It took two nudges to dislodge the croupier's wedge of ham from between the cop's bike's spokes. Why the croupier had put it there I could only guess, and such a guess would surely have been inaccurate, as I'd only just met the man. We were each on break behind the casino, enjoying a 2 a.m. sandwich. That's right, one sandwich for both of us. It was twelve inches long and we each took six of them (inches). I'd been hoping to share it (the sandwich) with Patty, but she was a no-show. The swamp made sounds to our immediate left, and the parking lot's lights were what we ate by. I detected in the croupier the anima of an anarchist crossed with the libido of an ecologist. I sensed great achievements in his immediate future. Sure enough, having successfully lodged and dislodged the ham-wedge, he now lobbed the morsel blindly over his shoulder straight into a dumpster twenty paces behind him. I was leaning against the dumpster when I saw the meat go in. It went in quietly.
"You don't like ham," I said.
"I like it just fine, but not when there's too much." The croupier picked up a basketball and spun it on his finger.
"Explain," I said.
"What's to explain? How was your half?" He was still spinning the ball.
"It was okay. Not enough ham, though."
The croupier stopped the ball spinning with his other hand. "There's your explanation," he said.
I saw his point. But I was still thinking about Patty. I asked the croupier if he'd seen her around lately, but he had no information. He dribbled around me and dunked the ball into the dumpster. Unlike the ham, the ball did not go quietly. As I climbed in to retrieve it, the cop (really just a security guard, but an (unofficially) armed one, so I thought of him as a cop) burst out the door from the kitchen and scrambled to unchain his bike from the railing on which the croupier was now leaning, calm as a kumquat. The cop (I think his name was Junius? Julius?) fumbled frantically with the lock. "Did you see her?" he shouted. "Which way did she go?"
"Who?" the croupier and I shouted back.
"Patty! Who else, for god's sake!"
Damn! How had I missed her?
As Julian pedalled off in pursuit, the croupier put his arm around my shoulders in a brotherly fashion. "It's alright. We'll try again tomorrow. She can't stay in that kind of shape forever. She'll slow down one day, and when she does, I know you'll catch her."
I kept a stiff lip, but I knew the croupier could sense my unborn tears. It was a comfort to be in the presence of one so wise.