Solitaire

They occupied space, the two of them. He lay on the couch with his legs casually crossed, a magazine spread across the upper thigh, his back propped up by a fringed pillow. She sat at the table, a matrix of playing cards arranged before her. Both looked many years older than they were. One bulb was dead in the ceiling fixture. The wallpaper drooped. The fireplace crackled. The shadows danced without enthusiasm. It was a mild winter day and the sky was the color of liquid handsoap.

Soon I will be dead, he thought. And may as well never have existed.

I’ve forgotten what it was like to love him, she thought with a discreet glance in his direction. Did I ever?

I’ve spent my whole life asking the wrong questions, he thought. All my answers are useless. He pretended to read the magazine in his lap, turning the page when he sensed he had lingered a little too long. The article concerned woodworking, something he once thought he would enjoy. He had gone so far as to buy a set of tools and set up a workshop in the cellar before losing interest.

This whole thing has been a terrible mistake, she thought. I know the exact moment when it took a wrong turn.

She took a sip of something brown from a glass within reach. It didn’t taste good or bad. It just tasted. A branch scraped against the windowpane. Like a deformed stick figure who wanted in from the cold. Neither of them paid it any notice.

Tonight while she’s asleep I’m going down to my workshop to end it all, he determined. He knew where he could get his hands on a coil of rope.

Tonight while he’s down in his workshop and thinks I’m asleep I’m going to throw some clothes in a suitcase and sneak out the patio door and get away for good. She knew a friend who might let her stay with her.

Tomorrow when she finds me dead, she’ll finally understand.

Tomorrow when he finds me gone, he’ll finally understand.

Something in the fireplace sparked and fizzled. Perhaps an insect had flown too close to the flame.

“Do you think it’s too hot in here?” he asked her, his voice creakier than he remembered it being.

“I’m comfortable,” she replied and, flipping over the last card, won her round of Solitaire.

Rob Hill was born in Flint, Michigan, of all places, and currently lives in New York City. His work has appeared recently in Armchair/Shotgun and Akashic Books. He occasionally posts rags and bones at https://hellospider.wordpress.com.

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