He exited his building, ran down Main Street to his office, up five flights of stairs, down a hallway, and furtively slid into his cubicle. He looked at the clock. 8:52 it read. Shoot, he thought; he was almost an hour late. It wouldn’t be that big of a deal if it wasn’t his fifth time being late that week. He got straight to work as if nothing had happened, but he knew it wouldn’t go unnoticed by the boss.
A part of Jordan hoped that everything would be fine, but another part knew that that was too good to be true. As he heard the heavy steps of the tall, chubby man wobble down the hallway, he knew that his efforts to sneak in unnoticed were unsuccessful.
“This is it,” he thought to himself. “This is my last day.” Those were his boss’s exact words.
“This is your last day,” he said. “You can pick up your last check at the front desk on your way out.”
Jordan packed up his stuff and headed downstairs, where he picked up his check. He looked down to the small thin paper he was holding. It was only $30. As Jordan headed back to his apartment, he passed by Mr. Collins, the doorman.
“Back so soon?” Collins remarks.
“Got fired,” Jordan admitted shamefully as he held up his check as if it was proof.
“Bummer. Sorry dude,” Collins said sympathetically. Jordan spent the rest of the day searching for a job. Finding somewhere that was hiring was quite difficult in McGill, Nevada, given that there were only a little over 1,000 people in that small town. It was almost 6:00 when Jordan decided to take a break in his job hunt and get a bite to eat. He decided on Bob’s Diner just down the block. When he arrived in the lobby, the landlord was there, sitting on a couch, chatting with Mr. Collins. The the landlord spotted Jordan. He got up and walked over to him.
“Hello Jordan,” he said. “You know what day it is, right?”
“Tuesday?” he replied with a hint of sarcasm.
“Actually, it’s the second Tuesday of the month which also means rent is due…” he paused waiting for Jordan to interject, “do you have the money for this month?”
“Oh shoot, I totally forgot! Sorry...do you think you could cut me some slack? I got fired today…” he said, waiting for some sympathy.
“I’ve been cutting you slack the last two months!” he said harshly. “If I don’t have the money by 10:00 tonight, I’m kicking you out.” He stormed off to the elevator.
Although he was upset, Jordan continued over to Bob’s Diner.
“Hey Bob!” he said.
“What can I get for ya, Jordan?”
“The usual, thanks.” After enjoying his meal, Jordan began to pull out his wallet when Bob stopped him.
“It’s on the house!” he said with a smile.
Jordan headed back to his building where he had no idea what to do. There was no way he was going to get $700 in three hours. He finally accepted the fact that he was going to be kicked out, so instead of moping around he started to gather his things. Almost all of his stuff fit into one of his duffel bags. With nothing else to do, Jordan threw on worn out jeans, his baggy Nevada Wolfpack sweatshirt, sat down and watched TV until 10:00 arrived.
He was awakened by a loud knock at his door. He dragged himself over to the entrance and opened it to find exactly what he was expecting. The landlord.
“Got the money?” he asked.
“Nope, but I’m already packed so here’s the key,” he said as he dropped the old, rusted, chipped key into the landlord’s sweaty palm. “Have a goodnight.” He barely had any money left and nowhere to sleep, so he strolled on over to the only place open that late in McGill. That would be the Lucky: Casino & Hotel. When Jordan got inside, he immediately tried to find the bar. While searching, he kept passing colorful slot machines. They were everywhere. He turned the corner, more slot machines. He turned again, more slot machines. The bright noisy machines were starting to mesmerize him.
“I could win,” he thought to himself. “I’ll just play a few rounds and give it try,”
Jordan sat down at an open slot and began to play. After only 30 minutes he had lost over 90% of his savings. He spent a long time debating whether or not to spend his last few dollars. In those few minutes, the lady sitting next to him started to hop up and down with excitement. He looked at her machine; 777 it said. People started to gather around her and add to the noise. With all the chaos, Jordan felt motivated to try once more, thinking that he could be just like her, and win big. He slipped in the money, pulled the handle, and waited. Nothing. With nothing else to gamble, he headed on over to the lounge.
A few hours later, two men in suits approached him. He sat up straight, and looked them in the eyes as they were getting closer. Jordan’s palms were starting to sweat. It was hard to relax when two tall men in black suits are walking towards you with no smiles and deadly glares.
“Hello sir,” the first guy said in a low raspy voice.
“Hi,” Jordan replied. “Can I help you?”
“We need your help...” he paused and looked at his partner, then looked back at me, “cheating.” Jordan hesitated for a second. The man continued, “It’s easy. All you have to do is play the game. We already have adjustments made to make sure you win.”
“So why do you need me to do it? And why would I help you?” he questioned.
“Because we’re already known as cheaters around here. They won’t let us play. Plus you get you keep your share of the winnings,” he grinned.
Jordan looked around as if he was searching for a bright sign to lead him to the right answer. He realized that he had nothing. He had no money, he had no place to live; he had no job. Nothing.
“Fine,” Jordan agreed reluctantly. “What do I need to do?”
The men explained to him the only three things to do: play, win, and give half of the money to them on his way out. Jordan played and won. All that was left was to split it up and hand off the money on his way out.
Jordan had never held so much cash at one time in his life. It made him feel powerful. On his way out the door, he secretly handed off half the earnings and kept on walking. A grin was forming on his face, but quickly faded when he realized it was not fair money. It suddenly hit him. He was a criminal.
It was six in the morning and Jordan had know idea what to do. He quickly decided that he needed to eat, so of course, he went to Bob’s.
“Hey Jordan!” Bob said, “what can I get for you today?”
“The usual,” he ordered, “and make it pronto, I’m hungry.”
Bob just looked at him for a second, surprised at Jordan’s new tone. Then he got to work, cooking his burger and fries. When Bob served his food to Jordan, he expected a thank you but never received one. He started to wonder what was going on with this ‘new Jordan’. When he noticed that Jordan was finished eating he promptly brought over his check. Jordan pulled out his huge pile of cash.
“Where did that come from?!” Bob blurted.
Jordan grinned, “I played a game.”
“And you won?” Bob asked. “How?!”
“Let’s just say I had a few tricks up my sleeve.”
“So you cheated?”
“No,” Jordan responded with an obvious wink.
Jordan paid for his meal and left without even giving a tip. Bob and the other workers soon became frustrated with how Jordan had changed.
When the workers started to see Jordan riding around in his new Mustang and staying at the fanciest apartment building, they became even more aggravated. They decided to take their information to the police. The authorities were very happy to hear this information, and launched an investigation immediately.
The next week, Jordan was sipping his coffee in the Corner Cafe. He turned the page and glanced up to see a police officer heading towards him. Jordan decided to play it cool and turn back to his book.
“Hello sir, I am an investigator with the Nevada Police Department,” he continued. “You are under arrest for grand larceny. Please stand up and put your hands behind your back.”
“Wait! I didn’t do anything!” Jordan claimed as the officer cuffed his hands together.
As the investigator led Jordan to his car, he read him his rights. Jordan was pushed into the back seat of the police car and had the door slammed in his face. So many thoughts rushed through his head during that car ride, How did they know?, Prison is going to be awful!, I knew this was a bad idea. When the car was passing Bob’s Diner, Jordan looked inside and saw the workers. Even Bob was pointing at him and smiling. What had he done?
Jordan had a lot of time to think when he was in his tiny jail cell. There were spider webs in the corner and an unidentified liquid on the ground. There was a scent of urine and Windex in the air. He sat on an old rusty bench that was covered with a stained cloth. The paint on the metal bars was chipping off, showing the years of wear. There were names and drawings carved into the walls. Jordan knew that what he had done was wrong, and the idea that he could spend years in a cell like this, made his guilt even stronger. He looked back on the last few weeks and realized that he wasn’t even happy; that money didn’t make a difference. None of this was worth it.
The whole morning leading up to his trial, Jordan’s mind was cluttered with all the possible outcomes. He imagined a long life in a gross prison. He imagined all the gross meals and bathrooms. In the end, Jordan ended up with only 48 hours of community service.
The next morning, Jordan was released. He walked away a new person with all the knowledge he needed. He learned that money wasn’t everything and decided to break away from the control it had over him. As a wise man once said, “Money often costs too much.”