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Issue number nine




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The Gambler by David Holub

I was standing in line at the Asian market; that’s where I get all my collard greens.

I was wearing a fake mustache, just like the old days. The only problem: Since I had last worn the fake mustache, I had grown a real mustache and had forgotten to shave it off. The glue was beginning to irritate.

A stranger entered the line behind me and set a pair of blue jeans on the counter.

“I didn’t realize they sold jeans at the Asian Market,” I thought to myself, although I suspect the clerk overheard me.

Then I looked down and noticed the man wasn’t wearing any pants. I was appalled, although I did admire his high-tops.

I made the mistake of making eye contact, and the man proceeded to engage me in small talk. I politely replied that I was not a fan of small talk and suggested such topics as The Death Penalty, Labor Issues, and Campaign Finance Reform.

That’s when he asked me for my autograph. With encouragement from the clerk, I signed one of the store’s comment cards and handed it to the man.

He told me to sign my real name. I asked him what my real name was.

“Bob Barker,” he replied.

“Bob Barker, I am not,” I snapped.

He looked disappointed so I did my best Rod Roddy impersonation.

The man asked me if I was making fun of his sequin jacket, then stormed out of the market, opting not to pay for the head of lettuce in his hand. He was accosted by security.

On the way home, I thought of sheep.

Day 2

If it hadn’t been for the man screaming as he fell past my window, I never would’ve woken. It was 10 past 2 and I was wearing a mailman’s uniform, which was odd because I work for UPS.

Something was bothering me but I couldn’t put my finger on it. To calm my anxiety I sat behind my drum set and did my best to play Drum Solo #5 from Pat Sajak’s album “Drummin’ Fool”. It’s one of his lesser known albums but a groundbreaker nonetheless.

I looked at the clock. 3:35. An hour of drumming and something was still eating away at me. As I was typing “cancer” into an Internet search engine, I finally figured out what had bothered me all morning. I’d woken up with Kenny Rogers’ hit song “Daytime Friends and Nighttime Lovers” stuck in my head.

As my folk remedy book suggested, I went to take a bath in tomato soup, only to find my bathtub filled with cream of potato.

I flipped the lever to drain the tub. When I returned, the soup had drained but the potatoes remained so I scooped them out and salvaged a potato salad.

As I left my house to go to the synagogue a man was waiting on my front porch. I greeted him with a “hi” and a firm nod. The man then put me in a headlock. I squirmed out of his grasp only to find myself in the midst of a full nelson.

After 15 minutes of negotiation he let me free and ran off. I could see that he was a slight man but the gimp mask make it impossible to distinguish a hair color.

The event inspired me to write a poem that started out about chocolate cake, but ended up correlating the feeding habits of the North American elk with the mating patterns of domesticated goats.

Still dazed, I decided to attend a random high school graduation. My purpose? To intimidate the key note speaker. I sat in the front row trying to establish eye contact. I made a few pointed stares and aggressive gestures but got no response.

That’s when I glanced at the program and realized the keynote speaker was blind.

“That would explain why he was wearing sunglasses even with the heavy cloud cover,” I thought to myself.

I still didn’t know why they had that dog sitting up on stage or how they got him to sit for so long. They must’ve promised him a bag of chips or a billiards party with his friends.

Remembering that blind people have keener hearing and a higher developed sense of smell, I messed my shorts then stole a trombone from a band member on stage. Before I could honk out the first few lines of the Christmas classic “Do you see what I see?” I was whisked away by three policeman and a vice principal.

I was told that I faced three charges: disturbing the peace, assaulting a member of the brass family (a woodwind would’ve been a lesser charge) and heckling a blind man, which is legal in 38 states. Unfortunately, mine was not one of them.

One of the policemen asked me if I’d like to spend the night in jail and I must’ve though he said Jell-o because I recommended a fruit salad recipe for them to try at their next potluck dinner. The policemen were not amused but the vice principal seemed interested.

As I made my way back home, I couldn’t help but remember the Alamo.

All in all, an exhausting day. And a strange one, too. Something had not been right, but at least I could now go home and take off this mailman’s uniform.

Day 3

The newspaper woke me up when it hit the door. I was anxiously awaiting today’s news. For one, stocks had been continuing to fall (along with the people off my roof) and two, my rubber band ball was nearing 7 inches in diameter.

Before opening the door I noticed a man standing on the porch. Through a narrow vertical window to the side of the door, I asked him what he wanted. It was the man with the gimp mask. Shouting through the glass had gotten his attention. He turned around.

“I need that mailman’s uniform back”, he shouted “And I won’t put you in a headlock. I need to go to work.”

Sensing he was genuine, I unlocked the door and invited him in. When I returned with the uniform, the man had taken off the gimp mask. This took my by surprise.

“Why did you take off the gimp mask? Now I know your identity.”

“Oh this?” he replied, “I wasn’t trying to conceal my identity. I just wanted that uniform back.”

“Why didn’t you just ask for it?”

“I don’t know.”

“So why were you wearing the gimp mask?”

“I have fair skin. I always wear it when I'm outside.”

I went on to ask him how I wound up with his mailman’s uniform. With a few minutes to spare before he started his route, he told me the story.

Apparently it all happened a couple of nights ago. I was in one of the taverns downtown, shooting some pool, drinking some chocolate milk. That’s when Spencer--the man in the gimp mask the next morning--came waltzing around.

He said he was flashing cash and acting like a big shot. First he insulted my red jacket and matching shorts, then said he’d like to hurry up and whoop me so he could get the table.

“You’re not going to beat me, I’m the best,” I reportedly told him.

“You wanna bet?” he challenged.

“Yes I do.” I said.

“What do you want to bet?” Spencer said.

I took a few minutes to think about it, then I responded. “That uniform you’re wearing.”

As my end of the bet I offered a Jimmy Carter collectors plate set that I had claimed was out in my trunk. This is odd, because I don’t have a Jimmy Carter collectors plate set. I do keep a Karate Kid plate set in my trunk and some Alex Trebek cutlery in my glove box, but Jimmy Carter?

Regardless, the bet was on.

Needless to say, I won and Spencer produced the mailman’s uniform. I immediately put it on, then rushed on stage and sang a version of the Kenny Rogers hit “Daytime Friends and Nighttime Lovers”.

Unfortunately, the Gambler was on the premises en cognito and took offense at my “butchering his hit tune.”

A fight ensued and Kenny knocked me out in the seventh round of a ten-round bout. It seems my jab was getting slow and he caught me with an uncontested right hook that dropped me to the canvas.

That Kenny sure can box.

Spencer said he drove me home and dropped me off but forgot to get his uniform back.

Next thing I knew, I was laying in my bed the next morning, awoken by a man screaming as he fell past my window.

But at least that explains it. Now it all makes sense.

David Holub is a newspaper features designer in Corpus Christi, Texas. His favorite things include owls, lower back pain, Doppler Radar, and the nervous system.

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