(Continued from The Gambler I)
Job stands in the parking lot, completely dazed. He cannot understand why this has happened to him. The odds were excellent. Manchester United was playing Aston Villa at their (United’s) home ground, the Old Trafford Stadium. Before today, United had won all their league games played at Old Trafford this season. Why did they have to wait until the last match to lose? With that loss, they made Aston Villa champions.
But right now Job is hardly concerned about Manchester United. His main concern is how he is going to navigate the problems that he is now facing. Besides the loan he took from the Sacco using his title deed, he has another loan from his bank that is tied to his pay slip and that ensures that he takes home less than half his salary. He has also been borrowing money from friends and colleagues. He took all these loans, and placed most of the money in bets. It may sound like a stupid decision, but it is not like he has been losing through and through. Manchester United’s consistent form has made him quite some money. But as an investor, he has been ploughing his earnings back and spreading the risk into other bets with the hope that he would make a fortune. But doing that is the reason he is in debt right now. Manchester City in particular has been responsible for his financial woes. They are a strong side, but whenever he bets on them to win, they get beaten. Earlier in the season, he placed a four-thousand-shilling bet on City beating a struggling Norwich, but they ended up as 3-0 losers.
The following week, City was facing Liverpool at Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium, so Job placed a five thousand shilling bet on Liverpool beating them, based on City’s poor performance against Norwich the previous week. Liverpool was leading the Premier League table at that time, and had won its previous eleven games with comfortable margins. The club had not been beaten at Anfield for two years. But that day City rallied and punished them 4-0. Yesterday Job was very certain that City would not score against an organized Leicester defense without their key striker, but they went on free scoring mode. All the goals in the 5-0 rout were scored by defenders (including one by the goal keeper).
Inconsistent results from Manchester City and other teams across Europe and around the world (there is a day he bet on Kenyan giants Gor Mahia and they ended up being punished by Muhoroni Youth) have been making sure that he does not realize his dreams of being a millionaire.
The only team that has been protecting him from total financial ruin is Manchester United, which fortunately is the team he supports. Before today, the team had played thirty seven games in the Premier League: they had won twenty four and drawn thirteen. That is to say that Manchester United had not lost even a single match the whole season. Job has made a lot of money betting in favor of this team. It was easy to predict: United was winning all their Old Trafford games and drawing away. They won only six games away from Old Trafford, and five of them were against bottom teams that everyone was beating. There is only one top team that United beat away from Old Trafford: they beat Aston Villa 3-0 at Villa Park Stadium in January. That is the other reason he had been so sure that his club would punish Aston Villa at Old Trafford. But United had other ideas, and chose the worst possible day to lose at Old Trafford: today, the same day he placed a big money bet.
After the deduction of his loan payments, he juggles what is left between betting, buying alcohol on weekends, fueling the car and keeping his girlfriend Fiona happy. Fiona is a sweet girl. Unlike Tabitha, she does not have a lousy attitude; she doesn’t whine and complain about everything. She makes good food (all meals have meat), is always ready to have sex with him and is generally pleasant to be around. Job usually leaves work at around 5pm and goes straight to Fiona’s house; he usually stays until 8 pm. Over the weekends, he watches the less important games at her house, on the 60-inch TV that he bought for her. He is also the one who pays for the DSTV subscription. Sometimes, if there is a less important game on a Saturday night, they watch it together before going to bed (all important matches have to be watched at the club with his friends). But on the nights he stays over at Fiona’s, he always goes back home to Tabitha early in the morning. To avoid suspicion, he always takes a bottle of beer in the morning to deceive Tabitha that he spent the whole night in a club.
For a while now, Job has been planning to leave Tabitha and marry Fiona, but he has been lacking guts. Besides, he needs Tabitha, at least for now. Leaving her would mean relinquishing the car, and he cannot afford to go back to using public means. When he wins a jackpot, he will dump her without blinking and migrate to Seychelles with Fiona. Tabitha can keep the house, if it will not have been auctioned by then. But for that to happen he has to survive his current predicament first.
He makes up his mind to go and spend the night at Fiona’s. Maybe he should stay there permanently, because there is no way he is going to face Tabitha to tell her that her car has been taken by a shylock. He has never gone to Fiona’s house past six in the evening, and he always calls in advance to let her know he is on the way. That way, he always finds a warm meal ready for him. But he is the one who pays her rent; so why not? He can go there even at midnight and without notice if he feels like it. Her house is essentially his second home. He should actually ask for a copy of the key.
Job is still at the parking lot, stunned, when his friend Peter approaches. Peter is an Arsenal fan and is excited that United lost, even though Arsenal lost too. He is tipsy and he is holding a bottle of beer in his hand.
“Hello champion. Are you going to celebrate at Old Trafford tonight?”
“Leave me alone Peter,” Job replies angrily.
“Old Trafford has fallen…they are United in the fall…” Peter sings drunkenly, stringing together some uncoordinated tune. He keeps rubbing Job’s shoulders as he sings his newly composed tune.
“It was just a game. Manchester United will be back next season. Besides, Arsenal lost today too,” Job says furiously. He is angry that Manchester United has lost; angry that he has lost his money and angry at Peter for rubbing it in.
“Sure bro,” Peter replies merrily. “By the way how much money have you won tonight? I swear that after tonight Fiona is going to find an Aston Villa fan and sleep with him. Women love men who win…”
Job cannot take it anymore. He punches Peter in the face. Then he grabs the bottle of beer from Peter’s hand and smashes it on his head. Peter collapses to the ground. He is suddenly convulsing like an epileptic while bleeding on the head. Suddenly there is commotion at the parking lot. People are rushing out of the pub to see what is going on. Two men grab Job and pull him away from Peter. Others carry Peter to a car and rush him to hospital.
“Get away from here before someone calls the police,” one of the men who have pulled Job way advises him. It is his friend Eric. “And pray hard that Peter does not die.”
“I did not intend to hurt him, Eric. We got into a fight, and he is actually the one who kept provoking me.”
“That will not matter if you are facing murder charges. Besides, you know how Peter is when he is drunk. You should not have taken anything he said seriously,” the second man, Frank, says. Job wouldn’t say he and Frank are friends, but they get along.
“I know man. I don’t know what came over me. Today is just a bad day. I wish I had more self-control. Peter is a good man, even though he is a pain when alcohol gets the better of him. I hope he will be okay, for my sake and his.”
“Just go home Job, and call your lawyer. Some of these men don’t like you, so trust me the police will come looking for you. Where is your car?” Eric asks.
“I lost it.”
“It was stolen? Man you are in a bind. If you go to report to the police, you might never get out of the station a free man.”
“It wasn’t stolen. I lost a bet today and it was taken. Manchester United has ruined me tonight.”
“Oh boy! Why would you make such a huge bet? Betting is supposed to be for fun; 500 bob here and a thousand there. If you lose, you just forego a couple of beers and that is it. If you win, you get more beer to compensate for the day you lost. Why would you bet a car?”
“Okay, I know I messed up. Can you give me a lift?”
“Sure, no problem.”
“I am not going home though. I will spend the night at Fiona’s.”
They drive in silence. Most of his friends, including Peter and Eric, know about Fiona. These are men he trusts, and there are hardly any secrets between them. Eric drops him outside the apartment building where Fiona lives and drives away to take dinner with his wife and children.
As the lift rises towards sixth floor, Job tries to forget his problems. He knows that by coming here he has made the right decision. He will find peace in Fiona’s arms. He will be comforted by a warm and delicious meal, a warm smile, a warm body and a warm bed. He will forget his problems; at least for tonight.
He knocks the door to apartment 6C. He smiles as footsteps approach the door. But when the door opens, it is a tall and heavily muscled young man who opens it. The man is naked except for a towel that is wrapped around his waist. Job knows the towel very well; it is Fiona’s pink towel that has a blue flower at the middle.
“Yes, can I help you?” the young man asks with a scowl.
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/man-lonely-park-night-dark-1394395/
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