RTA 16: Betrayal Amidst the Seagulls

road trip to alberta 16 persuadeo.nl

I’m waking up on a ferry slowing to dock on a fake California oil island my mysterious Grandfather invested his NASA money in. I’ve been kicked in the balls by a reg I trusted, and I think he’s confiscated my bottle of funny bears. (I keep checking for them.)  I’ve been betrayed by my grandmother, my only living relative, to whom I’m dedicated to caring for and I’m taking to Alberta so she can be at peace at last.

At least I’m on a boat. Isn’t that something people say?

“I haven’t betrayed you, Ian, my sweet dumb grandson.”

Could she actually read my mind? And why is she so talkative after all these months?

Something sweet and sickly is bothering my nose.

Beef Curtain Burke was offering his arm; she used it to unsteadily sit next to me. My innards ache and my groin is still glowing. I taste blood and vomit. I’m not sure where the last thirty minutes went or what exactly happened.

Burke stands and is looking at me sternly, so to speak, leaning on mop.

“What the hell are you angry about, no one kicked you in the nuts. Traitor.”

I realize he’s staring more at the throw-up all over my hoody. I could smell the donuts, I think, or the sugar in the funny bears. What a waste, can any of them be rescued?

“Shut up.” Grandma and Burke say almost in unison. Everyone is against me, everyone was so serious. I really, really want one of my bears.

Am I really an addict? I feel my sweatshirt for traces of any bears that weren’t digested.

Nothing doing. Seagulls cry for me. I turn away from my tormentors and face the grey blue black of the evening Pacific. The day was done. Yellow, orange, and pink suffused the sky. Salt spray was in the air, but it was all seagull spit to me. It occurs to me I should be more frightened of what is going on.

“We’re going to the sacred family place, where Grandad invested all his fortune. And you are betraying all of it?” I meet Grandma’s stare. Her face is laughing at me, which seems unfair. “What is happening?”

“The family island’s oil was shut down years ago. Island Grissom always had the best access to the real reserve, the petroleum underneath Long Beach. Island Finster had its day. Your grandfather took a chance, and we pumped until it was dry.”

“That’s a thing? Oil is forever.”

“Not really. More importantly, I haven’t betrayed you or him. I know you’re thinking that – how you play poker, dear, is a mystery to me, your little face is so expressive – but that’s not what’s happening.”

Excuse me? I’m Action Ian Finster, Endboss Caedroom Poker Stream favorite. People love me.

“You do know why they invite you on the stream, dear, don’t you?”

I sat up, testing the tenderness, and looked at Burke, superreg at the Endboss. Huh.

Really?

“Ian, I need you to focus and listen to me. You got into a lot of trouble, and I’m bailing you out the only way I can. Now we’ve been renting the island to my Chinese friends for server stuff, data mining, offshore poker, a lot of things that are best done, mmm, quietly. You took from money that was theirs. So now you need to listen to them and do exactly what they say and they may… they will forgive what you took.”

If I was not reeling in pain before, now it’s confusion as well.

I must be dreaming. The ferry engines shudder. One of the green hats is snapping rope around a cleat.

“So just let me do the talking, dear. Everything will be fine.”

“I’m good at poker, Grandma. I’m dangerous.”

“Of course you are dear. You have a lot of potential and I’m so glad you found something you like.”

Grandma talks, smokes, knows about crypto and is turning me over to Mwin Stache and Soh Juh?

I find her response unsatisfactory. My life is a lie?

“Your life is not a lie, Ian.”

“Did you even want to, you know, die?” I ask.

I finally see a face on my grandma that I recognize, but she says nothing. Her lips purse. She is all sunglasses and cigarettes. It occurs to me that the ferry is at rest.

Burke, traitor, ferry foreman, Endboss reg and apparently wrangler of my fishy ass, pushes me to my feet. I don’t have his skills, I reflect, somewhat pathetically. I thought we had a relationship. One respect.

I don’t think this is how you treat a player you respect. My innards throb.

Time to meet my fate on Island Finster, my island, my inheritance. Somehow, I thought things would turn out just fine in life, that I was destined for something and this place was part of it, or the key.

I’m tempted to ask Grandma, like a child, if we even have the money Grandpa planned for all of us. Are we still rich, I want to ask. I’m not really good at anything, except poker and now they are telling me that was a lie, too.  It occurs to me that my mom, long since dead, would not have lied to me. Maybe Grandmas lie, but moms don’t lie, surely.

I want to say I didn’t ask because of some new courage or self-control, but what really is happening is I know the family money is gone somehow.

What if all we really have is the fifty, okay, forty-seven thousand I took from Mwin’s game that is under the front seat of the Taurus. If it’s even there anymore. Are my keys on me? Yes. I check for the funny bears, but my comfort supply really is gone. Burke.

I turn away from the evening ocean to the yellow and pink lights of the island; these were really spotlights thrown onto bare walls to mimic a cheery resort. I’d explained it all, even appeared on a local television channel to explain it, back in the child actor days. Metal trees, painted to look like palms, beckoned. In the gloom beyond, the great shaft of a drill blended into the night.

Burke pushes me forward while offering an arm to Grandma. She buttons her pink jacket first, then takes his arm. She removes her black sunglasses, at long last. A couple ferry workers sway over to us, too fat to walk normally, too strong to be graceful.

I think I’m coming down because for the first time in a long while, I’m frightened.

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