5 of Hearts

It fell out of your pocket – a playing card.

I had been looking for cigarettes, promise. I wasn’t nosing.

Now, let’s be honest, it wasn’t like discovering a love note, or a handkerchief blotted with a kiss print. It wasn’t as if I had discovered conclusive proof of anything, but it made me wonder.

‘What’s all this then?’ I said to the silence in our bedroom, as though I was a wry police sergeant in one of those Sunday afternoon knife-fests.

I flicked the card between my fingers inexpertly, mock card-sharp style and pocketed it, then went downstairs to drink some coffee. I flicked the kettle on and leaned against the counter. The washing line in the garden slanted wonkily – it creaked in the wind.

I poured myself coffee, nothing too fancy, just a spoonful of cheap stuff. I don’t drink it for the taste – more for the kick of the habit. I lay the card out on the table in front of me as though I’d decided to play a one card trick.

‘5 of hearts,’ I said, as though I was declaring a suit.

Had you been gambling? Was that it? Is that what you do? Is it?

Was this a spare card you carry to keep up your sleeve to play a game I haven’t heard about?

I pictured you in a smoky room playing cards and drinking beer. A naked bulb hangs overhead. Your opponents have knuckleduster rings. One wears a green eye-shade.

Is this what you do?

Or was it an affair? A secret code between lovers? Queen of spades means ‘don’t come tonight’, 5 of hearts is the sign of love.

Did he lean close as he kissed you? Did he magic the card from behind your ear when he laced his fingers behind your neck?

Or was it something else? Something I couldn’t imagine. Have you picked it up at random from the house of the person you visited? A person I’ve never heard of before, whose name will be mentioned in the small columns of next week’s newspapers.

You tied a cord around their neck. No. You pressed a pillow over their sleeping face. No. You dropped powder into their drink and drowned them in a bath tub.

What did you do next? You coasted around the apartment. In this line of thought, I decided that you were the sort of person who likes to steal things after you kill. Mementos. A trace of someone – a taste, a clue, a glimmer. A stray card fallen from the deck you slipped into your pocket.

I sipped my coffee to the sound of the clock, and let the card flicker between my fingers.


David Mohan has been published in PANK, Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, SmokeLong Quarterly, Contrary and The Chattahoochee Review. He has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize.

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