"Deal me in. I'll be right back."

Mike limps toward the bar to claim his beer. Morgan stacks a column of hundred 'unit' chips beside 'third base.' Cards flick out. A pair of couples pretends they are in Las Vegas.

"Blackjack!"

"No, Lou, Red jack."

"What?"

"Your jack is blushing."

Laughter greets the upturned ace and jack of hearts.

"Must've seen the shenanigans under this table."

"Lou, stop it! Isn't he just awful?" Harriet nudges her girlfriend, Pearl. "Dealer 's waiting."

"What do I do?"

"Let's see. Lou?"

"Split 'em."

"No, not fives. The house is showing nine. Odds say nineteen."

Pearl finds this analysis much too advanced.

"What's 'split 'em' mean?"

Andy, her companion, pitches in.

"How can ANYONE be so goddamn dumb?"

"That's not fair; I've never played before."

"You've played."

"Well, once."

"We just went over all the goddamn rules."

"So shoot me; I forgot. Okay, they're split."

"You have to double your bet."

"Honestly, Andy, why are you so serious? It's not real money."

A six of clubs slides out, joins one of her fives. Pearl taps. A king turns up.

"That's twenty-one! I win!"

"Not yet; it isn't a natural."

"Oh."

An eight slides out, eclipsing the other five. Pearl taps. Another eight.

"Twenty-one again!"

"Do you believe her stupid luck?"

"Envious, my sweet?"

"Just shut your yap."

Pearl cowers; Andy's hands are huge. Morgan flips his down-card: adds a deuce... a four... a three for seventeen.

"Hey, Five-Card-Charlie."

"Not for him."

Mike returns, sits down. His eighteen wins.

Morgan passes judgment like a defrocked padre:
     Lou—a pigeon intellect chases crumbs of thought to peck, consuming none with consciousness of the whole.
     Harriet—his wife cum alter ego, meek, reliable; through thick and thin she'll stand behind her man—but not in front.
     Pearl—a subcutaneous layer of fat ensures her ignorance, on body parts whose bounce incites abuse, with more to come.
     Andy—her abuser, domineering, short on tolerance; his small, receding chin suggests dysfunction.
     Mike—death row... body trapped in a cage that won't stop shrinking.

Morgan's views, though critical, are a form of introspection. Finding fault with others underscores his own—not the least of which is his prurient interests (well-satisfied by the Spur's rough clientele).

Mike excuses himself; it is Bambi's set. Planting his cane, he rises, hobbles stiffly toward to the stage—Crystal, taking his order as he passes. He pats his stash of singles and waits in suspense.

Now here you go again
You say you want your freedom
Well, who am I to keep you down?

It's only right that you should
Play the way you feel it

But listen carefully to the sound

The lighting mottles Bambi's nubile flesh, then floods her audience, whose small but avid ranks behold a filmy negligee—incongruous juxtaposed to rawhide bra and fur-piece g-string which play a game of peek-a-boo underneath.

Mike leans forward, dollar in hand. Bambi spots the gesture. As the beat slows down, she sidles closer... near enough to reach. 

She gasps; his touch cold.

Too brief, too brief; she sashays backward, his tucked-in tribute dangling like an amputated finger... nine more left.

 

 

"It really is tawdry...

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