"I have spent years chasing the tail of my darkness." Louis looks across the lake, where there is only more lake.
No one says anything for a long time. Waves roll in and smack the concrete surge barrier where the three men stand. It's dark except for the beam of the car's headlights at their backs, sending out long shadows over the water.
Gus takes out a cigarette and cups his hand around the end to light it. He takes a long drag and turns his head to exhale. His shirt is a size too small and the ends have come untucked. They flutter in the wind like pennants at a used car lot.
"You've been chasing tail, alright. Nobody said anything about darkness." Eli kicks at broken concrete, sending pebbles down onto the rocks that form the shore.
"Watch your mouth, kid." Gus speaks low, but Eli hears him as if he'd whispered straight into his ear.
Eli straightens up and combs down his hair with his hand. The wind messes it up again. He shoves his hands deep into his jacket pockets. He's the tallest of the three men, but right now he feels like a child.
"Shit." Louis adjusts his hat. His tells are frequent, but they aren't a fail safe. He has so many--each one like its own pose in an album of still shots--it's hard to distinguish which are genuine and which are play. "So the other night, when my wife asks me where I've been, I decide to tell her the truth."
Gus drops his cigarette butt on the ground. He uses the heel of his dress shoe to snuff it.
"I say to her, 'Irma, I'm a hardworking man. You know I haven't always been the most moral of men, but I do my job, I never leave you wanting.'" Louis spits. "Shit. Got a light?" He pulls a pack of cigarettes out, tapping them on the palm of his hand before pulling one out.
Eli pulls a lighter out of his pocket and holds for Louis while he inhales. He snaps it shut a little louder than he means to and covers this noise with a cough, snort, and spit. He could use a smoke right now, but he's afraid to move anymore. He's new to this game.
"She didn't even try to deny it; that's how I knew." Louis shakes his head. "All I said was that I stopped by Paulie C's before coming home. Already she's biting her lip, looking up at me from the table with those wide eyes. I didn't even have to show her the evidence." He pulls a pair of women's underwear from his jacket pocket and throws them on the wrapped body-shaped bundle in front of him. "God damn panties. The snake kept a souvenir." With several kicks, Louis sends Paulie C and his souvenir into the water. He flicks the butt of his cigarette in after. "I shoulda known. She was still married to her first husband when we started fooling around. I fell in love with a cheater. Now I can barely stand to look at her."
The men walk back to the car, where Irma waits. She sits, crying, in the backseat. Eli joins her as Gus takes the wheel and Louis gets in the passenger side.
"Did you hear that, Irma?" Louis asks from the front. "I can barely stand to look at you."
In the darkness, Eli reaches for Irma's hand. She is perhaps the best player of them all. When Louis started getting suspicious and asking questions about her whereabouts while he was at work, it was Irma's idea to frame Paulie C. "Louis has never liked him," she'd said, and that had settled it. Now, she glances at Eli from behind fake tears. A smile plays at the corner of her mouth. He squeezes the tips of her fingers and prays he stays on her good side.
THANKS: Martin Luther King, Jr. and everyone carrying out his dream. (Yes, I know I'm a day late on this, but I didn't post yesterday. I'm still grateful.)