…Jeepster for your Love

May 3, 2009

The smoldering cigar propped between Rich Dynely’s college-boy white teeth kept threatening to singe his disheveled bangs every time he turned his head to survey the competition stationed around the table. He looked like a goofy kid playing grown-up, but he was playing it really damned well right now. Not that he could really figure why.

Clanking of drink glasses, murmuring/chattering/caterwauling of the squirming melting pot of wagering humanity, and muted velvet clip-clopping of tossed dice infused the air like any other casino on Reno’s rinky-dink Junior-Vegas main stretch. But the Royal Djinn was probably the only pit on the Strip with T. Rex lending chugging accompaniment to all the gambling and low-rent debauchery. That’s what lured Rich Dynely in in the first place. Rich was on spring break, walking the strip bored out of his skull, when the siren call of Electric Warrior–and the damnedest woman–ensnared his attention.

 He noticed her through the door, about fifty feet away. She sat at the crushed-velvet-swaddled table, dealing out the cards with an artisan’s skill and nimbleness. Two clear and knowing dark eyes stared intently from beneath her regal forehead. Her faintly bronzed skin was offset by a mass of dark ringlets tipped with sandy blonde highlights: In the half-light of the Poker Table her locks bobbed, swirled, and struck outward in an almost serpentine rhythm every time she turned her head. She looked like Medusa–if gorgons came alien-gorgeous and bewitching, that is.  Her gaze froze Rich in place, in a good way.

He spilled his third screwdriver two sips in, his eyes tethered to hers, as he walked up to the table to be dealt in. She chuckled silently at his awkwardness even as her eyes twinkled empathetically. Once Rich sat on the naughahide stool he could read the nametag attached to the red cocktail dress some Greek god had poured her into: Claire. Forty-five minutes later Rich had accumulated a cigar, two more drinks…and about eight thosand bucks.

Rich gestured at her. Claire arched her perfectly-sculpted eyebrow slightly as she tossed down his requested two cards. Rich kept his head–and his hair–as he squinted through his bangs, pulled up the two aces, and added them to his already-bulging hand. The dealer’s clarion voice called it to a small sea of gasps, moans, and grumbles; and Rich pulled the multi-colored temple of chips towards his corner of the green felt with the faintest of satisfied grins.

Only three others hung on at the table besides Rich–A hyper fratboy with a frosted blond faux-skatepunk ‘do and a honking laugh, an extremely well-dressed and willowy-framed soccer mom, and a blowhard used-car-salesman. Pink and round like a giant gumball in bermuda shorts, Used Car kept dislodging twenties from his pockets with every blown hand. The fucker bragged openly that tonight’s round of drinks and cards was delivered on the back of a grandma who coughed up her savings for one of the shittiest cars on his lot; so Rich took some extra satisfaction when that sweaty porcine face darkened to the shade of an overripe eggplant with each stack of lost chips. 

 But Used Car hung on…and hung on…and on. A dreary quilt of low-number, mismatched orphan cards sent Frosted Fratboy simpering away like a bedwetting six-year-old, and Soccer Mom’s pile of chips ran dry soon after. Finally, it was Rich and Used Car, mano a mano.

Claire’s slender fingers dealt four downturned cards to Rich’s adversary, then to Rich. The college boy reached down to scoop up his hand when he heard a female voice…In his head, not his ear.

 You’ve done all right for a newbie, sweetie, the voice–Claire’s, he was sure–whispered.

Rich answered back—with his head, not his mouth. Thanks. What brings you here? In my head, I mean?  His mind then sang along immaculately with Marc Bolan on the house speakers:

‘You slide so good with bones so fair, you’ve got the universe reclining in your hair…’

 Claire smiled a mildly conspiratorial grin at Rich.  I could tell you what’s in Mr. Asshole’s hand…

Considering how you’re talking to me now, I’m not surprised…But don’t worry about it. ‘Preciate the offer, Ghost Girl, but I’m having fun cleaning his wallet without any help, Rich’s head said.

The feminine giggle rebounded inside his brain; warm and ingratiating. Good. Just testing, she purred.

Rich smiled broadly, Claire’s thoughts breaking his stolid poker face. Did I pass? His mind asked hers.

 With flying colors, Claire thought with another inclusive smile. Go get him, Tiger.

Rich Dyneley overturned his hand—a deuce, three aces, and a wild untamed Joker— and placed the cards on the felt table. His eyes met Claire’s, and she smiled.

No, I had nothing to do with it, Darlin’, her thoughts purred. Those cards were yours fair and square…

Suddenly a muttering, nattering voice cut the air and caused the word balloons to dissipate. “Fuck fuck shit piss fuck shit fuck fuck motherfucking fuck…,”  Used Car repeated like a mantra. His smattering of unrelated number cards smacked the final nail into the coffin that was his worn leather wallet. With one loud gust emerging from his round face, the Used Car Salesman hurled his losing hand at the far corner of the felt-bedecked table. The crowd of two-dozen or so that’d gathered ‘round collectively gasped.

Cigar smoke curled from either end of Rich Dyneley’s lips, and he dragged his hands across the table in one fell chip-gathering swoop. He had to have twelve grand in his mitts about now, and it felt good.

Claire’s brown eyes flashed a little as Rich’s mind sang along with Bolan again.

“Girl, I’m just a vampire for your love, and I’m gonna—”

 I can finish that sentence for you later, Claire’s head said with a smile.

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