The Loser

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is the story of a man who has lost everything, and therefore has nothing to lose.

Submitted: August 31, 2009

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Submitted: August 31, 2009

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“Hey Tim…you want another?”
He nodded, “Yeah…one more.” He had been calling each beer his last, since before half-time.
Tim Cavuto didn’t turn to look at the shapely redheaded bartender, his eyes glued to the television screen in the middle behind her. The first hour of her shift, he’d made attempts at real conversation, but she knew Tim and what he was about. After mentioning her boyfriend a few times he stopped focusing on her, and became fixated on the large flat panel behind the bar.
Molly moved swiftly to the cooler, and pulled another cold Bud from the icy shelf. She had gotten to know Tim, from his Sunday and Monday visits. He had started coming to Shorty’s Sports at the beginning of football season. He tipped well, on nights he was winning that is.
“What do you got tonight” Molly asked, not really caring.
She didn’t understand the allure of gambling, and certainly had better things to do with her money. But, as these were the only people in here spending and tipping on the slow nights, she had been motivated to learn.
“Giants plus two…go….go….YEAH!
Tim’s scream for excitement echoed through the empty rows of tables and chairs. It was late Sunday, and with the exception of the four guys sitting at the stools, the pub was completely empty.
Three of the four men in the tavern reacted, instinctively, to the action that had just played out on the big screen. Michael, who was sitting on Tim’s left, knocked over his beer, as his hands went up in celebration. The two men didn’t come to the bar together, but had realized by the half, that they shared identical wagers. It had not looked good then, and misery loves company.
Of the other two men at the bar, the only one seemingly affected, was the younger man at the end. His name was Craig Thomas, and his bet had gone the other way. He was laying two, and with that Giant’s touchdown, and only ten seconds left, he was ready to go home to his girlfriend. He was already formulating his story.
Tim looked over to see Craig push his half empty beer forward and start to get up. He liked the kid; they had even gone to a casino together once, after both being on the same victorious side of a wager.
 Craig had been here all day, as he had. Both men had taken a beating in the early games. Craig wasn’t down near as much as Tim, but they had decided to stick it out and bet as much as they had lost, on tonight’s contest. Tim Cavuto knew better than anybody that losses were only relative to how much you had, and he knew all too well that this was going to hurt the kid.
“Hey Craig…wait, I’m gonna buy a shot.” Tim yelled in Craig’s direction.
The bar’s eerie glow, was being created by the myriad of neon beer signs scattered on the walls. The only sound you could hear was the Frank Sinatra belting out the last few lines from New York, New York. Michael had stumbled over to the jukebox after the last score, and the television’s volume had automatically turned down, in favor of the music.
Tim was looking across the bar and could see all three men in his field of view. Craig was standing still, his eyes widening as he stared at the screen. Michael, who had been dancing by the jukebox, stood suddenly frozen. Even the man who looked as if hadn’t cared about the game, moved his attention from his cell phone to the wall.
Tim already knew what was happening, as he followed their stares to the flat screen. He focused just in time to see the last lateral. Every muscle in his body tensed, watching the man carrying the football make a diving flip, and land for the score.
Craig continued to stand in the same place, as his body jolted, like a man on a wire, leaning forward with hopeful apprehension.
“No flags…come on…come on…YEAH!
Tim struggled with the sudden twist of fortune. He had taken some pretty big beatings in his time, but none like this. He tried to focus, watching an excited John Madden try to keep himself in his chair.
“Can you believe THAT? That was one hundred and ten yards…Wow” Madden sounded like he had a mouthful of steak and was washing it down with his own saliva.
Tim sank like a heap back to his barstool.
“How much did you lose on that?” Molly asked.
“Five,” Tim replied. If he had won, he would have bragged and ended the number he gave her with a resounding K.
 “Keep the change.”
As he responded and turned off the stool, her he threw a single one hundred dollar bill on the bar, and grabbed his coat. He had run up quite a tab sitting there all day watching game after game not go his way.
John “Chubby” Harper, the man who had sat quietly with his cell phone all night, now stood between Tim and the exit.
“Tuesday is still payday buddy,” He said as their paths crossed. “It’s not that I don’t trust you, but I don’t think I can let you call in another double on tomorrow’s game… You gonna have my five?”
“Yeah…I got it.”
He didn’t have it. But he also knew he wasn’t in any real danger, except maybe from himself. Chubby wasn’t in the mafia or anything like that. It’s not like he was going to end up in traction. But he would hound him for the money, when he couldn’t pay. Word would get around to Sherri about what he had done, and he would never see his son again.
As he stepped out into the cold night, the day’s events hit him like a baseball bat. He didn’t have money to pay the book. He didn’t have enough for the rent. He owed two weeks of child support, that he couldn’t explain to Sherri.
He was fucked.
In the old days, he could always con her into staying with him when he made these kinds of mistakes. The cycle of losing, and going home to her, had taken a toll in the two years they were together. She had left him and never looked back.
The gleam of understanding in her for his antics was completely gone now. Her new husband came home early, and cared nothing of spreads. His Sundays in winter did not have a pre-ordained schedule, decided by the National Football League months before. At least he was a good to his son.
Tim sat listening to the crank of his engine trying to turn over, the weight of his situation had finally finished settling, and he began to tremble. Harder than any time before, this was not the weight of his world coming down around him. This felt like a growing nothing, a vast emptiness. He realized in that moment that he had no worth to anybody…with the possible exception of Chubby.
The car suddenly coming to life, as if on cue, brought Tim out of his daze. He tried to shake it off and pulled out of the parking lot. In the back of his mind, he wished that he might get pulled over by the cops tonight. Any other mistake that he could be worried about, other than his gambling, would be a nice reprieve. Driving toward home, he saw no police to change his fate. An unlikely event in the area he lived.
Tim pulled into the small Marathon station about a block from his apartment. He didn’t want to go in, but he needed cigarettes.
“Tim-may!” the clerk shouted with a grin.
The excited attendant was obviously ready for anything that might break the boredom of a cold Sunday night shift.
“Did you see that…”
“Yes,” Tim interrupted.
Jeff was a nice, but simple, gas station attendant. It was Tim’s fault that Jeff considered them friends. He had swaggered in here a couple of times bragging about how well he had done on the games, or at the casino. When you are winning, it seems like easy street, and you want to tell anybody who will hear you.
On those occasions, Jeff would intently listen. He hung on every word, asking for each little detail. It was probably a good thing that he wasn’t very bright. An even better thing that he didn’t make enough to gamble or he would be begging for Chubby’s number, planning to plant his own money tree.
“Guess you had the Giants…huh?”
“Yep…plus two.”
“You know you were right. That last play was bullshit. Madden even said…”
If Tim were a decent man, he might have appreciated Jeff’s immediate jump to his side of things. It was a common mistake for non-gamblers to believe that there was some sort of moral victory in almost winning. Tim had a standard answer for this. In fact, he would say anything to stop Jeff from finishing his sentence.
“Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” Tim uttered, holding out his hand, making it obvious that he didn’t want to continue.
Jeff was no mental giant, but it didn’t take one to know Tim was annoyed. He nodded at this and went back to organizing the scratcher tickets. He loved to keep them organized. He always wondered if the next one ripped off of the long rolls, would be a winner. He was refilling hole number twelve, when Tim smacked down a tall can of beer.
“I also want two packs of Marlboro Lights.”
Jeff was only about five foot one and had to grab a stool to reach up to the rolling dispenser of cigarettes above his head. The attendant opened the stand and slammed it on to the floor, making it obvious that his feelings were hurt, by Tim’s dismissive tone.
Tim wished he had purchased his smokes earlier when the Quick-Trip across the street was still open.
Maybe, if he hadn’t been such a loser his whole life he could live in an area of town where all of the gas stations were not afraid to stay open past 10 PM. Maybe if he hadn’t been such a loser…
Before he had time to mentally go down the road of disappointment, the loud closing of the stool snapped him out of it.
“I bet you sell a lot of those?” Tim broke the silence, referring to the scratchers Jeff was replacing in the plastic cubby display.
“You bet your ass we do. Everybody wins something.”
The scratcher game was aptly called, “Too Many Winners”. Tim had seen the ad for it in Odds Magazine. He bought the periodical from time to time to gain insight to the weekend’s games, but it covered all gambling. The scratcher game they were discussing had been a huge success. The lottery, had decided to run a scratcher game to distribute monies that were left over from unclaimed prizes. Almost everybody won at least their money back. Tim didn’t like scratchers and didn’t understand the mystique of the game.
Who wants to break even?
“I must be the most unlucky son of a bitch ever,” Tim exclaimed. “I have bought five of those things this month and lost on every single one.”
“I aint never heard of anybody losing like that…wow,”
Tim didn’t like being called a loser. Especially, by some convenient store clerk that wouldn’t know a good bet if it smacked him in the face. The conversation, and short lived concern for Jeff’s feelings, had given way to his rage over the day’s self inflicted pain. He thought about killing him, right here and now.
As he opened his wallet the dreams of becoming a runaway outlaw murderer were as dashed as all the others. He only had twenty bucks left to his name. He wasn’t going to get far on that and he was sure there was probably only about fifty bucks in the register.
“Give me five of the number twelve”
“There you go,” Jeff said with a smile, rolling off the first five on the fresh new roll. “End on a winner.”
Tim decided to leave that statement alone. Pearls of wisdom from a guy making eight bucks an hour made about as much sense as spending his last ten bucks on instant lottery tickets. He grabbed up the bag with the beer in one hand, and the smokes and tickets with the other.
As the door bell chimed, a concerned sounding Jeff called after his favorite customer.  Before he could completely immerse himself in the frigid night, the simple words hit like a brick.
“Hey Tim…maybe…uh….”
“What?”
“Maybe you…should quit?”
Tim had not even turned around to face him for the shot. It never occurred to him, that it had taken everything Jeff had, to get the words out. It certainly never mattered to Tim, that he was more than just a customer in Jeff’s world. When he was ending the night on a winning note, Jeff had been the only person willing to sit and be regaled with the evenings triumph. The young man didn’t have many friends and liked to think of Tim as one of them.
Tim never knew what it meant to have a real friend. He looked at the people who wandered in and then escaped his world, as winners or losers only. He took pride in sizing up your potential, and could even give your future a spread. Sherri was a huge favorite, he knew it the moment he met her. Her miracle play was the day she decided to fold her hand with him. She had gotten up from the table, and cashed in what she had left.
Even if Tim had known what to say back, he would have been physically unable. He didn’t hear the ding of the bell, as the door closed behind him. He didn’t feel the cold for that matter. His entire body was shaking now. He could barely put the keys in the ignition to drive home.
The shutters finally stopped, when Tim pulled into his lot. He referred to this place as an apartment more for Sherri’s sake, than for any other reason. It was really a hotel. He could probably have rented his one bedroom, by the hour, if he had wanted to. Sherri saw his shame, the first time she dropped Timmy off there.  She made no comment. Not that she really cared about his dignity anymore, seeing Tim like this made her embarrassed about the years she spent with him.
Tim unlocked the door and walked into the dirty space on the other side. His six hundred square feet of home smelled like the Chinese food, rotting in the trash. When he flipped on the light, he saw the roaches scurry out from the pizza boxes lined up between the trashcan and the counter. The indestructible creatures, had no doubt, been living like kings on the crusts left inside.
He slid all of his worldly possessions across the table, as if to put distance between he and them. One could hardly call his car a possession. Normally, he would have parked it a few blocks down, but tonight he didn’t care if the repo-man came. He would give them the keys, and wish them a nice evening. He was two years into the loan, and this was the third time they had played this game of cat and mouse.
He thought about calling Sherri, but the shaking started as soon as he imagined the conversation.
“You are a loser Tim…and you will always be. The only thing wrong with our son is that you are his father. And…I swear to god…if you don’t have my child support, I will remedy that situation as well,” she would say.
She had enrolled in college after leaving him. The condescending way she spoke now, was a constant reminder that he had harmed her, just by being a part of her life. He was proud of her, in a weird way. She had seen the situation for what it was before it was too late, and known it was time to go.
Tim put the beer in the fridge, and pulled the half bottle of bourbon out of the freezer. This was no longer a beer night. He filled a small rocks glass and sat on the pull-out his sister had given him. It had been in her flooded basement, and its odor, gave the entire apartment the aroma of wet dog.
He wished he had ice in his glass. All he’d had to do was make some that morning, and his drink would be perfect tonight. H e had been too busy then, to make ice. Going over the lines, imagining how much he was going to win today. Leaving him here, with his warm glass, and five scratchers he’d bought to not feel as much like the loser, that he was.
As he scratched the last one, his pupils dilated and his drink dropped from his hand on to the couch. The spilled bourbon became the only sanitary spot on it.  He could not believe his eyes, all five had been losers.
Life was not trying to tell him something. Life was screaming it to his face.
 
It was certainly Martin’s lucky day. There had been a suicide via shotgun in Brisdale, but he and Colin had been assigned the bleeder in Belk Park. Apparently, the man had not been there long before being discovered, and that was much better than the alternative.
“You let a body decompose for a couple of days before the clean-up…Huh” Martin said shaking his head with the slow twist of a seasoned veteran.
“I guess he was having a bad day,” Colin joked. “I heard the guys that came to repo his car found him.”
“Yep. They got pretty pissed off too, when the police impounded the car. No car…No money.”
Martin read each file before the job started. He was the boss, and needed to have all the answers. The company was called Tri State Crime Scene Remediation, but they handled mostly suicides. It paid pretty well, and his tour in Iraq had given him all the training he needed.
The two men donned their white suits in the parking lot. The crazy lady who lived in the apartment above peered through the slats in her shade. She became convinced it was the alien invasion she had been warned about. The power lines, had told her it was coming. Martin looked up, and saw her quickly close the shade, and run from the window.
“I’ll bet we end up at her door soon.” Colin said, pointing to the old woman’s apartment. “She probably hasn’t left that place in years.”
Colin had only been on the job a short time, and was a natural at it. Martin was amazed at what a strong stomach, the young man had. The kid liked to eat hostess cherry pies, with his coffee, on the way to the job sites. If he hadn’t lucked into this gig, he would probably be working out his need for gore on live people. Martin figured he was doing humanity a favor, when he hired him.
Martin was in this for the money. The worse something was, the more people would pay to clean it up.
“You’re a little creepy,” Martin had commented in Colin’s interview. “That works as well as enthusiasm in this business.”
The two men opened the door and closed it behind them. The small one bedroom smelled like wet dog, and dried blood. They had chemicals to help with the odor, but they would get most of the death out when they removed the tainted items. 
“We are supposed to remove the couch and the carpet,” Martin directed. “The complex is going to trash the rest.”
The small room, separated by a half wall, was a complete mess. It was the middle of the day, but Martin was sure that this apartment was a breeding ground for all nature of crawling things. The kitchen had only a table and three chairs. The cops had already combed through his belongings, and taken what they wanted. If there had been any winners in the stack of instant lottery tickets piled on the table, they would already have gotten them.
The two men got right to work in the living area that doubled as a bedroom. They had to move everything out of the way, before they could tear up the carpet. The television sat on a stand for a much bigger model. Martin assumed the man had traded to a smaller monitor when he needed a fix. Only drugs pushed a man like this to suicide. He had his money on Crack; early stages, the fact that he had a TV at all, meant he hadn’t been at it for long.
The two men spent the next five hours removing every drop of blood from the two rooms. Apparently, as he bled out the poor sap had walked into the kitchen to make a phone call. He must have changed his mind, or started to lose consciousness. Colin joked that if he would have stayed on the pull out couch and died, they would have been done and hour earlier.
They finally finished the job. Martin closed the doors to the truck and started to take off his outer suit. He was sweating from head to toe. Pull-out sofa couches are heavy, even when they are not saturated in dried blood. They were sure lucky this guy had lived on the ground floor.
When he walked back in, to see if Colin had completed his final check, he met with a surprising sight. Colin had removed his mask and goggles and was standing there, wide eyed, looking at the lottery tickets, laid out like a game of memory.
“I already checked,” Martin admitted. “If there were any winners, the cops took them.”
“You don’t understand. There are ten losing tickets here for the Too Many Winners game.”
“This guy was no winner. I think he proved that.”
“Don’t you ever play scratchers? This game was funded, by the money left unclaimed for the last couple of years. There are so many winners that losing is the rarity. Not only that, it is the grand prize. Most games, you match the symbols hoping to win the big prize…”
“Yeah…so?” Martin didn’t like it, when he didn’t know what his subordinate was trying to say.
“So…if you manage to find the ten losers, you win the grand prize...one million dollars” Colin snapped, counting the tickets for a fourth time. “This guy was a millionaire, but too much of a junkie to figure it out.”
“Well…Looks like it is our lucky day.”
The two winners were already planning their purchases, as they closed the door behind them.


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