Thursday, 16 January 2020

"Tells" - Flash Fiction



The stakes were modest but the competitiveness was voracious. Four studs soldered around the poker table. Unfurling game face masks, over the socialised visors they already sported. But they were always breached by the show and tells of involuntary tics and pigmentations, that flushed their true subjectivities from beneath. Emotional striations on the scratching post of masculinity.  

First was Donnie, sporting sunglasses indoors to conceal his eye twitch, but who was habitually betrayed by all the other facial muscles which remained unveiled; genuflecting wrinkles; quivering dimples; the inward pursing of lips for a dud hand; and puckered for a half-decent one. Then there was Todd, begloved in order to cloak his excitable eczema, but only providing a secondary membrane for when his fingers drummed on the table at two differing syncopations, congruous to the anticipated satisfaction prompted by the cards. Nor could the gloves save him, from the stress reveal of the increasing tightening of his knuckles, by which he found it increasingly difficult to grip and fan his cards as the night wore on. As for Carlos, his whole body was his tell. Slumping back in his chair with despair; or lurching forward to compulsively stack his chips from ziggurat to minaret and back again. Babel tower invocations to the divine, to send him the succubus-muse of Lady Luck. 

Finally, there was Donnie, whose tells had nothing to do with the cards he held. He sniffed uncontrollably, though unnoticed by him, as the cards were being shuffled and the antes tossed in; while the pockets were being dealt; during the flop and the fold; all the way through to the raking of the pot. But his most blatant tell, was the outsized diameter of his permanently flared nostrils. Scarfskin gouged by corrosive chemical powders, while all manner of impromptu conduits, cannulas and flues further furrowed the flesh. Naturally, each could read the tells of the others arrayed around the table, but kept that knowledge pressed into their chests, no less unflinchingly than their hands of cards.

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