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The Final Game

The Final Game

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I upload the same one because the previous one failed to show up! Life is strange ! :)
I upload the same one because the previous one failed to show up! Life is strange ! :)

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Published by: Nam B.I.G(Biggie In da Gang) on Oct 06, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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06/16/2009

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The final game
by Doan Le
I found myself living alone after my beautiful wife left me for a half-witted poet with asilver tongue. What could I do; most women are air-heads by nature. After an extended period of debauchery to get even with her, I found myself physically and mentallyexhausted. Then one fine day, an old friend notorious for leading a loose and fancy-freelife, dropped by to see me. He tried to set me up with some girl but I lied to him to get outof it."Truth is, I’ve become impotent," I fibbed, "I picked up some of that ginseng yourecommended, but it’s not working. Let’s rain-check, ok?"I paid a visit to some friends who gambled instead. They’d been banned by their jealouswives from karaoke bars in the provincial capital, so with nowhere to hang out, they’dstarted gambling to kill time. The stakes were quite high, at least several hundredthousand dong hand."Can you take the heat?" Mien asked, "I lost about eight million dong the day beforeyesterday, and have only made back five million.""You look so innocent," Tam warned, "you’ll be eaten alive if you’re not careful.""In here you’ve got to ‘down your drink with big glasses’," Cuong said, fixing me with acool gaze."I don’t care how big the glass," I retorted. He meant that if you were careless andviolated the rules, you’d be fined heavily. The first day I joined them, Cuong took me toTam’s well-guarded, high-walled house."There are three emergency exits in case coppers come snooping.... How much have yougot on you?" he asked."Twenty million dong. I’ve put it aside just to see how much I’ll lose in a month.""No, gambling’s meant to be fun. Your twenty million
dong 
is barely a drop in the ocean.Just don’t get addicted or you’ll end up depraved and ruined!"Cuong and I were childhood friends. We used to go and pick oysters on the beachtogether. When we grew up, Cuong became the owner of a construction materialscompany and had often passed lucrative contracts my way, so we had a good history. Myfriend Tam’s beautiful villa and garden was as an ideal place for gambling, and his wifewas a good cook and hospitable to a fault. My first day gambling, I won over four and ahalf million dong. I guess it was beginner’s luck because I lost nearly eight million
dong 
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the next day. And after the first week of gambling, I only had thirteen million
dong 
leftout of my original 20 million; old Mien told me I was lucky.It was weird, the more I played, the more I wanted to gamble. I’m a poor loser and every-time I lost, I became even more determined to win. I didn’t realise I had become acompulsive gambler. Day in and day out, I counted the hours till I could sit on thegambling mat and as far as I was concerned, all the gamblers around me were a bunch of two-faced cheaters; and on occasion I cursed them out. Cuong even yelled at me once."Stop it!" he hissed, his face serious, "you’ve gone too far. I never expected you to become so addicted. What’s worse, since you’ve been coming, all of them have becomecrazy!"It was true that the gambling mat had become increasingly excited since my arrival."You’re such a playboy," Tam said, "What the f___ do you care about money? The richdon’t feel their money move through their pockets. I bet you feel money outside thegambling mat has become boring. Am I right or am I right?"Cuong, out of pity, taught me the ropes."Bloody fool," he said, "when you pick up the cards, don’t focus on them; first observeyour opponents to see how they arrange their cards. That way you can tell how good ahand they have. If they intentionally want to give you more chances to get cards, it meansthat they want to avoid you. There’s a thousand different ways to play cards, but what’sthe use, you couldn’t beat a blind baby."One day out of the blue, my friend Cuong died a miserable death. On the fateful night, hewas out partying with some friends when we phoned him up and asked him back to thegambling mat. He jumped on his motor bike and sped back so as to be on time. But as heswung his bike into the curve at the foot of the Con Temple slope, he swerved to avoid a bus rushing headlong in the opposite direction and ended up smashing into the side of themountain.My close friend’s sudden death left me messed up for a whole week, and I questioned if life had meaning. Cuong died, leaving behind a young wife and little children, and intohis shoes on the gambling mat stepped Han, the owner of the largest pawn shop in DoSon. Han was a professional gambler used to large gambling dens and casinos, the kindwhere expensive alcohol was given free, high-class prostitutes searched for big winners,and only US dollars were accepted. For this reason, right from the start, Han became ouarch enemy. And I lost a lot of money to him.The week before, bitter over losing a large sum of money, I’d sold my shares at the icemaking factory to a cousin of mine. This gave me a lot more money to play and hopefullyrecoup my gambling losses. That night, we gambled till the early hours and I decided toreturn to my pretty house at the foot of the mountain after eating a bowl of oyster soup. In
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high spirits, I figured I’d won about five or six million dong though I was yet to count it.For quite a long time, I had forgotten the taste of winning big on the mat. The ghostly pale face of the pawn shop owner shimmered before my eyes and I burst out laughing,riding my motor bike leisurely along the sea-breeze swept road.Since my wife left, I’d spent very little time at home, eating most my meals at my parents’ and gambling in my spare time. The truth was deep within my heart, blood stilloozed. Each time I opened the gates and walked through our small garden, empty savefor white roses, I couldn’t help but mourn all I had lost.The young moon had just appeared behind the roof of the house, shining its faint bluelight directly over the French-style house, enhancing its feel of deserted desolation,empty save for the sounds of frogs croaking beneath wet rocks. Suddenly I felt my hair stand on end. In the rustling sound of the tree leaves, I could swear I heard Cuong’svoice."I’ll help you win," the ghostly voice whispered, "I still bear a grudge against Han: herefused to pay me the fifteen thousand US dollars he owed me. I’ve got a score to settlewith him!"I shook my head to drive my drunkenness away. While alive, Cuong had time and againtold me of Han’s failure to pay him the fifteen thousand dollars, but - and here’s the rub -there wasn’t a shred of evidence. Cuong died and that was it.I got up early the next morning after a dream filled night, and went out to buy somefruits, incense and a chicken to take to Cuong’s house. I also gave Thanh, his wife, somemoney."Please help me to prepare a ceremony and I’ll be back in the afternoon.""But his 100-day death anniversary is next week," Thanh said in surprise, "you’ve comeon the wrong day.""Not wrong at all. Please do it for me."But I never made it to Cuong’s that afternoon. The gambling was so tense; and all themoney flowed into the pockets of Han and old Mien. Tam even asked his wife to go to his brother’s and get 120 million dong so that he could split the sum in two, half for him andthe other half for me. After that the stakes were raised even higher."Hopefully we’ll recoup our losses. Please, try harder!" Tam whispered to me."To win or lose, to live or die, it all happens quick, in the blink of an eye," I told myself.Each card in my hand seemed to burn with purpose. Before we started gambling, weagreed that none of us was allowed to leave the mat before midnight. We could only stopin between to eat sticky rice, chicken and pork sausages during the half hour break.
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