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Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaires by Alec Cizak

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When you live life in The Gutter the stakes are always high.

Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaires by Alec Cizak

One thing Chase’s wife couldn’t keep him from? Poker. He saved the skim on his paycheck from the gas station every other week and went to Hector Garza’s, a Lublin contractor who held a fifty-dollar tournament on Wednesday nights. She reminded Chase their son had been spitting up blood. The pills the doctor at St. Mary’s prescribed had worsened it. She wanted to take the boy to an acupuncture clinic in Chicago. Her coworker from the salon had said, “That Eastern shit cures everything.”

Chase promised her he’d place at the final table and bring home enough for the Chinese medicine and a twelve-piece from Church’s. He remembered this late in the tournament, just before the number of players dwindled to eight and a final table could be established.


He locked on a flush draw. Bet big on the flop, despite being two clubs shy. His opponent in the hand, a banker named Kelvin from Valpo, raised him. Enough to force him to go all in. Chase pushed his remaining chips. The dealer said, “Turn them over, gentlemen.”

Son of a bitch had trips. Chase had ignored the paired threes on the flop. For Christ’s sake. Who plays five-three? He showed his suited Jack-four.

The banker grimaced, like he’d tasted something awful. “Flat tire?”

Chase wanted to say, Go fuck yourself. Hector insisted the game remain PG-rated. He’d busted guys in the nose for less. Instead, he said, “Just need some luck.”

Kelvin scratched his elbows. The dealer burned a card and revealed a five of hearts. Chase walked around the table, spoke quietly to the banker. “My kid needs to see a special doctor.”

“Está loca?” Kelvin tried to trill the L.

Hector, prepping the final table with two fresh decks, said, “What’s going on?”

“Nothing.” Chase insisted the dealer show the last card. Not that it mattered.

“This chump,” said Kelvin, “wanted me to forfeit the hand. Trying to work a sob story on me.”

Hector booted Chase and told him not to return until he promised to conduct himself in an honorable manner. Chase stood at the bus stop outside the contractor’s condo, held his windbreaker tight to fight off an early winter chill. As always, the bus took its time. This allowed him to witness Kelvin leaving the game shortly after, counting his two-hundred and fifty-dollar last place prize. Chase followed him to his Range Rover. He said, “I give my chips to somebody, I expect them to protect them.”

“Get lost.” The banker waved his hand the way normal people shooed flies. He stuffed the fold of cash he’d been counting inside his patched sports jacket and pulled out a keychain shaped like a beer bottle.

Chase shoved the banker away from his car and grabbed his keys. “I want that money, Kelvin. I need it. You don’t.”

“The hell you talking about?” The banker took a swing.

Chase dodged him. “My kid needs this operation.”

“That’s not my problem.” He pretended to retreat, then snatched his keys before Chase could stop him.

Chase’s right hand closed into a fist and pulverized the banker’s throat. The banker staggered and dropped his keys on the oil-stained concrete. He fell into his Range Rover and collapsed onto his knees, choking. Chase knelt and sifted through his coat pockets until he found the money. Bus brakes hissed in the distance. He hustled to the stop and waited. The banker’s choking became violent. He didn’t turn around to look, but he felt certain he’d heard the banker trying to throw up and failing.

***

Chase’s wife sat in a wobbly rocker in the living room where they also ate their meals. Jimmy Fallon sucked off celebrities behind a cracked television screen. Chase burst into the apartment and said, “I got us, babe. I got us!”

She told him their son had vomited a gallon of blood. “Could have filled two milk jugs, easy.”

“It’s going to be all right.” He said he’d placed at the final table. She asked to see the money. He said, “I did us one better.” Then he explained how he’d stopped off at Village Pantry. “It occurred to me,” he said, “that we could turn this two-fifty into gold.” He showed her a stack of scratchers he’d purchased at the convenient store. “Break out your best dress, baby, the one you’ve never had to mend.”

He parked himself at the folding table they ate at and used an unwashed plastic knife to uncover the wealth hidden in the lottery tickets. His wife sank into the rocker and absorbed more bullshit from the TV. She refused to look at him, refused to let him know whether the sporadic heaves of her chest signaled weeping or laughter. Either reaction, he figured, appropriate for the solid days ahead.

Alec Cizak has been a creative nuisance since before the turn of the century. His annoying opinions on things like freedom and honorable brutality can be found all over the worldwide web and in various print journals and anthologies. He’s written a few of those relics called books which can be purchased online or at the hippest literary joints on the planet. He returns the people’s love as editor of Pulp Modern.