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by Townsend Walker


This story is Townsend Walker's first online publication with Pure Slush. He was, however, one of the contributors to 2014 A Year in Stories and his story cycle from the project, La Ronde, will be published by Pure Slush's sister press Truth Serum Press later in 2015.



The King of Spades is David player of the lyre, slayer of Goliath, bedder of Bathsheba, and sire of Solomon who wrote in the Song of Songs “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth for your love is better than wine.”

The King of Clubs is Alexander, student of Aristotle, slayer of the Gordian knot, conqueror of lands from Greece to India, ignorant of the ravages of belladonna, and the subject of an exquisite mosaic fragment exhibited at the Naples Archaeological Museum.

The King of Hearts is Charlemagne, a big guy, maybe seven feet tall, unifier of central Europe, defender of the Pope, and father of at least eighteen children.

The King of Diamonds is Julius Caesar, famous for not having a wife above suspicion, and saying “Et tu, Brutus,” on facing a knife, and “Alea iacta est” on crossing the Rubicon, whose death continues to be mourned to this day on March 15 at his reliquary in the Forum.




Pestilence rides a white horse carrying plague infested rats.

War rides a red horse holding a sword ready for battle.

Famine rides a black horse carrying a pair of balances to show the way bread was weighed out when there was little.

Death rides a horse the color of a corpse, swinging a scythe, followed by a swirling dervish of Hades.




Away out here they've got a name for rain and wind and fire, the rain is Tess, the fire's Joe and they call the wind Maria, and everywhere we name the earth Mother.

According to Isis, some living things are friends with fire, and some with water, some with wind, and some with earth, and some with two or three of these, and some with all; contrary wise, some living things are enemies of fire, and some of water, some of earth, and some of wind, and some of two of them, and some of three, and some of all.

Snakes and creeping things love earth; swimming things love water; winged things, wind; while those that fly higher love the fire.

Locusts and flies flee fire; birds flee water; fish flee wind and earth; the snake avoids the wind.



Calling Birds (originally, colly, for coal, birds that are black)

A dazzle of zebra stepped onto the porch

To keep themselves dry in the rain

They were soon joined by a murder of crow

Who perched on their rumps and their manes. 


published 14 February 2015