a rickety bridge of impossible crossing

Always Bet on Dwayne

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson sits on the stool across from you and drops all his chips on the table. You goggle. There must be at least 50 grand there. "Th-thank you, sir. Which color?"

The Rock pulls off his mirrored aviators and flashes his million dollar smile. "Blue."

There's a long pause. Even over the din of slot machine bells and whoops of joy and anguish from the blackjack tables, the word was unmistakable. "B-but monsieur," you stammer, "zhe wheel, she has no blue." Your cheeks burn. You always drop into a fake French accent when you get nervous.

"Blue is Jasmine's favorite color," he says with a sheepish little shrug. "I got a good feeling about it." His eyes shine with pride, and you wonder whether his little girl asked him to pick blue. No, you decide, he just knew. You wish The Rock was your dad. You wish The Rock could be everyone's dad.

You look at the man with the camera. Under the pulsing neon lights, the sweat on his forehead looks like droplets of psychedelic paint. You wonder if this is all some strange dream.

The flashbulb goes off. You see nothing but a field of white with black and green spots. You rub your eyes. You've lost all sense of time. You feel The Rock's presence like an old sturdy oak tree, its branches bare but waiting patiently for spring so they can bloom again.

The present fades back into view. You stare at Mr. Johnson for a few seconds or several decades. His smile doesn't falter. He holds his palms up in an earnest gesture. "Has The Rock ever let you down?"

You swallow hard and nod. You spin the roulette wheel for what in your heart you know is the last time. You hear the whisper of the heavy brass frame on the almost frictionless bearings, the erratic but somehow soothing clatter of the marble. You stare, transfixed, at the whirlpool of black and crimson. You've watched it spin hundreds of times, but for the first time you find it hypnotic.

You try to focus on one of the green stripes, something to keep you planted in your reality, but it's a blur. You feel an infinity of possible futures converging on one impossible quantum moment. Is anything truly impossible? You don't know anymore. All you hear is rushing water. You don't know how long you've been holding your breath.

The photographer's bulb flashes again, breaking the spell. You rub your eyes and look at the wheel. The marble landed on blue.

You take a deep breath. You look at The Rock. He's leaning back a bit on the stool, hands on the back of his head and elbows stretched out on either side, huge grin on his face. The banker pushes the biggest pile of chips you've ever seen in front of him. You try to guess its value, but your mind can't grasp these orders of magnitude. You realize you're out of a job, but you've stopped shaking and your breathing is back to normal. You know The Rock would never leave you adrift.

As if reading your mind, he scoops up a small pile of chips, neatly stacks them, and hands you a cylinder of plastic worth more than your car. You start to stammer a word or two of thanks, not sure if the right words even exist, but The Rock waves his hand dismissively. "You like kids? I'm opening a free daycare and I'm looking for some good folks to help out."

You've never thought about it before. "I love kids," you blurt.