“Money’s gone,” Sara said, collecting the toothpicks from the pot of our poker game. I’d been close to Sara and her boyfriend Kevin ever since we worked together at the video store in college. She was crashing on my couch because she had an interview at a fancy L.A. fashion school in the morning, and I had an apartment in The Valley.
“Pass ’em out,” I said. “Let’s do it again.”
“No more toothpicks,” she said. The sleeve of her blouse had shifted during the game, revealing a pink bra strap. I fought the urge to stare. Kevin knew that Sara and I had chemistry, but so far I had honored his trust. One of us was a fool.
“Then what?” I said.
“Wanna play strip?”
Her eyes gleamed, but my conscience burned inside me, and I looked around as if her boyfriend might suddenly leap from behind the couch.
“And Kevin?” I said, my muscles tensing.
“Tell you what,” she said. “One hand of Black Jack. If you win, we will and if I win we won’t.”
I nodded. The pink strap smoldered.
She dealt the first two cards, one each, upside down.
Then another card: a black seven on her pile, face up.
She flicked her wrist, the pink strap danced, and suddenly I was staring at a Jack of Hearts.
Our eyes met. The pink strap beckoned.
When I finally spoke, my voice came out husky and rough.
Category Archives: D. L. Tricarico
I broke the code to his heart, he said, I had the password. I set the tumblers in place so his soul could open and his love flow out like honey. I turned the key that opened the door that had been shut since Jesus was born. It was me, he whispered night after night in the darkness, I was the one. He promised we’d spend summers sipping iced tea spiked with lemon, warm ourselves by the fire in his winter house near the woods, make love in the cool fall mornings, wiggling beneath fresh white sheets that had dried on the line in the yard. Someday, he swore, we’d dance on the balcony of a fancy hotel while fireworks exploded over the shoreline, painting their blurry little rainbows in the sea. But that was long ago, and I don’t wait for him anymore. These days I sit alone on the porch, fill my glass from the sweet tea jar that steeps in the sun by the door and, if it’s warm, I might rock in the chair. If I think I hear his laugh or the sound of his car, I ache all over again because usually it’s just a rabbit or a fox, and I have to tell myself I’m wrong, it’s not him. The reason it still hurts is because he said I was the one who had what he needed. I had the password, he told me. I was the one.
The coyotes behind my house yammer like gossiping schoolgirls. Sparrows zip from tree to tree, sixteenth notes on a staff. Our neighbor’s cat stalks unseen prey in the great green expanse of their lawn. Even our own dogs race through the house, sniffing and searching, as if sensing buried treasure.
“What’s up with the dogs?” I say to my wife, trying to sound casual.
“Don’t know,” she says, rifling through her briefcase. “They’ve been going nuts all day.”
I ask because she’s the animal person, not me. She understands animal behavior.
“Hope not,” she says, uncapping a pen. “Last one scared me to death.”
That was six month ago. We both ended up in the same doorjamb. It was the last time I touched her.
“Can we get this over with?” she says, handing me the pen. “I have to pick up Bree and be at the orthodontist at four.”
“Sure.” I try to be agreeable, though it’s hard.
“Cable people come tomorrow,” I tell her, stalling. “Phone’ll be in on Friday.” My new place is small, but not awful.
She gives me a look, so I sign and it’s done. Fifteen years erased in a pen stroke.
Without warning, my mind ignites with images of everything that man must have done to my wife in the past few months.
A coyote howls in the distance and I wonder when the world will both start, and stop, shaking.
The mute blue skies are a canopy
For the infinite fields and the whispering
Squirrels and rabbits become
The dumb court jesters of the morning.
A brown hawk steadies his wings
And soars, but goes nowhere.
Surrounded by a congregation of trees
I sip my coffee, and my connection to the land is absolute.
Jesus is in the red clay of the earth, and in the rustling
Of the leaves I hear the silent arias of God.
The hawk spins, arcs, and falls.
A lone rabbit listens, one ear cocked
Toward the absence of sound.
For a moment, all movement stops,
But the canyon speaks to no one.