All That Glitters Is Not Gold
The only real objections seem to come from the oscillating fan swaying its head side to side in the corner. With the barrel of the 9mm handgun stuffed in his mouth, Duncan Klondike backs up against the kitchen sink and focuses on the tremblings of his hand. Particularly his trigger finger and trying not to prematurely squeeze it before he’s ready. His eyes once painted a porcelain white were now gleaming a pale red in the moon-lit glow, as streams of tears trickled down his cheeks. Ruthlessly, he forces himself to choke and gag on the cold hard steel.
They say your life flashes before your eyes just before we die, but all Duncan can see is an empty shell of a house that was once his perfect home.
Without hesitation, Duncan curled his index finger firmly around the trigger, winced his eyes and pulled.
The bus was packed solid on the Monday morning commute. A sea of nothing but black and grey with a noticeable splash of white staining the buses bright blue plastic seating. Often, on such gloomy days as these, Duncan’s mind would wander and he would yearn for a masked high-jacker to storm the bus, bringing with him a heavy dose of excitement rushing into his life. The buses brakes ground to a slow, squeaky stop, resting in front of the many towering casinos that lined the Strip. A large heavy set man gingerly waddled his way through the lifeless passengers towards the empty seat beside him.
Now, on a good day you can generally find some real characters around these parts, but what that man was wearing on this particular day struck Duncan with a rather unusual feeling of deja vu and deepened excitement. So much so, that the tiny hairs on the back of his neck felt like spikes protruding from his skin; the man’s outfit was absolutely stunning. A pure white tuxedo and tall alligator skin boots, screamed to Duncan that this wasn’t your usual addict finding his way to the bus after a hard night out. Shimmying closer, the man’s suit revealed brilliant smears of gold paint splattered across his chest. He staggered and nearly tumbled with the motion of the now moving bus, before graciously flopping himself down right next to Duncan.
For god sakes, Duncan thought, smelling the overpowering stench of booze off the man’s breath.
“Boy, it’s a lovely day to be a winner,” the man declared in a low raspy tone, one-eyeing Duncan like some deranged pirate.
Hesitant to make eye contact with the man, Duncan looked at him anyway out of sheer curiosity.
“So you’re a winner today are ya?” Duncan reluctantly remarked eyeing up his golden stains.
“You’re damn right, my good man,” he said with a wink, slapping Duncan’s shoulder heavy handedly.
“So why take the bus if you’re so rich then?”
“Whoever said I was rich? I just told you I was a winner.”
Duncan glared deep into the man’s ocean blue eyes, then forward to everybody else on the bus, then finally back at the man.
“Are you for real? What is this?” He orders.
“Listen bud,” the man asserts, glancing down to the gold on his tuxedo cooly, then licking his index finger to scratch at it, “I know you’re not like these people Duncan, you’re different, I want to help you become a winner too!”
“How do you know my name? Who are you? Who the hell are you? I’m outta here, MOVE!” Quickly Duncan shot up from the seat to exit and was swiftly forced back down by the man latching onto his knee cap. A sharp piercing pain caused him to wince and squirm in sheer agony.
“Sit down you fuck,” the man twitched pulling Duncan close, “let me give you a little tip here!”
His breath was toxic and his teeth were filed down to little jagged points.
“Look mister,” Duncan said, ”I don’t know who you are and how you know my name, but I don’t want any trouble, I am just trying to get to work.”
“Listen,” the man said, “I will only say it to you once, if you walk away and ignore it you are only ignoring yourself. Now, listen to me very carefully Duncan, for I have a simple tip that will change the course of your life forever…”
The church was cold, it had always felt icy and Pastor Bobs office was no different today, it felt incredibly frigid.
“So how long have you been seeing this man in the white tuxedo Duncan?”
“Today was the first day he approached me, but ever since we got the big news I guess,” Duncan said.
“And have you ever told Molly, you’ve been seeing this man?” Asked Pastor Bob removing his wiry eyeglasses and lobbing them onto his broad mahogany desk.
“No,” he replied, “she’s felt ever so distant since these counselling sessions and now that the baby’s on the way.”
“And how is your financial situation Duncan?” The pastor pried, resting a calculator before him.
“She wants me to get another job,” he said, raising his hands to his face and rubbing his now percolating tears, “I’m already working twelve hours a day and damn near seven days a week. To be honest, Pastor, Molly is sleeping around on me.” His eyes drew to the floor, then back up to meet his.
“And what would give you that idea Duncan?” the pastor inquired, oddly avoiding his eye contact and fidgeting to adjust a picture frame of his wife on his desk.
Duncan paused for a moment, the air in the room suddenly felt heavy. Looking back, he had often wondered if something was going on between Pastor Bob and his wife, ever since the Christmas social and these insistent one on one counselling sessions.
Glaring at the pastor, nervously squirming behind the desk, Duncan felt the sudden poundings of his heart, blasting through his chest. His stomach gave way to an uneasy dip and a surge of raw adrenaline coursed through him, burning every vain in his body. Deep down, Duncan knew in his guts that this filthy little beast of a man had something nasty to hide.
“I have my assumptions,” Duncan replied, focusing on trying to retain his anger and from lashing out at him.
Pastor Bob grew silent, anxiously contemplating his next words.
“Well, would you like to talk about those assumptions today, Duncan?” He softly asked, leering at him behind his wide crocodile eyes.
Duncan, playfully rolled his tongue against his teeth with an expressionless view. “I’ve had a long day… Bob!” He said clenching his teeth and squinting his eyes into a scowl,“I think, we’re pretty much done here.”
Discreetly, Duncan snuck across the wide backyard, hugging the maple trees massive afternoon shadow and carefully lumbered up the wooden play gym. Curled up he sat on top of the bright yellow slide, smoking a cigarette and peering at Molly pacing frantically through the kitchen window.
“How fucken clever are you? You cheating skank!” Duncan said. His eyes wide and as fierce as a man-eating tiger stripped from the wild. “You didn’t think I would catch on did you?”
“This was never going to work, Duncan!” She confessed. “You’re nothing but a lowly pathetic railroad worker.” Molly snarled. “Now that I’am pregnant you’re going to pay support for this kid, every FUCKEN penny!”
“You’re some species of a woman, Molly,” he shot back, “how long have you and Bob…been screwing around for!? While I slave away, busting my ass to hold down this house and to provide a decent life for us… for YOU!”
“Decent life!” She scoffed rolling her eyes.“Ha, if this is what you call a decent life, Duncan, you’re more delusional than I thought.”
“I’m delusional? You’re probably still dripping wet from him by the time I get home from work and still foolishly assuming I’am going to pay for a kid, that isn’t even mine. I’m sorry Molly, but you’re fucked!”
“Isn’t yours? Ha, yeah right,” she said pushing him out of the way and storming out the front door. ”Just keep those cheques coming and maybe I won’t take your dignity too!”
Duncan leered from around the pale blue kitchen wall and down the sun drenched hallway to witness the door slam shut behind her. She’ll find out sooner or later that I’m sterile, he thought, with a wide smirk. Promptly, a loud clapping echoed throughout the house and the man in the white tuxedo materialized out of thin air.
“Bravo Duncan, I must say that was one hell of a show. I like how you left out the part about you not being able to have kids, classic. Now, are you ready to become a winner?”
The bank was nearly empty this evening, except for a woman with her dog tightly tucked into a stroller, pretending it was a baby and a sweet old lady kindly playing along. For Duncan he had no time for glamour pets, he was all business.
“Mr Klondike, is Mrs Klondike on her way? We just need her signature to basically proceed with this acquisition on your second mortgage.”
“She… unfortunately was nauseous on the way over and is waiting for me in the car, she’s nearly nine months pregnant you know. I can call her and you can hear her consent for me to sign in her name if you want.”
“That’s quite alright Mr Klondike, you have been a loyal customer for sometime. If you sign it for her now, I’ll just get her to initial when she comes in next. Congratulations on the baby, I hope all goes well.”
“Oh, I’am sure it will.”
The casino stunk of cigarettes and cheap perfume. What stood out most to Duncan were the many faces and all the plastic smiles and superficial joys. Even the ceiling was an illusion of the outside sky and the carpet held glimmers of gold sparkling like a jewelry shop.
The tuxedo man’s more than generous tip, specifically told him he would become a winner somewhere amongst the blackjack tables. Carefully, Duncan spied what looked like a favourable table within the roped off section of the VIP room and was immediately stopped before he entered.
“This area is off limits sir,” the well dressed goon remarked glaring up and down at Duncan’s shabby looking clothes. “High rollers only!”
“I wish to play a table with $25,000 hands, could you point me in the right direction,” Duncan replied not being able to contain his excitement with an arrogant smile.
“Oh, sorry sir I was not aware you were looking to gamble tonight. We get too many tourists pretending around here. Right this way sir, can I get you a drink, maybe even a cigar?”
“A glass of Cristal.” Duncan barked over his shoulder and taking a lone seat at the table.
The feeling of time for Duncan accelerated in this haze of excitement and before he knew it he had turned $250,000 into a cool million dollars. He also collected a rather staggering crowd of onlookers. Women clung to him like leeches to a host, clawing and snarling over each other for him. Duncan could sense the tuxedo man lurking just beyond the faces, every once in a while he would scream and shout as if he was the master of ceremonies to this ungodly virus.
“Bet it all on one hand!” A young man could be heard blasting somewhere amongst the crowd.
Duncan had enough, he wanted to quit. He’d become a winner and done what the man said and didn’t want to push his luck any further. He stood to leave, but felt a great pressure strangely gripping his knee.
“BET IT ALL ON THE NEXT HAND!” The tuxedo man’s voice howled into his ear over the screeching cheers of lantern jawed onlookers, feverishly frothing at the mouth.
This is it… This is what we live for. The savage thrill of the hunt, and you don’t even realize you’re the whale.
The foreclosure sign was torn straight from its hinges and the front door kicked wide open, creaking in the midnight breeze. Duncan’s footsteps could be heard pacing the dark empty space that was once his kitchen. He stopped for a moment in stillness, as if his mind was shifting gears on him. Calmly, Duncan reached under the kitchen sink and clutched his fate, a 9mm handgun.
“All that glitters is not gold,” a familiar raspy voice echoed throughout the shell of his once beautiful home.
“What more do you want from me?” Duncan yelled in terror, clicking the safety off the gun and placing the barrel in his mouth.
Luckily, for Duncan Klondike the gun had jammed that early summer morning and when he opened his eyes, something within him shifted. The stress of it all was gone, the unfathomable experience had been carried away with it the fogginess of life and now he could see it for what it truly was. Moments, moments of human weaknesses, moments of human triumphs, but moments nonetheless that carve and truly define who we really are. Strangely, on that hollow moon-lit night, Duncan had swallowed something far more powerful than any bullet. Duncan Klondike swallowed and nearly choked devouring his very own ego, right there in his lonely, repossessed kitchen.
more by ROACH ADAMS
read Roach Adams’ blog Animals Of Progress
photograph by Chris Lawton