Writer, publisher, podcaster, ledge

The Gamble

One afternoon, out of the blue, Malcolm decided to start gambling. 

“I’m not a risk-taker,” he said.  “That’s my problem.  I need to stop playing it safe.  Taking up a hobby like this is the only way to be happy.” 

 We went into town and he put a tenner on a randomly-selected horse.  He won at odds of 6-1.  

 We went to lunch to celebrate.  Malcolm bought me an all-day breakfast from one of the cafes on the seafront, and a couple of scones for dessert.  The combination of these two courses, plus a cup of coffee, felt like the ultimate extravagance.   

 “I think I’m going to stop gambling now,” he said.  “Quit while I’m ahead.  It’s a slippery slope.”   

 “I suppose so.” 

 We left the café and went for a drink at the Royal Hotel.  Malcolm ordered a drink he’d invented called a “Fucking Mary”. 

 “I’ll have two Fucking Marys please,” he said. 

 The barman didn’t bat an eyelid.  “What’s that?” he said. 

 “It’s like a Bloody Mary but a bit stronger.  Heavy on the voddy, easy on the tomato juice.”

 It was a sunny day so we sat outside peering at the sea over top of the traffic.  Beside the pier there was a lone surfer, desperately trying to tease some response out of the lightly-lapping brine. 

 “You know, I’d like to get properly educated,” Malcolm said.  “I left school too early.” 

 “Same here,” I said. 

 “Did you ever consider going to college?” 

 “Not really.  I like the idea of being self taught.” 

 “That’s what I want to be too.  Independent.  But it’s not possible, Franklin.  No one can be self-taught.  You can only learn things by talking to people or reading books.” 

 “Books are overrated,” I said. 

 “So, why do you expect people to read yours?” 

 “I don’t.” 

 We ordered another round of Fucking Marys. 

 “I’m part-way through the dictionary at the moment,” said Malcolm.  “It’s fascinating.  I’ve started consciously trying to learn new words.  I’ve got a word of the day, and I pin it on the fridge alongside the definition.” 

 “What’s today’s word?” I said. 


 “What does it mean?” 

 “It means “compliant, dutiful or obedient.”  Like a servant.” 

 “I’m not a big fan of long words,” I said.  “If it means obedient, why not just use the word obedient?” 

 “There’s more to it than that.  The word obsequious has an overtone of “dutiful suck-up”.” 

 “I’d like to see you use it in conversation.” 

 The drinks were quickly drained.  Malcolm returned to the bar, already beginning to stagger.  

 I heard him through the door calling, “Same again please, you obsequious bastard!” 

 He laughed so hard he dropped down to his knees and slapped the floor.