The Gambler's Advice

by Kati

WARNING: Death Fic

I thought I’d stray a little bit from by usual writing. So here’s my attempt at a death fic.

I was listening to my mom’s old Kenny Rogers CD on my way to school the other day and this idea for this story just popped into my head. I think this song was created for everyone’s favorite gambler. Obviously, Kenny Roger’s The Gambler was my inspiration for this story. I hope that it’s not too sappy. Feedback is always welcome.

Michael Boden sat in his seat, reading over the letter in his hand. He glanced at it once and tore into pieces and threw it on the ground. He grabbed the half-empty whisky bottle next to him and took a long shallow.

“I once knew several men who thought they could drown their despair away in that that same substance.” Michael looked across the seat to the man sitting across from him. He was old, Michael could not tell how many years. He gray hair was covered in one of the stylish derbies that so many men were wearing in the big cities now, but the rest of his clothes didn’t match. His red coat was outdated. God, it must have been at least thirty years old. All different kinds of patches had been stitched onto it over the years.

The train had been moving for almost two hours now, and Michael had not given much thought to his traveling companion. Now, he saw himself staring into the old man’s face. The man’s face was full of wrinkles and his green eyes were tired. But Michael noticed something beyond the tiredness. His mother had told him that they eye were the window to the soul. This man’s soul, at one time at leas, had held deep passion, wittiness, any maybe an overwhelming compassion. He felt drawn to this man. There was something intriguing about his southern accent and gleam in his eyes.

“Were they successful?” Michael asked curiously.

“No, it just made them extremely irritable in the morning. They all learned, some took longer than others, that alcohol was not the answer. . Nor can I imagine that it will help yours.”

“You don’t know what you are talking about old man,” Michael said taking another swig. Your problems cannot possibly compare with that of men in the twentieth century. Our generation has a lot more to deal with then you can ever imagine.”

The man leaned back in seat, with an amused smile that irked Michael. The man’s smile was not real, it was one those smiles that the editors in New York had given him before they had kicked him out the back door.

“Would you like to enlighten on how your problems are could be worse than that of my colleagues?”

“That would take quite a while for me to tell,” The young man sighed.

“This is a very long train ride and since none of us appear to be entertaining the idea of sleep any time soon, I would like to hear it. If anything it will keep me interested for a while.”

“All I ever wanted to be was a newspaper reporter. When I was little growing up in New York, I would see all those men running around with their notepads and pencils behind their ears, and I knew that is what I wanted to do. I wanted to tell people the real story. When people gave a penny for their news, I wanted to be the one to give it to them. They would read Michael J. Boden under the headline of late breaking headline.

My focus changed as I got older. My family was not rich, but we were not bad off either. My father had a steady job in the factory, until I was thirteen. He was hurt when a machine fell on top of him. My world changed when my family no longer had a steady paycheck. My dreams of attending Yale were shattered by searching for any job I could find on the street. My days on the street opened my eyes to a whole new world. A world full of dirt, filth, garbage and good people who were forced to live in it. Do you know why?”

“Please tell me Mr. Boden,” The older man prompted.

“Because this country is controlled by the rich businessmen who don’t give a damn about who they have to step on to get more money. They have millions wrapped up in banks, while some do not have a penny to their name. The rich men go home to houses with more rooms then they know what to do with, while orphans are forced to sleep in dirty doorways, only to hit by a broom in the morning. Steak dinners and warm meals appear for those who the money, when those who don’t can’t even afford a piece of bread.

Suddenly my calling changed. I knew what I had to do. Somebody had to tell the world about the injustices in this world. Somebody had to be the voice for these poor helpless people. That person would be me. I knew that I had to help.”

“How old are you son?” The old man asked.

“I am twenty-two sir,” Michael answered. He could not be sure, but he thought he saw the old man’s eyes tearing up.

“Are you alright?”

“Yes, I am fine. I just knew a boy, not much different than yourself. He had the same I’m going to change the world attitude as yours.” The cunning smile had returned.

“Are you mocking me?”

“No, I apologize if I am. I was simply looking back on fond memories.”

“This boy that you knew, was he successful?”

“Yes, in his own way, I think he was quite successful. Why do you ask?”

“Well you see. The only way I know how to get my news out is through a newspaper. Moreover, the newspapers are owned by some of the richest and ruthless men in this country. None of them are willing to even listen to me. I’ve decided that I’m not going to a reporter. I just can not do it. Nobody in this world will help me anymore. I am all on my own now.”

“What are you doing on this train?”

“I could only handle being kicked out of the New York offices so many times. I bought the ticket that could get me the farthest away from that city as possible. Honestly, I have no idea where I am going. This train could be going nowhere and I wouldn’t care.”

The old man sighed heavily. “I will tell you how that young man was successful, if you will give me that last swig of your spirits there.”

“I thought you didn’t drink.” Michael said handing the bottle over.

“I never said I didn’t drink Mr. Boden. I do not engage in the activity to try and avoid my problems.” The man finished the bottle and laid it down beside him.

“Why do you talk like that?” Michael asked. “All former and stuff?”

“I will explain that presently, my young friend. Please bear with me. My advice is proceeded by quite a long story.” He leaned back in his seat and began to talk.

“When I was growing up, the country was a much different place. I grew up thinking the world was a cruel and dark place too. My childhood was full of unrest. The country was split over the issue of slavery.”

“What did you believe in?’ Michael asked.

“ I was a child, extremely impressionable at that age. My family never owned slaves, but I grew up thinking that skin color played a significant role in determining your social status.”

“Did your mother teach you that?”

“Along with many other interesting perspectives on life. My mother’s influence played a profound effect on shaping who I am. My chosen profession was, oh how shall I put this current day terms, a con man in, what the new generations are calling, the Wild West.”

“How did you manage to not get killed? How could you rob all those people without thinking about it. I figured people like that didn’t live very long.”

“I was extremely good at what I did. I was able to picture myself outside of the world of human bonding. Emotions were something that I blocked out. I neither showed them nor acknowledged them. Instead, I devoted myself to other things that would prove useful in my trade. I educated myself in classic literature and became forced myself to become a high-class citizen. That is why I speak the way I do. This is a habbit, that I have never been able to quit. I became an excellent marksmen, a skill that saved my neck more times that I can count. Gambling became my expertise, I do pride myself on being one of the best gamblers in the West.”

“So you knew how to cheat?”

“I pulled some very unethical stunts and lies that I will never be able to atone for, but I can go to my grave knowing that I never cheated during a game of chance.”

“Where you really able to keep all your emotions pent up like that. Did you really not care that much?” Michael continued on his barrage of questions. The old man answered them patiently just like had done for a young man many years before.

“I thought I could, but apparently that is one con that I could not succeed in. Somehow I found my way into a town right out of those old dime store novels that show up every once in a while even today, and in the company of the most curious men that I have ever known. I agree that you have quite a dilemma sir, but never this men could fill over a hundred of those new psychology books that are so popular now.”

The old man paused to look at Michael, but the young man was speechless.” He continued on his story.

“The seven of us were thrown together in some interesting circumstances. We all were assigned with protecting a town form the threats of the West.

“You were a sheriff?” Michael asked with excitement.

“Technically Mr. Dunne had the badge, but my job was similar.

“Did you guys ever argue?

The old man laughed.

“It would three lifetimes to explain all those instances. I often wonder how we managed to do it without killing each other myself. Believe me, it almost came to that point on several occasions. Somehow, instead of ending up six feet under, we became a family. At first, I dug my heels in and downright refused. Although, I spent my whole life building up my defenses, I was still drawn in. Today, I knew that I never would have survived if it had not been for them. Instead, I can die happy knowing that I lived a life worth living.” The old man started to cough.

“But now I must get to the point of my story Mr. Bolton and how it relates to you. If my friends could only see how short-winded I am now. I already mentioned to you that I was a gambler by trade.

Mr. Bolton, if you are going to play the game of life, you have to learn to play it the correct way. Each event in your life is life a hand of poker. You have to learn how to read that some events are gong to be good and some are going to be bad. Life dealt you a bad hand at the moment, but you are alive to see another day. Even the most unlucky person gets a break now and then. Sometimes you have to have to pull a few cons in your life to help someone out, and those are okay.” The old man chuckled. “You already learned how to walk away from those bad hands, but if you pull on a con, I suggest you learn how to run.

“Life isn’t easy street, but it never stops dealing you new hands. Don’t analyze you life. Make the best that you can out of each of those hands. Worry about analyzing you life when you’re as old as me. The most important thing for surviving in this world is knowing what you need to get rid of and what you need to keep. It took me a long time, but I realized that my friends were more important than anything I could ever gain in my old way of life.

Every hand can be a good one or a bad gambler. A bad gambler can screw up a royal flush and a good one can turn garbage into a jackpot. Life is gamble Mr. Bolton. It is our decision to choose how we live it. You must decide if your experiences in New York were a winning or a loosing hand.

“Next stop Four Corners!” The Conductor walked through the car yelling The old man’s face lit into a smile. This time the smile was genuine. Bolton noticed a golden tooth in the man’s mouth.

“Well what do you know, I guess I can talk longer than I thought. Would you do me a favor Mr. Bolton?”

“Of course sir,” the young man answered.

“Will you be so kind as to ask where I can pick up my luggage when we reach our destination?”

Michael nodded his head and went to find the conductor. It took him longer than he thought to return to his seat. Upon his return, he noticed that the old man was sleeping. He sat down in his seat. It took him a few moments to realize that the man’s chest was not moving up and down. He felt around for a pulse on the man’s neck, but felt nothing.

A sense of calm had washed over the young men. Somehow, he felt comfortable in the body’s presence. Almost as if the old man’s presence was still in the room. He reached down and felt the empty whisky bottle. He lifted it up and saw a piece of paper sticking out.

An ace of hearts and several bills fell out of the piece of paper. Michael googled over the amount of money and read the note.

This ace is for you to keep as a reminder of the advise I give you. What you chose to do with it is up to you. I mentioned that the young men I knew was successful, and he was I like to think that I played my own small part in helping you succeed that goal. It would be an honor for me to help you to.

All I ask in one small favor. This train will be stopping in Four Corners to refuel. There is a man there waiting for me. You will know who he is, trust me. Please ask him about a job. You do not have to take it, but please consider it. If you do take it, this money will be supporting a good cause. Good Luck in the future.

Michael folded up the letter and placed it in his pocket. He made his way back to the conductor to tell them about the man’s death.

About twenty minutes later, Michael was wondering around the station. How was he supposed to recognize this stranger?”

A scene at the end of the station caught his eye. A well dressed man was standing by the body bag containing the old man. That station wasn’t crowed so Michael could hear his words perfectly.

“You just couldn’t make it all the way back to see me as mayor of this great city could you?”

Michael walked over to the mayor of the city. He was a very hesitant about this, but he knew that there was no other way.

“Excuse me Mayor, I was looking for the man who was supposed to meet him at this station.”

“Well I’m the only one that was arranged to meet him. Can I help you son?” Michael wasn’t completely sure what he was gong to say so he showed the mayor the letter. The man’s face lit into a huge smile.

“I always knew you were an old softy Ezra.” The mayor turned to Michael.

“It is a pleasure to meet you, I’m JD Dunne.”

“Michael Bolton, excuse me sir, but you are the Sheriff JD Dune?”

“The one and only surviving member of the Four Corners Peacekeepers which is I’m sure you heard about.”

“Where are the others?” They are buried in the old graveyard at the edge of the town. Soon Ezra Standish will be joining them too. Now, you must be a good man if Ezra took such a fond liking to you, but I am not sure what job he was talking about. Have you worked somewhere before?”

“Well, I was hoping to be a reporter, but nobody wanted to hire me because of my ideas,” Michael answered honestly. He remembered the gambler’s words. This was not the time to pull a con.

The mayor’s face lit up into a smile. “Damn Ezra, you are good. Mr. Bolton. When this town was first founded, we had a very open newspaper run by the Travis family. Mary Travis always wrote what she wanted and created very some very good debates in this town. Unfortunately, the paper closed twenty years ago. I have been trying to start it up again, but no one is interested.”

“I would be very interested in hearing more about it,” Michael answered.

“Good, my carriage is waiting around the corner. We will have something to eat and talk.”

The two men started to walk to the awaiting carriage. JD stopped walking and knocked off Michael’s hat.

“Hey kid, if you are going to live in Four Corners, we are going to have to get you a real hat! JD laughed. Michael smiled weakly, not understanding. JD motioned for him to get into the carriage first.

The former stable boy, peacekeeper, sheriff, and Texas Ranger felt a cool wind blow against his neck. He looked over to the still open dessert at the outskirts of the town. He saw a misty image of a familiar thoroughbred galloping over the dessert. His rider was dressed in a fancy red coat. The buttons were gleaming in the rising sun.

“Thanks Ezra,” JD whispered. The rider turned around and tipped his hat.

“I know you hate morning, so get out of here,” JD whispered. “Say hi to everyone for me.”

“Where I am going to day doesn’t start until noon,” A voice echoed in JD’s ear. “We’ll be waiting for you Mr. Dunne, but please don’t hurry.




On a warm summer’s evenin’ on a train bound for nowhere,
I met up with the gambler; we were both too tired to sleep.
So we took turns a starin’ out the window at the darkness
’til boredom overtook us, and he began to speak.

He said, son, I’ve made a life out of readin’ people’s faces,
And knowin’ what their cards were by the way they held their eyes.
So if you don’t mind my sayin’, I can see you’re out of aces.
For a taste of your whiskey I’ll give you some advice.

So I handed him my bottle and he drank down my last swallow.
Then he bummed a cigarette and asked me for a light.
And the night got deathly quiet, and his face lost all expression.
Said, if you’re gonna play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right.

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

Now ev’ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
’cause ev’ry hand’s a winner and ev’ry hand’s a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.

So when he’d finished speakin’, he turned back towards the window,
Crushed out his cigarette and faded off to sleep.
And somewhere in the darkness the gambler, he broke even.
But in his final words I found an ace that I could keep.

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count you r money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.