Song Of The Day 7/31/2016: Kenny Rogers – “The Gambler”

Week Of Lies VI -

(SETTING: A warm summer's eve on a train bound for nowhere.)

(The TRAVELER and the GAMBLER sit opposite each other in suspended silence. They're too tired to sleep and take turns staring out the window at the darkness. The TRAVELER has a bottle in his lap.)

(The boredom finally overtakes the GAMBLER and he begins to speak.)

GAMBLER: Son, I've made a life out of readin' people's faces. Knowin' what the cards were by the way they held their eyes.

(beat)

TRAVELER: I'm sorry, you're talking to me?

GAMBLER: So if you don't mind me sayin', I can see you're out of aces. For a taste of your whiskey I'll give you some advice.

TRAVELER: Actually it's cognac.

GAMBLER: That'll do.

(The TRAVELER hands the bottle to the GAMBLER, who drinks down his last swallow and sighs.)

GAMBLER: Could I bum a cigarette?

TRAVELER: All right.

(TRAVELER pulls a cigarette out of his inside pocket and hands it to the GAMBLER.)

GAMBLER: Could I ask you for a light?

TRAVELER: Needy little pip, aren't you?

(TRAVELER reaches inside same pocket and brings out a lighter, which he hands to the GAMBLER, who lights his cigarette. The night gets deathly quiet; GAMBLER's face loses all expression. Finally he speaks again.)

GAMBLER: If you're gonna play the game, boy, you gotta learn to play it right.

TRAVELER: What game is that? I don't really play--

GAMBLER: You gotta know when to hold 'em
know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
know when to run
You never count your money
when you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
when the dealin's done.


(pause)

TRAVELER: Thanks for the pro tip. I'll try to remember that if I ever--

GAMBLER: Every gambler knows
that the secret to survivin'
is knowin' what to throw away
and knowin' what to keep
'Cause every hand's a winner
and every hand's a loser
The best that you can hope for
is to die in your sleep.


TRAVELER: That's a bit bleak, isn't it?

(GAMBLER stops speaking and turns back towards the window. He crushes out his cigarette and fades off to sleep.)

(Suddenly, the GAMBLER bolts upright again.)

GAMBLER: You play keno?

(beat)

TRAVELER: Excuse me?

GAMBLER: Well, I was just thinkin', maybe you're not a cards guy, maybe you're a game of chance guy. You play keno?

TRAVELER: I really don't spend enough time in casinos to--

GAMBLER: 'Cause you gotta know when to choose 'em
Know when to lose 'em
Run some scenarios
on probability an' such
You gotta keep your pencil
Sharp as you can make it
'Cause if they can't read your numbers
You won't be winning much


TRAVELER: You know -- excuse me. Sorry to be rude or insensitive or whatever, but I think you've mistaken me for someone a bit less -- I don't know -- risk-averse? I value order and predictability. All these metaphors, while I appreciate their overall effectiveness, and certainly think they wouldn't be wasted on an individual with more matters of his existence unsettled, are really not applicable to my situation. I don't frequent casinos. I don't play poker with friends. Aside from a few scratch-offs I don't play the lottery. I don't even like to--

GAMBLER: What was that last part?

TRAVELER: --I was going to say, I don't even like to go fishing with other people, there's a competitive--

GAMBLER: No, no, no, before that.

TRAVELER: --I don't play the lottery?

GAMBLER: Except...

TRAVELER: --except for some occasional scratch-offs, when...

GAMBLER: Scratch-offs!

TRAVELER: Oh, Christ.

GAMBLER: 'Cause you gotta know when to buy 'em
when to deny 'em
Don't hold the line up
At the convenience store
You always hold your scraper
At a 40 degree angle
Don't move it too hard though
Your knuckles might get sore


TRAVELER: Look! Stop! I didn't ask for this! All I wanted to do with get on with my business trip! I took the train because I'm scared of flying! I have this big proposal in the morning, I really need to concentrate and catch some sleep. Then I'll get off when we hit Detroit!

GAMBLER: When we hit what?

TRAVELER: Detroit. This train's going to Detroit.

GAMBLER: But... I thought this was a train bound for nowhere.

TRAVELER: Bingo.

GAMBLER: Bingo!

TRAVELER: What?

GAMBLER: Bingo!

TRAVELER: Fuck.

GAMBLER: 'Cause you gotta I-27
Then B-11
Make sure you fill in
That center square
You never curse at the caller
'Cause that would be ill-mannered
They'll probably call security
And get you out of there


TRAVELER: (to audience) Can you believe you have to wait for the rest of The Hidden '70s 'cause of this shit?

GAMBLER: Who you talkin' to?

TRAVELER: Listen, Grizelda. I've got this, okay? I don't play anything! I don't play games, I don't do athletics, I don't even do puzzles, all right? Sure, I don't have a lot of spice in my life, but that's not the way I do business! I'm professional. I have a degree. There's not one ounce of risk or frivolity in my life and that's the way I like it. Just give me some cognac, some nice sheets, the memory of the one that got away and some Kleenex and I'm fine! So let's just shut up, ignore each other, let's not say or especially sing to each other until we've arrived in Detroit, and then we're done. Hear me?

GAMBLER: ...Son, let me tell you something.

TRAVELER: No! No more singing! No more...

GAMBLER: I'll not sing! I... look... once... once I was a dapper young buck, not unlike yourself...

TRAVELER: ...fine. Whatever.

GAMBLER: Oh, I was! I flit around the streets of my hometown with a buzz in my step and a lilt in my voice. Women adored me. Men adored me. Children adored me. I had my own franchise of roasted chicken restaurants. It was wonderful. And now... now that I have more yesterdays than tomorrows, son, I find myself with so little left to give, but all the will in the world to give it... Son, you're the first person I've spoken to in three years... fifteen years if you don't count chicken wholesalers... and I don't know, maybe it was your confidence, your dressing down... I just wanted to make sure, before this old world stops rotating for me and tells me to get off, that at least one person... just one... would benefit from the guidance of a well-meant stranger, to restore whatever hope I could before the curtain falls.

(beat)

TRAVELER: All right. I'm sorry. I overreacted.

GAMBLER: If the Good Lord is willing, and should you abide... just one more metaphor, may I? Then I shan't trouble you with any more of this old man's last rambling visions.

TRAVELER: One more?

GAMBLER: Yes. On the topic of your choosing.

TRAVELER: The topic of my choosing.

GAMBLER: Yes.

(pause)

TRAVELER: Twister.

GAMBLER: Twister?

TRAVELER: Yeah.

GAMBLER: A delightful contest!

TRAVELER: Yeah, okay.

GAMBLER: Thank you! All right. Here we go:

(GAMBLER clears throat)

GAMBLER: 'Cause you gotta know when to bend 'em
Know when to squeeze 'em
Know when to drop your leg
Know when to... ahhhhhhhhh!


(GAMBLER stumbles to his knees)

TRAVELER: What? What is it!

GAMBLER: Ahhhh, I was supposed to die at the end of the second verse! It's all catchin' up to me now!

TRAVELER: Wait! How about Pokémon Go!?

GAMBLER: Good luck, sucker!

(GAMBLER dies. TRAVELER turns to audience.)

TRAVELER: Blogged, from Seattle -- it's WEEK OF LIES!

(TRAVELER spontaneously combusts, rats eat his entrails)



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