He had thought that maybe he had been sitting for about two hours, but in reality, he realized it could have been more like five.
Gregg was still seated at the slot machine, putting in quarter after quarter, and pulling the lever and waiting for the cherries to line up. He had had so many permuataions of cherry-cherry-banana, banana banana cherry, cherry banana orange….it just didn’t seem right that he hadn’t had the luck of the magic combination yet. Yet. He inserted a coin and pulled the lever.
Gregg’s back was getting sore. He looked around for his wife, who had come in here with him at some point, but was now nowhere in sight. In fact, nobody was. Maybe Liza was at the pool, thought Gregg. Liza liked to be in the water and she had limited patience for on-land activities. She had been sitting near Gregg for a little while, and now she was gone. Probably swimming laps, thought Gregg, or soaking in the whirlpool.
What time was it? Gregg looked around. There was the carpet with the seizure-inducing pattern, there was the even, warm lighting that didn’t seem to come from any fixture, but instead merely seeped from the walls on its own, no shadows, no windows alerting him to the shadows of the passing hours.
Then Gregg heard the voice of God.
“Go Outside” boomed the voice, and Gregg winced. “Who is that?” he cried, and the voice of God boomed out again, “Go Outside, Gregg. Go Outside Right Now!!!”
And so Gregg picked up his bucket of quarters and he walked in the direction of what he vaguely remembered at one time was probably a door. It was really odd, he thought, how nobody else was in this casino. Where were the workers? Where were the people on vacation? Where were the bartenders, the blackjack dealers, the lounge acts, the cocktail waitresses in the short black skirts and the blue button-down Oxfords? Where was everybody????
And where was a mirror? Gregg was not a vain man but he wasn’t sure how long he had been sitting down and he thought maybe he should at least put a comb through his hair before stepping outside and interfacing with the outside world. Gregg was suddenly quite aware that he needed to brush his teeth. All he had had to drink for the past however long was endless bottles of purple grape juice, and now that he was standing and walking, what he thought he really could use was a beer. Yes, absolutely, a beer. A beer and a toothbrush.
The sliding doors came into view and Gregg broke into a trot. He sailed through the doors and looked around the parking lot and came to a slow stop. He looked around. The leaves were off the trees and it was cold. Hadn’t he come here in the summer? And where was his car? And what were THESE cars? These were models he had never heard of before. These were cars he had never seen before. What time was it? What day was it? What YEAR was it??
Gregg walked up to one of the cars and tried to peer in to see if there was a clock on the dashboard. He got up close, so close he could see his breath fogging up the glass, but the windows were tinted so he couldn’t see anything. And then he caught a glimpse of himself in the reflection. Gregg gasped.
He looked old. He looked tired. His face sagged and his hair looked thin and unkempt. He spun back around to go back into the casino but there was no casino. The sign on the building he had just emerged from was not the Chunk-a-Lunk Chippewa Cheap Change Casino, but a Spray-N-Wash full-service car wash. There was a truck going through right now whose driver was frantically rolling up his windows as the rainbow foam came down.
Gregg’s heart beat faster. He jogged through the parking lot and spotted a gas station across a service road. Gregg burst in like an armed robber and stalked straight to the newspaper and magazine section and grabbed today’s paper.
“Sir?” asked the man behind the counter—“sir?”
Gregg grabbed the paper and looked at the front page. 2011. It was 2011. He had been sitting in that casino for 12 years.
Gregg slumped down onto the floor.
“Can I help you sir? Sir? Can I help you?” The man in the red apron stood over Gregg with a flyswatter in his hand.