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The Tale of Gree the Dice

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PROLOGUE
There was very little to see in the miserable little town of Dent.
Dent was old before the world became old, and Dent was mean, and small, and dirty; Dent was a little dump where people dumped stuff: old toys and dreams that were so worn they were pitiful, old men who smoked because they hated it, old rivers that were so polluted they were black like liquid cloud. There was little sunshine, as if the sun had given up trying to brighten the little hole, and there was little rain, as if the rain refused to fall in such a filthy place. A thin trickle of ivy crawled through the cobbles like a dry, crisping snake. And it wasn’t the sweet kind that honeymooners saw entwined up on the pamphlets of their honeymoons – it was raw, dusty, and clouded and bleak like everything else in Dent.
Originally, Dent had not been a town, nor had Dent been a lovely place to begin with. It had been the unofficial national trash can of everything useless and smelly, a thin splotch of land nobody could use, the pale slip of paper officials signed without a second thought. And it went as a trash can quite literally – every day, the hulking trucks would lumber in with their dusty-eyed drivers in plasticky sandals, dumping the bulging bags of smelly, chewed boxes, greasy zucchini peels and crushed dollies. And every day, the pile got bigger.
Nobody stayed in Dent for more than they had to – it reeked like an abomination let loose, and it was so ugly it made people wince. The presidents considered covering it with grass, like plastering a skin-colored bandage on a bulging scab. But it was small, and hideous, and everybody preferred not to think of it, not when there were prettier places to see and nicer things to smell.
Dent stayed. And the trash stayed.
And one night, in the middle of a tycoon of heat, an old, crinkly woman named Jun came to the place. There was an abandoned warehouse truck drivers used to eat lunch, and she pinched it and poked it and tweaked it until it was her home and hers only. And then the homeless came to make themselves a home, and hoboes became homies, and the unwanted and hurt and ugly came. They burst open the trash bags, and took what could be used. But the trash still stayed, only the people messed and grabbed for it.
Dent stayed. And the trash stayed.



CHAPTER ONE
There was very little use, Gree realized, in having twenty-one eyes when there was absolutely nothing to see.
Many other dice yet complained that Gree was very lucky; their paints were scratched off with sticky, greedy fingers, and their edges were crushed and dull. Gree was still (mostly) intact. Not that the Elder dice were very jealous of Gree, all the same; Gree was foam, and foam was…foam.
They all lived in the Parlor, which was the name that had been there before the ceiling could even remember – all the nails too, those screechy, squealing rusty things. And the paint up there knew very little too, their whispers dry and cracked, and after a while Gree had given up asking. The Parlor was home to a number of things, creatures, and beings that talked and muttered, whispered, and scraped.
Firstly, there were the wooden ones – the murmuring ceiling that no one listened to anymore, muffled by the whispery paint, spread thin and crackly over dusty eaves. There was the table, which had once no doubt been very magnificent in its “time,” but no one bothered talking with it because of its rasping silence. So the table went ignored; even by those, who, like Gree, lived on it.
There was the chiming glassware, which only sang and sang nonsense. Sometimes Gree wondered if the glassware didn’t speak the way the other things did, but nobody cared enough to try and decipher what they trilled off on in their high, tinkling voices. And then there were also the many other paints and many other wooden things, but Gree could hear little of their conversations from his faraway perch on the table. There was the swinging door, but usually he was so tired he never said much at all.
Ah, and the dice. The dice were the kings and peasants and the geese all rolled into one, dry, mean cube. Quite literally, too. When Gree had first arrived, they had been the same, and now they were still the same. Some were small and red and glassy, made of cheap plastic; some were clear blue and some were pale pink. There were the tall and hard and wooden ones, lofty and splintery like the rough voices that the Big Ones had. There were ones that were plain old white and black, dots indented in their sides like scoops. But after a while, after they rolled and rubbed and settled, a thin film of dirt or dust (most times both) ruined their once dignified complexions. Greasy and fatty fingers smeared onto them, and edges wore down. So did the dices’ spirit.
And yet none of them were squishy and foamy like Gree was. And green.
Apparently the Big Ones didn’t approve of him either. Whenever he heard the Big Ones talking, he could see that whenever they pointed to him, talked about him, or even grabbed him off the sulking table, they called him “the green one.” Gree knew that none of the other dice had names, and usually went by their color, which never got past the “Big Red” or the “Small Purple.” But once, Gree had heard two Big Ones talk to each other; they called each other things…names, he thought they were called, Rachel and Phil. Gree liked it. Not that he was worried that one day he would stumble across another ugly green and foamy dice (although that was quite possible), but because he liked the idea of a name that was his and his only. So Gree it was, to all who asked. Not that anyone did.
Gree was very sure that the Big Ones had another name other than, well, the Big Ones, but no one cared to give him an explanation. It seemed to be explanatory in itself – they were big, and they came in ones. Like the dice, they came in different colors and faces, and widths and heights, but most of them were the same: grey and used, spit out and hopeless. They trudged like giants that felt small, and banged their fists and yelled and hollered and spit. They had different eyes than the dice did, watery and whitish, with a dark dot in the middle of it. And they only had two.
Gree still found it hard to wrap his noggin around the thought. How you could see through two puny, droopy boats the Big Ones had? It was impossible. But they talked through a hole in their faces, sometimes oily and slack, sometimes bluish and puckered. Once he had seen a peculiar Big One – it had had long – very long – pieces of string hanging from the top of it like an onion—Gree thought they were called hairs…? – they were very long, a pale and sallow yellow, along with watery blue eyes and a creamy-looking mouth that jabbered nonstop. But the mouth was colored red, it seemed. Gree wondered why she would possibly want it colored red. It seemed red was an even worse color than green, Gree thought. But the more he thought about it, he wondered if perhaps that Big One had been like him, and had been made with a red mouth against its will. It made sense. Gree had felt a little more sympathy for it.
As confusing as they were already, they all drank things like crazy. Every day the bean-crusher, or, as the Big Ones called it, the “coffee maker” (Gree wondered why) would whirr and groan and ache and strenuously crush the beans and pour in the water and create a watery black soup that the Big Ones drank readily. It was quite ridiculous, Gree concluded. And it smelled awful. Perhaps it was something that Big Ones liked to do. “One coffee,” was what they would usually say as they stumbled into the hazy Parlor. The wooden ones would tense nervously, especially the chairs, for some of the Big Ones were so mean and huge they would wordlessly crush the seat until it crashed to pieces. And then…it was the garbage for it.
No one said anything about the garbage. It was the garbage. No one dared think of it long. It was the despicable, horrendous, unspeakable…garbage.
But sometimes the Big Ones would come in and tell the Big-One-Behind-the-Counter for “One beer.” Again, Gree could not understand why they drank it. The Beer was even nastier than the Coffees, because it was a wavering, sickening yellow. It came from this tap that the Big-One-Behind-the-Counter kept hidden from all except the plasticky plates, but nobody liked the plasticky plates anyways. And yet the Big Ones drank the Beer like it was their savior. They glugged down so much of it, sometimes, they collapsed into an incoherent heap at the table. Gree would hear the table groan, because it hated sweaty, drooling, greasy Big Ones like any other table.
And yet the one thing that the Big Ones did that made sense was roll the dice. Well, Gree knew that it was technically that the dice that rolled for the Big Ones, but at least the Big Ones seemed awful keen on watching the outcomes. It had become a game for the dice – they rolled and rambled and rollicked across the scowling table. It was interesting to watch the Big Ones’ faces as they gaped and grinned and smirked, slamming worn cards on the table and exchanging greenish slips. The dice had never wondered why, and for once, Gree decided to do the same.

CHAPTER TWO
The door swung open, and some dice murmured to each other as the door groaned rather loudly. The door was usually silent, and for a bit, Gree had forgotten what his voice sounded like. Again, the Big-One-Behind-the-Counter didn’t bother to even look the door’s way. If there was one thing that Gree really disliked about the Big Ones, it was that they ignored the furniture like…like…they didn’t even SPEAK.
That wasn’t possible, Gree told himself. After all, who could ignore the glassware singing like a chime of airheads? Or the paint, whispering things that made no sense? The sticky plastic dice hollering and whooping like a bunch of idiots?
The door opened, and Gree stretched as far as he could to see what was outside the Parlor. It was light blue, he saw, and there was a long spit of gravelly gray leading up to the beaten-down door. The same, Gree noted sadly. Then he turned his attention to the Big One that had just arrived.
It was very dark and very gloomy looking; it had long, straggly hairs that were coarse and stiff, running like tarp down his oily neck, mean little slits of “eyes” that were a slight grey with a little pinprick of brown inside, a stooped demeanor, faded clothing that lay shapelessly like a sack (and as unenergetic as them, too). It was nothing quite new, Gree told himself sadly. He concentrated on a little spot on the wall, the wall scowling at him back.
“Aw, Jack, you’re back,” the Big-One-Behind-the-Counter said in a pale attempt in enthusiasm, as if he was all the less happier to see him. His hands fidgeted behind the counter, the counter grumbling to itself about sweaty Big hands. The Big-One-Behind-the-Counter slapped on a shiny smile, drawing the thick ends of his lips across dull yellow stubs. The glassware subdued slightly; even they could tell the Big-One-Behind-the-Counter was not very happy. He usually never made a face that ugly for a customer, Gree noted. But the Big-One-Behind-the-Corner wasn’t very pretty to begin with, either.
The Big-One-Behind-the-Counter gestured to the table in the back, and Gree shivered. The Jack was humongous. The other dice had gone quiet too. “Ya want a cold Miller? Or a Coors for you?” The bean-crusher sniffed, waiting for the usual “Coffee,” and harrumphed so loud Gree watched the Jack in anticipation. But the Jack made no response. He only drooped onto the spindly chair closest to a stack of weathered old cards, crashing his arm down onto the table for support. Everyone on the table shuddered – everyone had gone very still, more silent than they usually weren’t. The table seemed to puff in fury, taking the slam as an act of abuse, and Gree tried very hard to resist shushing it. His world shook as he contemplated the possibilities of what would happen if the table dared speak out directly to a One…especially this sour Jack. The Jack reeked with a stench closest to a burnt Coffee, but even the odor was darker…and greyer…and meaner. Just looking at him made Gree’s mind spin like a babbling top.
It grunted once, and the Big-One-Behind-the-Counter hesitated; it then changed its mind, trotting out to grab one of the mysterious Beers where the plates dwelt. Another door slammed behind him angrily, no doubt thinking it was unfair that the other door had been mistreated. The other dice all around Gree tensed eagerly, for there was still no repulsive Big One repulsive enough to repulse the dice out of their game.
It made Gree uneasy. It didn’t seem quite right.
He peeked again at the Jack, and this time he realized the Big One’s eyes were closed, the crinkly eyelids barely noticeable behind his hazy stupor. His breathing was irregular, heavy like an overbearing ceramic, slurred to a point it was barely recognizable. Behind Gree, another dice started to giggle. Oh great, Gree ranted to himself silently, wishing he could scream at her behind him. It was a hard ruby dice, now more or less grey after years of collecting dust on the topmost shelf. She could never refrain from giggling her faded-white dots off, from anything to the groaning door to the tinkling glass. Gree wondered how she could stand herself.
But the Jack did not stir. And yet Gree could not move.
He had never noticed how quiet the Parlor was when none spoke, and when the Big-One-Behind-the-Counter was gone; no one stirred, and no one moved – save the slight, caroling voices of the anxious glasses. The door was unnervingly still, because Gree was so used to it swinging around and admitting Big Ones through the humid doorway; the other dice were ambling around in their own thoughts, though they always were, and yet it was too noticeable by everyone else’s constant stupor; the bean-crusher was not munching away at those squinty little beans; the table had become so mad its anger could not be aptly described in words.
The Jack sluggishly snored on.
And then the Big-One-Behind-the-Counter came through the back doorway, and then everyone came to life. The bean-crusher was stuffed with some roiling beans, and the suddenly-comforting crunch labored on; the door whined in response to its other creaking cousin, and the dice regained their wits.
The tallest dice, worn and smooth and wooden, with dirt-infested holes and the faint remains of a golden lacquer, started slowly, ever so slowly, to roll over to the Jack.
It was interesting to watch a dice roll. First, it would lean backwards at a quavering angle, gathering what measly momentum it could, and then it would throw its wits and mind and hopes and dots forward. If the dice was exceedingly fortunate, it would flip a whole two faces, and blackness would crash down onto his (sometimes more or less) four eyes. The process would repeat until the dice had moved to where it wanted to. Sometimes these exercises would last hours; none but Gree found it monotonous to watch.
For Gree could not understand how impossibly fast the Big Ones moved – like colossal pillars magnetized to the ground, they balanced seamlessly on two flat platforms that curled like plastic. And yet they did it simply, as if it were nothing to advance on skimpy sticks and have no fear of falling…and going into the garbage.
Gree wondered – if the furniture went to the garbage when they were broken, where did the people go? Where did they go when they couldn’t hobble on two twigs, glug down the filthy yellow juices called Beers, and couldn’t speak in their gravelly, drawling voices?
This dice had painfully rolled two more faces as Gree thought about this. Then Gree wondered to himself; was it only him who had these awfully annoying questions popping all over the place? They displaced him and knocked at him, threw him off tables. Did the other dice think like he did? (If so, it sure didn’t seem like it)
A final munch from the grumpy bean-crusher spit Gree back into reality. This dice had lost its mind. The Jack was dangerous! Couldn’t the other dice tell? What would it do when it saw the dice waddling over to him like a lump of over-chewed gum? (Even wads of sticky licorice gum had more sense than this) The dice only played when the Ones grabbed them, and that was that. Gree, in all his backwards-sense and inside-out sanity, knew his own dots.
Behind him, the other once-red dice started giggling again. She was delighted with the wooden one that was rapidly advancing; it was smooth and handsomely crafted, only missing one eye. Desperate to see more, she wished she had room to scootch over and watch him roll onwards, face by face. If only that rotten old Gree wasn’t so big and ugly and foamy, she thought grumpily; he was so big, all he did was block out everyone else. She was sure that his faded foamy eyes couldn’t see anything either. Yes. Of course. Trust phony foamy Gree to mess up the excitement. She didn’t like Gree one bit. Not now. Nope. Not at all.
The bartender, the Big-One-Behind-the-Counter, the Fat Human, Bob Phil – his hands shook as he gently poured out the pleasant Coors into a tall paper cup. Yes, Jack would like this very much. A nice fizz when you started, a pleasant aftertaste, very heavy. And after that, he prayed to all seven heavens that the rotten man would leave. There was word throughout the whole of Dent that Jack had not a penny on him now – in fact, the bartender knew that he should demand payment first, but he was not that brave. It did not sicken him as he realized it; it only frightened him, for that meant there would be another free Coors out of the fridge. Hmmm. He was getting low again. But there were rumors swimming everywhere like the muck on the streets, of the man beating his boy and the boy’s deformed face, the late-night fistfights, dirty paperwork that revolved around his forgotten name. Bob Phil did not like this man. Nobody liked this man. Who would...perhaps to keep their back safe, Bob conceded. How else? He supposed that he was doing that too. Watching his own back. There was no harm in that. A free Coors for a safe night. A good word for a clean record. By all means, it was perfectly harmless, perfectly legal, what he was doing. Just watching his own back.
The glassware farthest in the front studied the newest Human in shriveling distaste. With every swill of the day they got uglier and uglier. She remembered very well when she had seen a very pretty Human. It had been pale and skimpy, clear and bouncing; in fact, it was almost like a little glass teacup. It had come with another scowling Human, which was older and thinner, pulled out like a strained strand of wood. Hmmm. That bothered her. The wooden furniture spoke a different language than the glassware; she was quite sure of it by now. When they spoke, it emanated from their entire being, deep and woodsy, like a lullaby. The glassware’s voices became voices when they bounced off another’s; it was hard and clear like the brilliant Dia Monds that used to live here, before the Parlor. Before the dust. Before the dirt. But then again, she was always curious about that fat foam dice that sat in the corner. He was quite obviously and unfortunately foam, and the ugliest color of it he could be. Green. And yet he was…a dice. She was curious of what language he spoke, and if he was lonely, if no one else spoke his language. But then again, he seemed to find no shortage of occasion to gibber, and sometimes looked in pain (a strenuous feeling she had heard described; but, as a glassware, she had no memories of) – like right now, for instance.
And Gree was very much in pain. Because the idiot wooden dice had come so near to the Jack, its blunted wooden tips painfully close to the straggly, bowed head. Gree felt his world starting to spin – what if the Big-One-Behind-the-Corner got mad? Right now, Gree could not see its face, and most thankfully; it seemed rather in thought while it poured that nasty yellow stuff in a plastic cup.
And yet he turned his attention toward the Big-One-Behind-the-Counter fearfully, focusing on an eye on his fourth face. This One seemed suddenly wildly intent on pouring out all the contents of the poor Beer, and he could hear the plastic paper cup gibbering nervous nonsense as it started to overfill. But this One was too deep in thought to notice, and the Beer kept on pouring down, past his hairy, sausage fingers that crushed the cup together. The measly tile, a stoic family Gree heard most infrequently, groused unpleasantly to itself in chipped voices. Gree couldn’t guess what they might have said (for he did not speak ceramic nor tile), nor did he particularly want to.
And then Jack grunted awake.

CHAPTER THREE
Fingers of reality threading a faint picture, his eyes drooped open. Jack hated the stench of this stinky little tavern, of dusty shelves and poorly kept cokes, and he hated the stench of himself and these ugly little dice spread across the table. (Why’d fat Bob put that wooden one there anyways? Stupid Bob.) He couldn’t remember how he had gotten here, only that the other night he had lost another wager and another sock. His left foot felt squished and molded into the rough boots he wore. So socks were a bad idea, though he had nothing else to bet with. (Eyelids were out of question.) And he wanted a drink. Now.
He wanted a drink so badly, he thought even a cheap little Millers would do it for him. Yes. His throat ached with dehydration and stung with the cigarette he had bummed off last night. Oh. He’d forgotten about that too.
As if on cue, Bob swooped in, and placed a white paper cup in front of Jack, his hairy fingers shaking. That stupid Bob nearly knocking the flimsy thing over. If he hadn’t felt so dead, he would have yelled at Bob. What kind of stupid tavern gave paper cups? Real taverns served it up in real bottles, bottom up. Or in those fancy little Y-shaped glasses that had an olive peaked at the top. He felt cheated and childish as he shoved the cup’s contents down his burning throat, nearly coughing as the sting inked itself into unwanted crannies. Stupid Bob. Stupid tavern. Stupid cup.
The cup burned in anger, feeling the Big One’s oily fingers and mouth close around it like a vise; it wasn’t like the Big-One-Behind-the-Counter, whose fingers were nervous and fiddly, but greasy and hateful and drunk. It disgusted the cup to the point of pain. “What a rip-off,” the cup muttered. It had been hoping for a nicer getaway before it got thrown into the garbage, soon to join all its other relatives.
“Sorry,” Gree murmured, but the cup did not reply. He dared not speak above a squinty little peep, because now the Jack was very much awake and very much moving. Wondering what it could possibly be like for a paper cup, who got used once, crushed, and then tossed into the garbage without a second thought, he focused all four eyes on that face towards the Jack. It was rabidly glugging down something (but the look of it, a Beer), mindless as drops dripped out of his mouth and into his scraggly hairs around his mouth. The Big-One-Behind-the-Counter eased in again, agitated and twitchy. “Hullo…Jack,” it said awkwardly. “Been a long time.”
The Jack slammed the cup down harshly on the table. Gree heard the table and the cup shriek at the same time.
And for an eternity of a moment, he hated those Big Ones in their cruelty, brutality, and meanness. He hated how the furniture’s voices fell on deaf ears, how they were always slamming and jamming and crushing things in their fatty fingers, glugging down things in innocent paper cups and filling large garbage bags every night that were headed for the Dump. He hated them with every dot on his faces. And, as he realized, so did everyone else.
But all of his heated hate dissipated as the Jack opened its eyes.
He could feel the loathing and the loneliness writhing in those sunken, pit-like things that should not have been real. His eyes looked like pain, drawn with silent markers, greyish and dead and hopeless. They were horrible to behold, and for a moment Gree wished he had only one eye, one he could close. Did all humans have this? A hurt that went deeper than their thick heads, rougher than their yellow fingers, oilier than their drooping mouths? Did those Beers help it go away?
If so, Gree thought grudgingly, it might be somewhat all right.
The Jack’s forehead wrinkled slightly, as it seemed to think of something. Then he slammed his fist on the table again, all the dice behind Gree wincing (triumphantly, Gree knew that the wooden one closest to it was feeling a good deal less good about himself by now). The tremor shook the ground, or the one that the dice knew as.
“A game,” the Jack muttered, the words barely intelligible in his lapsed mouth.
The Big-One-Behind-the-Counter went ten shades paler. “Wha…what?”
“A game, Bob,” the One spat, as if it were frustrated at the other One (So Bob was its name? Gree wondered. All those years, and he had just figured that out…) “I want to do backgammon. With the dice.”
Now it was Gree’s turn to go ten shades paler. (And a pale, foamy green like his was all the less appealing than the original, unappealing foamy green. Not that anyone particularly cared at the moment.)
“Let’s do it!”
It was a random die. The purple one, by the sounds of it.
“Let’s rooooOOOOOoooollllll!”
And it was the dusty red die behind Gree that had rose up the cheer. And slowly, slow as dice slowly rolling were, others took it up the cheer.
“RO-OLL! RO-OLL! RO-OLL!”
It became a unanimous chant that shook Gree’s every face. All the dice loved to roll. Every die, dice, and square-thing-with-dots. To be tossed up in the air, rattled through in a web of cool fingers, swirling as a 360o view circled into oblivion. Who couldn’t resist a refreshing roll, after languishing in the humidity, gobbling dust, in the unnatural dark stupor of the Parlor?
Apparently Gree could.
“STOP!” Gree finally shrieked, nearly hysteric with adrenaline. How couldn’t they see what kind of monstrous treatment the Jack was already giving to their fellow furnitures, such as the poor paper cup, that had already been smashed and thrown away, and the poor table, having been slapped thrice already? “STOP!”
His voice was lost in the midst of tens of others. “RO-OLL! RO-OLL! RO-OLL!” One even took the chance to turn to him and jab, “Shut up, UGLY!”
“You…y-y-you want to play for, for…cash?” the Big-One-Behind-the-Counter mumbled. It rubbed its hands together rapidly, as if they would help it from hyperventilating; it looked dangerously on the verge.
“No. I gamble on both. My son. If you win. Forty if I do.”
What on earth was a Sun?! And why was he gambling on it? Gree was becoming very, very worried.
“F-f-f-forty…dollars…! Why, I…”
“JUST DO IT.” The last part came out as a snarl, and the die all hushed.
The Bob did not object, and it was good enough for the Jack.
It took a dice into its hands, faded navy, and shook it through a web of fingers. It then tossed her up, the dice squealing in delight, her eyes rabidly ogling all it could in the seconds she had. And then she landed with a startling slam.
All the dice cheered in unison; it had been quite an excellent roll.
The Jack seemed unaffected as it slapped two cards on the table. The cards whimpered, and Gree felt almost sorry for them; they missed their mother pack, and were heartbroken whenever they were taken from her. However, they were hopeless crybabies about everything else too, from the door to the dust, the Jokers to the Kings. One would lose their dots with a few minutes with them.
“Yours.” The Jack said it more like a grunt than a word. But the Bob understood.
Gree did not usually see the Bob roll the dice, for he was much too busy keeping the bean-crusher busy and too quiet to keep the dice quiet. And it was all the disappointment to the spectator die that watched with steady eyes; he merely shook the faded yellow dice and let it onto the table with a tad unneeded enthusiasm, one that did not mar well with his quavering face. The dice hesitated, and Gree saw it slip over one extra face for the sake of slipping.
The Bob was not baffled. It merely looked it might fall over in its frigid fright.
And so the game rolled on and on, the die cheering and skipping and doling out good words and cheap compliments. It seemed to last forever, and Gree watched every expression that flitted briefly across the Jack’s dull mask.

CHAPTER FOUR
Soon everyone’s spirits had damped significantly, as there had started to be a whole cacophony of wails as all the cards were split or spent. It made Gree wish he could not hear, and wondered how the Big Ones could stare on blankly through the abhorred rankle. Perhaps they were simply too used to it already. Gree certainly wished he was.
Slowly, Gree loosened up a bit. He felt once more that he was simply being paranoid from the start – there was going to be nothing but a good roll or two, and then the Jack would leave and all would be fine. He was going to stop feeling like his dots would fall off. Watching a particular pink die twirl up in the air, he wondered distantly if all foamy things were this unreasonable.
But suddenly, as if all the unused, accented lamps had suddenly been lit around the room, the cards stopped wailing. Gree felt the silence like a heavy metal bar crushing over himself – and he so he strained his eyes on all sides, expecting something wonderful to suddenly magnetize before him. (Of course, nothing did)
There were only two cards left in the stack before the two Ones, and that was a very good sign for the cards, it seemed; usually, after all were split, then they would be reshuffled and finally put back together (Gree supposed that shuffling was like rolling for the cards). And then, usually, the newcomer Big One would leave. Gree nearly collapsed in sheer relief (not that he could, but he still liked the sound of it; he had gotten the phrase from a visitor purse).
Bob was becoming rather relieved as well; the cards were soon to be used up and thank the heavens that Jack would leave. He honestly didn’t care if it was forty bucks out of his wallet, or whatever the trashy son looked like, as long as Jack was gone and out he would breathe easy. The wretched man didn’t talk, and so Bob was all the happier to do the same. But now the cards were only down to two.
Jack grasped a dice slowly and deliberately. Bob frowned as he realized it was the fat green and foamy dice he could never quite bring himself to get rid of, the one that his aunt had sent him for Christmas once. Perhaps it resembled himself in so many ways, he thought. Fat. Ugly. Bad color. It reassured him enough that he wasn’t the only one.
Jack’s fingers deftly rolled around the dice, as if warming it up would help him win, although it was clumsy and squishy against the other small and hard ones. Then he flicked it upwards, and Bob saw it soar through the air, at least a good foot or two off the table. Bob wondered what it would be tossed up like that; it must have been horrid, he concluded.
And then the most peculiar thing happened. Bob wondered if he had even seen it right. The dice landed, for a millisecond, on its side with a five, which would have ensured Jack’s win, meaning also that he took the cards and money and, well, was out of the godforsaken place.
But it didn’t stop there. It seemed to tilt by itself, just as the momentum was finding a way to settle. Right onto its fourth face. Which meant that Bob won…
…Gree sighed in contentment. There. That had done it. Right before he had been tossed up, he had hollered to the cards in the middle pile what would make the One go away (he figured that since the Ones hadn’t responded to the dot-splitting shrieks earlier, they wouldn’t respond to this either). Fortunately, he had remembered that the cards knew these sorts of things, for they knew why the Big Ones cussed or grinned or slapped in all sorts of faces and sounds (they had told the die so, crying like little maniacs when the die ignored them). So the two cards had debated for a debacle, blithering words that Gree couldn’t hear from his dazzling height up by the gasping ceiling. And Gree had started to panic slightly as he started to come down to a constant stream of blither from the cards, panicking more and more as the table looked like a pit of mud instead of his home, and felt like hyperventilating as he still couldn’t make out what the cards were saying.
The cards were growing very worried as well. It was only so long that a dice was up in the air, and that green thing had seemed awful worried when he spoke to them at first. So they decided they had better spill the beans awful quick.
“It’sagamesotheywageronwhatthedicewillrollonandsoyouhavetorollonfourfortheOnebehindthecountertowinit!!!!”
It was very straightforward. But the dice did not respond, and so they yelled it a couple more times. They yelled it until they were sure either this die was particularly stupid or he still couldn’t hear them. Eventually, when he was just about a centimeter off the table and rocketing downwards at a crushing speed, they screamed in unison, “FOOOOOUUUURRRR!”
The idiot dice finally got it, and tilted at the very last moment. (Gree wanted very much to mush those cards after that.) The cards sighed and smiled, congratulating each other on clarity and fast thinking.
But the Jack did not.
It screamed, a shriek that tore through the air like a jagged dagger. Its eyes went wild, unbelieving, loneliness to hate and vacancy into shock. Its mouth pulling back to mushy, rotten stumps even darker than the Bob’s, its whole self shaking with a vehemence that ruled out anything Gree had ever witnessed. It was terrifying. It was monstrous. And it was desperate.
Before Gree could even realize what was happening, at least six of his dots were blocked as the Jack’s fingers crushed into his squishy sides, making Gree gasp as his vision condensed and his insides squeezed. Its nails dug into his sides, denting several precious eyes. And as soon as it was there, it was gone, leaving him breathless on the dead-silent table.
Gree knew that the torture wasn’t over. It was time for him to really meet the garbage.
Please let it be quick, he thought sadly.
And the Jack’s fist brought down nothingness in a horrific SNAP.

CHAPTER FIVE
Bob felt like crying. Jack was gone, but he still felt like crying.

Jack had lost it, BAM, the dice was dead. It was still laying on the floor somewhere, crushed and helpless, like a deformed little baby. Bob saw it as him. He saw it as him, ten years from now, when Jack had nothing else to crush and the last resort would be him. Bob Phil. Once a Missouri Eagles football player. Got fat. Got fired. Moved to Dent. The end.

Dent really was a home for the homeless, Bob thought. Where the people slowly became the trash too, no matter how hard they tried to start over again. Maybe that was why people liked recycling so much. A new beginning. It was promising.

But how much of it actually got recycled?




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