In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m not cutting this into 1000 word or less parts. You have the entire story, right here. All 1754 words of it. Enjoy, and Happy Mother’s Day this weekend.
Ruby Ray tapped the button again and adjusted herself in the chair. The electronic spinning wasn’t nearly as satisfying as the old-fashioned slots but what could she do? The spinning stopped as she tapped the button again. Win! She smiled in satisfaction. Not a big win, but substantial.
She tapped again to start the spin and returned to her previous thoughts. Maybe less chance of the casino cheating? But, then again, they could get the tech to set the computer payouts as tight or as loose as they wanted. She shrugged. If they were going to rip off the customers, they were going to do it, Gambling Commission or not.
The spin stopped. A win, but not much. She sighed and bet again. A look around showed the usual regulars with a scattering of occasional people she’d seen before. Plus, there was a bus in today. She shook her head. She didn’t like the bus visitors. They clogged everything up and screed up the machine’s patterns. Ruby shifted again. She’d been in the chair for three hours. The spin was a bust.
“Dang it,” she muttered under her breath. She hit the call button and the little light on top of her machine blinked red. A last swallow of her now warm iced tea and the woman cruising the aisles stopped by.
“Hey, Gina.” Ruby and Gina knew each other’s names. Ruby was here every day, so she knew all of the attendant’s names. “I need a bathroom break. Can you hold my machine for me?”
“Sure, Ruby. Shall I lock it?”
Ruby knew they could do that. “No. I’m just going to the bathroom. A sign should do it till I get back. I just don’t want the bus people to take my machine.”
Gina nodded. “Okay. I’ll just hang around here till you get back.”
“Appreciate that.” Ruby slid out of the chair, waiting a moment while her legs adjusted to actually doing their job. It was getting harder and harder, she thought, over the last few months. She waddled off as her legs protested. Getting’ old ain’t for sissies.
In the stall, she checked her cash. She didn’t like flashing her money on the casino floor. Her kids, knowing she liked to casino, has sent her money for Mother’s Day. All told, six hundred dollars. There was four hundred left. She tucked it back into her wallet and left to wash her hands.
The walk back to the machine was better than the walk away. The blood was flowing and the muscles had loosened up.
Gina saw her and just as Ruby reached the slot machine, took the “Reserved” sign down. “Here ya go, hon.”
“Good luck.” Gina continued her rounds as Ruby settled back in.
She checked the totals on the screen. Good. Just as she’d left it. She hit the Bet button. The spin began. A big win. She grinned. Her months-long research into the best paying machines was paying off. Ruby upped the bet to maximum and spun again. Again, it payed off. She was up to six hundred and fifty dollars from her starting two hundred-dollar start. Not a bad haul but she figured that this machine was due to pay big. She was staying here, hell or high water, till it did.
The afternoon wore on. The cocktail waitress brought her a burger and fries. Ruby was still doing well so she gave her a fiver as a tip. She tipped Gina as well, when she took another trip to the bathroom. Her legs didn’t really recover on that trip, but Ruby just cursed her old age, eighty-one this year, and climbed back into her chair.
Later, Gina stopped by to tell Ruby she was going off shift. “Andy will be around to help if you need it.”
Ruby nodded. “Have a good night.”
Her mind wasn’t really on the good-bye, though. Half an hour ago she’d started losing. Half of the money she’d gained was gone. She changed the patter she’d been using to stop the spin. It didn’t help. Ruby put another two hundred dollars into the machine. “You’re supposed to pay off today.”
The machine responded by ending on a combo that didn’t pay off at all.
Ruby ordered a glass of beer. Relax, she told herself. It will come around again.
Fifteen minutes later, she dropped two hundred and fifty into the machine. The last of her Mother’s Day money and fifty of her own. She spun but it only paid the bare minimum. Come on, sucker, she thought as she punched that Bet button again. The pictures rotated, around and around. Ruby hit the stop. Nothing.
She clenched her jaws together, her false teeth grinding. Ruby rubbed her left arm. Thank God they got rid of the old pull handles. The buttons are so much easier. She spun and spun. The payouts crept up a little, then down to nothing. She put her grocery money into the machine. Well, she thought, the pint total for today is looking good. She spun. It went poorly. Ruby called Andy over.
“I’m on a roll, Andy. Can I get a little loan here?”
Andy looked around. “It’s your money, Ruby, but why don’t you just head home? You’ve been here nine hours.”
Ruby gave it a quick thought. One more night in that tiny, cold, room at the retirement center was going to make her scream. She shook her head. Despite the pain in her leg, she was staying. The jackpot on this machine was going to pay. She just knew it. “No. Ask, please.”
She gambled as she waited. She was down to her last fifty dollars when the manager came over. “Hi, Mrs. Ray. I’m John Sweetwater. I hear you’re interested in a loan.”
“Yes. I’ve been a good customer. I’d like to keep playing.”
He stroked his face, his long braid swinging along his back as he thought it over.
Ruby could see that he was reluctant. “I’m sure you’ve seen my file. I’m good for it. I’m in here all the time.”
“Of course. We just…” he paused. “Well, you are a good customer. We just hate to put people in this position.”
“I’m good for it. Really.”
Other patrons were now turning to stare.
“You’re right. You are. So.” He stared at the non-descript drop ceiling for a moment. “Are you sure I can’t talk you out of this? We can give you a ride home in our courtesy car.”
Ruby wondered what kind of casino this was that they didn’t want to keep a gamble in her seat. “I’m sure.” She knew. She KNEW! This machine was going to pay off tonight.
The manager sighed. “All right.” He waved Andy over. “Reserve Mrs. Ray’s machine.” He turned to her. “I’ll need you to come to the office to sign some paperwork.”
Relief flooded through her. “Of course.” She slid from the chair. Again, her legs protested. “You don’t mind if I stop at the ladies?”
“Of course not. Con on back to the office when you’re ready.” He signaled another floor attendant. “Bring her when she’s ready. The young woman nodded, and he left.
“Come on, Ruby. We’ll take care of everything.”
“You’re so sweet, Ann.” Ruby threaded her thin arm through Ann’s. “How’s that chubby little cherub of yours?”
In the office, Ann led Ruby to the chair in front of John’s desk. “Good luck, Ruby.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?” John studied her with concern on his face.
“Yes!” She was so sure of it. It had to be tonight.
He put a paper in front of her. “The contract.”
Ruby scanned it as she absently rubbed her arm. She was disappointed to see it was just five hundred dollars. She sighed. “This looks fine.” Ruby picked up the pen john had slid over with the contract. She signed and pushed it back. “Is that it?”
He examined the contract. “That’s it.” John handed her five hundred in hundred-dollar bills.
Ruby fanned them out. It wasn’t often she got such a windfall. “Thank you.”
Her lower back hurt on the walk back but she was so happy about the loan, she didn’t care.
Andy removed the sign for her. “Good luck, Ruby.”
“Thank you, Andy.” She sat down, made herself comfortable and hit the Bet button. It was a little disappointing to see the spin come up empty. No worries, she told herself. It will come.
After fifteen minutes, she added the five hundred dollars she’d received from the manager. Her stomach was upset. It was going to take a lot of time to repay the money, but she didn’t care. This machine was going to pay off.
Around and around. Ruby stopped the spin in every combo she could. The total kept dropping. What is wrong with this? she thought. It should pay! She stabbed the buttons, frustration and annoyance making her angry. The dollar total kept dropping as spin after spin at maximum bet kept dragging it down. It was hard to breathe, but she stabbed the button again. The last time, her hand on her bosum.
The pretty pictures spun and Ruby let them spin without interference. Her head hurt. Her legs hurt. Her chest hurt. “Com on,” she whispered.
The spinning drew to a stop. Nothing.
Ruby leaned back in the chair. It felt as though all of the air in the room was gone. It seemed like the light had dimmed. It was all gone. She looked around. The night people were there, staring at their machines. Intense. Not like the day gamblers at all, she thought.
Her arms dropped to her sides. The cheery sounds of the different machines sounded far away. The flashing of lights softened. It felt kind of nice. Here with her friends. A few minutes later she began to lean, more, then more to her left until she tumbled from the chair to the floor.
The staff moved quickly. The ambulance was called and she was picked up. Her now still face covered with a sheet.
“That’s a shame,” Andy told another attendant after they watched the ambulance crew take her out. “So much time on that single machine.”
“Yeah,” the other guy said. “It had just paid off last night. Some old guy. He’d been nursing that machine for days.”
“Is that so?” Andy shook his head. “What a shame.”
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