Four women of indiscernible years and varying degrees of decrepitude meet on Fridays at the local park for cards. This has been their custom for a half-century. None of them can remember having missed a game.
One of these women, Mrs. Cavallo, is a reputed shaman of questionable to non-existent moral fortitude. She is the most decrepit of the four, although not the most wily. One day, Mrs. Cavallo arrives at the designated card table in an uncharacteristically opaque state, having died from unknown causes sometime since last Fridays game. With her, she brings an old deck of tarot cards and proposes a variation of their customary Scopa game to commemorate her long life, now ended.
The significance of these strange events does not go unnoticed by the other three. They do not comment on their late companions’ ghostly state; whether this is due to blindness or politeness is unclear. What is commented on, at length, is the unwelcome presence of the sacrilegious tarot cards. Interrupting a five decade streak of Friday afternoon Scopa for Italian Tarocchini was an ominous suggestion, bordering heretical. However, in the spirit of sympathy, the three antediluvian gamblers eventually acquiesce.
The four play their hands until the customary hour, during which time two of the old women lose to the ghostly Mrs. Cavallo. The following Friday, they rejoin the card table, as free from earthly troubles now as she.
Again the four play the tarot cards. Mrs. Fante, the only remaining member of the tetrad still breathing, does not question the recurrence of tarots over Scopa, understanding the seriousness of the predicament in which she finds herself. They play without cackling conversation or cigar breaks. At the end of the customary hour, the old Mrs. Fante has won every hand. Mrs. Cavallo glowers at Mrs. Fante, her suspicions finally confirmed. The tarots scatter to the winds, and the shaman spectre proclaims, by God, she will get back all the money she has been cheated in the last fifty years if it takes her another hundred! Mrs. Fante serenely denies any cheating, but assures her old rival that she will have her chance at winning a game, as always, next Friday.
Accompanied by Thomas Newman’s Puttanesca.
A shocking suggestion! Of the sister spinsters, Catherine was more blunt but had fewer teeth. Her lispy pronouncement: “blasphemous!” was therefore garbled enough for Marie to disguise with some enthusiastic coughing. Mrs. Fante and the sisters conferred some minutes on how best to proceed with the situation, which, they allowed, was unique. If Mrs. Cavallo’s ghost had better hearing in death than she had had in life, she was good enough to pretend she did not, for their privacy. At last they decided to treat the proposal as a special request–no one dies more than once, after all–and get on with things. Mrs. Fante returned the scopa deck to her bags with a sigh. Tarot cards it was.
Tarocchini are rather notoriously complex games. However, Mrs. Cavallo provided minimal instruction to the novices, suspecting how little it would be headed or appreciated. Her ghostly fingers dealt the cards.
The game was played in pairs, and the first rounds fizzled quickly. The confusing tarots, with their mysterious designs and complex point systems, dampened the tables usual conviviality. Mind did not synch with matter until the last two hands, played first between Mrs. Cavallo and Catherine, and then between Mrs. Cavallo and Marie. Mrs. Cavallo won both. And with each win, the sisters shoulders stooped a little lower.
When the game was finally finished, no one proposed a last cigar or sip of sherry before departing. Each left the park with an unusual promptness, and little hope that next week’s’ game would be an improvement. This turned out to be true.
The following Friday, Mrs. Cavallo’s spectral figure was joined by the equally transparent forms of Miss Catherine and Marie Corbetts. All three were of the mind to play a round of tarots, and poor Mrs. Fante now sat in no position to disagree. As the sisters were quick to point out, after all, no one dies more than once. Mrs. Cavallo’s eyes glinted with a strange light as she partnered with the last living gambler at the table and began to deal.