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Bust

“There’s a lot more money to be had. All you have to do is shake my hand and say ‘I accept.’”

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It’s about two in the morning and Jack has been at the blackjack table for the last 40 minutes—and has been in the casino so long he’s lost track of time. Three hours could’ve passed or eight, it doesn’t matter to him. He doesn’t have anything waiting for him outside of the poorly lit, smoke-filled room.

Jack’s down to his last 20 bucks—all he has left to his name—when a man in a deep red dress shirt and blue jeans sits down next to him. By his wide, toothy grin it’s obvious he’s been having a better night than Jack.

The casino is quieter than normal, and they’re the only two playing at the blackjack tables. “Hey, my name’s Lewis,” the man said, extending his skeletal like hand.

Jack, barely acknowledging the man’s presence, shook his hand and went right back to the game where the next set of cards were just being dealt. “Hopefully these ones bring some luck. Been a little short on that.” The dealer flips a card and jack bust with a 22. This loss doesn’t affect the already beaten down Jack.

“Excuse me sir, I didn’t catch your name.”

“It’s Jack,” he grunted.

“Hi Jack, how are the cards tonight?” The strange man was unusually chipper.

“Well. I guess if you’re the dealer the cards are just fine.” Jack sank deeper into his drink.

“Sorry to hear that Jack.”

“Yeah, well, what can you do, right?

Lewis leaned in close so the dealer couldn’t hear. “It’s funny you should say that. I could help you win the next couple of hands if you like.” A playful grin washed across his long, pale face.

Jack perked up for the first time since Lewis sat down. “Oh yeah, how you going to do that? You count cards or something?”

“Nothing like that.” his smile grew wider and his voice lower, “Let’s just say, I have a way of making things work out.”

“Thanks, but no thanks. The last thing I need is the shit kicked out of me for cheating.” Jack downed the rest of his drink, then realized he didn’t have the money to buy another.

“Come on Jack, trust me. All you have to do is sell me your soul and you can win all the jackpots you want.”

The two men, expressionless, looked at each other for a few moments. Then they both broke out into hysterical laughter. “You had me going there for a minute buddy. You really did.”

Lewis suddenly stopped laughing. “Oh, but I’m very serious. Here, let me show you. The first one’s free,” the man nodded his head in assurance, “Place the rest of your money on this next bet. If you don’t double it, I’ll give you a grand right here and now.”

Jack could tell he was serious. But he figured he had only a few bucks left, so he decided to go for it. “Oh, what the hell. Let’s do it.” The dealer placed the cards down and to his amazement, he got 21 right off the bat.

“Do you believe me now?” Lewis grinned with confidence. “There’s a lot more money to be had. All you have to do is shake my hand and say ‘I accept.’”

With some hesitation, the timid Jack reached out. “I accept.” The stranger’s hand felt like burning pig skin. And even after Lewis left, the smell of sulfur lingered where he’d been sitting.

Jack won a lot of games after that. But little did he know, he made the worst bet of his life that night.

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Well, that was an interesting tale. If you liked it, you may enjoy these other flash fiction pieces, too.

Mile High Vanishing Act

The Mountain’s Song

Being Dead is a Drag

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