“Oh-boy! It’s time! Every Sunday night, as the aroma of supper fills the air, I pull one of the yellow-vinyl and chrome kitchenette chairs close to the black and white TV and straddle it like a horse. From the moment the theme song kicks in, I ride with Maverick, that oh-so-cool cowboy gambler in his black suit and satin vest, who uses a deck of cards instead of a gun to vanquish the bad guys.

Oh, before I go further let me introduce myself, I’m Ricky Turner, I may be only nine, but I’ve been practicing with my cards since I was a kid, so you can call me Mavrick. 

I can’t exactly say why, but at the end of every episode, I am mesmerized by the lyrics of the closing song:

“Who is the tall, dark stranger there? Maverick is the name…Ridin’ the trail to who knows where…Luck is his companion…gamblin’ is his game…Luck is the lady that he loves the best…Natchez to Orleans…Livin’ on jacks and queens…Maverick is the legend of the West.”

With cards gripped in hand, as I’m drifting to sleep, I hear another voice – not from the TV – but the kind ancients heard, coming from beyond, yet in the here-and-now. The voice is oracular but kindly, and it utters only seven words: “You will live on Jacks and Queens.”

As I fade off I’m wondering, what does that mean? “You will live on Jacks and Queens?”

The next morning I wake up excited, in anticipation of continuing working on a card trick to get the rest of my sister Debra’s red M&Ms, but then I realize I’m feeling hot, sweaty; that my head is pounding and my throat is sore. I can barely croak out “Mom! Mom!” She comes into my room, takes one look at me and sighs, “Oh no, not you, too! Your sister Lori’s sick, as well.” I climb out of bed and look at myself in the long mirror screwed onto the outside of my closet wall. 

My body looks like it’s badly sunburned. The red rash on my arms is rough to the touch, with patches of it spreading across my chest. I think I must have chicken pox. It’s going around at school. But it turns out it’s not chicken pox. It’s Scarlet Fever!