John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

At eight-fifteen Pink Derks called and said he had a fever of a hundred and two and his wife had ordered him to stay the hell home before he got worse and gave it to the other guys.

Colonel Barkis arrived with a message from Fred Pittman. Fred had to stay home and wait for a call from his daughter in Boston. She was having some kind of trouble.

They sat side by side on the bar stools. “That cuts it down to two,” Tuck said. “Want to play gin?”

“I don’t think so, thanks.”

“Real strange, everybody pooping out like this. I don’t think it ever happened before, not that I can remember. One time we played with five. But down to two! Jesus! What’s going on?”

“What do you mean?”

“Are the boys tired of the game or something, Colonel?”

“I wouldn’t know,” the Colonel said. He looked at his watch. `;05.’ “I think I better be getting along. Thanks for the drink.”

“You’re welcome.”

The Colonel looked at Tuck. “By the way, I think I better tell you now, I’m going to be otherwise engaged for the next two Saturday nights. I probably better give you a ring when I’m free.”

Looking into the Colonel’s ice blue eyes Tucker suddenly got the message. He didn’t know how it had happened or why it had happened, but the message was quite clear.

“Yes, you do that. When you’re free.”

Timmy came over. “Looks like the game is off?”

“I think the game is over.”


“Never mind.”

“What’ll I tell the kitchen about the snacks, Mr. Loomis?”

“Tell them to take the snacks and ” He brought himself back under control. “We won’t be needing them tonight. If they’re all made, put them on my account and leave them here on the bar for anybody who wants some. Good night.”

Tucker Loomis walked out into the cool and pleasant night. He had the feeling that he was in some kind of space-time dislocation, standing a little bit apart from himself. He had walked down to the club and so he started to walk home. He remembered a time long ago when he had felt exactly like this.

He had been at the Sands in Las Vegas playing one of the crap tables. For long hours his luck had been uncertain, and he had made money slowly and carefully by playing the odds, playing the field, betting with the hot shooter, passing the dice when they came to him. It was dog work. When your luck is bad, you walk away from it and come back another day. When it is good, you push it. When it hangs dead, you do the best you can, five dollars at a time.

Quite suddenly, at one in the morning, the luck had come flowing back. He was with a shooter on a six, then an eight, then a ten, then a four, had bet against the shooter when he crapped, and then again when he sevened out trying to make a nine.

When the dice came to him, he knew he was going to make some passes. He felt it. He didn’t know how many. He bounced the dice hard off the far end of the table. A seven. Then a six which he made with a pair of threes. A seven. An eleven. An eight which he made with a six deuce. He’d started his roll with a hundred dollars and had let it ride. Two hundred, four hundred, eight hundred, sixteen hundred, thirty-two hundred. Seven! Sixty-four hundred. When he wanted to let it ride, the pit boss came over and approved it, and then stood by to watch the action. He rolled a four, and after five more rolls made the four. Twelve thousand eight.

The smart thing to do would be to drag the twelve and shoot eight hundred. He shook the dice, thinking. The pit boss approved the roll for the whole pile. He still hesitated. And then he could see with great clarity what the dice were going to do. He could see them against the green felt, brighter than life, with sharper edges. A six and a one. And then he would drag twenty-five thousand and go to bed.

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Categories: John D MacDonald