“San Francisco. Baltimore. San Francisco. Baltimore. San Francisco. Baltimore.”
“What are you doing?” says Adam Eget.
“I’m thinking out loud. What do you think?”
“But you’ve said the same thing for the last hour.”
“I’m overthinking out loud.”
“Who do you like in the Super Bowl?”
“You got a good feeling?”
I want to kill Adam Eget, but Gabe Veltri is back and he’s got food. He’s dressed neatly and has two full bags from 7-Eleven. He empties them into the middle of the room with contempt. Food spills and fills the center of the apartment: Twizzlers and Butterfingers and Rolos and Creamsicles and PayDays and more and more and more. Gabe’s fridge is filled with Coca-Cola — Mexican Coca-Cola with cane sugar. Eget and I haven’t left Gabe’s apartment in four days.
I like to gamble. Gamble money on sports. Gabe calls it flipping coins.
The plan is not working at all, and worse, I’ve gone crazy on basketball bets. I’m running as bad as you possibly can: 15 straight losses. My bankroll has atrophied to 40,000 units inside Gabe’s safe.
I crouch in one corner of the room, with my elbows on my knees, palms pressing on my temples. Eget is in the opposite corner, in his underwear, sweating heavily and eating those pills doctors give you when your ankles hurt real bad.
“Hey, Gabe,” says Eget, “he’s lost 15 straight. What are the odds?”
I wish he hadn’t asked, because I know Gabe will know the answer
Gabe: “About one in 30,000.”
Eget gets excited and sweats some more in the 66-degree apartment.
“Then he’s due. What’s the chance of losing another?”
Gabe: “More than 50 percent.”
Eget: “That makes no sense. He’s due.”
Gabe: “Tell the coin.”
Gabe has cracked himself up with that one. He takes two bricks of bills from my side of the safe and fills the 7-Eleven bags. This is room and board. I back Gabe, he splits the profits with me 50-50 when he returns. I incur all losses, if he should lose. It has worked well so far. Gabe usually wins. It’s keeping my head above water.
I know Gabe is right, but still find myself siding with Eget, who’s looking curiously at a large oval white pill and seeing if it will fit inside a Junior Mint. I think I’m due.
San Francisco. Baltimore. San Francisco. Baltimore. San Francisco. Baltimore.
Gabe gets to the door, turns, and throws a half-dollar to me. It skitters across the hardwood floor and lands in front of a Creamsicle.
“Stop torturing yourself,” he says. “There’s your answer.”
“SonofabitchofaGabe!!!” I shout, and throw a Twizzler at him, but it’s weak and limp and never reaches him. He leaves the room straight and true and enters a taxicab. He’s gone.
I pour two packs of gum in my mouth and chew them quickly. Since I started gambling on New Year’s Day, I’ve gained 30 pounds.
“Hey Eget, you ever seen the movie Milk?”
“Are you kidding? I love milk.”
“Right, and when you say you love milk, you mean you like to drink milk, out of a glass or out of a bottle?”
“Oh, yeah. Definitely.”
“Well, this movie Milk, it has nothing to do with that. It was about a guy named Harvey Milk who was a politician in San Francisco, and he gets killed by this crazy guy.”
“So, it’s San Francisco, then?”
“So when this guy goes to trial, the defense is called ‘The Twinkie defense’ ’cause this guy ate a lot of Twinkies. But the media had it all wrong. They said the defense was saying eating Twinkies made him crazy. What they were really saying was that all the junk food this guy ate was a symptom of his mental illness. That when you’re going crazy, your brain craves sugar.”
“You think you’re going crazy?”
“Yeah, maybe I’m going crazy and fat!”
I grab the half-dollar Gabe threw with insult and I throw it hard against the window, which of course doesn’t break, and the coin lands on the floor near Eget, and he pockets it.
“I can’t think clearly, that’s the problem. The gambling is like a mental illness. That’s why I’m on my eighth Mexican Coke today. I was relaxed before, when I was making bets for nothing. But now, I lose.”
“Well, there’s always Plan B.”
“No, there isn’t.”
“You’re kidding. I really think there should be a Plan B.”
“There is none. By the way, Eget, when are you gonna make one of your squid picks? You’ve done nothing but sweat and go out into the night with that dude.”
“Sorry, I meant lady.”
The door opens and Gabe is back. It’s only been a half-hour and Gabe isn’t carrying a bag. “Guy had wired 8’s. Set over set. What are you going to do?”
“Gabe, that’s definitely a lady I’ve been seeing. You know that, right?”
“Oh, yeah, that guy’s famous for being a lady.”
“Time machine. Dude.”
“That’s the answer. I just checked your Twitter, from back before the madness, back before the fat. You said early in the season that Baltimore was going all the way.”
I look at the screen on Eget’s telephone and there it is. Baltimore was my pick, but then the Ravens’ season started slipping after the 11th game and I forgot about them. Eget is right. I was looking straight at a lucid future bet that I never made, something I could have hedged heavily over the last few weeks. But I wasn’t a gambler then. Now I’m back.
I’m excited now. The money line is still the way to go. Of that I’m convinced. The remaining 35,000 units go on a straight money line bet that Eget found on a time machine. The big sweaty squidbilly may have saved the day, after all. I think it’s kinda cool he thought there was a Plan B, too. Nice of him.
We split up and hit three books, get all the money down, and end up back on Fremont. Eget is sitting in the idling Challenger, glancing around the street like a getaway driver. He hasn’t showered in 11 days and smells of fried bread and molasses.
Gabe shows up and takes the keys. I slide into the seat next to him. Eget gets in the back and is asleep within a minute. The drive back to L.A. will be long. I have all I have on one bet. And Gabe Veltri never talks about gambling. Never.
Follow Norm Macdonald on Twitter at @normmacdonald.