This is difficult to explain – I went in to an Emergency room when a change of medications affected me severely.  The night after, I had a flood of creative energy, and several scenes from the following short story emerged.  I felt that I should complete it, and that there is no better place to share it than with people who I can identify with.  It is purely a work of fiction.

I call this story: "The House"

*************************

Las Vegas – a city where dreams come true and hopes are dashed.  The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat meet here in a cautious truce.  Its spectacle of wonderment attracts many a hopeful soul each year.  Most find it to be simply a pleasant mirage.  I was not so lucky.

Las Vegas is perhaps in the oddest location for a major city in the world.  It is situated in the middle of the desert.  Its water and electricity are pumped in, as well as many hopeful dreams.  Year-round, the heat of the unrelenting desert sun is managed by the lack of humidity.  Daily, thousands of people mill about the busy strip and the hidden gems of the old strip and side streets.  The lights, signs, costumes and shows captivate the minds, the one-armed bandits captivate the wallets.

I made my pilgrimage to this city with my new bride for our honeymoon.  We saw magnificent shows, she delighted in my success at the blackjack table – it started out as quite the trip. 

"Where should we go next?" she asked me after we had made $15 at the tables.  She pointed at the immense casino across from us, and we ventured toward it.  I didn\\\'t see the car approaching until it was too late.

I awoke with a start in a well appointed room, apparently part of a suite in a casino.  Something was amiss, however.  I realized my wife was nowhere to be found!  I jumped up, ran for the door, and was immediately and unexpectedly met by a well-dressed gentleman, apparently a manager of the establishment.  I dispensed with any pleasantries.

"Where the hell is my wife?" I demanded.

"Be calm, my friend!  Everything is all right," the well-dressed gentleman assured me.  I was not to be so easily convinced.

"Well, take me to her!"

The man frowned.  "Your wife is all right, friend.  We\'ve been worried about you, however!  You\'ve been sleeping for a long time – perhaps a walk is in order.  A tour of the floor, perhaps?

"You would have me tour a casino while I worry about my wife!" I exclaimed.

"I already told you, your wife is just fine.  How about this – if you take a walk with me now, I\\\'ll explain everything about your wife," the man offered.  I agreed, as a man with a gun to his head would in the same situation.

Down we descended in the glass elevator – my jaw dropped in awe of the sheer magnitude of the establishment.  Rows upon rows of slot machines, interspersed with several areas of table gaming.  I quickly recognized rows of blackjack tables, a couple of roulette games, a group surrounding a craps table, and, in the corner of the expanse, a keno room.  It looked unfamiliar, and I wondered if we were touring the casino that my wife and I were headed toward.

"Incredible!" I exclaimed.

"I told you a walk would do well for you," my companion said, as the elevator reached the gaming floor.

"Let\'s walk this way," my companion said, gesturing toward the entrance.  I followed, still failing to control my amazement.  My eyes spotted several Baccarat tables, Pai-Gow, Carribean Stud, Three-card Poker, a crowded poker room – even a Casino Roshambo table!  As we passed the craps pit, my companion pointed out the man shooting the dice surrounded by a group of interested onlookers. "And here we have the good doctor who has been caring for you – let\'s not interrupt him, he\'s working!"

We continued to the lobby, and were suddenly met by a terrifying sight of a man in tattered clothes.

My companion recognized him too – "Ah, here we have our generous proprietor – \'The House,\' as it were."

At this obvious jest at the poor man I managed a polite laugh so as not to insult the man or my host.  Yet, my host stopped in his tracks.  He turned to look at me, and for a moment, I thought I saw a resigned expression flash across his face, as what one might expect of counsel for a confessed criminal. But that moment, and that expression, if either ever existed, quickly faded and once again I looked upon a sterling smile with a neck-tie to match.

"But alas, you must see how rich the man is!  The riches he has on him and within him!"

Had I inadvertently made the gravest of insults?  Quickly, with my eyes, I examined the man from head to toe, and concluded that my first impression of the man was correct, and for this I had to protest.  “Good God, man!  That man is a hobo, he reeks of filth, not wealth!  Surely you must see the holes in his pockets!  What pittance he has surely came from a hand more generous than his own!”

I paused a moment, regretting my outburst at the expense of the otherwise cheerful buzz of the lobby, and of the poor man, whose eyes, which before appreciated only carpet, met mine.  I swear to you, that man would have me believe that hopelessness and fear were blights of the eyes and not moans of the soul, that sadness and cynicism could be judged by the pallor of flesh and not the content of a heart.  I witnessed a man terminally ill.  I felt a twinge of desperation for a moment, but it vanished when I cowardly twisted myself away, and ran toward where I had come from.  My companion tried to grab my arm, but I was too fast for him.  I was going to get to the bottom of this mess.  I made it within 10 feet from the doctor when an unseen hand grabbed hold of me.  The doctor looked at me briefly, as I was dragged away, only to return to his selfish interests.

*************************************

"Dr. Miller, I\'m terribly sorry for the disruption, Mr. Dane was on his daily walk, was standing in front of the mirror and then he suddenly bolted, and got away from me." 

"That\'s all right, Johnson.  Mr. Dane is a very good case for the new medical students visiting here today.  Students, listen up – here is the case of a 42 year old man whose mental stability has deteriorated over time.  Mr. Dane started coming to see us here at University Medical on an outpatient basis following the unfortunate loss of his wife in an automobile accident ten years ago.  Since then, his condition has declined from depression and anxiety to schiziophrenia and he was admitted approximately a year ago.  We have recently applied a course of the new drug Bettrin to his battery of meds and hope that should improve his quality of life.  Um, I think that is Dean Stockman awaiting you at the elevator to show you around the OR, so I will conclude our little tour here today.  Students, Psychiatry is an exciting specialty of medicine.  Despite centuries of knowledge, the mind still is truly an unknown quantity.  There is still a lot to be learned, and many patients to help.  But if you\\\'re game – there\'s a lot of money to be made!  Welcome to Baxter University Medical School!"

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