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The Gambler A Thrilling Short Story
The Sleeping Beauty
Going home from work was always a tedious unavoidable routine for me. The crowd, the shades of human odor, the shoving and the noise! We had hardly settled ourselves in the bus when my friend, Ben, burst out.
“Emeka, I don’t know what you are going to do with your month’s pay, but for me, I am going to double mine”. He appeared not to have noticed my winks and signs for him to desist from talking about pay and money. I had my pay in my pocket, and was actually clutching the envelope to make sure it does not fall into the hands of those ever-ready pick pockets that are always present in the buses.
Above the din, I mouthed,
“My money of course,” he answered. I shoved closer to him and told him that I also would like my money doubled.
“If you have suddenly turned into a magician, I am yet to tell, but surely I would like to see you perform this feat,” I continued.
“Easy, easy buddy,” he said.
“I am going to bet on sleeping ‘sleeping beauty,’ the horse,” he declared.
“You mean, you want to gamble your pay packet away?”I asked in a shocked tone.
“Well, I am not asking you to do the same,” he retorted.
When he saw that I was silent on the issue, he went on to explain, “I just mentioned this to you as a friend. But if you must know, I have been studying ‘sleeping beauty’ for past five months. She is a well trained horse, well bred and sturdy too. I have also taken the time to go round the bookmakers and they all seem to favor her. I definitely see no reason to waste this opportunity. The races will start by 5p.m., if you are interested enough to go with me, fine, but I will not compel you to bet against your wish.” When I still did not say anything, Ben plunged into giving me the vital statistics of this horse, bringing out reasons to convince me into believing that he was doing me a favor, and that I must bet on that horse.
He Convinced Me To Stake
Ben and I have known each other since childhood, through primary, secondary and the university. People often thought we were brothers because we have almost the same physical appearance. To humor Ben, I decided to put five shillings on the horse. We agreed that Ben would come to my end at 4:30 p.m., from there we would proceed to the Race course.
While getting off the bus, I could not help noticing this old man getting off too. Earlier on the bus, I had seen him sitting on the last seat in the bus by himself. As I walked home, it seemed the old man was trailing me. Deliberately, I took the wrong turns to establish if I was being followed or not. When I saw that this man made no moves to hide the fact that he was following me, I decided to wait and face him. When he came abreast me, I saw his face, wizened and furrowed, his physical features looked strong and healthy and very much at variance with his face. When he smiled, he bared a toothless gum. He grinned at me, as if we had known ourselves for a lifetime.
“May I be of help to you sir?” I asked. He just glared at me with those bulb-like eyes of his and made no response.
“May I ask why you have been following me?” I continued.
Then he spoke, his voice rattled like a broken gong, with his mouth opening and closing like fish out of water, gasping for air. “I could not help overhearing the discussion on the bus, between you and your friend. I followed you, hoping to be able to dissuade you and possibly make you change your mind completely about gambling.” I did not like this intrusion one bit and so retorted hotly, “how can you? Who do you think you are to meddle with my personal affair? What has my gambling or not got to do with you, a stranger?”
I was baffled and surprised at what I saw next. Tears! Real tears were dropping from his eyes as he stared unblinkingly at me, without uttering a word. My first thought was that this man must be mad, or near so. I made a swift turn in order to bolt away, but he seemed to have anticipated my reaction, for he grabbed my right hand and held it like a vice. I tried in vain to wrestle out my hand. I became confused, afraid and weak at the knees. I felt as if the energy in me was being drained away, and everything seemed to happening in a dream. Then, that voice again, “if only you would listen to my story, then, may be, you will begin to understand my concern,” he said, freeing my hand. I tried to run away, but some inexplicable force held me, and compelled me to listen to his story.
“My name is Walter,” he began, “but people who know me call me the gamble.” As I opened my mouth to ask him why that was so, he stopped me with a wave of the hand.
“You see, I have traversed all through the provinces of this country, and I am well known by many. I was born of rich parents. My father was a well known merchant in the country and being an only child, it was made known to me early in life that I was to follow my father’s footsteps in business. I was also brought up with the knowledge that one day I would come to control the family’s business. To this end therefore, my family spared no expense towards my training.” He continued.
“At the age of sixteen, I was shipped to Europe for my education. Indeed, I travelled throughout the length and breadth of Europe and made many friends. Some of my many friends were into gambling and it did not take long for me to develop this habit of gambling. At first, it was not for the money, because I was well provided for, but for the fun. Much later, when I got hooked, I could pledge anything of value that I had, including my wears, without any qualms. My incessant demands for money from home were always met, because I always hid my actions under the guise of costs of training and incidence of travels.”
“At the end of my so called education and training period in Europe, I returned home. My father retired from active service, leaving me to manage the business. I had hardly been on the saddle for one year when the business began to go down. I was using most of my time and the company’s money to gamble. Of course, my father did not find out until it was too late. How I wish he had learnt of this in time, maybe, my story may have had a different ending.”
“Under subtle pressure from my mother, I found and got married to the most beautiful girl in the world. Before long, we had a handsome hefty boy playing on our laps. My wife, it did not take her long to discover this bad streak in me. She tried very hard with tears and pleadings and prayers to dissuade me from gambling. She succeeded. We were happy and enjoyed each other’s company. My business started recovering and life became enjoyable again, but it was just for a while.”
“The devil struck again in the guise of friends and business associates. We found that any situation could be a base for gambling and we staked highly on the outcome of such a situation. Be it football matches, wrestling, and any other form of sports, and even market trends and results. We would each stake millions on that such event which none of us could control the outcome, and it became a vogue. The lucky winner always smiled to the bank and the losers went home borrowing.”
“Everything happened in a quick succession. Firstly, I staked my father’s business and lost. When the news reached him, it broke his heart and he died. I may never be able to forget his accusing eyes, nor would I ever get over the fact that I caused his death. While standing by his death bed, I swore to change my lifestyle, but how could I, when I was practically broke? I knew within me that I should change, at least for the sake of my family. It dawned on me that I had become powerless, and would always be drawn to gambling.”
“In order to recover some of that which was lost, I staked the family cars and lost again. I could not bring myself to tell my wife what had happened. It therefore came to her as a shock when she saw the new owners of the cars collecting them. She rushed into the room shouting that thieves were removing our cars. She only realized what may have happened when I made no moves to stop the ‘thieves’. This event did not stop me, it seemed like once started, there was no stopping for me. I staked the very house in which I lived with my wife and child and lost. I had become a pauper through my own making and had ruined the very lives of the people I profess to love most. The only option left for me was to run away, and I did just that. It pained me, years later, to learn that when I deserted my wife and child, my family, another man moved into their lives.”
“I did come to my senses but it was too, too late. However, to make amends, I have been compelled by a force of conscience that is beyond me, to go round the world with my story. I have been on the road for the past twenty-seven years, and I hope to dissuade people from gambling of any kind with my story.” The old man finished his story, he turned and strode off with resolute steps, out of my sight, while I stood dazed.
Can This Be My Dad?
When my mother was still alive, she made me realize that Reverend Isaac Moon was not my real father. She did tell me that my father ran away from home when e could not break from his gambling habits, and when he had caused the loss of everything of value they ever had. So now, could this be it? Could this old man have been my father? Have I just met with my father who gambled away everything we held dear and precious? Could this really be happening?