“You’re here,” I say, a bit frazzled, because I had not finished dusting my collection of Gothic ashtrays.
“Yes, I realize I’m a bit early,” the stranger says uneasily. “I’m a little nervous; I haven’t done this in a long time.
“Well, I’ve never done this before. Do you want to do it right here on the table,” I ask, pointing to my kitchen table with a rotting fruit bowl as its center piece.
“Anywhere is fine,” he says, looking down at his feet embarrassed.
I nod and make my way to the hall closet. Immediately when I open the door, a broom falls out and the handle hits me square in the forehead with an audible, whack. I shove the broom into the very back of the closet, so it won’t assault me the next time I open it. A lone Members Only Jacket is hanging up, just hoping and waiting for the day, that epaulets are in vogue again. My eyes scan the contents on the shelf. I see the box that I want underneath an old blanket. As I make my way back to the table, with the box in hand, I hear my tea kettle singing.
“I hope you don’t mind, but I was going to make myself a cup of tea.”
“I’ll have one as well.” I sit the box on the table and empty the contents of the fruit bowel, where I notice several fruit flies had died.
The stranger adds a little milk to his tea. The milk was already expired by at least three days; I had forgotten to dump it out. I debate on whether I should tell him or not. I finally decide that I will not.
Mom always said to check the date on the milk. She probably meant before you buy it though, not if you’re at a random stranger’s house.
I pour my tea and politely refuse the three-day old milk, when the stranger offers it. Instead, I open my cookie jar and take out a flask containing whiskey and pour a little into my cup. I don’t like how the stranger is judging me with his eyes.
“I have a cold,” I say sheepishly and judging from the size of the flask, it looks like I was planning on having a cold for the remainder of the year.
He sips his tea and either doesn’t notice the taste of sour milk, or is too polite to say anything.
We sit down, both of us staring at the box on the table.
“Are you sure you want to do this,” the stranger asks.
I take a sip of tea; I put too much whiskey in and it was burning my chest. “Yep,” I squeak out.
The Stranger opens up the Candy Land box and begins to set up the board. I pick up the cards to shuffle them, because they had not been shuffled, since the last time I played.
“What color gingerbread do you want?” I ask.
“Red. I always play with the red one.”
I hand him the red gingerbread person (sex of gingerbread undetermined) and he places it on the board at the starting point.
I like to play with the green gingerbread. Its stand is broken, so I just lay my gingerbread along side his. “You can go first.”
He draws a card and immediately advances forward with a double blue.
I pick up his discarded card and look at it.
“Hey,” he yells and points an indignant finger at me. “I don’t cheat.”
“I’m sorry,” I say. It was obvious I had really hurt his feelings. “There’s just so much riding on this game and I just assumed…”
“So, you thought I would cheat? That takes all the fun out of it.”
“I really am sorry; I just thought it was kind of…you know…your modus operandi.”
He snorts at that. “Your turn.”
I pick up a card and move one red square, which is the square right next to the start. I had advanced one square and the stranger was already halfway to glory.
He picks up a card and advances with a double yellow. When he lands, he is on the gum drop pass, which is a short cut. The stranger slowly slides his gingerbread along the pass, all without breaking eye contact with me.
I hope I get something good. I’d like to wipe that smug look off his face.
The next card is a double orange and just when I think I’m gaining on him, I land right on an orange square with a picture of licorice on it, which means I lose a turn. “Goddamn licorice,” I yell, realizing I may just be the only person to have ever spoken those words.
The stranger selects his card. He gets only one blue this time and then draws another one, since I lost my turn. He searches the board looking for something. When he sets his gingerbread down, I can see, that he is very near the finish line already. He shows me the card, so that I don’t accuse him of cheating a second time. It is a picture of Queen Frostine.
The stranger is unsure if I meant him, or the fictitious queen of a 3 years and up children’s game.
I draw a card and pick up my gingerbread, who is lying face down in the licorice and move it a double yellow. I’m still way behind the stranger though.
“Hell yes,” he says, as he draws his card. His final card. He has a double orange, which puts him exactly on the finish line.
I panic. “It isn’t fair; I wasn’t ready.”
The stranger rises from his chair and puts on a beanie, that has a pom on the end of it.
“I still got it,” he says, walking out the door and out of my life, but not out for good. He’d be back one day to collect his winnings.
I sit in my chair stunned at what had just occurred. I take a sip of my whiskey tea; I didn’t mind the burning this time. I guess I’d better get used to the burning, because after all, I had just lost my soul to the devil.