Friday, January 29, 2021

2 Minutes. Go!

The house always wins. You don’t have to believe it. Hell, maybe Vegas is a charity. Maybe all those mobsters just like card games. Maybe you’ll be the one who breaks them, leaves the casino with canvas bags covered in dollar signs, bills and gold coins falling out behind you like Scrooge McDuck. 

You don’t even need a casino.  A dealer. A HOUSE.

There are lots of ways to gamble.

I had a friend once thought he should drive after drinking a few beers. Dumb gamble. He can’t drive anymore. I know folks who put there whole life on the line for fifteen minutes of pleasure or compulsion. Doesn’t matter which. Bad gamble.

You can gamble with your health. I quit smoking cigarettes when I started feeling mortal. Not everyone does. Not everyone can afford “me time” and organic food, either. Drive through a small town in Mississippi and then blame the locals for being 200 pounds overweight with heart conditions and diabetes. A Value Meal costs 5.99. 

Go large, one dollar more.

You can gamble your morality easy. The system is almost set up for it. There are all kind of incentives to take short cuts. All kinds of compromises you can make. Your bank account will prosper if you look the other way. 

That’s what the corporate bosses say.

Me? I’m not a gambler. I don’t play games I know were designed to beat me. I don’t bang my head against the door and expect it to open, either. You get out life what you put in. No free lunches. No jackpots. You may be up for a few hours, months, years, but the house always wins. 

No exceptions. 

13 comments:

  1. Ugh. Heartbreaking, in that last line: "the house always wins." I like a good Scrooge McDuck reference, too.

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    1. Interesting. I'd never thought of it before, but "there are lots of ways to gamble" is so true. Good insight.

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  2. “So what do you want to know.”

    It’s not even a question, the way he says it. He never asks questions. He tells them, then moves on along the dusty road, as if not expecting or even wanting an answer. You can almost hear the whoosh of the syllables flying by, dissolving into the air. Doppler talk. Here and gone.

    You want to see his face. It’s easier to see if he’s telling the truth that way. Lord knows what he’s doing with that left eye, with that crook of his mouth, if you only see the half that’s telling you what he thinks want to know. You stop. He doesn’t. Then does. Waits for you to catch up. A slight shake of his head as if you’re a misbehaving child.

    You try not to let it get under your skin. When you do that, it pools up and itches like madness in the middle of the night. You firm up all over, clench muscles that will hurt later. The words. So small and delicate you don’t know how they could possibly form and exit. Soap bubbles.

    “Do you love her?”

    Your questions are always questions. You want answers, you expect them, but you don’t always get what you want. The Mick Jagger song plays in your head, that “get what you need” so damn loud, arrogant, taunting. You think of the last time you got what you needed.

    It’s been a long time. Another song lyric flows through your mind. It’s been a long time coming…good things are gonna come my way…

    His eyes cut down and left and he walks, assumes you’ll follow. Because he knows how badly you want an answer to that awful question.

    Yeah. You don’t always get what you want.

    You start after him, head down. This. This is what you need. If you found a magic lamp and roused a genie, this is what you would ask. An answer. Not sound effects. Not soap bubbles. Not the side of his face, turning away.

    “If I answered at all, I’d lie.”

    The words are gone. And by the next morning, so was she. The whoosh of her in the wind, although you doubted he’d heard.

    Perhaps it was too much to ask of the genie, that the response to your question should be the truth.

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    1. Ack! POV flip there at the end.

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    2. "Doppler talk"! I love that. And the ephemeral nature of words.

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    3. Doppler talk stood out for me as well. It's interesting how the same things sometimes resonate.

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  3. What is this solemnity?

    This is me winding down, with a congruent desert backdrop. Bones and buzzards and busted things.

    “Do you believe me now?”

    “I always believed you.”

    You were with me until I stumbled, a comment on your loyalty and my klutziness. Yet I’m not even bitter, barely even sad. It’s the way of the sun in its arc and our orbit around its nuclear heart.

    This is it for me. I think I’m okay with that.

    I keep recalling moments like polaroids of the mind, skipping stones on a pebble beach, climbing to some headland and gasping at the island jewelry in the inlet below.

    What bound it together was love. Love was always the tether.

    In the end, we all walk alone before a backdrop of surf and quiet in a halo of mist. And we climb a great pile of rocks. Sit in thought before a pond, the light another world entire, insects a maniac alien fleet, no one watching, no one there. Except someone took the photograph.

    It’s all we have. It’s all we have.

    Remember the ferry across the inlet? How the cormorants wove their mornings into ours? I know you felt these things as I did. I know they scrawled and daubed themselves upon the canvas spread behind your eyes and ears.

    It’s alien, and so familiar. Shanties and favelas strewn like dirty salt across a landspit, strung like the cheapest of trinkets in some dusky bay. The world’s forgotten people. More numerous by far than the ones we remember. What inverted, capsized shit is that?

    I think I’m leaving. I think you’re almost done. Dream I upended the downturned hull rightside up, set out in the bay with the brightest of suns and a precious muted tailwind. All things breathless and grainy.

    Dream me, oh please, and I give you my word, I’ll try to dream you back.

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    1. Wow, chills at the end for sure. This is so sad and beautiful. I love this: I know they scrawled and daubed themselves upon the canvas spread behind your eyes and ears.

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  4. I love the emotions here, and the haunting visual backdrops. I can see, feel it all.

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  5. My guide slowed. She was almost within reach now. If I maintained my pace, we’d be together in a few seconds. I could see her clearly again, down to the variations in her skin tone as the sun lit it from ahead, the subtle shine of her sweat, the furring of the down on her forearms. I could imagine it clearly now; the two of us relaxing, taking a drink, discussing the day’s travel. We would build a fire and chew pemmican until the stars dominated the night. Then we would sleep, our bodies folded together, arms and legs jack-knifing as we struggled to keep warm. The fire would only be small; there was too little here to forage for much fuel and besides, we would have to be gone tomorrow, moving ever onwards toward the sea. We had no time for comfort beyond ourselves, the grace of shared company. We would see ourselves anew, see ourselves in the light of the other, our expressions the mirror of what we wanted to be. There would be time enough to indulge ourselves later when we could settle for a while longer. For now, we were little but automatons, serving as a team. We could be humans again later when we had time.

    “Trent. Trent?” Dannielle dropped back alongside me, her hand dropping on my shoulder. She looked gaunt; her forehead frosted with the rime of salt from the sweat that had dried there. Her eyes were beginning to focus once more, her attention on me rather than the horizon. We were becoming a unit again once more.

    “It’s alright,” I said. “I was gathering wool. Finding myself again; finding you alongside me. It’s been a long day. A day with little in it but the need to move. Step after step after step after step. The harmony of just moving. Dropping into the walk.” I stopped, seeing her face harden, seeing the muscles around her jaw go tight. I was supposed to be an aid to her, not a liability that would need carrying. It was difficult to remain aware when there was nothing to see, nothing to do but repeat the same minimum effort movements time and time again, dropping into a rhythm to avoid the monotony that could flay a person open from inside.

    “Here. Take this.” Her canteen appeared, its top already loosened. I could smell the taste of the metal, aluminium flavoured with an indefinable tang I thought might be ash. It could be the dust on my lips – I hadn’t thought to wet them with my tongue, cleaning them in preparation for my first sip. We had a courtesy we’d evolved, a protocol for sharing. We were always careful how we used one another’s possessions, habits ingrained by fear and the experiences we’d survived. We were set apart but together, our lives loosely bound with ties we were afraid to break, knowing we would fail if we were alone. The water was warm on my lips, the muddying of its taste an embarrassment to me now. I would have to do better; we had come too far to waste it all through missteps and simple carelessness.

    We would only succeed if we worked together.

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  6. I especially love sentences that first surprise me and then become indelible, as if they were simply meant to be. Case in point: "We would build a fire and chew pemmican until the stars dominated the night."

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    1. WEIRD! Again DA and I geeked on the same line. The rhythm and cadence of your pieces!

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