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Pearl (deleted scene)

by Mary Miller

bonus features:
alternate ending to Barry Graham's "Bad Beat" by Blake Butler

"Owen Morris's Other Creativity Games (to date)" by Dave Madden

deleted scene from Mary Miller's "Pearl"

behind the scenes:
an "origins" essay behind his Leisure Suit Larry essay by Matt Bell

I found Robert at a blackjack table, ten dollars a hand. He had a baseball cap on his head. Maybe he’d had it in his back pocket this whole time and I hadn’t noticed, or maybe he’d gotten it free as a member of the rewards club.

There was a seat next to him so I pulled two twenty dollar bills from my purse and laid them on the table. The dealer said, “Changing forty,” and the pit boss looked over his shoulder and scratched something on his pad: Big tits, 40. Robert placed a hand on my leg, took it away. I liked how he didn’t nuzzle my neck or kiss my cheek. He didn’t even look at me.

I pushed a chip inside my circle and then sized up the table. Besides Robert and I there was an old Chinese lady and a fat black woman smoking a long, thin cigarette. Her boobs were spilling out of her top. I reminded myself not to touch my cards and went over the few rules I knew: split 8s and Aces; double down on eleven; hit on soft seventeen. I lost my first hand but then I won the next three so I started betting two and three chips a pop. The goal was to lose it all quickly so I could go to bed hating myself but I kept winning. Robert was winning and losing the same thirty dollars and I walked away with over two hundred.

The nickel machines were calling me. I weaved in and out of the narrow aisles, squeezing by wheelchairs and slow, heavy people. I looked at one machine and thought, this one, and then I looked at the one next to it and thought, no, this one, and sat down at the second one knowing I should have been at the first. I put a twenty dollar bill in and pressed max bet. It hit. Everything I touch is gold, I thought. Fucking A. The girl came around and I ordered a Corona with lime and was digging around in my purse for a tip when a boy sat next to me. His knees were practically touching my thigh. I pressed repeat bet while he stared at the side of my face and things went downhill fast. It seemed unlikely that I should lose so many hands in a row.

The girl still hadn’t returned with my Corona, but I cashed out five dollars and the boy moved into my seat. Just out of earshot I called him a bastard. I walked to the elevators, past them. If I went to bed now I could wake up without a hangover. I could watch tv and call myself baby, telling myself everything would be okay.

* * *

He watched me play like before, one elbow on the bar and not commenting. It could have been a couple of hours before, when he was just the bartender and I was just the girl he was chatting up, and while I knew it had happened I could almost convince myself it hadn’t. If something only happened once, when you weren’t in your right mind, and would never happen again? If he pretends like he doesn’t know you? If you’re in love with someone else? It could have been a dream, or a story I’d written, loosely based on reality and now I couldn’t tell which was which.

I told him boring things, tidbits of my life he hadn’t asked about. My brother was a businessman. He had a company car and a pretty girlfriend. My mother liked to make things with her hands, right now it was little clay people standing on plastic rainbows. I couldn’t take standardized tests for shit. He didn’t acknowledge any of it but I kept talking. It was my way of making it up to him, the way I’d left him with the door open and my lipstick on his face.

“I’m sorry you have to go,” I said. “I wish you didn’t.”

He looked at me like he knew me, then.

I kept still as he ran the back of his finger over my cheek, and I closed my eyes like people do when they’re trying to capture something that can’t be captured, before it’s gone for good.

an old essay about Magic: the Gathering, with new footnotes, by Mike Alber

an essay on noodles, with recipe, by E.P. Chiew

short supplemental stories:
"Picture I Stole from My Lover" by Stefan Kiesbye

"Adam, Jacob, John, Paul" (with baseball card) by Jennifer Pieroni

"Crossing Borders" by Grant Perry

short interviews with the cover artists:
Ryan Molloy

Steven Seighman

David Kramer

more bonus features:
a short story by Fart Party comic artist Julia Wertz

Gene Morgan and Matthew Simmons Discuss Dino Run

Gene Morgan and Matthew Simmons Discuss Ninja Hunter

Gene Morgan and Matthew Simmons Discuss Rose & Camellia