Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Hope (05/04/06)
TITLE: Place Your Bets
By Donnah Cole
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frantically for a bill. Nothing of value, just a nickel and a couple of pennies.
"Pfttt..." The noise-filled room muffled his exasperation. Only the middle-aged woman seated next to him noticed his obvious frustration as he slammed his fist against the machine. "Doggone it!"
"Here," the palm of her hand displayed four shiny quarters. "Maybe these'll be the lucky ones for you." Her generosity sickened him when he noticed the twinkle in her eyes and the overflowing bucket of coins she braced between her thick thighs.
"Thanks." He forced a grin in her direction with a toss of his head and a lift of his eyebrows. "I sure hope so."
"Oh, you're welcome..." she stood to leave, raising her prize to her chest and hugging it tightly. "You know, I never have any luck on these slots. All my winnings came from shooting craps. See the nerdy-lookin' dealer with the bald head?"
Her diamond-laden hand pointed Rob's attention to an overcrowded table of wannabe millionaires. "I think he's new...too many people winning today. You'd better hurry over there before management jerks him!"
Her words toyed with his imagination, causing his eyes to see dollar signs dancing among the elated customers. Outbursts of laughter and slaps of encouragement on the winner's backs pleaded to Rob's fantasies. A curl of cigarette smoke escaped his lips as he downed another swig of scotch. Greed had dealt him a good hand, and he was unwilling to resist the seduction of it. He moved from the stool toward the action.
Rob froze and time seemed to stand still - to him anyway. No one else heard her voice, nor did they note the quarters which slipped from his fingers and rolled across the casino floor. He shook his head, ignored his conscience, and blamed his daughter's voice on the alcohol.
"One....three...where's the other one?" Kneeling, he searched the luxurious carpet for the slightest shimmer of silver.
His stomach pitched as his mind haunted him of the morning's events - a toasted piece of white bread drizzled with honey, a mug half filled with water-downed milk, and sunken eyes brimming with tears. Wanting to ease her pain, he offered her the only words of hope he knew...<I>I know you're hungry baby, but Daddy's gonna make things right. I'm gonna start winnin' like I use to and then you'll never go hungry again, I promise. We'll have steak, pizza...why, you name it baby doll, Daddy'll be able to get it for ya. So you and Mama pray real hard today at your church that Daddy hits it big!</I>
Perspiration dripped from his brow, stung his eyes, and made it difficult to find the missing quarter. Then, from near the exit, he spied it, glistening from the sun's rays penetrating through the glass door.
"There you are, ya little stinker..."
Like a revolving door, his body turned him toward the throw of the dice and he laid his silver wager along with a prayer of hope at an altar of luck.
<I>What numbers? What numbers? Come on, God, tell me what to pick...</I>
Attempting to send his petition heavenward, he threw up his head and discovered a mirror staring back at him. It wasn't his reflection that caught his attention. Instead, it was a red neon EXIT sign.
"Ladies and Gents, place your bets!"
The sign flashed...
"Welcome to McDonald's. May I take your order?"
"Yeah...I'll take a cheeseburger from the dollar menu."
"That'll be $1.07. Please drive forward."
Four quarters, a nickel, and two pennies later, Rob held the bagged cheeseburger close to his heart and drove home.
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