Win One for Mounty
by Joshua Moses
I lost my fourth hand in a row and started to cry. Big, blubbering tears running down my face, soiling my shirt. Weepy, weepy eyes, pleading for a second chance.
"Cut it out, sir," said the dealer. He was wearing the standard green shade and vest of the casino. A clean-cut man in his mid forties, he was not amused. Maybe he could afford to lose twenty dollars. I knew I could. But it was the principle of the goddamn thing, the principle. I was a winner, not another loser. The casino was full of losers. Old, fat women in cheap dresses with blue hair. Prissy middle-aged hookers with fake fur-trimmed coats. Motorcycle riders with jackets that said "Born to Kill." Pimply post-adolescents with nothing better to do than to stew in a fluorescent haze. I wasn't one of those fuckers, damn it. I was the chairman of the board of a major corporation, by God, and I wasn't about to just lay down and take the appellation of loser just because the house had a straight.
"Do you want in on the next hand, or not?" asked the dealer. His nostrils flared up like twin volcanoes, brandishing hairs that prickled with snot. His eyes sparkled as he prayed for surrender, but I never surrender. I was Bartholomew M. Rodney-Mountfeld the fourth, and Rodney-Mountfelds never surrender, especially not the fourths.
I abruptly quit the flow of tears and smiled my huge, corporate smile. "Of course I want in." I tossed in my two-dollar ante and prepared for the deal. Three of hearts, four of clubs, six of hearts, seven of diamonds, ace of clubs. I grinned, a real grin this time. I was a sure winner, just one card from a straight! A fucking straight, do you believe it? I had him this time. I leveled a glare at the card boy, tapped my index finger on the table, mouthed a few "fuck you"s at him while his back was turned, facing one of the other players. An old lady in a cheap blue dress sat down beside me. I leaned over and showed her my cards.
"Get away from me," she said. "You can't show me your cards!"
I slapped my knee and shouted, "Like Hell I can't! I can do whatever the fuck I want! I'm the chairman of the board, the goddamn board! And I'm about to pull a fucking straight right out of this kid's ass!" She harrumphed, somehow offended, and turned to face the crackhead in the next seat, who was chewing on a white chip.
The house came around asking for bets. "I bet it all!" I shouted. I sprayed spit in his face with my ample consanants. I smacked him on the hand with my cards. "All seventy-five hundred dollars of it!"
The dealer frowned at me. Two security guards moved closer. "Don't you want to wait until you've dropped cards?" he asked.
"Fuck no," I said. "Don't try to run now, you fucking pansy. I've got you beat, fair and square. I'm gonna own this casino."
The man sneered. "Maximum bet at the two-dollar table is normally five hundred, but maybe we can make an exception." He picked up a red phone under the table and turned his back to me. I gave him the finger, with both goddamn hands, while he spoke quietly into the phone and nodded a lot. "OK," he said at last. "The house will see your bet of $7500." I cackled like a goddamn turkey and threw down my ace.
"Trade this in, sucker. You're going to regret this." The dealer took my ace and put it in the discard rack. He dealt out another card. It lay flat on the table in front of me. I leaned forward, peering at it. He peered with me. I took the edge of it, lifted it slightly, bending back the corner, trembling. I wet my pants, and it ran pleasantly down my leg. I caught just a glimpse of the card, it was red. A red card! Red was my lucky color. I crinkled up my nose at the dealer, this time taking no care to disguise my mouthings of "fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you." Then, will one fell swoop, I ripped the card from the table and into my hand.
It was another seven.
I was shocked, terrified. I had bet the fortune, the company, my family's good name on this hand. What was I going to do? I thought for a minute, as the dealer traded cards with the other players, sweat dribbling down my forehead, burning my eyes, mucus falling from my nose and onto the green felt of the table. The dealer came back to me.
"I don't want the card you gave me," I said.
"That's not how the game is played, sir," he said.
"I know how it's played. It's played the way I want. Do you know who I am?" I squinted my eyes up like Dirty Harry and sneered at him.
"No, sir, I don't."
I stood up and slapped the table with both hands, spraying spittle everywhere, shouting, "I am Bartholomew M. Rodney-Mountfeld the fourth, the goddamn mother-fucking fourth!"
"That," said the dealer, with utmost petty insolence, "is very nice." He wasn't going for it. I had to do something. I pointed at something behind his head, something terrible, come to kill him and everything he loved, hoping to grab another card from the deck. He wasn't buying. "Are you going to raise?" he asked.
"Damn right I'm going to raise. I'm going to raise Hell! You can't treat me like this!"
The security guards came up behind me. One put his hand on my shoulder and thrust me back into my seat.
"Shut up," he suggested.
My shirt was soaked with sweat, my nipples rigid with fear. A steady stream of mucus was running from my nostrils, caking its way down my neck and onto my collar. I yipped, yiped, yabbered. No avail. It was time to show the cards.
"I've got a straight," I said. I turned the cards over, three, four, seven, six, seven. I tried to look calm, in control. I folded my arms over my chest, looking cool and collected, twiddling my fingers in the growing stains in my armpits.
The dealer sighed. "That's not a straight, sir," he said.
I looked shocked. "Sure it is." I made sure my jaw dropped open in a display of outrage.
"You have a pair of sevens."
"Well, sure, if you want to get technical, I have that too. But mostly, I have a straight."
The security guard tightened his grip on my shoulder. The dealer put down the house's cards.
"Two pair, sixes and nines. That beats one pair."
I sputtered. "But it doesn't beat a straight," I protested. "You can't violate my rights this way!"
"Sir, you can't have both a pair of sevens and a straight. The two are mutually exclusive."
I sneered again. "Mutuhavy what? Don't you try that psychic mumbo-jumbo on me, motherfucker. Don't you know who I am?"
The dealer started to sweep up my chips. I slammed the table one last time in desperation as he swept my company, my life, into the bin. He nodded at the security guards, and they grabbed me and started to drag me from the table.
"This is bullshit!" I shouted. "I had a straight! I'm the chairman of the board of a major fucking company, you can't violate my rights this way!"
That's when the guards showed me what it really meant to have my rights violated. As the blood mingled with the mucus, the sweat, and the tears, and the world faded from neon pink and purple into grey and then into black, I sat back calmly and reflected on life. I was proud to be where I was, dying in the back room of a seedy casino for my principles. I was a goddamn Rodney-Mountfeld, a Rodney-Mountfeld the fourth, for Chrissakes, and Rodney-Mountfelds stand up for their principles. Especially the fourths.
About the author:
Joshua Moses lives in New York. His work has appeared on Playboy.com's Comedy Club. He is working on a novel.