Sometime near to eight pm last night the Delirium Tremens monster woke up. Grabbed me by the neck, Announced, “I’m back!” “So fucking nice to see you again,” I said. “Lance, don’t mock me! I can make this very unpleasant.” “I believe you. What’s on our agenda tonight?” “Death.” So I made a decision. I got into my little chariot and drove to the Commerce Hospital, only half-drunk. (It is just up the road ‘bout a half-mile; figured I could make it without killing anyone.) Filled out the paperwork (but only a formality, as they all know me there) —filled out the paperwork and was directed to my ‘room.’ “Doctor will be in to see you straight-away Mister Marcom. Just try to rest for a minute.” I lay back and tried to stop shaking. Presently a very young lady-doctor came in and began to question me: “Are you in pain?” “Not really.” “Why are you here?” “Delirium Tremens.” “Have you been drinking today? “Yeah, but apparently not enough.” (She is writing all this down; this does not escape my attention) “Tell me exactly how you are feeling,” she said. “Panic attacks, shortness of breath, inability to sleep, eat, watch CNN.” (That made her chuckle) “I see. Well we will get some vital signs from you and then I will be back. Try to relax. Is there anything we can do for you in the meantime?” “Yeah. Shoot me in the head.” This was probably not the right thing to say to her, given her professional demeanor. She was writing furiously now…. “Have you had thoughts of hurting yourself? “Doc, it was just a joke.” Still writing, she said, “I have to record all this, for the psych evaluation test.” “Is this something I can study for?” I inquired. “Just try to relax. Someone will be here in a moment to take your vitals.” “Okay. Got no place I have to be anytime soon.” ******
With nothing else to do and somewhat pissed at Shonnie for putting us both in a bad situation, I walked over to The Las Vegas Club just across the street from the Union Plaza. My intent was to pass some time playing a relaxing game of roulette. I have always enjoyed roulette. The pace is slow and generally that game draws a more serene clientele. A casual game of roulette would afford me the opportunity to calm my anger and pleasantly pass some time.
The minimum bet was one dollar, so I bought a hundred bucks worth of two-bit chips and began scattering them about the table. Never really scoring big at roulette, I did not expect anything but a hundred dollars worth of entertainment and some free bottom shelf booze. I had a few wins, but more losses and as my initial investment faded away along with about an hour and a half, I cashed out the remainder of my stake (about twenty-five bucks), drained my glass, stubbed out my Marlboro and headed back to the Plaza.
Upon entering our room, I discovered Shonnie face down on the bed, a cig still burning in the ashtray.
I sad upon the bed next to her.
“You awake?” I whispered.
“Owwwie… Is that you Honey?”
“Yes, Dear. It’s me. How’d you come out?”
“Won three hundred. Proud of me?”
“Nope,” I said. “You nearly got me in trouble.”
“Always about you,” she said, turning on her side to face me with piercing blue eyes.
“We did have a plan, you know. What happened?”
“I couldn’t get shed of that moron.”
She sat up abruptly. “I tried, Goddamn it!”
“How hard is it to walk away from a blackjack table?”
“I was having fun too.”
“You’re drunk,” I said.
“Yeah. Be a dear and light me a smoke.”
I lit two Marlboros and handed her one. She took a long drag and asked for a cold beer. I fished two Bud longnecks out of the cooler we had brought along and handed her one. She drained about half of hers, belched, and said, “Cotton mouth.”
“Charmed, I’m sure.”
“Fuck you. I have a major headache.”
I kissed her lightly on the forehead and said, “We need to head outta here tomorrow by noon. I have to be back on my boat…”
“Okay! Okay! I got it. What time is it anyway?”
“It’s later than you think.”
She drained the rest of her beer, threw her half-smoked cigarette in the ashtray, rolled over and went immediately to sleep. Just perfect, I thought. I took some minutes to finish my beer and my cigarette, then got undressed and curled up next to her and was soon asleep myself.
Next day we managed to check out of our room and hit the road by about twelve-thirty. I stopped for gas and a six-pack at Whiskey Pete’s and we reverse-road-tripped on into San Diego, arriving about six in the evening. I dropped Shonnie at her mom’s and headed back to the Frederick. I hit my rack and slept like the dead. I had duty the next day, so I could not leave the ship. On Tuesday at sixteen hundred after liberty call I got in my civvies and hit the beach. Found a pay phone on the pier and called her up.
“Hiya Baby. How y’all doin’?”
“Why didn’t you call me yesterday?” She sounded pissed.
“You know damn well. I had duty yesterday,” I shot back.
“Oh… Yeah. Sorry. I forgot.”
“Wanna hook up?” I asked.
“Yeah. Meet me at Seaport Village. In the parking lot. In an hour.”
“Make it an hour and a half.”
I pulled into the parking lot at Seaport Village around six p.m. No sign of Shonnie. I killed the Toronado but left the stereo playing (Tom Waits: “Warm Beer and Cold Women…”) Pulling from a pint of Jim Beam, I lit a cigarette and watched some seagulls diving on scraps in the bay. I saw a haze-gray-and-underway-piece-of-shit heading out to sea, black-shoe-sailors manning the rails. I saw couples walking hand-in-hand on the boardwalk. I was allowing myself to have some second thoughts about my relationship with Shonnie: Was it going anywhere? Was it worth the risk? Was she fun? Was she great in the sack?
Did I love her?
My mindless contemplations were brusquely interrupted as she pulled up alongside me screeching tires and slinging gravel. Grand entrance! She exited her ‘La Bomba’ and walked toward my vehicle. She looked California stunning: wearing tight faded blue jeans, a halter top, cowgirl boots, and carrying a fifth of whiskey and obviously an attitude. She ‘runway’ sauntered over to the driver’s side of my car, opened the door, plopped herself down and inquired, “How’s my favorite Sailor-Boy?”
Aiming for ‘nonchalant’ I said, “Fair to mid’lin. You?”
“Finer-n-frog hair,” she said.
“Don’t be mockin’ a good ol’ Texas Boy,” I said back. (Yes. I did love her after all)
“I have a surprise for you Lover.”
“Do tell,” I said.
“I am ‘house-sitting’ my aunt’s condo in La Jolla all this week. It’s all ours.”
“I’m partial to parking lots and sleazy motel rooms,” I protested.
After an hour of waiting (and three Jim Beams), I decided to go looking for Shonnie. The walk to the El Cortez was not long, but too long, as I did not feel the need to walk it. What the fuck was she doing? She was supposed to wait ten or fifteen minutes, cash out, and meet me back at the Plaza. It was now getting late and I’d had no intention of returning to the Cortez. Some months earlier I had almost been thrown out for the very thing I had done this eve, albeit without a partner. Damn it! Fremont Street was packed with all the usual suspects: tourists, vagrants, weekend warriors, refugees from L.A.
I made my way to the El Cortez.
Once past the slots I headed back to the bar. As I sat down I saw Shonnie still seated next to ‘George’, laughing it up and surprisingly with a decent stack of chips in front of her. George was lighting her cigarette. She did not notice me at the bar. I ordered a draft Stout, lit a Marlboro, and contemplated my next move. I had to get her away from the table and away from George, who had obviously fallen to her charms. There were two other players at the table, but the seat next to Shonnie was empty. Once my beer arrived I took a drag from my cigarette and walked over to the table.
The dealer was yet another cute young ‘Ornamental’ sweetie. Before I sat down I withdrew five hundred from my wallet and placed it on the table.
“Green” I said.
The dealer stacked my chips and pushed them toward me. “Good luck, Sir.”
Shonnie looked up and betrayed some surprise. She could see I was slightly pissed. This is an assumption. I nodded at her, but probably not discreetly enough.
I had checked my ‘drunken cowboy’ façade at the door. All I wanted was to get her (and me) the hell out of there. The dealer was about to shuffle the two decks as I placed four green chips. Before she finished her shuffle, another dealer came up behind her, tapping on her shoulder. The new dealer was No Chick. He was more of a ‘Guido’. My radar now was operational. She dropped the deck and clapped her hands for the Eye-in-the-Sky and moved off. Guido picked up the decks, smiled at me and parroted the ‘Good Luck’ catch phrase as he offered me the cut. I cut the decks in the middle and took a sideways glance at Shonnie. She ignored me. Good for her.
“Sir,” the new dealer said, “Please cut closer to the bottom.”
“Uh sure,” I said, somewhat nervously as I recut the decks.
I caught the pit boss looking at me. Or was I just being paranoid? Shonnie was still apparently oblivious.
The cards came out. I caught a deuce and a jack, fucking Dead Man’s Hand. Shonnie caught a pair of queens. Shit! Maybe this game is all about luck after all. The dealer had an ace showing.
“Insurance?” he asked. No takers. Insurance is generally a sucker’s bet. Dealer made a show of peeking at his hole card, and not flipping it over revealed he had no blackjack. He dealt.
The two to my right busted. I don’t even recall what they had. I was not counting cards at this point. I just wanted out. I had to hit my twelve. Caught a seven and stood at nineteen. Shonnie stood pat with her twenty. George hit his fifteen, caught an eight and busted.
The dealer flipped his hole card, revealing a six for a ‘soft’ seventeen. He had to hit. He did and caught a deuce for a nineteen and a ‘push’. A tie for me. A win for Shonnie.
As the dealer was paying off Shonnie’s win and gathering up the cards, I nudged her with my knee. She looked at me somewhat startled and I knew instantly that she was going to have her some fun with this.
Okay, I thought. Wanna play games?
Lighting a cigarette and taking a draw from my beer, I said, “Looks like you’re doin’ okay here tonight. You always this lucky? What’s your secret?”
She giggled, “I have a blackjack mentor.”
“Ah… I see. Where is he now?”
“Dunno. He tole me to fly solo this evening.”
“Sure you ready for that?” I asked.
“Yeah. I am. What’s it to you cowboy?”
Taking another slow drag off my cig, I said, “Uh, nothing to me. Just thought you might wanna take a break… while you’re ahead of course, and join me for a drink.”
“I got free drinks right here. Why would I wanna join you?’
(Obviously Shonnie was pushing my buttons and beginning to get on my last nerve)
At this point, ‘George’ chimed in: “Hey Pal,” he said, “She is g-a-m-b-l-i-n-g, git it?”
“Yeah, I ‘git’ it Sir. And who are you, if I may ask?”
“I am a sailor, for your information.”
Fuckin’ perfect, I thought. Another drunken sailor—a small fish in a big pond—this was gonna require some surgical delicacy. Goddamn you Shonnie! What’s your ‘game’?
I ended the conversation at that point and pretended to focus on the hands I had been dealt: The cards and the situation. The card’s part was easy: I had drawn an eighteen. No decision time there. Shonnie had drawn another natural Blackjack (fuck!) and the dealer had a four showing. Shonnie was paid her wages for her BJ. I stood on my eighteen. George sucked on his fifteen and this time wisely stood pat, knowing the dealer should bust (If he even knew how to play the game). The dealer did in fact, bust.
As he paid off the bets, I felt a presence at my elbow. I turned and was greeted by an ‘Official’ from the ‘Management’.
“Hello Sir. Are you a guest here at the hotel?”
“Nope. Why do you ask?”
(Here it comes… I had been asked this question before)
“Well Sir, we see that you are betting… and we like to accommodate our best customers. Is there anything you require, or need? A room? A meal? A girl?”
“Not really. In fact, I was just about to leave and call it a night.”
“That’s a shame. We here at the El Cortez pride ourselves in our hospitality.”
“Certain you do, and I appreciate that, but I really must be on my way.”
“As you wish Sir. Good luck.”
Fuck! Fuck! I nudged Shonnie slightly harder with my knee and gathered my chips. The cacophony of the casino and the smells and the lights… were all getting to me! I just wanted to leave.
If she were intent to continue her game, she could do it without me. I came for her. That is all I could do. She should have known that.
Wouldn’t she have known that?
“Vaguely she floats and lacelike Blown in like a curtain on the night wind She’s nebulous and naked He wonders where she’s been He grabs at the air because there’s nothing there Her evasiveness stings him…”
For those of you who may have had the premature misfortune to read the end of the ‘Shonnie’ Series, I apologize.
I got lazy and lackadaisical. There (of course) is much more to the end of that story. I will sharpen my pencil and re-write it. The facts are the facts, but even ‘un-sharpened’ facts deserve their day in court… and with some poetry. This is just requisite in my world.
Meantime: Mae West is the woman I have always loved (This may speak volumes about me and most likely of my attraction for Shonnie).
So about six in the evening we walk on down to the El Cortez. Shonnie goes in and I hang back a few; Smoke a Marlboro on the street and head on in. Making my way through the slot machine triple canopy jungle I head to the back, the bar, and the blackjack tables while looking for Shonnie. I spot her seated all alone at a two dollar minimum table decently close to the bar. She was next to ‘Third Base’, empty chair to her left, and five empty seats to her right, just as I had instructed her. “Good Girl,” I thought, “Now, let’s see what you can do.”
As I sat at the bar, lit a cigarette, and ordered a gin and tonic, I watched as Shonnie placed a two-dollar bet. Glancing about the casino, I saw it was a bit slow. A few of the Blackjack tables were completely devoid of players, but it was yet early. This would certainly soon change. I hoped we would be out long before the crowds came. Shonnie had learned the basic count pretty fast, but I did not think she would be able to sustain if there were a table full of other players and thus many more cards to count. If she could pull it off with just her and the dealer, well that was good enough. We had already made a good score with the Craps game the night before and I really wasn’t looking to get rich. I just wanted to (truthfully) impress her with my ‘Gangsta’ ways. Prove a point, as it were.
She was playing a double-deck game (again per my instruction), and I noted that the dealer dealt deep into the decks (a very good thing). Between reshuffles, I could see Shonnie chatting it up just a little with the dealer, a diminutive ‘Ornamental’ Girl: Pretty much becoming the ‘Norm’ in Vegas at that time. Chinese or Korean, best guess.
I was on my second gin and tonic and my fifth Marlboro when some schmuck waltzed over and sat down to Shonnie’s left. Proper Third Base. He looked about fortyish and was wearing a fake cowboy hat, ruffled shirt, à la George Strait, and a stupid face. He began chatting her up. Now, I had not planned on this, but I did realize a good-looker such as Shonnie, sitting all alone at a BJ table, would be bound to draw some flies. I only hoped this asshole did not distract her too much from her count. We had practiced ‘distractions’ in the hotel room. As I played dealer and dealt way too fast, I would ask her questions and play with the remote on the TV. She did just fine. (She is smart, this one.)
Shonnie played through four reshuffles and was winning. I even saw her double-down a few times and in fact she was increasing her bets. ‘What the fuck?!’ I’m thinking. ‘How long does it take a double-deck to go hot?’
‘George’ remained and was beginning to piss me off. Obviously he was distracting her from her count. I ordered up another gin and tonic, lit a cigarette and stewed some. My drink arrived just as I saw Shonnie pull a cig out of her pack, hold it in her left hand and waited for George-The-Sycophant to light it.
I gathered my drink and my pack of Marlboros and sauntered over to the table. Sat down at first base, threw out (drunkenly, for show), a few hundred dollars. The dealer arranged them on the table for ‘The Eye in the Sky’, and said, “Changing six hundred.” She then passed me some big stacks of red and some green chips. I noted that Shonnie had placed two red chips immediately to the right of her stack. If she was spot on, this meant the count had gone to ‘plus ten!’ I had coached her to constantly shuffle her chips, as if she were nervous or bored, so that this act would not draw any attention.
“No Darlin’, gimme a few black,” I said to the dealer, pushing away the red chips. She took them back and pushed out three black chips to go with the twelve green. I placed two bets (two hands—one can play multiple hands if the table is basically empty) of one hundred dollars each. Shonnie dropped a green chip (I had told her nothing fancy dammit!) George dropped a red and seemed more interested in Shonnie than his game and whispered something in her ear.
All bets placed, ‘Ornamental Dealer Girl’ began to deal. (I estimated that only one-third of the two decks had been dealt, so this bode well for me. A plus ten count! Outrageous!) I caught a pair of eights on my first hand and a hard eighteen on my second. Shonnie caught a natural blackjack and sent me a sideways glance. George caught a dead man’s hand: a thirteen. The dealer had her hole card, but with a five showing. Surely she would bust on that weak ass shit. She would have to take a hit, no matter what and with the decks rich in face cards, she just had to bust.
Of course I split my eights. Caught a three on the first eight and doubled down (now two hundred on that hand) Caught a jack! Twenty one! Caught a deuce on the second eight, doubled down again. Caught a king! Twenty on that hand. Another two hundred. I am now five hundred into this round. I stood pat on my other hand, the eighteen. Shonnie had already been paid for her natural blackjack, so it was up to George. He hit his thirteen! (A rookie move: He should have stood on his thirteen against a dealer showing a five up card—idiot) He caught another face and busted. A face card meant for ‘Miss Ornamental’. Again: Idiot! But it all worked out…
The dealer flipped her hole card, revealing a ten, making her a fifteen. She hit the fifteen (as required) and caught a nine and busted.
The deck was still hot (plus to the plus) so I played another hand and won three hundred. Shonnie won another twenty-five. George lost another five. The dealer started to reshuffle. I was done here.
I pushed all my chips out in front and said, “Color me up Darling and keep this one,” as I tossed her a green. I saw Shonnie throw me yet another sideways glance, rolling her eyes.
I gathered my chips and headed over to the cashier. Got my money and split back to the Union Plaza to wait for Shonnie.
Some of you may be waiting for the last few chapters of ‘Shonnie, The Biker’s Wife.” (I know, as I am awaiting them too). But that said, well what can I say? I tend to expose personal shit here. Sometimes it grows difficult, and I grow wary and weary. I have vowed to my Vizsla Dog
that I will finish this tale tomorrow and get past it. (My dog tends to humour me. What choice does he have? I control the ‘soup bones’)
So, with that ‘sate-ment’, I leave you just one more clue to the outcome, by way of a song (There is always ‘A Song’ isn’t there?)