Hell In A Nutshell
By Joey Thomas
Oh My God!
Donald Trump sure knew how to build a casino. Bright pinks, bold reds, elephants, camels, feather plumes and mirrors everywhere. From the flashy lobby right down to the ass-kissing bell hops, it was a poor man's field of dreams. One big scheme to separate you from your cash and then to get you off of the property as quickly as possible to make room for the next load of victims.
I paused for a moment in the entrance to the casino, soaking in this momentous moment of my life. Here is where my luck was going to change. Here was where my life was going to begin anew. Here, amid this whirling shit storm of sound and lights, I was going to make my mark on the world and turn back the evil tide of poverty.
The sounds of the slots paying off, the roar of the crowd as a guy rolled craps. Suddenly, it was all too much; I had to get in there and get some of the action. But before I got to the black jack tables, I had to get past the slot machines. And no matter how I hard I tried I couldn't resist the "rat in a lab" temptation to show those steely-eyed one armed bandits that there was a new sheriff in town. Maybe I would even score a large jack pot and have that much more money for the black jack tables.
I walked over to the change window to get $20 in quarters and a gypsy looking lady behind the cage looks at me and tells me that she has the ability to see bad luck in people, and that I should not be gambling tonight. Where in the hell did that come from? What fucking nerve. I looked up and told her to keep it to herself because I was on a lucky streak and I was going to win. She just handed me my quarters, and muttered something about the black aurora of bad luck that was hanging around my neck like an albatross.
I chose to ignore this evil omen. God damn bitch! Why did she have to go and say something like that for! Now, I felt as if I had been jinxed by some sort of voo doo as I checked for the black aurora she was talking about in a passing mirror. What did she know about luck? If she knew anything, then she certainly wouldn't be working in a change cage in this hell hole, I told myself.
Feeling satisfied that I had dispelled her evil predictions, I proceeded to throw a whole roll of quarters right down the gullet of one of the one-armed bastards without winning anything. I skulked past the lady in the change booth and she looked at me as if to say:, I told you so.
As I made my way through the throngs of gamblers, the only thing that I could think about was how in the movies that some lucky slob always seems to walk into the casino with $5, only to leave a few minutes later with his pockets stuffed with cash. Then they marry a beautiful blonde, buy a house, and live happily ever after. If Hollywood says it happens that way, then who am I to doubt? The sad thing was, that I actually believed it could happen to me and so did all of the other poor slobs around me.
Making my way past the roulette and the craps tables I could see my destination looming into view. The black jack tables. Despite my little difficulty with the slot machine a few minutes earlier, I felt lucky again. The feeling became stronger as I inhaled clouds of cigarette smoke, dodged spilling drinks, and tried to stay out of the way of scary old ladies with hair curlers and amidst the blobs of people who were congregating in the aisles slurping up free drinks and plunking quarters into slot machines. A fucking depressing sight if there ever was one.
Pulling up a seat at one of the not so packed tables, I slid into the stool with all the grace and aplomb of a young James Bond. Unfortunately, the effect was spoiled when I accidentally let out a flat noted fart. Though I did apologize graciously to everyone at the table, my unfortunate act of nature having it?s way set the tone for what was bound to be another encounter with humiliation.
The rich snob couple sitting next to me gave me a look like I had tentacles sprouting from my shoulders and were staring at me if I was some sort of street vermin. I gave them a fuck you look and extracted a pile of wadded up bills from my pocket. Arranging the crumpled bills as neatly as possible, I placed them on the table for the dealer to cash in.
To my dismay, the dealer took the money and threw two measly chips in front of me. My heart skipped a beat as I looked over at the sign over the table displaying the bet limits. Great, I had inadvertently chosen a table with a $100 minimum. The choice now was to bet a hundred bucks at a time or humiliate myself beyond my wildest belief.
I looked up at the dealer and then at everyone else sitting at the table. Then, surreptitiously checking my shoulders to make sure I wasn't in fact sprouting tentacles there, I scooped up my two chips and skulked away.
I should have known that it was too good to be true. A nice table that had an air of dignity around it where the dealer called you sir and the cocktail waitress looked like bomb shells. Figures that I couldn't afford it.
And where were the tables that I could afford? All the way in the back of the casino, right next to the revolving doors to the rest rooms.
It was like a Kansas city cattle drive except instead of cows, these were people who had been herded and who were now standing in line waiting to be slaughtered by vicious card wielding dealers. The humiliation was immediate. As I stood there starring at the people, much the same way that the cattle probably looked at each other before walking into the front door of the Slaughterhouse, I thought about those rich bastard's at the $100 table sitting there sipping their drinks as they gambled with dignity. Meanwhile, here I was sitting standing in a quivering blob of humanity waiting to loose my ass in $2 increments.
As I stood there quivering, waiting my chance per say, a lady starts poking my ribs with her elbows. When I politely ask her if she would stop, she turns to her husband and tells him that I was feeling her up!. As if anyone would feel up a 60 year old dowager with a beehive hairdo and a floral mumu in shades of orange, turquoise and flamingo pink. I would have blown the whole thing off except her husband looked like an axe murderer on steroids, with yellow eyes and veins bulging out of his neck, death was a real possibility if this animal was provoked.
I squeaked out an apology and drifted as far away as possible from the ass pounding to the back of the crowd hovering around the table. Once again, I checked for that god damn aurora in a passing mirror.
My companions in humiliation, the ones lucky enough to be sitting at the table, were nervously clutching their chips while cigarettes hanged from their nicotine stained lips as they watched the dealer shuffle the cards as if their lives depended on it. As the dealer was about to begin, a Russian grandmother in a cocktail waitress ensemble approached the table to ask if anyone wanted cocktails.
This pathetic sight was just another reminder of the class in which I belonged and just exactly how poor I really was. One guy sitting at the table asked for a whisky sour. Upon hearing the request, grand ma in a cocktail outfit pulls out a paper cup and scoops a cocktail out of the bucket she's carrying and hands it to the poor slob who looks down at the unknown substance in the cup and starts complaining. In Atlantic City, this type of behavior, complaining that is, is not tolerated. A pit boss comes over and tells the gentleman to leave.
Then the poor slob starts to whimper and he falls to his knees pleading with the pit boss that he's sorry about complaining about the drink and not to toss him out. The pit boss see's the guy still has ten bucks in chips so he decides to let him stay and loose the rest of his cash, which he did in about thirty seconds. Then, without emotion, the pit boss snaps his fingers, two thugs appear and drag the sniveling slob away from the table and out a concealed back entrance of the casino.
As I sat there watching this humiliation, my heart went out to the poor slob who had just been taken away, but my dry parched mouth was in need of a drink. So I asked grand mom for a cup of whatever concoction she was carrying around in her bucket. If it was free I wanted some.
Giving me the evil eye, grand ma pulled out a paper cup and scooped me out a cocktail, something pink and watery that reminded me of pepto bismal. As I raised the cup to my lips to take a sip, I realized the grandma was staring at me, waiting for a tip. I lowered the cup, reached into my pocket and gave her the contents: 41 cents and some assorted lint. She obviously wasn't satisfied with my offering, but even in my current slobbish state I was still, clearly, more than a match for an aged grandma in a halter top, mini-skirt and fishnet stockings that did not quite hide the varicose veins beneath. She counted the money that I had given her and looked at me with a scowl on her face as she abruptly grabbed my cup and threw it into her bucket and walked off mumbling something about cheap fucking bastard's. As I watched grand ma's wrinkled ass disappear into the crowd I was once again reminded of how rotten it was to have to be in the poor section of the casino where dignity was checked in at the door and humility was a commodity to be exploited.
Staking out potential losers so that I could take one of their seats after they lost, I watched as a hush fell over the table as the dealer dealt out the cards. Dealing himself an ace, the dealer snickered as most of the people sitting at the table had minor heart attacks. Then, the shifty eyed fuck-face of a dealer dealt out the next cards. Fuck-face the dealer had black jack. Every one at the table lost. Some were sobbing as they were led away from the table by friends, loved ones or helpful security guards. Meanwhile, the rest of us animals fought for their vacated seats. Fortunately for me I had staked out the right loser. I sat myself down at the filthy, drink-stained black jack table and brushed away the cigarette ash piled in front of me and cashed in my two, hundred dollar chips for $2 and $5 chips.
Looking around the table at the people with whom I would be spending the next hour or so with, I saw that a couple of people had large piles of chips in front of them. Not bad, I thought" perhaps the table was running hot and the dealer was passing out winning hands. I looked over and complimented this one particular gentleman sporting a bad comb over, who was sitting next to me with a nice sized pile of chips, on his good fortune. He then explained to me that he had lost $300,000 and his house in the past twenty minutes.
I shuddered at the thought of him having to go home and tell his wife that they were going to have to move which was sure to be followed by a segment on one of those cop shows about a murdered husband. I almost started to feel sorry for this poor slob until I realized that his losing meant that the table's luck was due to take a turn for the better. The way that I was figuring it, the people sitting at the table had already lost around half a million dollars or so.
I tried to cheer myself up, but it was pointless. If I lost, I was going to drive home to my dingy apartment, fight with the roaches for my breakfast and practice how to use a knife and fork without using my thumbs.
To get things rolling, I bet a couple of $5 chips. The dealer was a smart ass from New York with a thick neck and an even thicker Bronx accent. He looked at us like a hit man studying potential marks. As the cards came out of the shoe you could hear eyeballs click as they followed the dealer's every move. When my first card came down it was a ten.
"Good -." I thought -, I can handle this.
Then the dealer dealt himself a ten. Not great, but I still have a chance ". And then the no good rotten mother fucker slaps down the next card and my heart does a flip flop. It's a fucking six. Kiss that $10 bucks good bye. And sure enough the dealer comes around, I take a hit on a sixteen and pull a twenty-two. The dealer busted, and I had lost my first hand.
Clearly the problem was that I had bet too timidly. Luck goes to those who work for it, I reminded myself. So when the next hand came around, I placed $50 in chips in the little circle and sat back thinking I had just pinned the tail on the donkey. This was going to be the beginning of my lucky streak, I was sure that this was going to be a winning hand for me.
Once again the dealer let rip with the cards. The first piece of shit card he dealt me was another six, followed by a nine. God damn son-of-a-bitch! Another shitty hand. The dealer looked at me and his face broke into a giant grin as if he was enjoying watching me suffer. I was so mad that I could have stuffed the table, lit cigarettes and all up his smiling black jack dealing ass.
The dealer had a queen showing and God knows what his hold card was, but I had my suspicions and they weren?t good. I had a fifteen and $50 sitting on the table, though it might as well be swirling down a toilet bowl as far as I was concerned. What to do? What could I do? Luck comes to those who work for it, I muttered aloud, as I motioned the dealer to hit me.
"Busted," the dealer announced, trying to sound dispassionate but not succeeding in his feeble attempt. I couldn't believe it. I had been here for two minutes and already I had lost half my cash. Now there was a mixture of panic and fear running through my veins as I began to realize that perhaps this was not a full proof path to wealth. From that point on I started to bet in $5 increments, but I already sensed the end was near:, which only delayed the inevitable fact that I too was on my way down the plumbing.
After a few more hands I was down to my last $5 dollar chip. There it was, sitting there all alone on the table, when an ace suddenly arrived to keep it company. I felt a surge of hope as the dealer dealt his way back around to me. And then it came. It was a jack, I had a black jack. I was so happy that I wanted to scream. I had finally won a hand! The dealer reluctantly settled with me and I scooped up my small pile of winnings and got the hell away from the table before I lost everything.
As I counted my chips, I wanted to cry. I had twenty dollars. My whole life savings now consisted of four pieces of plastic, my last source of financial means. Even as I stood there realizing the gravity of the situation, I felt the urge to bet. I knew damn well that If I lost this little pittance I was holding in my sweaty palm, then I was in all probability going to leave the casino, run out of gas on the way home and be eaten by a wild animal on the side of the highway.
What was I going to do? How the hell was I going to turn twenty dollars into a fortune? As I contemplated my options, bells began ringing, lights flashed, and a woman gave an ecstatic shriek as she celebrated hitting a $1000 jackpot. The sight of that lady scooping up buckets of quarters was all I needed to get my ass back over to the change booth and cash in my chips for some quarters.
When I got to the change booth, the bad luck lady was still there giving me the evil eye. "God damit!" I cried out at her.
"Why did you have to pick on me!".
With that I walked away to get my change from the bathroom attendant in the men's room. At least he, the piss boy, would be sympathetic to my feelings.
Walking into the men's room proved to be even more depressing then pulling up a seat at the poverty ridden black jack tables. Ladies, you have no idea just how fowl a place a men's room can be. As soon as us men hit the entrance of the men's room, all the rules of civilization are left outside the door.
As I entered, all that could be seen was a line of cave men standing in front of filthy over flowing urinals, belching, farting, spitting and ass scratching as they grunted, and cried out in relief. What a fucking nightmare. As I stood there taking my turn, the piss boy asked if I needed assistance. He even offered me a pee pee wipe so that I would not stain my Khaki pants with a pee pee blotch.
"Gots to make sure that you looks like a winner boy!" he exclaimed as he brushed the cigarette ash from my shoulder.
"You?s don?t want them to think that you be a loser."
Just for the hell of it, I asked him, "Tell me honestly. Do I look like a loser to you?".
My new found friend paused and pondered the thought for a moment. "I tell you mister, I sees a lot of you boy's come up here to play that gambling shit, and you are one of the biggest losers that I have ever seen before in my entire life!"
Jesus, even the piss boy in the rest room was telling me I was a loser. Then, this guy has the nerve to hold his hand out for a tip. Can you believe that? I just looked at him and told him that since I was such a big loser, I didn't have enough cash to tip him and headed my way to the stall to leave Donald trump a little gift.
Figuring that I had at least one upped the piss boy attendant, I headed for the stall only to hear the old bastard call out.
"Yea boy, you think your so smart. No tip, no toilet paper."
I looked in the stall and sure enough, no paper. Mother fucker I thought. I was in one of the many ass holes that this planet seemed to have an unlimited supply of, being fucked over by a piss boy. I didn't even want to think about if there was a lower plateau on the evolutionary scale for me to descend to. I just wanted to poop and have a quite moment of solitude where I could whimper in peace. I gave the guy his dollar and grudgingly took my roll of paper and did what I had to, and then I sat in the stall amidst the vapors and whimpered for a while.