Daily Prompt: A Game of Chance

I wandered the midway in search of something new and less dusty and moth-eaten than the games and “entertainment” I had seen over the last half-century; I was convinced that every game of toss, every amusement ride, every cart-ride pusher, and every game hawker was exactly in the same place, exactly the same age, and shared the exact same invitation as they did when I was a kid who loved the boardwalk. Except one.

“Young lady; yes, you,” his words oozed across the weather-beaten wood and pooled at my ankles. I glanced at his faded tent, set up half-way between the newest casino and the oldest souvenir shop at the middle of the midway. I was sure there was some point to that placement but didn’t want to ponder it too hard. I looked at him, the ageless fortune-teller or whatever he was and he smiled in a way that drew me but creeped me out at the same time. “Yes,” he motioned, “come here; I want to show you something.”

I stepped out of the line of southern-bound traffic and cautiously approached his table, which I noticed was empty except for one bottle. I squinted at it and gasped: it had my name on it. “What is that?” I broke the cardinal rule of the midway–never engage in conversation with the merchant unless you are prepared to be parted with at least a tiny sum of whatever cash you have in your pocket. The worst part about time moving on was that claiming to not have cash was no longer a deterrent; every merchant on the midway carried one of those portable card-swipers or the thing that attached to a mobile phone to take payments.

His smile became far too wide and as he said my name, the sound of it oozed more thickly and settled at my knees, which were suddenly cold. I took a step backward at its touch. “No need to be wary, Andree’; this is an elixir I mixed especially for you. I do that for all my customers, you see.”

“But I’m not your customer; I’m visiting from out of town.”

“But of course you are; why else would you be my customer?” He wasn’t easily phased or put off. ” Wouldn’t you like to try it? It will enhance one of your senses but be warned, it will dull the others.”

I frowned. “Which sense will it enhance?”

It wasn’t possible but his smile seemed to get even wider; I think he really thought he had this fish on his hook. “That is for you and the elixir to work out; it is different for everyone.”

I was on to him, but wanted to see how far I could go. “I suppose if I were to take it, I’d like to have my sight enhanced,” I gently touched the edge of my glasses, “since my eyesight changes year by year.” This seemed to please him. “Or,” I countered, “I could enhance my hearing, since it may begin to fail me as I grow older.”

He was pleased by both my answers. “Well, my friend, since only you and the elixir can make the choice,” he pushed the bottle toward me slightly–just enough for the sheen of its contents to glint in the setting sun, “you can explore all you wish for a mere $10.”

It was my turn to smile, and evidently by the merchant’s reaction, it was a good one. “I think I’ll pass.”

His countenance suddenly darkened but quickly he regained his composure. “But why? Your reasons for wanting to try the elixir are good! A sip and you shall have what you seek!” He had instantly become desperate and I wondered if the physical effects of my turning him down were already impacting him.

“Ah, but dear friend,” I used his tactic, “I believe if I take this elixir, the one who gets what they seek is you.” He looked horrified. “Yes, that’s it, isn’t it? If I drink that, the one sense I choose will be enhanced, but the others will dull. For me. But you,” I pointed a sharp accusatory index finger at him, which drew a wince, “on the other hand, will experience an enhancement of all the senses that dulled for me. That’s it, correct?”

The merchant looked ready to explode. “We will meet again, Andree’ and next time you might not be so lucky.” He and his tent vanished without the customary puff of smoke, but the smell of sulfur remained in my nostrils well after I’d made it back to my hotel.

Today’s Daily Prompt did not ask for all that. Well, it sort of did, in a way.

You encounter a mysterious man offering you a magic potion that, once sipped, will make one of your senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch) super sharp — but dull the others. Will you sip it, and if so, what sense do you choose?

There is no way I would give up any of my senses. I’m feeble enough in my present state.

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