Ever think when you're watching The Deer Hunter, "Y'know, I like it. But that Russian Roulette scene just ain't tough enough for me." Well, Mr. Kabel has your big brass ones right here, tough guy.
Nothing Left to Lose by Dana C. Kabel
The guy didn’t speak a word of English. And Farmer didn’t speak Thai. That was okay, the game they were playing didn’t require the opponents speak to each other.
The Thai pushed the deck of cards across the table. Farmer reached out with a trembling hand and drew a card. He flipped it over and shouted.
The Thai smiled, showing a row of crooked and rotting teeth. On the card there was a picture of a hand. Farmer sighed and took a couple of deep breaths. He spread his hand out on the table, palm down.
The Thai was so fast that Farmer saw a blur of motion and he didn’t know what hit him. The Thai’s knife stabbed through Farmer’s hand and stuck in the wooden tabletop.
Farmer pounded his other fist on the table. He didn’t want to scream; didn’t want to give the bastards that.
“Out…out…take the fucking thing out already.”
The referee, satisfied that all of the betters around the table had seen Farmer’s bleeding hand, pulled the blade out. Coming out was definitely more painful than going in.
Farmer’s hand bled profusely and he pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket to staunch the blood. Some of the betters cheered; their fast spoken chatter language sounded like an orchestra of giant birds. How the hell did they understand each other?
It was the Thai’s turn to draw. He flipped the card over and breathed a sigh of relief; the card was blank.
Farmer drew the next card. He flipped it and saw a picture of an arm.
“Fuck my luck,” he said.
The Thai grinned and said something in his chatter language to all of the men around him. There was laughter and more chattering until the General ordered silence.
The effect was immediate.
The General spoke rough English to Farmer. “You want quit now before bleed to death? I put you back in rat cage if you like.”
Farmer growled, not in response to the General’s offer, but in an effort to push the pain away. He still had enough blood left to keep going.
He took deep breaths, tried to relax. He held out his left arm.
Farmer nodded. The Thai yelped and sunk the blade into Farmer’s flesh. This time there was no controlling it; Farmer screamed like a banshee. The blade went right between his biceps and triceps.
“Out, you little yellow motherfucker.”
The ref nodded; although he spoke no English, he knew he was being disrespected and when he pulled the blade out of Farmer’s arm he used a little torque to increase the pain and damage.
Farmer jumped out of his chair and smashed his elbow into the referee’s nose. It crunched and popped and blood gushed out of his nostrils.
The ref shouted in Thai and drew his gun. He jammed the barrel against Farmer’s forehead. He chattered at the General. The General chattered back. The ref put the gun away.
The Thai drew. His card had a picture of an eyeball. The Thai cursed and Farmer laughed at him.
“Ain’t so funny now, is it?”
The Thai spit on the dirt floor and prattled off a whole bunch of words that Farmer didn’t understand.
“Close your eyes, sweetheart. This’s going to hurt.”
Farmer thrust his blade into the Thai’s right eyeball and made him scream. Farmer laughed and held onto the knife until the referee slapped him in the face.
The ref pulled the knife out and the ruined eyeball came out with it. Farmer laughed all the harder. He started singing the Popeye song.
The one-eyed Thai shouted something in his face. Farmer figured the guy was telling him to shut up.
“I’m gonna call you Si. Si, the one-eyed Thai.” Farmer almost fell off his seat laughing.
Tears streamed down his face. He was losing his sanity over their lack of humanity.
He drew the next card. It was a picture of a pinky finger. How the hell was his opponent going to stab his finger? The light clicked. “Oh…no, no, no, no, no,” he said.
The general nodded and one of the men standing next to Farmer grabbed his right arm and clamped it down to the table. The American continued to shout no.
It was the one-eyed Thai’s turn to laugh. He stood up and grabbed Farmer’s pinky. He used his knife like a saw to cut through the tissue and bone.
Farmer screamed and banged his head against the table.
“Whiskey,” he shouted. “Now! I want some fucking whiskey.”
The general nodded and said something to one of his men. The guy left the room and came back in with a bottle. It was some kind of liquor he had never seen or even heard of before. There was a small viper in the bottom of the bottle, the same as a worm in the bottom of a tequila bottle.
Farmer opened it up and took a long pull. When the guy who brought the bottle tried to take it back, Farmer hugged it against his chest to let him know he intended to drink more. The General nodded and the man backed off.
The one-eyed Thai drew and started howling. It was a picture of a family. Worst card in the deck to draw.
“This mean, you go his home. Kill wife and children. Brothers, sister, whoever in house.”
Farmer already knew what the card meant. His brother-in-law drew the family card playing in this same game a week earlier. His opponent killed the brother-in-law’s wife and children. Unfortunately, Farmer’s wife and children were in the same house and the guy took them out too.
That was what brought Farmer into the game. He had nothing left to lose.