Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Streak - 93

We sit at the isolated end of the bar, hunkered against the threat of recognition. Up on the screen the All-Star Game is going on. It's a seven-seven tie in the seventh inning.

"What do you make of all these sevens?" Kyle asks with a spooked look.

"End of the world," I reply. "End of days."

"The big whaddaya call it? The agony and ecstasy?"

"The Rapture."

"I bet it's something worse."

We drink in solemn silence. Then Kyle slams his glass onto the bar and sits bolt upright.

"What the fucking Christ?!" he yells.

I look up where he's looking. There's a breaking news crawl at the bottom of the screen:

    REPORT: EVAN BENJAMINSON ABDUCTED BY TERRORIST GROUP

"That's weird," I say. I can't think of what else to say.

Kyle leans back and examines me with a frown. As though from across a divide.

"What the fuck am I supposed to do now?" I say. I laugh a little. It does seem funny.

"Call one of those fucking guys. Call Joe."

"Good idea."

I pull Joe's card out of my wallet and dial.

"Hello Evan."

"Joe? What the fuck is going on?"

"Ah. I suppose you've seen the news. Good."

"Good?"

"Long story short, Evan. We've dispatched your double."

"My double?!"

"He's in the hands of Moo now."

"What? Aren't they gonna kill him?"

"Maybe. Except we enlisted Thelxiepeia to plant a sophisticated tracking device on his person."

"What?!"

"She swapped his fake World Series ring with my real one using her mouth."

"Good God."

"Thanks to her patriotic service, federal authorities will soon be storming the miscreants' lair."

"What am I supposed to do?"

"Nothing at all, Evan. Nothing at all. Don't go anywhere. Don't speak to anyone. To anyone but me and Matt."

"And Kyle?"

"Sure. Kyle."

I hang up, dumbfounded. Kyle orders us another round.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Streak - 92

I don't have an answer for Kyle. Still I'm straining to leave. To exit. Dunno where to. Where from.

Anyway, his bourbon and Coke arrives. Fuck it. I order a Scotch.

I'm dealt the queen of hearts atop the four of clubs. I lean over, stare her in the eyes. She's got a melancholy look. The look of a trapped soul. I imagine that the brutish king tore her from her kindly parents at the age of twelve. He's been fucking her night after night, cursing her for not yet producing an heir. In her left hand she grips a flower. Suddenly a deep crimson spot appears on her bosom. Then another.

"Sir?"

I lift my head.

"Sir?" the dealer says again, frowning.

"Yeah? Oh, sorry. Hit me," I say, pointing at my hand.

"Sir? You're bleeding on the cards."

I put my knuckle to my nose. Feel the blood trickling down to my lip now.

The dealer hands me a stack of cocktail napkins.

"I'm sorry gentlemen, this table is closed," he says, indicating a push on both our hands and removing all the cards, including the bloodied one.

"You OK?" asks Kyle.

"My brain is pouring out my nostrils," I say for whatever reason.

"Let's hit the bar for a while."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Streak - 91

I'm looking around during a reshuffle.

"What's the theme here, ya think?"

"Theme?" Kyle responds, his eyes on the dealer's hands. "The theme is come in, sit down. Give us your money. Now get out."

The waitresses are dressed slutty. Black stockings and garters. The dealers wear bowties. Neon squiggles adorn the walls.

"They're all supposed to have themes. Ancient Rome. New York City. A whorehouse in the Wild West."

Kyle lifts his head and scans the room.

"I'm reminded of Tampa," he declares, and sets a stack of black chips on his spot.

We play awhile in silence. I lose, win, lose, lose, lose, win, lose, win, win, lose, win, win, lose, lose, lose. Push. Lose. Win. Lose. Lose. Lose.

I'm restless again. "I have an idea," I say.

"Go for it."

"Let's get up from this table. Exit the casino. Get into a taxicab and drive across the street. Enter another casino. Find a blackjack table. Sit down. Gamble."

"Wash, rinse and repeat."

"You don't like my idea."

"I got a drink comin'."

"You make 13.1 million dollars a year but you'll sit and wait like a dog for a free drink?"

"It's the principle."

"I got some principles of my own, man."

"You always want to leave. Wherever you are, you wanna go away."

I contemplate this for a second. Take another card. And then another.

"I just want to occupy a different space than the space I'm occupying now. Is that too much to ask?"

"What are you running away from?"

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Streak - 90

We're in some casino or another. A turquoise-and-lavender-carpeted monstrosity. We find the hundred-dollar tables. Settle in.

Kyle's talking a mile a minute. "It's not that nothing matters. No. Everything matters," he says. "Fuck!"

I'm impressed by the depth of his passion. 'Til I realize he just got dealt a bad card.

"So what are you gonna do about it?"

"I guess I'll hit it."

"No, I mean about nothing. About everything."

Kyle shakes his head. "I don't know, man. I dunno if I'm gonna be able to play baseball anymore."

"What?!"

"Fuck! Busted! I knew it!"

"Please elaborate."

"It's just that when something so authentic and transformative and revolutionary comes into your life, you need to respond in a real way."

"What the fuck are you talking about?"

"I dunno how to make it any clearer, one-seven."

"Clearer? You don't even know what 'transformative' means!"

"I'll fuckin' transform your busted nose into an even busteder nose is what I'll do."

"Whaddaya mean, quit baseball?"

"That's not all I'm quitting."

"You could stand to cool it with the toot," I concede.

"Nah, nah. That's not important to me." Kyle shifts around on his stool, waiting for the deal.

"What then? Are you abstaining from hair gel?"

He's not looking at me. His knee fidgets and his jaw is clenched.

"Well?"

"Mark thinks I'm an excellent candidate for celibacy," he says finally.

"What?!"

"It's for my own good, Ev. I know it. I know it deep, down inside."

"He told you not to have sex?"

"Not yet. It's pending."

"Pending what?"

"I have some more work to do before then."

"Work?"

"Spiritual work, Ev. Heavy lifting. You wouldn't understand. God fucking dammit!"

"You shoulda hit that fifteen against a ten."

"But when it comes it will be a blessing."

"Christ. What the fuck is happening, two-eight?"

"You think I'm crazy, talk to Esteban. He's going on a pilgrimage."

"A what? To fucking where?"

"The destination does not matter so much as the road be long."

"Who said that, Confucius?"

"Mark Jensen."

I sigh and shake my head. "Are his employers at the New York Yankees baseball organization gonna give him a fucking leave of absence?"

"We've lost thirty-two games in a row, my brother. They're about ready to replace our pinstripes with paisley."

"I can't believe you're going to fucking abstain from sex for this motherfucker!"

"YES!!" Kyle shouts, throwing his arms in the air.

"Huh?"

"Blackjack!!"

The Streak - 89

We step into the inhospitable night. Beyond the driveway, beyond the mood-lit shrubs, the rows and rows of palms, there appears to be a street. I want to walk down the middle of it out of town.

Kyle signals for the first in a long, long line of cabs.

"Where we going?" I ask.

"Don't ask me. You wanted to leave."

"I wanted to go outside and go back in."

Kyle sighs and tells the cabbie to hit the Strip. I lean my head back. In the corner of my eye the marquee lights are flashing by.

"The All-Star Game is going on," I say.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Streak - 88

We travel the casino’s gold and purple carpet, past the labyrinthine tables and machines, and finally reach the polished marble of some type of lobby. We ascend an escalator to a shiny galleria: shoes, jewelry, lingerie; each store occupied only by a lonely employee gazing blankly at the entrance.

There is no exit.

We go back down, turn back, walk down a hall and finally find ourselves in a spacious atrium. There’s a double set of doors on the other side. Beyond them: darkness.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Streak - 87

They return to the pregame show and I look around. Nothing has changed but everything.

"Am I a dead man? Is this being spirited away?"

"Relax, man," Kyle says. "We're in Las Vegas. The safest place on earth."

"You think they got Sugar?"

"I ain't scared a these people."

"Maybe they got Rocky." My heart's beating fast now.

"Those fuckniks in the blue suits won't let anything happen to no one, for Chrissakes." But Kyle doesn't sound convincing. Even to himself.

"Let's take a walk," I declare.

"A walk? Where?"

"Outside."

"Outside? Outside of what?"

"Outside of this casino."

"On the promenade?"

"No. Outside of there, too. Outside outside."

"There is no outside in Vegas."

"I gotta get outta here. I gotta get some air."

"The air in here is richer in oxygen, Ev."

"I don't like the eye in the sky," I protest.

"You don't think there's an eye in the real sky outside?"

"Making sure we're not cheating the big house?"

"There's nowhere to go, man." Kyle says. "There's nowhere to hide."

"I wanna see the stars before I die."

"No one's dying."

"I need to cross the street or something. Then we can cross it back again."

"It's a hundred some odd degrees out there."

"Humor me."