One Lucky Guy

By J. Duncan Wiley

Somewhere I got this idea that I was lucky. Or not an idea, more of a feeling really, like my heart was a muscled four leaf clover pumping pure gold through my veins. I’m telling you, you don’t ignore a feeling like that. You’d be dumb to. So I did what any self-possessed American would do and got myself out to Vegas.

It took me about a day to go bust. I even lost my left shoe to a security deposit I couldn’t make good on. But you know what, it took me less than four hours after that, thumping through the city in one stocking foot, to scrounge bus fare home from change dropped in gutters and on sidewalks. (I’ll own up to it: security did pull me out of the fountains at Caesar’s Palace and let me know in no uncertain terms that they never wanted to see me fishing for pennies again). But really. Where else but America could a one-shoed man make out so well?

My wife saw it different though. She threatened to leave. Even packed a suitcase and left it by the door as a constant reminder. So I toed the line for a while, put my nose to the grindstone, walked the straight and narrow and all that. But that clover heart of mine, it kept pumping and pushing, and what else can you do when you’re just overflowing with luck? I started going to the races. Stretched the truth a bit, told a couple outright lies, finally got myself a good line of credit.

Well, they threatened to break my legs out there. They did break my little finger, just to show how serious they were. But the thug who did the job was nice about it, patted me on the shoulder afterward and asked if maybe I was in the wrong line and suggested I try my luck elsewhere. And what’s a little finger anyway? After my wife left, I took his advice and headed for Hollywood.

I didn’t make it in the movies. Didn’t even make it on the lots as an extra. But I did meet a dark haired girl with big eyes and a smoky voice. She was sweet and soft, and I thought maybe I was finally getting on to something good. On our third date she took me to a secluded beach where we could watch the moon shine on the ocean. I swear you could see my stars aligning in the western night sky. Walking along the surf we ran into five toughs with broad shoulders and oiled hair. Is this the guy, they asked my girl. And she said, Yeah, that’s him. They took my wallet and my phone but weren’t satisfied with that. After a moment of heated discussion, one of them turned to me and said, Take off your clothes. I drew the line there. Disrobing seemed unnecessary, and I said so. Well, they piled on me then. Someone stuck me with a knife, I lost count of how many times. No more than six, I think. They stripped me and left me lying on my face with the cold Pacific licking my toes.

It could have been worse. The knife wasn’t big and far as I could tell hadn’t pierced anything vital. My lungs were still working. My heart was still pumping liquid gold. I just had to pull myself up by the bootstraps and get to a hospital. A couple doctors and a few stitches later, I’d be good as new. Better than new, even. I could picture it now, how upon discharge I’d step out of the hospital and into the sun, stretching, a shining and remade man with everything before me. I’d be unstoppable. And how about that? Left for dead one day, on top of the world the next. In this land of endless opportunity, a man like me always comes up aces. I’m telling you, luck is my birthright. Fortune smiles on me. Even if her smile sometimes appears sharp, with curled lip and bared fangs.

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J. Duncan Wiley

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