The Flame of Olympus

(Excerpt)

  

     I was somewhere around the middle. Neither up nor down, amongst the winning; losing; flashing; ding, ding, dinging; drunken courage, blind luck and blinder stupidity. Sitting, watching lives change for better or worse, from one moment to the next, as a casual on-looker without motive or influence, one really does feel helpless for those succumbing to the fate of the dice. 

   There wasn’t any particular reason for me being there, no one cause that led me to be sat sipping whatever was put in front of me, plugging bills into a machine, without hope one for a payout. Was I hoping for a payout? Or just any morsel of feeling or change that happened to present itself in order to break from self-stasis? Maybe it was a sub-conscious penance that I found myself there. In went the next bill. And the next. 

    When I sit, I enjoy myself. When I enjoy myself, I drink. When I drink, I lose.

   With that, the waitress came around with another beer that was never asked for. Her experience in the field has taught her the archetypes well. I took it by nature, with a smile that wasn't reciprocated. As she walked away she turned around to give me a second glance. She did that the first time too. I guessed that maybe waitresses can’t chat to punters as they cough up their savings, must detract from business. Or she may just have been of a shy disposition, some are. That being said, I think she knew who I was from the moment I sat down, despite the fact my face had filled out with a thick stubble. 

    Pat yourself on the back for taking up three seats, big guy. In addition to the machine that I sat in front of, the neighbouring slots were unwillingly occupied by myself too. Not that I consider myself to be a chunky individual, just that by profession I am that bit broader than the average slot-machine fiend. But it did help in creating a distance between myself and others. The notion of sitting cheek-to-cheek with strangers as I whiled away my worth was unsettling for me. The spring of the stool was severely tested by my stature too. I was sat so low that my feet were planted firmly on the ground, putting a kink in my knee, and I had to peer up at the rolling columns before me.

    A soft cough grumbled its way into my ear. I thought nothing of it and punched the machine again. Another cough. I turned to my left, an older couple sat out of ear’s reach. To the right, nobody. Cough-cough-cough-cough, sharply, right in my ear. Alright, who the fu…Swivelling around, I came nose to nose with the culprit. She was old, grey and frail; peering into my eyes through glasses thicker than an avid cyclist’s thighs. No further coughs were made and she gave no vocal advance. I pushed off to begin my spin back to face the machine when she coughed again. My existing momentum carried me back to her face. Must be her lucky game, she wants you to shift. 

    Feeling no attachment to the machine, I thought it best to try to defuse any potential issue before it arose, ‘Sorry, I can move if you want?’ Her newly raised eyebrows spoke the words I expected to hear. I cashed out and sauntered down the aisle to another machine that was equally as keen to disrupt my financial situation. Machines don’t discriminate. 

    Perched on a new low-lying stool, through no fault of its own, ‘The Flying Toucan’ became my new money shredder. Entranced with the rolling fruits and tropical birds, to my surprise I started winning. With a bit of luck (read: patience) things can pay off. The waitress came round with another volley of beverages for the aisle, mine was the last to receive its owner. She slammed the pint down on the table beside me like a gavel, I gave an involuntary jump. A sharp bull huff was also delivered before she charged off. Staring down at the beer: There is no doubt in my mind that there is some form of human fluid swimming around in that. Well, a drink’s a drink. I swigged away, for lack of a better option...