Do or Die

Smokin’ Aces. Ivy/Israel. R. ~500 words.

What the regulars are really coming for night after night isn’t the jokes…

Do or Die

The way things are laid out is clear as crystal the first time Ivy sets eyes on Israel. The man doesn’t have a lot of respect for anyone, least of all himself, and he talks bigger than he is. A whole lot bigger. Buddy Israel can’t do subtle. He’s a diamond-perfect reflection of the city that raised him, because better than anything, he knows how to draw a crowd and keep them from noticing how he’s bleeding them dry while it’s killing him to do it.

Ivy sees it, and he’s taken in all the same.

“Same fools come back for a dozen shows in a row,” Beanie’s saying, hand shoved down a dancer’s loose top and nuzzling little kisses against the swan stretch of her neck. “What I don’t get, no offense Mr. Israel, but what the fuck do they get out of it. You don’t mix it up that much, and shit, even Hugo knows the tricks you do ain’t real.”

“That’s because, Beanie, my man,” Israel says, flipping out a card that’s a Joker one second and the Ace of Hearts in the next, “most people don’t come to be amazed, they come to figure out how I do what it is I do.” He flicks the card—back to the Joker—to land in Hugo’s lap. It teeters on his tenting erection.

Hugo stares at the card, Beanie laughs while baring the girl’s tits, and Israel goes quiet, the deck in his hands cut and re-cut until only he knows which card is where. Ivy knows what’s he’s thinking, what’s been left unspoken.

What the regulars are really coming for night after night isn’t the jokes, the pyrotechnics, or Israel’s amped up charm. They show up, sit down, fold their arms over their stomachs and wait to see him slip up, crash and burn.

Ivy closes his eyes and pictures the feel of Israel’s body in his hands, the sounds Israel makes when he’s desperate for something beyond all the drugs and cunt.

“Not a fag,” he says whenever he crawls into Ivy’s bed.

“Never said you were,” Ivy had assured him from the start. It’s never stuck, and doesn’t seem to even matter when Ivy’s the one letting Israel slam him.

Ivy smoothes a hand over the back of his head and rocks his weight to stand up and find some peace before Beanie gets the girl out of her panties. Across the room, Israel’s hands have gone still, a fan of cards bleeding from red to black between his fingers.

The cards snap back into a neat deck that Israel lays down on the table. He takes the top card, Jack of Clubs, and taps out lines on the glass while flashing a grin at Beanie. “They think they’re smarter than me,” he says. “Always do.”

His eyes are shards of ice as he watches Ivy go by. “But I pack the house for every show, now don’t I.”

“Not a fag,” he’ll say.

*

End

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