Earl won almost two hundred dollars at the craps table in Vegas that night. It was an older casino, a bit off the strip, but what it lacked in amenities it offered in service and ambience. A real “Old Vegas” feel. He had told the dealer and everyone listening that he just knew when first driving past the place that he would do well here.
“Why I don’t even believe it!” he declared to everyone around him. “I’ve never won this much money before at anything!”
A drunk wearing a shiny red shirt looked Earl up and down, and with unconcealed disdain at his stained beige field coat and worn, off-white straw cattleman’s hat said, “Well don’t spend it all at once place, and I’d avoid the O.K. Corral if I was you, Wyatt Earp.” He slurred his words while laughing contemptuously.
“Thank you kindly, sir,” Earl said as he gathered his chips. “After I conduct some much-needed business at the cashier’s window, I believe I will use my good fortune to indulge in a good cigar, one double-pour of fine whisky, and a premium steak.” Passing the man on his way to the cashier’s window, he leaned in and said in a low voice, “Beg pardon, but you know, Wyatt Earp came out on top at the O.K. Corral, friend.”
A couple minutes later at the window, Earl gently dropped the chips on the counter and addressed the cashier. “Hi there, ma’am. I’m Earl Byrd from Lower Alabama and I won one hundred eight-seven dollars at your craps table.”
“Well hi there back, Earl,” said the cashier, an older lady with gray skin and heavy makeup resembling a clown’s. Her name tag read, Dina. She looked up at him. “You certainly are a tall drink of water,” she said then quickly counted the chips. “Earl,” she continued, “I’m afraid you haven’t won a hundred and eighty-seven dollars.”
“Ma’am?” Earl asked.
She beamed, then exclaimed excitedly, “You won one hundred eighty-eight dollars, Mr. Earl!”
“Oh I don’t think so, ma’am,” said Earl. “I counted it three times.”
The cashier held her smile past its expiration per her training. “Oh now Mr. Earl, I count these chips for a living. You should trust me on this.”
“I count things too,” he said. “I’m what you might call a master sorter. Used to work at the new Korean auto plant until I got the call.”
“Oh, are you a minister, Mr. Earl?” she asked as she began re-counting, slowly.
He smiled. “Something like that.”
Dina counted out the chips slowly in front of him. “…and seven, and eight. See what I mean?”
Earl looked over the chips laid out in rows by color. “You sure are right, ma’am,” said Earl. “Are you going to call security on me now?”
“Security?” Dina asked. “Sweetie why on earth would I do that?”
“Because I must’ve stole that extra chip from the table,” Earl said matter-of-factly.
“Sir, are you saying that you have stolen chips from the craps table?” Dina asked, raising her hand to signal the head cashier over.
“I must’ve,” Earl repeated. “Because I know I only won a hundred eighty-seven.”
The supervisor as well as a pit boss from the craps area and a couple of security officers arrived. They discussed the incident inside the Cashier’s cage while Earl waited patiently at Dina’s window. Finally, a swarthy man in a gray suit left the cage and approached Earl.
“Earl, is it?” the main said, smiling and extending his hand. “I’m Mr. Sayataan.”
Earl grasped the offered hand and shook it. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Satan,” he said. “I’m Earl Lee Byrd.”
“A pleasure,” the man replied, slightly annoyed. “And it’s pronounced, ‘Sigh-ah-tane’. Could you tell me what your problem is with Dina’s count?”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t hear anything but Mr. Satan out of that pronunciation,” Earl said sincerely. “Begging your pardon.”
“Could you repeat what you told Dina for me?” Sayataan asked impatiently.
“It sure must be difficult going through life with a name like Satan,” Earl remarked lightly. “I don’t think I could ever get over that.”
The security man took a deep breath. “Yes and I could say the same thing about your name, now couldn’t I?” he replied with a contentious smile.
“About Earl?” he asked. “You mean like pearl or swirl or hurl or curl? Some people called me burly Earl when I was a kid, on account I was stocky for a few years.”
“Earl Lee Bird,” Sayataan said slowly, emphasizing each word. “Early Bird. Do you experience many people asking you if you got the worm?”
“Worm?” Earl asked. “Like for bream fishing or catfishing?”
“Nevermind. About your chips. What if I told you that all those chips were yours and you are free to cash them in and leave?”
Earl’s face went pale. “Are you trying to tempt me, Mister Satan?” he asked, a slight smirk giving his face a harder, less congenial appearance.
“What?” Saytaan asked. “Our specialists have reviewed the camera footage of your playing,” he said, “and nothing looks out of the ordinary. So I’ve claime–uh cleared you.”
“Incident?” asked Earl. “What incident?”
“The alleged theft of the one dollar chip you say might have accidentally become mixed in with your own chips,” he said with growing impatience.
“Oh I didn’t steal anything,” Earl said. “At least, I didn’t mean to if I did. Which I didn’t. But you,” Earl said. “You aim to steal something from me, don’t you?”
The security man’s eyes narrowed. “Please, if I can not be of any further service, take your winnings and enjoy your eterni–that is, your stay, sir.”
“Thought so,” Earl said confidently. Without warning he swiftly pulled a gleaming Civil War era short sword from inside his jacket and sliced through the man’s neck, swiftly and cleanly in one smooth motion. “Sic Semper, lesser demon!” he shouted as a bright light flashed, temporarily obscuring everyone in the booth and causing Earl to avert his eyes as the light intensified and enveloped the demon. Earl secured the sword in the scabbard in his coat and then turned back to confirm no trace of the demon remained.
Earl found himself alone again at the cashier’s window where Dina was counting out his money. Dina and one other cashier were once again the only people in the booth. It was as if nothing had happened.
“One-hundred eighty-five, six, and seven,” she said as she flicked the crisp bills down on the counter. “Is there anything else I can kil–do for you?”
Earl studied her for a few seconds, then smiled sheepishly and looked at her name tag. “Well, ma’am, I couldn’t help but notice you don’t have a ring on your finger, and, well now your name tag says Dinah, with an ‘H’.”
“Yes?” she said, her eyes narrowing.
“That would be ‘H’,” he said. “For Hell.”
Without warning Earl flicked his wrist and tossed a dirty, white one-dollar chip through the gap in the bars directly at the cashier’s face. Surprised and slightly panicked, her eyes flashed yellow and he quickly, smoothly drew his sword just as the demon poured itself through the bars and sprung at him.
“Goddam,” he said, swinging for her neck. “I love this fuckin’ job.”