Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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Issue 4
Tabloid Reporter To The Stars
by Eric James Stone
by Ada Brown
Call Me Mr. Positive
by Tom Barlow
Beats of Seven
by Peter Orullian
Approaching Zero
by Kelly Parks
by Peter Friend
Moon-Eyed Stud
by Justin Stanchfield
From the Ender Saga
A Young Man with Prospects
by Orson Scott Card
Tales for the Young and Unafraid
Just Like Me
by David Lubar
Big Otto's Casino
by David Lubar
Special Software Bonus
I-Wei's Amazing Clocks
by I-Wei Huang

Big Otto's Casino
    by David Lubar
Just Like Me
Artwork by Lance Card

"Thanks, Mrs. Zambini," I said as my last customer of the day paid me. Phew. I'd been mowing lawns all week and I was beat. But now for the good part -- spending the money.

I stopped at my friend Mike's house on the way into town. It's even more fun spending money when you bring someone along. We headed for Video Kingdom. They had a great selection of games, and the prices were pretty good.

"Watcha gonna get?" Mike asked as we walked into the store.

"I think Destructo III," I said. "I heard it has twice as much blood splatter as Destructo II."


And that's what I picked from the shelves when we got to the store. It looked fabulous.

Check this out," Mike said, grabbing a box from the bottom shelf. "Big Otto's Casino. And it's only five bucks."

I shook my head. "At that price, it has to stink."

"I don't know," Mike said. "Remember Space Masher? That was only eight bucks"

"Yeah, and it was pretty good." I held my hand out for the box. "Let me see."

Mike passed the box to me. I checked the screen shots on the back. The graphics actually looked pretty good. And I had enough money for both games. "Sure," I said. "Why not."

So I bought both games and took them home. We played Destructo III until Mike got tired of me ripping his arms off -- I was a lot better at it than he was.

Then I put in Big Otto's Casino. The title screen came up with a picture of Otto. He was a fat, ugly guy with a cigar clamped in his mouth. "Welcome," he said in a raspy voice. "Nice ta meetcha. C'mon in."

The game started. I led my guy into the casino and played a slot machine. Before I knew it, I'd lost the hundred dollars I started with. But a screen popped up:


Press START to borrow money

Press X to quit


I pressed START and got another hundred dollars. It didn't last much longer than the first. I tried blackjack, which I sort of understood. And craps, which is what they call dice. I got a kick out of the name, but I had no idea what I was doing.

"Let me try," Mike said as the money screen came up again.

"In a minute." I wasn't ready to give up. I knew I could win. My luck had to change sooner or later. This time, I lost my money playing roulette and the poker machines.

"Man," Mike said, shaking his head, "what's the point?"

"I don't know." Maybe he was right. This did seem kind of pointless.

"Game over." Mike reached for the power switch.

"Hold it," I said, grabbing his arm. "I want to try just one more time." I got another hundred dollars. I did a bit better this time. I still lost, but the money lasted longer.

"This is getting boring," Mike said. "Come on, let's go outside."

I shook my head. I'd been outside all week mowing lawns. Summer was half over, and that was about all I'd done. I was ready to take a break for the next month and just enjoy myself. I had enough games to keep me happy for a while. "I'm going to stick with it until I win," I said.

"Give it up," Mike said.

I shook my head. "Not yet. I can beat this thing. I know I can. I just need to figure out the right strategy."

I kept playing. Sometime that evening, I guess Mike left. I really can't remember when. But I was getting better. Really. I lasted a lot longer before I had to borrow more money. One time, I even won a couple hundred from a slot machine. But then I blew it all again, trying to make up for everything I'd lost earlier.

I fell asleep for a while in front of the game. When I woke up, I played some more. I was really getting good. Even so, I was down to my last five dollars. I bet it at roulette and lost.

No big deal. I could borrow more and play again.

But the usual screen didn't come up. Instead, I saw another message in flashing red letters. It just said: CREDIT LIMIT REACHED.

That couldn't be the end. I hit the X button. The screen didn't change. I hit START. I didn't mind starting over. Nothing happened. I tried all the buttons. Nothing. I guess the game froze.

As I reached to unplug the machine, the doorbell rang.

I got up, and nearly fell flat on my face before I could take a step. My legs were stiff from sitting so long. The bell rang again.

I staggered down the stairs and opened the door.

It was Big Otto.

"You owe us money," he said, speaking through the cigar he had clamped in his jaw. It really stunk. He pulled out a notebook. "Here we go. Ethan Spangler -- two thousand dollars."

I took a step back and shook my head. "I don't owe you anything. It was just a game."

Otto laughed. "Don't try to back out now. We can make it very unpleasant for people who refuse to pay their debts." He grabbed the doorknob. With a flick of his wrist, he snapped it off. He took a bite out of it and spat the metal onto the porch. Then he grinned.

"Look -- I'm just a kid," I told him. "I don't have any money."

Otto kept grinning. "That's okay, kid. You can work off your debt by mowing my lawn."

"No way." I'd already mowed enough lawns for one summer. "I'm not going to do it."

"I'll bet you will."

I started to say something, but I realized this would be a good time to take a break from betting. Besides, one more lawn wouldn't kill me.

"Might as well get started," Otto said as he dragged me from the house. "I've got a big lawn. A real big lawn. It takes about a month to get the whole thing cut."

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