Outward and forward
History of a gambler
The alarm forcefully blasts me out of a comfortable sleep. I awake grudgingly to the sound of some scratchy-voiced dude screaming into a microphone, to a background of gritty guitars and lazy but energetic drumming. The clock reads 6:15.
Today’s the day.
I sit up, surveying my bedroom. The walls are a pale grey, made of old stone, never painted. I never had time. They’re covered with photographs and posters, though, from all over the world. Mementos of a time long past, when I never really had time to get attached to a place. Maybe things were better that way.
I shuffle out of my bedroom, into the small kitchen. The house is small, but never really needed to be large. Like all of the houses in Sootopolis, it is old and stone. Its walls are sturdy, built to last, and hold a kind of rustic charm. The living room, the largest part of the house, even holds insets of lapis lazuli along the corners of the walls, and the dark stone fireplace has very old stencils painted along its sides. It’s almost as if this place was built with the sole intention of beauty. If this is actually true, then whoever built it did a damn good job.
I reach into a cupboard, taking out a frying pan. I toss it down on the stove, turn on the heat, and walk over the edge of the kitchen counter, where a large fish tank holds a small, blue fish Pokemon, with two antenna that glow a soft yellow at their ends. His name is Checkers, and he’s a Chinchou. He’s also the only friend I really had for a while.
Ever since I was little - probably 5 or 6 - I lived solely with my father. I don’t remember what happened to my mother, and my dad would never tell me. Whatever happened, she left my life early enough that I’m not even too interested in finding out what happened to her. I don’t even know her name, so I’m not sure where I would begin looking anyway.
My father loved one thing in the world far more than anything else, and that was gambling. He tended to have good luck at the tables, and was smart, always keeping enough money to buy our next few meals. Whenever he won enough to take a trip, we’d be off to a new city, a new region…as far as I was concerned, a new world. I’ve been virtually everywhere, from the famous game corner of Celadon City to the underground gambling clubs of Orre, and everywhere else in between. My dad believed that since life was so short and uncertain, you should live it to its fullest. He made sure I was raised following this same philosophy as well. He home schooled me all my life, teaching me as we traveled. He also made me a student of gambling. He taught me every card game he knew, including a couple he came up with himself. He taught me the value of having some kind of lucky charm, because the mentality of thinking you have enhanced luck can up your concentration on the game.
My father wasn’t a drinker, or drug user, or anything like that. He was very respectable, much more than the usual slime you find at the card tables. He had values, and rules he set for himself. He wasn’t brilliant, but he had a certain wisdom about life, and he did his best to pass that along to me.
Fast-forward to last year. I was 18, and we had come here to Sootopolis. A gambling corner had just opened there, and my dad decided that was a good reason to return to my birthplace. We had stayed there for a couple weeks, renting a small house on the towns northern end, when I found two policemen at the door. My father, they said, had been shot dead at the game corner, right at the poker table. He had just won big, and some drunk guy he was playing with didn’t like that at all. He pulled out a pistol and sent two shots into my father - one in his neck, a second just above his left eye. Apparently he had shot someone else too, who wasn’t even involved. But that didn’t matter. Nothing mattered to me then except that my father, the man who had taught me everything I knew, had died.
The next few months were a blurry hell. I stayed in the apartment my father and I had rented, living on legal aid. I lived without a purpose, save for gambling. But not even that, which had been my fathers very reason for life, was enough. I was no longer the student, but I wasn’t ready to be the master of my own life. That was the one thing my father had never taught me how to do.
Then, about five months ago, it happened. I was walking the shore near the center of the town, not too far from the little island where the gym sat, when I noticed something floating in the water. At first I thought it was nothing but debris, but then noticed it had fins, that stroked the water slowly. It was small, round, and pale blue, and I realized it was a Pokemon. A chinchou. It looked sick, with eyes barely open and antennae glowing a very faint orange. I had seen Chinchou before, as they were local to the area, and there was something not at all right about this one.
What I did next, I’m not sure why I did. I reached out and gently scooped the creature out of the water, cradling it in my arms. I looked at it as it squirmed weakly. It was probably trying to fight, but was too weak to do so. I ran it to the Pokemon center, and got it looked at. Whatever was wrong with it, they managed to heal it easily. I remember sitting in the waiting room, waiting to hear that it was okay, not sure why I was even there. It was just a wild Chinchou.
After what felt like hours, a nurse approached me from a door behind the service desk. “Sir, your Chinchou is doing fine. Thank you for bringing it in, he was in bad condition but we have him resting now. He’ll be fine in no time.”
Hearing those words filled me with more happiness than I realized I was still capable of feeling. Something about the way she said it… “YOUR chinchou…” The idea of having something to call my own again was astounding. I felt obligated to take to take the little guy in, but now I realize that the obligation was just an excuse. Deep inside, I wanted a purpose again.
And so I gave myself one. I named the Chinchou Checkers, and cared for him for months. When the news came of the mainland becoming safe once more, I decided to sign up as a trainer. Checkers had given me a new purpose, and I was excited to accept whatever came with it.
Checkers is awake now, swimming slow circles around his tank. I watch him as I pour myself coffee, my eyes following his bobbing antennae as he bobs around. Over the last month I joined a local trainers club, leaned all I could to prepare both of us for what’s to come. I battled with the other locals, and got Checkers strong enough to hold his own.
He makes a little coo, pausing in his swimming to stare at me. “You ready, bud?” I ask. “Todays the day.” He splashes about, and returns to swimming laps.
I step outside. The front door of the apartment is affixed to a large deck that encompasses several other buildings, all owned by the same lady. The deck leads a ways out, standing a ways above the steep cliff stairways that lead down into the central area of the town, with a stairway leading down to its edge. I can’t see the sunrise yet, blocked by the tall grey rock that surrounds on all sides. I walk to the edge of the deck, from where I can get a good view of the harbor far below. A large ship sits at the dock, with people and Pokemon rushing to load it with cargo. From way up here they look tiny.
Today’s the day. Over the last month or two, I realized that maybe it was a good thing that my father left my life, as untimely as it was. If he had lived, we would’ve just kept traveling. This way, I got to discover a new path, new ambition…something new to do with my life. I respect the size and scale of my fathers footprints, but I no longer care about following in them. My life is my own…and this is where it really begins.
Shattered Gemstones is (c) Jay Petrequin, 2011