She put him down and put him down. He struck back and struck back. It never ended, the accusations and the retaliations. Sometimes he wondered if she actually got off on all the drama and trauma they went through day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute. He put his calloused hands to his face and rubbed them hard against his cheeks, striving to make sense out of what had gone wrong in their marriage.
There was no physical violence. Maybe it would have been better that way. Both would have had a reason to terminate the relationship. To explain why they no longer got along, cared for each other, wanted to be together. But then when he thought of actually doing such a thing, his whole body shook with repulsion. It was not his way. Never would be. Thoughts came and went, but he would never act on them. Not like his father had. Again and again.
One of the first things he remembered as a baby was his father striking his mother and making her cry because he had been thirsty. She had told his father and he had struck her anyway. He didn't care. He just wanted to be left alone and that included her getting out of bed and disturbing his rest.
He took a deep breath, then went to the window that overlooked Las Vegas below. It was a beautiful sight. All lit up like a gaudy Christmas Tree. The best and worst of humanity strove for a living there in the streets, the casinos, the government buildings, the schools and playgrounds of a harlot city that took in everyone and spit them out...changed, but not always for the better.
He sounded bitter to himself, because he was...bitter. Yeah. He was Mister Rich Guy now. He could stay in the top suite of the Mirage because he was a High Roller. He and Michael at one time had even said high to each other. Before his death that is. But things roll on. As do the dice. He had always been lucky in gambling. His attempt to build an internet business had blossomed when he gambled that one day women would come to dominate it. He had come up with an idea that was a no brainer, managed to throw a few good programmers together, with maxed out credit cards, and then struck it rich when his site went viral within a few days.
Every social media of the time had blasted his name and his company over and over, until he was worth billions. He was an overnight success. He, Gates, Jobs, and so many others it seemed. He smiled at that thought, remembering all the years of living out of a cup of noodles and potatoes. He was sure his comrades in computer savvy had done much of the same. No one is ever an overnight success. It takes years of mistakes. Trials and errors before it goes right.
He slipped into his soft alligator mocassins, his version of slippers, and tossed on a silken night robe, cinched the belt about the middle, which was made of a soft velour, then went to the kitchenette, which in the Mirage suites was more like a hotel kitchen. It was big enough to sleep a dozen people end to end with room to spare.
He smiled again. Such a waste of space for someone like him. Then he shook his head. He had earned it. He shouldn't be so hard on himself. He just regretted all the times he had told his friends that one day he would be rich and change the world. It hadn't happened, had it? He had instead kept on building more wealth, remoting himself from the very people he had grown up with and come to love deeply, and made sure no one could ever touch him emotionally again.
Was it his fault? Was it the cash? Was it all the people who depended on him for a living and their constant badgering to keep him rich and wealthy so they wouldn't lose theirs? He didn't know anymore. It's probably why Elvis had died the way he had. Surrounded by so many yes people and no one who would stand up to him and say, "Look, you're screwing your life up!"
Another loss to the planet. A great soul in many ways who got lost along the way. Was he lost along the way too?
He went into the other part of the suite, past marble statuary imported from Greece and Italy. They were the finest alabaster with inlaid jewels. His suite was called the Jewel Suite. And it certainly was. Everything about it was expensive, precious, a reminder of what he was and what he would never be again. Poor.
He slipped into the bathroom, a huge enough room for about ten people, and washed his eyes and face, then looked at himself in the mirror. Where was she now? He wondered.
Probably off in Athens. Her favorite city. She always shipped back things from there. Very little of it made it past the shipping without breaking, but she sent so much that she didn't care if some of it broke. She was rich, wasn't she? She was married to one of the ten richest people in the world.
He sighed again.
If only he could do it over again.
He went back to the balcony again, this time sliding the glass doors open to go stand outside, admiring the view again. He fancied himself one day going to Tibet, or maybe India, finding a guru, or maybe shipping one here, and getting spiritual. He would learn about reincarnation and prepare his wealth so he could have it when he came back again. The Pharoahs tried to do it, but failed. They didn't understand reincarnation. He did. He would pay off everyone he could find to recognize him when he was reborn, so he could get back to his wealth again. He would make sure that whoever found him was wealthy too and that they raised him to appreciate wealth and use it right, not fall into the same pitfalls as he had in this life.
Then he grinned. He could always make it better. Even now in his later years. He looked at his hands and the graying hairs there. Age struck everyone. Good and bad. Rich and poor.
On inspiration he plucked the satellite phone from his gown he always kept there. He fast dialed a number he knew would give him what he wanted.
"Rich. Joe. Look, I want to do something awesome."
"No. I'm not crazy. Just listen."
Then he told Rich. In detail. It was inspired. Starting tomorrow he would divest himself of all his wealth and move to India to sit at the foot of a yogi, learn how to meditate, find his soul again. When he was finished calming Rich down. He made a lot of money from him, and didn't want to see his money tree dwindle. When Rich came to his senses and realized Joe was leaving him as the manager of the distribution, he would also realize he could pull some funds out to feather his own fortunes into perpetuity.
He hung up, then leaned over the railing. Tomorrow was going to be the best day of his life.
He went back to bed and shut his eyes. Tomorrow he was turning over a new leaf. No more fighting with a wife who no longer loved him, struggling to keep his finances away from other greedy up the ladder climbers. No, tomorrow, he would get up, put on his traveling clothes and depart this world of financial insanity. He had lost his way, just like the country about him. People were too obsessed with money. Well, tomorrow he would change that. At least for himself.
And then the Big One struck.
The first thing he became aware of was a slight trembling. His nightstand began to make a kind of humming sound and the glass of wine he had left on it began to slop over. He sat up, alarmed, but not frightened. After all he was on the top floor and slight earthquakes amplified at this height.
Then the entire building shook as if a giant had struck it.
Below on the streets tourists were thrown to the sidewalks and in front of oncoming cards by the violence of what came next. Huge animated signs sparked, and then exploded as the buildings they were attached to cracked, crumbled and then began to tumble towards them.
Joe did not get to save his soul the next day.
The Big One had other plans.