Shuffling Memories (3-3-18)

[WP] Make me cry by using a deck of cards. [Link to post.]

Anna pushed the small cart toward the next door. Dark brown covered plates were piled high on the cart, and she guided it carefully down the narrow carpeted hall. It was only her second day working at the home, and she did not want to mess anything up. Anna held one hand on the highest tower of plates, and pushed with her other hand, she worried about accidentally spilling some of the food. She reached the door of her favorite guest, Manuel Rodriguez. Mr. Rodriguez was a kind, elderly man with a silver bush on top of his lip, and a silver horseshoe of hair around the outer edges of his head. On a good day he always had a smile for Anna, and they talked for hours. On a bad day, he barely acknowledged a plate of food. She knocked on the door and found herself hoping it was a bad day, she wanted to try something.

“Manny?” Anna waited half a minute after her knock, then spoke his name when he did not open the door. She waited another 30 seconds. Then she knocked again harder, and spoke his name louder. “Manny? I’m coming in.” She pulled at the keycard hanging from her lanyard, and swiped it through the lock. She grabbed a plate of food and pushed the door open. Mr. Rodriguez sat on his bed staring blankly out the window. She sighed with a mixture of sadness and hope. He was having a bad day. 

Anna placed the covered plate on his nightstand then walked around to block his view. Dull brown eyes looked up at her, but she felt he didn’t see her at all. He stared. 

“How’re you doing today, Manny?” Anna asked. She forced her best smile, even though the answer seemed apparent. When she started working at the the home, she knew she would have to face this. Her mom and siblings tried to talk her out of it, but she knew what she wanted to do with her life. 

“Hello. It’s a beautiful day out,” Manny said. Then he leaned to Anna’s right and he kept staring out the window. Anna reached into the pocket of her scrubs. She felt the soft, cardboard packaging of the deck of cards she’d brought from home. The senior’s home had several decks of cards, but they were all missing cards. It needed to be a full deck, or the game would not work. She pulled the box out of her pocket, then she pulled the cards out. She did not move, but by the time she did a first bridge shuffle Manny’s eyes were back on her instead of the window. 

“You like cards, Manny?” Anna asked. She shuffled the cards several more times, Manny gave a ghost of a nod in response to her question, then watched her shuffle. A glimmer of life appeared in his eyes. 

“How about card games? Know any?” Anna offered him the deck of cards, but he shook his head. Afraid of losing him entirely she pulled the cards back and shuffled a couple more times in quick succession. His attention remained on her. 

“My daddy taught me a great game when I was younger,” Anna said. Manny’s eyes moved from the cards in her hand to her face. “Wanna see how it’s played?” Manny nodded almost imperceptibly. Anna wasn’t sure if he actually nodded or she just thought he did. Either way her decision had been made the second she pulled the box from her pocket. “The game is called 52 Pick-up Plus.” Instead of letting him think about it she started the game. 

“52 Pick-up!” Anna said with a smile. She squeezed the edges of the deck and aimed it at Manny’s face. Cards pelted his wrinkles then bounced off and landed all around him on the bed and the floor. Then it happened. A heaving grunt escaped Manny’s mouth and in a blink of Anna’s eyes, he knelt hunched forward on the floor. 

“Manny!” Anna yelled. She dove to the floor to help him up. She found his hand and pulled his arm to try to help him stand. In his hand he held several cards. She felt him convulsing before she noticed the sound. It helped that he jerked his arm free of her grip with ease. That stunned her enough to listen. 

“HA hah haa ha  haha” He was laughing! He was on the ground laughing and picking up cards. Anna joined him and started picking up whatever cards she could find on the floor, even though he had most of them with his head start. When it looked like all the cards were gathered Manny finally let Anna help him up to the bed. He sat down and began looking through the cards he collected. The exertion left him red-faced, but he wore a smile. A smile Anna had not seen for years. 

“How many did you get, Mija?” He asked. She was a young girl again, sitting on the living room floor laughing at her father’s silly games. She wiped a tear from her eye before it escaped down her cheek. 

“Not many, Papi.” She held out a thin stack of cards. “I guess I’m out of practice.” He saw her sparse collection then held out his winning deck, and shook his head with a smile. 

“Looks like I win. You know what that means,” he said. He leaned forward on the bed, offering his bald head to Anna. 

“The winner gets a kiss.” She leaned forward and kissed his forehead. After her lips touched his forehead he sat back and rubbed the spot happily. Then he looked up at her, his eyes sparkling with mischief. 

“Gracias. I don’t know what that was for, but a pretty lady like you can give me a kiss any time she wants.” Anna left the room as quick as she could without looking like she was in a hurry. Manny remained on the bed and stared out the window. 

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