High Stakes Poker- 3. The Tall Man’s Pot

His soul was as coloured as the paints on his palette. It had been that way for as long as he could remember. When he had been just a boy, barely able to string together the right words to make a sentence, he could already put his paint coloured fingers to paper in a way that was inspiring. 

Each beat of his heart was fuelled by colour, by visions of wonder and blissful creation. He lived for art, he needed it, he was it.

As he grew older his art became him. His work reflected his very soul. Tortured, he wanted the world to appreciate his work. Didn’t they see what he was showing them? Couldn’t they see the canvas was a window into his very being?

The world was blind. They saw beauty in mainstream. They couldn’t appreciate the darkness, the honesty of his brush strokes, the pain in the blending of his colours.

Pouring his soul into his pieces without any of the appreciation or understandings he had yearned for made him bitter. The world was closing in around him, surrounding him was a fog he could barely find his way through. Desperation became him, and defeat held him under the water, smiling as he slowly drowned.

The pain was unbearable. He could feel it down into his very core.

Suffering, he needed something to ease the pain, take the edge off. Drugs became the silence he needed to drown out the misery.

An overdose later, he found himself sitting in the dark. A table before him with smoking cards laid across them. A dark figure lifted a card from the deck. It floated blank between them. “Baptiste Jacques.” His name hung in the air, suddenly ominous to him. “You waste your gifts,”

“Where am I?” He felt uneasy, terror creeping up inside him in a way he had never experienced before.

“Shall we play?” With a wave of his hands, the cards were dealt.

Brow furrowed, Baptiste got to his feet, stepping away from the table and back into the darkness. “No. I don’t want to play. I don’t know how. I don’t play…” His hands rubbed through his short, wiry hair as he tried to calm down, tried to think. “What is this? Am I dead?”

Laughter came from all around him. It was loud and quiet, like it couldn’t be heard in the room around him but boomed inside his head. Bringing his hands up, he clasped his long, slender fingers over his ears and looked around.

Silence came so suddenly, it was daunting.

Leaning back in his chair, the dark figured disappeared completely as he whispered. “Not yet.” The chair slid out, almost colliding with Baptiste. “Come then, sit.”

“What are we playing for?” Baptiste asked.

“What do you think?”

Sinking into his chair, he propped his elbows on the table and dropped his head into his hands. The rules seemed to be swirling around his head, like he had played this game a hundred time, knew all the rules by heart. How could that be? He wondered. He had never picked up a deck of cards in his life.

He already knew what was at stake, what really lay in the table between them. The ante had been paid, the moment the plunger sunk those drugs into his veins. If he won, he would get his life back.

But did he want it?

Without looking at the cards before him, he decided. “I want to be famous.” He said suddenly. “I want everyone in the world to know my art. I want to be the Leonardo da Vinci of my time. I want-“

“You want to raise the stakes.” He laughed. “Marvellous.”

Swallowing the lump in his throat. Baptiste picked up the cards and hoped he was also picking up the pieces of his life.

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