Untitled (The Dead Man Plays Poker) / Tristan Foster

The Dead Man is just a boy. Sings under his breath as he walks in the street. Drinks cola from a can with a straw. Barely speaks, smiles instead. Maybe he didn’t hear you. Maybe he has nothing to say. Works hard enough to be ignored. The Dead Man is only a boy. Throws rocks at the alley cats when bored. Leaves food scraps out for them in the morning because he feels bad. A mere boy but is happy. Maybe happy because he is a boy and life is still uncomplicated. Responsibility free. Will always be that way. Never even close to kissing a girl, not through all of school – but hope is enough. Prays to the hazy idea of a god when he brushes his teeth before bed. Always remembers to brush and to pray. Good at poker. That’s what his friends remember of him. Played once. Smoked cigarettes and drank whiskey at the party and won the card game – plastic chips but everyone was surprised. Someone took a photo. The one they used when he went missing. Camera flash. Realised then there was something about surprise. Surprise is special. Surprise comes with recognition. The stories told over drinks for years to come. So late when he went home it was almost morning. Plastic poker chip in his pocket. A memento. Took the path that runs along the river. Path wet but the sky clear. Drunk but weightless. Thought he might see a girl to talk to. One with pearls around her neck. Almost home before he passed even a single person and was relieved because what would he say to a girl anyway. The Dead Man will always be a boy. Sat on the step at the front of the block of flats. Under the light. The night almost silent. Threw a stone at the sound of an alley cat.

Tristan Foster is a writer from Sydney, Australia. He is the author of Letter to the Author of the Letter to the Father and 926 Years, co-authored with Kyle Coma-Thompson.


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