The purpose of today’s excerpt from “A New Kingdom” is to reinforce some of the concepts discussed in my last two posts, building stakes and increasing tension. If you don’t have any idea what either of these terms mean, I suggests you click those links^ and check them out.
I’ve highlighted any lines that are specifically designed to increase tension, establish the stakes, or foreshadow problems to come. This scene is about Fitz and the threat he poses. He is the antagonist of the underground scenes. Enjoy.
* * *
“What about Fitz? He’s not going to want us back there.”
“Let me worry about Fitz,” said Roy.
The pair got up and made their way down the corridor. The yellow lights helped make daytime feel almost authentic. Many families sat in the hallway, exchanging their horror stories from the night of the invasion. The cute blonde girl with the yellow rubber boots sat alone, and for a moment James thought about introducing himself, maybe even inviting her to play cards. He wondered if she were dealing with the loss of her parents as well.
Placed at the end of the hallway was a cardboard box, labeled “ELECTION.” When they finally reached it, James peered inside and saw it was filled with napkins – write-in votes for the new underground ruler.
“I don’t get why we are having this damn election today, you know? We’re done if Fitz wins – might as well as be underground slaves from here on out. And why are we voting for a ruler? Shouldn’t we vote for a leader? Somebody oughtta speak up about this stuff,” said Roy.
They entered the backroom that Fitz had strictly reserved for underground council meetings.
Roy dealt James a couple of cards, who turned them around to see a queen and a seven.
“Why don’t you speak up?”
Roy checked on his own hand, “Wouldn’t do no good. None a’them are gonna listen to me, kid. Most adults don’t like me.”
With a quick hand, Roy flipped over three cards on the table. There was an eight, a nine, and a six, giving James an open-ended straight draw. Roy bet and James called.
“Maybe you should try to make them like you? You never know unless you try.”
Roy laughed, “There’s some people I prefer to dislike me. If a guy like Fitz liked me, I don’t think I’d like myself.”
A fourth card was flipped on the table, and a ten was turned over. James had a straight. Roy bet and James re-raised all in. Roy put his hands behind his head, sat back in his chair, and looked as though he were thinking his move over.
“I’m sure you got a seven, which gives you a straight. The damned thing is, I flopped one too, ‘cause I got a five-seven. So I gotta call, but I’m gonna be pretty damn upset if that last card gives you a better hand.”
Roy pushed all of his chips into the center, and both of them were all-in. He flipped over the final card, a jack of clubs. James revealed his hand, and Roy tossed the entire deck into the air.
“C’mon kid, how could you do that to me?”
James didn’t see it at first, but when he studied his hand further, he realized why Roy was upset – The last card gave James a higher straight, Queen-Jack-10-9-8. He got lucky. Roy’s frustration died down, as he chuckled at his bad-beat and picked up the scattered cards.
“You see, in this game, all the brains in the world won’t guarantee success. The skilled professional can lose to the young novice, any day of the week-”
The office door flew open, and Colonel Fitz’s entered in.
“Pick up your things and leave. This isn’t a game room – it’s for official government meetings only.”
Roy shuffled the cards and dealt out a new hand. “With all due respect, sergeant anus, there are only four rooms in this place. If there were more, I’d understand. But we may be down here for a very long time, so I’d ‘ppreciate it if you eased up a little bit.”
James pretended not to notice the escalating tension between the two grown men as he picked up the cards.
Fitz marched over to Roy until he stood over him. “It’s Colonel Fitz, low-life. And I will not stand for any under-age gambling. This meeting room is for grown-ups only. That means both of you need to leave.”
Fitz used his arms to pile up all the poker chips into the center of the table, erasing the winnings for both opponents. Roy stood up and put his face to Fitz’s. “Look, Colonel Dick head, when you and your friends finally come here to play ‘pretend government,’ when you make huge decisions like ‘who showers when?’ Then we’ll get out of here. But until then, I’m gonna enjoy life the little bit that I can, and me and my buddy James are gonna play cards right here, whenever we want,” He said, then pounded his fist against the glossy marble.
The colonel took a step back. “Today, go ahead, play your silly game. But I got news for you.” Fitz pressed his finger into Roy’s chest. “I am a military man, Roy, and you don’t wanna start a war with a military man. When I win that election, you’re going to change your attitude.”
Fitz left the room. Roy grabbed the deck of cards and returned to dealing them like nothing had even happened. After a couple minutes, James finally broke the silence.
“I think you might be right about some people not liking you.”
Roy shook his head. “If Fitz wins that election, ain’t nobody down here is ever gonna see the surface again. That man is power hungry, James, and hungry people don’t like sharing their food.”
* * *
– Thomas M. Watt
Author of “A New Kingdom”