Sheep in the Slaughterhouse (a short-short story)

by Arnold Snyder

Rudy picked me up at McCarran in his new white Thunderbird convertible, and after a twenty-minute drive in an afternoon sun that could melt brass, we left his car with the valet and stepped into the cool lobby of the Desert Inn. We headed straight for the casino. Rudy was a professional blackjack player and he’d convinced me to come to Vegas to join his team.

“Look at all these assholes, Frank,” he said. “They come in here in their trendy disco fashions, so damn hip. They don’t even know disco’s over. Look at that girl in the see-through top. Nice titties, huh? Look at that dickhead she’s with, in the iridescent shirt. He probably owns an auto dealership in Des Moines. He’s got that black Cartier watch so that everyone in here can see just how hip he is. Bunch of morons.

“You see that guy in the Armani suit talking with Mr. Iridescent? That’s a pit boss. He probably spent his whole paycheck on that suit. Just remember that when he’s annoying you later. You know why he’s buddying up to Iridescent? Because Iridescent’s betting three hundred bucks on two hands. The pit boss is the guy who passes out the comps–that’s how we’ll eat. We never pay for food. But every boss is a shark. He sees every player as a walking wallet to be emptied. He’s also the guy who throws you out on your ass if he thinks you can actually win.

“The guy in the black suit there, at the podium—that’s another boss. Any time you see a boss on the phone like that, he’s talking to surveillance. You see all these mirrors overhead, along the walls, everywhere? That’s where the catwalks are—the eye in the sky. There’s surveillance goons behind these mirrors, sitting right over our heads, watching everything that happens at the tables.

“Everyone who works in this place—the bosses, floormen, surveillance, everyone—they see this whole crowd for exactly what it is—a bunch of lame suckers, sheep in the slaughterhouse.”

“How big is this place?” I asked. “Look, that lady just hit a jackpot.”

He ignored me.

“I truly despise the crooks that run these joints,” he said. “But what I hate even more are these ignorant sheep who just keep feeding this monster. It wasn’t until I got to Vegas that I realized how loathsome mankind really is.”

I couldn’t take my eyes off the monstrous brass chandeliers. “This place must have cost a mint,” I said.

But Rudy was all wound up now. “There are a thousand uneducated simpletons working in this joint to siphon money from the five thousand squares who came in here this afternoon to get drunk and forget about how miserable their lives are. In this whole place, there are maybe five people who actually see what’s going on. I’m one of the five. I probably know the other four.

“Now don’t get me wrong, Franco—I don’t hate this place; I love this place. If this machine wasn’t here to milk these suckers, I’d be out of a job. As much as I hate this whole heartless, soulless scene, I need the idiots on both sides of these tables.

“Sometimes, I look around, and I just want to blow my own brains out for being a part of this human cesspool. Or at least, I want to find a desert island where I can just pick berries and catch fish. Talk to a monkey or something. Humans are the lowest of the life forms. So, welcome to Las Vegas. What do you think?”

A cheer erupted from a group of gamblers gathered around a crap table in the pit next to us.

I felt happy for them. “How’s the buffet?” I said.


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