way I couldn't quite perceive. "You going to visit the man? He ain't home yet."

"Yeah," grinned the king of spades. "I thought a little, timely call was indicated. He'll probably kill me, but there are things I have to tell him anyway." He stared at me, making me feel uncomfortable somehow. The man seemed to get inside my head somehow and that wasn't an experience I liked over much.

"Quit lookin' at me," I growled. "Quit that right now. What do you want from me anyway?" I laid a card down on the box in front of me the one that served as a table mostly to distract him from his intense scrutiny. It was a spade. The deuce. Now I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier, but to be endlessly warring takes it out of everyone.

As I fingered that deuce, he shook his head. "I'll be back in a minute, guy, okay?" and vanished back the way that he'd come. I almost didn't notice him leave, so intent was I on the tale that the cards were telling me. Two spears, turned against each other, two men that needed to come to terms with the things they held dear. Two men that faced a terrible future, and who would fail unless they were together. I shook my head, saddened.

"Here, my man. Take these." He had a blanket in his hands, and gloves made from pigskin, and a bag that held Chinese food. "I got the dinner for Mulder and me, but didn't even bother to fetch it from the car, because he and I..." There was a rueful smile on the hard face as he tendered it to me. "We're more likely to kill each other than eat dinner, so you'd better take it."

Brother, you have no idea how much more likely you are to kill each other, I thought as I studied the damning cards that lay between us. Reaching with unseemly haste to take the things he was offering, I brushed my fingers against his hand and then jerked them away in shocked surprise. "What happened? This is plastic."

He looked away. "It doesn't matter now. It's the price I paid for being with him." He didn't say any more, just turned and walked into the building. I wrapped the blanket around myself and began to eat the food he'd given me, still eying the cards that I'd laid out. There must be something I could do, but what, I was not sure.

~~~~~~~oo(O)oo~~~~~~~

The other one returned home some time later. I was contentedly picking at a chicken bone and wishing I had some really good coffee to wash it down with. He looked tired, and rather more careworn than was usual. His air of bloodhound solemnity was intense, and I lifted my hand in greeting as he passed. I thought of telling him that the king of spades was already inside his home, but then I held my tongue. The violence that hung around him at that moment was oppressive as if a thundercloud had somehow taken human form and was striding towards the apartment block, dressed in silk and wearing violence like expensive cologne.

I glanced back down at the cards, wondering what to do. My king of spades was in danger, and I owed him; I owed him for the blanket, and the food; I owed him for seeing me and not judging; I owed him because he was a fellow soldier who'd shared pain no outsider ever would. To remain aloof was not permissible. I knew that it was wrong, but I couldn't leave them suffering.

I picked up that two of spades and removed it from the board, reaching for another card as I did. Laying it down in place, I gave a gasp of surprise. The two remained, but now, the familiar red shape had replaced the black, and the two of hearts smiled from the center of the pattern.

Well, that should add some interest to their lives, I thought, and left the cards as they lay.

~~~~~~~oo(O)oo~~~~~~~

It was much later that the dark king reappeared. His face seemed brighter, more alive somehow, and as he approached the corner, I took the unprecedented step of calling out to him. Ordinarily, I never try to attract attention to myself, but he and I were brothers in battle now, and besides, I really wanted to know.

"How did it go?" I asked, as he fetched up beside me and slouched against the side of the dumpster.

"You won't believe me. I hardly believe myself and I'm the one that did it." There was a laugh in the husky voice, and his normally set face was split wide in the most glorious smile. "I was set to beat him bloody to make him listen to me, and then all of a sudden... you'll never guess." It was astonishing to watch him smile. It seemed as though the sun had risen to put paid to the darkness, and I felt very privileged to see that rare moment of happiness break through the normally stormy expression he wore.

"You're right. I won't." Despite my best intentions, my lips twitched as I looked at him. I'd long since resolved to stay outside of the human race, but this fellow soldier of misfortune had seemed so needy, and now he was transformed. I had effected that change somehow, and I wasn't remorseful at all. His happiness was infectious.

"I kissed him, man. It was beautiful. He didn't know what to make of it. I kissed him and walked away. Thought that he was going to shoot me or something, but he didn't." There was a pause. My friend smiled like a nova, remembering. Then he whispered, so quietly that I had to strain to hear the joy in his voice. "He called me back..."

As I watched him leave, his sensual strut an affirmation of his renewed pleasure in life, I felt warm for the first time in weeks.

~~~~~~~oo(O)oo~~~~~~~

It was early the next morning when the king of hearts emerged into the frosty morning clad in his grey sweats. Watching him lope off into the dawn after he'd performed his routine of stretches, I admired the easy energy of his stride. This was a finely tuned machine, his body honed and ready. I wondered what he thought about the things that had passed between him and my friend, the king of spades.

When he returned, he had sweat stains on his shirt, and he was flushed, rosy with the effort of his exercise. Handing me a cardboard cup of java, he sat himself down beside me and laid a napkin-wrapped bun on the box. "Breakfast," he said, succinctly.

"Thanks," I grunted, glancing curiously at him as he lounged beside me. I wasn't going to ask why. It's always seemed to me that those who speak know nothing, and find out to their cost. As it chanced, I didn't need to utter a word. He did it all for me.

"I don't know what it was you did, but I wanted to say thank you."

My eyes flew to his face. "What are you talking about?" I blustered. This couldn't be happening. How would he know what I could do?

"You changed Alex somehow." His face lit up with a smile that was devastating in its beauty. "He and I... Well, I don't know what you said to him, but thanks anyway."

So the name of the king of spades was Alex. Somehow that made him more real to me, and I felt less uneasy that I had changed the balance. "He gave me the blanket," I said, as though that explained everything. Obviously this man understood something, because he nodded.

"He's not my enemy. Not my enemy after all." Scrambling to his feet, the man stretched, all lithe muscle and rangy limbs. "See ya." And with that, he was off, kicking up spurts of gravel as he ran for home.

I wait now, for the consequences of what I've done to find me, but I hope that somewhere there is justice, for them, and for me. They deserve to be as happy as I am.


     Shape of My Heart
     by Sting, from Ten Summoner's Tales, 1993
     written by Sting and Dominic Miller

     He deals the cards as a meditation
     And those he plays never suspect
     He doesn't play for the money he wins
     He doesn't play for respect

     He deals the cards to find the answer
     The sacred geometry of chance
     The hidden law of a probable outcome
     The numbers lead a dance

     I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
     I know that the clubs are weapons of war
     I that diamonds mean money for this art
     But that's not the shape of my heart

     He may play the Jack of diamonds
     He may lay the Queen of spades
     He may conceal a King in his hand
     While the memory of it fades
     
     I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
     I know that the clubs are weapons of war
     I that diamonds mean money for this art
     But that's not the shape of my heart
     
     And if I told you that I loved you
     You'd maybe think there's something wrong
     I'm not a man of too many faces
     The mask I wear is one

     Those who speak know nothing
     And find out to their cost
     Like those who curse their luck in too many places
     And those who smile are lost

     I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier
     I know that the clubs are weapons of war
     I that diamonds mean money for this art
     But that's not the shape of my heart

Sue aka Dr. Ruthless
sashworth@shaw.ca ICQ#14783367 <Alyosha303 on AIM> The best things in life really are free... so how many kittens do you want.
 

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