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The Wager

Joe Kilgore | Mike S. Young

Sure, I’d heard of idiots doing this before, but you hear lots of crazy things in this world. That doesn’t mean you do them too. God, if I didn’t need the money so desperately, I would have just walked away. But he was such a loudmouth. Such a braying jackass. Wanted to show how macho he was. How he was so much more of a man than anyone else in the bar. Well, someone had to brace him. Someone had to tell him to put his money where his fat mouth was. Though for the life of me, I’m not sure why it had to be me. Scratch that. I know exactly why it was me. I thought he’d chicken out. Thought he was all bluster and no balls. I still think that. I still think he doesn’t have it in him. When he suggested we go with just one spin of the cylinder and play it all the way through to the finish, he thought I’d cave. Thought I’d walk away. When I didn’t, he suggested that we cut for high card and the loser goes first because he knew he’d palm that King and he never figured I’d draw an Ace. But I did. Now he’s the one thinking about how he has a one in six chance of blowing his brains out the side of his skull. He’s thinking that his judgment and his luck have sucked so far. And when both are running that bad, you just fold your tent and leave your money on the table. That’s definitely what he’ll do. He’ll either skulk away or make some show of being pissed off and say something about me not being worth it while he curses and storms out. I knew he was a coward. Most loudmouths are when you really get down to it. He’ll put the pistol down. He’s holding it just for show. He’d never—


Jesus Christ! He did it. He actually did it. He said he would, but I never believed him. I thought he was bluffing. Who would do such a thing? Take such a chance! Maybe I misjudged him. Maybe he’s not the jerk I thought he was. Maybe he’s psychotic. Jesus, I must be the one who’s insane to have gotten myself into this. Now I have to go through with it. I have to. The money’s on the table. He took his turn. Now I must. I must. Dear God, please help me.


God. Oh God. Have to catch my breath. Hyperventilating. Must calm down. Didn’t think I had the nerve. Didn’t think I could do it. Surely we’ll stop now. The odds are too great. He’ll stop now, for sure. He’ll—


Jesus! Jesus! I can’t believe he did that again. This is nuts. Nuts! Two grown men. God, I need the money, but still. I can’t do it. Not now. There are only three chances left. A one-in-three chance of killing myself. No one in his right mind would take such a chance. To do it again would be madness! Madness! Or, maybe, just maybe it would be fate. What if it’s my luck that’s holding? What if this is my day? My one chance in a lifetime to get what I truly deserve. Surely everybody has one. That one opportunity that will never come again. And really, when you stop and think about it, the odds are on by side. Sure, there’s a possibility that the bullet’s in the chamber. But there are two possibilities that it isn’t. Two to one odds in my favor. When will I ever have such odds again with so much money on the table? And God must be on my side, right? I mean between a cretin like that and me. Surely the Lord must be on my side. I believe that. I really believe that.

I trust you, Lord. Be with me, please!


God! I’ve wet myself. Why did I do that? How could I? But, I’m alive. I’m still alive! I’m sweating. I’m trembling. But I’ve done it. I’ve passed the test. Surely it will end now. Now there’s a fifty-fifty chance that the bullet’s in the chamber. He can’t take that kind of chance. No one could. No one would put his life on the line for the toss of a coin. I’ve got him. I’ve really got him. Okay, I have to give him credit. He was a lot braver than I thought. He tried to intimidate me, sure. When that didn’t work, and even the cut went in my favor, he took his chance. He toughed it out a lot farther than I thought he would. Maybe he’s not the asshole I thought he was. Maybe he just had one too many and let his mouth cut a check his ass couldn’t cover. Well, it’s done now. He can walk away now with his dignity. Everyone will understand that no one would take a chance of losing your life with no advantage whatsoever. Maybe the bullet’s locked and loaded, maybe it isn’t. That’s no kind of gamble anyone would take. That’s just plain and simple insanity. One gun. One bullet. Two trigger-pulls. Someone’s going to die. And there are two many witnesses here for him to pick up the gun and turn it on me. I’ve got him. I’ve really got him now. But, wait, I’m forgetting myself. It’s not just me, Lord. It’s you I have to thank. You’re the one who made this happen. You’re the one who tested me and gave me the strength to go through with this when I never thought I could. I owe it all to you, Lord. And I thank you. I really do. From here on out, I’ll accept whatever fate you have in store for me. Count on it, Lord. I know now you have a plan for me and I’ll willingly accept whatever it might be. Amen.


About Joe Kilgore

Joe Kilgore currently lives and writes in Austin, Texas where he shares a home with his wife Claudia, an accomplished artist, his French Bulldog, Jezebel, and three particularly inscrutable cats.

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