Page 2 of The Dancer

I always think of my mother and the choices she’d had to make in her young life to put food in my belly and clothes on my back. It’s because of that that I go above and beyond to make my dancers feel like more than a piece of meat.

Though she hadn’t gone that route, dancing half naked on a stage, I’m sure my own mother had faced a lot of difficult decisions that she never shared with her only son.

I’ve listened to the down on their luck stories enough to know that life was hard for most of these women. That it went beyond public opinion when it came to the women who took this particular path.

And the ones who were really looking for something better for the young kids they had at home, I always tried to find a better way for. Always with my mother in mind.

I hadn’t started out wanting to own this kind of business. I wasn’t exactly proud of the stigma that came attached to it. And it’s not my mother’s favorite thing.

I’d done the college deal on a football scholarship, which led me to a first draft pick for the NFL. I thought that would be my life’s work until I retired some time near the age of forty.

Three years in an injury sidelined me, ending my dream and any hopes of a comeback. I took the payout money and left. No hard feelings, shit happens. I couldn’t play ball but I still had my life.

Because of that college degree, and a mother who knew the worth of a dollar, I was wise enough to invest more than I spent and had never learned to be frivolous. I’d made more than enough from my signing contract alone to live comfortably if I was careful.

As luck would have it, I didn’t have to touch it in the end. One lucky night in Atlantic City with a loud mouth asshole who had more money than brains had won me four nightclubs. Two in New York and two in South Beach, all prime locations.

I’m not sure if said asshole was high when he threw them into the pot after losing a few hundred grand to me at the tables. Or if he truly believed he had a winning hand when he made the choice.

But when my royal flush beat his straight it was game over and no way for him to renege. I’d been in shock for like five minutes after it happened, not believing that shit like that really happens in real life.

I half expected it to be a joke. That any minute someone was going to come and take the papers he’d signed right there at the table away from me and cameras were going to pop up in one of those sick pranking shits.

But once none of that happened and the shock wore off I realized what I held in my hands. The first thing I did was look up the asshole and the clubs, still not quite believing my luck.

It had all panned out. Now that I think about it, I’d been feeling pretty much the way I do now in the days leading up to the big win. Listless and bored with everything around me, with a slight buzz under my skin.

That’s how I’d found myself in Atlantic City looking for some excitement. I wonder what the hell game life is playing now? Because sure as fuck it was about to zap me.

Whatever it is I have no doubt that I can navigate my way through whatever fuckery it sends my way, I always do. As was evident by the progress I’d made with the business.

Like I said, I hadn’t started out wanting to own nightclubs, it wasn’t something I’d ever been interested in other than for a night out.

I thought I’d coach college ball or some other shit like that once I healed, but life had other plans as usual. And as usual I just rolled with the punches. I didn’t grow up in New York for nothing. If nothing else we’re resilient as fuck.

Now three years later, at the ripe old age of twenty-nine my life is well set financially but I’m bored as hell again. Had I already seen, experienced, lived all that there was? I hope not.

After that night at the tables, when I saw what gambling could do to a person, I never went back. I had no reason to now anyway and no time. In that first year I was too busy learning the ropes to indulge in sporting pastimes.

Then once I got the hang of it, there was too much to do to turn the places into mine to think of anything else. It was pure luck that I’d sat at that table that night. The night that changed the course of my life.