Coyote Blue Chapter 23~24
Pavlov’s Dogs and the Rhinestone Turd
The only distractions from the noise of his own mind were desert-dried roadkills, thrown retreads, and road signs reflecting desolation. Sam drove, smoked, and fought drowsiness by worrying about how he would find the girl. The trickster slept in the passenger seat.
or any similar topic only for you
Sam had been to Las Vegas three times before – with Aaron – to see championship boxing at Caesar’s Palace. Two hundred dollars bought them seats at nosebleed altitude, closer to the moon than the ring, but Aaron insisted that there was nothing like being there. Without binoculars, following the progress of the fight was like tracking down a rumor. Sam usually watched the women and did his best to keep Aaron calmed down.
As soon as they walked into a casino Aaron started. “This is my town! The lights, the excitement, the women – I was born for this place.” Then Aaron would drop a couple thousand at the tables and suck free gin and tonics until he staggered. In the morning Sam would drag Aaron out of a tangle of satin sheets and hookers, throw him in the shower, and listen to his long lament of remorse and hangover as he lay in the backseat of the car with a jacket over his head, whining the whole way home about how he would never return. Aaron never failed to fuel the greed machine and was always dumbfounded when it juiced him of his hope.
It was the machine that fascinated Sam. While Aaron ground himself through the velvet gears, Sam watched the workings of the most elaborate Skinner box on the face of the Earth. Drop the coin, hear the bell, see the lights, eat the food, see the women, hear the bell, see the lights, drop the coin again. The ostentation of the casinos did not create desire for money; it made money meaningless. There were no mortgages in a casino, no children needing food, no car needing repairs, no work, no time, no day, no night; those things – the context of money – were someplace else. A place where people returned before they realized that a turd rolled in rhinestones is a turd nonetheless.
Sam saw the glow from Las Vegas rising over the desert from thirty miles out. He poked Coyote in the leg and the trickster woke up.
“Hold the wheel,” Sam said.
“Let me drive. You can sleep.”
“You’re not driving my car. Just hold the wheel.”
Coyote held the wheel while Sam punched buttons on the console. The screen of the navigation system flickered on. Sam punched a few more buttons and a street map of Las Vegas lit up green on the screen. A blip representing the Merecedes blinked along Highway 15 toward the city.
“Okay,” Sam said, taking the wheel again.
Coyote studied the screen. “How do you win?”
“It’s not a game, it’s a map. The blip is us.”
“The car knows where it is going, like a horse?”
“It doesn’t know, it just tells us where we are.”
“Like looking out the window?”
“Look, I’m going to have to sleep when we get to Vegas. I don’t even know where to start looking for Calliope.”
“Why don’t you ask the car?”
Sam ignored the question. “I’m going to get us a room.” He dialed information on the cellular phone, got the number of a casino hotel, then called and reserved a room.
The exits off the highway were marked by names of casinos they led to, not by the names of streets or roads. Sam took the exit marked Camelot. He followed the signs down the surface streets lined with pawnshops, convenience stores, and low-slung cinder-block buildings under neon signs that proclaimed, CASH FOR YOUR CAR, CHECKS CASHED HERE, MARRIAGES AND DIVORCES – TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR DRIVE-THRU WINDOW.
Coyote said, “What are these places?”
Sam tried to think of a quick explanation, but was too weary from lack of sleep to tackle the concept of Las Vegas in twenty-five words or less. Finally he said, “These are places where you go if you want to fuck up your life and you don’t have a lot of time to do it in.”
“Are we going to stop?”
“No, I seem to be fucking up at a fine rate of speed, thank you.” Sam spotted the pseudomedieval towers of Camelot rising above the strip, multi-colored pennons flying from standards tipped with aircraft warning lights. He wondered what the real King Arthur (if there was a King Arthur, and who was he to question the truth behind myth?) would have thought about the casino named after his legendary city. Would he recognize anything? Would he cower in fear at the sight of his first electric light? Flush toilet? Automobile? Would he be reduced to a pathetic Quixote attacking this place where chivalry was a quaint marketing idea? Or would the Once and Future King lay eyes on a leggy keno girl and raise another lance to lead the knights of the Round Table in a charge? The women, Sam decided, would be Arthur’s touchstone, and his downfall.
He shot a glance at Coyote. “When we get there you’re going to see a lot of women without a lot of clothes on. Stay away from them.”
Coyote looked surprised. “I never touch a woman who does not want it-“
“Don’t touch!” Sam interrupted.
Coyote slouched in his seat. “Or need it,” he whispered.
Sam drove the Mercedes over a giant drawbridge and stopped at the valet parking station where a dozen young men dressed like squires were scrambling around unloading cars, filling out slips, and driving cars away.
“This is it,” Sam said. He popped the trunk and got out, leaving the engine running. A warm desert wind washed over him at the same time a young man ran around the car and held out a numbered slip of paper. “Your ticket, milord.”
Sam dug in his pocket for a bill to tip the kid, but found nothing. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t have any cash on me. I’ll get your name and leave a tip at the desk.”
The kid tried to force a smile and failed. “Very good, milord.” He jumped in the car and slammed the door. Sam cringed and tapped on the window. The window whirred down; the kid waited.
Sam leaned in and read the kid’s plastic badge. “Look, uh, Squire Tom, I really will leave a tip at the desk for you. We left in a hurry and I forgot to get cash.”
The kid waited, gunning the engine.
“There’s an alarm remote on the keys. Could you turn it on after you park it? One chirp is armed.”
Squire Tom nodded and pulled away. Sam heard him say, “The pox on you, Moorish pig,” over the squeal of the tires. How authentic, Sam thought. He watched the Mercedes disappear around the corner and wondered why valet parking always made him feel as if he had seen his car for the last time.
Coyote stood across the lane waving to the car. He looked over. “Moorish pig?”
“The dark skin, I guess,” said Sam. He led Coyote past a half-dozen squires and an overweight guy in a purple-and-yellow jester’s outfit with a radio on his belt and a badge that read, Lord Larry, over another drawbridge, and into the casino.
Trumpets played a fanfare as they crossed the threshold under a brace of huge broadswords. A jolly electronic voice welcomed them to Camelot. Sam spotted a woman in a peasant dress by a sign reading, Ye Olde Information. The badge she wore, next to a magnificent display of cleavage, read, Lusty Wench Wendy. Sam pulled Coyote back and approached the girl.
“Excuse me, er, Wendy. I have a room reserved and I need to find a cash machine.”
The girl spoke in a whining fake-English-over-true-Brooklyn accent. «Well» – she threw out a hip, struck a pose – “if milords proceed through the casino to the left to the second arch, ye will find the registration desk. There’s cash machines by every arch, milord.”
“Thanks,” Sam said. He started to walk away, then turned back to the girl. “Excuse me, but I’ve been here before and I thought everyone was a lord or a lady. Lusty wench is a new one.”
The English accent had overheated and failed. “Yeah. About three months ago they said it was getting sorta confusing. You know, six Lord Steves, ten Lady Debbies. They use a bunch of other medieval titles now. The bellboys are serfs. Lusty wenches, alchemists, stuff like that.”
“Oh, thanks,” Sam said as if he understood. He led Coyote into the chaos of the casino, looking for a cash machine while trying to move quickly. Coyote’s appearance was attracting attention, and when people looked up from a slot machine or blackjack table, Sam knew they were truly distracted. As they passed a carousel of slot machines, a middle-aged woman who was pumping quarters into a machine by the handful leaned so far back to get a look at the trickster that she nearly toppled off her stool. Sam caught her and steadied her. “He works at the Frontier, up the strip,” Sam said.
Coyote peeked over Sam’s shoulder, winked at the woman, then licked his eyebrows. The woman’s jaw dropped.
“Exotic dancer,” Sam explained. The woman nodded, a little stunned, and returned her attention to the slot machine.
“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” Sam said to Coyote. “And don’t you have any other clothes? Something a little more conservative?”
“Wool?” Coyote made an incredibly realistic sheep noise. A pit boss at the blackjack tables raised an eyebrow and two security jesters fell in behind Sam and Coyote.
“Be cool,” Sam said. He turned under a hanging tapestry of a unicorn and stopped by a cash machine, checking over his shoulder for the security jesters. They waited and watched, standing a few feet away, while Sam took a deck of credit cards from his wallet and shuffled through them. When he inserted one of the cards in the machine and punched his identification number the jesters moved off.
“They’re gone,” Coyote said.
“Yeah, as long as it looks like you’re going to spend money I guess it doesn’t matter what you look like.”
Coyote watched as the cash machine spit a stack of twenties into the tray. “You win,” he said. “You picked the right numbers the first time.”
“Yeah, I’m lucky that way.”
“Try again, see if you win.”
Sam grinned. “I’m very good at this game.” He put a different card into the machine and punched the same PIN number while Coyote watched. The machine whirred and another stack of twenties shot into the tray.
“You won! Play again.”
“No. We need to check in.” Sam picked up the money and walked to a registration desk that was long enough to land planes on. At this hour of the morning there were only two people on the desk, a lusty wench named Chantel and a very tall, thin, very black man in a business suit and wraparound sunglasses who stood back from the desk and watched, unmoving.
“Hunter, Samuel,” Sam said. “I have a reservation.” He placed a credit card on the desk. The girl typed for a second. The computer beeped and the girl looked over her shoulder at the black man, who moved like liquid to her side. He consulted the screen for a moment. What now? Sam thought.
The black man looked down at Sam and a crescent moon of a smile appeared on the night sky of his face. He picked up Sam’s credit card and handed it back. “Mr. Hunter, thank you for joining us again. The room’s on Camelot, sir. And if there’s anything I can get you, please don’t hesitate to call down and ask.”
Sam was dumbfounded. Then he remembered. The last time he had stayed here Aaron had lost almost twenty thousand dollars and billed it to their suite of rooms. The suite had been registered in Sam’s name. Vegas loves a loser.
“Thank you” – Sam read the man’s nameplate, which was pinned at Sam’s eye level – “M.F.” No Lord, no Squire, no title at all – just M.F.
“The second elevator on your left, Mr. Hunter,” the lusty wench said. “Twenty-seventh floor.”
“Thanks,” Sam said. Coyote grinned at the girl and Sam dragged him away to the elevator, where the trickster immediately punched in four floor numbers and stood back. “This time, I will win.”
“It’s a fucking elevator,” Sam said. “Just push twenty-seven.”
“But that is not the lucky number.”
Sam sighed and pushed the floor number, then waited while they stopped at all the floors Coyote had pushed on their way to twenty-seven.
Once in the room, Sam stripped to his shorts and fell onto one of the king-size beds. “Get some sleep if you can. I’ll try and figure out how to find Calliope in the morning. I’m too tired to think now.”
“You sleep,” Coyote said. “I will think of a plan.”
Sam didn’t answer. He was already asleep.
Coyote Loses His Ass
Coyote and his friend Beaver had been hunting all day, but neither had found any game. After a while they sat down on some rocks and began talking.
“This is your fault,” Coyote said. “I can always find game.”
“I don’t think so,” Beaver said. “If you are such a good hunter, why is your wife so skinny?”
Coyote thought about his skinny wife and Beaver’s fat little wife and he was jealous. “Well, how about a bet?” he said. “Tomorrow we will each go out hunting. If you get more rabbits, you can come to my lodge and sleep with my wife so you can see that my skinny wife is better. But if I get more rabbits, I get to sleep with your wife.”
“Sounds fair,” Beaver said.
The next day, after the hunt, Coyote came to Beaver’s lodge carrying his one scrawny rabbit. “Oh, Mrs. Beaver,” he called. “I’ve come to collect on my bet.”
Mrs. Beaver called from inside the lodge. “Oh, Coyote, you are a great hunter. Mr. Beaver just stopped by with twenty rabbits on his way to your lodge. You better go stop him and tell him that you got more.”
“Right,” Coyote said. “I’ll be right back.” He slunk off to his lodge dragging his rabbit.
His wife was waiting outside. “Nice rabbit,” she said.
“Beaver is inside. I’ll see you in the morning.” Coyote’s wife went into the lodge and pulled down the door flap.
All night Coyote sat outside his lodge shivering and listening. At one point he heard his wife cry out.
“Beaver!” Coyote shouted. “Don’t you hurt my wife.”
“He’s not hurting me,” Mrs. Coyote said. “I like it!”
“Swell,” Coyote said.
The next morning Beaver came out of Coyote’s lodge singing and grinning. “No hard feelings, right?”
“A bet is a bet,” Coyote said.
Mrs. Coyote peeked out and said, “Maybe this will teach you not to gamble.”
“Right,” Coyote said. Then he called to Beaver, “Hey, how about playing the hand game with me – double or nothing?”
“Sounds good,” Beaver said. “Let’s go down to the river.”
At the river Coyote said, “This is for a night with your wife.” Then he picked the wrong hand.
“You really shouldn’t gamble,” Beaver said.
“I’ll bet you my best horse for a night with your wife,” Coyote said.
After a while, Coyote had lost all his horses, his lodge, his wife, and his clothes. “One more time,” he said.
“But you don’t have anything left,” Beaver said.
“I’ll bet you my ass against everything else.”
“I don’t want your ass,” Beaver said.
“I thought you were my friend.”
“Okay,” Beaver said. He hid the stone behind his back. Coyote picked the wrong hand.
“Can I borrow your knife?” Coyote said.
“I don’t want your ass,” Beaver said.
“A bet is a bet,” Coyote said. He took Beaver’s knife and cut off his ass. “Boy, that stings.”
“I’ve got to go,” Beaver said. “I’ll tell your wife she can come and sleep in my lodge if she wants to.” He picked up all of Coyote’s things and went home.
When Coyote got home his wife was waiting. “Beaver took the lodge,” she said.
“Yep,” Coyote said.
“Where’s your ass?” she asked.
“Beaver got that too.”
“You know,” she said, “there’s a twelve-step program for gambling. You should look into it.”
“Twelve steps.” Coyote laughed. “I’ll bet I can do it in six.”
Coyote in Trickster Town
Coyote had been a long time in the Spirit World, where everyone knew him, so no one would gamble with him. Now that he was in Trickster Town, he wanted to make up for lost time. He waited for Sam to fall asleep, then he took the salesman’s wallet and went down the elevator to the casino.
Coyote saw hundreds of shiny machines blinking, and ringing, and clanking big coins into hollow metal bowls. He saw green tables where people traded money for colorful chips and a woman in a cage who paid money for the chips. He saw a wheel with a ball that went around and around. When the ball stopped a man took everyone’s chips. The key to that one, Coyote thought, is to grab your chips when you see the ball slowing down.
At one green table, a shaman with a stick chanted while players threw bones. There was much shouting and moaning after each throw and the shaman took many chips from the players. That is a game of magic, Coyote thought. I will be very good at that one. But first I must use Sam’s cheating medicine on this machine.
The trickster stood by a machine that he had seen Sam win from two times. He took one of the gold cards from Sam’s wallet and slipped it into the machine, then he pressed the number that he had seen Sam use. The machine beeped and spit the card out.
“Panther piss!” Coyote swore. “I’ve lost.” He pounded on the machine, then stepped back and drew another card from Sam’s wallet. He put it in the machine and pressed the number. The machine beeped and spit out the card. “Balls!” Coyote said. “This cheating medicine is no good.”
A round woman in pink stretch pants who was standing behind Coyote cleared her throat and made an impatient humphing noise. Coyote turned to her. “Get your own machine. This one is mine.”
The woman glared at the trickster and tapped her foot.
“Go, go, go,” Coyote said, waving her away. “There are many machines to play on. I was here first. Go away.”
He put another card into the machine and hunched over the keyboard so the woman would not steal his cheating medicine. He looked back over his shoulder. She was trying to see what he was doing. “Go away, woman. My cheating medicine will not help you. Even if you win you will still be ugly.”
The woman wrapped the strap of her pocketbook around her wrist and wound up to swing it at Coyote. Coyote was going to turn into a flea and disappear into the carpet, but he would have had to drop Sam’s wallet to do it, so he hesitated and the woman let fly.
Coyote ducked and covered his head, but the blow didn’t come. Instead he heard a solid thud above his head and looked up to see a huge black hand holding the pocketbook in the air, the woman dangling from the strap at the other end. Coyote looked up further, craning his neck, until he saw a dazzling crescent moon of a smile in the face like night sky.
“Is there a problem?” said the crescent moon in a soft, calm, deep voice. The giant lowered the woman, who stood stunned, staring up at what looked like a living late-afternoon shadow in sunglasses. The giant was used to shocking people – white people anyway; a seven-foot black man anywhere off a basketball court nonplussed most. He squeezed the woman’s shoulder gently to bring her back to her senses. “Are you all right, ma’am?” Again the smile.
“Fine. I’m fine,” the woman said, and she tottered off into the casino to tell her husband that, by God, they would spend their next vacation in Hawaii where natives and giants – if they were there at all – were part of the entertainment.
The giant turned his attention to Coyote. “And you, sir, can I help you with anything?”
“You look like Raven,” Coyote said. “Do you always wear sunglasses?”
“Always, sir,” the giant said with a slight bow. He pointed to the brass nameplate on his black suit jacket. “I’m M.F., customer service, at your service, sir.”
“What’s the M.F. stand for?” Coyote asked.
“Just M.F., sir. I am the youngest of nine children. I suppose my mother was too tired to come up with a full name.”
This was not entirely true, nor entirely false. The giant’s mother had, indeed, been weary by the time he was born, but she had also developed an unnatural obsession with dental hygiene as a child, after she was chosen to be one of the first students ever to participate in a Crest toothpaste test. It had been her single moment of glory, her fifteen minutes of fame (and her best checkup ever). When she grew up she married a navy man named Nathan Fresh, and as she bore her children she christened them in remembrance of her day in the dental sun. The first of the Fresh children, a boy, was named Fluoristat. Then came three more boys: Tartar, Plaque, and Molar. Then two girls: Gingivitis and Flossie (the latter after the famous dental hygiene cow). After normal deliveries of two more sons, Bicuspid and Incisor, she had a long, difficult labor with her largest and last son, Minty. Later, Mother Fresh swore that had the child taken one more minute to come into the world, she would have named him Mr. Tooth Decay out of spite – a fact that gave little solace to the man named Minty Fresh.
Coyote said, “People think that it stands for motherfucker, don’t they?”
“No,” Minty said. “No one has ever mentioned it.”
“Oh,” Coyote said. “Can you fix this machine? When I give it the cheating number it just beeps.”
Minty Fresh looked at the cash machine, which was still blinking the message INSTRUCTIONS IN ENGLISH, SPANISH, OR JAPANESE. CHOOSE ONE. “You’ll need to choose a language, sir.” He reached down and pushed the English button. “It should be fine now.”
Coyote inserted a card and punched two numbers on the keyboard, then looked at Minty. “This is my secret number.”
“Yes,” Minty said. “If you need anything at all, please ask for me personally.” He turned and walked away.
Coyote finished punching the PIN number. When the machine prompted him for an amount he punched in $9999.99, the maximum allowed by the six-figure field. The machine whirred and spit five hundred dollars into the tray, then flashed a message saying that this was the card’s transaction limit. Coyote tried the card again and got another five hundred. The third time the machine refused the transaction so Coyote tried another card. After running all of Sam’s cards to their limit he walked away from the machine with twenty thousand dollars in cash.
Coyote went to the roulette table and held the four-inch brick of twenties out to the croupier, a slight Oriental woman in a red-and-purple silk doublet with a name badge that read, Lady Lihn. The croupier said, “On the table.” She gestured for Coyote to put the money down. She nodded to a pit boss. “Watch count, please,” she said mechanically. The pit boss, a sharp-faced, slick-haired Italian man wearing a polyester suit and a ten-thousand-dollar Rolex, moved to her side and watched as she counted the bills out on the table.
“Changing twenty thousand,” Lady Lihn said. “How would you like this, sir?”
“Red ones,” Coyote said. The pit boss raised an eyebrow and smirked. Lady Lihn looked irritated.
“Red is five dollar. No room on table.”
The pit boss addressed Coyote. “Perhaps you’d like two hundred in fives and the rest in hundreds, sir.”
“What color are the hundreds?” Coyote said.
“Black,” Lady Lihn said.
“Yellows,” Coyote said.
“Yellows are two dollars.”
“You pick,” Coyote said.
Lady Lihn counted out racks of chips and pushed them in front of Coyote. The pit boss nodded to a cocktail waitress, then to the stack of chips in front of Coyote, which the cocktail waitress interpreted as “Take the order.” The cocktail waitress would bring strong drinks until Coyote started to get drunk, then she would bring watered drinks until he looked tired, when she would offer coffee and disappear until the caffeine kicked in.
“Can I bring you something to drink?”
Coyote turned to the cocktail waitress and stared into her cleavage. “Yes,” he said.
The waitress held a pen ready over a cocktail napkin. “What can I bring you?”
Coyote shot a glance to a woman at the table who was drinking a mai tai, resplendent with paper parasols and sword-skewered tropical fruit. He grabbed the woman’s drink and downed half of it, nearly taking his eye out with the plastic broadsword. “One of these,” Coyote said. He replaced the drink in front of the woman, who didn’t seem to notice that it had been missing. She’d been riding the alcohol-and-caffeine roller coaster for hours and was absorbed in winning back her children’s college fund.
“Bets down,” Lady Lihn said. Coyote put a single red chip on black and the ball was dropped. Coyote watched the ball race around the outside of the wheel. When it slowed and dropped to the numbers he reached for his bet.
“No touch bet,” Lady Lihn snapped. In an instant the pit boss, the cocktail waitress, and two security jesters in steel-toed elf shoes were at Coyote’s side. The trickster pulled his hand back. It will be hard to trick these people, Coyote thought. They talk like wolves, all twitches and gestures and smells.
The ball dropped into a red slot and Lady Lihn placed another red chip next to Coyote’s. “I win, I win, I win,” Coyote chanted. He did a skipping dance around the table and sang a victory song.
Above the casino, in a mirrored dome, a video camera picked up Coyote’s dancing image and sent it to a deck of monitors where three men watched and, in turn, watched each other watch. One pressed a button and picked up a telephone. “M.F.,” he said. “This is God. Customer service on table fifty-nine. The Indian you were talking to a few minutes ago. Watch him.”
“I’m on it,” Minty Fresh said. He turned to the girl who was working behind the computer. “God wants me on the floor.”
The girl nodded. As Minty walked by her she sang softly, “He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you’re awake….”
Minty Fresh smiled. He really didn’t mind being watched. Because of his size, people had always watched him. He had never blended into any background, never entered a room unnoticed, never been able to sneak up on someone. Attracting attention was as natural to him as being. And for every original-thinking dolt who asked him how the weather was up there, there was a woman who wanted to research the wives’ tale of proportional hand-foot-penis size. (A tale, Minty thought, dreamed up by the unsatisfied wives of small-footed men.)
Minty spotted the Indian at the roulette table. The two security jesters had moved off a few feet but were still watching, as was the pit boss. When Minty came to the table they nodded in acknowledgment and moved off. The croupier looked at Minty and immediately looked back to the bets on the table. Minty Fresh put her on edge. It wasn’t his size that rattled her, but the fact that no one was exactly sure what his job was, only that when there was a problem, he was there. He handled things.
Lady Lihn dropped the ball into the wheel. It raced, then rattled into a slot, and she raked all the bets off the table. Coyote cursed and let out a howl. The woman playing next to him staggered back and wandered away, carrying visions of her children wearing paper hats and saying, “I was going to go to college, but my mother went to Vegas instead. Would you like fries with that?”
Coyote looked at Minty Fresh. “She was bad luck. I lost half of my chips because of her.”
“Perhaps you should move to a different table,” Minty said. “We can open a private table just for you.”
Coyote grinned at Minty. “You think you have a table where you can trick me?”
“No, sir,” Minty said, a little embarrassed. “We don’t wish to trick you.”
“There’s nothing wrong with tricking people. They pay you to be tricked.”
“We like to think of it as entertainment.”
Coyote laughed. “Like movie stars and magicians? Tricksters. People want to be tricked. But you know that, don’t you?” He picked up his chips and walked to a crap table.
Minty thought for a moment before following the Indian. He prided himself on being able to handle any situation with complete calm, but he found dealing with this Indian made him nervous, and a little afraid. But of what? Something in the eyes. He moved in behind Coyote, who was throwing chips on the crap table.
“You can’t bet the numbers until the point has been made, sir,” said the stickman, a thin, balding man in his forties. He pushed Coyote’s chips back across the table. The stickman looked over Coyote’s head and nodded to Minty Fresh before pushing the dice to the shooter. “Place your bets,” he said, and the dealers working at either end of the table checked the bets on the felt. “New shooter coming out,” the stickman said.
A blond woman in a business suit and perfect newswoman makeup picked up the dice and blew on them. “Come on, seven,” she said. “Baby needs new shoes.”
Coyote twisted his neck to look at Minty Fresh. “Does talking to them work?”
Minty nodded to the table as the woman let fly with the dice, rolling a two.
“Snake eyes!” the croupier said.
“Lizard dick!” Coyote shouted back.
The blond woman cursed and walked away from the table. The stickman shot a glance to Minty, then continued. “Two. Craps. No pass. No come. Place your bets. New shooter coming out.” He pushed the dice to Coyote, who threw a handful of black chips on the table and picked up the dice.
“You are small, but I am your friend,” Coyote said to the dice. “You have beautiful spots.” He pulled the rawhide pouch from his belt and poured a fine powder on the dice.
“You can’t do that, sir,” the stickman said.
Minty Fresh gently took the dice from Coyote and handed them to the boxman, who sat across from the stickman watching an enormous rack of chips that was the table’s bank. He inspected the dice, then gave them to the stickman, who dropped them in his tray and pushed a fresh pair to the trickster.
“What is this, shade?” Coyote said. “The shaman gets to use his power stick but I can’t use my cheating powder?”
“I’m afraid not,” Minty said.
Coyote picked up the new dice and chucked them to the end of the table.
“Eight! Easy,” the stickman said.
“Did I win?” Coyote asked Minty.
“No, now you have to roll another eight before you roll a seven or eleven.”
Coyote rolled again. The dice showed a pair of fours.
“Eight. Winner. Hard way,” the stickman chanted. The dealer placed a stack of black chips next to Coyote’s bet.
“Ha,” Coyote said, taunting Minty Fresh. “See, I am good at this game.”
“Very good,” Minty said with a smile. “You roll again.”
Coyote placed the remainder of his chips on the table. The dealer immediately shot a glance to the boxman, who looked to Minty Fresh. Minty nodded. The boxman nodded. The dealer counted Coyote’s chips and stacked them on the pass line. “Playing twenty-one thousand.”
Coyote threw the dice.
“Two!” the stickman said. The dealer raked in Coyote’s chips and handed them to the boxman, who stacked the racks in the table bank.
“I lost?” Coyote said incredulously.
“Sorry,” Minty said. “But you didn’t crap out. You can shoot again.”
“I’ll be back,” Coyote said. He walked away and Minty followed him through the casino, into the lobby, and out the door. Coyote handed the valet ticket to a kid named Squire Jeff, then turned to Minty, who stood by the valet counter.
“I’ll be back with more money.”
“We’ll hold a place for you, sir,” Minty said, relieved that the Indian was leaving.
“I was just learning your game, shade. You didn’t trick me.”
“Of course not, sir.”
Squire Jeff pulled up in the Mercedes, got out, and waited with his hand out. Coyote started to get into the car, then stopped and looked at the valet. He took the pouch from his belt and poured a bit of powder into the kid’s hand, then got in the car and drove away.
Minty felt a wave of relief wash over him as he watched the Mercedes cross the drawbridge. Squire Jeff, still holding his palm out, turned to Minty Fresh.
“What am I supposed to do with this?”
“You could snort it.”
Squire Jeff sniffed at the powder, then wrinkled his nose and brushed the powder from his hand. “Fucking Indian. You work inside, right?”
Squire Jeff looked Minty up and down. “You play any ball?”
“One year, UNLV.”
“Attitude,” Minty said. He walked back into the casino.