My brother sits the kitchen table flipping cards like fish scales, his eyes bright. He’s six. Solitary is his favorite game; it used to be double deck Pinochle, which he mastered at five, but that required a crowd. ” I win again!” he yells, can you believe it? I win again!” He’s won five games out of five tonight. “It’s like a miracle!” I’m nine and I know he’s cheating, sitting there in his little seat with his lawyer’s brain and his nonstop winning. I challenge him to a game of WAR; he says no, he’s on a streak, but there’s another deck around if I want to play solitary. “Forget it,” I say, “I hate card games anyway.” I don’t really hate card games, but what’s the use when your brother is claiming to win every game and your mother believes him? “Solitary is a stupid game,” I hiss. My mother looks up from her book: “Sol-i-tare,” she says, “the “e” is silent.” “What? What “e” there’s no “e” in solitary?” She doesn’t care to argue with me because her book is good, and I’m supposed to use the dictionary anyway-–it’s always on the table. My brother has dealt again, and he’s flipping cards like crazy and looking shifty–he’s still wearing a bib from dinner– and there’s spaghetti sauce down the front. A few nights ago, when Nick was playing pinochle with the adults, I learned that there’s a great uncle in Vegas who deals solitary–- his name is either Ku-John or Pajamas or Gigolo, I can’t remember which–-I get confused by those names of uncles who don’t have real names and whose names are almost always mentioned together and sideways. I wonder if my brother will go to Vegas to deal solitary. I doubt it. He doesn’t like to be far from my mother; he chases our car down the street when we try to go to the Brownie meetings and leave him with the babysitter. And my mother won’t go to Vegas with him because she is afraid of planes. “I won again!, That’s six!” he yells. I call him a cheater. “No, no I’m not,” he says, rummaging through the feeder deck with his pudgy hands hidden under the wooden skirt of the kitchen table to draw out the red jack and slap it down on the black queen, “I’m just real good at cards.”
Christina Marrocco is a professor of English at Elgin Community College, Elgin, Illinois. She teaches Advanced Fiction and Poetry Writing, Literature, and Composition courses. Her focus on ethnicity in America combined with personal experience growing up in a working class Italian-American environment inform much of her creative and research work. Her dissertation work is on The Evil Eye in Italian-American Fiction, and her narrative poetry appears in The Laurel Review and Silverbirch Press.