WRIT LARGE: Ch 14, Part 3
Pair O’ Dice
Hey there, I’m Rand Leeb-du Toit and these are my novels and poems.
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“You’ve already met,” says Loui Lim, shaking Jeff’s hand. He looks a little glum, like the child who wanted to score the first goal of the match and lost out to his brother.
“We were admiring your rhythm,” says Jeff, glancing at Olivia.
“And this is Olivia,” says Loui Lim. “She is PA to Bernard Arnault, well that is until I headhunt her to come work for me.”
Jeff pulls Olivia in for a hug and says, “They’re used to getting their own way, but I’m sure you can use that to your advantage. Jeff Probst.”
“Oh my God,” she squeals. “From the telly. Survivor.”
“Uh-huh. Are you a fan?”
“Who isn’t? I would love to take part in the show. I love how it brings out people’s survival instinct, you know, makes them realise their strengths. Something we’re not called upon to do in real life while we’re glued to a laptop.”
Jeff reaches into his pocket and pulls out a business card. “Drop me an email – I’ll see what I can do.”
Olivia examines the card as though it’s a winning lottery ticket. Her grin says it all.
“Hey,” says Loui Lim. “No poaching our newest recruit to the business, Jeff. You need to wait in line.”
“Well,” says Jeff, his gaze flitting between me and Olivia who is still holding the card in front of her face, “how would you both feel about coming camping with me and a few cast members tomorrow? One night. I promise you’ll come back in one piece, if riddled with insect bites. I’ll bring repellent.” His smile is wide and genuine, and I realise how effortlessly we’ve been drawn into conversation with him. Anyone who thinks being a TV presenter is a comfortable role should think again; this takes charisma and people skills, which don’t materialise overnight.
Olivia swallows and her smile fades. “I’m flying back to Paris with Bernard tomorrow.” It’s obvious that she would relish the opportunity to camp out overnight with Jeff Probst.
“Tell him that you’ve been offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Loui Lim. “I’ll speak to him myself. You can take our private jet in a couple of days.”
She smiles at Loui Lim. “That’s very generous, but I think I should go back. Gabin is homesick and his mum is having a rough time with her divorce.” Her eyes widen. “Maybe I shouldn’t have said that, oops. But anyway, I can’t let Gabin down.”
“Who is Gabin?” Jeff asks.
“Bernard’s grandson. He’s still a child and it was his mum’s birthday today.”
“But you’re a PA, right?” asks Jeff. “Not a childminder.”
“Exactly,” says Loui Lim. “You said that you didn’t want to follow in your mother’s footsteps. Drink up.”
Olivia grins at them. “This is my last glass,” she says. “I mean it.”
“You’ll come though?” Jeff asks me.
I say that this entire trip has been one long continuous surprise for me and that I would love to accompany him on his top-secret camping expedition.
“Where are you going?” asks Loui Lim.
“Top-secret. That was the giveaway,” says Jeff.
“You can tell us,” says Loui Lim. “We have no media contacts whatsoever.” He grins and downs his champagne, immediately refilling the glass.
“I’m sworn to secrecy, guys, sorry.” Jeff shrugs. “I can promise you it’s going to be special though.”
Olivia is quiet and I ask if she is contemplating delaying her return and how she feels Bernard would react to her request.
“I have some holidays to take,” she says. “Ask me again when I’ve finished my drink.”
Loui Lim drags Olivia away to dance with him again while Keong Hui mingles with some guests; he appears to be on first-name terms with everyone here.
Jeff shakes his head. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they have a little wager on who can headhunt her first. Bright girl,” he says. “It’ll be a shame if she doesn’t join us tomorrow.”
I tell him that on this trip, anything is possible, and that he shouldn’t dismiss her yet.
When Keong Hui returns, he suggests that we head to the casino. “I want you to see this,” he says. “My father and I are extremely proud of it. It is the thing that I am most disappointed to leave behind, but also the thing that has spurred me onto greater ideas with Zouk. It is in my blood.”
When we enter the casino, Keong Hui and Loui Lim, purchase a stack of chips for each of us. “Don’t be shy,” says Keong Hui. “I do not wish to think that you are holding back because you are scared to lose. Tonight is all about enjoying life. Win. Lose. Laugh.”
“Wow,” says Olivia. “This is the first time I’ve ever held a chip in my hand. How much is this worth?”
“A lot of money,” says Loui Lim. “Or not. It is unimportant.”
“They’re right,” Jeff agrees. “Life is about letting go and following new paths. You gotta live your life like it’s one great big adventure.”
“Who said that?” Olivia narrows her eyes. “Someone famous.”
“I think you’ll find it was me.” Jeff shuffles the chips in his hands and flashes us that famous smile.
“Life is about letting go and following new paths. You gotta live your life like it’s one great big adventure.”
The casino is, if possible, even more impressive than the nightclub. The open-plan space is vast, with a high ceiling designed to represent the sky, and the whole general gaming area is natural and earthy, but utterly luxurious. We all stop to soak up the dramatic effect.
“It was designed to bring the outside in,” says Keong Hui. “To entice people to forget that they are inside a casino.”
I ask if that encourages people to spend more money.
“Got it in one,” says Loui Lim.
“But we like to think that the experience is about more than winning or losing money,” adds Keong Hui. “It is exciting, welcoming, alive. Some people come here not to spend money, but simply to enjoy watching others. Take the roulette.” He gestures at a roulette table close to where we are standing. “There is no skill involved, yet people are caught up in the excitement of beating the wheel.”
“A bit like waiting for your bingo numbers to be called,” says Olivia. She heads straight for the roulette, closely followed by Jeff and me. It seems that her winning streak is not confined to doubles-poker as she soon increases her stack of chips, while mine slowly dwindles. I ask how she does it.
“What did I tell you?” she asks.
“It’s because she takes risks,” says Jeff. “She doesn’t play it safe. Try it.”
With the next round, I spread my remaining chips liberally across the board, placing them in higher-stakes positions, and am delighted to find that my winnings are almost double the amount placed.
“Fact of life,” says Jeff.
We wander over to the Blackjack table to find Keong Hui and Loui Lim. They both still have a sizable amount of chips, but Loui Lim appears to have overtaken his brother as we arrive to watch. “I’m raising the stakes,” Loui Lim tells us. “Keong Hui has lost the last few hands and is starting to sweat.”
“Raise them as high as you like, my brother,” says Keong Hui. “We’ll see who comes out on top.” Keong Hui loses the next hand, and his chips are moved across the table to Loui Lim.
“Ready to accept defeat?” Loui Lim asks.
Keong Hui shakes his head. “You know me better than that.”
Loui Lim continues to win and with his success, he grows louder and more confident, suggesting increasingly higher stakes until eventually he places all his chips onto the table and Keong Hui is forced to obtain more.
Olivia leans close to me and whispers, “Watch him clean up now.”
We, and several other people, are fixated on the next hand. Olivia claps when Keong Hui wins, and the small fortune is pushed his way, leaving his younger brother with nothing.
“Like I said, you gotta take risks,” says Jeff.
Keong Hui shakes his brother’s hand and walks away from the table leaving the chips behind. “Same time again tomorrow,” he says.
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It seems like after each chapter I always find myself wishing I was one of these characters on this journey. I can't imagine what it would feel like to be swept away on someone's private jet or asked to join the host of Survivor on a camping trip. I love that the genre of this is autofictional because it always has me wondering if these events or other characters are real or not.
Love it, particularly the eco casino. I'd say the Rule of Three is the fact of life - but we all have different numbers that work for us - hence the entire field of numerology (a Chinese concept relating to the iChing/ascribing good and evil to numbers as I suspect you already know) - and related concepts (cosmic/sacred geometry etc).
2 is an interesting number choice as it's the number of fortune (and the moon) linguistially/sign-wise similar to 'easy'/prosper.
I find the cross cultural lore of three fascinating too - may be of interest if you haven't looked into it. In numerology it's the number of life/living, thinking of someone and missing them - though is ambiguous as it can also mean 'parting of ways/separation as well as representing Life in the life stages of birth, marriage and death, and the planet Jupiter. Triple headed goddesses appear across many cultures and 3 is also reflected in the holy trinity etc. FYI, 6 - 3x2 - is the number for flow/to stream.
Again, as you probably know, numbers bringing luck is a concept often used when naming businesses - in Hong Kong the government even auctions off' car number plates that are deemed auspicious.
There is so much meaning to be found in numbers - I find them as fascinating as words and a valuable tool for conveying meaning in writing, beyond surface interpretations, hence the depth of response to a single line in this chapter. Looking forward to the next chapter.