Oregon Tavern Age: The Couple

“Take it out of savings honey,” the OTA man told his OTA wife, “I’ll put the work check in later.”

The woman got up from the stool and left the state-sponsored video slot machine. She went over to the ATM and withdrew funds.

Both of them were drinking water.

I sat at a table and observed them. We were somewhere in OTA country, the exact location unimportant.

It was 11:30 in the morning and I was nursing a beer. I was writing a sonnet on a keno card, a sonnet whose key word was lasagna. If only I had paid attention to the lasagna she made for me. That’s what the sonnet was about.

The bar was practically empty. Eight grown men wore OSU colors and watched the Beaver football team flail on television. Tequila was misspelled on the drink special whiteboard.

They sat three machines away from each other. She talked to the machines, he did not. She said, “Come on baby, I got 227 nickels in you.” It was vaguely sexual.

She thanked the machine when she won. She clapped and caressed. When she lost, she cursed. She played near the wall where three Hamm’s bear mirrors, Polar, Brown and Grizzly, hung next to the poster warning against gambling addiction.

At least she was talking. I’ve seen people sit at these machine in silence for hours, transfixed.

I got the feeling she talked more to the machine than she did to her man. I think they were married. I saw wedding rings. He was a head shaker, not a talker. Maybe that’s why they were still married.

He played a game called Wild Ride. It was a game about horses, not women. I saw him hit a hundred buck winner, the dinging went on forever. He didn’t say a word, not even to his old lady.

She got up and went to the ATM. She returned and switched machines.

“Why don’t you come over here and give me some good luck,” she said.

She patted the stool next to her.

“OK,” he said.

He punched out of his machine. He left a hot machine. This is unheard of in OTA country, or Vegas for that matter.

Must be love. I’d take it.

He went over and sat next to her. She was talking to the machine, flattering it. She reached out her right hand to him. He clasped it with his left. They held hands and played slots, one handed.

A few minutes later, the woman hit a winner—37 dollars. They kept holding hands.

I thought I might try that one day with someone I love, but for now, I was writing a sonnet about lasagna.

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