Back in March of this year I posted an old flash fiction of mine, The Fly. Well, while I was browsing through some of my previous work today I came across another, written in August 2005, that I’d like to share with you. It’s called House of Cards and was first published in Word Riot in October of the same year. While my writing has always been dark, this was written while I was experimenting with my “literary” voice and style.
HOUSE OF CARDS
by Steven J. Dines
We meet in the beachfront games arcade because they don’t like you going there. I let you lose on the slots, rolling my eyes and handing over change as required. The summers get longer and hotter every year. The Earth’s a pressure cooker. Just the other week, there was a tornado in Birmingham. You look good tonight, by the way.
We drive to a place even the doggers haven’t sniffed out yet. It’s the most secret place in the world. Exclusively ours, I whisper. Insects watch us through the rear window. An African child dies in the time it takes me to peel off your white panties. I snap my fingers, another, damn it, snap again, another… and your bra’s undone. Somewhere in the world a hole is filling up.
You don’t want to dance, you say. I’ve only done a few steps. Okay, what about some music? Yes! Oh, yes! And you’re headlong through the seat gap for the radio buttons on the dash. You find Britney Spears as I reach for the moon. The windows are steaming up.
You weep and tell me how you lied in all our private rooms. And how much you’re sorry. You’re sorry? I say. Can you even spell ‘irony’? Have they taught you that yet? With your cherry lips you beg forgiveness from my skin. I’m lost in the back of your head, stroking your hair, wondering who you’ve got in there instead of big old me—some scrawny teenage boy-crush, perhaps. I can feel the silver wires on your teeth. Nelly raps on the radio, Hot In Herre. Prolonging the ecstasy and the agony, I spell it in my mind for you: I-R-O-N-Y…
You leave the car grown yet diminished. I offer to drop you somewhere, but you’ll walk, you’ll be alright, you don’t need a lift or taxi or bus fare or anything else. “Good idea,” I say, smiling. “Buses blow up these days.” But you’re walking not listening.
I return to a house of cards and a blank, white stare from the PC screen in the corner. I miss the whirrs and bleeps of the arcade already. I switch on the television then fall back on the double-bed that was too small then and is too big now. There’s a shallow concavity in the mattress, barely noticeable, although to me it’s a gaping hole. I like to run my hand along it: down, up, down. God, even the mattress can’t forget. On the TV, a panel discuss the ozone layer and global warming. The summers get longer and hotter every year. Last December, the tsunami killed many thousands of people. I make that a lot of zeroes. An instant message alert yanks me across the room to the computer. I wonder which one it is now. And if she’s lying.
Either way, I don’t care.