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Best of Barney Vinson

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Tragedy Strikes

3 April 2005

I was dealing craps at the Mint one afternoon when my stomach started burning. My first thought was that I shouldn't have eaten that third bowl of clam chowder in the help's hall. Then my head started aching. That's it, I knew what it was. I had the flu! It was going around like the plague, anyway, and now I had it, dammit. Well, what did I expect? Every deadbeat west of the Mississippi was in my face eight hours a day, 16 hours on weekends, exposing me to every disease known to mankind. It's a wonder all I had was the flu. It could've been leprosy, or polio, or lockjaw.

Meanwhile, I was getting worse by the second. My mouth was dry, I was having trouble swallowing, and the world was fading in and out of focus. I turned to the boxman. "Take me out, will yuh? I'm sick."

By the time I made it to my apartment I was on the verge of unconsciousness. I peeled off my shirt, fell on the couch, and dragged the phone over. I finally got my girlfriend Christine on the line. "You gotta get over here and take me to the hospital," I whispered. "I'm burning up. I think I'm dying."

"Oh my God! I'll be right there!"

I dropped the phone, heard it clatter when it hit the floor, and then everything went black.

A hand was shaking me, and a man's face swam into view. "Hey, are you okay?" he said.

"Vic?"

"It's Tim. Are you okay?"

"No . . . I'm dying."

He helped me dress, got me down the stairs and into the car. Then I was in the emergency room, where a team of people, all wearing masks, ripped my shirt open and started probing and prodding me from top to bottom, and I do mean bottom. All I could think of was my shirt, my poor shirt. It was my good luck shirt, the one with the little yellow stars all over it. Little yellow . . . little . . . yellow . . .

When I came to, I was in a white room under a white sheet. There were tubes in my nose, tubes in my arms, tubes coming out from under the sheet. But the pain was gone, and that's all I cared about.

The doctor came in about an hour later and told me what happened. My appendix ruptured, they weren't sure when, but when they opened me up it had already burst, and I was lucky to be alive, he said. It could've turned into peritonitis, which is what killed Rudolph Valentino, but they'd got it just in time, and I was going to be fine, he said.

And what the hell happened to Christine? You won't believe this, but when my roommate Tim found me half-dead on the couch she was still at home doing her hair! Here I was at death's door, and she had to make sure her hair was done before she even took me to the frigging hospital. What an air head. I never wanted to see her again, even if I lived until Sunday.

And I never thought I would say anything bad about food, not after almost starving to death when I first got to Vegas. But hospital food was about the worst thing I'd ever tried to eat in my life. I thought sauerkraut was bad. My aunt fixed that for supper one time when I was a kid, and I almost upchucked right on the dining room table. It was like trying to drink pickle juice. In the hospital, everything tasted like pickle juice.

The nurse would bring in a tray, the plate covered with a little metal lid, and now I knew why. They didn't want visitors to see what the hell we were being forced to eat. I'd just wave my hand at the nurse and say, "Take it away."

Tim would stop by every night on his way home from 3-M. I always meant to ask him what 3-M was, but to this day I still don't know. Anyway, he'd stop by and we'd talk about things. Then when it got quiet, when all the nurses were through making their rounds, I'd get up, get dressed, and we'd drive over to Don the Beachcomber's at the Sahara Hotel. Back in the late sixties, this was about the best Polynesian restaurant around, and my favorite dish was Peking Duck. God, I could eat that stuff 365 days a year.

Can't you just picture it? Fake palm trees and fake seashells everywhere you look, and here I am under torch lights slurping piƱa coladas and chowing down on Peking Duck. Meanwhile, I'm wearing a hospital tag on my wrist and my whole mid-section is wrapped in bandages with a tube sticking out like a question mark. The nice thing about it was that I didn't have to worry about leaving a big tip for the waitress. She was just glad I didn't fall off my chair and die, not while I was in her station anyway.

Then it was back to the hospital, where I would fast for another 24 hours, then we'd head back to Don the Beachcomber's for another night of revelry. It's got to be one of my top ten memories.

(To be continued)

Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson

Barney Vinson
Barney Vinson is one of the most popular and best-selling gaming authors of all time. He is the author of Ask Barney, Las Vegas: Behind the Tables, Casino Secrets, Las Vegas Behind the Tables Part II, and Chip-Wrecked in Las Vegas. His newest book, a novel, is The Vegas Kid.

Books by Barney Vinson:

> More Books By Barney Vinson