I watched as Pauline stepped up to the roulette table with matching stacks of chips in each of her two hands. The gypsy woman had told her what was going to happen. The prophecy had foretold that on her initial bet, half of her money should be placed squarely on 17 black. Winnings, if any, should be collected and put aside. The gypsy fortune teller had specifically stated that any winnings off the first bet should not be used on the second bet.
For the very next spin, the other half of her money should be wagered on 25 red.
I watched her lean forward and place one handful of chips on 17 black. Resignedly, I shook my head and watched the croupier spin the wheel then send the ball careening in the opposite direction. I looked up at Pauline as she stared at the scene playing out in front of her. I realized that I was holding my breath.
Pauline had drained her bank account, sold her car, and convinced me that I should give her a ride to the casino at The Inn of the Mountain Gods. Reluctantly, I had agreed.
“This is crazy, you know,” I told her.
“No it isn’t,” she said, “and I’m not going to talk about it anymore. I’m just going to do it.”
“You’re going to lose everything,” I replied.
“Did your mama get over that nasty cold she had?” Pauline asked, abruptly changing the subject.
“Yeah,” I sighed, “she’s well now, thanks.” I surrendered. I had known Pauline all my life and I knew that she could be as stubborn as a mule. This was one of those times and her mind was set. We rode the rest of the way up the mountain in a comfortable silence. She spent the time looking out the window with a faint smile on her face. A light snow had begun to fall. The lot was full when we got there but I finally found a spot that was situated about as far away from the front doors as you could get. We fastened up our coats and began trudging towards the casino.
Inside Pauline moved to go to the cashiers window.
“Hey,” I said and she paused, looking back at me, “I’m going to go get a drink. I’ll meet you by the roulette tables. Do you want anything?”
“Orange juice,” she said and turned back, continuing her way to the window. She was on a mission.
I went to the bar where I ordered her OJ and a double JD for myself. I slipped the bartender twice the tab and asked her to wish us luck.
When the ball clattered down to the wheel and began jumping around; I exhaled and took a sip of my whiskey. I wove through the crowd to Pauline and handed her the glass of orange juice as the croupier announced the winner.
“17 black,” he said as he placed the dolly on the table.
Pauline got taller when she jumped up on her toes, “That’s the first one,” she said, “would you collect my winnings? I don’t want to risk mingling the winnings with my second bet.”
When the table was ready, I scooped up her money. I had no idea how much it was, but it was substantial. I held the chips against my chest with one hand and finished my whiskey with the other. Pauline leaned down and placed her second bet on 25 red.
She clutched my arm, and sipped her juice as she waited for the wheel to spin. We watched, anxiously as the croupier set the ball in motion above the spinning wheel. Time stood still as we waited and watched. When the ball finally clattered onto the moving wheel and bounced from slot to slot I held my breath again and closed my eyes. I couldn’t watch.
Pauline’s grip tightened on my forearm and I knew immediately what had happened when she started jumping up and down, splashing orange juice on all the players in the immediate area. I opened my eyes and confirmed, with amazement, what I already knew had happened. The little ball was nestled snugly in the red slot marked 25.
A skimpily dressed casino employee brought over a pair of small gold painted buckets. I put the chips I was holding into one of them and Pauline put the winnings from her second bet into the other.
“Let’s go.” She said.
I looked at her, incredulous, “What? You’re ahead. You can’t leave.”
“I can, and I will,” she said, “I’ve done what I came here to do.” We walked back to the cashier’s cage collecting envious stares from the other gamblers we walked past. They saw our two golden buckets and knew what that meant.
I stood back and waited while Pauline took her winnings as a cashier’s check and 300 dollars in cash. She slipped a fifty back to the teller.
“Thanks.” She said then she took my hand and dragged me back out to the parking lot where we began the long, cold walk back to the truck. The snow had gotten heavier and was beginning to drift up against the curbs and to cover the scrub. I couldn’t help but grin when she stretched up and planted a little kiss on my cheek.