I’ve been playing poker and I’ve lost an immodest fortune – my mind wasn’t on it. I just wanted company, I suppose.
Several, rather disreputable, folks at the tables seemed to be trying to hustle those of us out for a gentler evening – it’s rather disgusting when it becomes all about the money. They were positively desperate for it – I’m quite convinced they would’ve stabbed their own grandmother for a measly dollar.
On the way down in the lift, I was speaking to the red-headed bellboy – the one with the dreadful complexion, who plays with his baseball cards while we wait for a floor. I asked him about Velma, knowing that he must see a lot of people coming and going.
He asked me if Velma was the bearcat who’d been on his case, ‘on account there weren’t no Bellgirls’?
‘Ha, yes. That’s her! That’s Velma!’ But he hadn’t seen her since she’d been with me – he ‘would’ve deffo remembered’.
Then, having passed a floor in silence, listening to the snap and crackle of his cards riffled under their elastic band, I asked him about the ‘gathering’. It was almost as an afterthought – to be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything but obfuscation…
‘Fifty bucks, miss, and I’ll learns ya what you want to know,’ he said cheerily, and with that statement of moral flexibility, he gave me an impudent wink.
My heart almost stopped.
Despite my protesting poverty – $50! – he wasn’t to be moved: ‘we all likes our cards round here,’ he said, waving Babe Ruth in my face.
‘Fine!’ I grubbed around in my swishy bead bag, while he nobbled our descent between floors with a yank on some control or other.
When I produced the dough as a couple of notes and a whole handful of change, these were accepted with a sniff, and then he asked me what my surname was. ‘O’Sullivan.’ And then what my room was. ‘Nine.’
To which he responded, ‘Ah… I’m sure you’ll find out soon enough, then, toots.’
That was fifty bucks in that spotty little hand!
I hoisted my skirt and prepared to rush the little goof. ‘I shall go to the Captain,’ I said, imperiously, though my voice went all squeaky and rather spoiled the effect.
In the face of such outrage, he simply popped off his pill hat, dropped my contribution to ‘The Highwaymen and Lift Attendant’s Benevolent Fund’ inside, and squitched the hat back-and-fore on his head, the elastic automatically adjusting to account for the thick wad of my money underneath. Then, in riposte to my threat of the captain, he slowly shook his head at my naiveté, smiling his gap-toothed smile, and said: ‘Oh, he’s not in charge, miss.’
Bang! On with the elevator as we whined on down to my cabin floor.
As the door pinged and he rattled the safety gate open, he paused for a moment.
‘Look, miss, no hard feelings – I made a score off you. Feels like I’ll be a bit ahead of a few others, so here’s some advice. Don’t go lookin’ for trouble before it comes knockin’ at yer door. I wish it weren’t gonna happen for ya, but you’ll get your official announcement all too soon, and then everythin’ll be clearer than you’d like it to be. There’s gonna be another gatherin’. And, bad news, you’ll be in it!’
And with that, he said, ‘Bellgirls? Pfft. See ya, toots!’ yanked the safety gate shut, and descended like a diabolic imp, back into the bowels of the ship.
Despite what he said, I think that’s good news. Isn’t it?
If it finally offers some answers…