Saturday, June 16, 2007

"Breathe Deep" by Donald E. Westlake

From: High Stakes ed. Robert J. Randisi. Signet, 2003.

This 1985 story rounds out Randisi's collection of gambling-themed stories. Vegas dealer Chuck encounters an old man who tells of his "fatal attraction" to casinos on the Strip. Something about the man seems off to Chuck, and he presses a silent alarm.

Security is slow to respond, and the old man goes on to describe the night he was removed from a casino and roughed up to the point of getting buried under green tanks out back. While in the hospital, he is told those green tanks contain oxygen. and he suspects oxygen is pumped in to keep people awake and playing.

Chuck tells the man, "They don't do that with the oxygen." Unconvinced, the man spills lighter fluid on the table and begins to strike a match against the felt...

The old man's voice and mannerisms, expertly handled by Westlake, sell the story.

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