Box of Teeth by Brian Malnes


Me and Pete are at them bones. It burns the hours and I can beat him, except when I don’t. We pull our kids off the street, seven to a hand. Each hidden, our game begins I play big six. “Fifteen stitches and the roof still leaks.” Pete slams six-trey so hard my ears ring. His grin is meaty. It draws me back.


I remember when Pete fucked McDaniel. Not sex, payment. Tells me the first inch may be ass, but the rest is pure pussy. I believe him as I lay my next bone. Six-deuce off the spinner, “Nicodemus, Mr. Marker.” It’s quiet while Pete thinks.


McDaniel could barely be heard, as if the air was being pumped from him. Stop. Half prayer, part plea. Pete’s eyes flashed white. He slid down his next bone, two-blank. Not a word is spoken. I know what he is doing, played this hand a thousand times. Not all money is good money. The pips can almost be seen through Pete’s stained fingers. He wants me to get some more friends. He wants me to go to the bone yard. But I play five-trey. “Nick em, don’t cut em.”


Pete wiped his dick on McDaniel’s white T-shirt. I thought I saw red. I didn’t stare. McDaniel was square with the house. Best let him lay in his shame. It was nothing to me. It was nothing to Pete as he slammed five-blank to the board. “Tension on the compound. I say ten-hut peckerwood!”


Not all money is good money. Pete had played into my own hand. I looked at my cellmate and saw a man I never wanted to be. I took double five and placed it on the board, “Domino motherfucker.” Both of us smiled.



Image by: Dave Bleasdale