The Great Love Bug Migration
by Brad Temple
Arriving at Sam’s Town Casino, we parked in our lucky parking space. Actually, it wasn’t lucky at all. We always lost. Well, we always ended up losing. There were many times when we were up hundreds of dollars but didn’t have the common sense God gave a chicken to just get up and leave.
The place was decent looking. It had the feel of an Old West saloon. Dim lighting and dark carpet helped to accent the bustier-lifted breasts of the cocktail waitresses. Despite the sense of second-rate décor, the service was good and sexy.
Holt slapped me on the back. “I’m going over to the blackjack table.”
“Alright, I’ll be over there in a second,” I said. “I’m gonna get a beer.”
Ahh, free drinks. What’s better than free drinks? I guess big-breasted chicks bringing them to you. I ordered two Heinekens, tipped the bartender a buck, and walked back down to the main gambling floor. It was in the early morning hours, but the place was still packed. I sat next to Holt, and we played blackjack and drank for a few hours before I became bored with the game. I saw my old friend, Caribbean Stud, and decided to mosey over to the table. A large, round, jolly sort of fellow sat in first position, then a black couple, then me, and finally a Vietnamese woman sat to my left. I never really won any big money playing this game, but I was pretty drunk and didn’t care.
Before I knew it, I was up about $500 and still going strong. For the last ten minutes or so, a slim dude with a moustache and a ball cap that partially hid a stylish mullet had been standing behind me, cheering me on.
“Looks like you’re doing pretty good,” he said, straightening out his mullet.
“Yeah, I’m doing alright.”
“Have you ever played craps?” he asked.
“Yeah, but I really don’t know all that much about it.”
“Oh, don’t worry. I used to be a craps dealer at the Horseshoe. I’ll show you the bets that get the best odds in the house,” he explained. “Name’s Rick.”
Now what the hell is going on here? Here I am, having a ball – high-fiving the couple to my right and learning Vietnamese from the lady to my left (The fat guy had fled by then, unhappy with my string of good luck) – when this son of a bitch comes out of nowhere to get me off the table. Cooler, I thought. This guy has got to be a cooler. But why? I was only up $500. That’s not exactly breaking the bank. Despite the alarms going off in my head, I decided to go against my better judgment, buying in to this snake oil sales pitch to see where it may lead.
“I’ll stand behind you and tell you which bets to make,” he said.
Holt had come by to see what I was doing. He was skeptical too, so I made sure he was watching this dude’s every move.
“Okay, put $24 on the six and $24 on the eight,” he instructed. Then he just started reeling off shit that I had no clue about. “Joe’s, highs, lows, buffalos…six-eight, skate, donate, seven dice!” he shouted. Thirty minutes had gone by, and I was up about another $500–not bad.
“You’re doing good, but you’re taking too long on the bets,” he said. “You gotta get ‘em out there fast.”
I just sort of nodded my head and looked back at Holt. He had relieved himself of his security detail to hit the ATM. I saw him get back on the blackjack table, so I knew I was alone again for at least a half-hour.
Then Rick said something that really scared me. “Here… you stand beside me and watch,” he said. “I’ll make the bets, but I don’t want any of your money. You can watch me, and make sure I don’t take anything.”
So, I’ve got about $1,600 sitting in front of me, and I’m about to let some stranger just throw it all away. Again, alarms are going off. Ignore them, I thought. He’s got you this far.
I stepped aside and let Rick slide in next to me. He started making all kinds of crazy bets. The $24 bets were now ranging from $50 to $100, and the pass line had at least $25 with 4 times the odds. Another hour went by, and we caught a string of crap outs. To this point, I hadn’t even counted the chips in our tray, but we had an ass-load of them and in an array of colors. Rick helped me count them, and we arrived at a number I had never before encountered in my gambling career, or any other career for that matter.
“That makes four thousand,” Rick said.
“Jesus Christ!” a voice from behind blares out. I looked over my right shoulder to see Holt doing his best to keep from jacking off all over the craps table.
“We did pretty good,” I said with a smile.
“Good, hell, you kicked ass,” Holt retorted.
“Y’all wanna take a break?” Rick asked.
“Yeah, let’s go up to the bar and regroup for a second. Have a drink.”
I was so excited that I forgot to color up. I just dumped the enormous amount of chips into my pockets and walked back up to the bar. I looked at Holt and just started laughing. We were in a state of shock.
“I’m gonna go ahead and get a room,” I said after chasing a shot of tequila with more Heinekin.
I walked swiftly over to the hotel lobby and up to the front desk.
“How can I help you sir,” the attendant asked.
I looked at her name plate. “Beth, I want the most expensive room you have.”
“That would be the Presidential Suite,” she said. “It’s $300 a night.” It probably wasn’t the most expensive one, but she knew what kind of customer she was dealing with–a fresh face who caught a few breaks on the gambling floor, looking to spend a little cheese.
“That’s the one I want.” I pulled four black chips out and slipped them over the desk.
“Sir, you have to pay with cash, check, or credit card here–no chips.”
I gently placed a $25 chip on the desk and said, “Awe, come on, just this once?” Beth smiled as she took the chips and finished with my reservation. She handed me some change and two key cards and sent me on my merry way. I looked down at my receipt to see that a full 36 hours had passed since we first got there. Neither Holt nor I had showered or even been to sleep. The most surprising thing was that we had been drinking for over 36 hours straight without incident–truly a record.
I got back to the bar and gave Holt one of the key cards. He and Rick had just finished putting down two empty shot glasses. Holt handed me a shot of tequila and I nearly vomited from the smell. I held my breath and took it down. Mmm… nothing much worse than warm tequila on a tortured stomach. Through watery eyes I looked at Rick, who was looking a bit anxious.
“Well, you ready to hit ‘em again?” Rick asked.
“Well hell yeah, if you’re gonna do what you just did again,” I answered.
“Let’s go then,” he said.
We ambled back down to the craps table with all the bravado and machismo of Don Quixote on steroids. Rick went back to work. I couldn’t believe he didn’t want any of this money. Who does that sort of thing, winning money for other people? It’s utterly mind-blowing.
Thirty minutes went by and Rick had managed to lose all of my money. I didn’t even notice until it was too late. Even my student loan money was gone. Words cannot describe the feeling you get when you have lost everything. It was like falling from atop a mountain into a river of shit. You wallow in self- loathing and writhe introspectively about where you went wrong and why you were so, so stupid.
“Sorry man. We were doing so good,” Rick said, attempting to console me.
All I wanted to do was kick his ass, but it wasn’t his fault. I looked at Holt. His mouth was open as if to say something terrible, but nothing came out. “Let’s go to the room, man,” I said reluctantly. We just left Rick standing there.
The room was nice. Plush carpet and leopard print really set off the post-modern furniture. We couldn’t get over the whole “telephone next to the toilet” idea. Holt had saved a huge joint that we had somehow forgotten about. He pulled it out of his pocket. It looked more like a fish hook after 36 hours in his jeans. We smoked it and watched the first five minutes of The Big Lebowski, but we were exhausted. After showering the next morning, we headed back to Oxford with headaches and shattered egos. Visions of bank robberies and pawn shops danced in my head as we made the long drive back. Every once in a while, one of us would yell, “Fuck!” and the other would just nod in agreement. Holt had managed to lose some of his own money in the time we were there, but he was well off. I, on the other hand, was in big trouble. That money was supposed to go toward rent and bills. What the hell was I supposed to do now?
Four thousand dollars could have helped me out tremendously. I wouldn’t have had to work at all for a while. Now, that fantasy was gone. I didn’t have any money for bills or rent, and I couldn’t ask my parents for any more money. They would shit respective bricks if they knew I’d been gambling. I decided to do the only thing I could think of at the time, hike to Wyoming and live in the mountains for a while. Irrational? Perhaps. I only told one person, David Reynolds, that I was leaving.
Reynolds was one of my more intelligent friends. He and I shared some of the same interests. We took a few English Literature classes together and liked to get stoned and talk about dead writers and philosophy. Once we took a liquor box full of fireworks and a quart of rum to Sardis Beach on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. People thought we were tripping on acid, but we were just drunk off our asses. I tried to get him to come along, but he knew better. I, on the other hand, had run out of time and money and had to get the hell out of that place. Four years had gone by since I’d left Pitalima, and I wasn’t even close to graduating college. I needed a change of scenery. I needed to go to a place where no one knew me and I could start over. Reynolds told me he would put $50 in my account to help me out, and I thanked him. Until then, I had $15 in cash and about ten dollars in change. That wouldn’t get me far, but it didn’t matter.