My eyes hurt; it feels like they’re boiling in their sockets. All around me the rattle of coins is incessant and overwhelming. Reels that spin and clunk hammer their own brand of pain into my head. Everything washes out in a swirling fog of noise and neon. Somewhere from a million miles away – or maybe right beside me – a claxon blares followed by a crash of quarters and a wild shout.
+++++“Oh yeah baby, that’s what I’m talking about!” People move towards the sounds.
+++++I have to fight my way upstream, drowning in a tide of bat-faced housewives clutching blue plastic cups and a convention of salesmen with sweat stained collars. They’re all craning to see which of their number has slain the beast and sated a need less desperate than mine.
+++++I burst through the back of the crowd and gulp in the refrigerated air, it tastes like I imagine pine needles might after a rainstorm, both sweet and sharp. The cool air passes in and through me; I drink it down and manage to hold some inside. That feels a little better, things become solid again.
+++++I start towards the cashier’s cage, choosing the one closest to the unmarked door hiding stairs to the parking garage. I join the shortest line, there’s only one woman in front of me. She’s arguing over the value of a giveaway Keno credit. Okay I can wait. I stare at my feet and watch the fog churning and climbing my legs, blue neon is flickering down amongst it like a static charge. I glance up and the woman is gone, the girl in the booth looks at me, pleasant and inquisitive from behind the grill.
+++++“Good evening Sir how can I help you?”
+++++I can’t speak; the words I have rehearsed in my mind for days won’t come to my lips.
+++++“Sir, are you ok? You don’t look so good.”
+++++I try to smile but know it appears on my face as a grimace. The girl looks anxious now, fingering the button on her intercom.
+++++“Sorry, I ate some bad shrimp.” I manage to blurt.
+++++She relaxes, the pleasant expression rests comfortably on her face again.
+++++I reach into my jacket, my hand lingers for a moment on my wallet, a voice tells me that there is still time, nothing is in play yet. I ignore it, my fingers move past the wallet and close around the grip of a nickel plated nine. I look to the floor again, this time seeing only the dust on my shoes and the dubious patterned depths of the carpet.
+++++“Excuse me, sir?”
+++++The gun slides free; it seems impossibly bright in the refracted light of gaudy chandeliers and pulsing video poker.
+++++“I want everything in the draw. No alarms and no heroics.”
+++++For a moment palpable fear dances naked between us, then vanishes as she screams.
+++++The nickel plate sparkles in my hand and I feel the trigger under my finger. I tighten my grip and it moves just a fraction, barely noticeable but I notice and so does the girl. How much more before the pistol bucks, cordite fills the air and dull metal punches a hole through life.
+++++“Drop the fuckin’ gun, asshole.”
+++++Security arrives breathless to stand behind me with arms braced and a Pernach clasped tightly between sweaty palms.
+++++“I said put it down, now!”
+++++One life or two, maybe even three, just another game of chance in a room full of them. The biggest gamble made not on the turn of a card, or the spin of a wheel but the pressure of a finger. There’s no time to study the pain only to make the play, to hit or hold, the odds are stacked but they always were.
+++++I feel the pressure and hear the sharp crack. The fog clouds back in on me, this time it’s chased through with a spray of red. I’m out of breath and tasting copper. My legs leave and the carpet rushes up to meet me. No cards  left to play I’m down to the felt. The house wins.

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Chris Leek

Chris Leek

Chris Leek is the author of the forthcoming novellas, Nevada Thunder (Snubnose Press) and Gospel Of The Bullet (One Eye Press). His debut short story collection, Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em, is available right now. He is 1/5th of Zelmer Pulp and a contributing editor at western fiction magazine, The Big Adios. He can be contacted at
Chris Leek

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5 thoughts on “Reno”

  1. Great story. I like your style of writing and the surprise that he had a gun. Initially, I’d thought he was a gambler trying to abstain from buying more chips. Excellent!

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