The Little Red Bastard by Roy Neyman

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SUMMARY: Are we in control of our own fates?

Nine times out of ten. How could that be, Mick wondered? Amazing! Nine times out of ten was ridiculous. He tried it again. Snick. The slight, ringing whir of air past metal. Soft slap, SLAP as the quarter landed in his left palm and his right clapped over it. He was almost afraid to look. Dang! Heads again! He flipped it repeatedly with his thumb, ...snick, whir, slap SLAP. Snick, whir, slap SLAP. Ten out of ten. Nine out of ten. He'd tried this many times, even with different quarters. Different denominations. He'd tried an abandoned washer he found in his junk drawer. If the rusty bit marked heads, it worked with that, too.

But what use was it? Obviously no good for decision making, not his own decisions anyway. He might as well just go ahead and decide if he always knew what the result was going to be. This bewildered him and, only with great restraint, he managed not to flip anything for a couple of weeks. Then he gave in and tried it again. Same result. Heads. Huh!

He could become an NFL referee. He wouldn't have to announce his gift, if that's what it was. Word would get around and pretty soon every team captain in the league would be calling, "Heads!" Then what, ...unexplainable odds, suspicions, an investigation turned to witch hunt and disgrace. No, that wouldn't do.

How about show business? He could start out taking money from the fools at the local fun fair, the one with the huge whirling spider and the itsy bitsy roller coaster that no one over the size of a ten year old could fit into. No one over five would want to. The dad blame thing didn't get more than three inches off the ground. "A dollar a shot! Best out of three! Bet you can't beat the odds! Any quarter! Any dime! Heads I win, tails I lose! Step right up!" Word would get around again and pretty soon he'd be on Jay Leno with The Great Chin whipping out one-liners about Las Vegas and multi-million dollar lotteries! Even that would run its course and, eventually, become a bore. Nope! No good!

These thoughts ran through his head as he stood at the corner of Market and 24th, waiting for the little red man standing in the box on the pole across the street, legs spread, hands sternly on hips. Finally he turned into a little green man and flashed him across the street with his jaunty green stride. Walk. Walk. Walk. Then reverting to flashing red: No, don't walk. Solid red: Don't walk. Don't you DARE walk. Mick reached the other corner and was suddenly pissed off, really pissed off that the little red bastard had controlled him so easily. Without thinking, he turned around, stepped back into the street, pulled a nickel out of his pocket, flipped it in the air, ...snick, whir, slap, SLAP..., and said, "Heads it's walk, tails it's don't walk."

As the stern little red man changed back into his strident green counterpart, Mick suddenly realized the actual power he held in his hand and had just started his first serious giggle in weeks when the distracted, cell phone wielding driver carried him across the intersection and fifty yards down Market Street wrapped around the grill of her late model Ford. The woman could have sworn, as a matter of fact she DID swear, that the light had been green just a second before...