Dart Valley Writers U3A




Lucy Willetts


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The Baker's Dozen - a work in progress

Such is the fate of those that are greedy for financial gain.  In the end, it will rob them of life.              

(Proverbs 1:19)



In I reluctantly clamber out from the comfort of my sleeping bag and carefully position my possessions on the improvised shelf that hangs under the shaft.  I used to worry about poisonous spiders, but these days I'm more realistic.  My home is in the storm drains beneath the 'Entertainment Capital of the World.'  Las Vegas.  The drains can stay dry for weeks, sometimes months, but they can also fill with floodwater by a whole foot in less than a minute and I can't risk my stuff getting ruined when I worked so hard for it. 

            I take one last glance to make sure I've not forgotten anything that could get washed away and then I head down the tunnel, mindful to keep a regular check over my shoulder that nobody's following me.  I've learned to do this a lot.  Can't be too careful in this city.  After a while, my route straightens out and I retch as I pass a mound of garbage full of Styrofoam containers, cans and decaying meat.  And shit.  Got to clean this area up man.  Time you found yourself a new restroom, not so close to home . 

            The tunnel swings to the east and as I round the bend, a bright light shines in my face.  I slow my stride and hold my breath; the hammering in my chest drowning out the sound of my footsteps as they echo around the hollow space. 

            'Who's there?'  The air is heavy with a silence almost deafening in its eeriness; the only sounds, the repetitive click of a torch as it's turned on and off in rapid succession and the distant rumble of tires on the highway overhead.  I blink uncomfortably as my eyes try to adjust but relax once I see where the light's coming from.  It's 'Dodgy Danny' as us tunnel people call him; sat in the middle of the passage, his filthy face half hidden by his even filthier baseball cap.

            'Quit with that torch will ya Danny?'

            'Spare a dollar bro, I'm thirsty?'

            'You ain't thirsty Danny, you're an alcoholic.'  All the same, I stuff a dollar down the side of his battered old boot as I step over him and continue my path towards the two ceiling grates that cast grids of neon light onto the walls and floor ahead.  I hear him scrabble to his feet and his footsteps approach from behind, but I can't be sidetracked by the likes of Danny right now, so I speed up my step.

            The pitch black darkness of the cobwebbed tunnel is a sobering contrast to the luminous energy that radiates from the famous boulevard above and as I reach the exit, it takes a while for my eyes to adjust.  When I'm good and ready, I pull myself up onto the rungs and climb up and out through the broken manhole cover and onto the street outside.  Then I pause for a moment by the barbed wire fence and watch a gaggle of tourists as they drunkenly pose for photographs under the famous 'Welcome to the Fabulous Las Vegas' sign whilst I catch my breath. 

            An airplane takes off from McCarran's airport behind me and roars above my head and I turn to admire the view of the strip, lit up in all its glory.  In the day it kind of looks like any other city, but at night, Vegas takes on a whole other meaning.  The beam from the Luxor Hotel breaks into the night's sky and stooping to pick up the end of a discarded cigarette, I pocket it 'til I can cadge a light and head North towards Mandalay Bay. 

            Last week alone, I hustled almost five hundred dollars in left over credits from machines.  People get careless see; spend enough and the booze is free.  Keeps them at the tables, but that's not why the hotels do it.  Nah.  It's because it clouds their judgment.

            Tonight I'm feeling lucky.  I'll coin a few slots and enjoy a drink or two courtesy of the Lucky Plaza Hotel and Casino and then I'll try my luck on the tables.  I got myself a good feeling about the next few hours.

            But first, I need to sort myself some new gear.  It's not like I can just stroll into the likes of the Lucky Plaza, or anywhere else on the Strip come to that, looking like I've crawled out the sewers and hope no one will notice, because as sure as God made little apples, they will.  Beware the spies in the sky that watch your every move.

            I pause outside Liberace's and check out the shop floor through the glass frontage and sure enough, all the sales assistants are otherwise engaged serving customers, so I enter; grab a few essentials and run.  I'm in and out in less than a minute and once I'm sure I'm not being followed, I allow myself to stop on the sidewalk for a breather.  I know what you're thinking, but before you judge, you just stop and think about it.  Who's the real thief here?  Me with my five-finger discount or Liberace's with their grossly inflated prices aimed at tourists with more money than sense?

            As I head down the main strip, my eyes scan the unwanted handouts that litter the gutter advertising filthy whores to keep the perverts that infiltrate our city company on their trips.  Their faces stare up at me and remind me of Lorraine. 

            'I just wanna make an honest man of you Leroy!'  Shame she couldn't have been more honest!

            Me and Lorrie got hitched in the August of '08 at the Little White Chapel in the Tunnel of Love.  We didn't even get out the truck.  Drive-through weddings don't cost so much, see.  And just so long as she married me and Elvis married us, she didn't seem to care.  I really loved her, you know; I thought she was different.  But by the October of that same year, we were already divorced.  Nobody tells you about that.  They're all quick to tell you there's a wedding every five minutes in Vegas, but they conveniently forget to mention there's a divorce every forty-five. 

            Looking back, the signs were all there.  When Elvis sang 'Fools Rush In', I'd wanted to interrupt the clown and ask him what he was getting at, but as it happened, he was right.  Turned out Lorrie weren't a one-man woman so to speak and no sooner was I banged up in the slammer for something I didn't even do, she was shacked up with the very scum that put me there.  I don't see either of them no more; though I walk over the exact spot I buried 'em every single day.

            I see a couple of dimes shining in the gutter and step forward to pocket them.  Yup, I can feel it in my bones.  Tonight, Lady Luck is shining right on me!