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OLD FRIEND/Richard Chiappone THE WEEK BEFORE I got out of Gamblers' Rehab Ranch, my wife, Katie, left me, closed our bank account and took a waitress job in Bullhead City; the day after I got home from the ranch, my father moved in with me. I don't know if this is a coincidence, but it was also right about that time that I started hearing voices from the poker room. My father and I Uve in a smaU two-bedroom apartment now, here in Las Vegas, on Saltón Street, three blocks east of the Strip and virtuaUy in the shadow of the big casinos and hotels. Dad is only sixty-seven, not what you'd caU a very old man unless you saw him. He's been sick with one thing or another for as long as I can remember, and also had a major nervous breakdown about a year ago when my mother died. After that my sisters decided that since I had made it through rehab—twice now—I must be fit to care for him. What they really meant was that since Dad had accidentaUy burned down the house we'd grown up in after forgetting to pay the fire insurance on it and had moved his pension funds and the cash from my mother's Ufe insurance into a Nigerian investment scam, and since (untike my sisters) I had no spouse, no chüdren and no career, I was the one who got Dad. I think it's safe to say that nobody aspires to be Uving with his father in an apartment the size of a storage unit at the age of forty-two. I could be bitter about my wife, Katie, going south and my inheritance ending up in Deepest Africa. But reaUsticaUy, if you Uve in Vegas long enough, sooner or later you are bound to lose something. Dad watches a lot of television now, though his watching is mostly listening. On top of his other problems he has such severe inoperable cataracts that the TV screen, like everything else in this world, is only a blur to him. At the Safeway checkout one day there was a tittle canister with a slot in the top for donations to something caUed "The Change a Life Foundation." Dad bent close and squinted at it while I paid for the groceries. "Change of Ufe. There's a good cause," he said. "Hot flashes. Your mother suffered Uke you wouldn't believe." At her memory he started bawling right there in the store. He didn't even want to play the video poker slots by the checkout line, a tittle diversion I allowed myself since I had renounced table games (if they knew about that at rehab they would have had a cow). I had The Missouri Review · 121 to take him home. And me with two roUs of quarters in my pocket just screaming for action. Dad likes the sound of the TV and leaves it on all day and all night. It's his world now—that and the bathroom, where he spends an unbetievable amount of time, too. But mostly it's the TV. Sometimes I'll walk in and find him sitting there in front of the set with his lids clamped shut and I'll say, "Are you sleeping or awake?" Dad wiU open his eyes and say, "Does it make a difference?" The voices from the poker room come through the television. It started a couple of weeks ago. Maybe it's some glitch in the cordless microphone they use in the casino to call people on the waiting list for seats at the tables. AU I know is that Dad had the sports channel on, sitting on the couch in his pajamas, nodding off, waiting for me to fix him lunch, and in the middle of a Mexican soccer match, over the drone of the announcer and his endless statistics, I heard Tommy, the poker manager at the Mirage, say, "Attention, ladies and gentlemen, we have seats available in the poker room. One- to five-doUar sevencard stud. And five- to ten-dollar Texas Hold 'em...


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