My writer brain showed up in yet another random location last night – the blackjack table. For all of you who’ve sat at gambling tables for any length of time, you’ll know what I mean when I say that gamblers are a mixed bunch. Whether I go to my local establishment, which is where I was last night, or I gamble in Las Vegas, which I’ve done a few times ;-), I always encounter a wide assortment of people. From obvious differences in clothes and mannerisms to more subtle differences in temperament and speech patterns, it’s never a dull night at the casino.
But last night, I again experienced my transformation from judgmental observer to a writer who’s interested in building a mental catalog of characters to draw from.
A sort of disheveled man approached the table, the dealer was shuffling so we had a down moment or two to wait, and as we waited, he proceeded to count of a handful of bills he’d had clutched in his hands when he walked up. His hands shook as he spread them out on the player side of the table. First two tens, then two fives, and a couple of ones to round things out. Thirty-two dollars in total. Nothing to sneeze at for sure, but not much for a table with a minimum bet of ten dollars a hand.
I continued to watch our newest player as the dealer finished her shuffling and converted his cash to chips. Not only did his hands shake while he was counting out the cash, but they continued to shake as he settled into the stool and adjusted his position and his chips. He rested one hand beneath the other and finally seemed to ready himself to play.
The cards were placed back in the chute after another player cut the deck, and I thought that was the end of my brief character study, but I was wrong. And the reason I was wrong was because of the initial impression I’d formed. The small buy in, the shaky hands, and the man’s disheveled appearance all made me think that he was a fish out of water, either inexperienced or underfunded, but either way I didn’t think he’d last long. Players do have a tendency to come and go at a blackjack table.
Well, the first couple of hands seemed to confirm my thoughts and I pulled myself away from studying the man long enough to concentrate on a couple of hands of my own (I’m pleased to say I won those two hands. Can’t always say that 🙂 But my writer brain was shaken back into action from how the man played, and the way he went about engaging the other players at the table. Although his first couple of hands wiped out his thirty-two dollars, he didn’t leave, he didn’t complain to the dealer – some people do that for some reason – no, he just pulled out more money and settled in for a few more hands. He chatted up the other players and flashed a smile that really lit up his face, transforming his windblown and slightly unwashed face into a handsome image that was relateable. Well, that caught my attention faster than my own money being pulled from me as the result of a bust hand.
I realized my first impression was wrong, and beyond that, it was actually the reverse of reality. Because the man with shaky hands and just a thirty-two dollar buy in, pulled out money for a third time, and began coaching the less experienced player to his left. His tips and play showed me that he was not only completely comfortable at a blackjack table, but that he was sharp as well.
Suffice it to say, that my writer brain was in overdrive by this time. I began to look beyond my initial impression, studying the clothes he wore and coming up with reasons for the dichotomy between his appearance and his reality. A couple of possible storylines presented themselves; each of which could build out into a short or make him a character to watch in a novel. But it confirmed for me what I realized when I had my little experience at Starbucks (see my post from last month), my transformation into a writer is complete (Well, complete might be the wrong word. Since I can always learn more, it’ll probably never be complete in the finished sense of the word.) Regardless of how long it takes to move toward publication – and hopefully that’s not too long 😉 – the last few years of working on my craft and writing daily have produced what I’ve always wanted. I’m a writer. A real writer. It feels good to say that.
And now I have yet another character in my filing cabinet of a brain. I hope the man he’s built upon came away from that table a winner. I know this writer did.