Once I came to Vegas with a vegan friend. We ate at the Bellagio buffet and all he could do was stare at tourists in disgust. Fat people consuming and consuming. Sometimes people would fill two trays at a time and bring them back to their table. He found something to eat — sauteed vegetables, salad, marinated mushrooms and olives and peppers. I was finishing my mini creme brulee when he took one of the keno slips out of the plastic container in the middle of the table.
“You’re playing keno?” I asked.
He hadn’t gambled since we’d arrived. He watched me play blackjack, and he ordered bloody marys, and tried to make small talk with thin, attractive strangers, but he didn’t play.
“No,” he said, and turned the keno paper over to the blank side. He used one of those little black keno pencils to write. I looked over. Fat, greedy Americans. You consume and consume. You’re the problem with this country. He folded the paper and put it back in the container. Then he took out another one: What a sad spectacle. You’re spending what little money you have trying to make more. And you keep feeding the machines like addicts. Ever think of helping someone with that money? He folded that paper and put it back in the tray.
I guess the woman in charge of collecting the slips had been watching us because she came right over.
“Keno?” she said with that big Las Vegas smile.
“No,” I said, and she walked to the next table. “Keno? Keno?”
“You can’t leave those there,” I said to my friend.
“Yes I can,” he said.
Later that night I played blackjack for hours, winning and then losing. He stayed at the bar, trying to talk about revolutions with drunk sunburned tourists.
The next day we drove home. We sang country songs the whole way. I kept the AC on high.