We sat up in bed, passing cards back and forth, until the deck was finished. "I'll bet you my car that you don't win the next one," he said. I told him if that were a real bet, I'd take it. He said, "It's a real bet. Take it."
"Why would you bet that in a game like this?" I said.
He shrugged. "Tired of my car," he said.
He looked at me, almost wincing. "You've been winning all night."
"I--need a car," I said.
"I know. Well then."
I lay back on the pillows, stretching my arms as he began shuffling the cards. "What if I lose?"
"You won't lose."
We played down the deck again, and this time I lost. He shook his head. "You lose on purpose?"
"No. What now?"
"Play again for the car and win next time."
"Just give it to me," I said.
He shrugged. "No."
He dealt out the cards, and we played down the deck this last time. In the end, I won, again. "You've got a car," he smiled, then turned on his side away from me.
Playing along with the joke, I went to the window. It was one of those nineteen fifties living room picture windows, large and wide and sealed shut, out of place in a bedroom. Somewhere in the driveway, in the dark outside, was the car, an old gold-colored Porsche with matching hubcaps, which he said was unusual for Porsches of that period.
It was at first too dark to see. The property was set so far back from the road that there was little light from the street lamps. Large trees grew along the driveway but in the back was pasture for horses and all the trees there were cut back. The property was right in the middle of town. He said he owned eight acres. He must be rich. He didn't act rich, day-to-day. His idea of a date was driving his Toyota Tundra to the 20th Street drive-in Sonics, getting a $1.34 cherry soft drink, and anything around that price or just a little more for me.
I pressed my face to the glass and looked outside until I could finally see the silhouette of that Porsche clearly, beneath a tree.
The silhouette of that tree held my eyes. It being early April, the tree still had no leaves. It was a headed old Chinese elm tree. All its branches had been cut off a few years back due to some disease, now sprays of new growth were coming through from the cut spots. The new growth would spurt leaves for the tree in a few weeks, the tree would survive, but the cure had destroyed what it was. It was a maimed creature, beloved enough for him to have gone to the expense of having someone cut off its branches in order to save it, now simply a terrifying, magnificent freak.