Issue 35, Final Fringe

The Damned Eleven

by Jim Meirose Issue 24 11.29.2010

Jenkins moves catlike, grips the dice and sends them flying with a sudden flourish.

Nine! he exclaims. He steps back scratching his head.

The Other nods.

Nine, five, he says—it’s all the same. There are four ways to roll a nine, like a five. It’s all odds. The odds are working. Too well, actually.

The ant behind the buckle finds a way down into The Other’s pants. The Other scratches idly at his belt, still concentrating on what he’d just said to Jenkins. The ant on The Other’s shirt makes it up to the shoulder and sits there motionless, hanging on the rough flannel, as though looking around and scanning the situation from this great solid height atop The Other’s shoulder bone.

Dale scratched at the side of his face, sat upright in the chair and leaned toward Builder.

Come on, said Dale loudly. Guess what I sell.

Builder spread a large hand out on the table and looked up at Dale. His great bloodshot eyes bored into the smaller man’s. Dale’s eyes grew hot and he looked away.

Goddamn, he just stares—just stares at me—and that damned book—what kind of damned book is that anyway—

Looking back down into the book, Builder leaned back harder against the chair and carefully turned another page.

—double stars move much more slowly—

The museum houses the Cullum collection—fine portraits of sober-looking ladies and gentlemen from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The portraits are dark and the frames are deeply carved and themselves are worth a lot of money. The janitor moves down the row of paintings with a large feather duster and brushes it around the frame of each portrait and then down the center of the canvas, as though waving hello to each person pictured, or as though trying to wake the image so as to have a long and involved conversation about the old days when the image was alive.

Jenkins dusts off his grimy hands, rubs them down the front of his brown shirt and stoops to pick up the dice. He looks toward The Other.

Should I throw again?

Sure why not.

Jenkins quickly rattles the dice in his fist and throws them again and again they come up a seven.

Seven! he says. Again!

There you go, says The Other flatly, scratching at his crotch the way men do when no women are around. Unknown to him the ant is crawling around in the warm dark of his briefs. The ant is comfortable, but keeps moving.

Jenkins picks up the dice.

But what about the eleven?

What about it?

When will it come up?

You’ll see, says The Other, shrugging. The other ant crawls slowly along The Other’s shoulder over the flannel toward his neck.

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Jim Meirose

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Jim Meirose’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in many leading literary magazines including Alaska Quarterly Review, South Carolina Review, New Orleans Review, and others. One of his stories which appeared in OASIS was short-listed for the 1997 O Henry Awards. His work has also been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.