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Excerpt the Last $10 lostinlasvegas
The Last $10
It is still light out, the time between the closing light of the day and the incipient darkness of the night, as the two depart from their calamitous experience at the diner and head in the direction of a small retail plaza, walking slowly and digesting their newfound freedom from the banging pots and shrill screams of minutes before. They walk silently and aimlessly-since they have no place to go-individually digesting their situations and feeling the soft evening air against their skins. They traverse several blocks, pushed or pulled by fate, before John pauses and faces his friend.

“You want to talk about luck, listen to this one,” John finally says. “A guy comes to Las Vegas with ten thousand dollars, gambles all day and straight into the night. His luck goes up and down and then abandons him altogether. He loses hand after hand at blackjack, increases his bets and still keeps losing. At three in the morning, he’s down to his very last ten dollars.” John holds up ten fingers and looks at his friend.

“You know what happens?”

“You do this every time. I’m tired of it, man. Either tell the story or don’t tell it. Too many dishes in my head. Too hot outside. Too many problems.”

“Just guess what happens with his last ten dollars.”

“I’m not playing these games. I’m not guessing.” Ludo kicks a pebble, and catching the tip of it, it feebly rolls just a few feet away. “This day been too hard already. I don’t want to be shot down with this nonsense.”

“C’mon, just this once,” John implores.

“Okay,” Ludo says, “what, he wins?”

“Wrong!” John loudly exclaims, his voice echoing down the street. “He loses his last ten dollars. You’re wrong!”

“Fuck you, man, with these stories. I don’t have the strength for this. You promised not to shoot me down, then you shoot me down. Let’s talk about something else.”

“Nothing personal, but you were so wrong,” John says.

“Never mind,” Ludo says.

A mangy black dog slowly trots toward them, its parched tongue hanging out of its mouth, but when it gets close, it skirts the sidewalk, avoiding them as though they were in a class below its station and not to be mingled with. Ludo turns to watch the dog trot unevenly past them, then immediately dart into a driveway and out of sight. They reach a corner and stop when the light goes against them.

John leans against the lamp pole, and gesticulates with his hands. “The problem is,” John continues, “he has no hotel room lined up yet and he doesn’t have a penny to his name, so he ends up walking up and down the Strip for hours, just killing time, not knowing what to do. Guess what happens next. Take one shot at it.”

“I don’t know.”

“Really, what do you think happens next? I won’t shoot you down, I promise.”

Ludo sighs. “Alright, someone gives him some money, and then he gets a hotel room, goes to sleep-”

“Wrong again!” John exclaims gleefully. “That’s not what happens!”

“Fuck you. Let’s just walk somewhere already. I’m too tired to just stand here and listen to this crap.”

Ludo looks in all four directions and can’t decide which to proceed in, not that they have anyplace to go. Instead, he stares down at the black asphalt of the street. After a few seconds, he says, “Let’s go this way,” and they continue on in the same direction as before. “So what happens?”

“He finds a hundred-dollar bill lying on the street. He goes back to the casino and gets lucky. And I mean lucky. He presses his bets playing roulette—doubling them every time—and wins twelve straight times betting black. He wins two-hundred-and-fifty-six-thousand dollars. True story. That’s Vegas, anything can happen.”

Ludo continues on for about twenty feet, silently letting John’s tale sink in. But something is troubling him about the anecdote.

“Wait a second,” Ludo says, and stops walking. “You didn’t finish the story. Guys like that never walk away with the money.”

John looks down at a crumpled sports parlay card lying on the curb near his feet, tossed away by a player like a pit from a fruit completely devoured, and doesn’t respond.

“He had that thirteen sitting on him, didn’t he?” Ludo continues. “That would be the next spin. It couldn’t have turned out good.”

“How do you find thirteens in everything?”

“Your story, man.” A wry, tired smile creases Ludo’s lips. “He tried doubling up one more bet, didn’t he?”

John shrugs and without any further discussion, and for no reason either of them could explain, they turn right at the next corner and head in a new direction.