Spin the Wheel (short story complete)
Spin the Wheel
If you don’t mind has to count as a question. By rights, you’d have to have a reason for minding…so you’d have to know what advantage there could be in opting out, guess whether the other guy would win the toss or lose it.
Try thinking all that without looking like you mind. So I said, “No, go ahead. I’m listening.”
But I feel like I got positioned.
One of the things they did, most times at these shows, was hold a raffle. So if you got called to come out and fill a seat, you were not supposed to let on…
And you were really not supposed to play for prizes.
But it depended. If they walked up and down the rows with a bucket (hat, whatever), you had to throw your ticket stub in. Delaney had a rule you could eat the food, but you better hand over the prize. His deal with the people that used him was to give stuff back, so it’d be good for the next event.
So then you’d figure they had this incentive to rig it, churn out prizes to the hirees…some of them were good prizes…there was one place giving away an iPhone. I didn’t get it, but knowing what I do…
’Cause, if these people did their shows in even twenty towns…
No, see, to me the numbers couldn’t add up. I don’t think they gave that much away.
So this time, I should have said to the guy talking, who I didn’t otherwise know, what’s the game, buddy? I mean, why do you want me to play? Even the idea that some of us are more inside than others, is a little weird. Why doesn’t Delaney ever wanna say, stick around for a while…or come see me downtown?
I would go wrong, though—I could work out that much—if I talked like I knew what was up, when I didn’t know what was up. I’d look like a spy.
(I’d even try that, now I think of it, if I could get, like, on a news show. And someone would see me…and I’d get offered a real job.)
But, about this crap, who cares?
“What’s your name?”
I said that.
He said, “Butch.”
“Try it again.” He gave me the scenario, for the second time. He showed me what he had in his hand, a stick, with a rubber-coated tip, that was like the handle of a hammer. But just a stick.
“Well, it’s really easy. The money’s all gonna show from behind, with the light shining through, bright red, really easy. And if it slows down, looks like it might stop, you just nudge it along. Suspenseful. Everybody’s gonna go, ooooh-whoooah!” He smacked his forehead, making this noise, acting it.
“And nobody sees me?”
“Don’t hop around too much.”
Yeah, it was always like that, you couldn’t tell when someone was joking. How would they pull this kind of stunt, unless they’d already figured how to light the stage?
Okay, so I end up having to crouch down behind the base of the wheel…’cause as it turned out, they had these strobe lights, one on either side…and from sitting in the audience, you’d figure all the noise and lights going was just razzamatazz. They had four people to come up and play. There were slices with prizes that were just junk they were giving away anyhow. There were two losers. There were blue ones, and I was supposed to let a blue one go, I mean stop, if I got the signal. That was Butch, making his noise.
But not the red ones. Don’t let a red one go.
“Marie! It’s your moment of truth! Are you gonna keep the My-T-Kwik, or go for the big bucks?”
Marie told Butch she was going for the big bucks.
The first guy had not won anything, so he was out.
The second guy won frozen steaks, but he didn’t mind trading them, he said, for the big bucks, so he and Marie got to have a showdown if the last lady crapped out.
I got my chance.
The wheel went fast, too many times for me to count, then it got slower…and I saw it make a full rotation, then it got really slow, and the red came inching up.
The thing, what was messing me up, was the audience was really hooting and carrying on. That was on top of all the boom, boom, boom from the speakers. I felt like, when I couldn’t hear, I couldn’t move my hands. It was weird. And I had lights pulsing into my face from both sides.
Whooooah. Whooooah. Whooooah.
That’s how it sounded, from the crowd, trailing off, like the wheel clacking past the arrow. So I got that nudge in maybe a second too late. A second isn’t much, but it must have looked like the wheel came to a full stop. And then bumped ahead.
There were boos.
Butch said, “I see that happen all the time.” He said, “C’mon, Marie. You’re up.”
And all the audience started hooting again, right off.
It couldn’t hit the red. But I wanted to be extra careful.
Marie gave it a big heave, and at the same time, I leaned into it. Only, see, I was crouching down there for a while…one of my feet had been going to sleep, and you know how it is…doesn’t feel like much until you move, then crazy numb and prickly. So, as far as I could tell, a couple things happened. The wheel rocked back on its stand (that was from Marie), and I sort of fell against it.
In other words, it might have been okay, and I might have been okay, but coming together like that…
I mean, it’s hard for me to thread out just how the crash did happen. The cord on one of the strobe lights got yanked out of its extension. That was when I kicked the light over. My feet were sticking out from under the wheel. Someone killed the music.
Butch said, “Who are you?”
Marie said, “Oh, my god!”
“I was just,” I said, when that guy with the steaks jumped up and lifted the wheel off me (Butch was just standing there), “trying to catch a rat.”
I had the stick in my hand. I shook it.
“You know, I didn’t want it scurryin’ out there, scaring people.”
So Delaney said…
He was there, the whole time, watching from behind the partition…they put it up back of the food table, and Delaney was peering out through the hinge. He said:
“That was completely stupid. I mean, that was amazingly stupid. Butch is a pro, you know. What would you have done, if he hadn’t known what to say?”
Now, again, this is what I was complaining about. How is it my problem? I got recruited, that’s all.
I said, “Yeah, Butch is a pro. Good thing.”
Delaney said, “But I like the rat. That was pretty okay, thinkin’ on your feet.” He heard himself. He laughed about it for a while. Then he said, “You gotta come to my office downtown.”
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)