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House of Cards
by Steven J. Dines


We meet in the beachfront games arcade because they donít 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 Earthís 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 havenít sniffed out yet. Itís 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, anotherÖ and your braís undone. Somewhere in the world a hole is filling up.
    You donít want to dance, you say. Iíve only done a few steps. Okay, what about some music? Yes! Oh, yes! And youíre 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 youíre sorry. Youíre sorry? I say. Can you even spell Ďironyí? Have they taught you that yet? With your cherry lips you beg forgiveness from my skin. Iím lost in the back of your head, stroking your hair, wondering who youíve got in there instead of big old meósome 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 youíll walk, youíll be alright, you donít need a lift or taxi or bus fare or anything else. ďGood idea,Ē I say, smiling. ďBuses blow up these days.Ē But youíre 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. Thereís a shallow concavity in the mattress, barely noticeable, although to me itís a gaping hole. I like to run my hand along it: down, up, down. God, even the mattress canít 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 sheís lying.
    Either way, I donít care.



About the author:
Steven (b.1975) lives in Aberdeen, Scotland. He has been writing short fiction for many years and has been published online and in print in such varied publications as Voices From the Web, Gold Dust Magazine, Skive, The Beat, Blue Almonds, Dark Tales, Buzzwords, The Writer's Post Journal, and forthcoming issues of Noo Journal, 63 Channels, and Underground Voices. He is currently writing his first novel and putting together a short-story collection. His website, Crayons in the Dark, can be found here: www.sdines1975.demon.co.uk



© 2011 Word Riot

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Midnight Picnic
a novel by
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