I am rarely alone. Well, that’s not true. I am alone in my car on my way to and from work, and sometimes, I sneak away and do a little grocery shopping by myself. But alone, alone….alone like a stay-at-home mom alone, that rarely happens.
Today I was alone. A fortuitous scheduling occurrence chanced upon my household this first week of January in the lucky year of 2013. My children returned to school today, and I do not return to work until Monday. That leaves me with a total of thirteen hours to myself over the course of two days. Thirteen hours!
To say I felt a little giddy this morning would probably be an undertstaement. I felt down right mischievous. I could do whatever I wanted for six and half hours and no one would really know. Sure, as long as I straightened up a bit and threw some laundry in, I could claim I graded papers and worked on the OPAPP cohort. It’s not like anyone was going to check up on me. Yep, launching a plan to do something completely out of the ordinary would be nothing less than ingenious because for the first time in what felt like years, my time was all my own.
I came home from dropping the girls off and quickly slugged a cup of Breakfast Blend that I speedily brewed in my Keurig coffee pot. It was hot, but I needed the jolt of caffeine so that I could accomplish the unconventional task I had planned. I jumped in the shower, shaved my legs, and washed my hair. I made sure to use the strawberry shampoo. People always seemed so much more receptive to me when I wash my hair with strawberry.
I put on a tight skirt, a red top, and my black boots. I straightened my hair and put on some make-up. I wanted to feel pretty. After I checked myself out in the full-length mirror and was satisfied that I looked a little younger than my age, I leaned down and gave Linus a good pet. He was staring at me with sad eyes. He thought we were going to spend the day together, and here I was dolling myself up like I was going out on the town. He didn’t understand, I could tell, so I leaned down and rubbed his head. “This will be our little secret, Boy. Sorry that Mommy has to put you in the cage, but I need some me time and some fun.”
I jumped in my SUV and drove downtown to the Horseshoe Casino, somewhere I had only been once in my entire life. I had the valet take my car, and I walked through the front door as if I was someone to be reckoned with. I saw heads turn and I knew that meant I looked good. I walked over to a security guard, pulled my sunglasses down the bridge of my nose, smiled ever so coyly and said in a soft, feminine voice, “Excuse me, Handsome. Can you point me in the direction of a Blackjack table.”
His brows ever so slightly raised, a bit shocked at my flirtation, I am sure. “Why, yes Miss, it’s up those stairs and to the right.”
I pulled my shoulder in front of my chin and bent at the knees. “Thank you.” I winked, elated that I got a “miss” instead of a “ma’am”, and I moved in the direction that he indicated.
As I expected on a Thursday in the beginning of January, the crowds around the tables were pretty thin. Most everyone was of a certain retired age, and no one really seemed to be enjoying themselves. I had every intention of changing that situation, at least for one table.
I walked over to a ten-dollar table where I saw two empty seats. I watched two hands and on both hands, the Dealer beat all six players. The first deal he turned a 21 by flipping 2-2-5-7-5; the second-hand he won with a 20: King-King. On most days, I would walk away from this table because of the vibe, but today, on this secret day where I could be home doing laundry and mending slippers, I decided this table needed me.
I slipped off my jacket, and said to a boy who looked alone, “Is this seat taken?”
He smiled innocently and kindly. “Nope, it’s all yours.” He waved his hand as if inviting me to be his date.
“Thank you.” I sat down and the dealer and the players waited patiently for me to take out my money. I took out ten dollars.
“Can I have a chip for this?” I asked. The dealer’s mouth dropped open, and the men shifted in disbelief. I could only imagine what was going through their heads. This broad doesn’t know anything!
“You know that is only one hand,” the dealer said. “Most people ask me to chip up a fifty dollar bill or more.” He was trying to be polite, but I could feel he was a little annoyed. He thought I would lose this hand and then ask him to chip me again. I, on the other hand, had other ideas.
“No, really, this will do.” I smiled.
He went through the procedure of providing me with my chips. “Money in!” he yelled.
The pit boss walked over and realizing the transaction, laughed. “If that don’t beat everything,” he said. He looked at me and I smiled. “Money in,” he said to the dealer. He walked away shaking his head. I saw him walk over to another pit boss, and I assume he explained what I wanted, and they both looked at me and chuckled.
“Bets please,” the dealer said.
I placed my ten-dollar chip on the mark. The dealer dealt the table, I got an ace on the first card he flipped up for me. The boy sitting next to me did, too. I smiled widely, my adrenaline was pumping, and I said to myself and then to the boy. “Good luck on that Ace. Good luck on that Ace!” We leaned in a little harder, and wouldn’t you know, I got a Queen and he got a Ten– we both hit blackjack on my first hand. I let out a loud “Woooo Hoooo,” which made everyone at my table laugh and all of the curmudgeons at the other tables stare with disgust. The pit boss looked over and he was shocked at my minor victory. The dealer ended up busting that hand, so everyone else at the table won, too. As the dealer was doling out the winnings, I said to the table, “You just need to have a little fun and luck will find its way.” Everyone nodded in agreement, and I felt the atmosphere change.
After a few hands, the boy next to me spoke to me while raking yet another hand of chips. “Man, am I glad you sat down.”
“Yeah, why is that?” I asked.
“Well, I am going back to school on Sunday and I don’t have enough money to buy books. My grandmother gave me a fifty for my birthday. She told me to spoil myself, so I came down here to try to win a few hundred for books.”
“Is that spoiling yourself?” I asked.
“To me it is. I am in my third year of pharmacy school, and I really want to do well to make my family proud.” He blushed ever so slightly, and I felt a connection to him. This boy seemed to have a purity of spirit, and I hoped deep in my heart that he would win what he needed.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Billy. I mean Bill,” he corrected quickly.
“Okay, Billy let’s have some fun.” I patted his hand. I suddenly felt like I wanted to know everyone at the table. Through the next few hands I learned that the two guys at the end were retired brothers, Ian and Sam. They were in-town until the eighth to celebrate Orthodox Christmas with their extended family. They lived in Florida now with their wives. On my other side was a fortyish man who was a little vague about his occupation, but he was a local, and we shared some good conversation about restaurants around town. His name was Neil, and to be honest, his face seemed oddly familiar, but I couldn’t place him at all. The men at the other end of the table were construction workers who happened to work weekends, so Wednesdays and Thursdays were their weekends.
As we chatted and got to know each other, I watched each person at the table have pure unadulterated fun. Everyone lost some hands, sure, but it was the camaraderie that made it unique. Anytime any of us would get an ace, at least one person if not multiple persons would say, “Good luck on that Ace.” When the blackjack did hit, everyone would clap and cheer, as if he himself had gotten blackjack, too.
About eleven, I realized I was back down to sixty dollars. At the height of my playing, I was probably close to two hundred, but I had a couple of bad hands in a row, and as it is with Blackjack, if you break even, you win. I placed my last ten-dollar bet because I decided I wanted to walk with a little winnings. I looked at Billy’s pile, and it had grown a bit.
“So, how are you doing?” I asked.
“I have a little more than $350.00. I just need fifty more, and I will be able to buy all of the books I need,” he said.
We both played our hands and we both busted. I knew the table was dry, and it was time to pick up and go.
“Say, Billy, do me a favor?” I asked as the dealer was collecting our chips.
“Sure, what?” he asked.
I pushed my chips in front of him. “Take this fifty from me and walk away before you lose it all.”
He looked astonished. “I can’t do that!”
“You can, and you should. The table is cold, and if you keep playing, you will walk with nothing. Take the fifty and go to school and buy your books.”
“Bets please,” the dealer announced. Billy had a split second to decide. Could I be right? Had the table gone cold?
“Bets please,” the dealer repeated a bit more adamantly.
I waved at the dealer, stood, and started to put on my coat. Billy saw that I meant business. He looked from me to the dealer to his chips. He waved off the dealer, too.
He rose and put on his own coat. “I don’t know how to thank you,” he said.
“No need. These few hours were a win for me, trust me.”
Billy and I walked out of the casino together. He realized I was going to wait for my car. He gave me an awkward hug and walked away. I got in my car, drove home, and changed into sweatpants. I still had enough time to do three loads of laundry, mend Lizzie’s slippers, and clean the kitchen before I picked the girls up from school.
All-in-all, it was a good day.