August 16, 2022

Dear Gambler: Advice for the Indecisive Fictional Characters in Your Life

Everyone knows that the solution to every problem (real or imaginary) can be found by contemplating the lyrics of “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. Obviously. All you have to know in life is: when to hold ’em; when to fold ’em; when to walk away and; when to run.

Dear Gambler,

My name is Lussi. I’m the protagonist of Secret Santa: The Gift That Keeps On Giving, by Andrew Shaffer. I’m in the publishing industry, or at least I hope I will be. I’m new to NYC and live on Staten Island. I’ve been offered a job—

Walk away. That’s your answer. Doesn’t matter what else you have going on. Doesn’t matter what your question is. You’re in your twenties. New to NYC. You wanted to be in the NYC writer/editor crowd, right? But you moved—on purpose—to Staten Island. You’re one life choice away from hanging out at Target on a Friday night. You should be living in Bushwick or Greenpoint or someplace cool like that. I hate to break it to you, but you are not a person who is capable of making good life choices. Please go home while you still can.  

***

Dear Gambler,

Hi, I’m Abner Marsh, the protagonist of Fevre Dream, by George R.R. Martin. According to Wikipedia, I am a remarkably unattractive but highly skilled Mississippi River steamboat captain. I’m also very, very broke. A rich, intriguing, and yet also super creepy guy who sleeps all day and stays up all night wants to solve all my problems by becoming business partners. He said he wants to build the most beautiful and opulent boat on the river and I can be the captain! Are there any red flags? Is there any reason I should say no?

Fold ‘em. You’re beat, dude. This is not your big chance. If something sounds too good to be true, it is. That’s one of the first life lessons on that famous poster about things we learned in kindergarten. You were a good riverboat captain. It’s pretty much your identity. I respect that. But it’s time to reinvent yourself. Learn how to code—or whatever the equivalent advice would be for middle-aged unemployed people in the 1850’s. Also, you should really think about the fact that you’re in a George R.R. Martin book. Wait a second, you’re in a George R.R. Martin book. I’m changing my advice.  Run, Abner! Don’t take the job. Run!

***

Dear Gambler,

Hi, I’m Daphne Bridgerton, the protagonist of The Duke and I, by Julia Quinn. The Queen wants me to marry some Prince, but I kind of want to marry this Duke. The Prince is about to propose to me. Do you think the Queen will mind if I say no?

Hold ‘em. You have a good thing going, Daphne. Don’t mess it up. Say yes to the Prince. I get it. You want the bad boy. The Duke is hot and he doesn’t want to marry you. It’s so exciting. But you are thinking about this choice all wrong. Those two men are not the issue here. Making the Queen mad—or not—is the issue. She might pretend to be cool with your choices, just to avoid looking like an idiot. But if you marry the Duke instead of the Prince, one day, when you think she’s moved on, when you think everything is finally cool and you’re free to live your dream life of going to fancy English parties and having fancy English friends, she will annihilate you. That strange sound you heard underneath your bed? That loud bump in the night? Those cold unseen fingers brushing against your flesh? IT’S THE QUEEN, FOOL! Queens are not right in the head. Never have been. Marry that Prince or she will put you in the stocks and personally throw feces at you.  She will stick you in a cage, hang you up by the castle gates, and drink tea while you starve. You will be drawn and quartered, Daphne! Pull yourself together and choose life.

***

Dear Gambler,

My name is Mr. L. Prosser. I’m a minor character in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. I was trying to knock down this house–legally of course–when the owner lay down in front of my bulldozer and absolutely refused to move. His friend stopped by to take him to the pub, and asked me if I could take over while they were away. You know, so I could prevent the destruction of the house while they were at the pub. I seem to have agreed to do so, for reasons I can’t quite explain, because now I’m lying in the mud in front of my own bulldozer. Did I make the wrong decision?

Hold ‘em.  In your defense, this is a really tough one, Mr. L. Prosser. I can see why you’re feeling some self-doubt. However, given what happens next, I think lying in the mud with your eyes closed was the right decision. So my advice is to hold ‘em. Stay exactly where you are. Don’t change a thing. It will all be over soon.

Prossser: Wait, what do you mean? What happens next?

Gambler: Do you have a towel?

***

Dear Gambler,

Hi, my name is Tony. I’m the protagonist of The Holy Spirit Of My Uncle’s Cojones, by Marcos McPeek Villatoro.

Gambler: I’m listening…

Tony: 

Gambler:

Tony: Never mind.

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