When Babs came to the table, she hung her jean jacket on seat seven, took a sip of coffee, sat it on her drink table, and came around to the dealer chair. She was wearing a black tank top with AC/DC on it, in big black letters you could barely see.
As she positioned herself, Charlie and Alf evaluated the latest version of Pokerstove. When she used the thumb and forefinger of her right hand to lift one of the two decks of cards from its slot in the chip tray, the conversation between Alf and Charlie faded off, and Mr. Lee looked up from his magazine. When she barely fanned the deck, just enough to see that it was sorted by suit and rank, Victor took notice. When she split the deck into two bricks, one in each hand, Mick did too. When her right hand began far to the left and swooped clockwise across the table’s gray surface, leaving behind an arch of 26 cards, face up, overlapping and evenly spaced, first the spades, then the hearts, in order, from king to ace, Victor and Mick abandoned their devices, and all eyes were on center stage.
Babs transferred the remaining half deck to her right hand and drew another arch, below the first, this one made of diamonds and clubs.
After scanning the cards’ corners to assure all were present, she swept them up, squared them into two 26-card bricks, and turned them over so that the backs were facing up. She fanned the cards into two arches again, even more precise than before. We gazed at the backs of the cards, not expecting to spot marks or creases, but searching anyway, in the spirit of the old saying that says, Trust everyone, and cut the cards.
Her hands fell onto the cards with fingers spread, and the entropy dance began. She swished and swooshed the cards in big circular motions, and then, with randomness restored, in a flurry of thumbs and fingers and wrists, Babs gathered the cards and squared them into a single brick again faster than seemed possible.
She placed the deck in front of her and performed two riffle shuffles, one box cut, and another riffle. She slid the cut-card to alongside the deck, and gave the cards one final single cut, outward, onto the cut-card, in two motions, with one hand, as is proper.
She picked up the deck and held it in her left hand. The butt of her right palm bumped the back of the deck and angled it into a rhomboid shape. You could almost hear the clacking sound of a machine gun accepting a fresh magazine.
We the congregation had come to a full stop during the sacred ceremony, mesmerized by the ritual, by the precision of it. We were at mass and Babs was the priest and this was the Eucharist portion of the program. If I had had a bell, I would have rung it.
“Whadda ya’ll wanna do now?” she growled.