When I first met Keith I knew little of his faith. He was a blackjack dealer at a casino I frequented. Dealers are not supposed to chat with the gamblers beyond pleasantries, but Keith was never particularly obedient. He complimented my play and our chat grew more intimate. I spoke of the emptiness of day to day existence and how I was throwing my life into vice. I asked what weighed him down from floating into the space of despair.
“You’ll call me crazy.”
“No, I’ll still call you, Keith.”
“This, all of this, is fictional.” He dealt me one winning hand after another as he went into his dogma. Keith wasn’t the traditional religious type. He hadn’t stepped into a church since his grandmother’s funeral six years earlier. He thought the Bible was full of lies and his pastor’s sermons were even worse, but he could never shake that feeling that there was a creator. There was someone molding his life into a coherent story with every incident having a purpose. And Keith was adamant about getting in on his reason for being.
I told him that was megalomaniacal. “If life is a book, what makes you think you’re the hero? Odds are better you’re the elevator operator on page 86 who says, ‘Good morning, Mrs. Bixley’, never to appear again.”
“I would be comfortable with that, because then someone has put some thought into my being. Even if it is just to transport someone to the seventh floor.”
Around this point I went on a bad run, but I felt I was getting my money’s worth. “So what’s it like being a character in a book?”
“It frees me.” He said. “I leave myself open to any possibility my creator might have in mind.”
“But how do you know what he wants you to do?”
“I don’t,” He had me so distracted I didn’t double down on two jacks. “For a while I was suffering fainting spells. They’d come and go with no regularity. Should I go to a doctor or just let the subplot play out?”
“Too bad you don’t have a priest or a Bible to guide you.” He looked a little hurt that I compared his theory to that of an organized religion, so I added, “or maybe a narrator?”
“It’s pretty rare for a narrator to interact with a character.”
“It happens all the time. The Great Gatsby. Catcher in the Rye.”
“It’s not the narrator I’m holding out for.” He reminded me. “It’s the author.”
“You want a deus ex machina.”
He looked genuinely pleased. “That’s a nice way of putting it.” A couple hands later he dealt me a blackjack.
We went our separate ways. I returned to the casino many times, but Keith was never dealing.