Zane motioned for the men to exit the Truck, but he wasn’t privy to the conversation they were having just prior to his arrival. While he was in the front office doing his business, Quentin and Charlie were visiting, and the topic of LeRoy was quickly dismissed. “I never imagined you boys would end up in college,” Charlie said as their conversation continued. “Yeah I know what you mean,” Quentin replied with a half-hearted shrug. The three men continued to chat as they walked. “I always thought you and Zane would stay with the casinos forever,” Quentin casually mentioned as the three men slowly made their way through the parking lot. As the group made it to the entryway Zane pulled on the door and he held it open. Quentin stayed close to his father’s side ensuring Dad kept an even keel. The dutiful receptionist, Rebecca was her name, took note of the three intriguing Gypsies as they sauntered their way into the lobby. “Your mother really gave me an earful when I talked you out of Auto Mechanic School Son,” Charlie said. Despite the cancer, his deep voice resonated throughout the small lobby. “She accused me of being a bad influence,” Charlie added in a disbelieving tone. Like a wayward moth being drawn to a flame, Rebecca was fully captivated by the gently flowing conversation. “Do you remember that Quent,” Charlie asked as they traveled over the threshold? “That’s when me and Zane went to the casinos,” he noted. “I wouldn’t know,” Quentin said as the trio entered into the well-lit reception area. “I was still in the Navy and you two had already been divorced for a while,” he said. Keeping a close eye on his ailing father Quentin went on to say, “you guys had all the fun while I was stuck on Guam!” “That’s right, you were still in the Navy Quent,” Charlie recalled as he shuffled up towards the secretary’s desk. By now they were standing directly in front of her as the receptionist leaned back in her chair. In true Charlie Shimek fashion, the ailing man glanced over at Rebecca and asked, “Do you ever go gambling?” Despite the cancer, he still had some of the old dazzle remaining in his eyes! Rebecca should have been stunned but she found the question endearing, especially coming from such a frail man. Rebecca thought for a moment as she adjusted herself in the seat. “No, I can’t say that I have,” she replied with an inviting grin. “Well I can tell you all about gambling,” Charlie said in an instructive manner. “Me and my son are blackjack dealers!”
Charlie began to spin the yarn as Rebecca quietly listened in earnest. Charlie spoke of a sleepy little town called Hinkley, Minnesota. Sure enough, Charlie was offered a job which was located on sovereign Native land! It was a long way from the Las Vegas strip, and management had to get creative! It was impossible to find enough seasoned help, so they took it upon themselves to recruit and train the indigenous population. Utilizing hiring fairs and newspaper ads, Grand Casino Resorts Inc. scrambled to procure adequate staffing! It was a monumental undertaking and a terrific opportunity because the corporation paid for the six-week school, whether you decided to take the job or not! Charlie was so thrilled that he couldn’t help but to convince his number one son to get in on the act! He argued that becoming a professional Blackjack dealer would put Zane onto a trajectory leading towards a normal mainstream American lifestyle. It took a bit of mild coaxing, but soon he had convinced Zane to pick up stakes and move to Minnesota! Betty was truly alarmed when Zane dropped out of Vo-Tech school to pursue a career in gambling. She had been divorced from Charlie long enough for the emotional pain to dissipate, but the scars were still raw. She secretly schemed to keep Zane close, because she desperately needed support in Charlie’s absence. The divorce had left her alone, and virtually penniless. Sadly, Betty’s pleas were in vain. Although she tried, Betty couldn’t compete with the wanderlust that swept through Zane’s selfish soul. The eldest son opted to travel with Dad, leaving his aging mother to fend for herself.
Meanwhile, the men were welcomed into a relative life of leisure. The successful bachelors shared a rustic farmhouse as they attended Dealer School. The rent was dirt cheap because the casino was so far removed from the city. The relaxing ten-mile commute consisted of a scenic drive down a rural gravel road that bisected acres of lush cornfields, and various assorted green pastures. The dynamic duo excelled in Dealer School and were both awarded with the highly coveted dayshift in gratitude for their dedication. Right on schedule, the grand opening took place in early spring, and the men eagerly embarked upon their newly established journey!
When it comes to Blackjack most casinos utilize a six-deck shoe, and Grand Casino Hinckley was no exception. Although some chalk it up to superstition, most seasoned gamblers will agree that if a table is running hot it tends to stay that way until a replacement dealer comes along to switch it up. Although they’re trained to shuffle cards in a specific fashion, dealers have their own special adaptations, meaning it’s possible to adjust the cut, or to give the decks and additional stripping.The general perception is that a skilled dealer can influence the odds in favor of the house by ensuring a hot table doesn’t stay that way for long.
For Zane dealing blackjack was easier than taking candy from a baby. In his mind he made plenty of money just from the hourly wages, and as such, he didn’t care if he earned tips or not. Besides, the tips were all pooled anyway and that took most of the fun out of it as far as he was concerned. Because of this, he didn’t go out of his way to hustle the patrons. Instead he would alter his shuffle in such a way as to destroy a hot table! Zane was a self-proclaimed house dealer, meaning he preferred it when guests would lose! He wasn’t being overly vindictive; he was just lazy! It was easier to scoop up all of the losing wagers as opposed to paying out! It was a simple matter of cost benefit analysis. In his mind, Zane figured he was getting paid the same whether the patrons won or not. If they lost, it meant fewer hassles! Although he feigned disbelief as he dealt himself three consecutive blackjacks, Zane silently celebrated as he quickly swept up all of the losing wagers along with the spent playing cards! He honed his craft as if it were a science. The cards danced as he rapidly drew aces or elevens, and then a seven. As a dealer, he would seldom go bust; instead he would continue drawing until he came as near to twenty-one as possible without going over! He dealt himself blackjacks and hit on soft seventeen. Defying all odds, he would proceed to draw a four most every time! He was the master of the shuffle, and he could dial in a winning or losing shoe at his whim. On one occasion, Zane was scolded by the Shift Boss for being so braggadocios about his capabilities. She warned him that “altering the shuffle is akin to cheating and we can’t have dealers going around being so loose-lipped.” Having said that, Zane was the Pit Boss’s best friend when it came to busting up a run! Like some sort of mystical wizard, he consistently dealt himself Blackjacks and Twenties. He was clueless of the cosmic harm he was inflicting by willfully manifesting winning hands upon himself! The more he took in for the house, the more the Pit Bosses loved him. There was something about his upbringing that turned Zane into a cold, and heartless dealer. When it came to dealing cards, Zane was reduced to his primal essence. Like a natural predator, he held no sympathy for the losing gamblers. Because of his talents, the Bosses gave him extra latitude. As a result, their prying eyes would be laser focused onto the hot tables, while he was left to his own devices. He knew that he wasn’t being scrutinized, so Zane would glaze over and let his let his auto-pilot kick in. He spent the lion’s share of his workday completely out of his head. He would let his mind wander as if he were on a long road trip. Throughout the day, he would willingly drift into some distant fond memory as he effortlessly dealt out hand after losing hand. For a man like Zane, dealing cards was the perfect job!
In stark contrast, Charlie loved to dole out the house’s money, and he contributed more than his fair share to the tip pool! He would adjust the shuffle until the cards ran hot, and he would keep them that way. The Bosses were well aware of the philanthropy, so they seldom turned Charlie loose in the high stakes pit. Rebecca sat quietly as Charlie continued with the tale. Being a Gypsy at his core, Zane’s Dad had a special knack for showmanship, and he absolutely thrived in the casino atmosphere! Charlie went on to explain how he encouraged patrons to “double-down,” or “split ‘em!” He would strike up conversations with the gamblers in the much the same way as he had engaged Rebecca. His overwhelming charm and charisma earned him a huge following. He was the unofficial darling of the day shift! His jovial personality was contagious and the fellow dealers oftentimes mimicked Charlie’s style. He would coach hustling tactics by teaching conversation techniques. Charlie would tutor the eager young dealers during breaks and after shifts. He explained how to kick off conversations by saying things like, “You have to compliment them on their jewelry, or ask them where they’re from.” Being a professional blackjack dealer was the perfect job for a man like Charlie!
The father and son team worked in Minnesota for just over a year when they accepted a lateral transfer to a sister resort located in Gulfport, Mississippi. To make a long story short, Charlie and Zane dealt cards for nearly four years by the time gambling became legal in New Mexico! Isleta Gaming Palace was a fledgling little casino on sovereign land just south of Albuquerque. The sky was the limit! They each landed jobs and relocated back to New Mexico where the lonely Marlette trailer, that sat abandoned for years, quietly awaited their return. “So that’s how we ended up back in Albuquerque,” Charlie sighed.
As the pleasing conversation dwindled to a close, Rebecca sweetly chimed in and said, “So how may I help you gentlemen? She was staring directly at Quentin because the other men were clearly lost in their glory days! To answer the question, Quentin said they were here to pick up some steel, and that Zane had the list. He nodded towards his brother who was still tuned out. “You could have fooled me,” Rebeca said in a flirty tone. “It sounds more to me like you’re looking for a poker tournament.” With that Quentin flashed a genuinely authentic smile and said, “Sorry about that, sometimes we get swept away in our own bullshit.” Rebecca stifled a giggle and said, “no apologies needed.” There was something about the way the fluorescent lights reflected Quentin’s optimistic gaze that morning. Suddenly her cognitive mind quietly asked, “why am I being so flirty?” She didn’t have to answer because the reason was reflected to her in Quentin’s smiling eyes! She stealthily scanned his left hand for a wedding band as she smartly returned her attention to the task at hand. She couldn’t resist the temptation to sneak another quick peek at Quentin’s soft brown eyes as she picked up the telephone and mouthed the words, “LeRoy could you step into the Lobby?” The words were crisply broadcast over a loudspeaker that could be heard throughout the facility. She smiled at Quentin once more, then said, “I’ve got some men out here that you have to meet!”
…to be continued
Fifty-Two-year-old, stay at home dad, philosopher, and recovering narcissist.