The Cards Don’t Lie

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The room stinks like sweating garbage. To the left, eying his cards like he’s never read a number before is Hot Baby Mike, a real shit heap who can never keep it in his pants. Across from me is a woman in red, we’re not talking Jessica Rabbit here, she’s in a red sweater. If you think I’m over here sitting in an office with some beautiful dame that just happened to strut in, you are sorely mistaken my friend. This is real life, and that red, bleach stained, sweater she’s wearing gives me the feel that someone’s puked on it before. Regardless, it’s shitty to admit it, but this lousy joint has a fondness for taking a bat to any shreds of dignity I have left. Like they say, the house always wins.

I don’t know what the hell happened but these are how I spend my nights now, floating amongst the refuse in this den of rats, snakes, and roaches. Sure, the couches look clean and a maid comes in here once a week, but you can’t scrub the shit off these walls, it’s too deep… under too many layers of the sky blue paint I spent a weekend rolling across these God forsaken walls.

“Honey, it’s your turn. I’m going to go start the popcorn.”

The woman in red gets up leaving her cards on the table. It’s funny that after five years of marriage she still thinks she can trust me with things like this. Hot Baby Mike is too hopped up on baby formula to notice me get up and peek at her cards. Sure, maybe it’s not the right thing to do, but what the hell is anymore? I swap a few of her greens and blues for a few of mine. Simple trick, same colors, she’ll never see it coming. I don’t lose Uno. Not to her, not to anybody.

I look to my left to see Mike eying me like he’s some kind of narc. Good thing he can’t talk yet. It’s then I realize he’s not even looking at me. The bastard’s eyes are fixed on the plush duck my mother bought him last week. I hand him the duck and he goes back to drooling on himself. Fucking wasted.

“Is it my turn?”

“Oh, not yet dear. I was getting Mikey his duck.”

None the wiser. I smirk as I smash down half my cards into the middle pile while the woman in red groans in dissatisfaction. Get used to it babe, there’s only one king in this castle.

“Did you take out the trash?”

“Yeah, this morning.”

“All of it?”

“Yea– oh, I forgot the trash in the bathroom.”

“Damnit Carl, the trash was picked up this morning.”

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be coming back eventually.”

“Don’t get smart with me, please.”

In my younger days I would have pushed harder, but now I’m just getting older and the only thing I want to argue with is a bartender about how many scotches I can power bomb in an hour. Glory days are like assholes, everyone’s got a couple. I think I got that quote wrong.

“Can you take out the bathroom trash please? I think the baby filled his diaper anyway.”

Sounds about right, like I said, that kid couldn’t stop shitting himself if he wanted to, and as far as I can see, that part of him ain’t changing.

“Sure, do you want anything while I’m up?”

“Umm… no. I’m fine thanks.”

I get up and pocket my cards in my sweatpants. This isn’t my first rodeo and I’ll be damned if I let them get the better of me. I walk to the bathroom, get the trash, and head back towards the garage. Opening the door and walking out, a hook from the fishing rod I never get to use anymore snags my shirt. I take a minute to unhook myself.

Ironic ain’t it? Even when the things you used to love are calling you back, you’re stuck with a deadbeat job and a kid that can’t throw a baseball.

I sigh sitting on my work stool and eye the garage. This place is my little slice of solace. I reach into the mini-fridge and pull out a cold one. Root beer ain’t as good as regular beer, but the doctor said I needed to take it easy on the drinking. The doctor being my wife, the woman in red, I felt forced to oblige. I sneak thimble shots when I’m alone. A man’s gotta survive somehow. There are days when I think this isn’t so bad. I’ve got a car, a woman who cares, a kid. There are people worse off. But a part of me will always be that tough as leather son of a bitch I saw in that movie on TNT last week. Men like me, well, we don’t always play by the rules. But that’s why our women love us ain’t it? I reach into my toolbox and pull out a shot glass and a flask of bourbon. I punch the quarter shot right in the jaw and wipe my mouth off with my forearm. I put the bottle back taking a chasing swig of root beer. I head inside.

This shithole might not be much, but it’s my shithole. I grin while tapping the outside of my sweatpant pocket. Besides, I’ve got a game to win.

 

David Hale is a writer of poetry and prose. He resides in Chicago, IL where he dutifully pursues a second graduate degree. Originally from Texas, David likes Texan things: Lone Star Beer, BBQ, and the swagger that comes with being born in the best state in the union. Yeehaw! David also enjoys working with digital writing forms, classical horror literature, carnivorous plants, and texting people pictures of his first master’s degree (M.A. English).

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