Right after their wedding Jimmy and Laura flew to Las Vegas. They took a cab from the airport to a mega casino hotel with tunnels connecting guests to restaurants and shops. Their total time in the outdoor heat was under two minutes.
The newlyweds faced each other in the center of their dimly lit room with the drapes closed to keep out the blinding sunlight.
“Now what?” asked Laura with a smile. Jimmy assumed she wanted sex and that was fine with him. He was happy the wedding was over—time for doubts was past. He grabbed the woman he’d only known for six months and carried her to the bed.
Later that night Jimmy said he wanted to play “21” for a bit. Laura asked if he wanted her to go, but he shrugged, “not this time.”
In the elevator he stared at his reflection in the buffed aluminum. I look tired, sad even.
He found a seat at a $5 minimum table. The dealer quickly replaced his $20 with four chips. He put one chip on the felt. He drew 20 and neatly placed two cards under his chip. The dealer busted. Jimmy’s fingers began to vibrate.
Eight hands later Jimmy had lost count of how many chips were piled in his box. He’d never won this much. If Laura showed up, he knew his luck would be broken.
“Are you in?” asked the dealer.
He drew an ace face up. Dealer had a ten. He waited for her to peek at the hidden card. He held his breath. She didn’t turn it over. He slowly peered at his buried card—a king. With a clenched fist he gently tapped the felt, then showed the dealer his hand. His pile of chips expanded. His body was shaking. He had no idea how much was in front of him. It was bad form to count at the table, so he pushed a $25 chip to the dealer and said, “thanks.” She nodded, tapped the chip twice on the felt and put it in her breast pocket.
Jimmy shoved the chips in his pockets and went to the cashier. He’d won a month’s wages. He found an empty seat at the keno area. He could tell Laura the good news later, but for now, he had to think.
“Why did you stop—you had a nice run?” The woman in the next chair was pretty with lots of makeup.
“You were at the table?”
“Right behind you.”
“What brings you here?” she asked.
He didn’t answer. He didn’t want to.
“Tell you what,” she said, handing him a deck of cards. “You draw the high card, you go to my room—if it’s the low card, you buy your wife a necklace.”
Jimmy looked at his finger with the shiny gold ring.
“Keep this—it might be a better reminder than you wedding ring.”
The woman pressed an ace of spades into his hand and left.