A month passed since the winning. Dad was on his way to California. He was making good time passing through Nevada and sooner than planned. He decided to sit down and eat, instead of getting his usual drive-through meal.
As he walked back to his truck, he spotted a casino. He’d never gambled before. He never had the money for it—well, okay, people with severely limited means still gambled, spending the money they didn’t have. But at least he knew better and never did it. However, he always wanted to try it.
He stared at the shiny, illuminated signage of the casino, which read: The Delta Club Casino.
What harm could there be in just checking it out?
He entered the casino.
The place was filled with people: people screaming shrieks of joy, people with poker-faces and dark sunglasses like the pros on Poker Central, and cocktail waitresses with heavy makeup and well-exposed cleavage.
It looked fun.
But just not for Dad.
He was a responsible husband and father. He was nothing like those people who could just throw away their hard-earned money like there was no tomorrow.
“Would you care for a cocktail?”
He looked at the smiling waitress with obvious breast implants. He rarely drank. He and Mom had often discussed the evils of alcohol and how it could cause so many problems—Mom’s cousin hit and killed someone while driving drunk, for which he spent years in prison. Her old friend’s husband was an alcoholic who abused his wife, and later raped a minor who lived next door.
So they weren’t into drinking. They might as well have been Mormons.
The word surprised him as soon as it departed his mouth. He supposed one drink couldn’t harm him while he took a look around the place.
“What would you like?”
“Uh… do you have any scotch?” He felt as if he’d just turned twenty-one.
“Of course we do,” said the waitress with a smile.
The waitress came back with his drink. Dad gave her a generous tip, which resulted in a flirtatious smile on her face.
With a glass of scotch in hand, he wandered around the casino.
In the corner, he saw what seemed to be a high roller table. It was quiet and solemn. He felt as if he were observing a scene of Casino Royale. He watched the movie on Netflix a while back, and secretly liked it.
Waitresses who wore almost nothing served drink after drink to the players. He stood there watching them play for a while. A chunk of chips traded hands, and no one changed their expressions, not even the slightest bit. It was just a different world. Definitely not his.
“Sir, are you going to play?”
He looked toward the voice. A person in a hotel-issued sport coat stood there. He was bulky and had a stern face. A wire trailed over his collar and connected to a large button plugged into his ear. He was probably some sort of security manager.
“Uh…” Dad looked at the tables again, then asked the man, “What’s the minimum bet?”
“Sir, I don’t think you’re playing,” the man tried to escort him out of the area.
“I asked what the minimum bet was.” Surprisingly, Dad pressed further. Normally, he would have just said Sorry and left as advised. It was probably—well, most likely—because of the scotch he was sipping. He hadn’t drunk any spirits for so long, it probably affected him more than he estimated.
The man paused to take a good look at Dad. “A thousand,” then he added unnaturally, “Sir.”
Dad didn’t like the way the man talked to him. Still, normally, he would have just said Thanks and departed. But that time, he didn’t.
“I’m in. Where’s the ATM?”
Did I just say that? He screamed in his head, appalled by his own words.
Yes, he was now a millionaire, but he wasn’t a gambler. Besides, he and Mom had agreed to leave the money in the bank and manage it wisely. And let’s not forget—Mom was the winner of that money.
“It’s right over there,” the man gave him a suspicious look as he pointed to the machine. “Where the exit sign is.”
He looked toward it. The red exit sign was illuminated.
So he could pretend to get cash and just leave. But wasn’t that what the man exactly expected? That would for sure result in an I-knew-it smile on his face.
What’s so bad about playing just a little…? Dad wondered.
He had more than enough money to play just a little. When you had millions of dollars, a thousand dollars was like dust sprinkled on the mountain. He could just play one bet and get back to his truck.
Although, he knew how people got sucked into gambling, losing more and more of their money, trying to recover it. One thousand dollars could easily turn into ten thousand, and ten thousand could turn into a hundred thousand in barely a matter of minutes.
Yet, he couldn’t withdraw now.
“Thanks,” he approached the ATM while his eyes stayed glued to the red exit sign.
Feeling the man’s eyes behind him, he snuck a glance over his shoulder. The man stood, staring right at him.
He stopped at the machine and slowly inserted his debit card, eyeing the withdraw button on the machine. He didn’t even know how to explain it to Mom. If he were lucky, she might not notice the withdrawal right away, but she would, eventually. But what if he won? He could put the money right back—plus extra. Then she couldn’t say anything, could she?
Win or lose, she would probably bristle at the idea of him gambling though.
He slowly pressed the button, and ten hundred dollar bills popped out of the dispenser. He grabbed the stack and stared at it for a second. He’d never withdrawn a thousand dollars before. It was a strange feeling to take the bills out and hold them in his hand.
He walked toward the high roller table and cast a glance at the man. The man nodded awkwardly.
At the high roller table, there were a few empty seats. He took the seat furthest from the other players as the dealer gave him a polite nod.
Dad placed the thousand dollars on the table. It felt strange. Thirty days ago, he could never ever, not in a trillion years, imagine himself throwing a thousand dollars onto a poker table. It was so strange that his life didn’t depend on that money he just tossed on the table like trash. If he lost it all, no big deal. If he won, great. It was just surreal for him to be able to suddenly think that way.
“One thousand dollars,” said the dealer as he counted the money. He gave Dad a single chip.
The dealer put the deck of cards in the card counter. Then he dealt two hole cards to each player. Dad’s hand was pretty bad. The two of hearts and the four of spades. People with some knowledge about poker—elementary even—would have folded. But Dad wasn’t one of them. He put one chip into the pot. All in, basically.
Three community cards were dealt: the five of spades, the ace of hearts and the king of clubs. A new betting round began. One player folded. One raised. Others called. Now the pot had close to ten thousand dollars in it.
The turn—the two of spades. Now he had at least something—a pair. Although, it was a pair of twos after all. The one who raised in the previous round raised again. He most likely had an ace or a king. Others called.
The river. The dealer flipped the final card. It was the two of diamonds. Even though the number was low, Dad had three of a kind. The chips that sat in a pile right before his eyes were worth over twenty thousand dollars. That was his annual net income for the past ten years—his whole year of hard work was sitting right there on the table, basically.
The showdown. The one who’d raised in previous rounds had two pairs of aces and kings. The others had one pair.
Dad won. With a crummy hand of two and four!
It had to be beginner’s luck. The dealer slid his portion of the pot to Dad across the table. Dad stared at the stack of chips before him.
A scene from Casino Royale flashed across his mind, the one where Daniel Craig tipped the dealer after he won a million dollars. Dad followed suit. He slid a chip to the dealer.
“Thank you,” the dealer said politely.
Dad gave the dealer a cool, curt nod. He was convinced he didn’t appear too timorous, and fitted well in the scene. In fact, he felt like he was Daniel Craig. It felt good. He smiled to himself inside as he kept his Daniel Craig look.
He didn’t leave the table. He was in for another win. His next hole cards were one pair. It was just getting better and better. An almost-naked waitress approached him, and he asked for another glass of scotch.
Twenty minutes passed.
His stack was shrunk down to one. Although he lost all the chips he’d won, it was fine. He wanted to gamble once, and he did.
Good, so I’ll just put this back into the account, and I’ll never have to explain anything to my wife. It’s all good. He thought.
He got up and left the table.
As he passed by the bar, he noticed a young woman in her twenties looking in his direction. She was sitting facing the crowd, with her long, exposed legs crossed. Her tight, super short dress seemed to barely cover her underwear—if she wore any. She had on a little too much makeup than was necessary, but she was gorgeous. Her highlighted blonde hair had nice curls that dangled over her stupendous breasts. In contrast to those was her tiny waist. She held a martini in one hand and wore a subtle, seductive smile.
Having never had—at least since becoming a father—anyone like that show any interest in him, Dad was more than convinced she must have been looking at someone near him. He casually took a look around to see whom she was smiling at. Although he didn’t see anyone or anything right away, he figured there had to be some young, hot guy somewhere that she set her eyes on.
She uncrossed her legs and stood up from her stool. Then she walked her little pro model walk with the martini in her hand. Dad couldn’t help but fantasize for a quick second that she was marching straight toward him, which he quickly ejected from his mind. He chuckled at himself.
Then she did stop right before him.
“Hi,” said the young woman.
Dad took a quick look around, but there was no one near the two of them. She had to be addressing him.
“Me…?” he asked.
Giggling as if she were dealing with a teenager, she picked up the olive on a toothpick and pulled it out with her teeth slowly as she kept her gaze fastened on him. It was like the Carl’s Jr. TV commercial where a woman ate a hamburger with sexual overtones. Only she ate the olive, in this case.
“Yes, you,” said the young woman as she chewed on the olive slowly.
He quickly wondered if he knew her from somewhere. He couldn’t recall—and she wasn’t the type one could easily forget.
Maybe people are just friendly here, he thought.
But that didn’t quite seem like the way friendly people approached one another. Judging by the way she looked at him, he couldn’t help but wonder if she was, in fact, flirting with him.
Whatever it was, when somebody said hello to you, it was only normal to say hello back. So he said Hi, which only made her giggle more.
Then her expression changed back to a seductive one as she approached him closer. Now it became a very strange proximity for two strangers to be standing together.
It was more than evident that she was flirting with him. However, he still tried to ignore it. He simply couldn’t believe why a girl like that would show any interest in him. Girls like that had never even come close to noticing him. Maybe twenty years ago, but definitely not now. He was just a trucker from Littleside with two kids to raise.
“Uh… do I know you from somewhere?”
“Yes,” she answered.
Oh, okay, no wonder, he thought.
However, it was strange that he couldn’t remember her at all. It was usually the other way around. He was good at remembering people’s faces although they didn’t remember him.
“Forgive me, it must have been the drink,” he said as he raised his glass. Then he asked, “Where do we know each other from?”
“From here,” said the woman as she kept her piercing gaze fixed on him.
He had to pause to think.
She beamed her little promiscuous smile and said, “I’ve been watching you play. You did well. You never folded. I like that.”
So that was why. She was probably a high-class escort, or even a hooker. She probably thought he was a wealthy man, and wanted to offer her services. Otherwise, why would she have approached a forty-three-year-old trucker—just an ordinary family man?
But wait, he wasn’t an ordinary family man any longer. He was a wealthy man.
However, he was a good, conscientious man too. He’d never yield to an escort’s seduction skills. He’d always been loyal to Mom. Well, he never had to worry about fighting temptation before because he never had any. Not that he wanted to, but how could he have ever been in a situation where some sexy lady would seduce him? He was always on the road in his truck—his meals came via drive-throughs, and he slept inside the truck. No human interaction whatsoever. On his off days, he just rested at home, watching sports, or worked on house projects. He’d go out to the hardware store to get tools and materials, but that was almost the only time he was ever exposed to the outside world.
Besides, he wasn’t a twenty-something-year-old hot stud with six-pack abs. He was a forty-three-year-old truck driver with a soft, hairy tummy!
And again, don’t forget, Mom won that money. It’d be a complete disgrace if he did something stupid, like flashing rich man status. Not that he’d ever do that.
“Thanks. Have a good night,” he smiled and stepped out to leave.
“Where are you going?” she stopped him. “Coming back to gamble some more later?”
“I don’t gamble usually. I’m calling it a night.”
“Calling it a night? It’s only ten o’clock. The night has just started,” she once again looked at him like a naive teenager.
“I have to get up early tomorrow.”
“For what? What do you do?”
For some reason, he didn’t want to say he was a trucker delivering lumber from state to state. The words just didn’t come out. Maybe he wanted to feel like a different man just this once. Who knew? In any case, he’d never see her again, so what harm could there be if he made up his profession?
“I’m a stock broker,” he answered. “Eastern time. I’m from New York.” As soon as he said that, he couldn’t help the strange feeling that overcame him. That was not like him at all. He shook his head to himself. “Have a good one,” he said as he hurried toward the exit.
“Would you like to have one drink with me?” She talked from behind.
He looked over his shoulder. The alcohol in his system must have contributed a little, but she appeared indescribably beautiful. Her hazel eyes sparkled, reflecting the bright lights. Her amazing body. Her lustrous, long hair…
“Just one drink?” She tilted her head to one side. “I just want company for one quick drink. My friend was a no-show, so…”
One quick drink… What’s the harm to have one more drink before resting for the night? He thought. It wasn’t like he was in any rush to get somewhere. All he needed to do that night was go to his truck and get some sleep for the long drive the next day.
So really, is it a crime if I have one more drink? He asked himself.
She just needed a companion for one quick drink…