069. Horseshoe. Joel Fishbane

We take the metro to Ile Ste. Helene, warmed from drinking raspberry vodka out of a bottle meant for club soda. The bus to the casino is free. I tell her how I used to ride it with Dad. Quality time, he’d called it, before losing his money and mine.

It always looks the same. First floor slots, second floor slots, third floor slots. Slots by the stairs and slots by the bars and slots in the stalls for your cup while you pee. We find the Super Triple Seven machine, big as God, and two bucks get me ten. Then it’s forty, then eighty, and then the jackpot’s spitting gold. She lays one on me. That’s a jackpot too. A French kiss spitting gold.

You’re my horseshoe, I say.

You should marry me.

Maybe I will.

You mean that? I don’t care what they do to us, I’ll take the chance.

Of course she will. She’s a gambler too. Even when the guy’s all wrong, she just keeps doubling down. I’ll lock in a few more wins, then take her home. Down the hall are special rooms – hautes mises only please. Dealer’s hands cross felt as men, bricked like houses, stand guard. Women sit planted in chairs, fat rolling off their sides, while their husbands are elsewhere, gambling the rent away. There’s apathy in victory. In a place full of games, no one’s having fun. But the rollers keep rolling until they’re flat. That won’t be me. Show ’em how it’s done and then I’m gone.

Hit me again. I’m running hot. I’m King Kong and she’s that woman he carried, all blond and dressed in white. A drunk thinks we’re honeymooners and buys us drinks. When she goes for a smoke, he steals the moment to tell me my wife is one kick ass dame.

My wife’s at home. That’s her kid sister.

Tha’right? Whadda hell you doin’ here?

Quality time.

No way that ends right.

She’s good luck. What can I do?

I play fast, trying to run out the clock before the streak goes cold. It’s going well til I draw an ace-eight and tell her to pray, sweating blood, cause the dealer’s showing sixteen. He takes a breathe, I’m holding mine, he draws an eight, and it’s done. King Kong lives.

The bus takes us back. The sun’s coming up and she dozes with her head on my coat. No way this ends right. One more week and that’s that. Dad said some people are charms but you gotta be careful or you rub out the luck. The button on my coat imprints her cheek, like a ring of gold. The wife will want to know where we’ve been. We’ll invent an excuse. It’s 50/50 she believes it, but I’m feeling good. I always like the odds.

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