Chicken Dinner

From a story I started back in 2011 called “Hank Patrick is Dead, Long Live Hank Patrick” – more on that here.

Marcus managed to pull himself out of the bathtub and then he leaned on the bathroom counter and stared at himself in the mirror.  He concluded that he was staring at a shitty human being, but that he shouldn’t give himself such a hard time.  It was time for him to continue the night before the liquor hit him so hard that he passed out, which he estimated would only take another hour or so.  Therefore it was imperative that he kicked off phase three – blackjack.

Gambling is an exhilarating experience that is borne out of the slim chances of winning big from mediocre stakes.  Marcus thought that it was the second best concept that man had ever invented.  It turned a horrible aspect of life, that is the procurment of currency, into an enjoyable experience.  He hadn’t quite decided what the first best idea that man had ever dreamt up was, but he knew gambling wasn’t it so he ranked it second while he discovered the first.  

In a somewhat acceptable fashion Marcus began his journey towards the casino floor.  Before he had started drinking he had prepared the room for his exit and eventual (or possible) return by removing the covers from the bed, locking the minibar, and propping the door open for easy entry later on.  He only fell on his face once on his way out of the room and because of his incredibly relaxed body induced by the alcohol he didn’t injure himself.  As soon as he stepped out of the door he composed himself in his mind and tried to look as sober as possible.

His drunken self was worried about not being let into the casino or being allowed more drinks, but his sober self had already seen to it that he would be allowed entry.  Like many things in life, if you’re willing to pay then it usually won’t be too hard to get your way, and in a casino this fact is probably even truer.  When he first arrived at the hotel he asked to speak to the casino manager so that he could explain a certain problem that he had.  The front desk personnel were unsure but eventually made the call.  Marcus explained to the manager that he wanted to play with a significant amount of cash this evening and that though he always hoped to win he knew that this was unlikely and the manager knew the same thing.  The manager wasn’t quite sure how this was a problem but he decided to continue listening as Marcus explained to him, “Look, I know that usually you throw out chumps that are too drunk or that don’t seem to be able to stand on their own, but I’d like you to make an exception in my case.”

“Sir, you really didn’t need to bring this up, I’m sure that you won’t be so drunk that you will be thrown out,” he responded.

“See, I don’t think you understand, I plan on getting so drunk that I’m not even sure if I will be able to stand, but if I can I’m going to want to come and play some blackjack.”

“I see.  I don’t know if that would be acceptable.”

“What if I made some extra payment on the side of my inevitable losses at the table; would it be acceptable then?”

“Sir, I don’t think that will make a difference.”

Marcus wasn’t an exorbitantly rich man, but he had a decent amount stored away in a separate bank account from his youth, so he had some money to burn.  He wrote a few numbers down on a napkin and passed it to the manager.  The manager looked at it in amazement and said, “Playing blackjack really means that much to you?”

“Sure does.  I’ll write you a check for half it now and then I’ll settle up the rest tomorrow after I’ve been at the casino.  Nice doing business with you.”

As Marcus continued to walk down the hallway he felt like he was sobering up, and it was possibly true, but anyone could still tell that he was drunk as hell.  By his calculations he had about fifty minutes left before he hit the floor, so he moved quickly towards the elevator and pushed the G button to get to the casino floor.  As per the manager’s assurances Marcus had no issues in entering the casino floor and was actually ushered straight to the high-stakes tables towards the back of the room.  There were two other people sitting at the table, a woman named Monica who sat in the last position and cursed under her breath each time she lost, and a man named Hank Patrick who sat in the first position and looked entirely disinterested even though he was gambling with $1,000 each hand.  Marcus sat down in between the two and threw down some cash that the dealer duly changed into chips.  He was impressed with the bets being made by Hank Patrick, but decided to play with a modest $300 per hand instead.

Hank Patrick perked up a bit once he noticed Marcus sitting next to him; he was obviously surprised, though not upset, that someone so wasted had been allowed into the casino at all.  He wasn’t even sure why he had come down to the casino tonight and he had never expected to run into a character like Marcus.  There was a part of him that was slightly offended by having to sit next to a man that reeked Johnnie Walker, but his intrigue over why Marcus was like this overrode that feeling and compelled him to start a conversation.  He decided he would wait however until Marcus ran out of money.

The words “hit” and “stay” barely came out of Marcus’ mouth and the dealer had to rely more on his weak hand gestures to figure out his desired move.  Every time he won he bounced up out of his seat and celebrated like he had scored a goal.  Marcus believed that he was up, but in reality he had lost about half of his original money.  In the end it didn’t really matter because gambling was all about the experience for him and the joy of winning; it never had to do with the actual monetary gains, just the feeling associated with it.  

Twice he received twenty from the dealer only to be thwarted by the dealer’s blackjack.  The rage was building inside of his alcohol-lubricated body and he was fighting to suppress it, being on the cusp of complete loss of control.  One more loss and he would be down to zero as he had expended all the cash in his pocket and was intent on regaining some of his losses by playing with all of his remaining $1,000 in one hand.  He played the game as he always did and as was often the case he lost because the house always wins and far too often this literally means that the house takes all of your money rather than the overall fact that the odds are in their favor over a large group of players.  Marcus’ rage had reached its pinnacle and he let it flow from him life water out of a bursting dam, “You fucking assholes, I can’t believe you’d steal from me!  You think you’re so much better because you’re fucking sober and you’re wearing fucking monkey suits you fucking dicks…” He didn’t manage to continue his monologue for very long as he was kindly escorted out of the casino.

At this juncture in his night Marcus was entering phase four where he would perform various acts and not recollect them.  It was during this time that Hank Patrick decided to engage in a conversation.  He chose this moment to initiate his first interaction with Marcus because he wanted to hear what the most basic form of the man had to say and since a man with all of his inhibitions removed is at his truest and most basic state it was prime time to talk.

There was a kitschy fountain just outside of the casino entrance where the bouncers had dumped Marcus and where Hank Patrick was headed.  He moved slowly towards the slouched remains of the man that was Marcus and wondered what interesting man lay behind this destructive exterior.  There seemed no reason to ask any particular question at first, so he moved within a good talking distance of Marcus and said, “I hope you don’t mind if I take a seat and talk with you friend.”

Even in an inebriated state Marcus was wary, but he couldn’t be bother to rage again so he acquiesced.

“I saw you playing at the tables – bad night?”

“Same as usual,” Marcus managed to slur out.

“Well, I must say I am quite intrigued by you and I’m not entirely sure why.  Mind divulging your name to me and perhaps what you do?”

“Name’s Marcus,” he said automatically, but he paused before the answering the second question with a displeased, “and I don’t really remember what I do, but I know that I’m damn well bored with it.”

“Everyone is bored with something my friend, it’s just that often we have such a hard time isolating what exactly it is.”

“Sounds profound, but not exactly what I’m trying for now.”

“Sure, I can see that you were just trying to eliminate another night from your life, but really you’ll remember enough of it that it won’t truly be erased.”

“Bullshit, I hardly remember what happened ten minutes ago,” Marcus responded incredulously.

“Perhaps.  But when you wake up tomorrow you will undoubtedly find an empty bottle or two and perhaps some receipts of your unsuccessful blackjack run earlier, and even if you don’t find either of those, you will see your bank statement later and it will jog some memory that you have been trying to suppress and then it will all come rushing back.”

Marcus drew a blank, not being able to pick up on what Hank Patrick was saying, and then he was bombarded again, “You’re obviously trying to forget one or many aspects of your life and you’ve obviously tried this before in a vain attempt to destroy your memories in some hope that you won’t have to feel pain again.  I’m afraid my friend that it simply isn’t possible.”

“Stop ruining my night won’t you?  It’s hard enough trying to drink myself stupid without having some preachy ass bastard telling me not to.”

Hank Patrick pulled a flask out of his pocket and offered it to Marcus while saying, “I don’t preach friend, I’m merely interested in who you are; have a drink why don’t you?”

Marcus happily took a big gulp from the flask and almost immediately felt that his bedtime was fast approaching.  “Thanks, I’m sorry that I snapped, that is if I did indeed snap.”

“You didn’t quite, but apology accepted.  My name is Hank Patrick, what’s yours?”

“Marcus.”

“And your family name?”

“No.”

Hank Patrick was mildly confused and it was an exhilarating experience for him, because it had been quite some time since anything had caught him off guard.  It would be fair to complain that receiving the answer ‘no’ isn’t exactly an awe inspiring experience, but it is interesting when you usually know the answers to questions before you have asked them.

“No?  Sorry Marcus, but I don’t understand.”

Marcus lifted his head up and said, “My family name is Marcus and my given name is Bengtson.”

“But surely that’s wrong.  I heard your name was Marcus Bengtson – you must be mixing them up in your state,” he said, becoming upset because it was obviously a simple error by an idiotically drunk man.

“No, no,” Marcus said, pulling out his wallet from his back pocket.  He attempted to show his driver’s license, but he was unsuccessful at pulling it out of its pocket, so he just handed the whole wallet to Hank Patrick and said, “Pull it out and look if you don’t believe me.”

Hank Patrick pulled it out and sure enough the name on the license was ‘Bengston Marcus’ so he was compelled to ask, “So why the mix up of names?”

“My father was drunk when he registered my name and mixed up the two.  I should have been Marcus Bengtson, but I never was.”

“Surely you could have just changed it?”

Speech was becoming increasingly more difficult, but Marcus soldiered on anyways, “Yes, but my parents were so damn lazy that they never bothered and I’ve been stuck with a first name as my last name and my last name as my first name for my entire life.  I know.  I could have changed it, but by the time I reached the age where I could, I decided it was pointless.  Now it just acts as I mildly interesting story that sets me apart from most people that I know.”

“Well, I’ve found it most interesting.”

“Glad.”

“Here’s my card,” he said handing over a white business card with nothing but the writing ‘HP’ on the front and a number on the back.

“What’s this for then,” Marcus asked.

“Just so you remember.  Call me in the morning and we can have breakfast.”

With that Hank Patrick stood up and left.

Ultimately the plan of the evening had been achieved – Marcus was passed out within seconds of being left to himself and the idea of the bottle was to put him in a state where everything would be forgotten for a short period and there would be no burden on his consciousness.  Of course the method of gaining this particular state placed the onerous task of filtering the toxins out of his physical body on his much beleaguered liver, but it is easier to deal with the problems of the body than those of the soul. His slouched remains lay besides the fountain snoring a melodious tune and surely he was dreaming, though he would never remember the content of those dreams and perhaps it was best because they were populated with the destructive images from his subconscious.  Sometimes he had arranged someone to drag him to his room if he ended up elsewhere, but he had neglected that part of the plan this time and so he was forced to remain by the fountain until his body regained power.

When he eventually did regain his constitution he was only fractionally more sober than when he had passed out, but it was enough to allow him to stumble to the elevator and his gateway to a soft bed.  By this time there were only a scattering of personnel and guests around so he hadn’t been slouched by the fountain for too long.  He had scribbled a large ‘M’ on a post-it next to the floor he was staying on so that he didn’t have to remember extra details.  After a short elevator ride he was in the corridor leading to his respite.  When he reached the first open door he knew that it was his room and he leaped into it with a short lived renewed energy.  Johnnie Walker lay on the bathroom floor where he had left him and though he returned with no winnings he was still surprisingly in decent spirits.  Tomorrow was his day of recovery and transition back to reality and he knew that it was fast approaching, so he took the minimum amount of steps to reach the bed and then after pulling off the covers he passed out with his clothes on.  The train heading towards tomorrow had pulled out of the station and he was on it and content with that fact.

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