This is a word picture.
trick. noun. 1. Clever act intended to dupe or mislead others. 2. Feat of skill. 3. Knack. 4. Client of a prostitute. 5. Set of cards won in one hand of a game. 6. Oh, come on, you know this word. It has a lot of meanings. From Old French trique, related to Italian triccare and modern French tricher, and also to English treachery.
Jacquie is standing on the subway platform now, in front of the sign that says the station name. You don’t see ST. PATRICK. You see her face heavily made up, smiling just a little at one corner of the mouth, and her hair dyed black and voluptuously permed, and then TRICK. The ST. PA is behind her. And so is the past.
She’s in a fortune-teller costume. It doesn’t stand out tonight because it’s October 31. She’s on her way home from the company Hallowe’en party. She’s left earlier than most of the people. The trick to not having to deal with the messy end is not to be there for it.
Well, she organized the damn thing and put it all together. They can clean it up.
She put up the all the orange and black streamers herself. She hung the special lights. She put pumpkin candles on the tables next to bowls loaded with caramel corn and those weird nonspecific wax-paper-wrapped soft not-caramels. She loaded up the spooky playlist. She was the one who booked the place, hired the bartender, set up the accounts. Invoices will come to the accounting department next week. She doesn’t need to be there to mop up the vomit or rip down the streamers. She knows who’s going to stick till the end. They can bloody do it.
She was there when everyone arrived. Rick from Development was dressed in a mangy bear head and a grey suit with a donkey tail. Chandra from QA looked like a serial-killer clown. Kelsey from the front desk had a flamingo hat and no other costume elements that might interfere with drinking. Diana from Regulatory was in a pink terry bunny suit but was holding a shrunken head and a machete. Who was that wearing the Guy Fawkes mask? Someone who wanted to be Anonymous, apparently. She didn’t look around for other people from her own department. No need.
Dave from Sales arrived dressed like one of Kaiser Wilhelm’s troops and gave Jacquie an elevator look. “Hooker?”
“I’m turning a different kind of trick,” she said. She pulled a deck of cards from a clever pocket in her costume and fanned it out fluidly with one hand. “Pick a card.” Dave plucked one and looked at it. He didn’t show it to her. “Now pick one for me and give it to me.” He did so. She took it and held it up: queen of spades. “I win,” she said. Dave was about to say something but he paused with his jaw open, holding the deuce of diamonds. She picked it from his fingers. “Have a fun party.” She turned and walked away. The lights changed colour.
She started walking around the party, magically producing cards from behind people’s ears and giving them to them. When they looked at them, the cards had pumpkins or black cats or goblins instead of aces and deuces and faces. The people she really liked got cards with flowers on them. Chandra got one with the smiling angel-halo emoji. The one in the Guy Fawkes costume got a card with “Sanjeet” written on it, which was his name. Rick got a smiling poo emoji. She showed each person their card and then tucked it in their pocket, or wherever was tuckable. All the people said things. “I didn’t know you were a magician!” “What other tricks do you have up your sleeve?” “Oh, that’s nice!” “Know a person for years and they can still surprise you.” “Can you make a drink appear?” “What the fu—” “You’re a fortune teller? Tell me my fortune.”
“OK, Rick, you want to know your fortune? Shuffle the cards,” she said, and handed him a regular deck. He fanned it out facing him to see for himself that it was regular, and then he shuffled it. He was a few drinks in and dropped some cards. “Nope, don’t pick those up,” Jacquie said. “Now just hand it to me.” She took it and laid out five cards in a cross. She turned over the four outer cards, one at a time: the four queens.
“Nice,” Rick said. “I’m surrounded by pretty ladies.”
She turned over the one in the middle. It was a jack. With its hands cut off. “He should have kept his hands to himself, I guess.” She smiled, scooped up the cards, and walked away.
“Hey,” Rick said, reaching for the dropped cards. He lost his balance and landed on his knees. She kept walking away as he picked them up. He looked at them: they all had poo emoji on them. The lights changed colour.
The president of the company was standing in a half-circle with four other higher-ups, hands in pocket, arms akimbo, hips forward, laughing demonstratively and telling some damn story or other. He was dressed as a 1920s gangster in an expensive pinstripe suit with gold watch and fob. Jacquie walked past. “Hey!” he said, motioning to her to come over. “I hear you have some tricks up your sleeve!”
“All sorts,” Jacquie said, stepping up. “More than you ever knew.” She glanced over at Elizabeth, who used to be her boss but was now her boss’s boss. Elizabeth was wearing a carnival mask and a sleek gown and had a pretty little navy purse on a shoulder strap.
“A woman of many talents! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!” the president said.
Jacquie fanned the cards and held them out. “Take one each.” They did, two simply, one hesitating and then grabbing, one arching an eyebrow, the president making a grand gesture to pick a card and then scrutinizing it showily. “Pull one for me,” she said to Elizabeth. Elizabeth did so and handed it to Jacquie. “Now show them.”
The first one had the nine of clubs. The second had the ten of clubs. The third had the jack of clubs. Elizabeth had the queen of clubs. The president had the king of clubs. Jacquie held hers up. It was a joker.
“Joker’s wild,” she said, and reached over and poked the card into the side pocket of Elizabeth’s purse. Then she went to the bar and got a shiraz. She looked over, saw Chandra, nodded, smiled, raised her glass to her, and drank it down. Chandra raised hers in response and drank it down, then turned and went over to some other people. The lights changed colour.
“Hey, look at this,” Sanjeet said to Chandra, blowing his cover. “It has my name on it. How did she—” He held up the card. “What the fu—” He flipped it one side and the other. No name, just ghosts on both sides. Chandra pulled out hers. In place of the emoji was a ghost. She smiled. The others nearby looked at theirs. All ghosts.
“That’s really neat!” “Where’s Jacquie? Hey, that’s—” “Did you see this?” “Who knew she could do that?” “Jacquie— where did she go?”
Someone showed one of the executives. The cards they had not given Jacquie back from her last trick all had ghosts. No one could find Jacquie. Elizabeth blinked and raised and eyebrow and pulled out the card Jacquie had tucked into her purse pocket.
It did not have a ghost.
It said “I hereby resign my position with immediate effect. Yours, Jacquie Lee.”
Elizabeth whipped her head around and scanned the room back and forth, but just because it seemed like the thing to do.
Now Jacquie is on the subway platform and the train has pulled in. She steps on, leaving the TRICK and the ST. PA behind, and the doors close behind her to the sound of feet in difficult shoes running down the stairs to the platform, too late. She smiles and takes a seat.