I was standing at the roulette table; we were at the yacht club. I was wearing a tuxedo and I hadn’t waxed my hair very well, my receding hairline was pronounced. I was shoulder to shoulder with a young woman about my age. She was quite sloppy. She was with her mother, who had enormous breasts. They were grand and pointed, like the prow of a ship. I could see her daughter looking at me out of the corner of my eye. We staggered into a conversation, she was making very reckless bets. She said I was her bad luck charm.

“Do you play rugby?” she asked. I laughed and said no. What an opener.

“Do you play cricket?”


“He doesn’t play anything!” she screamed at her mother.

These were real Essex women. Better men than me have been buried by the likes of these. There was something about them that was tough. They were round, and sure of themselves. They reminded me of lions, or hunting dogs with the taste for human flesh. One woman, of about forty, almost dragged the whole roulette table over as she bent down to pick up a chip. I watched the eyes widen on the girl who was dealing. She was already on edge; the table was surrounded by morons, most of whom couldn’t even grasp the basic rules of roulette no matter how many times they were explained. She was sick of the whole bad scene. You could tell it in her eyes. It must be like working at a bar, but worse, as alcoholics become enraged on the thrill of gambling. The old retired men, their bald skulls bleached from the sun, leched obviously and without care. They dripped over the table like giant roaches as they made their bets…

Later, I saw her struggling down the stairs with the betting gear. For a moment I thought about offering to help. No Luke, what will it look like? A dribbling spotty freak approaching a fair maiden from the rear, unannounced, slurring his words and choking on his bloated tongue. His eyes are the worst, they always are. Hidden behind thick and greasy frames; the eyes of a bluebottle turgid with fear and lust.

No, go to the bar and get another double Grouse. The glass might be tall but the liquor works the same…