The Cards — Krista Marie DeBehnke

Characters:

Margot

Wess

(Fade in. Stage is a comfortable, bohemian-style apartment with a table CS, two chairs around it, an armchair SL and a fireplace UC. All materials are in in vibrant patterns in hues of red, gold and blue. MARGOT enters from SL and stands looking into the fireplace, enters from SR and lingers at the table in the middle of the stage. WESS enters from SL. MARGOT looks up at WESS.)

                                                MARGOT

You found the place okay, then?

                                                WESS

I searched for you using the number on your card.

                                                MARGOT

What can I do for you?

                                                WESS

Are you kidding?

                                                MARGOT

I don’t understand.

                        (beat)

Do you want your cards read or not?

                                                WESS

You left me a note on a napkin that said I was going to die. You handed it to me yourself, with your phone number written on it. Did you completely forget?

                                                MARGOT

Of course I didn’t forget. I don’t do that very often.

                                                WESS

Do you realize how weird that is? How much you’ve ruined my week?

                                                MARGOT

I’ve never been very tactful with death threats. Or warnings. That might be a better word.

                                                WESS

Who are you?

                                                MARGOT

I’m Margot.

                                                WESS

                        (irate)

Look—if you’re trying to extort money out of me, you’ve got the wrong person. I make shit money. I’m a teacher. You hear that? A teacher!

                        (beat)

I don’t have time to let some loony fraud tell me I need to spend money for them to tell me I’m going to die. I don’t and I won’t believe any of it.

                                                MARGOT

Then why are you here?

                                                WESS

If someone tells me I’m going to die, I need to follow up. It’s—it’s…rude.

                                                MARGOT

                        (laughs)

Rude? I apologize.

                        (beat)

                        (MARGOT walks across the stage to the table, sits, and gestures to the chair across from her)

Have a seat.

                        (MARGOT offers a tin to WESS)

Cookie?

                                                WESS

                        (offended, but still standing)

No thanks.

                                                MARGOT

Just sit down. You’re making me uncomfortable standing there like that.

                        (WESS sits grudgingly in chair across from MARGOT.)

                                                WESS

This is unbelievable.  You’re uncomfortable.

                                                MARGOT

I felt like I needed to tell you, that’s all.

                                                WESS

Is this your place?

                                                MARGOT

Yes, it is.

                                                WESS

I mean, you own it?

                                                MARGOT

I rent it.

                                                WESS

How old are you?

                                                MARGOT

Old enough to rent a space.

                                                WESS

What do you know about me?

                                                MARGOT

I know you frequent coffee shops on Thursday nights, or at least went to one this last Thursday. And I know your energy is bad.

                                                WESS

My energy is bad?

                                                MARGOT

Yes. At least the way I see you.

                                                WESS

What does that mean? You’re speaking nonsense.

                                                MARGOT

What do you know about tarot cards?

                                                WESS

                        (standing up abruptly)

Oh, no. I won’t conjure spirits or do a seance with you. Ouija boards are evil. I’m not religious, but I’m careful.

                                                MARGOT

It’s not spirits, its card reading.

                        (beat)

Sit down, please.

                                                WESS

                        (sits)

I thought you were some kind of psychic.

                                                MARGOT

                        (MARGOT begins shuffling cards)

Definitely not.

                                                WESS

                        (pointing to deck)

How does it work?

                                                MARGOT

Depending on how you lay the cards, who they’re being read for, and what question you ask, they tell you the future.

                                                WESS

Right. That sounds logical.

                                                MARGOT

People have been practicing this since the 15th century. Mysticism is an old art.

                                                WESS

If everyone could know their future, then people like you would be filthy rich.

                                                MARGOT

I make a decent living.

                                                WESS

So you do charge money.

                                                MARGOT

Normally, I do.

                                                WESS

But not me?

                                                MARGOT

No, not you. I like you. You’re funny.

                                                WESS

Funny? You don’t know me.

                        (pause)

Has anyone ever told you you’re very strange?

                                                MARGOT

                        (laughs)

Shall we get started?

                                                WESS

I don’t know. I don’t trust you.

                                                MARGOT

That’s not very nice.

                                                WESS

Telling a stranger they’re going to die isn’t very nice.

                                                MARGOT

Right.

                        (beat)

I’m going to light a candle now.

                                                WESS

You do that.

                                                MARGOT

                        (MARGOT lights a candle and puts a stone on the table)

And some jade for good luck.

                        (beat)

You’re still here.

                                                WESS

What am I supposed do?

                                                MARGOT

What’s your name?

                                                WESS

Wess.

                                                MARGOT

Is that short for something?

                                                WESS

Does it matter?

                                                MARGOT

Just a question.

                                                WESS

Westley.

                                                MARGOT

That’s an interesting name. Family name?

                                                WESS

                        (starting to stand up)

This is a waste of my time.

                                                MARGOT

Okay! Okay. Ask your question to the deck.

                                                WESS

I don’t have a question.

                                                MARGOT

Let’s start simple. How about I do a three-card “past, present and future” spread.

                                                WESS

You’re the boss.

                                                MARGOT

I’ll spread the cards out in front of me and you touch three cards. The cards you touch will represent the three categories.

                        (MARGOT spreads the cards in between them, and WESS touches three of them. MARGOT turns them over.)

                                                WESS

Well? I’m a dead man, right?

                                                MARGOT

                        (pointing to a card)

See this?

                                                WESS

Yes.

                                                MARGOT

This is The Hanged Man.

                                                WESS

Meaning?

                                                MARGOT

In your recent past, you needed to let something go. Your situation was hard. It was in your best interest to let go.

                                                WESS

                        (laughs)

It sure was.

                                                MARGOT

What happened?

                                                WESS

I divorced. I found out my wife wasn’t honest. She even tricked me into marrying her.

                                                MARGOT

And the man hung by the ankle falls back to earth. He falls back to reality.

                                                WESS

I fell hard, thats true.

                        (beat)

I thought this was supposed to tell me the future, not what’s already happened.

                                                MARGOT

It tells you the past, present and future. It’s all tied together.

                                                WESS

                        (points to middle card)

What does this mean?

                                                MARGOT

This is the Ten of Swords.

                                                WESS

This is me in the present moment?

                                                MARGOT

See the ten swords in his back? It is defeat and betrayal actualized. Some say the artwork is exaggerated, yet it’s supposed to symbolize your emotional state.

                                                WESS

That sounds about right. Stabbed in the back once, stabbed in the back ten times—what’s the difference? You’re still dead. You’ve still lost.

                                                MARGOT

I guess that’s a way of looking at it—

                        (beat)

What happened?

                                                WESS

Nothing happened. Life happened. I am alone in a house I bought with my ex-wife. Stuck in a job and nowhere to move up. I have students who don’t respect me. Loan debt. I can’t even afford a fucking haircut.

                        (beat)

I don’t think those ten swords are exaggerated.

                        (beat)

One for Sarah. One for my useless job. One for my useless—

                                                MARGOT

—Maybe we should stop.

                                                WESS

No, by all means, keep going. This is enlightening.

                                                MARGOT

There are many ways to read the cards, you know. I could be—

                                                WESS

You wanted me here. I’m listening. Now, tell me what that one means.

                                                MARGOT

This is—

                                                WESS

Death.

                                                MARGOT

Now before you flip out, death doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad—

                                                WESS

—You told me I’m going to die, and there is death. Right in front of me!

                        (beat)

Somehow, I knew this was coming. Even before your stupid note in that coffee lounge. This homeless woman shouted something at me in the subway—

                                                MARGOT

—This card can mean change, discovery, and fear of the unknown! It’s not the worst card you can get. Maybe you don’t want to see change! Maybe you’re afraid. Trust me, it’s okay.

                                                WESS

                        (standing up)

I’m not afraid of anything anymore. It’s all happened to me already.

                                                MARGOT

Where are you going?

                                                WESS

Did you know Elliot Smith stabbed himself in the heart?

                                                MARGOT

What?

                                                WESS

Elliot Smith. The singer.

                                                MARGOT

Wess—

                                                WESS

—He wanted to die and stabbed himself in the heart. He missed the first time, and tried again. Imagine wanting to die that badly. That’s bravery. That’s listening to what’s in front of you. Ha!

                                                MARGOT

Just sit down. Don’t do anything stupid.

                                                WESS

It’s not stupid. It’s in the cards, right?

                                                MARGOT

It’s not in the cards! I made you play the game! It doesn’t count if I make you play the game. You weren’t even a willing participant.

                        (WESS walks to leave SL)

Wait!

                        (WESS turns around and looks at MARGOT)

Please, don’t go. The cards are a suggestion! They don’t mean anything. They are just suggestions. You can read them many, many different ways.

                        (WESS turns back facing SL)

Stop, please. I just thought you looked handsome. I shouldn’t have—it’s stupid. I just wanted to test myself. To see if it’s all real. And it’s not.

                        (beat)

What are you going to do?

                                                WESS

Playing your game.

                        (WESS leaves SL. MARGOT rushes after him.)

                                                MARGOT

It is a game! It’s all fake! It was just a stupid trick. A game!

                        (Blackout)

                                                THE END

***
Krista Marie DeBehnke’s poetry and drama have appeared in or are forthcoming in Assure Press, Saranac Review, What Are Birds? Journal, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Apeiron Review, Rock & Sling, Dead Flowers: A Poetry Rag, Portland Review, Bateau Ivre, and Railtown Almanac, among others. She and her husband write and produce two podcasts (Dr. Scarelove and Haunting Season) devoted to horror. drscarelove.com