Flash Fiction D I Hughes

No New Tricks in This Dog

Jim was lost in an eyeball circus of beams, bells and Lucky Sevens. Today was going to be the day.

Having grown up in Reno, Jim knew all about the majesty of the slots; how they made men and broke them in two; how they sucked you in and then spat you out without warning. But, of course, that was the appeal.

The usual Gandalf’s beard of cigarette smoke tickled the base of Jim’s nostrils as he watched the wheels grind to a steady halt – zing, bong, POW – the screen flashed like a proud peacock in a chicken coop. The counter rose and so did Jim’s spirits.

He could hardly contain himself; three bells meant that his pocket would need to grow exactly twenty times its regular size to accommodate his winnings. It occurred to Jim to cash out and run, but the majesty of the slots said otherwise.

A sweat began to form underneath Jim’s leathery old skin and his neck suddenly seemed too fat for his shirt collar.

Jim’s uncle once sat him on his lap and said ‘every day, between getting out of the sack and hitting the hay, we all face one big fork in the road, and without even knowing it we make a choice. That daily decision definitively dictates the quality of our lives – and that’s all that matters. So choose wisely son, pay attention.’

Jim was all too aware of his uncle’s decisions. Even when he was young, Jim knew that his uncle’s daily fork in the road boiled down to the bottle: to slug, or stay straight – that was the only choice he had to make – anything he did after that was just drink driving.

Tales of Country and Western woe filled Jim’s ears and he slugged his third bottle of beer while his index finger reached for the neon slab on the dashboard in front of him, and with squinting eyes he pushed until he heard a click, followed by a gulp.

Zing, bong, POW; zing, bong, POW went the wheels of destiny and Jim couldn’t look. He needed to hide so he poked his head to the left of the slot machine, focused hard on the crease in between the bar girl’s breasts and imagined he was an ant climbing down to the soft, fleshy centre. Jim longed for the touch of a woman; it had been so long since his last feast.

The circus had left town once again so Jim slowly fixed his head back to the centre of the machine and faced his decision. He heard the counter rolling like some furious whirlwind and wondered which way it was going. Jim was banking on it being a winner; he knew he was doing it for the right reasons and ‘karma always knows when you’re doing good deeds.’

If a casino had ears it would probably hear the sound of a hundred thousand hearts hitting the floor every single hour, and at that moment, Jim’s was one of them.

He’d already missed his custody appointment and the funeral wasn’t until Monday, he had two credits left and everything to gain. Jim put one more note in for good luck, hollered for a fourth beer and with wide wet eyes, succumbed, not to his fate, but to the majesty of the slots.

………………………………………….

Guacamole, one of my other pieces of Flash Fiction (including the audio version), has been published in Litro Magazine UK. Feel free to check it out and let me know what you think.

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