It was blazing hot under the sun when the Genie approached the driftwood log shaped like a long, relining feline, and sat down on one of its twisted arms. The Knave was already there, waiting patiently with studying eyes.
“I know all too well—I am late.”
“Was it a tumultuous night?” The Genie shrugged at the question and picked a piece of dried golden pampas out of the sand grains.
“Not so. It is just that the fogs have returned.”
“To your head.”
“To my thoughts.”
“To your mind.”
“All in all, not a bad night.”
He drew a pair of lips in the sand with the grass blade. They smiled up from the ground and he grinned back down at them, his crystalline eyes shining like the golden hoop in his ear.
“You look a fool when you do that,” stated the Knave, a little jaded for that it was his usual profession—being the fool—and because the Genie was making his own self smile.
“Not a bad night—” The question went ignored. “Then what has the fog rolling in?”
The Genie sighed heavily, a bittersweet sigh.
“I saw her there again—that pretty one with the golden locks and the sapphire eyes.”
“Ah, I do know the one. I saw her as well.”
“Such a talent—”
“Such a beauty—”
“Such a wonder to behold—”
“I think I love her.”
The Genie’s head jerked up and his eyes opened wide. It was the first time the Knave had ever seen his smile replaced with a look of terror.
“You cannot love her! I love her!”
“Well that is clearly ridiculous of you, because I love her!”
The Genie pondered for a moment over this obvious conundrum. The Knave could see his wheels turning, for his were turning madly as well. They spoke at the same time:
“I’ll play you for her!”
The Genie’s smile returned and the mischievous lift of the corner of the Knave’s mouth mirrored it. They began immediately to turn out their pockets and to set out the objects that appeared:
From the Genie came a jack, a ruby ring, a bottle cap, a copper bell, a cobalt feather and a fountain pen nib.
The Knave placed down a thistle, a cocoon, a crown, a violet glass cube, a used birthday cake candle and a tiny brass spoon.
They arranged the objects between them on the driftwood, hesitating on who would make the first move.
“You go first,” the Knave offered.
“Oh no, you go first.”
“Well what if I insist?”
The Knave picked up the violet cube and hesitantly hovered over the Genie’s copper bell.
“Go ahead,” the Genie prompted, grinning from ear to ear again. “Do it.”
The Knave swapped out the cube for the bell and put it in its place. His eyes lifted expectantly to the Genie, who had drawn his brows together in heavy contemplation. The Knave did not cave on his choice of a move.
“What? You said to.”
“I know, I know.”
The Genie looped the ruby ring onto his pinky finger and dropped it on top of the cocoon. Its weight pushed the gray pod toward him and he caught it in his palm, careful not to crush it.
“I told her that I loved her style—” The Knave spun the little brass spoon and it travelled over the ridges in the wood until it knocked against the jack. The contact made a tiny ping and it ricocheted back into his hand.
“Ah!” he lamented, losing his turn.
“Her style? Are you suggesting her hair?”
“Her hair, her clothing, that shiny thing between her eyes—”
The Genie picked up the jack and the lost spoon, trying not to gloat for winning the two pieces.
“It is called a bindi.”
“Yes, you would know that, wouldn’t you?”
The Genie narrowed his eyes with a sarcastic smirk, the small orange flame-shaped jewel flashing back at the Knave from between the Genie’s own eyes. He picked up his feather and blew it toward the candle—it did not budge the wax.
“I was also talking about the way she carries herself—” The Knave grinned and took the feather and candle up.
“Of course you were.”
The fountain pen nib took a leap off of the wood when the thistle brushed it down into the glinting sand, and the ruby ring cracked the delicate violet cube and made two pieces of it. Now brows were raised and a breeze blew by to tease the clapper inside of the copper bell. It made the Genie think of the woman’s sparkling eyes. It made the Knave think of her laugh. They were precious thoughts and required a moment of reminiscing about her before getting back into their game.
“Do you want this back?” The Genie offered the spoon to the Knave. “I know it is important to you.”
This afforded a sigh from his companion.
“No. Go ahead and keep it.” There was a pause as he held the broken cube out on his flattened palm. “You?”
“No. It breaks my heart to see it cleaved in two.”
“How poetic of you.”
“And you with your pitiful candle—half burnt and bent—how metaphoric of you.”
“Yes. But it will still light.”
They both sighed. The other objects left the game quickly until the two of them eyed their invisible, makeshift playing board: only the crown and bottle cap remained.
“She already has a bottle cap,” said the Genie. “Besides, it is your turn.”
“But the cap has a bee on it. I know she loves bees—you know she loves bees.”
“But she deserves the crown. You know she does.”
The Knave contemplated it for a moment before he gave an agreeing nod.
“That she does.”
The Genie sighed dreamily once more and gave the Knave a sportsman-like handshake.
“Same time tomorrow then?”
“Same time tomorrow.”