My ears are filled to the brim with the sounds of slot machines firing on and on. The croupier shuffles the cards in her hand, creating a gentle breeze that dries my eyes. She packs the deck against the table, and begins to throw the cards like knives towards me. The cards are a double edged sword, both the deadliest and the greatest concern in my life. My arid eyes seem to crack as I peer down at the hand I was dealt.
I motion to receive two more daggers and I’m graced with a nine of hearts and a ten of diamonds. There’s only one thing I need now. A jack. I’m forced to wager my money before I can receive another card. My odds are favourable, but not certain, but it’s about time I get out of this rancid old casino.
“I’m all in.”
I say it with pride like I don’t have any chance of losing all the wealth that I have.
Everything I got, all on the fate of one card·
In the small town of Ely, Nevada I had been brought up by a single mother. I loved my mother so dearly, and she loved me more than one could imagine. My mother worked at our local grocery store, bagging groceries for eight hours a day, five days a week, fifty two weeks of the year. She never once called in sick or took a day off.
When I was a fraile ten year old boy, my mother came to me at the kitchen table, pulled her chair out and sat down. A blue sadness seemed to be creeping into her eyes, her face seemed to be drooping until I laid on the floor. We sat silent for what seemed like hours· “Larry· if you come home to find men moving furniture out of our house, don’t question them.” “Why are men going to take our furniture mom?” I said, my brain a one thousand piece puzzle scrambling to shove pieces together, hoping for a connection. “Well Larry, I owe the bank a lot of money, so to compensate the bank will be taking possessions from us.” I sat still and silent, thinking my mother could only be pulling some sort of practical joke on me, but then I realized, the great blue sadness had taken her perfect hazel eyes hostage and she face became wet with tears streaming down her pretty face. “I’m so sorry Larry· So, so sorry.” I couldn’t stand to see anything but a smile across my mother’s golden face. I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed her tight until her river of tears had dried up. “Don’t fret mother, we’ll make sure no one steals our stuff· I just know it.”
I knew that my mom needed money for than anything, but I had trouble finding a way of making any. My best friend Billy and I were walking through the halls of our school when we heard a commotion coming from the boys washroom. I looked Billy in the eyes and we nodded simultaneously. As I pushed the door open, it let out a creek that could be heard across the country, and the noise had died in the washroom. I peered my head through the doorway, and saw boys from our class sitting on the floor. They all turned to meet my gaze. “What the heck are you guys doing in here?” I questioned them. Jeff, the tallest of the boys stood up and began to walk towards me, Jeff wasn’t a mean guy but boy could he throw me around if he wanted to. Jeff towered over me, sweat beginning to form on my brow. “We’re playing Pokemon of course, do you want to play Larry?” I bit my tongue because I had never heard of Pokemon before. “Come on man we’ll show you!” Jeff seemed ecstatic at the thought of me playing Pokemon with him and his buddies. We sat on the cold, hard bathroom floor and Jeff showed me all sorts of wacky and mysterious animals pictured on the cards the boys had in front of them. “I’m sorry Jeff I don’t have any Pokemon cards so I’m afraid me and Billy can’t play with you fellas.” “That’s alright Larry, here I’ll give you my Electrode for free, and Billy you can have my Eevee.” The rest of the boys stood up and showered us with dozens of Pokemon cards. “We play everyday at lunch Larry, and when you think you got the hang of playing, bring some cash, alright?” “Alright Jeff.”
Me and Billy scrounge up as much money as we could and sunk it all into shiny packages of Pokemon cards, Billy and I received some awesome Pokemon from all the packs we bought and began to practice for hours upon end.
The following week me and Billy came to the bathroom during lunch with our pockets overflowing with our most prized possessions. We sat down and each of use put down a five dollar bill. “We’re ready Jeff.” Billy smirked. “Alright let’s do this!” Me and Billy had been practicing all weekend long and might I say we were masters already. We shredded through everyone. Jeff, Tony, Mark, Anthony, David, no one could stand a chance against me and Billy. After just one week of wiping the floor with all the boys in my class I had made thirty two dollars and twenty five cents. I came home from school on Friday and greeted my mother by jumping into her waiting arms. Without her knowing I slipped the money into her back pocket and the next week I was determined to bring home more money for my mom.
Each week I would bring home more and more money for my mother. I continued to gain profit while beating everyone that I knew in Pokemon. After a while it seemed I had waxed everyone in the school. That’s when I noticed a new kid. A year younger than me, he had thick curly hair and freckles all over his face. Everyday he wore a backpack in the shape of a Pokeball. I finally believed I had some competition. I asked him if he’d like to play me in Pokemon during lunch, he agreed. The kid said his name was Spencer and he had moved here from Wisconsin. He seemed pretty naive so I knew I could take him down. Spencer and I met at lunch, he reached into his Pokeball backpack and fished out only three cards. “You only have three cards?” “No, I just liked these three.” He said with a stupid little grin on his face. I shrugged it off and went about my business. We began our game and I realized that Spencer’s card’s outweighed my cards in terms of strength, but I had the advantage in numbers. We fought on and on, until I was down to one card, and Spencer hadn’t lost a single member of his fleet. My pride had been shattered, some stupid little kid with a Pokeball backpack just beat me at my own game· No it wasn’t acceptable. My head began to spin and it seemed like my brain was chanting “You can’t lose your money· You can’t lose your money”. Time after time again I dueled Spencer but every time I was bested. He would mercilessly destroy my Pokemon and take my money, and all he would ever do after he trampled me was flash me his odd little grin with his two front teeth missing. Every lose I tolerated seemed to fill me and the voices in my head became more tormenting and cruel until I had lost all of my money, then they ridiculed me with no end in sight.
My own mind was constantly reassuring me of my own failure, so I devised a plan to seal off the agonizing cries inside my skull.
I went for a walk to the local park in Ely. I sat silent on the monkey bars, staring at the small, fragmented chips of wood surrounding the park. I needed to muster courage in order to lock up the voices in my head. I jumped off the monkey bars and walked from the wood chips to the smoldering black pavement. I pulled the margarine container from my back pocket, all my Pokemon cards bottled up inside. I slowly drew back the lid and threw it to the ground with a small rattling sound. As I reached towards the cards the voices piped up “more· more money· more”. I held the cards with an iron tight grip and gently released them to the ground. The voices turned into yells “Stop, Stop, more money!” My hand crept into my opposite pocket, revealing a box of matches. “I know what we need· More money!” The yells were rising in my head. I knew I needed to act quickly before they influenced my otherwise. I ripped the match out of the box and struck it against the ground in one swift motion, as I released the match and it hurtled the towards the pile of cards lying innocently on the ground, the yells turned into desperate, agonizing screams. “No, no, no, we need money!” I turned my head away as the pile went up in flames, and the screams turned to whispers and soon there was no sound but the crackling of paper.
The moment the words “I’m all in” came out of my mouth. I began to hear a faint whispering in the back of my head. I couldn’t be sure but it sounded as if the voice was reciting the word· money. As the final card was drawn from the pile the voice got louder and more pronounced. “Money, more money.” I attempted to block the voice out but it was to no prevail. I directed my attention back towards the card being flipped, my eyes glimmered with hope, as I saw diamonds. The card fully rotated and the fire in my eyes was extinguished by a seven on the top corners of the perfectly crafted card. The moment my eyes were drawn to the seven was when a blood curdling scream echoed throughout my skull. I fell back on my chair and madly scrambled towards the bathroom. I stumbled through the doorway with the tormenting scream still chilling my blood and washed my face with cool water to numb the pain. I slowly lifted my head as the screaming faded and when I locked eyes with the mirror the only thing I could see was an odd smile· with two front teeth missing.