Keeping Score

Clint Smith

After Nabila Lovelace

The cards nestled under their noses like a magician the moment before the final act. How they abracadabra a memory out of breath. Call a spade a spade or call it a sputtering streak of light.

Pops and Uncle Craig eyed each other from across the table. Blinking like they could communicate the count in their hands through their retinas. Spades be like that. Will have grown men thinking they’re X-men reincarnated at a 7th ward barbeque, like they could turn the porch into the sort of sanctuary that scoffs at what the world says they cannot do.

Mama and Auntie Ness laughed like they had nostalgia smoldering in their bellies. Heads bent backwards toward the sky as if watching constellations playing the dozens behind the moon. They been playing partners since before either of them became a fleet of anchored vessels.

You could tell they had the lead by the way Mama crossed her legs. How the crisscross of her brown beckoned for Pops’ excuses, begged for him to claim she ain’t do nothing but get a lucky hand. How she kept tapping the pencil on the yellow notepad the same way the rain is a metronome against concrete.

She loved to rile him up like that, turn him into the boy she met back when none of them were keeping score.