The Pleasure Machine

She is a small, dark complexioned woman, not five feet tall, but of course, she is sitting now, one hand resting next to the button on the pleasure panel in front of her and the other holding both a now cold coffee between her forefinger and thumb and a dead cigarette dangling between her ring and little fingers. After one drag some of the ash fell into the coffee, but she is oblivious.ea185061-1f39-4a6c-b142-8e9a39926ca2

“I almost had it that time bud. Just a few more and I know I will hit. And the next one will be the big one,” she said under her breadth.

“That’s my girl,” IT said. “You know you are the best, the luckiest. It’s a sure thing. Try again.”

Her name is Betty, or perhaps Bette. The skin on her face is drawn tight, severe wrinkles crease her lips and the corners of her brown eyes. Bette appears to be Asian, or perhaps just part. Her black hair is tucked under her Mao styled cap, with a large white pocketbook slung over her shoulder by a large bright gold chain.

She hung her lightweight yellow-gold overcoat on the back of her stool, revealing a slightly lighter gold blouse and pant set she wore underneath.

“C’mon baby. Do it for Bette. Just one time. C’mon.”

The lights of the LED pleasure display illumines her face, casting it in an unbecoming yellow pall. Multi-colored dials reflect characters, or fruits, or X’s, depending on who she is playing tonight, in her eyes which see nothing beyond those wheels of hope and dreams.

“Not this time Sweetheart. I am not tossing my cookies tonight. Not for you, Not for anyone.”

Bette scowled. “Why do they always do this to me? Always promises, always empty promises, never delivered.”

Back when her husband would join her, Bette enjoyed the game. They would drop her kids off at her mom’s, top off the gas tank at the local Esso and drive all night. Last year they found a self-park and would leave their car there, for three dollars a day, before ditching the suitcase at the motel and catching the 22 bus downtown. They would drink, party and play all night until finally stumbling back to their first floor room at the motel to sleep the day away. They liked the first floor. Stairs were to be avoided after nights like theirs.

She hit the button one more time. “C’mon dammit.”

IT smiled knowingly at her, triple X’s at the top of the two outside wheels and one in the middle.

Her husband’s name was Bill but everyone called him “Wick.” No one knew why. It is just what Wick wanted. He was a few years older than Bette but that didn’t seem to matter to either of them. They got along well, he didn’t hit her and never yelled, and he was good to her kids.

One night while she was pounding the pleasure machine he was at the roulette table and somehow scored big, really big. Bette never knew if he just let it ride because that tall blonde cocktail waitress, with the cute little ass he was so fond of caressing, distracted him, or he was actually calculating the spins true to his long time “Wick’s Sure Fire System.”

Anyway, Wick cashed in without Bette, grabbed the blonde, probably by the ass, and disappeared that very night, leaving her alone, with her own passion, a beat up old Plymouth, and a motel bill.

The noise was deafening. Dings, rings, bells, horns, sirens all around her, but seldom because of her. She was oblivious to it all and just stared ahead, her face tattooed with the glare of the screen.

Her kids now lived with her mom. She rarely saw them anymore. She sold the car for a few hundred bucks, which kept her playing for a while. The motel kicked her out last month. At least they didn’t make her pay the balance she owed. Now she slept with whomever would give her a bed, or a couch, or floor. She begged for a stake and as long as she was playing, the casino doors stayed open for her.

Bette stood up and arched her back. She looked to both sides then moved two machines to the left, bringing her long neck Bud with her. She sat back down and said “Hello, friend. I don’t think I know you. What is your name?”

“Hi Bette. You may not know me, but we all know you,” IT said, smiling. “Have a seat.”


About Dave Oney

Dave Oney was born mid last century in Middlebury, Vermont. He received his BS in Chemistry and worked as a polymer chemist in Massachusetts and New Jersey. He became a microscopist (someone who studies little bitty things using a microscope) and photomicrographer (someone who photographs little bitty things) before settling into a 35-year career in technical sales of scientific imaging equipment (the science of digitally recording itty bitty things, sending the image to a computer for analysis.) He designed and created a number of products contributing to this field. He is (was) proficient in several computer languages and is currently working on mastering English. After making a few more paradigm shift career changes Dave and his wife, Fran, retired and moved closer to their children and granddaughters and now live in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas.
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