The night that fate destined me to win a million, they wouldn’t allow me back into the casino. It wasn’t fair; I’d done nothing wrong.
For sure, I had a few lucky charms but, hey, what’s wrong with that?
Darren the doorman said, “Get yourself a clean jacket, lose the tie and come back wearing a decent pair of shoes, sir.”
“But where does it say I can’t wear these things?”
“Listen, Mr Lovell,” he said, lowering his bulky frame towards me, “After last time, you’re lucky I don’t call the authorities right now.”
“Tonight can’t end like this,” I said. “My stars are predicting a win. Big time.”
Okay, so the last time I was here there was a bit of trouble at the slot machines, but it was nothing to do with me. Honestly, it was just a coincidence. I’d spotted five magpies on the rooftop when I arrived and knew I was in luck. All I had to do was take my time and wait for a large payout. The other fellow had been watching me feed the one-armed bandit all night. I’d inserted silver coins into it for two-and-a-half hours until I saw the reels wiggle for me. At last, this was my moment.
The machine’s triumphal hooter shrieked to let one and all know I’d won the jackpot. The coin tray was soon replete, and everyone cheered as the money flowed out. It was as if it was a mercurial river of liquid metal spilled onto the weary-looking linoleum. That was when that bloke coshed me over the head. He pushed me out of the way and started stuffing a sports bag with my winnings. I didn’t start the fight. Two punters who’d been walking past turned on him. They beat the fellow black and blue. Another anxious bystander called the police.
Darren and Tom were on security that night. They saw everything, which is why they helped me escape. They lifted me off the floor and dragged me out of the melee. Darren pointed to the rear door, handed me the swag-bag and said, “Leg it, Terry!”
I sprinted towards the fire exit. He knew it wasn’t my fault. The police and the casino owners pressed charges against my attacker. They were concerned about the unruly behaviour on their property and the damage to the company’s reputation.
My father was a lifelong fan of the horses or ‘gee-gees’, as he called them. Before gambling was the norm, he employed a local bookmaker who worked from a converted garage. Dad had a proper old habit. My mother had to catch him leaving work with his wages on a Friday afternoon. If she missed him, we wouldn’t have enough cash to buy food for the weekend. Sometimes he’d hang about inside and try to avoid her. It was his only pleasure in life, poor bloke; he didn’t mean us any harm by it.
My mother was superstitious and always walked around ladders and hopped the cracks between paving stones. She believed in fate, but tried to steer events to her advantage if she could. It all made sense. Her life was about vigilance; spotting portents, telltale signs, and omens.
She taught me to be aware of magpies and instructed me how to react whenever I spotted a solitary specimen. One magpie foretold sorrow of some description.
“Hello, Mr Magpie, how’s the wife and kids today?” she’d say whenever we clocked one swooping past us. We’d then search the locality for a second magpie to nullify the first omen’s detrimental effects. According to her ancient knowledge, two magpies heralded joy. If we located another magpie, the day could proceed with an optimistic tone. However, failing to spot that second bird threw her into debilitating parapraxis, accompanied by anxiety and depression. It was a serious business, and it caused great concern.
Fleeting moments of divine intervention determined my childhood and superstitious beliefs influenced my parents’ entire lives. Any piece of good luck or ill fortune was blamed on these birds. I saw three magpies the day I met my wife to be, four arrived the day our son was born, and my parents celebrated their silver wedding anniversary serenaded by a hearty family of five. In those days, six was still a rarity. A parliament of six cawing magpies was a marvellous augury of riches beyond our wildest dreams. Six magpies were a sacred portent. It’s every gambler’s dream.
The day I withdrew all my savings from my current account. I’d read my star signs and realised this was the day. It was going to be a great day. This was my day. On the way to the bank, I spotted six individual magpies in six locations along the way. But I needed to be certain. It was everything I’d saved up over the years, and I needed confirmation to proceed.
I’d wear my father’s lucky tie at the casino tonight. He’d tried for years to pass his driving test and at the sixth attempt he’d worn his yellow tie with the pink poker dots. It worked a treat. He’d only driven a couple of miles when the examiner declared that any man who was confident enough to wear that tie was worthy of a licence. My father passed his test and so did the tie.
The history of the lucky tartan slippers goes back to a time when our family house was under twelve inches of river water. My father was broke, and he placed his last remaining money on an outside favourite which came in a nose ahead of the dead-cert. It was like the lottery. We salvaged the house with the winnings and my father saved our home. He wore the lucky footwear every Saturday until he’d died. Although he never matched this triumph again, he swore they contained a magical property. I’d wear them tonight on my mission.
The bird faeces occurred as I stepped into the taxi on the way to the casino. This was the ultimate sign and validation for my quest to take the house down. The taxi driver confirmed the avian deposit on my shoulders was, “As lucky as it gets, mate.”
It was going to be a glorious night and an especially lucky time for me. The astrological charts in all the papers all agreed; the planets were in perfect alignment.
I still don’t understand why Darren refused me entry into the casino tonight. I mean, show me where it says I can’t come in because of my clothing. My money’s as good as the next man’s, what’s their problem?
In retrospect, Darren doesn’t seem surprised by my attire. It’s as though he’s been primed. Maybe the owners had read in the stars that a tall dark stranger would visit them wearing an outrageous poker dot tie, tartan slippers and a jacket covered in bird crap, and remove all their hard earned money.
Darren returns with a change of jacket and shoes from lost property and suggests losing the special tie. Once inside, I march up to the roulette table. I place all my money on red seven and watch the wheel spin round and round. Everyone’s watching me as I tell them about the six magpies on the roof outside. They draw in their breath as the rotations slow down. The ball bumps and stumbles over the space bars.
“Yes!… Yes!… There now… Agh!!” I say, exhaling as the crowd disperses.
“Damn it.” I feel my stomach churn.
“If only I’d worn my lucky tie.”