|By T.K. Millin|
The wheels of the plane sat down on the tarmac with the screeching announcement that Vincent Peele’s lifelong dream had finally come true. He made it to his Mecca; Las Vegas, Nevada, and the land of promised riches.
The Captain thanked everyone for choosing Lucky Air and the rowdy passengers broke out in applause and high pitched whistling. Not Vincent. He sat watching the plane pull up to the terminal, knowing deep down inside that this time there would be no more broken dreams.
He switched on the lamp, which obviously wasn’t used to brighten the room, and threw his duffle bag on top of the bed and turned to what was supposed to be a closet, but instead was made into a bathroom, and took a piss.
Not bothering to waste time unpacking or checking to see if the room was up to par; because to Vincent having a bed, with any sheets, and a toilet and a sink where high enough standards, he switched off the lamp and ventured out into the vast territory of promised riches.
Feeling lucky, Vincent bellied up to the twinkling machine and before he knew it the thirty dollars he allotted for the quarter slots had dwindled down to fifty cents.
“Are you sure you’re not wanting anything to drink?” The scarcely clad waitress asked a third time.
“I told you I don’t drink when I’m working. Now go away.” He ran his palm across his balding forehead and dried it on his pants.
Taking a deep breath and holding it in, he slipped the quarter into the machine and pulled the lever down. Apples, cherries, sevens and cartoon looking stars whirled before his eyes and one by one they came to a sudden stop.
Being a superstitious man, Vincent shoved the last quarter into his shirt pocket, along with the two dollars he always kept for emergencies, and headed toward the poker table knowing his last five hundred would make him a lucky man. He sat down at the table and neatly stacked his chips in front of him and waited for the game to start.
The dealer looked around the casino and shrugged, “Guess it’s just you and me pal.” He flung the cards between the two of them. “Where you from?”
“Nowhere, now hit me.” Vincent grumbled.
Vincent threw the last of his chips at the dealer and grumbled, “Hit me again!” He sat watching him turn his cards over as if in slow motion and then flew across the table. “You cheated!”
The Pit Boss grabbed Vincent by the back of the shirt and tossed him out onto the sidewalk where ripples of heat greeted him. He held his right arm up to block the scorching sun and pretended not to notice the passersby’s’ glances.
He stood and brushed the day’s events off his clothes and made his way down the strip. All he needed was one more chance to prove himself and all the Pit Bosses around would be begging for him to come inside. He knew it with all his heart.
“You look as though you could use a break.” The deep voice echoed.
Vincent looked up at the sign and read aloud, “The Pit Boss.” He looked around and realized he had ventured off the main strip.
“Come inside, I believe I have what you need.” The mysterious man turned and disappeared into the shadows.
Hesitating, Vincent decided to follow the man through the darkened entryway and down the long unlit corridor. He paused to take a breath before entering the main casino floor. And when he did, a sudden exhilaration overcame him, because everywhere he looked the neon signs repeatedly flashed; everyone is a guaranteed winner.
Vincent reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out his emergency fund and walked up to the dealer decked out in a pinstriped suit and derby hat.
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“This is all I have left. Is it enough to place a bet?” He slapped it on the green felt.
“You’re money is no good here.” The pale faced man said.
Vincent looked around the barren room and gulped. “Look I came all the way here from nowhere that matters. This is all I have left. Please, for once in my life I just want to win it big.”
The dealer flung the cards between the two of them. “Here at The Pit Boss we do not measure a man by how much money he has to lose, but more by how much of himself he is willing to give in order to win.”
Vincent smiled, because he knew all his dreams were about to come true.
““Hit me again.” Vincent shouted. “Yes!” He reached out with both hands and pulled his winnings to his chest.
The mysterious man who led Vincent inside walked up behind him and tapped on his shoulder. “It is time to ante up.”
Vincent turned, “No problem man, I’m on a winning streak!” He slid a stack of chips toward the dealer.
The dealer looked at the chips and then Vincent. “I told you your money is no good here.”
“Come on I’ve never won this big before. I can’t stop now. Everything has a price, name it.” Vincent pleaded.
“Are you willing to bet everything you have?” The dealer asked.
“Yes. I want to win it all!”
The walls began to tremble and the room shook with the violence of an earthquake. Suddenly, the floor opened up and Vincent felt himself falling backwards deeper and deeper, surrounded by flames of fire.
He watched the two men standing over the pit, smiling, and reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out his last two dollars and twenty-five cents.
“I’ll bet you I can climb my way out of here!”
Word count: 967