At the Casino

I’ve written in the past about trying to live the great American Novel, or at least live out a collection of great American Short Stories. I use my blog, in part, to hone my writing skills. With that, the following is an attempt to put the past few days into more of a story for. I spent some time trying to decide whether to write in the first person or the third person. While I am writing about myself, I’ve chosen to write it in the third person.

Aldon leaned against the pile of pillows on the sleigh bed in the corner upstairs bedroom. The blinds, which were normally down to keep out the heat of the day had been raised to let in the sunlight. He felt the book he had been reading slip from his fingers and he wondered how long he had been lost in his half asleep reverie. Kim and Fiona were still at the neighbor’s house for a birthday party for one of the neighbor’s mothers. It was a women only event, so Aldon stayed home to rest up from his long week. Using a business card as a bookmark, he closed the book, folded up his reading glasses and laid down.

The conference had started on Thursday. It was on best practices in health care and took place at the local casino. The last time Aldon had been in a casino was nearly thirty years ago, when as a youth he had hitchhiked across the country. He got a ride from a guy driving from Boulder, CO to San Diego. They had stopped in Las Vegas for a couple days to visit the driver’s mother who was at the casinos for a bowling convention. Las Vegas fit well with the blur of a cross country road trip.

For some reason, the GPS had directed Aldon to the employee parking lot at the casino. He drove around a little bit and finally found the guest parking. It was shortly before eight in the morning when he walked through the casino towards the convention and it was mostly empty. Pasty white old women, looking like Pillsbury dough boys that had been left on the counter too long and had started to dry out, rode their little Medicare scooters up to various slot machines. They lit their cigarettes and started pushing buttons, hoping for their big payout. Aldon felt a wave of sadness sweep over him. The big flashy signs proclaimed, “A World at Play”, and “There are more ways to get lucky”. The later showed a thin blonde woman blowing on the dice of a well built tanned man. Neither looked like the morning patrons of the casino.

Yet the non-descript upbeat pop music pulsed on. Digital displays flashed the winnings of the day. Aldon could feel his pulse quickening as he glanced at the slot machines singing their sirens call; just a quarter, just a penny, just once. He knew that just once could turn into another and another and he looked at the grim faces of the patrons feeding coin after coin into the machines.

Focusing, Aldon conjured the song “May I suggest” into his mind. “May I suggest, May I suggest to you, May I suggest this is the best part of your life”. The image of the farm hill covered with folk music fans a week earlier and the powerful song provided a contrast, a focus, and propelled him through the labyrinth towards the convention center.

Adding to the sadness of the scene was all the Native American imagery juxtaposed against shops that had malled America. He walked over a little wooden bridge near the faux waterfall. Instead of sparking stones, there were coins at the bottom of the stream and it smelled strongly of chlorine and not a wilderness stream that it seemed to symbolize. The odor of cleaning fluids followed Aldon throughout much of his trip through the casino.

Finally, Aldon reached the safety of the convention center with its familiar hotel style chaffing dishes heated with sterno, laden with scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage, and the piles of pastries beyond. Aldon got his cup of decaf and prepared for the day. These memories drifted through his mind as he slipped into a Sunday afternoon nap.

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