Monday, August 26, 2013

STUD: Part One

In a recent interview, Sylvain Reynard mentioned that he enjoys a good game of poker. That brief comment inspired Mango and MOG to wonder: What would a card contest among the major masculine "players" (so to speak) of the Gabriel series look like?

And this is the result. Here's the first chapter of STUD, an imaginary poker game with very high stakes. 

This short story has been read and approved for posting by SR. Any resemblance to actual living persons is purely coincidental. No one was harmed in the making of this little story, although the dignity of a few surely did suffer. 

The remaining three chapters of STUD will be posted over the course of this week.

We hope you have as much fun reading it as we did writing it.

~ Mango and MOG

The game: Poker
The stakes: Fashion humiliation
The players:

 The Author: Sylvain Reynard

The Snarky Narrator: Robin Goodfellow

 The Handsome Neighbor: Sir

 The Professor: Gabriel O. Emerson

The lower level of Harbour Sixty Steakhouse, the Toronto waterfront landmark restaurant, was dominated by the wood-paneled Louis XIII room.  The ceiling was low and the chamber was dark despite several lit sconces on the wall and a large metal chandelier that hung menacingly like a pendulum. 

            Usually, it was set up like a boardroom, with one large table flanked by high backed leather chairs that resembled thrones.  But that night, Professor Emerson had booked the room for very a small and very private party.  He’d made special arrangements with Antonio, the maître d’, who saw to all the specifications personally.

            Gabriel had taken many women to Harbour Sixty on first dates and hoped that it would prove lucky.  But tonight, The Professor was in the unusual position of trying out his luck with men.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)  He needed all the good fortune he could get, since he’d made sure the stakes were so high. 

            The room he chose was also by design. If he was going to play poker against these particular gentlemen, he was going to do it in a cellar named after the monarch of the House of Bourbon.

The first person Antonio showed into the room was a man of a rather nondescript age.  His smile was youthful and guarded by dimples that barely puckered the skin.  But his eyes looked as if they had seen a thousand seasons within a hundred countries.  His full head of hair was brown and combed at the part.  His tan trousers sported old fashioned suspender buttons, and his blue shirt was the color of polished sapphires. 

            It was the man’s glasses, thick framed Buddy Holly specials, which allowed Antonio to identify him.  Professor Emerson had told him to expect three guests but (mysteriously) only provided two names.  The third individual was simply described as the man in George McFly spectacles along with a warning that read in part, "Watch out for this guy. He's a snarky bastard."

            The king-sized table had been replaced by a round one that was small and sturdy, and set on an oasis of flagstone tiles at the far end of the room.  Four of the leather throne-like chairs were placed around it, giving it the appearance of a giant frozen clock cog.

"Excuse me sir," Antonio said as he slid into the room behind the newcomer.  "May I offer you a cocktail?"

"Yes, thank you. I'll take a Manhattan."

"Very well," Antonio replied as he walked briskly over to a mirrored bar and began pulling bottles.

            Against the long wall, opposite the bar, stood three mannequins on three lit pedestals.  Each was wearing an outfit more atrocious than the next.  It was a wonder that Harbour Sixty even allowed such monstrosities in the building considering their dress code, which the man in the blue shirt was already breaking by not wearing a tie. (Parenthetically, it should be noted that he was virtually the only male who could get away with it.)

            The first specimen on display was a salmon-orange leisure suit complete with a crisp, copper-buttoned vest and a shirt collar that was as long and pointed as the fins on a '56 Cadillac Coupe Deville.  The pants had legs that widened into billowing cathedrals of polyester, each as big as a ship's bell.  The outfit was accompanied by a pair of shiny white patent leather shoes, but it was the turquoise bolo tie with silver-tipped black leather braids that truly completed the ensemble.

            On the second pedestal, the mannequin showed off, among other things, a pair of cowboy boots embroidered with unicorns, a girl's medium Justin Bieber concert tee shirt, and a gray and maroon plaid sport jacket with the sleeves rolled up. These items were offensive enough, but the devil was in the accessories.  Below the rolled up jacket sleeves was a Casio calculator watch as big as a sun panel on one wrist, while no less than three colorful bandannas adorned the other.  There was a lot of tacky bling as well, including but not limited to a huge chest medallion and two pinky rings.

            However, as monstrous as the first two get-ups were, the third was a fashion abomination worthy of a Nostradamus quatrain.  One could almost imagine the mannequin cringing as it helplessly modeled a pair of lime green Crocs, stuffed with over-the-calf white tube socks.  The socks had mismatched double stripes, two oranges on one side and a green and yellow combo on the other.   What really caught the eye about the couture calamity, though, was a leopard print banana hammock paired with a hot pink fish net tank top.

            Antonio walked the drink over to the nearly traumatized guest.  "It's quite...breathtaking isn't it?"

"I can't believe he went to this much trouble."

"Oh, it was no trouble," Antonio assured him. "There is a thrift shop around the corner and The Professor sent a pre-op tranny pimp to help me out with the ensembles."

"He sent you, did he?"

"He gave me an astronomical budget and instructed me to keep what I didn't spend."

            Just hearing Antonio say 'pre-op tranny pimp' with his musical Italian accent made the whole night worthwhile for the man whose smirk never seemed to venture far from the corner of his mouth.

"Of course he did," he muttered as he took a large sip of his Manhattan. He then nodded his compliments to the bartender. "And how much did you spend on this...stuff?"

"A hundred and thirty-five dollars."

The man laughed in his drink, his amusement accompanied by an echo they both heard.  "You got ripped off."

"I know."

The spectacled man laughed even harder, and for the first time Antonio allowed a small upward twitch of his vigilant mouth.

"Excuse me, sir." Antonio had been meaning to clear something up.  "But, Professor Emerson did not mention your name."

"Ah, well, that's to be expected."  The man’s cryptic comment was met with only the slightest cock of the maître d’s head.  The nameless man thought for a moment as he once more looked over the trio of tragic men's wear. Eventually, he turned back to Antonio with a wide smile.  "Why don't you call me Robin Goodfellow."

"Very well, Mr. Goodfellow."

Minutes later, Sylvain Reynard and Gabriel Emerson arrived at the same time.  Each stood in the hall gesturing for the other to enter the room first.  The scene had the makings of a real polite-off  marathon, but when The Professor noticed who was already in the room, he darted inside.
"Nice pants," he quipped to Robin.  "Do you work at Home Depot now?"

"Nice bow tie," Robin shot back. "Do you heckle performances at the Muppet Theatre now?"

The two men scowled at one another briefly before they shook hands warmly but vigorously.  Meanwhile, Sylvain slipped over to the bar and collected both glasses of Scotch that Antonio had just poured for his regular customers.

"Those are some pretty severe consequences," Mr. Reynard said to Professor Emerson.  SR gestured to the mannequins with one of the drinks before handing the glass over to The Professor.

"I know," Gabriel exhaled like a man in awe. "They're even worse than Antonio described."  He turned to his comrade. "You outdid yourself."

"Thank you, sir," came the response from the bar.

"How is this going to work exactly?" Robin asked The Professor as he finished his drink.

"Let's wait until the nerd gets here so I only have to explain things once," Gabriel answered sternly.  The Professor set his iPhone in a dock that had been specially procured for the night.  Scrolling through various playlists, he stopped and clicked on the one titled Four of a Kind. The opening strains of The Gambler by Kenny Rogers filled the room.

“Could you be any more obvious?” Robin grumbled, addressing The Professor.

“It suits the occasion,” Gabriel responded in a clipped tone.

“So does The Winner Takes All but I’d never inflict Abba on my colleagues,” the khaki-clad Goodfellow retorted.

With a few choice words muttered under his breath, Gabriel skipped to the next song, The Card Cheat by The Clash.

"Would you like another Manhattan, Mr. Goodfellow?" Antonio asked from the bar where he was already reaching for the whiskey. 

"Yes, please," Robin answered.

"Mr. Goodfellow?" Sylvain asked as he shook hands with his long-standing but reclusive friend.

"Robin Goodfellow," he emphasized as if he was introducing himself for the first time. Technically, with that name, he was. "I thought it was appropriate."

Sylvain nodded appreciatively.  He knew a clever Shakespeare reference when he heard one.

"Sorry I'm late." The new voice that shuffled into the room was just as low-key and distinguished as its owner.

"Gentlemen." Gabriel spoke up as he walked over to the newcomer and clapped his arm around him.  "This is my old neighbor...and literary conscience," he added with a wink to Sylvain. "I call him Sir."

"It's very nice to meet you all," Sir greeted with a muted French accent.  He looked at each man as he shook hands.  Then he saw the three mannequins, standing like grotesque captured aliens in a science lab.

            "Baiseur poker!"  he cursed, and almost felt like crossing himself.

"I hope you didn't ride here on a bike," Snarky Robin teased as he accepted his second drink from Antonio.

"Do you really expect us to wear these?"  Sir asked Gabriel.  He was positively astonished at the savage level of fashion sabotage.

"That is precisely what I expect," Gabriel confirmed as he walked over to the table and took a chair.  "If you sit at this table, you are agreeing to the terms sent in yesterday's email.  We will each be playing with a thousand dollars in chips.  If you lose your chips, you pick an outfit.  You can stay or you can go after that, but your new clothes must remain on your body until you return home."

"Unless of course you're attending a Mandingo party," Mr. Goodfellow suggested playfully.  "Or a tag-team trunk monkey fight in the basement of a condemned pickle jar factory."

"Which outfit are you talking about?" Sylvain asked as he walked briskly over to the only chair with its back facing the mannequins.

"Either of the last two," Robin replied after a brief consideration. He then approached the table and took the chair opposite The Professor.  "I can almost see myself in that leisure suit." 

Just then Robin experienced an epiphany, but kept it to himself.  Sylvain saw it, catching the twinkle in his counterpart’s eyes.  But The Professor was in full lecture mode and steamrolled the side chatter.

"The game is five card stud with a rotating deal.  No draw cards and no wild cards."

"Wild cards support a weak hand," Sir muttered as he took the last seat opposite SR.

"What was that?" The Professor displayed more patience with his neighbor than he ever had with any other man in the room, except Antonio.

"I was quoting Worf from Star Trek Next Generation," he explained. "You and he share the same beliefs when it comes to poker."

"And hair gel," Robin quipped.

The Professor remained motionless for a moment as his eyes bore a hole into the Snarky Narrator.  With a pointed stare, he threw a five dollar chip into the center of the table.  "Everybody ante."



Unknown said...

This is quite funny, I love it! Mr. Goodfellow has a striking resemblance to John Cleese. They are certainly an interesting group of gentlemen. And those mannequins...well,their outfits reminded me of some characters I've seen on 14th Street in D.C.
This was brilliantly done, and I can't wait for the next installment. It almost sounds like the SN wrote it.

Anonymous said...

Bloomin brilliant!

You had me "Laughing Out Loud" when I saw the picture of The Snarky Narrator, I mean Mr Goodfellow. Please don't tell me that he is part of The Ministry Of Silly Walks as well!

Thoroughly enjoyed it, I'm just waiting for Lady GaGa's- Poker Face to come out of the ipod.

Brilliantly written, can't wait for the next instalment.

Elena said...

This is awesome guys! I couldn't stop giggling. Great job Mango and MOG! Can't wait for part 2 :)


Unknown said...

TeeHee!!!! LOVE!!!

big city prims said...

Looking forward to Part 2!!! BTW, and not for nothin, if SR is Clive Owen-- I'm on my way to Canada. lolololol. :)

OTOH, I do love that Snarky Narrator......

Great job, MOG and Sue!!!



Elizabeth said...

Such a great idea for a story. Interesting choice for SR's visual here. I must say that for some time I thought that Michael Redhill and SR were one in the same, dismissed it because the individual style of each writer differed too much. I even purchased a few of Redhill's books hoping to draw some similarity between the two writers but, trying to stay objective, I honestly couldn't find the same style in Redhill's written work and SR's Gabriel series (and I truly love SR's incredible writing style. I find myself rereading Gabriel just to indulge myself when I need inspiration to write or when my words don't flow.

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