The Great Zucchini
by Jerry Guarino
Farmer Paul Ciccilini beamed with pride as he watched the judge place a third-place ribbon on his entry, a perfectly grown zucchini; this was an accomplishment worth celebrating. Paul took the vegetable and ribbon, along with a $100 cash prize, out into the hot Las Vegas sun.
Paul decided to bet the money at a casino, have a little fun. He traded his cash for twenty, five-dollar chips, colorful little pieces of plastic that he carried with deliberate speed to one of the blackjack tables.
Paul sat down around the semicircular table between three other players. An old man, a college coed, and a woman in her forties.
“Place your bet, son. It’s five dollars minimum.”
Paul placed one of his chips in front of him. The dealer distributed the cards.
The dealer turned over his cards, a nine and a seven. Sixteen, the dealer had to draw another card. Another nine, busted and Paul won. He thought that he would lose all his chips in a few minutes but this was a surprise.
Paul kept winning. When he had accumulated a few thousand dollars’ worth of chips, one of the floor security men approached to see if Paul was counting cards.
“Doing very well, sir. Would you like a drink on the house?” Casinos liked it when players drank; it disrupted their concentration.
“Maybe a diet cola.”
Paul went back to playing. The security man walked out of his vision, but he signaled to the corner ceiling where others watched the players with video cameras. In a soft voice, he said, “Keep an eye on this one.” And they did, as Paul continued to win. When Paul’s winnings climbed to ten thousand dollars, the dealer announced his table was closed.
“You can move your winnings to another table, sir. I’ll get security to help.” They moved Paul to a higher-stakes table. One hundred dollars a bet. His five-dollar chips were exchanged for one hundred-dollar chips, but Paul had over a hundred of these now.
The players here looked more serious, like real gamblers. He sat down with his winnings and placed a one-hundred dollar chip in front of him. They ignored Paul.
Paul continued to win, but the money accelerated that much faster. Before long he had close to fifty thousand dollars in front of him and a new friend. A sexy woman, in her twenties, had sidled up to him and began giving him a light massage.
“Hey, lover. My name is Desiree. What’s yours?”
Paul looked over this woman, way out of his league. “Paul.”
“You’re doing very well, Paul. Think you might like to take a break and relax?”
When would he have another chance to bed anyone as fine as she? He whispered to her, “Where?”
“Oh, I have a room here.” Just then, Desiree noticed a bulge in Paul’s pants. “My, you seem to have a stiffy. Do you like me?”
She was referring to the zucchini stuffed down his left front pocket. He pulled it out. “I do, dear, but this is just a vegetable I won at the farmers’ competition earlier.”
“You won a vegetable?”
“No, I meant my vegetable won an award.” He showed her the ribbon. “See.”
“Oh, all right.” Desiree pretended this was normal.
Security exchanged his chips for cash, fifty-one thousand dollars in neat one hundred-dollar bills.
Desiree’s room was clean and romantic, with dozens of flowers, and bowls of fruit.
“Why don’t I freshen up?” She glanced over her shoulder and smiled as she headed to the bathroom.
Paul opened a bottle of champagne. When she returned, Desiree was wearing a red chemise with matching panties, and her long, dark hair was positioned over her breasts. Her beautiful bare feet were skillfully polished in red as well.
“Paul, let’s make you a little more comfortable.” She undressed him down to his boxer briefs.
They clinked glasses and drank. She sat on his lap and fed him strawberries while massaging his neck. “I love fruit and champagne, don’t you?”
Paul could only muster a smile and nod. He was totally under her spell.
Desiree took a remote and put on some smooth jazz. Then she turned the lights off and lit a few candles.
“Would you like to join me in bed, lover?”
They made love for an hour.
“Guess we should call it a night.” He had said too much.
“But Paul, there’s a late Cirque show next door. We have time to catch dinner and see it.”
An actual date.
“I’d like that.”
When the show was over, Paul walked her back to her room. Still confused about what to do next, he confessed.
“Desiree, this has been the best time of my life. You are the best lover I’ve ever been with, by far. But I don’t know...”
“What this should cost?”
“Whatever you think is fair, lover.”
Paul took out his packet of hundreds and peeled off five thousand dollars. He handed it to her and gave her a quizzical look.
She smiled and took his hand. “Why don’t you stay here tonight?”
In the morning, Desiree told Paul she was going out for a run and to take his time. “I ordered breakfast for you, lover.”
Not wanting to overstay his welcome, Paul got dressed and left. He noticed that she didn’t take any more of his money, but the zucchini was gone. Well, he still had the ribbon.
He decided to try his luck one more time. He sat down at the hundred-dollar black jack table. But something was wrong. He began to lose and before long had exhausted most of the money he had left. It had been an adventure, and he had already decided that the money was found anyway.
As he left the casino, he saw Desiree at another table, with a large collection of chips in front of her. She didn’t see him, but he noticed something next to her drink: the great zucchini!
Copyright © 2019 by Jerry Guarino