His life lacked excitement, but that didn’t mean he was craving it. Things were going well at work, and by “well,” it means that he could walk in unnoticed five minutes late and leave without actually doing anything tangible most days. His grandfather paid for his in-state tuition all through college, so student loans didn’t exist. He knew he was lucky, but he was also living paycheck to paycheck like every single one of his friends.
He looked around the table and took note of all the usual suspects. Pete had been mentioning it all night despite running into fate a month ago, setting him back $250 after a long day of drinking. But judging by the fact Pete had ordered the 12-ounce filet and several old fashioneds, he knew the deck was stacked against him.
He could tell the waitress was at the computer totaling their check. She had looked over to their table several times, tallying the drinks for each of the guys. The average was four. Pete on the high side, Nick on the low side, and everyone else in the meaty part of the bell curve.
When she finally rested it on the table, no one made a direct move to check the total. There was an argument transpiring over something that would later be forgotten due to the trainwreck that was about to ensue.
He slid his hand across the table and reached for it. His heart rate elevated, but in the grand scheme, that was nothing. Opening it ever so slightly, he saw the first number of the total. A six. Much like checking your bank account after a long weekend of drinking, he had a minimum number of dollars in his head that he thought would be acceptable. A six wasn’t worst case scenario, but it was close.
“Motherfucker,” he thought.
Pete looked over with a glaze over his eyes and a smile that said, “I just ordered a fuck ton of old fashioneds.”
“What’s the damage?” he asked while reaching for his wallet.
He hesitated and pretended he hadn’t just read the total, divided it by the guys at the table, and ensured tip was included (it was).
“Uhhh,” he hesitated, “$637.”
Pete flung his card across and landed it directly on top the tab. One by one, five more cards got collected and stacked for the waitress to split evenly. Until Pete finally struck.
“What if we, uh, did a little credit card roulette?”
He was a duck dead in the water while Pete was coasting on the signing bonus he’d just gotten after he received his job offer out of law school.
Nick groaned and looked over. “Can we not?” he asked nicely, while still mentally understanding the gravity of the situation. Nick knew. They all knew.
Andrew responded with an immediate and emphatic, “In,” which was echoed by Matt who was pretty much attached to Andrew’s hip.
By a quick mental count, he realized that he was going to end up being the deciding vote. Three guys were already in, with Nick waiting in the wings and Scott sitting silently on his phone arguing with his girlfriend who was drunkenly texting him from a Vegas bachelorette party.
“Fine,” he labored. “Let’s just get it over with.
Pete’s body turned and hailed down the waitress who just finished taking the drink orders of another table. He waved his hand and caught her eye just before she got to the bar.
“Split it six ways?” she asked, already hating the fact that she was going to have to split it six fucking ways.
Pete smiled. “I think we’re going to play roulette – will you do the honors?”
She rolled her eyes and laughed. “Pretty big roulette tab, guys,” she said, thinking one person might intervene at the final moment like one would object at a wedding. But as it goes at a wedding, no one did. “Alriiiight, how do you want to do this?”
Pete instructed her to put all of the cards in the front pocket of her waitressing apron and mix them up. “Let’s go one by one,” he said. “Last one pays.”
His heartbeat elevated further. He looked over at Pete who looked like he was on a blackjack heater. He looked at the rest of the guys at the table and their eyes followed the waitresses’ hands like they would a ball going back and forth at Wimbledon.
His strategy was gutsy. While the cards appeared to be a mix of debit, American Express, and one Southwest Visa, he put in his Chase Sapphire. Heavier, thicker, and more pleasing to the touch. It was the only card of the bunch with character, which either meant it would be the first card selected or the card that ran through the machine at night’s end.
Upon pulling out the first card, her eyes squinted in the dark light of the restaurant. The card was royal blue, which signaled it wasn’t his.
“Nicholas?” she questioned.
“Thank God,” he said aloud. And for good reason. You hate to see the soberest of individuals lose out on a dinner they barely made a dent in. Between his chicken caesar salad and his one single vodka martini, his meal couldn’t have eclipsed more than $35.
Her hand returned to the dungeon and began moving around again. “Come onnnnnn,” he thought. “Just pull out my card and get this over with.” Her hand emerged with what appeared to be a silver card, followed the name “Andrew.”
“That fuck,” everyone thought. Or, at least, that’s what he thought. Everyone knew Andrew’s card was either paid for by his father, or just straight up linked to his father’s bank account. A meal on Mr. James would’ve suited everyone nicely, but no.
“Matthew,” she announced, interrupting everyone’s jabbing of Andrew. Matt laughed heartily and collected his credit card from the waitress. While putting it back in his money clip, he looked at the remaining three and laughed, “Getting down to the nitty-gritty, boys.”
And it was. Three cards left, two survivors, and one night that would be completely ruined.
Her hand waded through the pocket and fished for the fortunate soul who would walk away unscathed.
“Come on,” he thought to himself. “One fucking time.”
Scott looked up from his phone and smiled. “Niiiiiiice,” he remarked as if he wasn’t even invested in the game.
Pete looked across the table – “Just you and me now.”
Andrew and Matt began doing a drum roll on the table, building the excitement for the waitress who was about to make one person’s night and break the other’s heart. His heart began beating out of his chest, which caused him to fear having a heart attack at the tender age of 28. The only word that repeatedly ran through his head was, “Fuck.” In his mind, Pete was a fuck, the situation was fucked, and he was fucked.
Her hand emerged slowly from her pocket, seemingly slower than the other times. She knew the color of the card would give away the last name read, so she covered the back with her hand like she hiding a charades clue from the rest of her friends.
She looked at both of them, knowing neither of their names. She soon would, though, as the announcement of one name would signal everything she needed to know. After biting her lower lip and braving through the fear in her eyes, she squinted and winced out the final winner.
His hands shot in the air. “Pete, you stupid fuck, that’s what you get for suggesting this stupid fucking game.” He quickly lowered his hands after realizing the game had made him sweat through his shirt.
“Alright,” the waitress said with one last card in her hand, “I’ll go run this and come right back.”
Pete had one hand on his forehead and look of disbelief in his eyes. As the waitress got a few steps away, he snapped out of it and hailed her down once more. Much like he did before.
“Miss,” he said, “Can you add another old fashioned onto that? Thanks.” .