As Luck Would Have It

by Jo Wharton Heath


Hi Mom and Dad,

Yes! I do have a girlfriend (Mom, you asked) or hope to have one soon. With the great raise I got yesterday, I can take her to nice restaurants. She’s my supervisor’s beautiful secretary. Thanks for all your emails.

Tom

Tom hit Send and the message disappeared. He pictured his future girlfriend: long black hair, brown eyes... No. Long red hair, blue eyes, and cute freckles. Yes.

“No. Who am I kidding?” he asked Fred.

Perhaps asleep on the floor, Fred seemed to half-woof.

“Not only do I not have a girlfriend or a raise,” Tom continued, “but I lost my job six weeks ago.” He rubbed his too-large, too-red, nose, the ugly nose that made him a loser. “Actually, Fred, it was bad luck,” he said, as though Fred had been the one who blamed his nose.

Fred was the big curly dog that had followed him home about a year ago and stayed. Tom enjoyed having someone to talk to and was sad when Fred died, but he soon discovered he could still chat with the dog, same as ever.

“You’re right, Fred, I’ll stop talking about the old job. However, I absolutely will not ask my parents for more money. I have one-eighty in the bank. That’s it.”

In a total funk, Tom slouched with limp legs and arms on the sofa. Finally, a wisp of a thought came: they’d go for a walk. The cool air might help him — Tom, not Fred — to think.

Outside, at the end of the block, a miracle happened. He spotted a twenty-dollar bill in the gutter next to the sidewalk. No one was around. Tom grabbed it. “What do you think of that, Fred? My luck’s changing!”

Then, a big idea, if not a good one, hit Tom like a slap upside the head. “Fred! I know what to do! I’m going to take this twenty and my savings and try the casino. Lucky streaks don’t last long, so let’s hurry.”

Less than two hours later, Tom stood at the roulette table sweating hard. His luck had ended, and he bet his last chip on red to pay two-to-one.

Standing next to a woman with large breasts and several rings supporting big diamonds, Tom wondered if any of them were real. “How about those, Fred?” he asked. The woman heard him, frowned, and moved to the other side of the table.

The croupier spun the wheel, and Tom said, “Here goes nothing, Fred.” He was right. The ball landed on black, and Tom was impoverished. Oddly, he was surprised and realized all he owned were some clothes, some rotisserie chicken, and one week left in his apartment.

The spin was bad for the woman too. She grew hysterical and screamed at the croupier, “I’m winning and winning, and then Nose stands next to me and I lose it all. He’s bad luck and I want him out of here.” She waved her arms, pointing to Tom and the exit.

The croupier disappeared into a dim hall nearby. The woman, scorned, clopped away in thick high heels. Tom and Fred were about to leave when two dark suits approached and the croupier returned to his table.

“Excuse me, sir,” the taller one said to Tom. “Mr. Diamond wants a word.”

“I’m s-s-sorry,” Tom stammered, “I didn’t mean to upset the lady, I was just talking to my dog.” He searched the two stony faces but gleaned nothing.

“This way, sir.” One of them pointed to the hall. Tom imagined guns in their pockets and obeyed. After a tense walk down the narrow hall and into a spacious office, the three of them faced Mr. Diamond seated behind a massive desk.

He spoke slowly while studying Tom. “We want you to quit whatever job you have and work for us as a cooler, starting now. One of my croupiers reports that you are a natural.”

“W-w-what’s a cooler? I can’t kill anybody. I just can’t.” Everyone but Tom laughed.

“You’ve been watching too many movies,” Mr. Diamond said. “You won’t kill anyone. You’ll stand next to big winners. You’ll watch, get too close, and talk to yourself. You’ll jinx their winning streak. You’ll be paid well; in fact, here’s cab fare for today.” Mr. Diamond slid a century note across his desk to Tom, who grabbed it.

Tom was transfixed. Wow!

At that moment, he noticed Mr. Diamond’s secretary. She smiled at him past her long red hair.

Tom recognized predestination when it hit him in the face. “Yes!” he answered quickly and left before Mr. Diamond could change his mind.

“Fred, I think my luck has returned! Let’s test it,” Tom said when they returned to the big room. He stood at the now-crowded table of the same croupier and placed the hundred-dollar bill on red, the color that betrayed him before.

The ball landed on red!

Tom’s euphoria shattered when the croupier took Tom aside. “You’re supposed to be a loser, not a winner. Clearly, I was wrong about your being a great cooler.” The croupier headed for the hall to Mr. Diamond’s office.

The invisible Fred whimpered as Tom chased the croupier to explain.

“Wait,” he called out. “It’s my bad luck made me win. Bad luck because I’d lose my job if I won. Don’t you see?”

The croupier paused. He looked puzzled but slowly understood, nodded, and strolled back to his table with Tom. “Okay,” the croupier said, “but no more betting.”

Tom readily agreed and walked over to stand next to the man with the most chips. Tom smiled down at Fred. “It’s simple, Fred. My bad luck was good luck, except that good luck is bad for me.”

The man with the chips frowned at Tom.


Copyright © 2014 by Jo Wharton Heath

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