by Raji Singh
(My great grandmother Shelva recounts her first taste of gambling as a girl in Moscow.)
A long corridor stretches past my bedroom. One night I awake to a series of ‘thumps’ there. I get out of bed and turn the gas light on low. Too scared a burglar might be out there, I lock my door. Reflexively I pull my nightgown tight to my chest. Afraid, I grab a candlestick to protect myself – in case the vandal has a weapon and might break down the barrier between us.
I look through the keyhole. What I see puzzles me, yet I smile. Captain Polly and Cecily the Cobra appear to race the twenty feet length of hallway. The Macaw’s a swift flight; the snake’s a steady slitherer. Not just once, but over and again they race. You never know who will win.
That not knowing sends a burbling heat wave up my spine. My neck and face burn. I rise and look in the mirror. My eyes are glazing over. My cheeks appear the reddest rose.
I recognize this look. I’ve seen it in others: In kooky Uncle Vanya when he leaves for the horse races – then it is a tense look of excited anticipation. When he returns, it is the same look, but now a deflated, almost morose one. The horses he’s bet on have lost once again. I see the look, the rich glowing of anticipation, whenever I watch Blackjack Fiction training Ragamuffin for the Czar’s Cat Boxing tournament. I shudder. Will I see Uncle Vanya’s deflation when Blackjack returns from the bouts?
I never, never want to look the way Uncle Vanya looks when he returns from the horse races. I tell myself, ‘Shelva, you must never let yourself get to a place where you feel that way.’
Yet, I am drawn back to the keyhole to watch the Macaw – Cobra Grand Races. And I am shouting excitedly in my thoughts. “Go, Captain Polly! You can win. I’d bet my prettiest dolly on it.”
NEXT WEEK: We’ll be off to the Czar’s Winter Palace in St. Petersburg for the Cat Boxing Golden Paws Championships
(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures. You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE. They are completely different stories. My novel is available at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.)
©2013 Raji Singh