Cigarette smoke brooded over the wooden table, highlighted yellow by light from a bulb that hung hot and bare overhead. A moth fluttered at the glowing glass, its wings clinking out a crazy rhythm too rapid to follow.

The table was chipped in places, and the letters S.D. had been carved in one corner, next to his elbow. He wondered who had inscribed them and remembered the time he had scrawled the initials of a girl on the underside of his desk at school. A week’s detention and he couldn’t even remember her name.

Somewhere in the room, a throat cleared. He didn’t look up, barely registering the sound. Instead, he reached for his glass and tilted it to his lips, letting it rest against them for a brief moment, so that the alcohol tickled his mouth before he swallowed not once, but twice. Warmth filled his body, his achingly tired body, and he allowed himself to close his eyes.

Images of the old back yard appeared to him, covered in thick snow. He loved the way the icy whiteness had covered all imperfections; things he had always meant to get around to but never quite found the time. The smell of wood smoke had hung pungent about the house in winter, providing silent comfort during evenings of premature darkness, keeping Jack Frost at bay. Thoughts of snowmen and children’s laughter echoed through his mind, and he grasped for them. But holding their memory was like trying to grip water as it slipped through fingers. And it was getting harder.

He thought of Meg twenty years ago; of her tight skin and loose clothes. Of sticky fumblings beneath trees in spring, peppered with wine and excitement. He saw her face as it had been then, unblemished and smiling, regarding him with quiet contentment. Best friends and lovers, companions in life.

Another throat cleared; closer and more impatient this time, coaxing him from a reverie he never wanted to leave. He opened his eyes, letting them adjust from memory’s light to the darkness in which he now found himself. His head ached from the whiskey; drunk as Hell again. He reached for the glass, draining it this time. All eyes were on him. The glassy patter of the moth skittered above and, for a brief moment, he thought about reaching up to squash it against the bulb, wanting to hear its wings sizzle against the hot glass.But he didn’t.

Instead he reached for the two cards lying facedown in front of him, turning them over, considering their colours and patterns through the haze.
He thought of his children, and wondered who they were now, of where he might find them. He wondered if they would know him.

As he slung his last chips into the centre, the cards he held blurred with his tears and he found himself wishing he’d etched Meg’s initials into a desk somewhere.

Copyright 2008.



Joined February 2008

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