Robert Coover, "Heart Suit"

All the courtiers are suspects when the King of Hearts’ tarts go missing.

(from McSweeney’s Issue 16)

The McSweeney’s people are into, among other things, presentation. So it was only a matter of time that a story written on shuffled playing cards would end up in one of their issues (time being infinite, all things being not only possible but probable).
Here’s how it works: The story is divided into 15 fairly equal parts, each of which is printed on its own oversized playing card in the heart suit. The backs of the cards are not identical, which is fine since you’d need more cards to actually play something other than the world’s most pretentious game of War, and those other cards would also likely contain bits of stories, so like, stop playing and start reading. The Texas Hold ‘Em phase has passed.
There’s a set start (a title card) and a set end (the Joker). The 13 other cards are to be shuffled before each reading so that the experience changes each time. These middle cards are written to be untethered by chronology, and don’t step on each other in terms of unfolding the plot. The story’s central mystery — who stole the tarts — was solved early for me, but this was not actually a mystery story, but a funny, ribald, amoral fable. Here’s the order in which I read them: Title Card, 9, 7, 8, 10, King, 3, 4, Ace, 2, 6, Jack, Queen, 5, Joker. (Looks like I should have mixed them up better, but, hey, you try shuffling a 5″ x 7″ deck.)
Clever? Sure. Gimmicky? Hmm. Yeah, but is that a bad thing? I really felt like this was a story set free by unusual presentation, not hampered by smug uniqueness. Will I re-read it? Not soon, but yes.

Scout Niblett, “Good To Me”

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