1. Where’s the money now?

2. You’ll know when it stops

3. Two down, one to go


Saturday. The long road to the new casino stretched in front of us for what seemed like a million miles without a curve. We had the freeway to ourselves except for a dot at the far end of our vision, probably one of the lumbering trucks that drove at this time of day trying to escape the crush of traffic that would appear with daylight.

This early in the morning, when the light was still sneaking across the peaks in hushed pinks and gold, a person could believe in a lot of things that just weren’t possible back in the city.

There were clouds that Saturday, visible in every direction, but they were fragile things, wisps that would disappear quickly in the flush of heat just minutes away.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” I would always love this part of the trip.

“It’s desert,” Adam grumbled. “It’s just desert from here until the turnoff at Calliope Wash.”

Adam always preferred to fly to Las Vegas, to the streets of light and noise and rude people perpetually hurrying to the next gambling joint. As for me, I liked the trip to the solo casino set in foothills inaccessible to airplanes.

The new casino, which for some reason was called the Fort Waterston, had all its glitz inside. The exterior melded into the softening mountain slopes, the color of terracotta. You came upon it almost unexpectedly and there was that moment when your car’s noise stilled and you realized, with a fresh excitement, that the journey was about to change.

We’d been there twice before, looking for something new and different from the dozens of other gaming houses on California Indian lands.

“Yeah, I’ll try it,” Adam had said, “but if we don’t win after three trips, we’re going back to Vegas again, right?” I agreed, although with some reservations. I knew Adam seldom came home with money, especially since the casinos all did away with the noisy, dirty, exciting coins. The first time we visited the Fort Waterston, Adam was dismayed by the paper slips the machines gave him instead of cash.

“Where’s the money now?” he yelled when four of something-or-other showed up on his machine. I explained about the new system, but he never really accepted it with any grace.

“At least the old way I felt like I won something. Even if it didn’t give fancy computer messages to say how much, you’d know when it stopped dropping coins.”

Well, this was the third trip. Two down, one to go.