Art and Artifice

Tumbling dice, illustration for science fiction story Art and Artifice

A Science Fiction Story

Victor Langret graduated from high school, signed a few yearbooks, wished his friends a good summer, and went home to kill himself. He spent an hour struggling with a length of rope before he realized he had no idea how to tie a hangman’s noose. After a quick trip to the library for a book on knots, he sat on his bed, testing his handiwork.

“This looks like it will hold me,” he thought. “Now I just… Shit. How am I supposed to hang myself without any damn rafters?”

He went outside and stared. His parents had just purchased a new home in Oakland County, Michigan, one of the wealthiest areas in America. As the housing development was only a year old, none of the trees in the area were large enough to support even his modest one hundred and twenty pounds.

Three months earlier, Victor was home alone, digging through his father’s belongings. Mr. Langret had a fully restored, 1969 Corvette Stingray convertible sitting in the garage. It had been there, immobile, as long as Victor could remember. His father never even drove the thing. He just kept it there to give himself something to do whenever he had a day off from work. Finally, after all these years, the temptation was just too much. Victor searched his father’s office for the keys, went down to the garage, and stole the car. Ten minutes later, it was at the bottom of a retired couple’s swimming pool. Victor was not exactly an expert with a stick shift.

After they discovered the accident, Victor’s parents refused to pay for his college education. He spent his last semester of high school applying for scholarships, but hadn’t qualified for a single one. There were scholarships for left-handed students, children of veterans, students with good grades, but nothing for him. He had won some prizes with his sculptures, but apparently he wasn’t good enough to get a scholarship to an art school.

Victor sat on the porch swing, staring at the ridiculously tiny maple trees. “I wonder what Angelina would do if she could see me here, with this rope in my hands. Does she even think about me? Has she found a replacement for me yet?”

After their graduation ceremony, Angelina Auger pulled Victor aside, grinning excitedly. Angelina the type of girl that the movies always showed walking in slow motion. She was the very definition of statuesque, with a smile that could make a man change religions. Unlike Victor, her family was not wealthy. Her father was a magician at children’s birthday parties and her mother worked for a psychic chat line.

“I got in!” she squealed, shoving a manila envelope into Victor’s hands.

“In where?”

“The gifted students program! Six months there, and I’ll have enough money to pay for any college in the world… Even Harvard!”

Victor opened the envelope and stared at the letterhead, the Genetiflex corporate logo. He pretended to read the letter, but didn’t take in the words. It didn’t matter what it said. Wherever she went, he could never follow. He would never see her again.

The porch swing creaked loudly, pulling Victor out of his daydream. He pulled himself to his feet and stared at the rope. He considered walking to the park, hanging himself in one of the trees there, or maybe from the rafters in the gazebo.

“Oh, hell… I wonder what’s on TV.”

After a few days of hiding in his room, watching old movies and smoking, he decided to get a job and, hopefully, a paycheck large enough to buy a gun. This turned out to be quite a challenge, as he had no work experience or marketable skills. Finally, he found an ad that looked promising:

Assistant wanted for local artist. Must have sculpting experience, good eyesight, and not be from Belgium. Call after one PM and ask for Wesley Fullams.

It was a small ranch house by the side of the highway, next to a liquor store, a bail bondsman, and a hotel that rented rooms by the minute. Victor rang the bell and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, he heard someone moaning. The door opened slightly, still on a security chain. A small, squinty eye peered at him suspiciously.

“Where’s my damn mail?” A screech like a parrot.

“Um, I’m Victor Langret. I called about the job.”

“Oh, you’re not the mailman?”

“No.”

“Well, you look like him. He’s a tall, skinny Kraut, like you. Damn it. He keeps forgetting to bring me my dirty magazines,” Wesley said, grumbling. “I like to look at the pictures of fat girls.”

The door closed again, and Victor heard the rattle of the chain being released. The door opened wide, revealing the gray, raisin-like body of Wesley Fullams. He was around forty but looked much older, his body weighted down by the weight of old regrets. He waved the end of his cane at Victor, gesturing for him to walk inside. Wesley locked the door and led him into the living room, where there were a number of cheap card tables set up haphazardly. They were covered in stacks of collapsed cardboard boxes, jars of paint, woodworking tools, and tiny figurines.

“This is what I do,” Wesley said, gesturing to the room. “I carve wooden figurines, paint them by hand, and sell them at craft fairs and artsy shops in the mall. But I need someone to help me with the fine detail work. These hands don’t work very well anymore.” Victor glanced down at Wesley’s hands. The skin was spotted and stretched too tightly over the bones. The fingers were crooked, painful just to see. Wesley could have been a hand model, if there were catalogs that sold jewelry for mummies.

A week passed by with all the speed of a glacier made of molasses. Victor had always loved carving, sculpting, but this was different. As the head artist, Wesley carved the general form of each piece and decided what colors they were to be painted. Victor was left with just the fine details.

He dipped his paintbrush into the violet and placed the last finishing touches on the tiny, wooden dragon. For the detailed work around the eyes, he used a jeweler’s loop and a brush made from ten human hairs. It was maddeningly tedious.

Each night, when he got home, he attempted to sculpt something of his own, but he couldn’t stay awake long enough to get anything done. He stopped seeing his friends. Victor’s job had taken his creativity, his social life, and even his ability to think clearly. In short, he had become an adult.

Wesley returned from his walk and threw his cane in the general direction of the brass umbrella stand by the door. Rather than landing inside, it clattered loudly to the floor. Wesley appeared not to notice. He walked into the living room and silently examined Victor’s work.

“So,” Victor said nervously, “how did you hurt your hands? It’s not arthritis. The bones were crushed, I can tell. Were you changing a tire, and the jack slipped? Something like that?”

“If you want to hear the story,” he said, “you’d better sit down. This will take a while.”

“I am sitting.”

“Oh,” he said suspiciously, as if he thought Victor might have been tricking him somehow. “Well, just listen then.”

Wesley explained that, when he was first learning to carve wood, he decided to make his own dice. He soon realized that he could carve “funny” dice that would behave differently than the ones he bought from the drug store. He could even carve funny dice out of plastic, instead of wood, dice that looked perfectly normal to the casual observer.

He started out carving what were called “shapes,” dice that weren’t perfect cubes. One side was slightly convex, making the dice roll off one number and land on another. If he wanted the dice to land on a specific number, instead of just avoiding one, he could make weighted or “loaded” dice. He would drill a hole in the black spots on one side, and fill the hole with gold or lead. Sometimes he even hollowed out the opposite side, making it lighter than the others. The die was more likely to land on the heavy side, bringing the opposite side to the top.

He even made dice called “tops and bottoms,” where three numbers were repeated twice. With the dice on the table, you could only see three sides at once, so the duplicate numbers could go unnoticed under certain circumstances.

“Back in those days,” Wesley said, “Vegas was run by some very tough customers, the mafia and others. I made the mistake of having a few drinks before I paid a visit to the craps table. Instead of switching the pair of casino dice for my own, I threw both pairs onto the table. A giant man in a gray suit dragged me into a back room and broke every bone in my hands. After two years of physical therapy, I regained some of the movement and skill, but they aren’t what they used to be. I still think about those days sometimes. But this is safer, perusing art instead of artifice.”

Wesley groaned, struggling to his feet. He hobbled over to his desk where he wrote Victor his paycheck. Victor folded it in half and tucked it into his shirt pocket. He walked back to his car and headed home. His conversation with Wesley had pushed all thoughts of suicide from his mind.

“Slightly better than minimum wage carving figurines, or make thousands hustling suckers for cash? The casinos are covered in cameras nowadays, and they have expert cheats working security. Vegas or Atlantic City would be far too dangerous… What about a private game somewhere? It would already be illegal, so there is no risk that they would call the police. And that’s only if they can catch me. I have to get Wesley to teach me about dice!”

The next day, Victor walked into work with a dozen arguments ready to go. “Casinos aren’t run by crooks anymore,” he would say. “I’ll be very careful, and I never drink,” he would say. “I’ll only play friendly, private games,” he would say.

“Wesley,” he began, “would you – ”

“Teach you how to carve dice? Sure. I’ll even teach you the slight-of-hand moves you’ll need.”

Victor was stunned. “But I thought… I assumed you would tell me it’s too dangerous, and tell me to stick to carving figurines, and not to get involved with violent criminals!”

“What the hell do I care? You’re not my kid.”

The basics of dice-making only took Victor a few weeks to learn. The slight-of-hand, that was the hard part. He started learning with coins. Wesley showed him how to hold small objects with the muscles of his palm, leaving his fingers free to move. The milled edges on quarters made them easy to hold, even while he was shaking a pair of dice. Palming dice was much more difficult. The dice were slick, almost impossible to palm securely. After six weeks, he made the mistake of asking to take a break from practice.

“What the hell do you think this is?” Wesley snapped, shaking his cane in Victor’s face. “Do you think I’m teaching you to be a goddamned magician? If you get caught doing a card trick for your little girlfriend, the worst thing that can happen is a little embarrassment. If you fuck up switching dice, you could be killed! Do you think Houdini ever faced that kind of pressure? Not fucking likely!”

Victor picked up the dice and returned to his practice. After six months of practice, nine hours a day, he developed a switch that not even Wesley could catch. The few breaks he was allowed from practice were spent carving dice. By the end, he had dice of every color and size available. He even devised a special belt that held two dozen pairs, so he would always be ready, no matter what kind of dice the players were using.

It took some time to find a private craps game. Wesley’s old connections were all dead or in prison, so Victor was on his own. After a lot of legwork, he found a hotel where the night manager, a man named Jackson, made a little extra cash playing dice with the guests.

Jackson was a short, portly man with an ever-growing bald spot on the back of his head. He put his arm around Victor’s shoulder and led him back to the laundry room where there were some men in dirty suits and some of the maids in their pressed, blue uniforms. There was a there was a crude craps layout drawn on the cement floor in chalk.

“Have you played before?” asked Jackson, doing a very poor job of sounding casually disinterested.

“Not really,” Victor lied. “What does `Don’t Pass Line’ mean?”

“Don’t worry; it’s an easy game.” Victor could tell he was struggling to keep from rubbing his hands together in excitement. “You bet with or against the dice. If you roll a seven, the dice win right away. If you roll a two, three, or twelve, the dice lose. Any other number is called a `point.’ If you roll a point, you get to roll again. If you roll your point before you roll a seven, the dice win. If not, they lose. You keep rolling until one of those two things happens. If you bet with the dice and they win, so do you. If you bet against them and they lose, so do you. Got it?”

Victor pretended to be making a mental note of the rules. “I… think so. If I forget something later on, you’ll remind me, right?”

“Oh, sure, sure.” A couple of the maids, overhearing, laughed into their hands. “Be polite, girls!” he snapped. “He’s new at this!”

Victor lost good-naturedly for the first several hours, betting “with” the dice. The handful of winnings that he made he put back into his bets and lost immediately. Finally, he threw his remaining cash into the pot and switched the dice. His pair of dice landed on the floor, rolling gently to a stop. Seven.

“You won?” Jackson asked, astonished.

“I guess my luck finally turned around,” Victor threw a few more winning rolls, until the other players started to switch their bets as well. He made one last, small bet and switched the dice again. Jackson’s dice landed on the floor, a two.

Victor picked up the rest of his money and went home, several hundred dollars richer. The pair of loaded dice he used had become so chipped on the cement floor that they were no longer reliable. He threw them in the trash and started loading a new pair.

Weeks went by, Victor growing more confident with every game. He even allowed other shooters to handle the loaded dice, always being sure to switch them back before he left the game.

To be safe, Victor never hit the same game twice. Oakland County was not very large, so soon he had to move on to Detroit. Finding games was faster, but the players were more serious, watchful. There were no giggling hotel maids or drunken golf pros, no suburban teens throwing away their parents cash, secure in the fact that they would be handed more the next day.

He got wind of a game at a local gentlemen’s club where the owner ran the show. It started out just with his employees playing each other after closing time, but later the customers started bringing extra cash and friends. Soon the game expanded into a second business.

The club was called Seni Grandi, an Italian-themed place so close to the docks that the parking lot was covered in seagull droppings. The game started at three in the morning. Victor gave the secret knock at the door.

The bouncer, a heavyset man with a shaved, bullet-shaped head, exchanged his money for chips and pointed him to a table in the back. Standing at the table were two of the dancers from the club, the head bartender, and someone familiar.

“Angel!” Victor gasped, mouth open. Angelina had changed. In high school, Angelina had always dressed rather conservatively, but that night she was wearing thigh-high, red leather boots and a dress that would have been tight on someone half her size. She had a small tattoo under her left eye, a black, six-pointed star with a tail like a comet. Victor felt as if he had seen the symbol before, but couldn’t recall where.

Angelina put down her drink and hurried over to Victor, leaning in close to whisper in his ear. “Its nice to see you, Victor, but shut the fuck up. You don’t know me here, alright? Just play. Bet against the dice.”

Stunned, Victor watched Angelina walk back around the table and return to her spot. She walked gracefully, lightly, her footsteps making no sound. It was almost as if her feet weren’t touching the ground.

Victor positioned himself across the table from Angelina. No one seemed to have noticed their brief conversation or, if they did, they were not concerned. The bouncer wedged himself in next to Angelina and dropped a pile of chips on the table.

After a few minutes, the owner entered the room. He was a portly man in a gray, three-piece suit. He looked to be about sixty, his wrinkled, pockmarked face greasy with sweat.

One of the dancers, a busty redhead, turned to wave. “Hi, Mr. Grandi! I think this is everybody. Are you dealing again tonight?”

“Yes. I always do,” he said curtly, with the air of a man who had been asked that question every night for weeks and finally begun to regret hiring such a simpleton, gigantic breasts be damned. Grandi was carrying a box of dice and a long, curved stick. He was both dealer and stickman, handling chips and returning the dice after they were thrown.

The first shooter was the redheaded dancer, who was standing to the left of Victor. Victor placed a tiny stack of chips on the “pass” line, betting with the dice. Angelina and the dancer made large bets, betting against the dice. The dancer threw the dice, a two.

“Snake eyes!” shouted Grandi, gathering the dice. “Craps. Next shooter.”

“I lost?” the redhead moaned. “Shit. That was all my tips from tonight… I worked nine hours for nothing!” She left the table and headed for the ladies’ room. The door barely muffled the sound of her crying.

The other dancer was a petite blonde in a sequined brassiere. She rubbed the dice on her breasts for luck, and rolled a seven, winning several hundred dollars. The bartender and the bouncer lost small amounts, and finally it was Victor’s turn to shoot.

Victor placed a large bet on the dice to win. Grandi pushed the dice to Victor. He picked them up, switching them for his hidden pair. The dice were loaded for sevens, a winning bet. Victor shook the dice, blew on them for luck, and threw.

“Craps!” Grandi laughed, raking in Victor’s chips. “Next shooter!” Grandi handed out chips to several winners, including a large payout to Angelina.

Victor struggled to keep his face blank. “Everything’s fine,” he thought. “Even loaded dice can hit the other numbers occasionally. I’ll just increase my next bet. The dice have to hit a seven next time.”

The dice passed from player to player, one losing roll after another. Sometimes the players would roll craps and lose immediately, other times they would try to hit their point and fail. The dice worked their way around the table back to Victor, who exchanged them for the original, honest pair.

“On second thought,” he said, passing them to the dancer, “I have to use the restroom. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” He dumped his chips into his pocket and hurried to the bathroom, locking the door. Once inside, he crouched down and rolled the dice on the floor. “Seven… Seven… Seven…. Seven… Seven… Seven! What the hell is going wrong out there?”

Victor returned to the table and grabbed the bouncer by the shoulder. “I’ve taken enough of a beating tonight,” he said, forcing a laugh. “Cash me out, please.” Victor drove home slowly, nauseated.

Very early the next morning, Victor headed to Wesley’s house. There was an orange motorcycle in the driveway he didn’t recognize. He knocked on the door and waited for Wesley to answer, which took an excruciatingly long time as usual. Finally, he heard the sound of shuffling feet and agonized moaning. Wesley answered the door, grumbled his hellos, and ushered Victor into the living room. There was a blonde girl of about thirteen painting a wooden squirrel.

“This is your replacement,” Wesley said, “Her name is Julie. She’s twice as fast as you were and works for less money. Speaking of money, how’s the cheating been going?”

Victor gasped. “I don’t want to talk about this in front of her… It’s illegal!”

“Oh, no need to worry,” Wesley said reassuringly. “I told her all about it already. Besides, she’s just a kid. Who’s she going to tell?”

“I told my boyfriend,” Julie chirped. “He said it was a cute story, and he’ll probably tell his mom who works at a hair salon downtown. She gets a lot of repeat business, so she always needs more stories…”

Victor grabbed Wesley’s shoulder and pulled him into the kitchen. “Actually, there’s a problem. Last night, I went to a game at a strip bar in Detroit…”

Wesley listened to the story attentively, occasionally glancing at the ceiling like he was working on a math problem. Victor explained how he tested the dice in the bathroom and again that morning.

Wesley sighed. “I once saw a man roll twelve fours in a row. It was amazing, until I realized something… There are thousands of craps games played every day, all over the world. Each game has hundreds of rolls of the dice. The amazing thing would be if someone, somewhere did not roll twelve fours!”

“So you’re saying it’s just a fluke, then?”

“I’m saying it’s just a coincidence, the Law of Truly Large Numbers. Now come back into the other room, and I’ll have Julie show you how to carve a proper unicorn.”

That afternoon, Victor climbed into his car and headed back to Detroit. He spent hours driving from game to game, searching for Angelina.

“She has to have done something,” he thought. “When we talked before the game… Did she touch me? If she did, could she have switched my dice? Maybe that was it. She knew I was planning to cheat, and she wanted to put all of the risk on me.”

He thought back to the first moment he saw her. It was a windy day in November, and he was walking through the parking lot outside of school. She came walking towards him, the wind blowing her raven hair across her face so that the only thing visible was her eyes. Two shining points in a mass of darkness, like fireflies.

Victor’s mind drifted on to the evening before graduation. His parents were asleep. Angelina climbed in through his window and spent the night in his bed. They made love with a violent passion, like waves crashing on the shore. The sounds she made echoed in his head for days. She had insisted that she was experienced, but his sheets were stained by her innocence.

They promised each other eternity a thousand times and more. Foolish, romantic words, exchanged with all of the artlessness of youth. But she got into the gifted students program at the Genetiflex research facility, and he didn’t. She loved him until the very end, kissing him goodbye like he was going off to war.

“That was high school,” Victor thought. “Who knows who she has become since then? God, it’s amazing how much one person can change in a year, how much we’ve both changed. She didn’t even look excited to see me. Even so, there’s still this empty place inside of me that’s shaped a lot like her.”

Victor checked dozens of games, visiting strip clubs and nightclubs and seedy bars with shotguns behind the counters. Finally, he found himself at a diner in a part of town so rundown even the garbage men didn’t come there anymore. He walked to the window and glanced inside.

“My god… Angel.”

Victor headed back to his car and waited. Hours later, with the sun rising gently into the sky, Angelina left the diner and headed to her car. Victor waited for her to leave the parking lot, and then followed her across town. She stopped finally at a hotel near the highway.

Angelina went inside and, after waiting a few minutes, Victor followed. A hundred dollar bill got him her room number from the night manager. He headed back out to the parking lot and walked around the building, counting the windows.

“This should be her room,” he thought, peeking inside. Sure enough, Angelina was sitting on the bed, watching television. Suddenly she turned, jabbing a finger at the minibar. The door of the tiny refrigerator popped open. A can of soda jumped out of the minibar and floated through the air, landing in Angelina’s outstretched hand.

“Well, that explains it,” Victor thought. “Wait, no it doesn’t. That doesn’t make any sense at all…”

Suddenly, Angelina hopped up from the bed and headed for the window. Victor ducked and crawled away. Climbing to his feet, he went back inside the hotel and rented the room next door to Angelina’s. He phoned for a wake up call and climbed into bed.

The phone woke him up at five the next night. He listened at the wall until he heard Angelina unlock her door. Climbing out his window, he headed for the parking lot, getting to his car just in time.

Victor followed her west on I-96 back into Farmington. Angelina headed up a long, winding driveway to an immense, white building surrounded by a wrought iron fence.

“I know this place,” Victor thought. “Bruno Harrison’s mansion. I was here three – no, four months ago for a game. I won sixteen thousand dollars before people started whispering. I shouldn’t go inside… I have to talk to her again. I have to find out what’s going on!”

Victor drove past the gates and up the drive, parking his car between a stretch limousine and one of those ridiculous, military-style trucks that wealthy idiots drove. Victor was stopped at the door by a guard in a blue uniform.

“Invitation, please?”

“I don’t need one,” Victor snapped, “Tell Bruno that Mr. Langret is here. If that gangster bastard wants a chance to get his money back, he’d better let me inside.”

The guard mumbled something into a phone, nodded, and then waved Victor inside. Victor walked into the great hall, where there were a dozen different gaming tables set up and crowds of crowds of people with cocktails and cigars. A shapely woman in a silver dress turned out to be Angelina. Victor walked up behind her, casually wrapped his arm around her shoulder and led her away from the crowd.

“Here’s the deal,” he said, “you’re going to cut me in on your action, or I’ll tell Bruno that you are a cheat.”

“And how exactly am I cheating?” she asked innocently.

“I, ah…”

“I have to go play now.” She pushed him away roughly and headed for the craps table, Victor following closely behind. Victor felt in his pocket for his pair of loaded dice. Slightly nervous, Victor placed a bet on the dice to win. He switched the dice for his loaded pair and rolled.

“Seven!” the dealer shouted. “A winner!”

An hour later, Victor was relieved. His luck had changed.

“And another seven for Victor,” the stickman said, staring at the dice in disbelief. He scooped up the red cubes and tossed them to the other end of the craps table, where Victor caught them in midair. “That makes ten wins in a row, I’d say.”

Victor blew on the dice and leaned back for his next throw, but someone grabbed his hand. Bruno. Face like a constipated rhinoceros. Muscles big enough to have their own zip codes. Bruno squeezed until Victor gasped and dropped the dice. He leaned forward to whisper into Victor’s ear.

“You know, not many people would have the balls to pull what you just did. Not here, not to me. Most people are smarter than that. Most people say I’m as crazy as I am rich… And Victor, I am fucking loaded. Now, let’s go into the garage and have a little talk.” Bruno grabbed Victor’s wrist and pulled him down the hallway.

Bruno shoved Victor into the garage and closed the door. One of his uniformed guards was standing at the other end of the room. He was a tall, very thin man with bleached blonde hair. He had a tattoo under his left eye, a black sun. The guard was squeezing the wrist of a very terrified Angelina.

“Do you recognize this girl?” Bruno demanded, like a man who knows the answer he wants and would break bones if he didn’t get it.

“Y-yes,” Victor said. “What’s going on?”

The guard spoke to Victor but kept his eyes firmly on Angelina. “I’m sure you have heard of the Genetiflex Corporation. They run a yearly program for gifted students. If you have the right DNA, they inject you with chemicals and make you gifted. My gift is telepathy… Nothing much, just enough to recognize my kind when I see it.”

Bruno grabbed Victor’s face in his hands and forced him to look him in the eye. “We don’t like cheaters around here. Cheaters hurt my business. And if you hurt me, I hurt you.” He turned to the guard and smiled. “Gunter, how do we stop this girl from cheating?”

“If she was using slight-of-hand, I’d say break her fingers… Since she’s using her brain, we’ll just have to break that.” Jabbing a finger at Victor, he said, “You, there’s a drill hanging on the wall behind you. Give it to me.”

“But, I can’t hurt her… I have to get out of here!”

Bruno pulled a revolver from his pocket and waved it in Victor’s face. “No need to worry. We only hurt the cheaters. Their partners just have to watch. Now, you heard the man. Go get the drill.”

Fighting back tears, Victor pulled the cordless drill down from the wall and walked it over to Gunter.

Tapping the center of his forehead, Gunter said “Psychic ability comes from an extra lobe in the brain. For telepathy, it’s in the front, what they call your `third eye.’ I don’t know where the lobe for telekinesis is. No matter. I’ll keep drilling until I either find it or strike oil!”

Gunter switched on the drill. Angelina screamed and pushed at him with her mind, but her telekinesis just was not strong enough. The drill was designed to penetrate wood, steel, even cement. A human skull offered absolutely no resistance.


Ten years later, Victor walked into yet another casino. He had half a dozen cocktails in his system, and he couldn’t remember if it was Vegas or Atlantic City. He asked a porter where the craps tables were, and followed the end of his finger.

Victor dropped a stack of chips on the table and ordered a drink. A young woman in a blue sweater smiled, undressing him with her eyes.

“Well, hello there,” she breathed.

“I’m sorry,” Victor said, “but I can’t get involved, not after what happened to my last girlfriend.”

The woman gave him a dirty look and went back to playing. A few minutes later, it was Victor’s turn to shoot. As usual, he bet on the dice to win. He blew on the dice for luck and rolled.

“And we have a winner!” the dealer shouted, adding to Victor’s pile of chips. Victor looked down at the dice and began to cry. The woman walked over to Victor and patted him on the back.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” she asked. “You won!”

“I know, I know. But every time I see those seven black dots, it reminds me of her…”

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