The Toss

The Toss

“You’re late.”

Zane plumped down on the seat across from the man who had spoken. His hair was graying and there were wrinkles around his mouth, but his eyes crackled with an energy one only got from surviving on the streets.

“It’s called making a dramatic entrance,” Zane told the aging man. “Not that I would expect you to understand.”

His interlocutor ignored his comment. “I want my money back, boy.” His face flushed with anger. “I didn’t loan it to you so that you could dig yourself into a hole and drag me down with you.”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” Zane clicked his tongue. “Anger isn’t a very attractive emotion on you, did you know that? Have you tried meditating, like I suggested to you last time we met?”

The old man clenched his fists. “Might I remind you that I have a decent life, while you are a beggar who lives under a blanket propped on sticks? I would think twice about being impertinent with me if I were you!”

Zane straightened up. “I’m not a beggar, I’m a magician.” 

“Bah, even worse! Anyone with a decent head on their shoulders can figure out your cheap tricks. Even children who barely know how to write their own names know that magic isn’t real.”

Keep telling yourself that, old man. Keep telling yourself that.

“Regardless of your reservations against my occupation,” Zane said, “I have a better deal to offer you.”

The moneylender raised his eyebrows. “Oh,” he said, looking slightly interested. 

Zane placed a single coin on the table between them. “A toss,” he said. “We take turns flipping this coin twelve times — and if you win even once, I’ll pay you double. But,” Zane smiled slightly, “lose all twelve of the tosses, and I’m off the hook about the loan.”

The moneylender let his words sink in for a few seconds, and then threw his head back and laughed. “Knew you’d lose your head one day, boy,” he shook his head, “All that trash you pilfer and eat from the dump is finally getting to your brain.”

So he thinks I get my food from the dump? Zane thought with amusement. Nevertheless, he showed no reaction to the old man’s words and patiently waited for him to finish laughing. He shook his head once again and shook Zane’s hand more vigorously than he would have otherwise done. “You got yourself a deal, boy,” he said, eyes full of greed.

Zane reached for the coin he had placed on the table, but the moneylender blocked his hand. “Not so fast,” he gave him a crooked grin, “We’re using one of my coins. I wasn’t born yesterday, you know.”

Zane expected this. Coins designed to always land on a particular side weren’t uncommon among conmen; he would be a fool not to be suspicious.

He took out a penny from his wallet as Zane asked, “Heads or tails?”

“It doesn’t really matter at this point,” the moneylender replied. 

“Heads it is.”

The old man flipped the coin, and it landed on the table, tails facing up.

Zane and the man made eye contact, but he seemed undeterred by the results. He was still convinced that he would win.

He maintained the same expression during the next few tosses. Only when the coin landed on tails the seventh time in a row did the old man start shifting uncomfortably in his seat. 

Zane’s turn to flip. “Tails,” he announced yet again, and the moneylender began to sweat. He decided that particular coin was bad luck and swapped it for another, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. 

When the old man lost for the eleventh time, he let out a frustrated groan. Zane picked the coin up; this last toss was the difference between victory and failure. 

He tossed it; and flipped in the air one, two, three times before landing on his palm. The moneylender peered at it eagerly, hands writing together in anticipation.

It had landed on tails.

Zane leaned back in his chair with a satisfied smirk on his face, while the moneylender stared at the coin, white faced. “How is this possible?” He muttered. Zane slid the coin towards the speechless man and got up, tipping his cap towards him. “Well, it was a pleasure doing business with you, old man,” he grinned, turning his back on him and walking out of the bar.

Magic isn’t real, indeed…
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