The Beginner by Janet Fitch


“The Beginner” by Janet Fitch


She pulled her chair up to the table and sat. She piled her chips by her elbow. She played Noir. She played Rouge. She put a stack on 9 and lost. The table was hot. The table went cold. She anted. She passed. She called. She held pairs. She lay down with a flourish a grand royal flush. She played games she didn’t know the rules for, where things shook and jingled and smacked down hard. Men with snap-fronted shirts coached her. Men in tinted glasses sneered. Fingers moved across the table and took her chips, or brought more. This was what it was to be 23. 24. 25. You pulled up to the table. You didn’t know what you were doing, but you began to play. You learned as you lost. You lost, sometimes you won, but there was no saying, really, why, or when.

Some of her friends preferred not to take their places at the table. Too risky they said. They moved back home, where they would stay through their thirties, into their forties. They dated a little but not much. They ate wisely. They went to the movies for the six o’clock show. They had a single glass of wine. Olive oil. Yoga, sunscreen. They felt themselves canny, to have avoided the whole thing.

For her, it wasn’t enough. She had to pull up to the table and play. She had to try. She had to fail, fail outright, to know what that felt like, it was important, to taste it, to play the game they were playing, if it was Texas Hold ‘Em or Pai Gow or blackjack. It was her time at the table. She pulled up a chair. Her cards set before her. She picked them up, sorted them as best she could, anted up, began.



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Janet Fitch Artist Statement:

Janet Fitch’s first novel, White Oleandar, a #1 bestseller and Oprah’s Book Club selection, has been translated into 24 languages and was made into a feature film. Her second novel, Paint it Black, hit bestseller lists across the country and has also been made into a film.

She lives in Los Angeles.

“Finding the true self, asking the fundamental questions, being at agency, is a noble venture, and worth the pain of growth.” Janet Fitch on her central project, beginning with White Oleander all the way to Marina M. and Chimes of a Lost Cathedral.


Author: A Room of Her Own

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