© 2023 by Ben Stower

Betting Soul

If I had the betting soul, I’d lead a life just like my father did. Sixty hours a week he spent at the local casino; a small defeated place running on five slot machines, a bar and one table used for poker and blackjack. He’d take some dollars in and return with a whiskey-stained breath and that spotted brown wallet a little bit thicker.

 

My brothers and I used to wait for him in the car. The three of us, still dressed in our school uniform, were crammed shoulder to shoulder in the hot Ford sedan. It wasn’t good for us young’uns to be inside he said. So we sweated through our shirts while we waited for him to finish, sometimes as long as two or three hours. 

 

Once Dad had gone inside, we fought over who got the last cigarette in the pack he’d left behind. Smoking kept the stomach pains away until the meagre dinner his daily takings afforded.

 

One afternoon he took me into the casino with him. It wasn't because I was the oldest. He’d caught my brothers sharing that last cigarette while I leaned out the window. My head was spinning from puffing on a half-smoked stub in the ashtray, but the old man didn’t need to know that.

 

He sat me down at the bar inside, pressed his uniform to his chest and said with a jester’s grin, 'I pour ‘em doubles and myself singles. They tip more and I eat less. Nobody’s ever noticed and I bet they never will.'