Blackjack (Cocaine)

Cocktail waitress whispers in my ear, “Let me you bring you a piña colada.” She’s close. Closer than she knows. But she still hasn’t found my flashback beverage. She’s standing so damn close to me, closer than she has to be, but she knows what she’s doing. I can feel her warm voice vibrate the fibers of my ear… I can hear her glossy lipstick as her lips make smack, words reverberate like kisses as her tongue comes down to rest wet. I hear the thoughts her tongue thinks.

She doesn’t know me, knows I don’t know her, and she knows that I don’t care. She’s got her arm on my shoulder, hoping that it will make me melt, like fresh butter, like Spring snow, like I’ll drink her piña colada just for a chance at her affections. Like this is my first time in Vegas. In a city where ass is legal it’s an absurd approach, a longshot at best, but then she’s a cocktail waitress. Hit me.

Nothing is going to stop me from winning this game. The hand, the table, it all belongs to me. This night was born in my back pocket, I been waiting for it all my time. This is not about leisure, not about revenge, this is the rise and fall, all hands on deck, all together and in unison. This is bigger than me, although the money is mine alone, no one else gets a penny. I’m doing this for everyone out there, every sheep who’s been sheared by this fucking casino, by chance or circumstance or a system rigged against the odds. I’m doing this for America, and I won’t stop until I take the whole house down.

“Fuck off.”

This was not in the original script. Cocktail Waitress recoils, unguarded for a moment, the little bitch inside her swimming up to the surface, but then in a rhythmic shuffle she was back in character, sweet seductive grin on her face that showed nothing at all. “I’ll be back,” she sang, walking to whatever offstage corridor she used to hide the sobs. Good times.

I came through the door tonight with my entire paycheck- six hundred forty-two dollars- and after five hours of muscled, antagonistic play I had bred those bills to almost twenty grand. The dealer who called himself Phil was sweating, looking over both shoulders for the sweet relief of his replacement. There was no replacement coming.

I put five thousand on the hand and was dealt a four with an ace up. Phil showed nine. He always showed nine. The black man on the stool beside me was trying to make small talk (“Don’t it seem like Phil always gets a nine?”) but he was fifteen steps behind me and ten steps behind the dealer. Tonight I’m not slowing down for anyone. I’m not playing this game to make friends. I took the local bus but I am my own express train. Catch me me if you can. Peripherally I can see the black guy roll his eyes and shrug to the dealer. Maybe they can split my piña colada.

“Hit me,” and Phil did, with the suicide jack. Fifteen. Son of a bitch.

My brain- chemically enhanced, anecdotally intensified- performed an acrobatic series of amplified calculations, utilizing physics, mathematics, Fate, the existence of God & random chance in the universe and arrived at the inescapable conclusion that I had to have another card.

I motioned for Phil to come at me and he did, with a three. Eighteen. I stuck and watched the Philster do his thing. He turned over his hole card to reveal a six. Sucker!

Phil swallowed and hit. A two. Stuck on seventeen! Oh, Poor Phil I'm so sorry give me my fucking money and deal the next hand.

Now I could feel the motion around me as some lump of pit boss entered the scene. He stunk of ex-cop and could barely contain the disgust in his body: props on the poker face. He circles round the table like a dog waiting to piss. A new player came to sit in- a woman with a posture too formal for her faded Jets T-shirt.

If they want to play hardball then I will gladly play along with them.

I put all my money down:  twenty five grand and the table got tight. Pit bull picked up a phone- who the fuck is he gonna call? Jennie Jets did her best to look excited as she realized she was sent in too late. She mentally readied her resume and wondered if they would hire her back at the ranch. Phil the Dealer shit his pants, but just a little bit… something broke inside anyway. I tried to stay focused, to not think about 9/11 and the day the US government killed its own people. On the deal I got a king and a queen. I exhaled. This was gonna be easy.

Phil had a three showing, and after I stuck he turned over his hole to reveal a two. He drew a five.

And then another five.

Fuck. Just bust, Phil.

He drew an Ace.

Here he was at sixteen and I didn’t like my luck. Jenn Jets was playing with her hair, tickled and lost. Phil grinned at me and for the first time I knew the motherfucker had me, knew he was gonna bankrupt me with a single card, and I wondered why I had been so stupid, so arrogant.

Turn over a two or three, you son of a bitch, or I die in this place with no windows.

The pit bull put down his phone. Who was he talking to in the first place? Phil’s shit-eating smile spread round to the back of his head and he was doing this on purpose, doing this to torture me.

For the first time all evening a bead of sweat spilled from my brow, heavy, rolling to the tip of my nose and pausing there for a split second before

- plunk -

Onto the green. It didn’t matter. None of it mattered. I didn’t care. Even if the son of a bitch wiped me out I’d be back here next week, higher than ever and even more determined. I won’t lose, I'll never stop, and I’m not just doing this for me, I’m doing it for America… because this casino is dirty and some motherfucker has to take it down. It might as well be me.

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