Friday, November 13, 2015

Chapter 4

Author's Note: This is a novel about a man who uses a power wheelchair. In addition to doing my best to write an interesting story, I'm also portraying a man with a disability as a real adult. Some of the content (profanity, sexual situations) may thus be inappropriate for children.

This is the fourth chapter. If you're just starting out, you might prefer Chapter 1. I've messed with the post dates to keep the chapters in order.
We could have been rich.
Lawyers lined up to sue the hospital where I was born. Lawyers love cerebral palsy. Babies with injuries pull at a jury’s heartstrings, so doctors and hospitals pay up.
Sometimes they deserve to. Look at Donna. The doctor who delivered her muted the machine monitoring her heart rate, and then forgot to turn it back on. When he realized he’d fucked up, he threw out the paper showing Donna’s slowing heart rate and told the nurse things would go badly for her if she opened her mouth.
When security cameras showed him disposing of evidence, Donna’s parents got two million dollars. In exchange, they had to promise never to reveal any of the facts to anyone. So they couldn’t go to the papers to let everyone know what an asshole the doctor was. They couldn’t go to the DA to get him charged with fraud. The couldn’t even go to the AMA to file a complaint. But they had all the money they needed to support Donna: rent, food, wheelchairs, therapists, you name it.
Sometimes Donna wonders if, without all of that money, her parents would still be together and her mom wouldn’t be an alcoholic. But life doesn’t get a control group.
My parents never sued. Mom almost died when I was born. Her blood pressure was ridiculously high, and she was in intensive care for three weeks. My dad told me the story two years ago after her funeral: how he’d stood there and watched the doctor cut into his wife as the anesthesiologist fought to keep her alive; how he’d walked between two ICUs, how he’d been woken up from a rare nap by a lawyer who wanted to represent him.
He told that lawyer to go fuck himself with the nearest sharp object. Without that doctor, dad said, he would have been walking between two caskets, not two bedsides. He wasn’t going to say a word against that man, not even for a million dollars.
So we weren’t rich.
Who knows, maybe not having the money they needed kept my parents together. But dad had to work like hell, pulling cable and installing breakers by day, helping me at night.
Now his stubby, rough fingers scrub down my back while I sit in a shower seat he made from a lawn chair and PVC pipe. Next come my arms, chest, and crotch.
Dad wears swim trunks when he helps me shower. Growing up, mom sometimes made him shower naked with me. She used to giggle when she told the story: I’d ask dad why his penis looked different from mine. He said I had enough medical procedures when I was a baby, and I wasn’t going to have another one just to make my dick looked like his.
It wasn’t until sex ed that I realized he was talking about circumcision.
Brandon handles most of my personal care now (he also wears swim trunks in the shower), but he won’t come by until bedtime and I don’t want to be covered until then in blood and asphalt and whatever else I picked up from PokerLive’s parking lot.
The shower washes the morning away, and once I’m dressed and back in my chair, my thoughts turn to the evening. Donna and I both have the afternoon off. No reason why we shouldn’t still play mini-golf, eat steak for dinner, and take advantage of the bedroom adaptations. There are only so many such opportunities in a lifetime; I shouldn’t let one go by on account of my busted-ass chair.
But that’s for after dinner. Right now it’s time for lunch. Dad rolls me into the dining nook and starts unpacking the Chinese take-out.
He fills my plate with the usual: mu-shu pork, pot stickers, and egg rolls. Finger food, so I can feed myself. My table manners are a bit medieval; I grab the food, get it close to my mouth, and bite off whatever I can. Crude but effective.
Donna rolls silently in from the office. She tells Gonzo to rest in the corner, then takes the seat to my right. She opens the carton nearest her considers it silently for a few seconds, and then closes it again.
“Anything I can help you find?” dad asks her.
She shakes her head and opens another carton. After making her way through the entire forest of white cardboard, she selects fried rice, cashew chicken, and broccoli beef. She wields chopsticks with well-mannered precision, and stares at the lines of the table.
I look across the table at my dad. He nudges his head toward Donna and raises his eyebrows. Even he can see something’s bothering her, and I’m pretty sure it’s something about me. When she’s pissed about a work thing, she turns bright red and carries on about how unfair the school system is. Icy silences, though, mean I’ve fucked up.
“You two should go do something this afternoon,” dad says. “Relax after the stressful morning. Maybe go to a movie?”
Donna’s head is down, her eyes fixed on the last kernels of rice that are stuck to the plate. She’s picking them up one by one. “We were planning on minigolf,” she says.
“Great! It won’t be crowded; school’s still in session.”
But Donna said ‘minigolf’ like it was a disgusting chore. Not that I’d blame her for getting sick of mini-golfing with the putting rig Marco built. It looks kind of like the shoe-on-a-stick you see in Mousetrap, but it has sentimental value. We used it on our third date, the one the ended with us completely failing to get each other’s clothes off.
I decide to give her an out. “Do you need… to work on… the home computer to… finish up?”
Donna finally looks up. Her lower lip twitches, but her eyes narrow with concentration as she gathers her composure. “Why can’t you just use a Verimobile power chair? Why do you have to use Marco’s latest crap?”
She reaches up to scratch her right eye, trying to be discrete as she dispatches the single tear that has escaped her composed facade. I look over to my dad, whose eyes have widened. He’s never seen Donna and me fight. We do fight - I imagine every couple does - but not in front of other people. Wherever this conversation is going, it’s either something she can’t hold back or something she wants dad to see.
Either way, it won’t be pretty.
I figure my best bet is to try to end the conversation now, and pick it up later when Marco’s not in the garage and dad’s not at the table.
“Maybe you’re … right.”
She nods and goes back to her food. She likes to be right. Emergency averted. For now.
Then dad fucks it up.
“I don’t know,” he says. “You went all custom ten years back. This is the first major failure. All things considered, it’s pretty solid.”
Donna turns on him, and her voice goes up an octave. “What if he’d been alone? What if they'd taken him to the hospital? Right now I'd be calling around to find out where he is!”
I'm ... all right. Let’s … talk later.
But Donna’s not done. “If they’d even tell me where he was. Maybe you’d need to make the calls, while I just sat here worrying. Unless I just lied and claimed to be his wife.”
At last she looks back at me. The word 'wife' hangs over the empty white containers like a cloud of tear gas. Donna starts to sob.
I look over to dad, who has suddenly developed a keen interest in removing splinters from his chopsticks by rubbing them together. He glances my way for a moment, then puts his head down and returns to whittling.
I’d like to go give Donna a hug, but My chest strap is holding me against my chair. All I can do it sit here and watch her cry. Pretty useless.
She gets control of her breathing and pulls back into a red-eyed version of her courtroom presence. “My doctor called today. All my test results are normal, and he says that medically there will never be a better time to get pregnant.
And there we are. That’s what we’re really talking about. Not marriage, not my injuries, not my custom power chair, but pregnancy. I really have nothing against it, and I rather enjoy the sex that leads to it. What scares me is the part that follows, that other F-word.  Fatherhood.
I've gotten used to a mechanized life, one of motors and circuit boards and communication panels. I didn’t choose this life, and there are days when I’d give anything to be able to hike up Windy Hill, swim in the ocean, or even just wipe my own ass. I didn’t choose this life, but I’m living it. And Donna’s chosen to share it with me, and that’s the greatest thing that’s happened to me.
But I’d never force anyone to share this life, and our children wouldn’t have any choice. They’d be stuck with a father who can’t teach them to ride a bike, can’t play catch in the park, can’t teach them to shave or threaten their boyfriends. There’s really only one role model for such a mechanized fatherhood.
“We still … have the … Darth ... Vader … problem.
Donna slams her hand into her armrest. It must not have been seated completely, since it crashes down with a metal clang and cuts a strap on her backpack, which slips sideways and dumps her water bottle on the floor. Gonzo looks up to see if he’s supposed to pick something up, but Donna waves him back down as she regains her composure.
You'd be a loving father, and that's all the matters.” She turns to dad. “Isn’t that all that matters?”
Dad sets down his splinter-free chopsticks, rubs his eyes, and takes a deep breath. “What matters,” he says, “is that I raised my son to make his own decisions. So my role,” he stands up. “My role is to support those decisions. This discussion is between the two of you, so I’ll leave the two of you to have it.”
Dad gives me a pat on the shoulder as he steps around me on his way to the front door. I hear it open and shut as he lets himself out. That leaves the house completely silent as Donna and I sit and look at each other.
“You asked … a question … you didn’t know … how the … witness would … answer.”
I’m going for funny, but Donna’s not about to laugh. She nods absently. “We'll need help,” she says. “Everyone needs help raising kids, but we'll need more than most. Your dad can help, my mom can’t. But we can hire people if we need to. We might not be perfect, but we don't have to be perfect. Nobody's perfect.
You... try... to be.
Is that it? I try too hard? You think I'd pressure our kids too much? Her words are coming slower as she breathes between them and looks at me with her great green eyes bloodshot and scared.
“No … It’s me. … Fatherhood … is … broccoli beef … not … mu-shu pork.
Then you'll just have to get your hands dirty.
A board creaks out in the hall.
“Hello?” Donna calls.
I roll over to take a look. Marco is standing with his back to the wall, and steps out into the dining area with a pained look on his face and my communications panel in his hands.
“Sorry,” he says, “I didn’t want to interrupt.”
Donna’s look at me screams he’s your friend; deal with him.
“So …” Marco kicks the floor and looks around the room. “The ‘840 in the motor controller and the ‘970 in the tablet are both blown. Both Immertel chips. All the pins are stuck high. Clocks and power look good going in, but nothing’s coming out. They don’t even respond to the debug interface.”
It’s an interesting technical result. I can take the chips in for failure analysis tomorrow, but I know enough not to start talking tech right now, so I let the silence fall again.
Marco walks over and snaps the panel back onto my chair. “I replaced the board,” he says, “All better now.” Then he turns to Donna. “I put an Immertel 2056 in your computer. That’s three crashed systems with Immertel chips, two of them confirmed as the chips themselves. Then there’s your navi, and the alarm at Poker Live, and the streetlights. I can check the navi now.”
Donna’s been sitting silently, but now has no choice but to respond. “You’re not touching my car,” she declares. “It’s under warranty.”
“I was just going to check a teardown site to see what processor it has.”
Nice recovery, Marco. “What about … the computer?”
“I can pick a chip up at ComputerWorld and replace it anytime.”
“Anything to get you out of here,” Donna says. She pulls her office key off her key ring and offers it up. “The files are full of attorney-client privileged information. You listen to us talk about our future, you piss me off. You open those files, you go to prison.”
Marco nods nervously as he grabs the keys. “I’ll just replace the chip.” He heads out through the garage, leaving Donna and me in silence again.
I look over at Donna, perfect as always except for the tears that have returned to her eyes. I’m going to lose her one of these days. I’ve worried about that from our first game of mini-golf. Sometimes I lie in bed and wonder when she’ll find some athletic guy who talks fast and works out daily and has a full complement of bedroom moves. Now the biggest problem seems to be me.
“I was almost done with a parent response when my computer died,” she says at last. “We need to submit it tomorrow. I can do it on my laptop, while you think of something to say.”
She rolls into the hallway and turns toward the office. I sit there for a few minutes until I realize that there’s one thing I do need to say. I follow Donna into the office and get there just as she finishes bringing up her laptop.
“I love … you.”
She pushes herself back from the desk and spins to face me. “I love you, too,” she says before rolling up next to me and leaning in to give me a peck on the cheek. She gives me a tender pat on my shoulder and knee as she turns back to her work.
I roll into the living room. I wish I could go back to PokerLive. Taking people’s money would give my mind a chance to calm down again. I look over my choices of movies. Dad and I have built the home theater together (well, I picked it out and then watched him install it.) It’s a 4K projection system and enough speakers for a stadium concert. Star Wars catches my eye, but I don’t need reminding of mechanized fatherhood. I settle on binge-watching Lord of the Rings.
Marco calls between the first and second movie to report that replacing the Immertel chip in Donna’s computer fixed it. He also stopped by PokerLive and begged to look at their broken alarm system, but left when they threatened to call the cops.
Dad texts me to see if I’m done fighting with Donna, and comes over when he realizes I’m watching movies alone. He sits through The Two Towers and answers the door when Marco drops by. He returns with a plastic box packed with anti-static foam.
“He asked you to take them in for FA,” dad says.
I use my talker. “OK. Please put them in my backpack.”
“What’s FA?”
“Failure … Analysis.”
“Makes sense. Wanna switch to The Blues Brothers for movie number three?”
That’s dad’s favorite movie. He tells stories of a couple dozen run-ins with the police when he was in high school, and seems to relish watching cop cars being destroyed en-masse. He puts together a simple dinner of cheese, crackers, and salami that I munch on while we watch. Then Brandon arrives to help me take a shit and get into bed.
“Imagine how much fun it would have been to make that movie,” dad says on his way out the door.
He says that every time we watch The Blues Brothers. This time I look it up on my panel as Brandon pushes me to the bathroom. Turns out The Blues Brothers was sheer hell to make. Hollywood execs questioned everything, and the shooting schedule had to revolve around John Belushi’s cocaine addiction. He died less than two years after the movie was released. But somehow he left behind something wonderful and enduring.
I’m sure there’s a lesson there for me. 
Hopefully someday I’ll learn it.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Chapter 1

Author's Note: This is a novel about a man who uses a power wheelchair. In addition to doing my best to write an interesting story, I'm also portraying a man with a disability as a real adult. Some of the content (profanity, sexual situations) may thus be inappropriate for children.

Power wheelchairs are like tanks. They tend to break things. Parents pull children away. Everyone stares.
At least parking is easy. Or it would be if I drove. My girlfriend Donna dropped me off. Like almost everyone else in Silicon Valley, she has to work today. But I work at Immertel, and they give us May 21st off every year to celebrate the company’s birthday. Total bullshit, but at least I get to play poker. I like taking money from the able-bodied.
PokerLive reeks of money. At least I think it does -- I have no sense of smell. But card playing always has an element of the seedy to it; thats part of its charm. Another part is that Donna hates it. She wasn’t happy about dropping me off, but her office is only a mile away. If I win big, she’ll roll her eyes and avoid mentioning it. If I lose, I’ll never hear the end of it.
I’m not going to lose.
PokerLive fights the seedy with spotless glass, brushed aluminum, fancy uniforms and plastic smiles. The doormen are dressed like organ-grinder monkeys as they open the massive front doors. Inside is a greeter who smiles and waves Tony over.
Tony’s why I like PokerLive. Its his job to make everyone feel comfortable, so Im probably kidding myself to think of him as a friend. His suit is cheap, but his smile is genuine, like he sees the joke in life. His weathered grey eyes and furry grey mustache cut through the artificial glitz. Tony also manages to acknowledge that Im in a wheelchair without getting all weird about it.
“Good morning, Mr. Able,he says.
“Call me ... Chuck.
“Sorry, Chuck. Its a habit. Back to take more money off these chumps?He nods to the floor.
“Good day ... for it.
I concentrate intensely to form intelligible words, but still they come out slow and slurred. I also tend to run out of breath in the middle of sentences. Some people call it a cerebral palsy accent. To understand me takes both effort and patience. To ignore what I’m saying takes neither.  
But it’s hard to ignore me when I’m taking your money.
First I need to pick up my chips. I keep a thousand dollars here as my stake. Tony leads me to the cage in the center of the PokerLive hexagon (apparently four walls just arent enough to contain its cachet). Opposite the entrance is a staircase that tapers up to a platform where VIPs can turn to either side as they head to the VIP level. Along the walls on either side are well-lit bars and poorly-lit restaurants. The rest of the room holds fifty card tables, with the cage in the center like a spider in its web.
I love the feel of a card room. The expectant air. The clink of brightly-colored chips. The electric quiet of money on the line.
And the not-so-electric quiet of people staring. They should be watching their chips and cards, not my red hair, pale skin, and light frame. But they arent looking at me, not really. They're looking at the chair, at the disability. They're looking with faces full of pity and fear and confusion and the question: does he belong in the same room as me?
They’ll find out. Donna will pick me up in a few hours for lunch and mini-golf. Hopefully I’ll win enough for a nice steak dinner. Donna likes steak.
Tony carries my chips to the usual table: 10/20 no-limit hold'em. The dealer sits on the long edge of an aluminum-lined felt oval. His nametag says David. I don’t know him--dealers come and go here--but I need to be next to him. Tony waits for the hand to end and then asks people to shift around. One guy grabs his chips and strides off, muttering something passive-aggressive and unintelligible.
I'm sorry for the inconvenience,I tell them. I need help to turn the cards over and place bets. The dealer will assist me. I hope you don't mind.
With my communications panel, I talk without an accent. The panel folds out from my chair and lays across my lap like an airplane tray table, but every square inch of it is a touch-screen display. My friend Marco built the hardware, so it got the full-on, over-built, German-engineered treatment. I can eat spaghetti off of it without hurting the electronics, and the frame could stop a bullet. Marco calls it the Panzer; he likes tanks too.
I wrote the software. The display is pretty simple, just some buttons I press to choose the phrase. But Im really proud of the speech synthesizer. I got an MRI of my vocal cords so I could model what I'd sound like without the accent. The only problem is that I have to choose my words ahead of time. Right now Im using the panel configured for PokerLive, including the explanation I just gave the other players.
None of them look familiar. Saturdays there are a couple of regulars who know me, but I rarely play during the week. Three men in their sixties sit to the left of the dealer, two buttoned-down flannels and an orange Hawaiian shirt. Next to them is a woman the same age wearing an immodest blouse to show cleavage that no doubt looked amazing in decades gone-by. Next to her is a black leather jacket with a trucking hat, a woman with hoop earrings large enough for an Olympic gymnast, and three guys speaking Chinese, all wearing visors that cover their face. Two of the visors are white, but the one in the middle is hot pink, like he bummed it off his wife or daughter.
Newcomer posts the big blind,the dealer nods my way.
I nod back and he moves a black-and-white chip in front of me, and the croupier moves it into the pot. I feel the rush. Game time.
I don't look at my hole cards. One flannel and the earrings fold, but nobody raises. Then comes the flop, three cards that belong to everyones hand: two, four, and five of diamonds. Hawaiian shirt's hand shakes as he bets out. Shaking hands in amateur poker is a standard tell for a strong hand, but Hawaiian shirt’s seems to be intentional. His ten dollars come around to me.
Show me the cards, please.
The dealer bends up my cards so I can see them. Three of diamonds, ten of spades. Not a hand Id normally play, but nobody but me can get the straight flush, and any one of fifteen cards will give me a flush or a straight. Fifty-four percent chance with two cards to go.
Twenty dollars.
I watch the faces. Hawaiian shirt smiles, a bit too broadly. He raises me to forty. Everyone else folds.
The turn is a king. No joy; odds of a straight or better are down to something like one in three. I bet ten and call at twenty.
Last card is a ten. That gives me just a pair. It costs me twenty bucks to see that Hawaiian shirt's got a pair of jacks in the hole, and to reinforce everyone's impression that I'm the sucker. Still, I played the odds correctly, even though I'm out a hundred bucks. I can hear Donna's lecture already.
Not much happens for a few hands, but then the tone of the room changes, like it did when I came in. I push back against my headrest and look around for the reason. Three women are strutting across the dark blue carpet. They’re wearing skin-tight evening gowns (at 9:30 on Monday morning) and that sculpted-bronzed look of tabloid-standard beauty. They barely glance at the nodding security staff before mounting the stairs to the VIP floor. Im not sure exactly what goes on up there, but I suspect a power wheelchair would get in the way.
I force myself to re-focus on the game. Sometimes I can make money off the distracted, but this time I don’t get the cards. I fold a couple of hands, and then lose another sixty bucks chasing a twenty percent chance at five hundred. I get eighty back when I connect with an ace, and start to feel comfortable at the table.
Hawaiian shirt is up big; he’s got about twenty-five hundred in chips in front of him. His shaking hand is a bluff, but his eye twitches when he thinks he's got a winner. Pink visor pulls his ears back when he's worried, and one of the white visors has a twitch on his forehead that shakes some of the hair above the visor. The others have all the textbook tells: looking at their chips, holding their breath, turning red, re-checking the hole.
I'm a pretty decent poker player. Since it takes everything I have to communicate anything to anybody, I have no tells. I play the odds, watch the other players, and cling in vain to the hope that Donna will be impressed when I win.
Ace-king of hearts in the hole. Here we go. I bet twenty and lose only the shriveled cleavage and one white visor. The flop is king-queen-jack, clubs-diamonds-spades. They check to me. I put in sixty, chasing out everyone but Hawaiian shirt and the vein. Hawaiian shirt shakes his cards, but his eye doesn't twitch. The tuft of hair shakes above the white visor; that's the threat. He might have the straight.
The fourth card, called the turnfor some reason, is the two of hearts. That can't improve anyones hand. I bet a hundred, bluffing now, acting like I've got ace-ten. Hawaiian shirt hesitates. He's got nothing, and he's got to decide if I'm clever enough to bluff, or too dumb to be scared off. Then there's the twitch for him to consider, if he's even seen it.
Two hundred,he says at last.
The twitch folds. I'm guessing he has the best hand, but it must be ten-nine, and he doesn't want to chance it.
I call at two hundred. There are now nearly eight hundred dollars on the table between me and Hawaiian shirt. Win or lose, it's my last hand.
The river's a ten of hearts. Pure luck, but at least half the pot's mine. Now we have the game within the game. Hawaiian shirt’s eye is twitching; he thinks he’s got this. If he’s holding an ace, we each make about a hundred buck regardless of how much we bid up the pot. But if he just has a nine...
“All in,” I say with my talker.
The table was quiet before, but now I can hear every breath taken around it. Hawaiian shirt hesitates. Not the ace. The pot's mine. Now let’s see if he wants to hand me another seven hundred and sixty dollars.
Call.He counts it out and shoves it in.
He turns over his cards. King-nine. The dealer turns mine. Ace-high straight wins,” he says.
Victory. I feel the saliva gather in my mouth, and force myself to swallow to avoid drooling. I'm buying Donna a steak dinner tonight. Red meat. She loves red meat.
I'm out,I say. I will need some help with my chips.Then I turn to the David the dealer. Keep ... fifty.
Hold on!Hawaiian shirt's not happy. You're playing with my money now. Give me a chance to win it back.
I'm ... out.I look at the dealer, who nods at someone behind me.
Hawaiian shirt stands up. He may be in his sixties, but he has a powerful frame that towers over the table. Bullshit! You push your way in here, make us change seats so you can sit in your special spot, then you're out after one big hand?
David signals again. The fifty dollar tip was money well spent. Tony arrives at the table. Is there a problem?he asks.
This cripple took eight hundred off me and now he's fucking leaving.
“Nine ... hundred and ... twenty.”
Our guests may play as many or as few hands as they like. Mr. Able has chosen to leave now. And I'm afraid I must ask you to leave as well.
Mr. Able?Hawaiian shirt looks at me. That's your name? Able? You don't look like you're able to wipe your own ass.
Until he called me a cripple, I kind of liked the guy. Sure he was pissed off, but he was treating me like anyone else walking off with his money. But cripple is right up there with retard. And I'm not going to take it sitting down. Well, maybe I am, but...
For nine … hundred … I'll … pay … your … wife … to.
The two suits start to giggle. Hawaiian shirt turns cartoonishly red. For a moment I think he's going to rush me. Instead he pulls one of the suits up by the lapels. You think this is funny?he bellows, spouting saliva like a rabid llama.
Security intervenes. They escort Hawaiian shirt out the main entrance. He yells that this isn't over.
It is for me. I text Donna.
> Dinner's on me. I'm bringing home six hundred bucks.
Donna> So am I, but I'll need another hour.
Donna's a lawyer. Parents hire her when school districts try to shortchange kids with special needs, which is pretty much all the time. She gets two fifty an hour. That's her reduced rate, what she charges parents who pay cash. If she gets a district to reimburse her, it's four hundred. She's got a good racket, but I don't have a ride.
Tony carries my chips back to the cage. I redeposit my initial buy-in to my account but take the thousand dollar profit in cash. My chest strap has a pouch where I stash the money. As I turn to leave, a security guard brings a bucket of chips in from the parking lot.
'For a thousand I'll pay your wife.'Tony elbows the guard in the ribs and chuckles.
These are his chips,the guard tells him. Fifteen hundred fifty.
Cash him out and tell him not to come back,Tony says before turning to me. Your girlfriend coming to get you?
Not for...a while.
Need a ride? We have a van. Mostly we use it for retirement centers, but it can hold your chair.
That great.
Sorry about the asshole.” He reaches into his pockets. “Here’s my card. I’ll write my cell number on the back. You need help, let me know. Hopefully nothing like this happens again, but you're welcome here any time, Mr. AbleChuck.
I lift one arm above my tablet and make a fist. Tony bumps it, and walks me to a place to wait by the front door. Hawaiian shirt is counting out his money out by a green BMW, carrying on to the guard, who alternately nods and shrugs. They look like a pair of birds doing a mating dance.
I’m entering Tony’s number into my contacts and realize I'm shaking. I like poker for the adrenaline rush, but I took a risk back at the table. When push comes to shove, I can neither push nor shove. But as my dad likes to say, we can't give in to assholes.
Somethings wrong. Too much noise. An alarm. The bell overloads my brainstem, and my body thrashes with primitive reflexes. The whole building is screaming like we're under attack, on fire, and being robbed all at once.
I feel like I'm moving. No, I am moving, rolling forward. I shouldn't be. I focus on my hand control, and pull back on the levers. No effect. I'm still going forward. Something's wrong. The chair's out of control. It's never done this before. Even my communication panel has gone black.
PokerLive's customers stride past me out the huge glass doors, struggling to both cover their ears and hold their chips. I see Tony yelling into a security guy's ear, and a few people are pointing to their bets and yelling questions that are lost in the din.
The crowd thickens around me as I roll slowly but inexorably down the path. I clip a few heels with my foot plates along the way. Hawaiian shirt has stopped talking and is watching the spectacle. But he's not the problem. What worries me is the curb at the end of the path, an eight-inch drop that might as well be the cliffs of Acapulco.
I'm going over it.