Tom slid his finger against the nap of the green felt and flipped a chip between his fingers so it rested on it's narrow edge. The chip was made of clear plastic, with a mechanism ticking away inside. It was a live thing, attached to his account, counting, seeping away.
"Your turn," said the man across the table from him, the gambler, nodding his nose and nudging his black sunglasses down, revealing piercing brown eyes.
Tom flicked the chip into the pot.
"You sure?" said the gambler. "That's your last chip."
"I'm sure," said Tom, swallowing hard. He looked down at the cards in his had. The queen of hearts winked back. All the rest were low number cards, clubs and spades.
"I guess your time is up," snickered the croupier. He sat between Tom and and the gambler. Tom looked at him, raising an eyebrow.
"My time's been up for a while now," said Tom.
"I'll see your bet," said the gambler, tossing in one of his chips. "You don't seem to have a lot of confidence."
"Maybe you think I'm here to win."
Tom stared at the gambler. The croupier creaked in his chair, leaning back, watching the pair.
"I lost something...someone. I thought I'd get rid of my time."
"All of it?" asked the gambler. "Not just this game--"
"Those were my last few minutes," said Tom, nodding at the pot.
A muscle in the gambler's cheek twitched.
"Well boys, you have to reveal your hands," said the croupier.
Tom laid down the queen, face up, then spread out the rest of his hand.
"No score. High card is the queen of hearts. And you?" asked the croupier of the gambler expectantly.
The gambler was motionless, staring at Tom.
"Sir, your hand..." prompted the croupier.
The gambler laid his cards down in a small stack, face down.
"I withdraw," he said. "I refuse to expend anyone's life. It's nothing personal."
The gambler shoved the entire pot towards Tom. Then stood up, running his fingers through his hair.
"I can't..." said Tom, staring at the pot.
"Don't be so dramatic," said the gambler. "So you lost someone you loved. So go do something with your life. Live the life they didn't have. Whatever you choose. Don't waste it here."
The gambler walked behind the croupier and then stood next to Tom, and gently placed his hand on Tom's shoulder.
"I only play fair games, and your life is not a game. Have a good day."
The gambler left the room. Tom tapped his fingers then slowly reached out, scooping the pot towards him.
"You know how much that's worth? With all the other players out now?" asked the croupier. Tom didn't respond. "It's got to be two hundred years at least. You've won big."
"Have I?" asked Tom. "Go see if there are any other takers. I'm ready to play again."
The croupier stood up, shaking his head, and left the room. Alone, Tom leaned forward and rested his head against the pile of ticking chips and began to sob.