Saturday, May 27, 2017

Casino at the End of the World (Blogophilia 13.10)

This road trip was endless, running from one tourist trap to another in the misty rain. Jerry had to admit, “The Museum of the House Cat” and “Goats on the Roof” were fun. But did she really have to hit every tchotchke shop like it was the last day on earth? He fought tooth and nail not to go in them. But Martha was THE WIFE. Dutifully, he dodged the rows of Mommy tanks to stand bored in front of Jesus snow globes and “hand made” dream catchers, only to have her complain about everything being too expensive. 
A double billboard came in to view. On the left was for the “Can’t We All Get A Loan?” pawn shop. Cute. It reminded him of the “Free at Last” bail company next to the jail. One of those jolts they make you remember the business. The other board touted “The Casino at the End of the World.” That would work. Gamble yourself broke, pawn your car, and then you can die. 
“Oh, Jerry. That casino looks fun.”
“Yeah. Doesn’t it?”
“Oh, please. You only live once, you know.”
Yeah. He knew. Groaning, he turned on the highway exit, just as the rain got harder. A State Trooper was getting a treasury payment out of a fellow tourist. on the far side of McDonald’s. Old one level motels littered the highway. Ones trysting couples use to hide from their angry spouses. It just went to show that all of life was a gamble, really. It was only logical, right? And logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end. The House always wins in the end.
They spotted the pawn shop about half way up the hill. The casino was just beyond it at the end of the road. Marked by a modern diamond vision screen listing the coming attractions. The building resembled a large warehouse without the loading doors. Covered in a fake mauve stucco, it stuck out from the mountainside like a zit. The only way around it was to turn around and go back to the highway. A tractor beam force took hold of the vehicle and pulled it through the gates. A parking space opened up next to the front door that had their name on it. They looked at each other. She shrugged her shoulders and got out of the car, popping her black umbrella open just as the car door shut. He decided to make a run for the door. 
Inside the door, the Foyer routed the patrons to a glass railed balcony with a double set of escalators funneling you into the large arcade. At the bottom, they were met by an attractive young woman in a red dress.
“Oh, Mr. and Mrs. Goldstein. How wonderful you could make it. Here is your complimentary rewards card to get you started.” 
Jerry and Martha looked at each other. How did they know us? 
“We have license plate scanners at the front gate, if you really must know. Your drinks are ready at the bar.”
The bar seemed to stretch the length of the room. As they approached, a black suited girl handed them their Sam Adams. She suggested beginning with a set of penny slot machines just to their right to start. They passed about a dozen until they found one with a mermaid theme and no one in the chairs. There was no where to set their bottles, so they just held them between their legs.
“Martha, why don’t you go first.”
“Oh, OK.”
With a swipe of the card, the machine was loaded with 500 credits, the equivalent of $5.00. Each play used ten credits, though. With a press of the button, the screen simulated the reels of an old fashioned Vegas machine. The first three plays came up nothing, but she then hit the next two for a total of 75 credits. The game went back and forth like that for about ten minutes before all the credits had run out. 
Jerry made his swipe. He hit a 100 credit win on the first go around. The thrill was visceral. It felt almost as good as winning a contract. But not it really wasn’t very satisfying. He played five or six more times, got bored and cashed out the machine with about nine dollars to spare. He never did ask how much was on the card when they handed it to them, but when it came back it had $109 credit. So, at least for now, they had the advantage over the house. He was sure that wasn’t going to last.
“God, Jerry. It’s noisy in here.”
“Yeah, it’s why I never hit the Casinos in Vegas when I’m there.” He took a sip out his bottle. “It gives me a headache.”
As they went down the aisle between the machines, an old woman passed them in a mobility cart smoking a cigarette, the white exhaust trail going behind her.
“Aw. Look at that poor thing.”
“I guess gambling is the only pleasure she has left.”
As they looked around the room, they realized they were the youngest people there. Bald and greying heads bobbing around on canes, they were chained to the clinking, flashing machines. No one spoke to each other, except to scream when there was a big hit. It kind of reminded him of the movie “Cocoon”, where everyone was waiting to be reborn. 
A little further down the aisle was a set of table games, mostly for a ten dollar buy in. Again, the faces around the table showed the wear of bad decision making. These people would be stuck here for all eternity...
They looked at each other. This was what the sign meant. This WAS the end of the world for these folks. Quickly, they finished their drinks and made their way back to the front. The hostess table was blessedly empty and they escaped what they thought would be their final fate. They left the rewards card on the stand. 
As they got back in the Mercedes, Martha looked at Jerry, then kissed him.
“I don’t need those. I won at life when I got you. Let’s head home.”

Topic-Dave Coon
Pic guesses” Butterfly, Chrysalis, Cocoon (in blog), Spring, Monarch, Woman. Pollination, Rebirth.

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