In Too Deep With Your Bookie

This time, you’re in too deep. You’re gambling losses have been mounting and, with a recent ill-advised bet, have put you $50,000 in debt. Your bookie, knowing you don’t have that kind of cash, is willing to wipe your debt clean if you carry out a very dangerous mission for him.

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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317 thoughts on “In Too Deep With Your Bookie

  1. Roshambo7

    As Marty walked down the grimy sidewalk towards Charlie’s bar where his bookie, David, doubled as the bar’s accountant, he couldn’t think of a way the day could have gone any worse. He and David had placed big money bets on the Dena v. Hagwood fight, and for the horse Platinum Forelock to win. Needless to say Hagwood knocked out Dena in one round with Marty’s money on Dena, and Forelock didn’t even finish the race. On top of all that Marty had lost almost 8,000 dollars playing the slots and shooting, and missing, craps.
    Marty took a deep breath as he pushed through the door into the bar, bumped his way through its patrons and finally, David’s office. “Hey Dave,” Marty said hesitantly. David wasn’t a body builder by any means but had a vicious temper, especially if he had been drinking.
    “Hey Dave,” David yelled, “Is that all your sorry ass has to say to me after you lose all my friggin money?” He bellowed the smell of alcohol on his breath was unmistakable.
    “Look Dave, I…” Marty stammered
    “No Marty I’m not gonna look!” He roared while throwing himself up out of his chair, sending it flying. “When I heard that Dena got worked over and that damn jockey blew the race on a shoe in horse I was so mad I couldn’t think straight.” He continued surprisingly calmer now.
    “You know neither of us could have seen that coming,” Marty pleaded desperately.
    “Marty, I know shit happens but we needed that cake. Bellatino’s thugs are on my ass for that money.” He said, sounding almost worried.
    “Yeah I know we are in deep on this one but we can’t make up fifty grand in less than a week, can we?”
    “Marty I been in this business a long time ya know, and we ain’t in that deep. I can get out of this mess but you, you gotta get out while you can.” David sounded very somber now. Marty was dumbfounded at first, then David continued, “It’s all fun and games at first with the whores, drugs and parties but in the long run this is a business and those that don’t contribute enough to this business get taken out.”
    “What are we or me or whatever supposed to do?” Marty asked with a combination of nervousness and confusion.
    David reached into his desk and pulled out a .45 pistol, a 7 inch switchblade and a big wad of cash and pushed it to Marty. “I like you Marty, you don’t need this shit. Get a plane ticket or a bus or something just leave this city and don’t look back.”
    “Ok Dave, it’s been fun hasn’t it though?” Marty asked.
    “Yeah Marty, yeah it has.”

  2. thebaseballman2003

    “Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy. That was a really bad loss that your team suffered. Getting blown out 15 to 0. Those guys couldn’t get a hit if their life depended on it.”
    “Please don’t remind me.”
    “If fact, you’ve been on a bad losing streak yourself. It seems like nothing you do goes right for you. How much are you into now, Jimmy?”
    “I don’t know. “
    “Yes you do. How much do you owe me?”
    “$50,000. I’ll pay you back as soon as I can get it.”
    “You’ll pay me back as soon as you can get it. You’ll pay me back as soon as you can get it. How many times have I heard that one before? A hell of a lot in your case.”
    “I know, Frank.”
    “No you don’t! You are a walking machine of excuses. You say this and that so many damn times I am getting very close to sowing your mouth shut so I don’t have to hear anymore of them. When you were down $5,000, you gave me an excuse. When you were down $10,000, you gave me an excuse. The same was true for $20,000….$30,000….$40,000…and now $50,000. By this point, I would’ve had my boys take you out back and beat you within an inch of your life. When you borrow money from someone, they expect every…penny…back.”
    “I don’t have anything. I can’t pay off my debt.”
    “I figured you don’t have anything but that doesn’t mean you can’t pay off your debt.”
    “What?”
    “There is a guy that is into me for a hell of a lot more money than you. This guy is into me for close $250,000. He has gone far too long without paying his debt and he needs to learn that when it is time to pay up, you pay up. I want you to go to his apartment and beat the hell out of him. You tell him that if he does not come up with the money in the next 30 days, I’ll guarantee that he will never make another bet.”
    “I can’t do that.”
    “You do this and I will clear the slate. Your debt will be wiped clean.”
    “You want me to go over to someone home and kick the hell out of them for you.”
    “I understand if you don’t want to do it but you’ll still be in debt to me for $50,000. And I have been known to become a real some of a bitch if I don’t get what I want. I should also mention that this is a one-time deal. The minute you decide, there is no going back. What is it going to be? Go back to being under my thumb with the pressure increasing or obtaining instant freedom by doing this one little job for me. But like I said before, the choice is yours and yours alone.”
    “I only have one thing to say to you.”
    “And that is?”
    “Where does this guy live?”

  3. greatbear1982

    The phone rings. It’s my bookie. I’ve been avoiding him for a week now… He is astoundingly angry with me. Upshot of everything is I lost my job, went for a long shot on the super bowl and lost horribly. I now owe $50,000. The only reason Max signed off on that much credit for me is because he believed I was still employed, which puts me in one heck of a pickle.
    Nervously, I answer the phone. He gives me an earful of obscenity that would make a sailor blush. I tell him I’ll meet him in his office at 3 pm. This at least is better than him sending his hounds to run me down.
    I show up at the office as planned. He gruffly tells me to sit down. Max tells me I have two choices, find him five rabbits or be the rabbit for his next hunting party.
    I choose to find the rabbits. He hands me an envelope with all the information I need. I offer a hand shake as thanks for the job to get me clean.
    He takes it. I modify the grip, pull him forward, spin him around and cleanly snap his neck. Poor bastard never saw it coming. I raid his floor safe, find 3 million dollars in cash, a Taurus PT145 pistol with two 10 round mags, a heavily modified, select fire, M4 carbine chambered in .458 socom with two custom beta mags, a Cold Steel Rajah 2, and full paperwork for a clean identity and passport. I take my phone apart and smash it to bits with the stock of the M4. I’ll rid myself of it soon. I clean up the office and stuff Max’s tubby body in the safe. I pause for a second, assessing the office again… Then it hits me like a kick in the testicles. I have to actually do this again…
    Apparently, Max had an idea to skip town… I’m sure he won’t mind if I find use of the items I found in the safe…
    The real rabbit run begins.

  4. peetaweet

    With just under five minutes on the clock, State appeared to have the game under control. The boisterous crowd, seeing longtime walk on Jim Wolfer enter the game, erupted in cheers. Senior night was always magical, and tonight was no different.

    As most were savoring the closing minutes of the blowout win over long time rival, Tech, Robert Waller was making his move. Carefully making his way down towards the floor where the lively student section was ready to storm the court at the buzzer. Robert could never pass for a student, but went unnoticed. The crowd was too busy chanting for longtime walk-on Harley Shemper. SHEMPER…SHEMPER!

    Robert thought about the conversation with his bookie yesterday.

    “You’re in pretty deep Robbie, how are you going to pay back 50 grand?”

    Both knew Robert could not pay 10 grand, 50 was out of the question.

    “I don’t know Jerry, I ain’t got it…”

    “You could take care of Coach Henson at State, that bum has cost us thousands this year. But seriously Robbie, you’ve got 3 days, pray for a miracle.” The call went dead.

    Reaching courtside, Robert almost tripped over the last step; he stopped to compose himself, and then looked in the direction of the bench, seeing his target. He reached into his coat pocket, feeling the knife handle in his sweaty palm.

    With under a minute to go, both sides unloaded their benches. The seniors received a standing ovation. Robert tried to keep his eyes on the coach, standing on his toes and straining his neck. He jumped as he felt a push in the back and quickly turned around. Looking up, there were kids surrounding him, loud and yelling, Robert wiped his brow and tried to keep his mind on the task at hand.

    As the buzzer sounded the stampede started for the court. Robert was short and stocky, and was quickly lost in the crowd. Waves of bodies knocked into him as he struggled to find his way towards the coach. He made his way towards the flash of bright lights from the cameras.

    “Coach Henson, after a tough year, what does it mean to this team to get a win over your rival on senior night?”

    As the coach started with the typical coach answer, about how the team had overcome adversity, never losing faith, he suddenly let out a wail. The cameras rolled as Coach Henson, the three time national coach of the year fell to the floor, groaning and writhing in pain. Lost in the chaos was Robert, who had tucked the knife back into his coat and was now pushing his way through the crowd.

    “Coach! Coach Henson! We need a medic!”

    Jerry sat at the bar, his Rueben in hand watching in disbelief. Security had locked down Coleman Fieldhouse and authorities were sweeping the building. The bartender turned up the volume on the small flatscreen tv at the bar.

    “Can you believe this Jerry? People are crazy.”

    “Jerry?”

  5. MVinshire22

    It had never been her intention to be standing here right now. Well, Marge admitted sourly, it was usually never anyone’s intention to be standing here right now. She couldn’t help but wish, however, that it wasn’t her standing here, but somebody else.

    Then again, she was somebody else to somebody else. Snap out of it! She hissed mentally, wary of being caught lost in her thoughts by the chubby, squat woman that sat before her, with a peaked nose and eyes that would have been pretty had they not gained wrinkles by squinting through a pair of miniscule glasses for her entire life.

    Or, at least Marge took a guess it was her entire life. But she hadn’t known the woman in front of her for her entire life, so it didn’t really matter anyway.

    What mattered was that-

    “$50,000 in debt, darling? Impressive.” Marge cringed and clenched at her skirt.

    “I will pay it back, Lily, I swear!”

    “Of that I have no doubt.”

    Marge blinked at that, mouth half open in surprise. “You don’t doubt-“

    “I doubt that you have the cash to pay that crisp 50,000 right now.” Lily smiled grimly at Marge, and Marge had a sudden feeling that there was something she was missing.

    “But I will-!”

    “No, you won’t, darling. Ah-ah-ah!” she raised a finger when Marge opened her mouth again. “You going to argue with me darling?”

    “No, no of course not, but-!”

    “But what, darling? You can’t pay me in cash, and I know that. Usually I would have you quartered-“

    Being a European History Major, Marge sucked in a breath, before Lily finished, “But I don’t need your cash, darling.”

    “…You don’t?”

    “No, I don’t.” Lily snorted, waving a hand. “What’s a mere 50,000 dollars to a woman like me?”

    Lily leaned forward, eyes glinting, “But just ‘cause I don’t need it, Darling, doesn’t mean I don’t want a favor from you.”

    “What sort of favor?” Marge had a suspicion that whatever this favor was, she would have been happier paying three times the amount she owed.

    “I need you to give me your blood.”

    A blank stare was all Lily got from Marge.

    “If you call me a vampire darling, I will just shoot you.”

    “No, no! That wasn’t even on my mind! It’s just… my blood?”

    “Your genetic code, darling, to be more specific.” Lily paused, before motioning to someone behind Marge.

    Marge spun around to see another woman with two syringes.

    “Haven’t you heard?” Lily’s voice came from behind Marge, but Marge only heard it vaguely in the back of your mind.

    “Darling, willing human genetic experiments are going for 2 mill a pop on the black market! The scientists are gettin’ a little desperate for some real test subjects, you see.”

    Marge’s eyes widened in horror as she began to grasp exactly what was going to happen to her.

    “Now, I may not need 50,000, darling… but 2 million? Yeah. I could use that.”

  6. lcooks

    Sirens wailed as I paced up and down the alley. I promised myself I’d never come back here. Add that to the long list of promises now smattered to pieces. My heels panged against the uneven pavement as my thoughts weighed the insanity of it all. How a 4th grade math teacher ever ended up owing $50,000 to a bookie is one equation that will never add up. One ill-placed bet was all it took to lose more than I make in a year. But if I go through with this, my debt could magically disappear: It’s a gamble I couldn’t afford not to make.

    My fingers shuddered as they rapped lightly on the unpainted wooden door. Nothing. Swallowing, I knocked again.

    “Coming,” a gruff voice yelled over the muffled television.

    I tugged at my dress as I heard footsteps slowly near. The outfit was Constantine’s idea. Knee-length skirts and button-downed blouses had for years hid the Zumba-carved curves that were now on display in the snug number. I tried to relax as I felt a pair of eyes size me up from peephole on the other side. Minutes passed and snippets of sentences were tossed before the door finally stood ajar.

    “You’re late,” the raspy voice’s owner smirked as a cigarette dangled from his lips.

    Summoning every ounce of acting left over from long-gone college days on stage, I smiled.

    “You know I’m worth waiting for,” I whispered into his ear.

    I offered a hug to the man I knew simply by the letter G. He’d been a scary staple in my hometown for years. And now my life depended on him.

    “I can’t believe it,” another voice boomed from across the room.

    I swiveled slowly. Alex. It had been almost 10 years since I’d laid eyes on him. He was my first everything. I was a 17 and smitten by the man with the long brown dreads and tattoos sketched across his sculpted body. The dreads were now gone. And a white button-down covered the names of his dead mother, wife and daughter etched eternally in his caramel skin. Still, time had been kind. His longing stare made me almost forget my mission. Almost. I strutted across the room and wrapped his body around mine.

    “You’re all grown up, now,” he laughed, playfully running his hand through my hair.

    His charm and guile had placed the entire city under his thumb. Alex had become one of the region’s most notorious politicians. His knowledge of the rich and powerful’s dirty, little secrets had made him influential by default. It had also made him many enemies. And Constantine now stood among their ranks.
    Alex chuckled knowingly as we sank into the couch and sipped the drinks G passed us.

    “I know why you’re here,” he finally blurted.

    I squirmed.

    “Tell him, it’s done.”

    “Then tell him,” he growled, “double or nothing.”

    A quick kiss and he was gone. G remained. As the sirens blazed closer, he grabbed my arm.

  7. sprattcm

    The confessional was cramped, the air stifling. I felt crushed beneath the weight of shame I’d carried in with me. It clung to me like whorehouse sheets, reeking of stale smoke and bottom shelf booze. I crossed myself, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”

    While Father Whalen spoke his blessing, I thought of sins and penance.

    I’d never thought of hope as a sin, but what else do you call that desperate spark that drives you to play one more hand? Sure I’d gambled, maybe even a little more than the next guy. I figure you can’t always lose, and the longer you lose, the more likely you are to win. Of course, I’d been wrong so far.

    “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been six weeks since my last confession.”

    Six weeks and $50,000. I hit the flask in my breast pocket to steady my hands and searched for the courage to do what I’d come here to do. Or, maybe I was trying to squeeze as many sins in as possible before this absolution: Take your pick. It doesn’t matter to me, and they’re probably both true.

    “Father, I…” my voice cracked, “I have been intemperate in the abuse of my body many times in the past six weeks. I drink alcohol to excess and I smoke cigarettes.”

    “In first Corinthians, chapter six, verse nineteen, we read that our bodies serve as a temple for the Holy Spirit. Abuse of this temple is an affront to God.”

    “I have also gambled in excess many times. My family will suffer for the choices I have made, and I fear my soul may be beyond redemption,” I sobbed between clenched teeth.

    Silence followed from the other side of the confessional as Father Whalen reflected a moment. He said warily, “No man who is penitent is beyond red…”

    “I have also committed murder in the house of god, striking down a priest in retribution for hypocrisy and failure to satisfy gambling debts in the amount of $343,000.” There was a sudden sound of movement from the other side of the screen, but father Whalen couldn’t open the door before the revolver in my hand bucked twice. He slumped against the screen, silent ever after.

    I dropped to my knees, “I am sorry for my sins. His mercy endures forever.” I put the revolver to my temple and it bucked a third and final time.

  8. hillsworth

    Mafia series:
    Part 1 – Retirement Party Food Fight. February 28, 2012
    Part 2 – Best Friends Need Your Help. March 13, 2012
    Part 3 – Why Are You Digging That Hole? May 15, 2012
    Part 4 – In Too Deep With Your Bookie. June 19, 2012

    PART 4:
    In Too Deep With Your Bookie

    “Action.” Therese yells as she thumbs the record button.

    Bruno looks from Therese, to the Zippo in his hand, to Macs head sticking out of the hole in the ground and back to Therese. She’s standing there, smirking.

    Something clicks in Brunos mind when he looks back down at Mac, violently shaking his head back and forth, trying to dislodge the gag in his mouth. Sweat, tears and snot mix together to form a pasty muck just under his chin. His muffled screams could hardly be heard ten feet away, so there is no concern of some passer-by hearing what is going on. A smile crosses Brunos face as he bends over. Gurgling sounds come from Mac as he stops shaking and tries to pull air through his clotted nostrils.

    “I’m gonna pull this out cause I want to talk to you a moment, Mac, but if you try to yell, I’ll put it back and let this little baby do its work.” He holds the lighter up in front of Macs face and flicks it open and then closed with one thumb. Macs eyes grow wide with fear. “I see we have an understanding.”

    As Bruno tugs the rag free, Mac gasps, trying to expand his lungs, but the settling dirt prevents him from doing so, leaving him to draw short, quick breaths. “Bruno. Don’t do this.” Another gasp.

    Standing tall, Bruno asks, “Mac, what happened to you? You used to work for me.” ‘Click’ open, ‘click’ closed from the lighter. “Hell, you’d probably still be cutting your own arms just to see yourself bleed if I wouldn’t have found you. You had the skills, but you needed some refining.” ‘Click’ open, ‘click’ closed.

    Wheezing gasp.”Come on, Bruno. Everyone knew you were losing your grip on this town. Louis’ family was new here and they were taking over. It was an easy decision at the time.”

    “Obviously a wrong one. Why’d you take this job?”

    “To settle my debt with Little Fonzy. I’m into him for fifty.”

    Bruno had already assumed that Louis’ son, Roman Alphonsis a.k.a. ‘Little Fonzy’, would be his legatee.

    “Well, Mac, gambling’s bad for your health.” Bruno bends down to replace the gag, but Mac whips his head to the side.

    “Bruno, wait. There’s something else you need to know.” Mac now straining to breathe.

    “Let’s go, Bruno.” Therese speaks up from behind the camera. “Finish this.”

    Bruno looks from Mac to Therese and back. “Okay Mac, let’s hear it.”

    “Bruno!” Therese yells and Bruno looks to her again. “Don’t listen to him. He’s a dead man and he’ll say anything to keep his life right now.”

    Bruno bends back down to Mac.”Out with it.”

    “Bruno, I aint the only one who found it easy to run to the other side.” Mac tosses his head to the rear, clearly indicating Therese.

    Bruno stands back up, looking at Therese with questioning eyes. Slowly he slips the lighter into his front pocket.

    To be continued…

    1. Ishmael

      Wow…now I’m going to have to go back and read the others! I think I’ve read the “Digging that Hole” one, and believe it was just as good. This was excellent. I always enjoy your work, Hillsworth, for the mere fact that you sketch such a vivid image with pen and ink (keyboard and screen). This was both visual and audible…the deafening clicks of the Zippo. I’m sure they were like fingernails on a chalkboard to Mac. Great dialogue. Great suspense. Great Scot! (Therese is busted!) Great read.

  9. Su@dreamweavernovels

    Good story. A few typos. Be careful using -ly words too much. I use Thesaurus.com a lot to find better words. It took me a second to figure out the end but I got it. Nice work. Keep it up. Practice makes perfect…or is that editing makes perfect??? Hmmm.

  10. l24y

    “D***it,” I growled to myself, hands on either side of the sink, head hanging. My hair covered my eyes, I could feel the vein in my forhead stickin gout, and my face was flushed. That was either from the alchohol or my anger. Everything was a bit fuzzy, and I couldn’t think straight. But that could have just been from the anger, too. Who knows? Maybe I’m not even drunk- I’m just furious.
    How did I get myself into this? 50,000 dollars? This is the worst luck I’ve had in years! A good ten years, maybe even more. Normally I leave with that much more, not that much less. I looked up into the mirror, an angry scowl plastered onto my face. I screamed, a low, grumbling sound that resonated from my gut, and slammed my fist into the mirror, shattering it. Panting, I stood straight again, fixed my suit, and took a deep breath. I walked past the two empty bathroom stalls, their metal green doors scribbled all over. I straightened my tie as I opened the door, then stalked out the back hallway. I reentered the casino, watching all the men looking nervous or confident or blank, wearing their poker faces perfectly.
    I looked to my left, at the table that I had previously been sitting at, where I had gambled away $50,000. My fists clenched. The man who had conned me out of the money was still there, talking to a younger man. I took a deep breath to calm myself and egressed through the front doors. I felt my phone vibrating in my pocket, like it had been through the whole night.
    It was my bookie, James, who had been my friend for who knows how long. But now he seems to be more my enemy than anything. “Hello?” I said into the phone.”
    “You’re drunk. Don’t tell me you’re drunk! Oh, God, you’re drunk. That means you lost money. How much?” James said exasperatedly.
    “I’m not that drunk,” I protested stupidly.
    “How much?” James persisted.
    “You really don’t want to know,” I said, hailing a taxi. One pulled over, and I opened the door. I told the driver, “Rocks Avenue.”
    “Come on, man, don’t mess with me,” James threatened, sounding annoyed.
    “50,000,” I said quietly, staring out the window.
    “You’re joking,”James muttered. I shook my head, though I knew he couldn’t see it. “You’ve gone too far this time, man. This is too much.”
    “I know, but I can’t pay this. You gotta help me. Please,” I begged desperately.
    “There’s nothing I can do this time, man. I’m sorry,” James said. I could hear the sympathy behind the anger in his voice.
    “Please,” I said quietly. The taxi driver pulled over in front of my street, and I passed him a twenty dollar bill. I nodded to him, climbed out the car, and started down the road.
    “Are you home yet?” James sighed.
    “I’m almost there.”
    “Ok, wait for me outside. We’ll talk then.”
    “Thanks, James.”
    “Don’t do anything stupid, man.”
    I reached the steps leading to my apartment and sat down on the bottom stair. James, who lived only a few neighborhoods over, was there in a matter of minutes. He climbed out of his car in a plain grey t-shirt and jeans, unlike his regular attire.
    “What am I supposed to do?” I demanded, standing up the second he reached the steps.
    “There’s one thing you can do. And I mean one thing, man. No other exceptions, no breaks or cutting you some slack. You’ve had too much of that. This is your only escape route.”
    “Ok,” I said quietly, watching the street behind him come alive with the evening traffic.
    “This is serious,” James said sternly, watching me closely.
    “Anything. You know I don’t have that kind of money.”
    James told me the conditions, and I hesitantly agreed. I knew I didn’t have a choice, but what I was going to do might have been a bit worse.
    Years later, I look back at that time and my face goes red with embarassment. What I had to do- well, it included a a large bunny costume and many cameras. When I tell people that, they usually go red as well, thinking something totally different than I am. But I let them imagine what the situation was, and James and I, now much better friends for it, snicker in the corner. Well, he does, anyways.
    Gambling since then? No, no, not really. I’m still scared I have that bad luck following me, you know? Like, a few months later, I played a board game with my niece, and she beat me bad. Then I played Uno at a family reuinion, and I had the worst score. James tells me it’s nothing, but I can’t help but flinch when I see one of those casino.
    Will I tell you? Ha. Do you really think I’d tell a total stranger like yourself? Well, no offense, I really like you and all- no, I didn’t mean it like that. I’ve had a great time with you, too- Look, Nancy, we’ve been dating for a while, but I still don’t know if I want to divulge this sort of secret to you- wait! Nancy!

  11. rob akers

    Nice job and welcome to the deep end of the pool. The water is warm and gentle. The others are right about the confusing part so I see no need to beat a dead bull.

    Just my opinion and take it for what it is worth but don’t be afraid to color outside the lines of the prompt. It is okay with me and most everyone else here as long as it ties in somehow. By the way I thought you stuck to it very well and really couldn’t find much artistic liberty.

    How about a compliment? Nice dialogue. Very original and convincing. I love the line about his brows drawing together like fuzzy worms. That is really good.

    You done good Boyah. Now go fetch dat steer!

    1. rob akers

      Just looked at your site. Congrats with the novel and I learned something new. I am sorry about the last line, please allow me to rephrase.

      You done good Gurl. Now go fetch dat steer!

  12. morty

    I knew it was a stupid bet, but still I had to take it. Just like any drowning man grasps for anything, anything, within their reach. You could trow him barbed wire, and he would clutch it, thanking you for it even as it tears through the flesh of his fingers.

    You see, I’m not really a gambler. You won’t see me clutching handfuls of ticket stubs at the track, or chomping down on a cigar playing cards in some dingy back room down the Alley. No, I’m a decent enough guy, but when times get lean… You start to grasp for the straws. A bar bet here, a lottery ticket there, take your chances betting on a fight. Get lucky couple of times, and you get to keep a roof over your head for another week. Get real lucky, and you get to eat too. It’s not gonna be a steak dinner, but still something to keep your pants on without punching another hole in your belt. And you get a few free drinks. Until your luck turns and you end up punching much more than just extra holes in the belt.

    That night, I got a couple of new bucks in my pocket, and a hope that I might get to keep them there. The nice fellow who had provided me with them was laughing and pounding me on my back. That’s what I like. Give ‘em a good story to tell for those couple of bucks they just lost. Make the game fun to them, something they’ll tell laughing to their drinking buddies. They buy you a drink for it, and go home laughing. No need to break the guy for couple of bucks, right?

    A large hand landed on my shoulder. My new acquaintance scurried away. I was told in no uncertain terms, that a certain gentleman would like to have a little chat with me. I had seen him, sitting there in his booth with his goons. Never broads, just these two goons in matching suits. I’d made some dumb bets in my life sure, but this time I was so deep down the hole even the Rabbit thought I was loopy. The gentleman had an interesting proposition. One chance to wipe clean the slate.

    A lanky man nursed his shot in the bar. Everything about him was hanging – his clothes, his head, even the flop of dirty hair, hiding his face. The gentleman pointed at him. The fifty-thousand-dollar-question was, could I break the guy. I looked at him. Break the guy? Hell, I could swat the fly prancing on the rim of his glass, even that would break him, by the looks of him. Fifty-thousand for breaking some guy life already had beaten within an inch of breaking? So I got up, went to the guy, and whispered in his ear. And he broke. He broke, all right.

  13. Su@dreamweavernovels

    The whiskey charred a path down is dust-dry throat. He grimaced but nodded at the barkeep for another.

    “Just leave the bottle,” Owen said. His duster-clad forearms rested on the bar worn smooth from years of wiping. The shot glass rumbled quietly as he rolled it around and his frantic thoughts rumbled loudly in his head. He failed to hear the tell-tale jangle of spurs ringing closer. The neighboring barstool groaned across the floor. Owen glanced up to find Seeleg Black, the richest cattleman in the state scowling down at him. Owen sighed, resigned. There was no replacing the prize breeder bull worth $50,000 that had drown in the river during the drive.

    The barkeep banged down another glass down and Seeleg poured himself a drink. He threw it back without a flinch and poured another.

    “Owen,” he said, chummily. “What’s a dead bull among friends?!”

    Owen knew Seeleg better. He’d take it out of Owen’s hide one way or another. Ranch hands tended to mysteriously disappeared after crossing the man.

    “About 50,000 in debt,” he answered, his shoulders slumping farther in defeat.

    “Well now, let me tell you somethin’. I’ve a proposition for ya,” Seeleg growled. “See, Old Man Babcock down in Barton Hallow’s just acquired a prize bull of his own.”

    Owen’s brows drew together like two fuzzy worms, corrugating his brow in bafflement. Seeleg drawled on.

    “See, I’ve a mind to shoot you for losing me my steer. But, if you get me Old Babcock’s in exchange, I’d be sorely obliged.”

    “Are you mad, old man?” Seeleg’s snarl made him wince. “Babcock’ll know his bull’s missing and when you turn up with it you’ll hang for rustling.”

    Black sneered. “Not if you exchange the carcass for the living one.”

    Owen’s eyes grew wide in shock. “You are mad.”

    “That bull’d have fetched me a herd of the best cattle this side of the Rockies. Now, you’ll do it or I’ll be taking your life in exchange for his.”

    “But, how…”

    “Don’t reckon I care so much about how ya do it. Just do it. I want that bull in my pen come sun up. And if he ain’t, you’ll be pushin’ daisies by sundown.” The cattleman blustered out of the saloon like an Okie tornado.

    Owen stared dumbstruck, then poured himself a shot of whiskey. The prize bull lay heaped on the buckboard. He’d needed proof for Seeleg that he hadn’t stolen the steer for himself. Owen poured another drink and calculated his odds of survival. Old Man Babcock hired cowhands that guarded his cattle day and night; probably a double sentry over that bull. But what choice was there? Take his chances at getting away with it or facing certain death at the barrel of Seeleg’s Colt.

    Owen slugged down the remainder of the whiskey and stumbled out to his horse. Wobbling drunkenly in the saddle he rode back to Seeleg Black’s ranch to hitch up the buckboard.

    OK so I took a bit of artistic liberty but the gist is there. This is my first time…so be gentle.

    1. Ishmael

      This was a nice take on the prompt. I was a little confused at the end…didn’t know where things were. It sounded like the dead bull was just outside on the buckboard, but later, he has to ride to Black’s ranch to get it.

      “The prize bull lay heaped on the buckboard. He’d needed proof for Seeleg that he hadn’t stolen the steer for himself.”

      The second sentence in that quote makes it seem to refer to the bull heaped on the buckboard.

      It was very good, just sort of got a little muddy at the end. :)

    2. Naomi

      What I like about your story is it makes me curious about Owen’s future actions. Will he somber up before trying to steal Babcock’s prize bull, and then decide not to try? And, if he does go after Babcock’s steer, who would be willing to help him and thereby become a cattle rustler? (Owen would need help moving the carcass?) I like stories that trigger my imagination, and cause me to wonder beyond the stated events, as your story does.

      I agree with Ishmael about the dead bull’s location. With my first read, I thought the bull was outside of the saloon.

  14. JR MacBeth

    “I’m sick of her. She just doesn’t give a shit. About anything! The real bummer is that it’s like a disease, it’s contageous. So now I don’t give a shit, and Jesus Frank, we’re basically shit-out-of-shit at this point..”

    “Larry, you do have a problem, and it’s not really one a psychologist can help you with anymore. She’s the one who needs help. You can go to your meetings, you can recognize enabling behavior, and on and on, but at the end of it, the writing is on the wall.”

    “It’s been a year Frank. I’ve been coming to see you for a whole fucking year! I need real help now, no more talk. You told me in the beginning that she would have a chance.”

    “Yeah, yeah. OK Larry. It’s time. Look, there’s something I never told you, I sort of hoped I wouldn’t have to.”

    Larry sat up straight and looked at his old friend. He had the feeling it wasn’t going to be good news. News was never good these days.

    “You don’t know who her bookie is…you have no idea?”

    “I told you! She has it locked down, like she’s having an affair, I get nothing from her but goddamn contempt! And why? Because I’m trying to save us!”

    “Calm down, it’s not bad news. Not necessarily. It’s actually about me.”

    Larry was confused. “Dammit Silverman, out with it!”

    “He’s my cousin.” Larry’s mouth dropped open.

    Frank shrugged and pulled off his glassses, buffing the lenses with his shirt.

    “Hey, we Jewish boys aren’t always doctors and lawyers!”

    The realization that there was a way out was like a lifeline thrown to a drowning man.

    Larry was starting to laugh, “I fucking want to hug you!” He stood up.

    “Larry, sit the fuck down! Shit! I’m not a miracle worker! Here’s the deal. Jay, that’s my cousin, Jay knows about your wife’s predicament, I know, don’t bitch about violating patient confidentiality, you’ll see why. Anyway, I hate to see you like this. So, Jay is going to…help.”

    “Frank, Gloria owes ‘Jay’ a helluva lot of money, I wish I knew how much. Why would he help, he doesn’t know me?”

    Frank looked at the floor. He shook his head slowly.

    “He’s been banging her. There, I said it. So much for confidentiality.”

    Larry lit up, back on his feet, “I knew it! I knew she was screwing somebody! Ho – ly shit!”

    “The question is, are you ready to move on? She owes him fifty grand. Is she worth it? He’s ready to take her off your hands.”

    “God! This explains so much.” Larry looked at his friend.

    “Frank, do you know why she didn’t just ask for a divorce?”

    “Well, she doesn’t want one.” Frank eyed his friend as he nodded his head.

    “Oh…Oh!”

    “She still loves you.”

    “And you’ve been keeping all this from me?”

    “No! I just found out about the affair last week. Shit, I’m your friend! Listen old buddy, you’ve got a lot to think about.”

    “Yeah. I guess I do.”

    1. Ishmael

      Nice dialogue! And it’s either pay the 50K or give up the wife, huh? This was good, felt realistic. I loved your details…buffing the lenses with his shirt. :)

      1. rob akers

        Dang, that is cool. I love the twist and focusing on a different aspect of the addiction. Great and believable dialogue.

        Frank is a good friend. We all need a friend like Frank who is willing to say the hard things like: “I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is that there is no good news because it is all bad news. Buddy you’re screwed!”

        That is a great scene and I would love to know what Larry will do next.

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