Poker Match

At precisely 7:37 in the evening, Mr Abraham Trevelyan micturated a stream from his erect phallus that had been enlivened by his delusions of slippery clitoris, sighs and spasm, and the asphyxiating musk of a mistress who would be visiting shortly. Nikya or Natasha or Nastenka.

He gorblimied and extracted sweetly, with a swift jerking wipe, the would-be ensuing slavic dynasty of tyrants, artists, parliamentary tzars and Her Most Eminent Tzarina, slaves, peasants, and the remainder of the vodka-bedridden proletariat. Polyphiloprogeny. The dribble plopped into the bluish waters with cries of Thalatta, and was whirpooled away like Charybdis. Quite suddenly, there came a sharp rap on the door which was most unexpected to Mr Trevelyan, who had been expecting the girl at nine o'clock. He hobbled to the door and emitted a tall and balding George Gershwin in frumpy black fedora and thin knotted tie.

"Abraham. You look as if you been finishing?"

"Only just. I was hardly expecting you."

"We have a match."

"Is that right?"

"Bridge or poker. It was your invitation."

"Is that right?"

"Won't you invite me in?"

"I seem to recall," pensively, "never before seeing you."

"That is hardly an excuse for impudence."

"But won't you come in?"

George racked his fedora and surveyed the apartment. A second knock sounded lower, a promise of squatness, bearded dignity with proud girth, and a firm fist. George turned to answer and four men stepped in, all of them unremarkable in boxy suits and slim ties or cravats.

"Camille, but you look quite fat."

"I see you still sprout quite the hawk-nose, George."

"Hallo George."

"Hallo George, ja."

"Gustav. Arnold." Nods.

"Chelovyks."

"Is that Sergei?"

"The man plays poker, it seems."

"Ve vere able to draw him 'vay for a night, kwhool kwhool."

"Are you a tennis man, Sergei. As Arnold and I?"

"No ball-und-court. Poker und piano foor him, exclusively. Kwhool kwhool!"

"Gustav, you moost do something foor that cough, ja?"

"Yes, and something for that bloody baldness, Arnold."

"Something for that prosperous gut, Camille."

"Away with it, George. At least long enough for me to take your bloody dollars."

"Franks, for you."

"Rrrubles."

"Marks."

"Pounds."

"Ah yes. Gentlemen, this is Mr Trevelyan. Our host for the evening. Rather unwilling, I'll surmise."

Hesitant. Polite smile and clasping hands together: "Fine to meet you gentlemen. I suppose there is a match. Shall we get to it?"

Agreement stated in nods and coughs and all proceeded forward at the direction of Mr Trevelyan, who recounted nothing at all concerning the evening's alleged poker match. Factually, he could recount nothing save his liberal onanising, and even this did not appear entirely lucid. Something more like a foggy memory or a recounted dream. The harlot he was sure was real enough. He had spoken to her on the phone and she had sounded a right little slavic soubrette with all Mizztah Trruvayens and cheery giggles. This would-be ravishing were giving him thirst.

The rococo interior of Mr Trevelyan's living room blurred vision with the light of a single yellow lampshade. He led his guests to a rounded dining table, and hurried to unknown cubbies in search of cards.

"Bollocks," murmured Mr Trevelyan, "and bollocks."

"What was that, Abraham?"

Quickly: "can't recount what was done with the bloody scotch."

"You can," George called, "forget the damned stuff and find the plaques."

Plaques. But where in the bloody--

A very scowling Sergei appeared suddenly and caused Mr Trevelyan the recollection of his dignity. "Brreefcase" he said frowningly and relieved the object daintily. "Do not leeve een water-closet."

Mr Trevelyan mustered the weighted pokercase in hand and did not bother to wonder with the when or why he had left the thing there. He assumed sangfroid, walking to the dining room table aflood with hubbub. Astute, Russian dignity followed in vanguard.

"Shall we," said Mr Trevelyan, "throw down?"

"Grand," replied George, with: "Two hundred in dollars." A pair of Franklins emerged, smelling of twenty years' enclosure, the green photograph of that surprised-eyed purveyor of key-ridden kites like a surreal figure of hallowed antiquity. A wave of moneys came engulfing: burgundy Molshoi Theatrs and an orange Paul Ehrlich overridden with the creased rod of Asclepius. Illustrious Eiffel with a receding maroon background and Mr Trevelyan's own reluctantly given quatrain of Christopher Wrens and Her Majestys.

"Currency rates dictate," said Mr Trevelyan, regretting the loss, "a bit of unfairness."

"If we were playing for moneys," said George.

"But we're playing for bloody plaques." Camille's merry girth, mismatched by a flustered and annoyed face. Jiggling.

The bloody plaques were posited in stacks of three by a divvying Arnold. Black and blues then yellow and whites exceeding orange and maroons. German Gustav cough-kwhooled over the cards as he cut and folded and spread. Entirely useless was Mr Trevelyan, admiring the efficacy of the German hands as Camille chortled and Sergei frowned and George surveyed over the hulking dignity of his Cyrano.

In the passing silence Mr Trevelyan felt his mounting discomfort. "I could brew us weak coffee?"

George Gershwin: "Three tablespoons sugar."

Camille Saint-Säens: "With cream and bloody cream."

Gustav Mahler: "Kwhool kwhool, und a bit of hazelnoot."

Sergei Rachmaninoff: "Milk, chelovyk."

Arnold Schönberg: "Vasser, ja?"

"Right right right right right," said Mr Trevelyan, and happily left again in search of his coffee brewer, hoping that he did indeed own a coffee brewer. A scouring of the kitchen yielded crisp and clean and pan-less cupboards and a drought of silverware. Irksomely: 'bother.' He searched high cupboards and tucked-away cupboards and deposited five glasses and a brewer onto the counter when a sudden and costive jerk of his stomach accelerated him to the wash-closet. The forced relaxation of his bowels emptied his annoyance and he began to feel pleasant again. Arising and wiping to scrub his hands in the porcelain sink, he bent to the towel cupboard, glimmering with copper tins, elongated cylinders of water and natural cream, tall and lanky sugar tin, hulking and wide coffee tin, fat and small tin of shrunken-pumpkin hazelnuts.

"Hmm," he hmmed, taking the implements in an embrace without question, and kicking the cupboard shut.

Returning to a disgruntled George:"Do you rightly know what you are in fact, doing?"

"No. So I shall let you make the damned coffee."

George, experimentally ruthless with the brewer, plunged guilty hands into suit pockets and attempted to submerge his eyes behind a fleshy aquiline beak, saying nothing more. The tampered coffee machine vomited water in disapproval and seethed. Mr Trevelyan remedied with more water and two shovels-full of coffee as the remainder of the men sat waiting for Sergei to flash the cards.

"Kwhool."

Silence.

"Kwhool."

Then Arnold: "Someone to fetch Sahwn sahwns then, ja?"

Ricocheting glances yielded a noticeable loss of ill-temper.

"Oh bother. But where is Camille?"

Crepuscular moonlight plinked daintily from an adjoining room in answer. High-octave glissandos fluctuated in a mysterious ostinato; rivers of eerie treble clef arpeggiating--

"--Dammit Camille you're here for a match."

"Have appreciation for the bloody Aquarium George!"

"Why does that man curse like the British, kwhool kwhool?"

"Ee bulueve fur zee eemphasis."

"Ve still to play poker, ja?"

"Camille's on the damned Steinway. Abraham?"

Mr Trevelyan wandered with meek acquiescence deeper into the apartment he did not recognize. The Frenchman was busying his fingers on the ivory finery. "The match?"

"I'm dusting your bloody piano."

"I don't believe it has ever been played"

"Oh, I know you wouldn't play."

"Why do you curse like the British?"

"Isn't there a match?"

"Accordingly."

"Has Rachmaninoff dealt the bloody cards?"

Rachmaninoff had dealt the bloody cards. A pair per gentleman and a lovely gulf between the frowning Russian and the remainder of the players. Camille entered with all corpulence and pursing lips and took his cards while picking his yellow teeth.

"Blinds and blinds gentlemen," said George.

There was a light smattering of multicolored plaques. Eyes became fixated on cards and the rest of the calling plaques lurched forward with staccato slaps. The dark tide spread outward and the river of cards widened: sunsets of orange and maroons entered the pot. A last minute vying for moneys and then: "Show carrds, chelovyks." Victorious Arnold, with kings and jacks, gathered in his spoils. The poker banter that ensued from the gentile populous included the possibility of circumcision via toothy fellatio and the avaricious 'tipping' of Mr Schönberg to include nought but the foreskin.

"Jews and," said Camille, "bloody theft."

"Eez beecause steeling iz a zilent buzeeness."

"Yes," said Mr Trevelyan, sudden anti-semite, "and even their phonetic enunciation has been proven naturally repellent. Twisted phrases and a buzzing, nasally snuffle. Creaking. Simply ghastly."

Christianized Mahler in latent Jewishness, raising a trinity of fingers in preparation of a rabbinical dissertation, halted for fear of his discovery. Arnold, forming a finger steeple, suddenly left the room while George cut the deck with semitic efficiency and hand-me-down Russian humorlessness. The atmosphere froze under his glare, and shattered suddenly under a plunking dissonance from the Steinway.

"That was," George to Mr Trevelyan, adjusting his slender tie, "rather rude. And now you've hurt Arnold's feelings."

"And yet I could not care less. Nor can any amount of chastisement infest me with qualms against that gaseous business," said Mr Trevelyan. "It is how one rids of infestation. Rats or cockroaches or the common mouse; infestations yet none so particularly sprawling and altogether--"

"--Isn't there a bloody match tonight or have I misheard?"

"You really should blame your infectious self for Mr Schönberg, Camille. It was you who provoked it and it was you who found the damned Steinway."

"But I see no bloody reason why my bit of playing would spark this kind of expression. Mr Trevelyan is right in admitting that bloody business of a natural repellence."

"It really is no discovery of my own. Collective science is the true culprit of the ascertainment. Of course it is easy for one to be repelled by a bit of atonality."

"I call it bloody rubbish."

"Precisely. Refined Jewish expression."

"Eez rrefined rubish, Sahwn-sahwns."

"Saint-Säens, you bloody Slav."

"Sahwn-sahwns."

"I really, kwhool kwhool, do not understand this business of 'gassing'."

"Oh, naturally, being a nineteenth century man."

"Abraham, get Arnold away from the damned piano. This is getting intolerable."

"I won't," rising slowly, "be doing this again. The rest of you keep your hands to yourself."

Arnold was ascending into the treble with closed eyes and quivering hands. The gorgeously mysterious Steinway had been transformed into an instrument of sustained dread, prolonged death enfleshed literally into white and black. It really was, magnificently terrible. He did not so much as nod to Mr Trevelyan as he entered. "Yoo have," retaining effortless keylessness, "veeseetor." A knuckle-rap on the door concluded signified the statement. "They want you off to steal more," Mr Trevelyan said, and opened the door blindly.

Krasnaya Moskava-permeated air: redolence of Red Moscow. The ambergris of the risque and rouged hordes of slender slavic mistresses.

Oh bollocks and bollocks and bollocks. Was it nine o'clock already?

Nikya or Natasha or Nastenka stood biting coquettishly her lower lip and wearing a black dress, offset by pale skin, offset by heavily mascaraed eyes. Irresistibly Russian: "Dahhhling." And a wet embrace with dripping saliva.

"I very much," said Mr Trevelyan, releasing "lost track of the time."

"Eet iz goot. Ee knows zhe time fur uz."

Blessed Arnold had already departed back into the cold silence of the poker match once the girl had come through the doorway. She shed her lightly furred coat and traversed tiny circles across the floor with ladylike poise, waiting to be invited further. Gorgon-spelled and slack-jawed and positively infatuated and bloomingly happy was Mr Trevelyan, caught in the hypnotic movement of moving breasts. And then from the poker-room there was the faintest of scrapes of the coffee-brewer, only enough to disturb the trance. "Oh, blind me, but I must have left the silly thing on." Rushing away with torn eyes.

The glimmering machine had caught the attention of a manhandling Sergei, and it was all Mr Trevelyan could do to wrestle the thing away. "I am making the coffee, and only me."

"Yuhv levt eet to rot."

"Age yes. Rot, absurdly no. You have," scooping in beans and dumping water, "never heard of enology?"

Sarcasm combatting stony impassivity. As if Sergei could afford a grin. Or bloody well know what enology is.

"Deed yoo have guest?"

"Oh, creditor, tax-collector. One going about one's business. Business I must now, unfortunately, conclude." Mr Trevelyan spoke unsurely, having no time to think of a more adequate excuse, yet realizing that it would of course, prove his extreme discomfort to admit the presence of his Russian mistress daintily chewing a reddened lip. Sergei gave a snort. "Zounds like my wive." Attempting to display disinterest, Mr Trevelyan gave a shallow chuckle and set about fiddling aimlessly with the brewer. It went, expectantly, unregistered, the frowning Russian mustering forward: "Ahnd ee saies to my wive: Natalia, why you become wive when you want to charge? Foor zhings leeke zhat. Yoo know. But Russian women have zhick skulls and zhe says because you steell have to earn eet, and Russian women mizerly az Joos."

Memory hearkened. That voiceless bastard ricocheting through subconscious until it found its way to Mr Trevelyan's trembling lips. "Natalia. Natalia. Natalia, you said?"

Nothing to do for Mr Trevelyan to dispel a vision of Russian vengeance. Bloody pistols. And a stony Rachmaninoff-face to keep him company all through his descent to adulterous hell. Oh, let the Natalias be plentiful and misfortune not so terribly ironic, came the inevitable plead.

"Natalia. Zhe eez wiife. Natalia Satina. Satin izt like drress."

Bollocks and bollocks and insatiably karma-loving bollocks.

Mr Trevelyan visibly stiffened distanced himself as far as many centimeters.

"You shall make coffee? Three tablespoons sugar and bloody cream and hazelnut and milk and water. While I attend business. Yes and yes?"

"Yoo izt making coffee and only yoo?"

"I am quite afraid of inhibiting circumstance. You will do a splendid job and of this I have little doubt but I must attend to sudden business."

"Zhis buzeeness weel take long?"

"That sir, would be heavily dependent on variable."

Pensive consideration and the rest of the poker patrons forgotten already their host. "I wait," a glance at the silent table: anti-semites and frowns and uneasily held cards, "and ee deal yoo out, chelovyk."

Out and out was where Mr Trevelyan's sprightly British legs carried him. Out through the main room into the ante-hallway, unknown corridors leading to unknown rooms in an unknown apartment at an unknown street of what he assumed to be dreary lightless London. Then there was nothing but the smiling visage of his now-verified mistress Natalia: lovely soubrette playing the wife of the frowning piano prodigy who dealt hands to eminent Hasidic Jews and anti-semites in the adjoining living-room. Well, the chances really were stupendously and horribly ironic. Destiny and karma being, of course, quite entitled to an evening's entertainment as surely as five dead composers, and Mr Trevelyan promising that his bout of lustful coition will be paid in full with much tearful confessional and saying of Our Fathers once the abode had been emptied. Until then, he would squirm doubly under-Slav and over-Slav and try to expel any thoughts of his discovery. His stomach expanding with ensuing chuckles. It was quite wonderful to be able to laugh at anything

"We should," breathless Mr Trevelayn, "get immediately to it."

"Deed you turrn zhe zilly theeng off?"

"What? Oh yes. But it has a habit of making dreadful noises. Should we not wish to be interrupted we can vouchsafe ourselves skyward, the upstairs, I mean. I'll find us a banister, never you worry."

Natalia giggled and warmly laced fingers. They were tenuous as Asparagus stalks and comfortably cooling. Easy calm and always calm, my rising concupiscence: forwarded the mouth to phallus. Cool conviction of his prowess: Mr Trevelayn the in-bed egoist. When suddenly all confidence shivered in an explosion of glass from the poker room.

"Bloody Bollock-beating blasted-blimeyed bugger-bleeding-bastard!" cried Mr Trevelyan, shedding the cool hand. "You will understand that I must take care of this?" Natalia nodded, frightened with brown eye-orbs exophthalmosized. A tinge of regret. Poor girl, he thought. I really must make this up to her.

Camille was squirming on the ground in a pool of sherry and rosy bloody when Mr Trevelyan entered the room. A livid Gustav scissored the prostrated Goliath with a bottle in one hand and two fists dripping winey maroon. "He vould not, kwhool kwhool, shoot his damned mouth about the Yews."

George and Arnold and Sergei were minding their hands and regarding the panting Gustav placidly. The frozen silence had been shattered by the commotion, and a bit of conversation was arising from the Russian and the German. "Arnold was only just saying that he didn't believe it was good sport to hit a drunk man," said George. "Me, I think he could have done worse. Camille was getting a bit out-of-hand."

"Goddamned bloody Krauts and Kikes. Lifting moneys to stow away, you bloody misers."

"You can see what I mean."

Gustav jabbed a boot into the hefting side of the bearded Frenchman who rose and sputtered over his already bespittled beard.

"I really," Mr Trevelyan said, "should not get involved."

"All anti-semitism aside, he is your guest and you should endeavor a bit of responsibility."

"I cannot possibly begin to recall when it was that I invited him, or any of you for that matter, to this perverse poker-match. And I will endeavor responsibility. Yet I cannot be held attribute because the man cannot play his cards. Sergei, lift the chair, and take your foot off his chest, for Gods' sake. Camille, use your bloody legs. We'll not be lifting you."

"Bloody Kikes can't lift anything but a purse." Camille proportioned himself unsteadily behind a pathetic pile of dwindled plaques and pursed his bloody lips. "You fucking philistines, we're playing a bloody poker match and you won't be pilfering."

"And Sergei how did you come about that sherry bottle, anyway?"

"Ee could not feend eez creem."

Sherry-coffee. Less than appeasing. "Can you keep him steady until I finish?" said Mr Trevelyan. Gustav frowned as the Frenchman ran off more tasteful pejoratives. Mr Trevelyan almost wished he could stay to hear them, until his flagrant libidinousness attacked his khakis.

"With buzeeness?"

"A very, very pressing one at that."

"You will be soon? You have only played one hand."

"Yes, and of that I am quite aware. Sergei can deal me out for three and I shall make my return. Do keep Gustav away from Camille."

Little hesitation preceded Mr Trevelyan flying up the banister, into a dimly lit upper story. That, he realized, must have been rather strange to his poker compatriots, but his lubricious friend was all but spitting. He found dear half-naked Natalia Satina supine on the bed and stroking herself.

Mr Trevelyan found the undressing to be as inelegant as divorcee dinner-chat. Natalia's sheepish grin was replaced by a look of intense concentration, trousers and button-down and sweater and tie and socks and brogues, undressing and discalcing, amidst a riot of slobbery tongues, requiring a visible tightening of the temples. In retrospect, hers was not an easy job, as Mr Trevelyan's fashionable wardrobe was not one considering easy and quick abandonment. Notwithstanding these difficulties, the simple job of Natalia's clothing: an easily removable skirt and removable leggings and a wonderfully easy single-strap satin brassiere: functioning in accommodation of today's passive lover, proved to be a difficult obstacle. Annoyance sponged Natalia Satina's face when her clothing was finally and fumblingly removed and the two pale bodies squished together.

Natalia's face revealed an intense blankness and Mr Trevelyan examined himself downward. "Weell?" she said. Then realizing his sudden flaccidity, he sighed and held himself and shut his eyes to the point that they expelled tears.

"I am," hesitantly, "preparing."

The blank face radiated annoyance. Women being such frightfully impatient creatures for the job.

"Zhis eez eet? What yoo preparing for?"

"For you, I suppose. Well, I had prepared for us, the act itself, if you follow. To be able to last, and that was two hours ago. You see I was not exactly counting on that kind of a response. It really is quite disarming. Moreover I had harbored a hope that I would not have had to prepare for, well, this."

"Zheez." In accordance with the telltale signs of womanly dissatisfaction, eyes glanced down and mouth pursed like an unwelcome kiss, the tongue sliding beneath the lower lip. Mr Trevelyan was, unfortunately, undeterred and willing to prove himself able. He stooped himself and with careful aim plunged himself forward with an exuberant tallyho. In a moment he was floundered awkwardly through fleshy lips, retching, and concluding the insemination into his quivering fist. All preparations had, to his divining, excelled him an extra four seconds. The premature spasm, whether swallowed in the clasped fingers or simply ignored, went entirely disregarded. And Natalia's expression had not changed from a look of horrifyingly accusing incredulity. Stare. Silence.

Mr Trevelyan realized then that he was desperately unwanted.

He hiked up his trousers, searching for words, saying: "I must check the coffee," with little conviction.

"Zhe coffee-machine eez brroken?"

"Yes. And at the same time a huge resounding no. I purchase many coffee machines. A man must have his coffee. Ichorous lifeblood of men and the like. Keeps us fertile. You doubtless agree."

But Mr Trevelyan had fled half-dressed before any response could be made. He really had no clue as to what he was doing beyond escaping the accusing harlot and attempting to conceal his blubbering virility. And looking down at himself, he gave an audible sigh. There really was, he realized, very little he could do about the situation aside from making the bloody coffee and waiting.

Much to his displeasure, there had sprung from seemingly nowhere, a host of sherry bottles alongside discarded coffee mugs, and an entire cavalcade of thoroughly intoxicated composers marching around the poker-table. Arnold led the charge, calling eins! zwei! drei! vier! with a face flushed red and with a hair-tussled Gustav in tow raising his right arm in time and crying Hojotoho! Hojotoho! Camille was entirely nude and bellowing the Marseillaise, dancing counterclockwise. Sergei, seated, tapped time to George's piano ditty with a foot, and sipped wine.

"You gentlemen," Mr Trevelyan said, hurriedly tucking in himself, "are playing a poker match, if you recall?"

"A reprieve, if you vill," said Arnold. "Qu'un sang impur!" cried Camille.

"No," said Mr Trevelyan, "I simply will not, and no to your reprieves. I demand you end this match else I shall end it for you." The threat, bolstered in Mr Trevelyan's mind by a booming voice and a slamming fist, was in reality a very weak and half-hearted approach, and it was immediately overpowered by Camille's patriotic promise of impure blood to water French furrows. Mr Trevelyan watched helplessly that admirable bit of stirring nationalism, and was thankful at least that the raucous chorus had kept the Frenchman from being further bloodied. And at once, the music ceased, and George entered the premises in an undone tie and a sheen of determination coating his forehead. "And, to return to the present hand." Hushed concentration, and the players resumed their cards, and everything from the momentary pause to Camille's nakedness was forgotten in the suddenness of the resumed match. Mr Trevelyan stared bovinely.

The dealing. The check. The first bet. The call. The river. The second bet. The call. The river. The third bet. The call. The raise. The call. The river. The raise. The raise. The raise. The call. The all-in. And the spoils of the greedy Jew. Gustav or Arnold or George: all blended into a singular dynamic. A conspiracy, and one to horde his plaques. Of this Mr Trevelyan had become quite sure.

Oh but the damned coffee! This woman was proving troublesome he reflected.

"Natalia," swallowing breath from the ascent. Natalia in the midst of her toothy manicure afforded him a glance. "Glass everywhere and hot coffee. Tripped and scarred myself a bit. I'll be but a moment for bandages."

"Ee was eexpecting yoo herre moore."

"But a moment darling. You'll see. And I'll be thoroughly ready. Doing a bit of running and keeping the blood pumping and you are doubtless aware what happens when the blood begins to run through the body."

"Yoo talk much. Weell yoo bee rrreedy?"

"Naturally naturally." Very unnaturally was the actual verdict. He recalled reading an article dictating the average Refractory Period of men his age to range from thirty minutes to twenty hours. The increased infusion of oxytocin, a damming of three hundred million spermatozoon to be propelled forthwith in combat for possession of the oocyte. That left him nearly a daylong's worth of possibilities for rejuvenation.

"Table bloody stakes are table bloody stakes and you can ask Sergei about the rules because it's goddam well legal." Camille's commotion, enlivened minimally by drink, piqued curiosity. Mr Trevelyan was dealt into the current hand.

"And you're hardly well playing for legal bloody tender as it is. What's differing in goddam rubles and franks and pounds and dollars and marks and any other paper?"

"It's about the damned monetary exchange, Camille."

"You ask the monetary exchange of a nigger and it's not bloody providable but it is there."

"You're not betting a nigger."

"I'm betting my bloody child. That's sentimental and a promise of monetary exchange, and none of you bloody-damned Kikes are taking the bet?"

Gustav, lingering dipsomaniac, visibly stiffened.

"Ee weell accept," replied Rachmaninoff, to which Camille thrummed his lips. "You bloody well see, don't you? They're bloody well conspiring against us. The bloody Jew against the bloody Goyim."

At once, George broke into a stupidly large grin and began pounding the table in laughter. Gustav attempted to glare and the angry pretense suddenly broke under grin. Drunken-eyed Arnold, clasping his chin with a thumb and forefinger and wearing a dainty smile on the corner of his mouth, cast an absolutely terrifying visage. "Right you are right you are. You," said George, "my fucking Frenchman, have yourself one hell of a bet." The room suddenly sprouted a cacophonous roar of delight with much clapping and whooping and general joviality. The table and nearly all of its bottles was upset. A literal up-roar, and chairs strewn about and a crash like a timpani as Camille came off his chair and landed thickly on his spine. An inkling of the crazed incident was hardly afforded to Mr Trevelyan. One must surely be drunk to appreciate a poker-match of these standards. With Camille's sherry he toasted six respectfully hearty swigs to good company, and began to feel concern of bored, manicuring Natalia waltzing downstairs to find her husband and five other men engaged in a rambunctious poker-match, melting away.

What happened next was something that had a profound impact on all subsequent activities of Mr Trevelyan's night. From out of every conceivable crevice offered by the mens' wardrobe, came jumbles of heavily marked papers. Creased manilla paper from under a shirt, splotchy white paper tucked into a shoe, ink-bled napkins stuffed in a coat pocket, crisp sheets revealed in a hat, folded notebook paper from the inside of a pant leg, and Camille, asking for pen and paper. And then, in the spirit of grade-school recitation, each man held aloft his separate masterpiece and intoned his wager deeply.

"Symphony No. 10 in F-sharp, in five parts. G. Mahler."

"Die Oper von Die Rede und Gotts Job. A. Schönberg"

"Theme on a Russian Composition, for two pianos. S. Rachmaninoff."

"Le couronnement de Napoléon. C. Saint-Säens."

"Red River Rhapsody. G. Gershwin."

"Oh my, but they are like children," said George, the pieces adjusted to near-perfection. Vis-a-vis to Camille was Arnold, chuckling. "Like Abraham parting Isaac. Letting go child. Und you are no Yew."

"Lift," said Camille, "the bloody fucking river."

"Momentarily. But I see no offering of our gracious host."

Five drunken composers with their literal love-spawn prostrate on sticky table, turned accusing eyes to Mr Trevelyan. "Pounds," said Mr Trevelyan. "Because I have no children to offer."

"You must offer something, kwhool kwhool."

"Pounds."

"No bloody pounds. You wager what we wager or you stay out of bloody bet."

"No," answered Arnold. "There is no staying. He moost offer."

"Eez right. Yoo must bet."

Visible irritation on flushed red faces. The spectacle was rather frightening. Mr Trevelyan turned out his palms and innocently offered their whiteness, saying: "I appear with what humble currency my plaques dictate. I can offer stout if you prefer; enough of a child of mine. Gentlemen of your sort would doubtlessly enjoy. I'm sure I have it aging in the wash-closet."

"Yoo talk too much."

This was a very unfortunate remark directed towards Mr Trevelyan, who in the midst of his planned emigration from the steadily-growing anger of the men to the warm embrace of his slavic mistress, suddenly came to the realization that his flaccid virility had yet to rejuvenate a continent's worth of offspring. Moreover, Sergei had piqued the impatience of the already impatient men.

"Too damned much, Abraham. Throw down what you have."

"What little I have? If you will not listen, George--"

Camille slammed both fists on the abused table. "We're asking, bloody beseeching," dramatically, "for you goddamned children. And we ask because we are gentlemen and we do not take because we are gentlemen before we are bloody Kikes."

"You're dangerously fuc--kwhool kwhool--king close, French bastard."

"Gustav. Gustav," Arnold spoke low, soothing German.

Sergei. Frowning. And quite effectively shattering the tension in the moment's hesitation: "Rrussian Joos flee Rrussia because Amerreecan ground haz more gold."

In an instant, George had sprang upon Sergei and cracked his fist cleanly into his lip-slivers. Nudely brilliant Camille leapt uneasily atop the table and was attempted a drunken restraint while Gustav and Arnold halfheartedly tugged at George. Fleeing upstairs, Mr Trevelyan landed full force into a concerned Natalia who regarded him like a plague. "Ee heer noizez and glazz and men and curzez."

"Television, dearest. Kindly wander back to the room."

"Eez no televeeseeon. Yoo hideeng men. Ee do not wish to go to room."

"But a moment, dearest."

"No moments. Zheeze moments too long. Yoo take too long for too little. Ee do not want zhis."

"Only complication with easy remedy."

"Reemedy not need from you. Reemedy need from leetle-you."

Stunned inactivity. A mental flash of leaden roulette. An image of pulverized brain and blood and bone that awaited just downstairs. And then without thinking, or thinking brilliantly, Mr Trevelyan shoved his hands straight onto the hardly-concealed breasts of his sweetheart and dug his tongue into her still-shocked-open mouth. Defensive clamp of crooked and fanged teeth gave way instantaneously later to a gaping maw beckoning for more and more and it was more and more Mr Trevelyan wanted only at that instant. Primeval animalism. Harsh ravaging of the dainty mistress like a sacrificial virgin. Then suddenly there came a thunderous sound:

"DAMMIT ABRAHAM BLOODY TREVELYAN! WE DEMAND OF YOU YOUR BLOODY CHILDREN!!"

The hunger for more and more was suddenly forgotten. Shivered like so many bottles and coffee-makers. Upset as a poker-table. Mr Trevelyan bounding down-stairs with unbuttoned trousers and crispy underpants and soggy virility dripping dynasties in his wake. Surrendering with a shout of: "Here's your bloody damned children! Here's your fuck-progeny masterpieces, poured out for you and for many!"

But the poker-table had been abandoned. Empty chairs at an empty table and bloody footprints mingled with sherry where a naked composer had only recently been buffeted. The Aquarium radiating from an unknown source, and the compositions being pages of Jewishness in Music, and aged Rhapsody in Blue, and wallet-pictures of Uncle Walther looking both fresh and dead from Spandau. Intervening: an image of himself heiling in smart Schutzstaffel.

"Natalia," he said, sliced feet crunching broken bottles. No answer.

"Natalia," he cried again, when suddenly: "Eet has been," a pale slender girl, daintily fingered and wide-eyed, entering, "but an hour since you arrived, Uncle. And Ee leave to clean up that blasted pantry to see what you have done."

"A bloody busy hour at that. Where is Natalia?"

Natalia. Natalia on the wall. Natalia hugging close an unsmiling Russian husband. Natalia the stern the unyielding and delightfully fragile. Family littered the living room between miniaturized pictures of the wedding, and of Mr Trevelyn-senior's soirees with smiling Victor Borge and Horowitz and Ravel and a larger imprint of him in a household class of Mr Schönberg's teaching. Natalia a smocked housewife expressing disdain with a whisper of her grandfather's Stalingrad tonality.

"There ees simply no cause to treat me to these games, especially with what you've done to our sherry. And it would be appreciated, Uncle, eef you watch your mouth, especially with your grandchildren about." Tiny squealing voices, little embodiments of himself: tiny Trevelyans, five of them going pitter-patter on the frayed edge of his peripherals. One of them quite fat and naked. Mr Trevelyan's eyes edging back to the table, caught a framed Liszt at the Piano, and a shelf uplifting a bust of dignified Mahler.

"And you do not need to curse like the British just because you are een London. This incessant habit of scene-making ees quite unwarranted."

"Damn it all, but you missed the match. Quite the game. You saw them depart of course, old drunken artificers. Brilliant players. I feel thoroughly outmatched. Wish I had written a symphony or two once in my bloody life. Goddamned Kikes, stirring me jealous. And I believe I owe them my children."

"For God's good love, Uncle, do put your trousers up."