Back then, Charlie was all that. High school football, adored by cheerleaders, Honors Society student, courted by Ivy League schools, the beaux of Ophie, who was the sought-after bell of the Bal du Bois. He was top ten with a bullet.
Today? He lives in the staff dorm at a Paradise Valley, NV casino run by a retired Japanese mafia boss. He’s a pot washer for the buffet line. How the mighty fall.
Charlie does have this. He can talk for hours. About what? Nothing really. But his Phillepene minders love this about him. My suite in the casino is above the music bar. Charlie’s room is next to mine. It was a long night ignoring Charlie’s blather as he talked to his favorite minder. Some of what leaked through the walls didn’t sound happy. The boy was not good.
To answer the question above, no. We want the redeemed hero. He is victorious by the end of the story. Charlie is a tragicomic character. Ophie will never forgo a chance to heap more misery on him. And Charlie’s choices don’t move him toward victory. Piranha revenge?
I made it through the night. The buffet has both American and Japanese breakfast choices. Pick the Japanese items. Saito-san eats in this buffet. I had soup, salted salmon, a poached egg, steamed rice, and tea. One of the bar girls sat with me while I ate, “I hate Charlie right now. He kept us up.”
“I hear you. I had him and the band going until just a little while ago. What was that rant he was on about carrion beetles?”
“Gross. He claims he dumped a body in the desert and then tossed a bunch of beetles on it. Says that Saito-san owes him.”
“That’s not something you brag about.”
“I know, right? Want more kimchee?” More Kimchee is always good. Charlie doesn’t eat bon-chon. Oh shut up. Bon-chon is Korean and the minder is Phillipene so I’m committing some sort of narrative sin? If you feel that, never eat anywhere that isn’t branded as authentic [yournationality] food. Then leave me and Paradise Casino alone. More bon-chon for us.
Earlier I wrote about Ophie and Charlie in Atlantic City for the weekend. Charlie’s failure to execute didn’t start with that date. His reputation began in high school. Betty Kinon, his aunt, introduced him to the whale’s life. Charlie was going to rescue Betty. Three things to remember. Alcoholics eat their codependents. Next, whales exist because casinos don’t mind lavishing money on them because they always win. Last, Betty and Charlie don’t know when to leave the table and go home. Betty passed and Charlie is a pot washer today.
You should worry if the devil is being nice to you. The cost of his graciousness won’t be cheap. But before that half-life gets to the bad part the ride down isn’t bad. A buffet with lobster tale sashimi and California White Sturgeon caviar is worth the cost. Even better when the casino comps it.
You know about Betty and Charlie’s decline. The whole story of a life doesn’t fit into a book. So we pick exemplars. Like that night I met Charlie at the casino. He became more than one more broke, hungover gambler heading to the bus station. He became this story.
No Stinking Badges
Paradise Casino operates with key cards. That’s not special. Your card is your room key, your meals, and the money you gamble with. It will get you into shows. All very normal. This isn’t normal–the key card transforms some doors into portals that take you to the casino just by walking through (Monster’s Inc). This isn’t news if you are a regular reader. My key card works this way. Charlie’s does, sometimes. This isn’t one of those times.
The minder and I continued to eat, “I heard that the Sherriff is coming to the casino.”
“I dunno. I bet it’s about the body he boasted about.”
“That’s not good.”
“Yeah. Charlie is an ass. He treats us bad.”
And . . . a bedraggled Charlie walks into the buffet, “Hey Charlie.”
No response. He makes his way to the drink case and pulls out an energy drink; then continues out of the buffet.
“He’s in a good mood.”
The minder giggles, “Talking all night is hard work.”
We didn’t see him for a week. Casino Security wouldn’t answer questions. The afternoon when he came to the buffet, got an energy drink, and was gone. I looked him up.
I found him. Ruh Roh. He was charged with sexual assault and public intoxication. His bond was $100k. I doubt he had more than $1K in cash. Charlie wasn’t going anywhere. Saito-san sent his lawyers to see what could be done. No bueno. The accuser claimed that Charlie raped her and beat her bloody. She showed up at the Sherriff’s office beautifully made up and expensively dressed. She had no visible marks or bruises under a thick paste of foundation.
Pardon the tangent. I’ve met more than a few abuse victims. There is a range of responses. One of them is to hide the damage and act as if it never happened. Neesha had done it right. But all those years, miles, and passengers give me a pretty good read on people. It was all too perfect. And there was an ashen cast to the concealer under her eyes. She was seated in a corner of the buffet completely engrossed in her phone. So Charlie wasn’t just in his room last night.
Accused Back Then
A crime like this takes seconds. It’s over before you realize the weight of it. Then around the cycle again–depression, apology, honeymoon, and tension building. Neesha was hurt, Charlie was in custody, and depression is in full effect. The minder got up from our table, took her dishes to the belt, and walked to Neesha’s table, “What’s up?”
“Nothing. I don’t want to talk, ok.” A tear fell.
“Hey, hey. You don’t look ok. Can I get you anything?”
“A good guy? Just kidding.”
Maria giggled, “I feel you. Can I sit with you?”
“Whatever. Do you.”
Maria got up to get two cups of tea. Green Oolong for her, Earl Grey for Neesha, “That tea smells amazing, what is it?”
“No, like . . . your tea, what is it?”
“Green Tea from Taiwan.”
Neesha reached across the table and swapped teacups, “this is so good.”
What’s Neesha’s connection to the casino? She does VIP bottle service in the strip club. Nekkid Neesha? Do you want to get hurt? Charlie talks a good game and his account could afford to put on a whale face. Until one night . . .
The Deputy is Here
I wasn’t there. I heard about it. A deputy came to the security desk with a warrant for Charlie. He was still in custody so the arrest warrant and deputy at security are confusing. The deputies came to the buffet looking for him. They were around for a while talking on their radios until it became clear that the casino was a dry hole.
Later one of the security guys told us that Charlie’s last known location was in the strip bar getting bottle service—with Neesha. But that wasn’t all. His drunken boasting about dumping a body in the desert added to his charges. Now they were investigating him for felony accessory to murder. That was a costly night.
Neesha and the minder were deep into girl talk. I know better than to try to inveigle myself. Whatever. The little bit I overheard sounded like Atlantic City redux. A lot of grandiose talk that got grander as he got drunker. Then because Neesha isn’t stupid she asked for his card to make sure he could cover the tab. Nope. So . . . Charlie finished the night in Washoe County Jail with some new bruises and a new case.
Neesha is back from Paradise and getting ready to bounce. The Goochland Farm renovation is finally complete. Ophie had the fish pond dug in the spot where the underground bug-out shelter used to be. Her kids are back home from school. The Escalade is ready to roll. Ophie registered it under Neesha’s name. Neesha is driving her uncle’s old S-10 Blazer. He picked her up after the school incident. She doesn’t know (yet) that the Escalade is now hers.
I’m more into neutral colors like beige and blue, but Neesha prefers cerulean and lavender. Ophie had the Escalade painted cerulean metallic with a lavender pinstripe. The shop disassembled the interior to make a total color change. Charlie initially bought 32″ dubs on credit, but they got repossessed. Instead, they put on 20″ wheels with 275/55R20 tires for a smoother ride.
After the incident with Beaty, Neesha went home to recover. While there, she got her hair done at HairVolution. Neesha now has shoulder-length sandy-blonde hair with a natural curl. She still rocks tank tops and jeans, but now she shops at Forever21. As for shoes, she’s been into flip-flops or crocs lately. No more Doc Martens. Neesha had her eyebrows shaped and got a facial from an aesthetician. Is she still expressing her gender nonconformity? Are you even paying attention?
Neesha will be spending the summer chilling at home in Norton, VA. She’ll be back in August when her kids start school. Beaty and Charlie aren’t going anywhere. Enjoying a summer of Woodburger and lazy afternoons at the reservoir sounds like a great plan. Her uncle makes an amazing crockpot pork shoulder.