The sun crawled away from us behind the black Nevada mountains as we drove towards an alcoholic sky mixed with Grapefruit, mandarin and Hpnotiq. Although the 3 of us were poker faced, I knew we were all shitting bricks. I've made many trips to Vegas, but only 1 of those trips made me an outlaw.
Jared was doing good. He drove the 20-year-old Honda steady and always 2 miles an hour below the speed limit. Both hands on the steering wheel-10 and 2. "Slow and steady wins the race" they say. But not too slow. You don't want to look suspicious or draw attention to yourself. His pink lucky rabbit's foot swung from the ignition. I'm not sure how lucky a rabbit's foot really is. It didn't bring the rabbit too much luck.
No one said a word. I wasn't wondering what Jared and Nick were thinking. My mind was recalling our drive to Vegas 2 days ago. That's when this bad beat story all began.
- - -
"We're all made up of energy," continued Nick as we passed Whiskey Petes on the 15 north, "which gives off heat. Call it energy or a soul or whatever. But it is what makes us alive."
The 3 of us were on our way to the neon oasis with pocket cash to burn. I needed to get away for a while. My brother died a few months ago and the days of mourning were hard on me. It beat me down like I'd been dusted off at the tables. I needed an escape and there's no better escape then the city of sin.
The thrill of arriving in Vegas helps the 4 hour drive from Los Angeles go by faster than chips at the roulette table. Somewhere around Barstow California our conversations started getting deep, talking about life's great meaning, God and the afterlife. Somewhere around crossing the state line it got weird with talks of psychics and reincarnation.
"When we die," Nick carried on, "our energy leaves our body and rises up to the skies. There it intermingles with other energy before being placed into another body. So when we meet someone that seems familiar to us, it's because that person is made up of some of your previous life's energy."
I thought about this for a minute and then replied, "How does that work with the world's population ever growing. There's not enough souls to recycle into all the new babies being born."
Jared and Nick were stumped so I continued my thought.
"Maybe that's why kids today are so apathetic and uninspired. After generations and generations, the strength of a soul becomes diluted in order to spread throughout the growing population. It's like cutting blow with adulterants so you have twice as much to sell."
Nick replies, "I never thought about that."
"So what you're saying," chimed Jared, "is that kids today don't have a complete soul. That their souls are laced to fill the human shells. What are they laced with?"
"Air," I said naturally.
As we weaved our way throughout the dark Nevada landscape, we came to see a glorious beacon shooting out into the starry skies. No, this was not a UFO drawing up subjects for anal probing. Nor was it a soul leaving an empty shell to join up with the many other souls floating around in space, get "stepped on" with air and recycled into a newly born baby. It was the Luxor - That grand 20th century pyramid saying welcome to Las Vegas. This is the last warning you get to turn around while you still have money.
I'm not going to go into the details of what went on in Las Vegas. It's not any different than all the other stories you've read - The ups, the downs, the debauchery, the flowing alcohol and the waking up and saying "What happened". But there is one incident that holds relevance to my story. Unfortunately, my "What happened" scenario didn't involve intoxication to hold as an excuse.
It was Saturday, our coming home day. We never come home on Sunday because every other looser comes home on Sunday and the drive takes twice as long. We packed our bags and scanned our hotel room 1 last time, making sure that there were no cell phone cables or other important items lost amidst the rocky landscape of empty booze bottles.
With our hazy-throbbing eyes behind dark lenses, we moseyed through the casino to the check-out. That is when it happened. If we had left straight away then, all the debauchery that occurred wouldn't have amounted to anything more than every other visit to Vegas. But I had to see her...and him.
Jared was taking care of our room, arguing about some charges that were made that nobody recalls it's whereabouts because we were all probably so blackout drunk we don't remember. When it comes to nights of drinking, I was on the downswing. The probing in my brain was a constant reminder of all the drinks I forgot I consumed. I found myself in a zone, scanning the casino for any last opportunities. The cruel city left me with a single green chip. I was most likely going to lose it on a bet before making it to the cage.
That's when I saw her. That blond bombshell singer - You know the one. She was walking through the casino with a pot belly pig on a pink rhinestone leash. The triangle shaped shades concealed most of her face. But her tight leopard print dress drew all eyes from their playing tables. I don't really give a lick about the diva. I could care less about celebrities. It was the pig that fascinated me. There was something familiar about him.
I made my way through the casino and stood at the cage. There wasn't a line. But when is there ever that many people who have money to collect from a casino. Nobody ever notices but if you stand and observe the cashier long enough, more money comes in then they ever pay out. I was distracted by the pig only feet away. He sat next to the poker table as his master was firing bullets left and right. It was then, that I saw in his eyes, the soul of my brother.
I know. You're thinking I'm crazy. But I was certain it was my brother. We were inseparable. I knew that look. And using the theory of reincarnation it could be possible. This small pig couldn't be more than a few months old. My brother died just over 4 months ago. Could it be?
"Can I help you!" croaked the cashier probably for the 4th or 5th time. I snapped alert. But when players' eyes, including the blond bombshell, turned to look at me I panicked. I said something like no and hurried away.
We hit the casino buffet for brunch before the long trip back. Nick went on about a psychic he met who worked as a parking attendant in his office building.
"One day, I took his offer to meet up for coffee. He told me that he travels the world, taking on odd jobs here and there. After he meets the person he was destined to enlighten, and feels his purpose is complete and moves on to the next place. I was that person."
I couldn't stop thinking about how my brother was somehow now reincarnated into a pot belly pig owned by the Billboard chart-topping pop star. And now with talks about destiny and purpose and serendipity, I couldn't help but feel that I was here for a reason.
I don't know why events played out like they did. I guess it was just meant to be. But after brunch, I had to take a major dump. Jared and Nick decided to take the luggage to the car and pick me up at the front of the casino. As I waited for them, dissolving a stick of tobacco into my lungs, I watched the valets do their business. They ran about like rabbits, swiftly getting the new Saturday victims into the casino to lose their cash as quickly as possible. That is efficiency.
In complete synchronicity, Jared pulled up with the Honda, I put my cigarette out on the desert scorched concrete and that woman walked up to my side with my brother. I slowly scanned up to see her distracted at removing a cigarette from her Gucci bag. Jared and Nick waited with the engine running. I glanced over at my brother sitting there with a bulging belly. I swear he winked at me with a burlesque dancer's eyelash. PING
It all happened so quickly. I pulled the trigger. I grabbed my brother, knocking her Gucci bag out on the ground, and jumped into the car like I was throwing pocket rockets. I yelled "Go!" and, as if planned, Jared reacted. Hands on the steel wheel, he flipped a bitch and we were on the 15 south before she even noticed her purse wasn't the only thing that slipped out of her hands.
- - -
The sun ran away from us, showing disdain. Either it was evading our company or helping our getaway by concealing us in the dark. Nick turned off the radio because the consistent news alerts involving pig robbers was putting us on edge. He then broke the silence.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"This is my brother."
Everyone looked over at the content pig, concealed under my jacket grunting up a storm.
"What are you talking about?"
"I realized in that moment that the reason I came to Las Vegas was to rescue my brother who was reincarnated into this pig."
Jared was obviously not okay with this. "Do you no how stupid that sounds?"
It doesn't matter how stupid it sounded, because we were quickly approaching the agricultural check point. The thing about leaving Las Vegas is you are always so hung over you never remember that you have to go through an agricultural check point to get back home. This usually doesn't effect you if you are in a car. They only stop trucks and larger vehicles. But due to the recent events of wanted criminals escaping southbound on the 15, the searches applied to everyone.
We quickly got stuck in a gridlock moving at the pace of a slot club member. I realized the stakes were high and there was no turning back. Arguments having to do with "accessory to a crime" came to a climax and then settled down as we inched closer to the guard stand. Can you blame them. I was the fish at the table and they got a raw deal.
We all calmed down and concluded that it was a "no win" situation, but if we played it cool we could possibly hold our own. I put the pig under my feet and covered him with a jacket. These weren't the usual minimum wagers at the check point. They brought in the state troopers. And they were mean.
The car ahead of us was getting their trunk checked as an overweight overfed desert pig approached our Honda. Jared rolled down the window, and poker faced asked. "What's the problem officer."
The pig wasn't being friendly. He asked us to pop the trunk as he shined his flashlight around in the car. My black denim jacket surprisingly concealed our loot. The bumping of the car was clearly an intense anal search of the '91 Honda Civic. With nothing but smoke-soiled alcohol-soaked clothes to convict us of having a good time, the pig slammed down the trunk.
This was the moment that they walk by and say, "You are free to go." Only, as the pig was passing by the window, my brother broke his cover by asking me if it was clear to come out in Vietnamese Pig.
That was the final hand. Sometimes you know when to fold em and sometimes the dealer gets you down to the felt. The pigs took my brother, no doubt, back to that horrid pop artist. What the hell. He always did have a thing for floozies. Me and my friends? We got pinched. That doesn't mean it's all over. Maybe I'll get out based on insanity. My brother is still out there and I'll find him one day.
Besides, I still walked away from Vegas with a $25 green chip in my pocket.
Copyright 2011, Gris Grimly