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from a much longer short story, called the Golden Road, it my be for fans only but I like to have opinions:
We started toward the elevator, Janis leading the way. I was looking at the ding-donging machines –
they mostly had names that implied “You will be rich..”. Without warning I collided with my partner. She was gazing, as if at a God.
I traced her glance to a slot called “The Golden Road”, featuring the Grateful Dead – since about the age of 9, Janis worshiped them. She had albums, tapes, cd, boatloads of bootlegs. She said they had over 2000 songs, I'm sure she had them all, several times over.
She was still staring, and mumbling or singing – at an old geezer and his oxygen tank, both looking down on their luck. He looked straight at Janis, his body might have been old, but his he had the big blue eyes of a newborn.
“Dime for a cup of coffee” he begged, offering an arthritic hand.
What the hell. I pull one out of my pocket. As I passed it to Janis I noticed the portrait of Mercury on it. Shit, damn thing is worth more than ten cents.
And so it was.
Before I had time to retrieve it from Janis, she had passed it to the old man and he jammed it in the machine. Seconds later it had hit some kind of bonus – lights were flashing – “Truckin' got my chips cashed in” was booming from a tower of speakers and a pyramid flashed high above. This was apparently the Jerry bonus as his face flashed on the board, urging the man to “pick a pick” - five guitar picks presented themselves and the man pondered for a long time.
“Left one, body left” yelled Janis, I had no idea what that meant, but the Geezer rubbed the left one with great vigor.
Ding, Ding, Ding – the right choice! Advance to New York!
“Chicago, New York, Detroit and it's all on the same street.
Now six guitars flashed for the old mans' approval
“Right one” Janis urged “Mind right”
The old man smashed his finger at the guitar like a DA accusing a murderer in a court of law.
Louder bonging, again a winner, advance to Detroit, 6 bongs now appeared, numbers flashed an
ever higher quantity, “BIG WIN”! A crowd was gathering, but Janis shone above them, and the old
man put his arm around her. She squeezed in the little area between the man and the oxygen tank.
“You are my oxygen” and offered a gnarled hand “August West”
“Sugar Magnolia”, glad to meet you.
The numbers kept rolling until they reached $300.
The next bonus was $750.
“Do you know what your choices are?” Asked Sugar Janis
“Never got to this stage” croaked the old man, he was sweating and wheezing – “but I seen it done.”
Two of them are straight-armed cops, and then jail bars slam down and you are busted, two of them show a danged consolation prize like fifty clams, two of them let you spin the wheel while the song “The Wheel” plays and the last gives you a chance at The Golden Road.
They both broke into song “See that girl barefooting along...”
“At any rate I get to keep the three Franklins- plus whatever the wheel or consolation prize adds.”
“OK, Sugar” the old man squeezed her butt “be my summer love in the spring, fall and winter”
“I can make out with any man alive” and she planted a wet kiss on his lips.
I'm sure this was all in the spirit of the moment and had something to do with whatever tone was in the air. Instinctively I moved closer. The crowd did too. A little too close, there were two dramas playing out here. More people joined in – the oxygen tank tilted and the old man had to grab his mouthpiece to keep it from flinging into the crowd.
In unison August and Janis turned and said “OK, everybody, take a step back”
And they did! What was going on! Did they practice this? I felt like I was a foreign church, everyone knew when the “Amen” or “as it is in Heaven, O Lord” or whatever trick phrases come up, except me.
Now that the crowd has backed off I sidled next to Sugar/Janis.
“What's going on here”
“Quiet, we are playing for real money and don't worry” she turned and whispered “Sugar Magnolia is a lesbian”.
If she wanted to shut me up that really did it. Did she mean she was a lesbian, were the rumors about Donna Rudolph and her true? If you lose your virginity to a dyke, does it count?
Meanwhile, the crowd was making various suggestions.
Sugar & August were huddled, I leaned closer to catch their whispers.
“I'm getting no real feeling on this”
“Think” urged the man “this could change my life, like that kid who won the lottery”
O, boy- what did he know?
“How do you know it was a kid” asked Janis
“Everyone knows his picture is all over the place- must be in hiding”
Yipes! I'm doomed.
“Forget that, Sugar” the old man drew her closer “Pay my ticket”
“Trouble ahead, Trouble behind” she sang “It's the one in the middle.
And so, it was – the crowd went nuts and we move to the Golden Road, prize $1 million.
“Man, this is going to be a tough nut to crack” said the a semi-bald pony-tailed biker. His stomach
was 3 feet closer to me than his mouth, and getting closer. He had a wife-beater tshirt with a hand-made design. A skull with a lightning bolt zagged across a red forehead, and below it said “Steal You Bike”. He was working his mobile devise, his sausage fingers were somehow pecking out a message on a postage stamp size keyboard.