Little Victories

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
James is trapped in a tenancy agreement with his friend, the aptly named 'Gag' who has had the life squeezed out of him by his gambling addiction. Can James save Gag and the rent before it's too late?

Submitted: June 02, 2013

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 02, 2013



Little Victories

When I walked in I could see why Gag liked this place: roulette tables, bars and perhaps most significantly scantily clad women flocking around those fortunate enough to be winning big. Yes, a place like this was made for people like Gag. Through his eyes I could see why he returned so often; all his life he had avoided situations that involved what he felt constituted a substantial amount of physical or mental exertion on his part. His failure at university, his inability to keep a job or to harbour any deep and meaningful relationships with other people on a long term basis is testament to that. This place, in which so many solitary characters roamed from table to table trying to hit and achieve a feeling of immediate gratification, seemed perfectly suited to Gag and his approach to life.

So why was I here? Rent's due tomorrow, we've missed it twice previously and we're out the door if it ain’t in on time on this occasion. It's up to me to save the day. To save the-fucking-day. And it will only be for a day. This place has got an iron grip on Gagster. Squeezing anything 'social' out of Gag's life. He doesn't even like the other punters. I'm his flat mate (something I regret everyday, let me tell you), but I swear the only people he really has any interactions with these days, are the croupiers: a tip, given out of superstition rather than etiquette; the odd cheeky smile exchanged with one of the prettier ones, when the old carnal male desires, snap him ever so briefly out of that transfixed state, that seems to ensnare him when he's at the blackjack table and the count is low.

Nonetheless, I'm here hoping that my presence reminds him of the bitter truth that we'll be homeless if he pisses the rent money away. Surely, that fact will be enough to penetrate the bewitched state of mind that this place puts him in, and that may allow me to get him the fuck out of here, with his share of the rent intact and a place to live for the both of us. For the next month at least.

I’m scanning the place looking for him. He cuts a distinctive figure does Gagster, particularly in a place like this. He's got this curly almost afro-esque hair, wears vintage black '524' NHS spectacles, chinos and in an interesting contrast to this otherwise preppy style, a dark hooded top, inspired by his favourite wrestler. It's his trademark look and it helps him stand out. Birds love it for some reason. Really. But I ain't seeing him: he's not at the blackjack table, he's not playing roulette, nor is he dabbling in brag, in fact he's no where to be seen. Could it be that he's not here for once?

Wishful thinking on my part, that one. I see him. And it's a sight that almost makes my heart stop: he's at a poker table and sadly not playing a tournament where luck as well as skill, plays a significant part in one's success or failure, no he's playing a high stakes cash game with the sharks and by the meagre amount of cash chips by his side, they're each gratefully taking bites out of this little fish. And by the looks of it, there's not much left to go around now.

I race over to the table. Ok, I'm pissed off, but that isn't going to get our money back. Some diplomacy will be needed in order to have even the vaguest chance of rescuing this one. 'Alright Gagster mate, how it's going?' I place a hand on his shoulder and give it a little squeeze. The reassuring grip on the shoulder I call it. Now he's not expecting me at this very moment, and to be honest, he has every reason to want to avoid me given the situation he's put us in , but he barely flinches, hardly acknowledges my presence. He merely sighs and grunts 'Alright James mate' in return, and continues to shuffle his chips, albeit with a grim expression on his face.

'You up or down my friend?' my upbeat tone, in sharp contrast to the sickening feeling that emerges in my stomach as I count the amount of chips he has left and their value: thirty fucking quid all in all.

'What d'you think?' he mumbles. 'This is all I've got left'. He gestures towards the meagre pile of chips by his side.

I already knew that, but the confirmation of the truth does lead me to get a bit hysterical, I have to say.

'Do you know what I think mate? I think we're fucked mate, like actually fucked. I'm skint, you've blown the rent money and we're going to be out on our arses, back to fucking Johnstone with the rents, with a shite credit rating and no prospect of getting our hole for fuck knows how long!'

Gag looks more despondent than ever at this. I get myself together and I tell him to sit out the next hand and come to the bar with me for a drink.

I get myself a Gin and Tonic. Time to think. Gag gets a double vodka. Time to be brave.

'Right mate, we need to think here. We've got 50 quid between us, I've got my half of rent waiting to pay in the bank, we're still 150 short. And it does needs to be in tomorrow. It really does. I've gone to the well too many times with my parents mate, they can't bail us out again. What the fuck are we going to do?'

Through his haze of despondency, Gag actually surprises me when he wryly smiles and comes away with:

'Well there's always the option of renting our arses doon Cannon way'

Now it's my turn to smile.

'Mate we need a hunner n fifty quid, not a fiver!'

Gag's more lively now. Maybe it's the vodka, more likely it's being away from the table and having an interaction with a person who isn't doling out cards or chips.

'Awrite mate, I know we need that cash. I don't even have the option of going back to the 'rents, I'll be on the street mate. I think you know, as well as I do, there's only one realistic way that we can get that amount of money, that quickly....'

Fuck sake. Here we go. Our eyes meet. We both know what we have to do. We don't have enough capital to try anything else. Roulette.

We scout around looking for a table with a bit of form. We finally find one where there's been a run of 4 reds on the trot. There's no need for words, I glance at Gag, give him my last 25 quid he nods, and we set ourselves down at the table.

I watch, helplessly, as Gag places a 50 pound bet on the table. On Red! I'm powerless to resist as the table has been swamped by a mixture of folk from all walks of life: old ladies; high powered businessmen in their sharp suits; young lads and gals out preclubbing; from every community, every segment of society, sharing the same greedy expression and a common belief that this time, they're about to win big. I know that at this point, there's nothing else to do but stand back, stay silent, and watch on with intrigue and a with strange, mounting sense of excitement as the dealer spins the wheel, releases the ball onto the track and as the ball goes round the wheel once announces 'no more bets'.

I watch as the ball pings about a bit, then comes to rest at '7' red. Yasssssssss! I smile and see Gag giving the table a curt nod. We're in the minority when it comes to those looking satisfied at this outcome, there's a collective groan around the table as the result dawns on the rest of the punters. Some drift off, cursing, muttering about magnets under the wheel and all the rest of it, others adopt a look of steely determination, getting their wallets out and preparing to double their stake. We're doing the same of course. We remain a hundred quid short. I find my voice:

'This time black Gag, has to be!'

Gagster nods. Down goes the £100 chip on black. We stand back as the scramble continues. Geez, some people really do not give a fuck. Here we are fretting about a measly 100 quid, and I'm watching some of the grannies at the table slamming twice that amount on a single, solitary, number. Some of the guys in suits are placing unthinkable amounts on the outside, on black in particular. I wonder momentarily if they're going through the same things that we are, somehow I tend to doubt it. They just want the winning feeling back, the gratification of beating the game, of being on top. We want to keep a roof over our heads.

Then it happens. The wheel spins again, the ball released. Round it goes. 'No more bets'. As the ball comes to a halt, the all too familiar rattle returns as it bounces between the numbers causing me to take a large sip of my gin'n'tonic. I stare into the abyss, my fate, our fate, already decided. Right now, there's only one question on my mind : Red or Black?

'11, Black' the dealer announces.

Relief, elation, sheer joy! All consideration for the gamblers who've lost, all etiquette forgotten, I leap onto Gag and grab him in a bear hug, and we shamelessly dance around in this manly embrace, the source of bemusement to some of the punters who can't comprehend a couple of guys getting so excited over getting a return of a meagre 200 quid. The rest are indifferent, already reaching for their chips, their wallets, ready to go again.

I'm still smiling as I say

'Right mate, we've gotten away with it. Just. What we need to do now, is head back up the flat, get a few beers in, see whose about and whether there's any parties going down.'

In the background, I hear the familiar scrambling of the punters getting their bets on the table, the sound of wheel spinning, the croupier remarking 'no more call bets', thankful that it means nothing to us, this time round.

'Aye ano mate, and listen, I will try and stop this time. I really will. I don't want to be papped out the flat anymore that you do, it's.......'

Gag's face has gone chalk white, he's desperately pushing through the punters trying to reach the table now and I suddenly realise why: during our celebration, not one of us thought to remove our chips from the table, and unless we reach it in time, our 200 quid is at risk, on black! I hastily join the scramble towards our chips, trying to get my arms through the masses of bodies to the table.

Too late. 'No more bets!' The bint of a croupier smiles thinly at us, just as we reach to remove our golden rimmed black chips. She could've warned us, reminded us in the midst of our embrace, that we'd left our chips on the table. Now we're left at the mercy of the wheel again.

This time my gaze is focused solely on the spinning roulette wheel, and the little steel ball as it races round the circular track. Suddenly, it loses momentum and it drops, square onto....


Zero. A result that leaves us with half our stake back and therefore, 100 quid once again. Almost back to square one. I look at Gag. He looks blankly back at me. In the background, the suits and the grannies, the loners and the winos, are reaching for cash, for more chips, desperately trying to recoup losses, to make profits, to achieve that winning sensation. They need the gratification that goes with 'getting one' over the house, even though they know in the long run they can never win. We're like them now, on the road trying to reach the promised land, that swims into view, that can be reached, but where you can never stay. Yeah we had the rent money, now it's gone. If it wasn't today, it would be this time next month. I realise that. Gag picks up the sole remaining gold rimmed, black chip.

'Leave it on black' I say.

And the wheel spins again.

© Copyright 2020 Mark B. All rights reserved.

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