Shuffling

I was just in the park, where I saw two guys sitting at a folding table. I couldn’t tell what they were doing at first, from a distance. Then one of the men began a motion that instantly telegraphed across the field and fired off a bunch of my memories; leaning forward over the table, his hands held low and palms down, he began to shuffle dominos.

Suddenly I remembered watching my great grandfather play Dominos with other old men his age, usually late at night, often under a naked yellow bulb, suspended from a cord overhead. I can still hear the click of the dominos as one of the old men would rake them into a pile and begin shuffling. I can see the cigarette dangling precariously from my great grandfather’s lips–one eye squinting against the smoke–as he “shuffled the rocks.”

Playing with him was an arcane math lesson; his ability to deduce the dominos you had drawn–based on which ones he had in his hand and based on the opportunities to play that you had passed up–was uncanny to other men and downright supernatural to me as a child. It was a magic trick that always amazed me and sent a stream of giggles up out of my nine year old’s throat. He’d pause before playing, eying all the right angled streets and Swastikas spelled out emergently by the domino trails. Then he’d say, “I know that you’ve got the double-six…” Looking down, seeing that I did, I had no chance of maintaining a Poker-face; I would instantly fly into happy exasperation. He always chuckled softly as he uttered these fortune-telling words.

Even though I spent most of the my time during the game arranging my dominos into little graveyards, I hope he enjoyed our games as I did.

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