Much has been written about the regenerative powers of the Phoenix, the myth of the fire bird. As the story goes, the Phoenix will burst into flame just before death so that it can rise from the ashes to a new life. I have not seen this ever happen in real life. But I have heard testimonies that this has in fact occurred. In Vegas. Let me elaborate.
If you’ve read any of my stories, you will know that my mother, Elizabeth, was something of an adventuress in spirit. She would bridge the inconsistent spans of responsibility with reckless flights of fantasy and spontaneity. Flights to Hawaii, flights to San Francisco, flights to Las Vegas. She did have a knack for card counting, which applied to life as well as blackjack.
Her fourth husband, let’s call him Bob, was something of a wildcat too. He was heavily involved in activities which eventually landed him on an FBI list. There were often stacks of cash and guns hiding in the apartment. I was regularly quizzed on what I would say if captured by the authorities. I found out later that most of the cash was for bail money. It was NOT for Vegas. I bet you can see where this is going.
One weekend when a get-out-of-jail card was actually needed, Elizabeth decided that she would make a short stop in Vegas on the way over to the bondsman. The plan was simple; parlay the bail money by playing some blackjack. Sure; He gets out of jail, she still has some cash, everybody wins. She talked her brother and sister, Jimmy and Suzie, into renting a two-prop puddle jumper with a pilot, grabbing a bottle of tequila for luck I suppose, and flying over to the flashy lights in the middle of the desert. I hear the ride over was pretty fun, given that the pilot was also drinking the tequila. So much fun, what lucky people.
She quickly lost the money. And it was thousands. Bob would not be happy. And he had friends who would not be happy either. The realization sunk in that this trip may have been suicide for all of them, including the pilot. But then, down to her last few dollars, Elizabeth began to focus and count. She slowly began to win it back, churning and stashing, churning and stashing. She kept this up for hours, and goddamn it if she didn’t win the whole thing back.
The flight home was pretty miserable with the vomiting and all. The storm was bad, the plane a metal toy in the rain and wind, subject to bursts of weather, making severe drops along the way. Perhaps it was the hangovers, perhaps it was the white knuckle ride, but the group didn’t speak the whole way home. Once the plane landed, they lumbered onto the tarmac queasy, angry and silent.
Silent except for the shriek of a Phoenix rising out of the shadow of the gray wet plane. She went almost too far, but found her way back. I don’t know how she did it, but Elizabeth always seemed to find her way back.