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Walking Away By Tricia Hagerty

A down-on-his-luck gambler finds a cure for his misfortunes.

You might say I have a little roblem with im ulse control. The month before! I"d s ent my whole disability check on video oker at #ay"s Tavern. I was all out of credit with my bookie. $very credit card I owned was ma%ed out. I was so behind on child su ort! I wasn"t even allowed to see my son. &o matter what the stakes --my brain 'ust wasn"t wired to call it (uits. How can you (uit when you"re clearly due for a win) I hitched a ride to the lake about * a.m. that day. I"d been out fishing on my little boat like it was my 'ob! even though I"d been releasing more than I was taking home. +ooner or later! I figured the action at the lake would ick u ! and I was gonna be there when it did. I caught a massive stri er in my late teens. Twenty ounds! if he was an ounce. It was a high I never forgot. Which is robably why I was so drawn to fishing! among other things. ,ishing is a lot like oker! in a way. You win with skill! not luck. &o matter what anyone says. -n a good day! you can catch your limit in bass before the sun comes u . -r if you"re like me! s end the whole day trying. .eon"s Bait and Tackle was a tiny shack on a deserted bank of the lake. I don"t even think he had a hone. He sold only bait! tackle! egg sandwiches and rancid coffee. ,ishermen were generally a low-maintenance bunch. .eon was already there! setting u the foil-wra ed sandwiches under a hot lam ! a do/en keys 'ingling around on that coil he ke t on his wrist. The store was nothing but an old-time ice cream free/er full of bait! the register counter where the sandwiches were ke t! and a coin-o erated coffee vending machine. There was always a dusty old radio in the window that layed more static than music. I bought myself a coffee and as usual! it tasted like dirty lake water. 0.eon! get yourself a 1r. 2offee! already!3 I leaded. 0That 2ostco store out on the 4ike"s got giant cans of ,olgers for about si% bucks.3 He huffed. 0There"s nothing wrong with my machine.3 05on"t know why I kee coming to this lake!3 I said. 0&ear .ena e .ake they got 5unkin" 5onuts and 67-inch stri ers.3 0+o go!3 .eon said. He unched in a few keys on the register! took out a wad of cash and did something with it below the counter. 0The father-in-law bought me that machine in "89. I make :7 cents on every cu . 1e and .oretta"s fi%ing to get a o -u cam er with that coffee money when I retire!3 .eon said. 1ental math was never my strong suit! but :7 cents er coffee over ;* years seemed like a nice chunk of change. 0Well! I didn"t reali/e we had a financial genius in

our midst!3 I laughed. 0+ince you"re so smart! maybe you can tell me what"s wrong with the fish in this lake of ours.3 0Try a different bait!3 .eon said. 0How <bout the +enko worms! for once. + lurge a little. .et me get them in the back.3 The back was nothing but a curtain on a rod! covering u bo%es and unsightly bait buckets. As you can imagine! the curtain did little to mask the smell. &ow! as a gambling man! I"m accustomed to making (uick decisions. Weighing my odds (uicker than a wiggle of a minnow"s tail. 0.ike I always said! #ichie. You gotta use big bait to get the big fish!3 .eon continued. He came back with the worms in a small lastic container. 01y buddy was fishing near the dam) 5eserted u there. +ays he caught a bunch of rock bass last week.3 05on"t say!3 I mumbled. I looked out the window at the lake. It was still fairly dark and foggy. I could"ve been on the other side in under ;7 minutes. Wouldn"t be many fishing at that hour. The wardens wouldn"t be out until = or 9. .eon unwra ed an egg sandwich. 0$ver try bagel on your line) 2atfish love <em!3 he said! handing me half a bagel and eating the rest. His keys 'angling on his wrist. 0Any of those bucktail 'igs left) >ot a cou le bites on them!3 I asked. 0I do? .et me dig them u . 1aybe they"re behind the counter) &o! I bet they"re in the case! still!3 he said. Before he went back again! I grabbed his arm. 0The key for the men"s)3 I asked. He sli ed the coil from his wrist and itched it to me. 0The gold +chlage!3 he said! and I nodded. As soon as he was in the back! I leaned over the register counter and s ied a shoebo%-si/ed metal safe. I swi ed it! hid it in my coat and took off on foot.

Thirty minutes later! I was standing on the dam at the far end of the lake. 2ou le years back! I caught 9 ickerel and 6 large mouth bass there. It was my good luck s ot. The locals called it the <4oor 1an"s &iagara ,alls"! but I was done being the oor man. What was in that safebo% was going to dig me out of my hole. I felt the bo% inside my coat and was almost too e%cited to o en it.

The waters above the dam were so calm and lacid com ared to the turbulence downstream. And there I stood! in the middle. I began to cry. 0I"ll be a better man!3 I sobbed! removing the key coil from my wrist. 0I"ll ay back every enny.3 The key turned in the lock! and I held my breath. There was nothing. &ot one dollar bill. &ot a single dime. But there was a istol. And it was loaded.