This Game’s a Monster

“I’ll see your hundred,” snarled Wolfman. “And raise you another.” He pawed a chip onto the pile, accidentally cleaving a jagged gash in the green felt table top.

“Hey,” whined Louis. “Be careful wouldja? I just had this resurfaced.”

Wolfman glared at Louis, the way Wofman glares at rabbits. A muscle car idled deep in his throat. He ashed his stogie, purposefully missing the ashtray.

Louis huffed. He rolled his eyes. He looked like he wanted to say something, but instead crammed his mouth full of pretzels.

“Okay, okay, you two,” Dracula chuckled. He took a swig of his Romanian microbrew and turned to his right. “Bets to you Frank.”

“Frankenstein,” groaned Frankenstein. “Bet.” With a green bratwurst finger, he inched forward a ten dollar chip.

“Okay, two things Frank,” Dr.Jekyll said irritably. “One. I can totally see your cards.”

Frankenstein held three mismatched cards, a coaster, and what appeared to be a grocery list.

“And two. Wolfenstein just raised, big guy. It’s two hundred to play.”

Frankenstein moaned. He retrieved his ten dollar chip, inadvertently crushing it like the top of an Oreo cookie.

“Frankenstein,” groaned Frankenstein. “Fold.”

“Alright,” said Dracula around a mouthful of potato chips. “Frank and Mummy are out,”

“Ma…neme…izzz…Ram-zees,” mumbled Mummy from across the table. He struggled to find an opening in his face bandages for his Pharaoh Lager. No luck.

“Whatever,” said Dracula. “That leaves me, the wolfster, Louis, and to start us off, betting goes to you Doc….Oh, excuse me. Mr. Hyde.”

Mr. Hyde laughed maniacally, and for reasons known only to him, yanked out a tuft of his hair. Tatters of Dr.Jekyll’s lab coat had fallen into his mug of beer. He gulped it down anyway, splashing more of it on the rug than into his mouth.

“Hyde!” Louis sniveled. “Come on, man. You know Francine and I got this rug as a wedding gift.” He waddled away into the next room, returning an instant later with a spritz bottle and rag. Dropping to the knees of his khaki’s, rolling up the sleeves of his peach cardigan, he went to work, scrubbing the rug around Mr. Hyde’s Sasquatch foot. What remained of the giant’s shoe looked like a spent firework.

“Can we just play cards already?” Wolfman growled.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Mr. Hyde boomed like thunder. He materialized a bowler hat out of the shadows and plopped it on to his head. “Soon as you give me one of them cigars.”

“No!” Louis snapped. “No, no, no. No more smoking in the house.” He stood up, smoothed down his cowlick and pushed up his eye glasses. He was breathing heavy, his face was flushed “As a matter of fact, Wolfman, you put that out. Come on you guys? If Francine finds out you were smoking in here she’s gonna kill me.”

Awkward silence.

Dracula made a sound like a whip crack.

Everyone laughed. Everyone but Louis.

“Ha, ha, ha,” said Louis dryly as he took his seat. “Very funny.”

“Relax Louis,” chuckled Wolfman. “Look, you want my stogie gone. It’s gone.”

Wolfman mashed his cigar into Mummy’s forearm, igniting the bandages like dry leaves. Mummy let out a muffled shriek and in an absolute panic, extinguished himself with foamy Pharaoh Lager. Most of it went on the rug. Everyone laughed. Everyone but Louis.

“Okay,” Dracula sighed, wiping a laugh tear off his bone white cheek. “At this rate were gonna be here till sunrise. Let’s play already. Hyde, what are you gonna do?”

Mr. Hyde looked at his cards. He snorted.

“I don’t know what Jekyll was thinkin,” he barked. He threw his cards in the air. “I fold.”

“Well, I believe I am going to raise,” Dracula said with a hungry shark smile. “Five hundred.” He pushed his chips forward with the tip of a sharp, glossy nail. “Louis?”

Louis stared at his cards. A bead of sweat tracked down his pink cheek, coming to rest on the second of his three chins. He pushed up his glasses and cleared his throat.

“You know what?” He bulldozed all his chips into the center of the table. “I’m all in.”

Wolfman snarled.

Mr. Hyde laughed.

Dracula bared his fangs.

Mummy mumbled, gingerly poking his soggy, blackened arm.

Frankenstein groaned “Frankenstein.”

Louis leaned back, clasping his hands behind his head. He smiled.

“You’re bluffing!” Sneered Dracula.

“Am I?” asked Louis.

All eyes fell on Wolfman. White foam was collecting around his snout, dripping onto the table. It wasn’t from his beer.

“Fold,” he barked, tossing his cards. He howled in frustration.

Louis smiled wider.

“Count?’ Louis said softly. “Your move. You in, or out?”

Dracula stared from his cards, to Louis, and back again. His eyes glowed red, deep set fiery embers.

“Fold,” he said calmly.

A chorus of snorts and grumbles went up from around the table.

Louis bear hugged his winnings and dragged them across the table towards him. He began to hum a happy tune as he stacked the colorful chips into wobbly towers.

“You know, Louis,” Dracula said coldly. “You’re the only mortal at this table. You may want to consider playing a little more tactfully. You wouldn’t want to make any of us angry would you?”

Wolfman scratched his jagged, yellow claws across the green felt.

Mr. Hyde nodded vehemently and began eating his bowler hat.

Frankenstein groaned “Frankenstein,” with hostility.

Mummy pounded his fist into his open palm. It might have been intimidating had he not been looking in the wrong direction, across the room, at Louis’ sleeping pug.

“I don’t know,” Louis said disinterestedly as he counted out his winnings. “There’s only one person I really don’t want mad at me.”

As if on cue, the door at the top of the stairs smashed open.

A fat, black tentacle snaked its way halfway down the stairs, dripping with tar-like ooze, covered with blinking eyes and barbs the size of tyrannosaur teeth. The monstrosity the tentacle was attached to would have made a Kraken look like a house cat by comparison.

“YOU BOYS WANT ME TO FIX YOU SOME SANDWICHES?”

The voice was like a thunderclap full of broken glass, terrifying, impossibly loud, and just a tiny bit feminine.

“No thanks Francine,” Louis called out. “We have plenty of snacks. You’re a sweetheart for asking though.”

The nightmare oozed back upstairs and shut the door.

Dracula un-bared his fangs.

Mr. Hyde shriveled back into Dr. Jekyll.

Wolfman attempted to hide the shredded table top with a couple of strategically placed coasters.

Frankenstein groaned “Frankenstein,” apologetically.

Mummy mumbled something that sounded like “Has Francine lost weight?”

Louis sighed, then chuckled.

“Like I was saying,” he said between pretzel chomps. He began shuffling cards like a man with ten thumbs. “Happy wife, happy life.”

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