A Chance at Lady Luck
The blinding morning sun scorched his dry, scratchy eyes as he forced them open. Mason rubbed at a kink in his neck as he tried to create some saliva.
“Just another lovely evening at the Hotel Honda,” he groaned to himself.
His tongue was like a dead fish lying in the desert that was his mouth. He scanned the backseat for a bottle of water but found only empties. Mason checked his pockets for his car keys and, after a moment of panic, noticed them dangling from the ignition.
“Thank you, God,” he said. “First thing on the agenda… water.”
The engine cranked, then sputtered. No gas, Great.
Mason sat back in the seat. His head felt like a sack of loose boulders. He knew there was an ATM just inside the casino doors, not to mention fresh water, but taking the trek across the enormous, sun-beaten parking lot was the last thing he wanted to do. Seeing the dreaded zero bank balance in his account was also an extremely bleak prospect. He felt like he would die of thirst if he didn’t, though, so he unfolded himself out of the car.
He had no idea what time it was, but assumed it was still early by the small number of cars in the lot. The Vegas sun was already cooking the pavement under his worn shoes and pressing relentlessly down on his scalp and shoulders as he set to walking.
Mason Jones, Jonesy to his few friends, had been down on his luck his entire life. It was like, instead of being born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he had been born with a lead pipe tied to his back. The only good thing he’d ever had had left him for her daddy’s rich neighbor. No wonder. Mason was a class A loser.
Before hitting the ATM, when he finally entered the cool, shiny casino, he sped to the washroom, drank greedily from the tap and slashed cool water on his face. Feeling somewhat better, he approached the bank machine. He put in his card, poked in his numbers and squinted at the light blue screen, afraid of the inevitable bad news in front of him.
He cracked his eyelids slightly and peeked. Mason’s eyes opened wide as he read the numbers. He rubbed his eyes and read them again.
$6,666,666.66 read the light blue digits.
“What the hell?” He scanned behind him and then looked back at the screen. “Am I dreaming?” Mason slapped his cheek, but the numbers stayed the same. He withdrew a hundred dollars and requested a printed balance. The machine spit out the cash and the paper slip. The receipt still read the same $6,666,666.66 amount. He withdrew another five hundred and noted that the balance, once again, did not change.
“Just what in the hell is going on?” The bank must have made a mistake.
Mason went outside, not sure what to do about his newfound windfall, when he heard his name being called.
“Hey, Jonesy! Did you end up getting lucky last night with that fine lady you were talking to?”
It was Jasper, a fellow lousy gambler and Mason’s drinking buddy.
“What are you talking about?” Mason asked. He couldn’t remember a damn thing from last night.
“I saw you talking to some bag lady in the parking lot. Man, she must have been a hundred years old, Jones. That’s stoopin’ low, even for you.” Jasper let out a roaring laugh.
Memories flooded back to Mason suddenly. He remembered vaguely helping a homeless old lady who had lost her cardboard shelter in the night wind. Mason had helped her, and they chatted for a while. He recalled now her ice-blue eyes as she pleaded with him to stop gambling. Mason remembered her scratchy, quivering voice.
“Please, Mason Jones. You must stop that evil gambling vice. Promise me you’ll stop forever, young man, and a vast fortune will befall you. Stop now and forever.”
At the time, he just thought she was nuts, so he’d agreed. Mason promised the crazy old woman that he’d give up gambling forever. He just wanted to get away from her steely gaze in go to sleep. He’d left her alone then and walked to his car a few feet away. It was all coming back to him, although still a little hazy. The old lady had been chanting or singing as Mason walked away; some weird tune or mantra.
“You’re sick, man,” Mason said to Jasper. “Anyway, I gotta’ go. I’ll catch you later.” Mason walked back to the far corner of the parking lot, where he had seen the woman. There was no sign of her. Even her makeshift shelter was gone. His eyes landed on a faded pack of matches, and he picked them up. The cover read, ‘Gamblers Anonymous. You deserve a second chance.’
Part of Mason, the responsible kind, wanted to go to his bank and tell someone about the mistake. It wasn’t his money after all. Was it? But, then again, this amount of cash sure would help him out. Maybe the old woman was magic or an angel or something. She had said, if he quit, he’d be given a fortune. Maybe this was it. He just had to quit gambling forever.
Mason shook his head. This was all too unbelievable. He thought of his Susie and grinned. He could get her back. Take her on a fancy vacation to some exotic locale, sweep her off her pretty feet. They’d be happy forever. “I’m gonna’ get back my Susie Q.”
Mason pocketed the matches and walked to his usual watering hole. He’d ponder things over a liquid breakfast. That would help him focus. Or at least ease the thunder in his head. He headed to the dive bar at the back of the casino and took up his seat at the end of the bar.
“Hi there, Jonesy. The usual?” asked JJ the bartender, as he began pouring the whiskey.
Mason nodded his head and downed the cheap booze in one shot. “Another please.”
After a couple more shots, Mason began accepting his newfound riches. Why shouldn’t he keep the money? Just as the matchbook read, He did deserve a second chance at a better life, damn it!
“I’m buying a round for the house!” he shouted, as the other three early afternoon patrons whooped with glee.
“Wow, Mason. Did you finally hit the jackpot?” asked JJ as he polished a rocks glass.
“You could say that, my friend,” Mason replied with a wide grin.
A few rounds later and some new best friends made, Mason was well on his way to inebriated. He’d paid off his hefty beer tab and Jasper’s as well and was waving around what cash he had left under the nose of a middle-aged woman as drunk as he was.
“Hey Jonesy. Seeing as you’re so rich now, how about helping with my boy’s soccer team’s fundraiser?” asked JJ.
“You bet. Just name the price.” Mason was weaving on his stool, still grinning like a fool.
“Austin’s team is selling these tickets to raise money for new gear. How many do you want? They’re ten bucks each of fifty for forty.”
“Give me a hundred of those suckers!” Mason’s friends cheered him on. JJ laughed, pleased with his enterprising idea of taking advantage of Mason’s generosity.
As JJ ripped off the tickets, he asked Mason, “So, you heading over to the casino to increase your winnings?”
Mason put the tickets in his jeans pocket, accidentally letting a few fall to the floor.
“Nope. Not me. I’m off gambling for good. I quit.” He almost fell over trying to pick up the fallen tickets.
“But Mason,” JJ snickered. “You just did.”
Mason’s grin faded. “What are you talking about?”
“You just gambled, you fool.” Those are raffle tickets,” said the bartender, like Mason was stupid for not knowing.
“Yeah, but that’s not really gambling. That’s for kids.” He put his glass on the bar, suddenly feeling quite sober. “Right?” Mason stood, his face serious. “I gotta’ go,” he said, and flew out of the bar.
Mason rounded the corner and ran into the casino entrance, headed straight for the ATM. He put in his card, punched in his numbers, and stared at the screen. Then his mouth dropped open, and he felt his bladder loosen.
There, shining into his dilated pupils, in bright blue digits, were the numbers $6.66.