Reno, Nevada 1977…
At Big Tony’s Casino
775 – 8887
I noted the ad and later made the call…
…“Why’d you leave your last job?” Big Tony asked.
I couldn’t tell him I’d hightailed and spun out of Vegas, a wanted ball, three years back. Caught jumping in the roulette wheel’s red when punters had bet on it—for my own gain and to screw my employers. Thereafter, I kept low and kept busy in boys’ marble bags. No life for a soul such as I, being traded in the schools like a slave. And for sweets! Flicked in and out of sandy playground holes more times than I can mention. With the heat down, I absconded again to try my luck in Reno, roll straight, make legit dollars, hole up with the golf balls in the windmill at the local pitch and putt.
“I, I wanted to travel” I replied, “see the world…” swapping my ‘bag of marbles’ story for a yarn of mixing with golden baubles, modelling for orreries, and being the prime piece in a millionaire’s solitaire game.”
“Some life,” said Tony, as he gauged my physique in millimetres with calipers. “Some stats too, 22, 22, 22 and 22. Whichever way I measure you, you’ll roll with the best. Now then,” he leaned in close, “tough question: Can you be bought?” He was poker-faced. Did he want me true? Or corrupt?
“No sir, I can’t. I’ll do a fair shift’s work for honest pay. All I want’s a stress-free life, find and make Miss Ball into a Mrs. Ball, and settle down.”
“Good, good…lastly,” he said, “Got steel? If you get what I mean…a hard core?”
“I, I don’t get what you mean?” I said.
“This job has pedigree,” said Tony, “integrity. A ball you may be, but your predecessors were swords. Swords upon shields. Greek warriors’d spin them and bet where they’d end up pointing. Swords had the first roulette jobs; you’ll be continuing the line.”
“Below this enamel exterior,” I informed, “is a steel sphere of fine bearing, shiny and honed to the micron.” He was bought—I was pig iron to my core.
Cometh today, cometh the casino. The croupier picks me up.
I remember the routine; the wheel’s nudged and revolves away from me. I’m launched at speed by wrist flick into the ball track with wall-of-death-like momentum where, after slowing, I traverse the camber and dodge (all dizzy) the frets. Met next and bumped about by the chromed ribs of the numbers—I see where serendipity’s taking me.
Black 23 for some lucky punter.
But no. What’s this? Some invisible force; pulling at me, hurting, tight, binding. Changing where I’ll naturally fall.
Damn. Red 17 has me magnetically caged. The punters are tutting.
So this is how my first shift goes. And I suspect the next one too…ad…infini…
Honest work…huh? I’m a prisoner in “Big Tony’s Bent Casino”.
What goes around comes around.