Jul 12, 2006

In this manner, VII

He woke up dry. The window was open and his motel pillow was wet with sweat and he woke up coughing. The air was dry and hot, already, and when he looked out the door at the parking lot that blurred into gravel that blurred out to pasture, he spat and thought he needed a glass of water.

Nick Calosi found a game. Because he always found a game. Even here, at the end. He didn't where he was but he asked for a game and there was only one going, but one was enough. He had played in Vegas and Reno. He'd played with soldiers in Saigon and millionaires on islands, hustlers in Harlem and cowboys in Mexico. For a while he lived in Rio de Janeiro. He played in Amsterdam for a year.

Now he was here.

The men said he could play and he nodded and they nodded and he sat down. Six men playing five card. It said Seven Horses on the sign but on a Tuesday out of season this was mostly just a bar. A few women in makeup and cowboy boots sat on stools. The bar tender leaned over to talk to them and behind him was a big long mirror discolored to look like it was old. The place was dark except for the faces at the table and the low lights on the beer bottle display and the light along the bar.

Nick sat down at the table and he started losing. Everybody loses, sometimes. Sometimes everybody loses bad. But even when you lose and when your losing so bad it won't stop, even then something will turn up. It won't be enough to turn the game around, to redistribute the chips, to save you, but still you'll get a hand. But Nick didn't get a hand and that's why the bar tender noticed.

He stopped talking to the women and they wandered away and pretended to have to wipe the bar down ten times. He was watching Nick lose. He watched for an hour and Nick had every bluff called, had hands turn up two pair, had nothing after nothing. He wiped the counter again and he got a round of beer for the men again and he watched Nick lose.

When they took a break for the bathroom and so Nick could get more money, from the car, the bar tender finally said something. He shouldn't have, but he did. Can't you see? he said. Can't you see the game is rigged?

Nick smiled at him, surprised. Of course the game is rigged, he said, but it's the only one in town.

See also I, II, III, IV, V, and VI.