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Barney Vinson's World: Diane

22 February 2004

I was working as a shill at the Pioneer Club in Vegas, making $11 a day and spending twice that much just trying to stay alive. That's when I met Diane. She was working in the same joint, making the same two-bit salary I was. But for some reason she took pity on me – I'm sure that's what it was – and the next thing I knew she asked me to move in with her.

I liked Diane; she seemed like a nice enough person. In fact, she was kind of sweet, like a kid sister. The only problem was she looked more like her dad than her mother. Besides, if I lived with her, we'd be a couple thing, and I was having trouble getting over my last romance.

I never told you about that, did I? Well, there was this girl back in Texas who took my heart and literally stomped on it, and it still bugged me whenever I thought about it. I'd met her through a friend of mine who owned a boat, and a group of us would go water skiing every Sunday. One Sunday she showed up, in a bathing suit about the size of a postage stamp, and I was instantly smitten. Her name was Carol, and she was absolutely beautiful. She was 19 years old, going on 25, a girl in a woman's body, or a woman in a girl's body, it didn't matter which. She had big brown eyes that sized you up in a hurry, and what she saw in me I'll never know.

When I asked her out, she gave me a lazy smile and said, "I'd love to." When I asked her over to my apartment for a drink, she said, "I'd love to." When I asked her if she'd like to lie down on the couch and maybe watch a little TV, she said, "I'd love to."

It took me a while to figure it out. I wasn't seducing her. She was seducing me. One thing led to another, and then we were living together. My apartment was owned by the TV station where I worked, and it was a real dump, holes in the wall and everything. Someone had slopped paint all over the window frames the last time the place was painted (probably around 1913), and you couldn't open a window with a crowbar.

The kitchen table was connected to the seats like a picnic bench, and you had to ease yourself into it an inch at a time or the whole thing would topple over. The front door was so warped it wouldn't even close all the way. But I didn't care. Anyone who broke in to steal something would be sadly disappointed.

When Carol moved in, the apartment became an absolute showplace. There were ornate throw rugs covering the linoleum floor, baskets of bright flowers hanging from the ceiling, pots and pans in the kitchen, soap in the bathroom. She was a natural as an interior decorator. She was a natural in the lovemaking department. Cooking was her only drawback. The only thing she could fix was lasagne, and we ate it for dinner three times a week.

Then I got in trouble at work for going off on a job interview without telling the general manager of the TV station. It was a one-sided argument, and when the smoke cleared I found myself off television and out hustling ads for the FM station that nobody listened to. Suddenly my life wasn't quite as glamorous as it used to be.

A couple of nights later I got back to the apartment, opened the front door, and everything was gone. The throw rugs, the flowers, the pots and pans . . . and Carol.

I called her at her folks' house and her voice was ice cold. "I need some time to think," she said. "I'll be back."

Well, she didn't come back, she never came back, and it wasn't a month later that she was dating a friend of mine, the one with the boat. I felt betrayed, not only by her but by him. He and I had gone out drinking not a week before, and I'd been pouring my heart out to him about Carol and how much I missed her. He was sympathetic to the point of tears, and all the time he'd been seeing her behind my back. The last I heard they got married, bought a house, and started raising a brood of kids.

Maybe that's why I moved to Vegas, to get away from old haunts and old hurts. Everything in my hometown reminded me of Carol: the apartment, the restaurants, the bars, the movies, the lake. In Vegas, everything was brand new, and nothing could hurt me.

Diane was still standing there, looking at me through those thick eyeglasses, wondering perhaps if I'd gone into some kind of epileptic trance. "Well, okay," I finally said. "I'll move in with you. But we're roommates, okay? We're just roommates."

She smiled broadly. "Come on, let's get back to work."

I drove Diane home that night, even put the top down on the Mustang so the wind could blow through her hair. "This is heaven," she murmured, tilting her head back and looking up at the sky. "Wish I knew how to drive a car."

"Give me some directions," I hollered. "I don't know where the hell I'm going!"

"Oh, that's right," she giggled, straightening up in the seat. "Go down to Sixth Street. Okay now, take a right. Okay, see that big white apartment building over there on the left?"

Hey, this was all right. The apartment building was three stories high, with a gated front entryway and pink-and-white awnings gracing the windows. Palm trees drooped over the wide expanse of lawn, giving the whole place the aura of a tropical Bahama mansion. "It's beautiful," I sighed. "Where do I park?"

"On the other side of the street," she said. "That's our apartment over there, the one with the broken porch light."

Across from the Bahama mansion was a dilapidated duplex with peeling trim and water gurgling into the street. One dead fruit tree stood in the front yard like a telephone pole, and the gravel driveway leading up to the place was cluttered with cardboard boxes and old garbage cans. "God, it looks like the Alamo," I whispered.

"Oh, come on!" she exclaimed. "You haven't even seen it yet."

Diane led me inside, pointing out the kitchenette, the bed (only one, dammit), the card table, the sofa, the radio, all of it in one big room. "Looks okay," I smiled weakly. "Where's the bathroom?"

"Through that door," she said. "Oh, one thing. We share the bathroom with the couple next door. When we're using it, we lock their door. When they're using itβ€”"

"Yeah, I know all about 'em," I interrupted. "I just moved out of a motel room with the same setup."

If I ever got rich, if I ever got out of this town alive, there was one thing I was determined to get. I wanted a house someday with my very own individual private bathroom. What was the deal here anyway? Was there some kind of porcelain shortage in Las Vegas? Were commodes and shower stalls really that expensive? No wonder everyone seemed to know everyone else in this town. They'd all met in the bathroom!

Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson
Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson