05: Solitaire

(Contemporary — 720 words)

“Come in! The door’s open.”

I walked into the apartment, down the short hallway to the living room, and stopped behind the faded green sofa. Suzie sat in the far corner, a flickering green light echoing off her fleshy, pale face. Her sandy blonde hair brushed her chunky shoulders as she looked over, gave a begrudging smile, then turned back to her game of solitaire.

Rain pattered lightly against the fogged up windows. Portland winters are long and rainy. Tenants in drafty old apartments like Suzie’s can never afford to heat enough to keep out the damp, and so the whole place takes on a hidden ecological system of mold and mildew, and, if things get really bad, patches of little brown fungi in the corners. One cannot see most of these inhabitants of the undersides of the old tattered carpets, but they all collaborate to give a room a faint, particular odor – Pacific Northwest Eau de Humidité. The couch, that separated a walkway to the bedroom from the rest of the living room, added its very own flavor to the mix, of sweat and beer and long gone sex.

I stood there, behind the couch, ticking away at my fingernails while Suzie finished her game. Without looking up or saying a word, she went on to the next.

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