When Mikey cut him from the floor, Josh figured he was guaranteed to get laid. It was 1 a.m. on New Year’s Day in Reno, he had two hundred bucks of tip money in his pocket, and he was only steps from a casino full of drunk chicks. All he had to do was roll a tubful of silverware and he was free to go.
Marcus saw Josh gathering silverware and napkins. “You lucky fucker.”
“Plenty of drunk girls out there tonight,” Josh said when Marcus got back from delivering two chicken-fried steak skillets and a western burger to a table of out-of-towners who looked like their booze intake was way ahead of their livers.
“You’re right about that,” Marcus said. He frowned and ran a hand through his dark blonde crew cut. “But look, man. The vibe I’m getting off you is more than a little rape-y. It’s not cool.”
“What’s not cool is you clipping my wings on New Year’s.”
“It’s got nothing to do with New Year’s,” Marcus said, a bit of color showing behind his freckles. “It’s about consent. Don’t go out there looking to take advantage of women.”
“Marcus, listening to you is like listening to a broken record. Go home to your wife and kids and leave me—”
Mikey butted in. “Marcus, Tammie just watered two new tables for you. Go get ‘em. Josh, I know it sucks, but I need you to roll another tub of silverware before you get outta here.”
“You got it, boss,” Josh said.
Just then, one of the amateurs at Marcus’s three-top puked all over his chicken-fried steak and eggs.
Marcus shook his head. “Man, fuck New Year’s.”
The linoleum changed to tile when Josh walked out of the restaurant. He dodged the worn-out partiers waiting in an unsteady knot in front of the elevators and kept moving. Lobby tile gave way to casino carpet. The manic cacophony of the slot machines enveloped him. Josh skirted the poker tables and beelined to the bar.
“Hello, Josh.” Anna slid a coaster onto the polished wood and topped it with a Maker’s Mark and ginger ale.
Anna was from Poland, and Josh thought her accent was as sexy as her legs. He watched admired them for a few moments, then spun his barstool to face the casino. Dealers worked their tables, their eyes moving faster than their hands. The suckers laughed and drank while the house collected their money. Josh couldn’t understand it. He spun back to the bar and showed Anna his empty glass. He let his eyes roam up and down her body, noting the swell of her hips, the delicious contrast between her thick brown hair and her pale skin.
“You should not stare at me so much,” Anna said when she set a fresh drink on the bar.
“I can’t help it.”
“Aleksander work security here. If he see, he get jealous.”
“You keep threatening me with your husband,” Josh said, “but he hasn’t caused me any problems yet.”
“Is not just him,” Anna said. “Everybody see how you treat women. One day, you make problems for you, too.”
“I am serious,” Anna said.
“Seriously hot,” Josh said, his eyes dropping to Anna’s chest.
A Texan down the bar called out, “Miss, I’m so dry down here I’m spittin’ cotton.”
Josh took another long look at Anna’s legs as she walked away, then stood and stepped onto the casino floor.
Josh hadn’t made it past the first table when a woman’s voice cut through the combined babble of hundreds of drunken gamblers. “We got an empty spot right here, Baby.” He stopped and turned. Her royal blue dress clung to a fantastic figure and set off her dark brown, almost black skin. She seemed to have a good buzz on, but she wasn’t sloppy.
She smiled. “I see you looking at me, Blue Eyes.”
Josh sat down next to her and smiled back. “I’m Josh.”
“Jackie,” she said. “Shouldn’t be hard to remember since we’re playing blackjack. As for you, I’ll stick with Blue Eyes.”
“That’s just fine by me,” Josh said, thinking, it’s too easy.
Jackie slid some chips towards him. “I’m way ahead, Blue Eyes, so I’ll stake you a few hands.”
“Sir?” The dealer regarded Josh with professionally vacant eyes. As long as it didn’t cost the house money, he didn’t care. He didn’t even see it.
Josh nodded. He was in. The dealer spread the cards around the table. Josh’s hole card was a 10. It wasn’t his money, so he bet big.
Jackie was leaning toward a guy on the other side of the table, laughing at something he’d said. Josh slipped a few chips into his pocket.
The cards were coming around again. Jackie was showing a 4. Josh got a 9; the dealer got a 6.
Josh pushed more chips forward. Jackie got a queen and busted. Josh held. The dealer busted too.
Jackie’s voice was in his ear. “Way to go, Blue Eyes.”
“Got lucky, I guess.”
“You do that a lot?” She was leaning on him, her hand on his shoulder.
Josh thought, it’s too easy. It’s just too easy.
The dealer broke in. “Ma’am, your bet?”
Jackie shoved a few chips forward.
Josh bet big again. All reward, no risk.
With Jackie watching the cards sliding across the green felt, Josh slipped a few more chips into his pocket. In the back of his head, he heard Marcus’s voice: Don’t go out there looking to take advantage…He shook his head. Man, fuck off, he thought. You walk into a casino, drink more than you can handle, you deserve whatever you get.
“What’s wrong, Blue Eyes?”
“Nothing, Baby. Nothing.” Josh got the 9 he was hoping for.
The dealer busted.
It’s too easy, Josh thought again, his eyes running up and down Jackie’s figure, his hand sliding a few more chips into his pocket.
Part 2 coming next week…slip me a fiver in the meantime?