How , he wondered , does one enjoy one's spare time ? ?
He considered some interesting excursion but he was on the road every day from dawn to dusk .
Then there was exercise , boating and hiking , which was not only good for you but also made you more virile : the thought of strenuous activity left him exhausted .
Perhaps golf , with a fashionable companion -- but he'd lost his clubs , hadn't played in years .
There was swimming over at the Riverside Hotel , but his skin was so white he looked like the bottom of a frog .
Perhaps a packing trip into the Sierras , let his beard grow -- but that was too stark .
I could , he thought , take a long walk -- but where ? ?
The telephone rang .
`` You missed it '' , Buzz's voice said , `` You should have gone over to the Pagan Room with us .
Strippers , but scrumptious , and Toodle Williams and her all-lesbian band '' .
`` Hi , Buzz '' , Owen said .
`` I went over to the Willows and dropped two notes '' .
`` Tough '' , Buzz said , `` Listen , we're having a stag dinner over at the Pagan Room on Friday .
Imagine a stag dinner with Toodle Williams '' .
He laughed and laughed .
Owen wanted to be pleasant because Buzz worked the territory next to his , but he hadn't come to Reno for stag dinners .
`` Thanks '' , Owen said , `` but Friday is a long way off and anything can happen '' .
Buzz was a tireless instigator who never let his victims rest .
When Owen was finally rid of him , there was a timid rap at the door .
`` Yes '' , Owen called out .
`` Yes '' ? ?
`` I'm Mrs. Gertrude Parker '' , a soft voice explained , `` And I'd like to talk to you for a few minutes , please '' .
Ahah , he thought , a lush divorcee at last .
Probably saw me in the lobby .
He was disappointed to find a nervous , scrawny woman with a big hat standing at the door .
She frowned at his green pajamas with the yellow moons .
`` How do you do '' ? ?
She said , semi-professionally .
`` Our church is sponsoring a group of very courageous women up in Alaska .
We call them lay-sisters and they go among the Eskimos making friends and bringing the light .
They're up there in that freezing climate and all of us have to try and help them '' .
`` Oh '' ? ?
`` You see '' , she said , looking past him into the room , where the highball glasses sparkled dully in the bright light , `` you and I can't understand the many hardships they have to undergo '' .
`` Why is that '' ? ?
She apparently wasn't satisfied with his reaction .
Smug , Owen thought , smug and sappy .
There was a slight nervous twitch in the region of her left eye .
It gave her a lewd , winking effect .
`` Have you ever tried to reason with an Eskimo '' ? ?
She asked , winking wildly .
`` They are a very difficult group of people '' .
`` I don't know much about them '' , Owen admitted , `` but I suppose they have their own religion and they probably resent outsiders coming in and telling them what to do and what not to do '' .
She smiled in a sickly-tolerant fashion .
`` You know , that's very interesting .
People don't know how much they give away about themselves by remarks like that .
The more canvassing I do , the more I note how far most people are from their personal God '' .
Forebearing , Owen kept his peace .
What would happen next ? ?
That she was out for a touch was certain , but when did she get to the pitch ? ?
Several people passed in the hall and stared as he slowly retreated , trying to close the door a little , and she slowly leaned toward him and raised her voice .
`` How did you get by the desk '' ? ?
He asked curiously .
`` I'm sure the hotel doesn't know you're wandering around the corridors , knocking on strangers' doors and talking down Eskimos '' .
`` Oh , I just come once a week .
Every day I visit a different hotel .
I feel it's my duty .
I do this work all on my own , because I understand the difficulties and I want to help these lay-sisters .
Do you know these women go all through Alaska , and they don't have the proper facilities ? ?
They travel in pairs as much as a hundred-and-fifty miles a day '' .
`` Do you have any idea how far I travel every day ? ?
I have the whole Pacific Northwest '' .
Owen was aware he was getting overexcited but he couldn't help himself .
Mrs. Gertrude Parker drew back .
`` That's hardly a Christian approach '' , she remonstrated .
`` You're in the secular world '' .
`` I didn't say it was Christian .
I don't think you'll find many active Christian salesmen .
Not that religion isn't big business ; ;
those bibles and prayer books make a lot of money for publishing houses , but they don't get top personnel .
Our key salesmen are in appliances and cosmetics '' .
`` God , I take it , plays no part in this '' , she said waspishly .
`` God doesn't have any appliance or cosmetics '' , he said heatedly before he caught himself .
It sounded silly ; ;
why go on ? ?
More people were passing ; ;
he had to find some way to close this impossible conversation .
`` And whiskey '' , she said , smiling and blinking at the highball glasses .
`` Don't forget whiskey ; ;
it's such a big seller '' .
`` You know '' , he said , getting a grip on himself , `` I think you're going to have to excuse me .
I have an appointment '' .
`` I can imagine '' , she said .
`` Probably down at the bar .
But what do you want to do about the lay-sisters ? ?
They must be freezing up there now .
Can't you help them '' ? ?
`` Leave a card or something .
I'll think it over '' .
`` I have no card '' , she said bitterly .
`` You haven't been listening to what I've been telling you .
I only hope my talking to you has helped you a little , anyway , because you need spiritual bucking-up '' .
She looked crestfallen , as if he had somehow disappointed the whole human race .
She stood indecisively for a moment , then walked down the hall ; ;
he heard her knocking on another door .
It took him about fifteen minutes to calm himself ; ;
then he realized he was hungry .
He showered , shaved , dressed and went down to the dining room for breakfast .
On the way he stopped at the desk to receive his mail .
There was a check from his company , and the usual enthusiastic bulletins on new lines they always issued .
His lawyer had sent him a statement on his overdue alimony , and there was a letter from the Collector of Internal Revenue asking him to stop in his office and explain last year's exemptions .
He ate breakfast in a sullen mood , but afterwards , when he walked out onto Virginia Street , he felt braced .
He looked off to the crest of the Sierras , still white-topped ; ;
the glisten of the Truckee River made a wide spangle .
He felt suddenly elated , adventurous .
With any luck at all he could easily find a flowerpot .
Although it was only three o'clock , he stopped in at the Golden Calf .
The tables were all spinning , the dice rattling , the bar crowded .
Just to test himself , he played roulette for quarters on his old combination , five and seventeen , and within an hour , he had won , surprisingly , twenty dollars .
The way was opening up ; ;
when the management brought around champagne , the breakfast settled its whirling around in his stomach .
The Golden Calf was dimly lit with shaded neon .
There were more women than men in the place , but he couldn't find a flowerpot .
They all had the hard look of gamblers who had stopped dreaming , who automatically turned the cards , hardly caring what showed up .
The mural around the wall depicted early settlers in covered wagons , who appeared much more animated than the gamblers .
The women had a bright shining expectancy as they leaned out from the wall and gazed splendidly into the distance , while the men were stern but hopeful .
All , of course , except the Donner party who were bent on starving to death .
`` I wonder if they did eat each other at the end '' , Owen mused .
He sat down next to a heavily-upholstered blonde , but she was cleaned out in twenty minutes .
She sighed a dirty word and left .
Owen was surprised to see Mrs. Gertrude Parker playing the one-arm bandits that were cunningly arranged by the entrance .
She sat down and played two slots at once , looking grim , as if bested by mechanical devices , and Owen felt sorry for the lay-sisters depending on her support .
A dried-up cowboy sat down next to him in the blonde's place .
He was a little more authentic than usual because he smelled slightly of the stables .
`` What you need is a steady martingale '' , the cowboy announced after watching Owen play .
`` You can't build on your hit-and-miss five-seventeen '' .
`` What are you playing '' ? ?
Owen asked .
`` I'm just logging '' , the cowboy explained .
`` I keep all these plays in this little black book , and I watch over a twelve-hour period to find out what numbers are repeating .
But roulette's not my game .
I'm always trying to find a breaking table in blackjack .
Incidentally , I'm pretty famous in these parts : I'm called The Wrangler '' .
`` Nice to know you .
Don't you have to spend any time on your ranch '' ? ?
`` Well , of course I do .
I'm with the Bar-H , pushing a horse called Sparky .
He's my own horse , and what I collect from him I use on blackjack .
This Sparky can rack and single-foot and he's the fastest thing in Washoe County .
I figure if I can get any kind of publicity campaign going , I'll land him on TV -- you know , one of those favorite horses for some Western hero .
I once trained a horse for Hoot Gibson , but nothing like Sparky .
He's a pinto and he photographs wonderfully '' .
Five came up while Owen was listening to The Wrangler and he neglected to play , a loss of ten dollars .
This proved conclusively that The Wrangler was a jinx , so he walked on down to Hurrays , an even more glorified gambling den than the Golden Calf .
When he looked in the back , Mrs. Gertrude Parker was marking keno cards .
His adventurous spirit had waned ; ;
he studied the pistol exhibition that Hurrays featured as an added attraction .
He ogled a long redhead with green eyes , but she was a shill with her money in front of her .
He had no great prejudice against shills ; ;
it just seemed such a dry run .
There was no cash around ; ;
everyone was flipping silver dollars .
The management discreetly withdrew the green stuff into the office and gave the customers chips or checks or premium points .
He read a special announcement whereby Hurrays would feature a special floorshow at three A.M. starring Adele ( The Body ) Brenner and fourteen glamorous schoolgirls .
He wondered if he might bag a tourist , but they looked frightened of him .
He passed two brides , both wearing orchids , and they made him feel a little sad .
Owen found Buzz watching chuck-a-luck .
Buzz had on a Hawaiian shirt and was carrying some sun-tan oil and dark glasses .
He was shorter and fatter than Owen , who felt good standing next to him .
`` We're all going over to Lake Tahoe and try our luck at Cal-Neva '' , Buzz explained , still instigating .
`` We ran into a guy at the Pagan Room who guarantees we can beat the wheel .
He started out as a stickman , then became a pit boss until the Club found him crossroading .
He was knocking down checks at faro '' .
`` I'm allergic to Tahoe '' , Owen explained .
`` Something about the pollen '' .
`` Well , okay '' , Buzz said .
`` We'll see you around later '' .
Owen went over to the crap table and the dice were hot , but he couldn't pyramid with any consecutive success .
`` How's your luck , honey '' ? ?
A short platinum blonde in a bursting sun-suit addressed him .
She looked well-fed and prosperous , but he didn't get the impression he was being propositioned the way he'd been hoping .
`` I haven't had any luck since I was a baby '' .
`` Stake me '' , she said , `` and let me at those dice .
I'll make them dance the tango .
We'll get it in a hurry and get it out '' .
`` Let's have a drink and discuss a merger '' .
`` If you go broke '' , she said , smiling up at him , `` I'll leave you '' .
`` Sounds like real love '' , Owen said .
`` It sort of brings a lump to my throat '' .
`` My name's Gisele '' , the blonde said after she ordered a Scotch .
`` Named after the ballet .
My mother wanted to call me Sylphide , but it sounded too affected '' .