The Devil’s Arcade

Contributor: Chris Leek

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People didn’t come from Las Vegas, not in the same way as people came from Baltimore or Jonesboro County, Idaho. Joe had decided Las Vegas was a place to go to, not come from.
He sat swilling coffee from a fresh white china mug and idly surveyed the casino's gaming floor. The slots restless and chattering even at this late – or was it early – hour. He watched a plump woman at the nearest machine relentlessly feeding in quarters. Her ample backside attempting to swallow the stool on which she perched. Time and again she yanked on the lever and stared intently as the reels spun, clunking to a halt one by one. At last a bell rang, a light flashed and the machine spat out a tray full of change. She didn’t break stride, just fished again in her blue plastic cup and continued to worship at the temple of the slot.
Beyond her, a lone black jack player rapped on the table and cried “Hit me again Dougie!” The weary dealer flipped him a card along with a look that said he hated the guy just for being born.
A waitress breezed past Joe, handing him a flyer that showed the variety and delights of breakfast cocktails. Two weeks ago it had never occurred to him that such a thing as a breakfast cocktail could exist let alone entertain the thought that he might order such a thing. He felt his stomach would probably handle one but he wasn’t sure that his conscience could. He was a new fish; road dust fresh on his shoes. A Bloody Mary or a Palmango Mimosa at 6.30am was still in his future, he didn’t doubt for a moment that he would get to it, just not quite yet.
He spun lazily round to face the bar and wordlessly indicated his need of a refill. The bar tender broke off from studying form at the track and slid over, seamless in his retrieval of the coffee pot on route. Joe nodded his thanks and sipped gratefully at the black-brown sludge, marveling again at its restorative powers.
From what he had seen everyone in Vegas was a gambler of sorts; they all played the game. The hooker out on the strip rolling a dice on every trick, hoping for a clean one, an easy one, one that wouldn’t knock her around. The not-so-high roller at the tables nursing his desperate, diminishing pile of chips (hit me again Dougie!) And Joe himself, still not sure what game would be his or how big to bet, but like cocktails for breakfast he would get to it soon enough.

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