Dogs Playing Poker

Or pool. There’s also one where they play pool, one of them in a derby hat, and one of them in a vest, but the rest of them all naked. “Which would be fine,” is what you said, “Because they’re dogs, if not for that one in the vest.” Also, I realize now, but I don’t remember discussing it, another one is wearing a tie. “Where are your manners?” is what you wrote, trapped in a speech bubble above the left ear of the English bulldog, who is lining up his shot, and also naked, but smoking a cigarette (as if it were post-coital, as if it were you, twirling the spindles of hair on my sternum), in black magic marker on the glass beneath which the dogs live, play poker, play pool, live, yes, in the sense that they will be there always. And they are, still, although the bartender has long ago scrubbed off your message. (Your speech bubble is straight out of the 1910s, and following the convention of that era, it is actually extruded from the bulldog’s lips, the words dripping like a string of drool before extending upward, as if the very words were part of his body, unlike those common to our era that sit at a safe distance above the speaker, the arrow little more than an afterthought, a circumcised triangle shrugging downward.) All that is left of you, of the two of us shouting over our fourth beers, of your fingers against my chest, is a black smudge, the glass stained from ink that the bartender couldn’t scrub clean, the black cloud over the head of the cartoon. What is most delicate on this earth.

This story appeared in issue 6.1. Order it today.

Matt Sailor lives in Atlanta, GA, where he works as editor-in-chief of New South. He is currently enrolled in the MFA program at Georgia State University, studying fiction writing. His fiction and essays have appeared in PANK, Hot Metal Bridge, A Bad Penny Review and The Cleveland Review, among others.