Eric Strife splits his time between a full time job, school, and occasionally writing. Oh, and Whiskey of course. This is his first published story.
A forty-year-old man places his entire savings on zero. We’re talking all his money from twenty years at the factory, with no kids, and just two short marriages. All on zero.
Yes, on zero.
Now, mathematicians tend to agree that you have a 2.63% chance of winning this bet. This would perhaps be the reason the casino allowed such an outlandishly large bet. Some fat man in a suit was watching this unfold with dollar signs in his eyes.
The payout for this bet was 35 to 1.
But Art was at the end of his rope. More specifically, he had tied this rope in a certain rope and had left it in his room, to be used in a certain way if that roulette wheel decided to favor the 97.37%.
Ah, but would I be telling this story if it had? What kind of story would this be if ol’ depressed Art poured his life savings on one number, lost it all, and had to be found swinging by some poor maid the next day? That would be boring.
No, Art hit the jackpot. The fat man became a deer in headlights. As the entire room shuffled to pick their jaws off the floor, Art shuffled to collect his winnings. Ignoring the begging and pleading of a fat man to continue playing, Art practically ran to his car.
The telephone was ringing.
Art groaned and rolled over to see the morning sun. He jumped up and ran to his living room, finding his winnings. After a few pinches just to make sure, he answered his phone.
“Art! Where the hell are you!?”
Art sighed and looked at the clock. He was two hours late for work. But then the thought of all that money occurred to him. He raised the phone with a grin.
A lower middle-class, forty-year-old man comes into a lot of money. Oh yes, and he did all the things he couldn’t do years before, when he was working his youth away in that old factory. We’re talking hookers, drugs, parties, and more hookers. Also, I guess he paid all his debts.
The next week was an absolute blur of sex, drugs, and Rock ‘N’ Roll. At the end of a particular binge, Art found himself lying next to Candice in a filthy hotel. Candice was a brunette bombshell, with glazed eyes and only a few scars up her arms.
Candice turned towards Art with a sensual smile. “So, you just left everything behind after you won all that money?”
Art snorted. “I didn’t leave behind anything. I didn’t have anything to leave behind.”
“What about your old job?”
“What about my old job?”
She chuckled. “You told me you spent twenty years at that factory. You didn’t want to get back at them somehow? For the hours you spent toiling away, for such lousy pay?”
Art leaned back and sighed. “I guess that’s a good point. All I did was a simple ‘Fuck you.’ After all I went through, after all the opportunities they took away from me, that entire place deserves to pay.”
And so, just three weeks later, Art had inked a deal with the head executives of the old factory. It seemed like his idea of revenge was to buy out that ancient and crusty building he had spent half of his life in. How had he finished this deal so fast, you ask? Who really knows, although it could’ve been the fact that the factory was just a few months away from going under. It’s truly a mystery why the former owners jumped at the offer.
Art’s first step as owner was firing every single person who worked there, even old man Bob, who had worked there for over forty years. Art stepped into the office of the head foreman. Sam was stuffing his belongings in a suitcase, a forlorn expression carved in his features. His eyes found the new owner.
“What do you plan to do with this factory, Art?”
“It’s not your business what I do anymore, Sam,” Art replied with a sneer.
Sam shook his head with resignation. “I don’t know what your aim here is, but I hope you know that you didn’t just screw the head honchos around here.” He took one last look at the empty floor below, grabbed his suitcase and made his way out.
Art gave a sharp sniff before planting himself in the foreman’s chair, leaning back and placing his feet on the desk.
Then he laughed. Oh, how he laughed.
When his moment of levity faded, Art was left with the reality of his circumstance. It was near silent in that old factory. The only sound came from the rats crawling around the inside of the walls. Art picked up his phone and dialed a number.
“Hello?” said the voice on the other end.
“Hey Paul,” Art responded. “I was wondering if you’d like to go out for drinks tonight?”
“Are you fucking serious?” Paul hissed.
“What? What do you mean?”
“You just fired me, asshole! What is wrong with you?” Click.
Art put the phone back down and sighed. From zero to hero. He was a millionaire, and nothing was going to stop him from enjoying his new life.
He made his way downstairs, to the room he had inhabited for forty hours a week, for the last twenty years. Art had spent 41,600 hours in that beat up, conveyor-filled plant. He passed by his primary location. The spot where he had worked day in and day out.
A memory flooded his consciousness, the memory of his first day. Bob had been his trainer, and Art could still hear the old coot hollering over the deafening noise of machinery. “Make sure to put that box on its conveyable side! That’s too god damn close, 13 fucking inches, or the scanner won’t read it! No, that’s too far!” Art chuckled to himself at this thought.
Then there was the break room. The vending machine had been broken for ages, there was a foul stench emanating from the refrigerator, and every chair squealed under its occupant. Somehow Art looked upon this deplorable room with fondness.
“’Heard you and the ol’ lady split up, mate,” Seamus had mentioned through a mouthful of his sandwich.
Art had let out a small groan. “Yeah, it just wasn’t working between us.”
“Well then, sounds like I have a bottle of Jameson back home with your name on it,” Seamus had replied with a broad smirk. Art would look fondly upon the night that followed, if he remembered anything about it.
Art the millionaire sat down in one of the rickety chairs. And I can’t pretend to know what swirled through his head in those moments, but I can state the results of said thoughts.
A smiling, forty-year-old man, suitcase in hand, steps into his office. The familiar hum of machinery can be heard down below, and Art approached the large glass window behind his desk. A few workers turned their heads up towards him, and gave him a wave. Old Bob was barking orders like a mad man to a few of the new hires, Seamus looked hungover, and Paul was enjoying his new position as an operations manager.
Art sat at his desk, crossed his legs and began to leaf through production reports. The old factory wouldn’t be going under after all.
Now, I’ve heard it said a thousand times that “money doesn’t buy happiness.” But when I hear a story such as Art’s, I can’t help but disagree. I know, there’s supposed to be some kind of positive moral to the story. So here it is, my friend: Money does, in fact, buy happiness. You just have to spend it wisely.