Thursday, 16 September 2010

Seating Plan




Free drink in hand, he walked over to the seating plan mounted on an easel. Relieved he was alone. The pinkie of his left hand made two rapid downward strokes at the corner of his mouth. He spread his legs apart in order to fully possess the space in front of the plan. He took two fingers and rubbed them across his brow twice. It was bound to be hot in the hall under the lights, but out here in the atrium it was pleasant enough.

That last seating plan in London had been so baroque, so ornate, with bunting and glitter and everything. At least this one's calligraphy was easy to read, unlike London's curlicues and other ridiculous flourishes, which had meant he couldn't even recognise his own name. It had taken him three (count 'em) trawls through the list. The names there had been arranged table by table, so there was no way to short cut straight to himself. He was so het up by the time he'd located his table, that the day was an absolute write off. He kissed a brace of knuckles on his hand and pressed them against the table plan in front of him. It could almost be taken for a gesture of gratitude.

For here at least it all seemed far more orderly. Surnames first, followed by Christian names rather than an initial. No 'Mr', "Mrs' or 'Ms'. Table six. Not his lucky number. But there again neither was it particularly a jinx. He tapped his ribcage twice in quick succession.

Then his eye naturally scans for other number 6s to the right of names. The first was about two-thirds of the way down the first column. Leslie Conway. Damn, one of those names that could be either male or female. Twofold he clicked thumb against finger. No telling if he was sat next to him/her or opposite. North, east, south, west. That was one flaw with this plan. He took a sip from the drink, smacked his lips, then wiped them with the back of his hand. He examined the fine hairs standing up. Such self-anointing had become a bit of a ritual with him at such events.

Returning his gaze to the board, he tracked down a second name prefiguring a 6. Steven Taplow. The name was vaguely familiar, but he knew it wasn't held in the little black book contained in his head. He'd never had the pleasure, until tonight seemingly. He made a pair of circuits of the rim of his glass with his index finger. The glass didn't sing.

Now the third name, the one that always held a sense of doom for him by dint of being third and last. He crossed himself twice, even though he wasn't particularly a believer. Gemma Cartwright. No mistaking her gender. Luck be a lady tonight flashed through his mind. He pulled at his earlobe a couple of times. It would be a delight to make your acquaintance Gemma, since again she was new blood as far as he was concerned. A completely fresh slate for him at this event. That was good. All the enmities, grudges and bad blood that could knock him off his game must be sat at other tables. He drained the rest of his glass, smacked his lips and then wiped them with the back of his hand. This time however, he felt no compunction to inspect the hairs.

He had stayed here long enough, now that others had assembled and were getting fidgety behind him. Besides he had what information he needed. He stepped into the hall and headed straight for table 6. None of his partners for the evening were yet sat in place. He double-circled the table anticlockwise, before pulling his chair back to sit down. Immediately the chipsman was on him and laying them out in their denominations on the table to his right. He pushed his sunglasses tight against the bridge of his nose twice. As soon as the man had withdrawn, he moved them over to his left and built them into twin stacks. He brushed his hand through his hair twice, patted his left cheek twice and cleared his throat twice. He was ready to play poker. Let's see what the seating plan had in store for his chances tonight.





30 comments:

Icy Sedgwick said...

Oh nice twist that they're playing poker! I love his little tics, too. Is he unbalanced or just prepping himself for luck?

Sulci Collective said...

ooh I don't want to give that away just yet. Stay tuned!

Rebecca Emin said...

Great twist, I was totally sucked in to thinking it was a wedding reception after seeing that pic at the top.

PJ said...

There's more coming? Yay! Intriguing beginning. You should link this up for #tuesdayserial this week :-)

Sulci Collective said...

Sorry PJ I think I've misled people. I meant that I'd reveal here in the comment the answer to Icy's question. I think serials are beyond my writing abilities.

PJ said...

Oh, i see! I can assure you that a serial is not beyond your writing abilities - if i can make a stab at it (albeit an amateurish stab) then you can do it in your sleep ;-)

Gracie said...

Bless his heart, he sounds a bit obsessive-compulsive to me. But once you revealed he was coming to gamble, it seems he's just very superstitious.

Either way, great story. :)

vandamir said...

Your descriptions of his tics and rituals are fascinating. At first it reminded me of a baseball player (but then I studied the superstitions of baseball players in an anthropology class on Magic, Witchcraft & Religion). Gamblers are very much the same and you captured it brilliantly.

dijeratic said...

Ah, deceptive photo at the top there - now I want to know what happens in the game!

Carrie said...

OCD or is it CDO...

Five keeps you alive and umm yeah eight is great. I sound insane at this hour my friend.

C

Laurita said...

Excellent telling. Your constant descriptions of his hands carried well all the way through, gave the story a whole new depth. Really great piece.

Laura Eno said...

I was fidgety with all of his ticks and rituals! Great descriptions. I wondered if he was a serial killer. :)

Diandra said...

I love how you described all the fidgeting.

ThomG said...

The OCD tendencies sing in this piece, Marc, a great character sketch on its own, but an ending of a card game, really takes it up a notch. Since, I think, OCD people would be hella good at cards. Wonderful tale.

G.P. Ching said...

I am frequently a poker widow, and I can tell you, these guys are all like this. Every player does this stuff to distract the others at the table. Hard to tell in this story wether he's OCD or just drumming up his luck. And I too was sucked into believing it was a wedding reception at first.

CathrynLouis said...

I see from this story that have to pay more attention to poker!

Melissa said...

I just loved this in the first paragraph: "He spread his legs apart in order to fully possess the space in front of the plan." Such a vivid picture, suggestive of many things about his character. Great descriptions of the tics. It's funny, but I had been sick recently and the movie "21" came on cable. These types of movements (but much more subtle) remind me of their cues for one another in their card counting scheme.

Melissa said...

I just loved this in the first paragraph: "He spread his legs apart in order to fully possess the space in front of the plan." Such a vivid picture, suggestive of many things about his character. Great descriptions of the tics. It's funny, but I had been sick recently and the movie "21" came on cable. These types of movements (but much more subtle) remind me of their cues for one another in their card counting scheme.

alisonwells said...

Hi Marc,

I must say I was thrown with the poker altogether, like Rebecca, maybe the pic put me off. I was all set for a punch up at a wedding but that would have been too obvious. I love the character tics, OCD type behaviour, why two? Very intriguing.

Sulci Collective said...

Can you trust your eyes or do they deceive you? The picture was a deliberate misdirection as is the whole piece; it's meant to suggest a wedding.

The tics are either an innate nervous tension playing themselves out on his body, or OCD as suggested by several, or as someone theorised, his misdirection for those looking for his 'shows', giving away his hand by tiny reactions. The number 2 is significant within the context of the poker he is about to play.

Crystal said...

This was good. The photo is definitely misleading. LOVE the little tics and nuances he has. As someone who HAS OCD, and has those little tics and nuances for real (though not to that extreme, so I'd say it was more playing up to the poker more than OCD), you did that very well.

Cathy Olliffe said...

I seriously just wanted to smack this guy by the end of the story - all those tics and tacks just made me squidgy!
Which meant you did your job, very, very well!

Mari said...

I cheated and scrolled down before reading, so I knew it was a poker game, although the feeling of a wedding reception remained with me all along. Great job!

I wonder if all these ticks wouldn't prevent one to playing good poker. What if he has a tick he's not aware of?

As said, you're very convincing, I too was a bit annoyed at the end.

Tony Noland said...

I was sure I was looking at a wedding reception, where your table mates are important only for the quality of the evening ahead. Here, the stakes are higher, so to speak.

His tics and mannerisms were perfectly done.

Donald Conrad said...

OCD or just practice in being off-putting? I had envisioned a wedding reception, but the poker tournament idea is a nice twist. Thanks.

rachelcarter.me said...

Absolutely completely thrown by the photo!
Was convinced - if not slightly surprised he had been invited to so many weddings if he was so odd - until 'chipsman'
Very clever. Now it needs looking at again in a completely different way. Luck be a lady - ha!! Well done I enjoyed it very much

Steve Green said...

I didn't see the twist coming at the end. (nice one)

I too thought it was some kind of reception, but with all the superstitious rituals he kept performing, and the references to sixes, I thought it was leading to some kind of Devil confrontation.

Bukowski's Basement said...

Really inventive ... loved the juxtaposition in this.

Harry said...

I of course thought he was at a wedding judging by the first picture. His peculiar mannerisms at fist seemed to be OCD but now I'm thinking superstitions. Very cool!

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