Hank pulled at the collar that was irritating his neck. He felt the clammy sweat on his skin. What had happened to the air conditioning in here? The Stickman offered him the bowl with five dice in it. Hank reached out and selected two. He held them tightly in his moist fist. His turn as the shooter. Just one more big win, he told himself.
The evening had started with little expectation of success. A final, desperate attempt to raise enough money. Win or bust. Hank was exhausted having driven Route 80 from Sacramento. He had left his house at nine that morning and arrived in Vegas at seven in the evening. He checked in to the hotel, changed into his suit – the only luggage he had brought with him – and been on the casino floor by eight.
He had never gambled in a real casino before. He’d played on the internet. He’d played in a couple of backroom games with friends and people he knew. He’d made modest gains and modest losses. Playing these small scale games would never bank him the money he needed. He had run out of time to wait for small amounts to accumulate. He needed a big win and he needed it tonight.
Poker and Blackjack were too dangerous in a town like Vegas for a newcomer. Experienced pros would make quick work of him. He never fancied the odds in Roulette. Craps seemed like his best shot. In Craps, the gambler has only two options – to place their money on the Pass line, or on the Don’t Pass line. The rest is entirely down to Lady Luck.
Joining the table he’d started with a couple of small stakes on the rolls of the other shooters. The first one was a bust when the shooter threw out a three and a four, a Natural Seven, on the come out roll. Hank lost the chips he had placed on the Don’t Pass line. He had better luck with the next shooter who came out with a four to establish the point. With the next roll they threw a five, then a six and then repeated the four. Hank’s chips on the Pass line were returned to him with his winnings.
Then the dice passed to the woman who Hank would remember for the rest of his life. Auburn hair, tied in a bun on the top of her head, with loose strands flowing down to her pale slender, neck; dark green eyes that flashed across the faces she looked upon; pale pink lips raised in a confident half-smile. She wore a scarlet dress revealing toned, slim shoulders and a necklace of gold that glinted under the table lights.
The woman put one single chip on the table, betting on the Pass line. Hank also placed the same modest bet as he previously had on the Pass line. The other players round the table, all male, placed similar amounts on either side of the line. One man hesitated and began to rake his pile of chips in and stood to leave the game.
The woman spoke: ‘Come now, Felix dear. Shut up and put your money where your mouth is.’ The voice was a husky undertone, calm and measured, yet effortlessly cutting through the background noise of the busy casino floor.
The man, evidently Felix, stopped. He looked at the taunting eyes of the woman in scarlet. After a pause he retook his seat. He pushed his whole stack of chips onto the Don’t Pass line.
‘I like a man with conviction,’ the woman said, the half-smirk rising to a full smile.
The Stickman called for final bets to be placed. Hank went with his gut. Everything he had he pushed onto the Pass line. The woman didn’t notice his bold gesture. She was staring across the table at the man called Felix. She didn’t blink as she shook her fist and threw the dice. Two fours, a Hard Eight. The point was established.
The Stickman pushed the two dice back to her. Still she stared at Felix. Hank wrung his hands together. Another throw totaling eight and he would have reached his required amount of winnings on this single game. If she threw a seven before managing to hit an eight again he would drive back to Sacramento flat broke. How would he explain that?
She rolled again. The dice seemed to fly in slow motion now. They bounced off the back wall and across the green baize. Six and four, an Easy Ten. The dice were pushed back to her. On it would go until a seven or an eight came up. Four and one, Fever Five. Rolled again. Two sixes, Boxcars. With each roll the tension rose. Which way would the dice break?
Once more the dice tumbled off the back wall. One skidded flatly, resting on a three. The other die rolled on. Hank’s stomach lurched as it slowed with the four facing up. At the last moment it tipped over. A five. Easy Eight.
‘The shooter wins. Pass line wins,’ The Stickman announced matter-of-factly. Hank stared as the pile of chips were counted, then swept towards him. He had done it. He couldn’t believe it. Felix, having lost his entire stake, rose, nodded to the other players and walked away.
The scarlet woman also stood. Her meagre stake she tossed towards Hank, adding it to his windfall. She smiled at him. ‘Your luck’s in, honey.’ With that she turned and vanished into the crowd.
Hank should have quit then. He knew he should have. But she was right. His luck was in. One more hand. Wouldn’t it be worth it to have some money left over, on top of what he needed?
The dice slipped in his sweat-covered hand. The Pass line had been lucky so far. He’d staked it all on that again.
‘The come out roll, please sir,’ The Stickman beckoned him.
Please God, thought Hank, despite being a strict atheist. He threw the dice. A weak, uncertain throw that barely reached the back wall of the table.
‘Double one, Snake Eyes. The Pass line loses.’
The noise of the room dulled, Hank’s vision blurred. He thought he was going to feint. He didn’t even see his pile of chips being raked in by The Stickman as he slumped from his chair and staggered away.
Lost it all. He reached the bar. With the last money he had left he ordered a double scotch. Across the bar he saw the scarlet woman. Next to her sat the man called Felix. They were talking and smiling. Some men can lose it all and still end up winners. Hank was not one of those men. Tomorrow he would drive back to Sacramento in time for the bank to open. The family business entrusted to him, handed down through three generations, would be wound up.
Felix and the scarlet woman stood and walked off arm-in-arm.
Hank swallowed his scotch alone.
Written as part of Friday Fiction Challenge, hosted by Simply Marquessa. The challenge is to write a fiction story based on the selected song lyric.
This week’s lyric comes from ‘Waking Up in Vegas,’ performed by Katy Perry: “Shut up and put your money where your mouth is…” More details here: “Waking Up in Vegas”
If anyone wants to know more about the game of Craps, they can here: Wikipedia.