The candlelight gave the room a warm glow that belayed its cause. Mood had nothing to do with this antiquated form of illumination. One bet at a time, Joshua had slowly been testing his system – until the red letters flooded in, the water company cut him off, the electricity company sued him. The cupboards lay empty and the sink slowly stacked high with dishes that he had no water to clean. He was on the verge of being destitute when he’d cracked it- he’d found the secret to luck.
But now, Joshua was on his hands and knees – carefully he selected one of the coins scattered before him and flicked it into the air – the candlelight made it shimmer like gold. He repeated the action six more times, before shaking his head and placing it in a neat pile to his right.
‘One out of seven, it’s not ready yet’ he said to the man standing in the corner with a gun.
Joshua leaned back on his haunches to rest ‘I didn’t say you could stop’ the man said taking a step towards him.
‘What more do you want?’ Joshua asked ‘I’ve told you my system’ he said with a sigh as his eyes started to close through fatigue.
The man laughed ‘There is no system’ he said, ‘Your luck just changed, we’re taking it.’
There was a knock at the front door and the man with the gun looked through the curtains. Light poured in dazzling Joshua, causing him to reel backwards, knocking over the neat stack he’d just constructed. A woman entered the room and bent down to pick up the nearest pile of coins.
‘No, this one puts the lucky ones against the back wall’ the man said, pointing with his gun to the far side of the room. The newcomer nodded.
She put the coins into her rucksack and as she returned to the door, she whispered to Joshua ‘tough luck, darlin’. Seems like nobody can keep luck quiet for long’.
The man with the gun opened the door and quickly ushered her out. She got a cap out of her bag and pulled it down, covering her eyes from the glare of sunlight. Briskly, she walked down the road passing neon signs, fountains of water, streams of people, all snapping photos – all smiles and laughter.
She turned into the cool air-conditioned casino and instinctively wound her way through a maze of tables, wheels, and machines. As she walked, she unhooked her backpack and dropped it besides an old lady sitting on a stall.
The old lady reached into the bag, took out a coin, fed it into the slot and pulled the lever.