"Competition of the Week" story # 8

Mt. Pleasant, Michigan           September 22, 2001

"Go girl, oh yeah! It´s your birthday. Get funky!"
     Energetic, thirty-something ladies performed "churning the butter" dance motions in their seats at the Soaring Eagle casino. Their blackjack dealer, Kim, had just "busted," and they´d all won in this hand. "Go, Kim!"
     To the right of these celebrators, I sat. My best friend of fifteen years, Chris, sat to my right. A quiet gentleman in a cap sat past him.
     Meanstwhile, at another blackjack table across the aisle, my friend, TJ, sat. And, elsewhere lost amongst the bright, "beep"ing and "boop"ing slot machines of the huge casino, Chris´s wife of two years, Stacy, sat.
     Chris, Stacy, TJ and I fought the casino for a piece of its pie. But, it wasn´t the pie we wanted. No, we hungered for a piece of "Competition of the Week" glory and all of the zero fame it would bring. The winner of "Competition of the Week" 6 would be he (or she) who brought home the most money in relation to what he´d come with. I brought $110, TJ the same, Chris $80, and Stacy $60.
     Casinos are only fun if you make them fun. Or, if you win. Then they´re really fun. Otherwise, casinos are just a bunch of dull people who mistakenly think they´re not just throwing their money into a hole in the ground.
     I´m one of those dull people who like a good hole in the ground. I looked for a fun stimulus. A square-bodied, broad-shouldered American Indian woman (this casino´s proceeds belong to Michigan´s indians) stood behind the tables, overseeing the business. Dark hair hung down to her butt. She wore a navy suitcoat, and her placid face lacked the emotion forty hours a week in a dull casino would strip from anyone. Her name placard read, Deborah.
     I joked to the dealer, "Do you hang out with "Debbie" on the weekends? She looks like a party animal."
     A new girl came in to deal, and I asked her, too, if she partied with "Debbie" on the weekends. This new dealer was but a spring pup. She was eightteen years old. She had pale, freckly skin, pale brown hair, and deep eyes and soft lashes like a cat.
     The energetic ladies noticed I was asking a lot of "Debbie" questions. They became gitty, and they decided they´d try setting me up on a date.
     "You don´t see hair like that every day," I reminded them.
     Deborah took one look at me and managed to portray a scoff without flinching a facial muscle. So far, I´d poured fifty of my dollars into the casino hole in the blackjack table.
     Our fun young dealer, whose placard read Nikki, told us her hair used to be really long. Nikki might´ve been cat-cute, but she was the worst blackjack dealer I´ve ever seen. She dealt slow, she counted our card totals wrong, and she flipped up cards she wasn´t supposed to. It was her first day, she revealed. It showed.
     "Don´t worry, Nikki." I wanted to comfort her. "I just got hired to two waiting jobs a few weeks ago, and I walk around in a state of complete incompetence. I forget dressing with salads, I forget spoons with the soup ... we got people trying to eat soup with their forks."
     Baffled stares assaulted me from all ends of the table. "What was the point of that story?" asked the energetic ladies. "That you have a bad life and need to win?"
     "I understood," said Nikki. I won on the hand!
     "I owe my dad seven-hundred dollars," I said. I kept winning, doubling down, and getting blackjack.
     "You see," I told the ladies, "my sob stories work, and I don´t even have to do any of your humiliating "Go girl!" dances." I won again.
     "You should keep it up," said the quiet gentleman in the cap.
     "And once, when I was seven, I had this dog, and he went crazy and we had to kill it ..."
     Just then, glasses-wearing Stacy showed up. "I broke two machines," she said. She explained that while putting coins in the slot machines, she twice won prizes so big that the machines´ sirens flared and alerted casino staff to a big pay-out. She had won $200.
     I was positive $15 at this point. Chris was up $10. Across the aisle, a huge pile of red chips was stacked up nearly to TJ´s goatee. Happily, he announced he was up $250. We were doing pretty good! Stacy led the competition.
     She left to lose a final twenty bucks, while I began a flaming tear. My strategy to place $5 bets while I was in the red and $10 bets while being ahead seemed to be working. For each time I lost fifty dollars, I won a hundred. I won hands so frequently it was like my pockets were stuffed so full with leprechauns they couldn´t breath.
     I even had the help of Nikki the dealer. Counting wrong, she once paid me on a hand I hadn´t even won. Hey luck, I was winning when I was losing!
     Ol´ evil-eyed Debbie had to come spoil our "Everyone wins!" party, though, and she made me return the money I´d wrongly collected. She returned to her placidness. Nikki must´ve felt bad. "If it makes you feel any better," I said, "I´ll bet when you had long hair you even looked better than Debbie."
     I was feeling a little better. $110 was the new total of my profit. But, Stacy stood beside me up $180, comfortably leading me with her 300% profit earned.
     She coached Chris and I a bit, saying we should attack and win off the weak Nikki. It wasn´t so easy, though, with intimidating Debbie and all that hair watching like a hawk so Nikki wouldn´t give me any consolation prizes for losing.
     $220 I still had in total - a pretty good consolation prize for giving up on "Competition of the Week." But, if I would´ve walked out that casino door with only $220 in hand, I mightaswell have held a pile of dirt. The competition and topping Stacy held supreme importance. For some reason, beating Stacy to me has always been so sweet, and losing to her feels like being strangled. You should see the personal wars we wage in Risk! Perhaps this is somehow related to me losing the attention of my best friend to her when we were fifteen? MODERN ODDYSEUS´ GUIDE TO ALWAYS WINNING # 6 - Hold bitter grudges.
     I placed a $110 bet. Ooh! Ouch. I lost. I could feel the hands around my neck.
     I tread water with a few more $55 bets. And then, on one final high-hopes $110 wager, I was sunk by the battleship cards Nikki dealt. Oh, rats. And just like that, my $220 was in the casino hole in the ground. Just where I like it.
     I tipped Nikki, and Chris and I said good-bye. Chris ceded defeat, and he left with the $80 he came with.
     We went to visit TJ. His profit was almost gone, sadly, and he began betting the rest of his chips like a crazy man. In only four minutes, we watched all the money he´d come with get sucked into the hole. Poor TJ. He and I frequently road-tripped to the casino, and the same thing happens every time. He first wins big; he leaves empty-handed.
     "If only I would´ve stopped when I was up," he said, as we walked through the casino doors.
     And through those doors was carried a proud, well-earned "Competition of the Week" 6 victory, by ... none other than: a great competitor, folks!: the mother of one: the wife of my best friend: Stacy! Congratulations, Stacy!
     I really love Stacy. It´s just more fun to beat her. Heck, how could you not love someone who treated penny-less you and TJ to Denny´s after the ninety-mile ride home?
     When we tried to thank her and Chris, Chris played it off, saying, "Well, it was the least we could do. I mean, we won $180!"
     "Yeah," said TJ, shaking his head as we left Denny´s, "... rub it in."

Later, guys! - Modern Oddyseus (3-3).

Add´l stats. $100 hands won, lost:
Stacy - 2 won, 0 lost
TJ - 1, 0
me - 0, 2
Chris - 0, 0

go to the previous story                                                                                   go to the next story

J. Breen's modern-o.com