STORY: Place Your Bets

One not so special afternoon, Sam and The Line of Death are all huddled around the end of the bar pouring over pages of stats. Betsey is sitting on the opposite side of the bar watching them with mild interest.

In spite of her better judgment, her curiosity ultimately gets the better of her. She wanders over to the opposite side of the room where all of them are sitting and takes a seat beside Jaimie. All of the old men turn around and look at her suspiciously.

“What’s up, guys?” Betsey asks pleasantly. “I thought I’d stop being anti-social for once and come join the party.”

The Line of Death continues to glare at her in silence. Betsey flips her hair back and smiles cheerfully, determined to make herself some new friends.

“What are you guys working on so diligently over here?”

“It’s stats,” Sam says quickly, holding up a sheet with multiple rows and columns. “For baseball.”

Betsey looks at the sheet of paper and rolls her eyes with disinterest.

“Numbers,” she grumbles. “I’m not so good at those. I’m much better with words, as I’m sure you all have noticed. I still like baseball anyway, especially with the amount of hot beefcakes out there playing the field.”

Sam scoffs and tosses his head back. The expression on his face is that of pure jealousy.

Beefcakes,” he mutters under his breath. “I’ll show you a hot beefcake…”

“What?”

Sam snaps his head back to attention.

“Huh?”

Betsey shakes her head and turns back to the Line of Death. Their ice cold stares are unwavering.

“So…” she asks casually, “Are you guys taking bets, or what?”

“It’s a one hundred dollar buy-in,” Howard suddenly pipes up. He is short, bald man with a loud, raucous, unforgettable laugh. “We’re betting on whose going to win the game on that TV right over there.”

Betsey turns around and looks at the TV he is pointing to. Then she shrugs to herself and takes out her wallet.

“I’ll give you ten dollars,” she says, slapping her money on the counter. “I know it’s not much, but it’s the best I can do.”

“You can’t join the game if you can’t afford the buy-in,” Harold says very matter-of-factly. He is a tall, skinny man with a penchant for Hawaiian shirts. He pushes up his glasses and clears his throat. “No buy-in, no bets.”

Sam looks back and forth between the group of cranky old men and the spirited young woman who doesn’t quite seem to understand her place. He suddenly sees a major opportunity sitting right in front of him.

“I can always lend you the money for the buy-in,” Sam says casually. He takes out a roll of cash from his pocket and waves it in Betsey’s face. She looks down at it and raises her eyebrow. She too can suddenly see the obvious opportunity there.

“I’m not in the business of borrowing money,” she says, looking back up at Sam. “But I’d be more than happy to work for it.”

“And just what to do you plan to do to earn it?” he asks.

“Whatever you want me to do.”

Sam puts his hands on the counter and leans in closer to her. He looks her up and down with a sneaky little smirk on his face. Betsey sits up straight and leans in too. When their eyes meet, everyone can feel the heat of the spark passing between them. Howard and Harold roll their eyes as Jaimie shifts in his chair uncomfortably.

“In that case, you can meet me in my office later for a private meeting,” Sam says. “We can discuss your future at the company. Perhaps work out some kind of mutually beneficial arrangement?”

“A private meeting, huh? I think I like the sound of that.”

“And I think you’re really gonna like working for me.”

“Is that so?”

“It is. You’ll find that my employees always get treated very well around here. Especially when they behave themselves, listen carefully, and obey all of my orders. Do you understand me?”

“Whatever you say, Boss,” Betsey says in her most flirtatious voice.

“That’s what I like to hear.”

Sam’s eyes sparkle down at her. She is just about to respond when Howard clears his throat loudly.

“Can we can get back to the game, please?” he asks in his grumpiest voice.

Betsey looks back at the Line of Death as Harold holds out his hand expectantly.

“Your buy-in, please.”

Sam takes a wad of cash from the money clip and slaps it down on the counter. He looks back at Betsey with a devilish grin on his face. Harold takes the money and puts it in a little bag. Howard makes a quick note on the spreadsheet.

“Team, please.”

Betsey turns around and looks up at the TV. She thinks about it for just a moment before deciding to go with her gut instinct.

“The blue one,” she says confidently.

All of the men around her look at each other and immediately burst out laughing. Sam shakes his head and chuckles softly at her.

“But they’re the worst team in the league!” Jaimie exclaims. “They haven’t won a single game all season!”

“Something tells me their luck is about to change.”

Jaimie folds his arms and looks at Betsey in disgust.

“Look, you can do whatever you want. You have the right to lose. I’m just saying they’re not going to win. It’s statistically impossible. All of us have been pouring over this stuff for years. None of us placed their bets on them. You’re making a big mistake if that’s what your decision is. Sam’s gonna be out a lot of money now because of you.”

“It’s not that much money,” Sam says calmly, watching the exchange with amusement.

“I don’t care about a bunch of spreadsheets,” Betsey snaps. “My gut instinct tells me they’re going to win.”

“Final answer?” Howard asks.

“Final answer.”

The Line of Death chatter quietly among themselves as Howard writes down the bet. Everyone takes a shot a LeRoux to seal the deal and promptly return to watching the game.

Sometime in the bottom of the ninth, a rookie wild card batter hits a home run with all the bases loaded. The four-point run immediately puts them in the lead. The opposing team has no chance to win their lead back.

The Line of Death stare at the TV in shock as the crowd goes wild and the team rushes the field to celebrate their first win of the season. They slowly turn their chairs to see Betsey’s reaction. Much to the their chagrin, she isn’t even watching the game at all. She is simply there writing in her notebook, lost in her own little world. Sam chuckles at the sight as he stands there on one leg and takes it all in.

“Your team won,” Howard says loudly.

Betsey looks up from her notebook and looks around the room in confusion.

“What team?” she asks obliviously, as if she has already forgotten the exchange from just a few hours prior.

“The team you bet on,” Sam reminds her. “The one we all said was going to lose.”

“Oh!” Betsey sits up and smiles in surprise. “See? I told you their luck was about to change! So how much did I win?”

Sam takes the envelope from Harold and counts the cash inside. He sets aside two hundred dollars for himself and hands the rest to Betsey.

“Looks like a thousand dollars,” he says pleasantly. “Congratulations.”

“Wow!” Betsey says, looking down at the envelope in delight. “It’s been such a long time since I’ve had this much money to my name. I think I’m going to go get my nails done to celebrate!”

She promptly stands up and shoves her notebook back into her bag. She motions for Sam to pour them all another shot of LeRoux and raises her glass high above her head.

“Nice doing business with you, boys!” Betsey says cheerfully, slamming down the shot and skipping out of the bar. “See you all tomorrow!”

The Line of Death glares after her as the front door slowly closes behind her.

“She can’t do that!” says one. “That’s unfair!”

“Yeah! She swindled us!” says another. “She must have had some kind of information beforehand that we didn’t.”

“We’ve been robbed!” says the third.

Sam shakes his head and rolls his eyes.

“A bet’s a bet,” he says. “She won that money fair and square. Besides, she’s a penniless Writer Extraordinaire. She doesn’t have a steady cash flow like we do. Just let her go out and enjoy herself for once.”

All of the old men grumble and go back to their spreadsheets, annoyed that they’ve been bested by a woman once again.

The End

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