Let’s Meet in a Dream: “Straight” by Haruki Murakami
“Straight” is a short-short from Haruki Murakami and Shigesato Itoi’s 1986 strange collaborative story collection, Let’s Meet in a Dream.
Playing cards with sea turtles isn’t a good time unless you like being able guess its hand or read its mind like you’d count crows napping on a pile of snow. I mean, just because I play cards with one every night doesn’t mean I’m enjoying it.
So we’re playing poker and the turtle throws its cards on the table, waddles down from the chair, lays shell-down on the floor, spins around—once, twice—breathes it all in and then waddles back up. Meaning he has two pair. The spinning, the deep breath, every time it has two pair.
Or it goes into the kitchen, turns on the sink, spit-shines its fins and gargles, gargles, gargles. Three of a kind. The sea turtle just can’t figure this out.
So I win every time and every time the sea turtle cocks his head the same way. “Like you’re reading my mind.”
“No—you’ve just got some tells. Subconscious bodily tics.”
“Never crossed my mind. You’re some headshrinker.”
“You know,” I say. I don’t take compliments very well.
Now he’s flaring his nostrils and cutting a sheet of loose-leaf into a nice thin moon with a pair of safety-scissors. Must’ve drawn a straight.