Thirteen and down
from Clapping Carnival Rasp
Jim watched as the wheel went, and the wheel went wheel as he watched.
Jim watched as the wheel went around and the wheel went around and around. It went around and around in a blur, blur in red / blur in black, and the croupier said, “Jump back, it’s luck paddy-whack tonight.” The wheel went around and the ball bounced down, bounce bounce, slow around, and the ball bounced down and around danced down and the ball – bump, bump – dance a lucky dance tonight.
The ball went bump and the ball went bump and the ball went bump in a blur. Jim bet it all. He bet it all. Jim bet it all and the money was down.
Jim’s eyes shut so he couldn’t see, he crossed his fingers and he could not see: Click clack luck, “luck tonight,” he couldn’t see, Sinatra sang right, and the change went jingle and the croupier cried (lady in lingerie almost died). Lucky number lucky number lucky number two. This is it. This is all: Lucky number lucky number lucky number two. This is it. Here they fall. God guide this, nothing to all: Went around win a round, you gotta love the lady, blurry number blurry number blurry number too.
The wheel spun red-black-red, with the clock, hope tick tock. The wheel spun black, black-red-black, and then it slowed -- then the croupier, “oh, ohhh, ohhhhh-ed.” It went around past, it went a round passed and slowed, slowed slowed down. Seventeen, sixteen, fifteen, fourteen, thirteen and down. Thirteen and down.
It slowed, slowed down.
Everything slowed. Even light. And sound. Blood beat sludge, and shouts were muddied down. Eyes batted, paused, paused, and batted. A single ice cube in a single scotch cracked as a waitress set it down. There was a single look, an enlogated oblong word, fake Sinatra held his note, and Cindy decided she would say yes, like what he wanted, but she wouldn’t call him Frank.
Everything slowed down, down dramatically, so the slot machine coins clinked separately, and the clocks lost their places momentarily, and everyone forgot everything, summarily. There was a pause, a pause and Jim thought of Mary Lee, and he thought, “This is it, this time, tonight.”
And then the wheel stopped. And the coupier said, “Black two!” and Jim knew, and he screamed and everyone got excited and they screamed and jumped and screamed and then they laid their money down again and the wheel was spun again and it was starting again, but Jim walked away.
He walked away from the roulette, past the poker and the black jack and all the cards and craps. He walked past the women with cups of coins and past the old black preacher in a bow tie. He walked away, past the lipstick ladies, past the conference of firefighting athletes, the immunologists and the Midwestern businessmen and the past the Persian cat collectors. He walked out without collecting any money and he stood there, where he could smell the Atlantic in the air as it came into the city, and he smelled the air and the rotting sea smell, and he felt OK for the first time in a long time. A long time. And he stood there smelling, smiling and smelling and smiling, until Cindy stuck a gun into his back.
She had a little name tag, tacked on her blouse, and it said “Cindy” in black-on-gold, and she had a little silver .22 and she said, “Don’t make me go through, go through, go through with this, mister. I just want what you won.”
Jim looked down at the gun and he laughed. He laughed loud, like he meant it, and he said, “I’m sorry, I’ve been trying to loose that money for two years and I just finally got rid of it. I’m sorry, but that was it. I didn't mean to mislead you. Money was miserable, and it’s finally gone.”