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Pebbles to Grains, Dust to Dust

A tale of regret

By Cathy holmesPublished 15 days ago Updated 9 days ago 7 min read
Photo by Levi Jones on Unsplash

The air feels damp above me. The ground feels dry beneath me; and it’s cold – so, so cold. I can’t see anything through the darkness. I can’t hear anything but silence. I can barely breathe. I don’t remember how I got here, and I’m not exactly sure where I am, but I can’t help but wonder if this is what hell feels like.

I was born in the midst of a hurricane, and I ran through life like a raging river. Mama told me I started walking at eight months, and from the moment I learned to run, I haven’t slowed any longer than it takes a pebble to float downstream.

I was a good boy growing up, always getting the best grades in my class, captain of my high school track team. I could run like the wind, and there was nothing I enjoyed more. I was offered a scholarship to the best college in the state, and there was even talk of me making the Olympic team.

All of that seemed to go by the wayside when Papa taught me to play Poker. As much as I enjoyed running as a kid, turns out Poker was my true love. I was good at it too, damn good. Papa said I was a quick learner. He used to let me play with him and his buddies out in the shed. They’d show up every weekend after supper with their decks of cards and their bottles of Jack. It wasn’t long before I could beat all of them. They didn’t want me around anymore after that.

I started going to casino nights in the city when I was sixteen. I had a fake ID of course, and people always said I looked older than I was, so I had no problem getting in. I almost got myself in trouble a few times with the old drunken cowboys who couldn’t accept they were beaten by a kid. I’m pretty sure they wanted to beat me, and not just at poker if you know what I mean. They’d get all mad and say I cheated. I never did though. I was just good, or maybe I was just lucky. Who knows?

Mama didn’t like me hanging out at the casino. She was always worried I’d get myself in trouble. I was too young to be there, she said. I shouldn’t be playing around with these older men and their money, she said. I asked her what she meant, and she just looked at Papa and said, “actions have consequences.”

I wasn’t sure what she was talking about, but I decided it was best I didn’t tell her about the drunken cowboys and how they wanted to beat me up. I knew it would just make her worry more.

Papa didn’t seem to mind me going to the casino at all. He used to give me the money. Since I usually came home with a few extra dollars in my pocket, which I always turned over to him, he was more than happy to let me go.

He didn’t have the same reaction when I told him I was leaving home at twenty-one. Papa was furious. He was expecting me to take over the business, being the only son. I had no interest in doing so, and I told him that. I had just graduated with a mechanics certificate from our community college, and I didn’t want to waste my life fixing farm machines.

I wish I hadn’t been so blunt with him. I could see the hurt in his eyes, like I had just insulted him or insinuated that he had wasted his life. That’s not what I meant, and I tried to tell him, but he didn’t want to hear it. He just walked away from me.

I tried talking with Papa several times over the next few weeks, but all he wanted to hear was that I had decided to stay. I couldn’t give him the news he wanted, so he couldn’t give me the time of day. I haven’t spoken with him more than ten times in the last fifteen years. I don’t think he ever forgave me.

So, I left the big sky of Montana behind for the bright lights of Vegas. I found a job in my field just outside the city, and after a while, I even found myself a wife.

I met her at a casino where she worked as a hostess. She had the most beautiful emerald eyes I’ve ever seen, and her smile could light up a city in a power outage. We got married a year after we met. Five years later, she gave me a beautiful baby boy.

Things were going really well for me back then. I found the life I left the farm for. I had a great job, a loving wife and a baby, and I had my weekends at the casino. Between my job and my poker games, I was raking in thousands every week. I was a winner, in every way. Until I wasn’t.

After eight years of what I thought was a happy marriage, the wife left me. She said she couldn’t take my gambling anymore. I didn’t understand the problem because I was still winning. I told her so. She said she didn’t care about the money.

She cared that I didn’t have time for her, or our three-year-old son. She cared that I spent all my off hours at the casino. I’d even taken time off work to go play poker but, like I said to her, I could make more cash in the game than in an afternoon at the shop. Besides, I didn’t do it very often. Even so, my wife insisted I was addicted.

It didn’t matter what I said in my own defense, or how much I tried to convince her that she was wrong. She said it was clear that I cared more about the game than I did about our family. She told me she’d only stay if I gave up gambling. I told her she was being unreasonable. Now I realize, a little too late, just how right she was.

I don’t remember exactly when the change happened, but at some point, my luck ran out. After being a virtual card shark for decades, I suddenly couldn’t win a game to save my life. And it pissed me off. I started playing every night. I missed more work time than ever, until it reached the point that it cost me my job.

When I eventually ran out of money, the real trouble started. I thought my poker skill was the savior that would rescue me from the generations of farm life that my family thought was my obligation. Turns out it was my kryptonite. I had no idea how hooked I was until it cost me everything.

I borrowed money from a bookie, sure my luck would turn around. But as I got further and further in debt, I began to realize the massive hole I’d dug in my life.

I knew I couldn’t pay the money back, so I did the only thing I knew how, the only other thing I was good at. I ran. I got in my car and headed north on I-15, intending to go home and beg my family for help.

The thugs caught up to me near Mesquite. I tried reasoning with them. I promised to pay the money back somehow. I tried talking myself out of what I knew was my destiny, but they weren’t in the mood to listen. Last thing I remember is the gun pointed at my face, and the crack on the back of my head.

When they pulled me out of the trunk, where I assumed was somewhere in the middle of the Mojave Desert, I saw nothing but tumbleweed and emptiness around me. Then I heard the gunshot.

Now as I lay here in this shallow grave with my mouth and eyes filled with dirt, and a bullet in my chest, there’s an ache in my heart for the life I rejected and the family I left behind. I can’t help but wonder if they will find me before my bones have turned as dusty as the parched land around me. I can’t help but wonder if they’ll even look.

As the tumbleweeds spin in the breeze across the barren land above, I know my life is spinning to an end in this shoddily dug grave. I can’t help but think of Mama’s words when I first visited a casino all those years ago. “Actions have consequences,” she said. I picture Papa, with his limp, and I think I finally understand what she meant. It feels like I’ve come full circle.

Not yet dead, but barely alive, I can’t help but reflect on the life I lived. I used to think I was akin to a pebble in a raging river. But as my lifeblood dries as surely as a creek in prolonged drought, I finally realize the sad truth of my existence. Engulfed in the desert’s parched silence, I was nothing but another grain of sand in the wind.

Short Story

About the Creator

Cathy holmes

Canadian family girl with a recently discovered love for writing. Other loves include animals and sports.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (21)

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  • Mike Singleton - Mikeydred8 days ago

    Sorry I missed this , excellent challenge entry

  • C. H. Richard8 days ago

    Great job Cathy. Enjoyed that. ♥️

  • Caroline Jane8 days ago

    Goodness me. I missed this. It is fabulous! That narrative voice is perfect. Reads like southern silk. You land the story to the prompt seamlessly. Brilliant job. Cathy...You got a winner here. Definitely among the best i have read. 🥰

  • PK Colleran8 days ago

    Yikes! What a good story. The truth can really hurt. Excellent writing.

  • Dana Crandell9 days ago

    A truly unique take on the challenge and a well-told stoy about an all-too-common and tragic addiction. I won't be surprised to see this place or even win! Well done, my friend!

  • Kristen Balyeat11 days ago

    Such amazing storytelling, Cathy! This is a fantastic take on the challenge and such an important lesson. Gambling is a sneaky addiction that can be incredibly devastating. Sad he had to die, but it was the perfect ending for a huge impact. Good luck with this challenge, you have a great contender here!

  • Phil Flannery14 days ago

    A telling tale and very well told. I'm sure it is too close to the truth for many. Well done and good luck.

  • Rosie Ford 15 days ago

    Beautifully written! Such a sad story and a warning to us all! Out the important things first!!

  • E.K. Daniels15 days ago

    A sad fate for our character, but a great take on the challenge. Wonderful job, Cathy!

  • Gerald Holmes15 days ago

    Great job, Sis. Loved the story!

  • Mariann Carroll15 days ago

    Great job! He never learn !

  • This is an exceptional story & entry into the challenge, Cathy. When I was serving in South Dakota we lived just 25 miles from the reservation with its brand new casino. In one family (pillars of the community), two sister had come back to run a bed & breakfast out in the country. One weekend they decided to go to the casino. By the time they returned home, they had lost over $20,000. This was back in the 1990s. They didn't have that kind of money to lose. The gambling industry describes itself as innocent recreation. But their bread & butter are the addicts who lose everything until they have destroyed not only their own lives but those of their families as well. I always loved Kevin Costner as an actor. But after "Dances with Wolves" he decided he wanted to open a casino in Deadwood & lobbied heavily urging the legislature to allow for higher bet limits. He insisted it was out of a desire to restore an important part of Deadwood's history. I call BS. And it didn't bother me one bit that "Water World" was an unmitigated disaster for him, both in the eyes of critics & at the box office. (Though I still have to admit, "Bull Durham" & "Draft Day" are still two of my favorite films.) Great job with this, Cathy.

  • Lamar Wiggins15 days ago

    This is a true reality kick in the butt. Gambling is an addiction; he couldn't see it for what it was. I love the casinos and have learned lessons, good and bad. People with your character's kind of luck should always get in and out...FAST. It never lasts. Great entry, Cathy.

  • I already knew what the ending was gonna be but I still wasn't prepared for how hard it hit me. I don't like gambling. But if I had his luck, I'd definitely gamble. I mean, why let go of something good, right? But the higher we are, the harder we fall. I felt so sad for him. I mean he didn't harm anyone by gambling. I mean his wife was hurt but hey, women would always be unsatisfied in one way or another 🤣 He hurt his dad but he just wanted to go after his dreams. At this point I'm rambling. Your story made me think a lot and I'll continue to think about it even long after I've left this comment.

  • JBaz15 days ago

    Winner winner chicken dinner Great story line and beautifully written. Good luck

  • Mother Combs15 days ago

    great entry

  • Beautifully written and so sad.

  • Babs Iverson15 days ago

    Wonderful arid story!!! Good message too!!! Love it!!!💕❤️❤️

  • Truly a life lesson learned late. Great characterization and a good message in a bottle… of Jacks. Very nice job.

  • Constructed perfecty. And, rather bizzarely. the entire way though Kenny Rogers in syndicate with Willie Nelson seemed to play x

  • Real Poetic15 days ago

    Theres an extra “a” in this line. “I had just graduated with a with a mechanics certificate” The story is so heartbreaking but you really opened my eyes to a great lesson. He sounded like such a great young man despite the gambling addiction. Poor kid. Such a horrible way to die. Best of luck in the challenge. I’m so proud of you! Absolutely amazing job well done. 👏🏼🩵

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