Bust – A Short Casino Story
by Brittany Miller
Clark’s head was throbbing as he stumbled back into his hotel room. At least, what had once been his hotel room. He could remember how new and shiny everything had seemed when he’d first been escorted up by a bellhop in a fez and double-breasted crimson jacket. The wood panelling had gleamed, the carpet was lush beneath his feet, the bed beckoned like a velvet oasis in a sea of flashing lights and waitresses in short skirts. A perk of being a high roller and a big spender is what it was. They hadn’t said that outright; no, they had more tact than that. But that’s what it had been. Not anymore, though.
The cancer diagnosis that prompted Clark’s foray into the world of drugs and gambling seemed like a distant memory, even though the ticking of some ephemeral clock somewhere in the back of his head never quite went away. He’d been a normal man up until then: A 9-to-5-er, working in Accounts Payable of a rather boring company. He lived in a normal flat and went to work in a normal car. There was no “Mrs Clark”; he’d always assumed that he would have time to settle down later. According to his oncologist, he’d been very, very wrong.
Instead of moping about for his last few months, Clark had decided on another option: Go out in a blaze of glory. It was unusual, bold, exciting. Everything Clark had never been. He’d sold his modest little flat, along with everything he didn’t need and that wasn’t bolted down. His life insurance policy was cashed out, as was his retirement fund. He closed his bank account, his savings account. He’d even gotten rid of his rust-bucket of a car, instead leasing a new hot rod. It was candy-apple red, and a convertible. He’d been less-than-forthcoming about how he would be able to pay it off, but he was fairly certain he wouldn’t be around long enough to worry about it.
Now, he had money to blow.
His next stop had been to somewhere far seedier than a car lot. He had driven around for hours, looking for someone who looked shady enough to be selling what he wanted. It was almost embarrassing, how out of his element he truly felt. But it was something he’d always wanted to try, even if in secret. And what time was better than the present? A flash of nerves and a small fortune later, Clark had all the cocaine he could possibly want (or use) in the time he had left. Kilos and kilos of Peruvian marching powder, all holed up nicely amongst his luggage.
The first night in the casino was a blur of blackjack, roulette, lines done in the bathroom, and large-breasted women in sparkling, skin-tight dresses bouncing around him with every winning hand or spin. He wasn’t sure how he was winning; it certainly wasn’t because of his skill. He liked to believe that it was his luck, accumulated over a lifetime of doing absolutely nothing. It was the luck that had abandoned him during his diagnosis.
And now, even that luck was gone.
It had started off fairly slowly that night. The first few hands of blackjack, Clark had won, as usual. A bottle-blonde with cutlets in her bra and smoking wrinkles around her lips had been leaning over beside him. Her hands, with their long, almost talon-like nails, had run small circles over him, as though promising something similar but far better, if he could just keep winning.
But then he lost. It wasn’t a big loss, not by any means. It was barely a dent in his winnings, and he tried not to let it bother him. The blonde was still whispering words of encouragement when he lost again. And again.
Panic set in. He was losing more and more. The once bubbly and brilliantly erotic woman was now being replaced by a contemplating, vague person that couldn’t seem less real if she’d been made of plastic. Then she disappeared, along with a huge chunk of what money was left. Trying not to be dismayed, Clark continued on. If he could just win again, just regain his luck….
But that isn’t how luck works. Now, Clark was standing in what had once been his hotel room. The suite had seemed amazing at the time but just looked forlorn now. He had to leave. The rooms were only comped for “high rollers” and people that had money to lose at the casino. He didn’t. He didn’t even have his car anymore. Though not legally his yet, he’d signed it over to the casino, in a desperate bid to keep playing. They likely wouldn’t realize this until morning. But what did it matter? He was a dead man.
No, the only thing he had left to his name was a single kilo of cocaine. That, at least, was something that could entertain him, at least for a while. With a sad smile, Clark tucked it into his coat pocket as he picked up his suitcase. His plans, at the moment, were to wander around until he could find someplace private, do a few lines off of whatever he could find, and let the brilliance he normally experienced after a good snort tell him what to do next.
Clark was halfway down the hallway when his cell phone rang. Sitting his suitcase down, he picked it up on the second ring.
Clark? This is Dr. Somers. I’ve been trying to reach you for days!”
I don’t want any more treatment, Dr. Somers. We’ve talked about this.”
That’s the great news, Clark! It appears that your chart was switched while you were in the hospital. You’re in remission!”