A Brief Accounting of What Took Place When Dottie Kauppi Won $67,000 on the Deluxe Double Diamond Mine Slot Machine by Roxane Gay
When Dottie Kauppi won $67,000 on the $5 Deluxe Double Diamond Mine machine, news spread through the casino quickly. At the three-card poker table, Ellie Green talked about the time she won $5,000. She shared this story every time someone won big on the slots. The details never remained the same. The others at the table, many of whom were regulars, had heard her story often—how she bet her last three dollars and started to walk away when the machine began making all manner of bright, jingly sounds. She jumped up and down like a mad woman, Ellie liked to say, like Satan himself was holding her feet to the fire. Ellie was a deeply religious woman, unless she was in the casino where she was mostly sanctimonious. On the day she won $5,000, Ellie Green was so damn happy she hugged everyone who crossed her path and ordered herself a piña colada like them pretty ladies in the movies drank. “But then, I took that slip and I went and stuck it in another machine and an hour later, I had lost every penny,” Ellie said, tossing her three useless cards toward the dealer. The others at the table shook their heads, took long drags on their cigarettes, feigned sympathy for the windfall and the unfortunate turn of events wherein what was given was taketh away.
As the story of Dottie Kauppi’s big win jumped from table to table, the amount fluctuated wildly. At the Blackjack table, they were certain she had won $3,860 while at the Pitch table, Steve Stollers shook his head and whistled and said, “$128,000. That’s a nice payday.” The men huddled around the Craps table didn’t care how much some woman from Rabbit Bay had won—slots were for pussies. Real gamblers threw dice. They were going to live or die by the rail.
The complex matter of taxation was the subject at hand in the poker room. The ten players hunched over the table could see Dottie standing next to her slot machine, the red light atop flashing lazily while she waited for a casino manager to pay out her big win. Slim Koskela said the casino would take the taxes right off the top while Pete Finn insisted no such thing would happen. Sasha, whose real name was Patricia, liked to be called Sasha at the poker table. It made her feel fancy. She was an accountant. She knew the right answer with regard to the complex matter of taxation but she also knew that Slim and Pete were attached to their mistakes. She kept the correct information to herself and bet $20 on her pocket Kings. She would go on to win the hand.
“…Chère, I don’t got a ring for you but I do have a big heart. Marry me…”
When Dottie Kauppi won $67,000 on the $5 Deluxe Double Diamond Mine machine, there were hundreds of people in the casino and everyone was buoyed by the news of her success. The casino patrons began tipping better, betting extravagantly, drinking more and not the swill but the top shelf stuff, holding tightly to the fragile, impossible hope that fortune would favor them all. The casino was filled with an energetic buzz that made it seem like a brighter, happier place. Olivier Bertrand, a young logger from Calumet by way of Montreal, flush with a small victoire at the Black Jack table, got so caught up in the moment he fell to his knees in front of his girlfriend, Naomi Hawk. He said, “Chère, I don’t got a ring for you but I do have a big heart. Marry me.” Naomi, ever the pragmatist, said yes but added, “You better get that ring, soon.” Shortly thereafter, they were found having vocal, athletic sex in the bathroom just outside the Keno Hall, Olivier’s jeans pooled around his ankles, his pale thighs gleaming whitely. They would break up four weeks later when Olivier failed to produce a ring, but that night, Olivier and Naomi would gloat, loudly, proudly, and often, that they were having the best night of their lives.
“… Naomi, ever the pragmatist, said yes but added, ‘You better get that ring, soon’…”
But then, the frenzied buzz grew fainter and fainter until sooner than anyone expected or could bear, the casino became, once again, what it had always been—dry, hot, choked with the smell of stale cigarette smoke and body odor, populated by grizzled gamblers and alcoholics, trapped in their weathered, worn skins. Husbands and wives stopped holding hands, speaking to each other sweetly. Friends stood farther apart. The dealers grew terse, their backs and feet aching uncomfortably. A bitter, longstanding argument flared between Mark Badke and Vince Lahti over the girl they both loved in high school, one Anne Linden who proudly served the local community as Miss Winter Carnival in 1989. She married Mark after dating Vince but died ten years later in a freak ice fishing accident Vince had blamed Mark for ever since. Harsh words were spoken; a bottle of Bud Light was broken over an ATM machine and its jagged edge was waved wildly through the air; there was a scuffle; and then a girlish slap fight erupted, making everyone watching uncomfortable. The bored security guards with their guts draped over their polyester waistbands stood and watched, offering insightful commentary.
For weeks after Dottie’s big win, people stared wistfully at the Deluxe Double Diamond Mine slot machine, approaching it with a certain reverence as if the ghost of prosperity still lingered.
Roxane Gay’s writing appears or is forthcoming in Mid-American Review, McSweeney’s (online), Gargoyle, Annalemma, Hobart and others. She is the co-editor of PANK and can be found online at http://www.roxanegay.com.
© 2010, Metazen.