By Jonathan Bennetts © 2008
An ancient greasy seaman's cap shadows the gray stubbled wreckage of his face. He is fifty two going on eighty two, stinks of stale alcohol and unwashed sweat and his dirty clothes had never seen better days.
His name is Alex and he resides in the gambling Mecca of Las Vegas.
Today he's propping up the wall of Caesars Palace on the Strip, panhandling or begging if you prefer. He is a loser, in fact Alex is a two time loser, a drunk and a degenerate gambler. He's been humiliated, spit upon, arrested, imprisoned, beaten up, and hospitalized several times in the charity ward.
He arrived here ten years ago on a seven day junket, an all-in Nevada sightseeing trip. It was a treat for his wife Evelyn and his five-year old son Mathew who was the apple of his eye. Alex was a really neat dresser then, had a great job as a company accountant at General Motors, a lovely house in Detroit, and great friends and neighbors. He had everything going for him.
The first five days they toured. Hoover Dam, a side trip to Lake Tahoe, the silver mines, and 48 hours visiting Disney World which had Matt screaming with delight. The last two days were for free time, happy times in Las Vegas.
Alex had done a little reading about gambling and knew that craps paid the best odds. He knew all about seven and eleven being winners on the first roll, making a point, the pass and don't pass line, playing the field, pressing a bet, all the odds on the hard way. Somewhere deep inside of him, there had always lived the exciting idea that he could and would be a natural craps shooter. That he could and would one day make a fortune if given the chance.
After all, he was a wizard with figures, fractions, percentages and had a very logical mind. He had even worked out a system which was just about foolproof. He'd never told anyone about this fantasy; it was just one of those things you sort of sit with and bring out now and again to check if it is still good. Well it was indeed--one might even say it was excellent. He just needed to refine it a little. So, finally, Alex had his chance. He told Evelyn he was going to play for just a little while on the tables, kept it vague, and gave her a quick kiss.
"So how do you play this amazing game, Craps?" asked Evelyn with a sweet smile.
"Well honey, it is fairly easy. You roll two dice on a table and if a seven or eleven comes up on the first roll you win whatever you bet, but if you roll craps--double ones or sixes--on the first roll then you lose your bet. However, there is a third option. Let's say you roll a five-three. That's eight, so now you keep rolling for another eight but here comes the kicker-- if you roll a seven before the eight, then seven is now a loser. But if you get your point, rolling the eight first, then you're a winner and get to roll again. On the table you can bet on a player either winning on the pass line or losing on don't pass.
Evelyn smiled fondly at him and ruffled his hair, "That's enough, my hero. I don't understand a word but you just go and make our fortunes and I'll see you later for dinner."
Alex wandered casually downstairs to the casino and his fate. He was off and running, and after sixteen hours of exhilarating wins and desperate losses, he was broke. He'd lost every cent he had. Evelyn had long since given up and gone to bed. It was about then that Alex went crazy. He moved into a sort of supernova gambling frenzy because he knew, he absolutely knew that he would beat the system and triumph at the craps table.
All his years of rigid control and civilized living just up and flew out the window. He took big lines of casino credit because his credit background was impeccable and they fell over themselves to give him extra lines. Within four days he had emptied their joint bank accounts, trashed his credit cards and lost something like $52,000 plus.
Seven loser, craps loser, seven loser, on and on. Win maybe one time then back to craps out, sir.
During his brief breaks for a couple of hours of sleep, Evelyn begged and pleaded for him to stop but to no avail whatsoever. He swore his luck would change-- it was just a matter of time and she would see he was right by God. He explained this as though it were implacable, impeccable logic and was furious that she couldn't seem to understand this.
The fact is, she no longer recognized him. He was like a crazy man possessed, and she was frightened. She tried one last time, even shaking him, screaming at him.
“Alex, for God's sake! What about our son, our future!”
He ignored her that time, stormed out of the room and it was the last she saw of him.
That night Evelyn could stand neither the pain nor the strain any longer. She took Mathew and herself back to Detroit and her mother’s house where she broke down trying to explain what had happened. Her father got the message early and swung into action to salvage any family assets that were still standing.
Alex's descent was spectacular even by Vegas standards. Within six weeks he had lost every cent he could beg, borrow, or steal from his friends and workmates back in Detroit. He'd gone through about $120,000 of casino credit before his cards were blocked. Tried every single combination of pass, don’t pass, play the field, play the point, go for the hard way, the easy way, everything he thought he knew about winning at craps and it just didn't work.
GM actually sent somebody down to confront him in the seedy rooming house he was staying in, but Alex simply couldn't understand what the guy was saying. All he could say now was a mantra which he repeated endlessly.
"Just one more swing at the crap tables and I will finally make it and hit the gold."
Needless to say, his fortune wasn't made and he was still losing. His family and friends cut him off completely. Then one day it was all over. He was destitute. All the casinos had banned him and his luck was terminal.
He moved into the Mission with two squares a day and no questions asked. Fred, another street bum at the Mission told him that pan handling could pay well.
"Just don't get caught, the cops and security are red hot here."
Then he offered Alex a drink from his bottle of Orillia Tiger Ruby Red Port wine. Told him it really did the trick for the blues, solve all they problems man, make everything just tickety boo. Charlie was dead right, it did.
Alex was down so far it looked like up when he greedily swallowed his own pints of Orillia Tiger Ruby Red Port wine. It killed the pain of losing everything at first, then it killed the pain of living as a bum.
In just over twelve months Alex had hit rock bottom and it seemed like he had been there forever. He plummeted headlong into being a hopeless drunk who'd lost everything; his sole reason for living now was to raise five bucks daily for his quart of Orillia Tiger Ruby Red Port wine.
It was a balmy evening, the town was jumping, Las Vegas was alive and kicking. From behind some bushes, well out of sight of the Caesar's Palace security guards came a furtive mumble. It was Alex.
"Spare some change please? Will ya spare a dollar for a guy down on his luck?" He'd collected a grand total of three dollars and eight cents in four hours.
Most people passing his spot either didn't hear him or couldn't see him. Alex was a lost soul. He'd already had two mild heart attacks. His whole body shook with tremors and his face twitched badly. Just another three bucks, enough for his daily quart of Tiger Red oblivion.
Along the pavement, two immaculately dressed men approached his spot. The elder one in his late sixties, silver haired, elegant, the other twenty-five or so, arrogant spoiled face, long blonde hair tied off in a pony tail, solid gold necklace and platinum wrist band, both of them obviously wealthy.They were deep in conversation.
"Change, spare some change mister?" Then, "Hey buddy, spare a dollar?" said much louder than the first time.
They both stopped, stared, discovered Alex, then recoiled in unison.
"Dirty bastard" said the younger one.
"Now, now Peter" said the older. "You really must learn a little kindness, a bit of tolerance and love for your fellow men."
This was said with such contempt and arrogance it woke Alex from his stupor. He looked at them and they looked at him.
The younger man smiled, "You're right, of course Uncle Andrew. Definitely a fellow man."
Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a handful of gambling chips and found a black and gold $1,000 chip. He held it in front of Alex.
"Is this worth my tolerance?" He shook his head and changed it for a red $100 chip. "Is this worth my kindness? Nah, I don't think so." Then he found a green $25 chip and waved it slowly in front of Alex's haunted eyes.
“Yep, love of my fellow men, yes indeed. Now if I had a five cent chip, that's what you'd be getting, you stinking bum but you're in luck ‘cos my uncle truly loves his fellow men and a $25 is the smallest I've got, so mind you don't lose it.”
Viciously, he threw the green chip at Alex who flinched as it hit him in the face then fell to the ground. Laughing uproariously, both men marched off into the casino.
Alex was stunned at what was happening. He had a really bad headache yet suddenly, his mind was waking up. He felt cleansed somehow and was thinking clearly for the first time than he had in many years. Why had the two men been so cruel? It was their absolute and utter contempt which had gotten through to him, brought him back to life. He picked up the chip and its greenness seemed to glow in his hand. He felt warm all over as though he'd taken a double hit of Tiger Red.
Thoughts ricocheted across his brain then began to center on just one word…craps.
The most money he ever had was about seven bucks, just enough for his daily bottle of Orillia Tiger Ruby Red Port wine. The green chip seemed to jump in his hand, it was at least nine years since he last gambled and this thinking was crazy.
What about today’s Tiger Red? Jesus, he had enough for three days of oblivion and he needed his fix now, yet something was profoundly different. He had stopped shaking and felt completely calm. It was a miracle, what was going on here. The blinding desire for oblivion had vanished, he truly was alive again and somehow he knew that his world had shifted on its axis and he was being given a last chance.
If he bet the green chip the Gods would be with him. He knew this with total certainty but now his real problem began. How to get into Caesar's and actually bet the green chip?
Three hours later, Alex emerged from the Mission clean-shaved, showered and reasonably dressed. His friend Charlie had given him a marine-style haircut and loaned him his only clean shirt. He had swiped a pair of decent looking jeans and shoes from a passed out drunk's suitcase. For the first time in years he didn't stink too badly and actually smelled of clean lifebuoy soap. He both felt and looked different and by God was ready to rumble.
After watching the great glass doors of Caesar's Palace for about ten minutes, finally all the doormen were engaged in boarding or disembarking the enormous liner-style limousines pulling in and departing. Alex sidled through the doors, his heart pounding. He clutched a large, clean white envelope with a name printed on it. Just in case he was stopped, he could say he was delivering a message.
It was Saturday night and the casino was jammed with supplicants to the great Caesar. Quickly Alex scooted down the main hall, and then past the infernal racket of the slots, steered through the crowded blackjack tables and when he saw a security guard looking at him, he waved the envelope high.
"Message for Mr. Edmonso" he shouted. The rest was drowned out by the casino noise as the guard nodded OK. Then he saw them, the mystical kidney shaped crap tables, four of them, all with large crowds around them and lots of action. The decibel and crowd level was loudest at table three and as he wanted to stay undercover so to speak, that's the one he chose.
He inserted himself into the mob and finally was close enough to establish a spot near the shooter, a beautiful young model with an urchin cut and wild green eyes. She had just thrown the dice and as they rolled down the table she jumped up and down and screamed.
"Oh my Lord a ten, please, please, ten, ten, give me a ten!"
On the pass line she had about $1,000 riding in stacks of chips.
"Just this one time sweet baby Jesus give me a ten!"
The Lord or sweet baby Jesus gave her a seven and she crapped out. The long rakes swooped down and did the vanishing trick with most of the chips and a few small payouts. The model said a quick "screw you dice."
"New shooter coming out!" The red dice rattled along the table pushed by the rake neatly depositing them in front of Alex.
"New shooter!" he said again.
Hands trembling, Alex picked up two dice, gave them a brief shake, and put his $25 chip onto the pass line. He was about to roll them when a low, piercing voice spoke over the noise.
"Get that bum outta my pit right now, he's banned. I never forget a face."
It was the same pit boss who had him banned all those years ago.
Alex was filled with shame then anger, almost in tears.
He waved his original green chip in the air. "I've got my bet right here and by God, I want to bet it!" he said, his voice quivery, yet very positive.
“I'm entitled to one lousy bet after all these years.”
"Get him outta here, now. Somebody call security" the pit boss said again.
There was a small ripple at the other end of the crowded table, then that same vicious voice, now slightly slurred with too much bourbon.
"Well I'm damned, thought I recognized that voice. It's the old drunk. Hey old feller, come to give us lessons have you? Teach us how to shoot craps, you jerk, with my money? What a fucking nerve. Tell you what, you old bastard. You put that $25 chip I gave you on the win line and if you win I’ll give you a hundred bucks and I'll eat my tie, you drunked-up loser."
While some of the crowd was laughing at this exchange, a voice said, "Let’s get on with the action here, can we?"
It was then that the silver-haired man next to his nephew spoke.
"Let him roll Charlie" he said to the pit boss. "He's a stone cold loser and it won’t take long."
There was a ten second pause. Then, because the pit boss was no fool and knew that Kandross could buy the casino if he wanted to, he spoke.
"Certainly, Mr. Kandross. Place your bets ladies and gentlemen, get your bets down.”
The table sprang back into activity with a buzz of anticipation. Who was this strange guy holding the dice? Probably a loser from the look of him. Alex had listened to the different voices with astonishment followed by shock then fear. What the hell was he doing here? This was crazy when he could be falling into sweet oblivion with enough Tiger Red to last him the whole weekend.
The green chip seemed to tremble in his fingers almost as though it had life.
Alex straightened up, shook his head, wiped his eyes and then he smiled revealing a row of horrendous blackened teeth, two missing from the front. Yet it was a beautiful smile for all that. His eyes were serene at last his demons had departed. He looked down the table, at the sneering faces of his tormentors and smiled again. He was Alex the Amazing Craps Shooter.
Carefully and with great dignity, he placed his green chip on the win line, the pass line, the magic square where he would show them all his mastery of this great game. He picked up the two dice again, and shook them tentatively.
"Seven for the green tiger eyes" he said, and without a moment’s hesitation threw them down the table.
The left one bounced off the end wall of the table and came to rest. A six. The right one rolled off the end, spun on a corner then finally settled on one. A perfect seven, a winner, and he now had $50. Back came the dice, Alex picked up and down they rolled, tumbling, bouncing. Four and three, another perfect seven winner.
The Rakeman's voice boomed, "Another winner. Straight seven first time, seven's a winner."
He now had $100 and it was then, right at that moment, that Alex knew, this was it. It felt like a huge jolt of electricity supercharging his system and now his shivering was from confidence rather than misery. In rapid succession he made ten more perfect passes, either with a natural seven or whatever point he needed. Four the hard way, ten the hard way. It seemed like he was challenging the Gods of dice.
The green chip had multiplied, Alex now had $51,200 stacked high in front of him on the win line. He came out of his trance. Where was he? Oh right, the green chip. There it was resting alone, just on the edge of the pass line. Green, so incredibly green.
Then he heard the angry voices from the other end of the table overriding the high buzz of conversation around him.
”Table limit reached sir, table limit reached.”
"He's just rolled twelve natural passes, its freakin’ amazing," screamed the same urchin-cut model. "Go tiger, go, go, go, you've got ‘em on the run and I love you sweetheart!"
She pointed down at the two chip racks in front of her containing about $18,000 then gave Alex a swift hug and a big smacking kiss on the cheek. On his other side an elderly white-haired preacher with a bulbous red nose and a huge stack of black $100 chips shook his head reverently and informed him.
"Take your money and run my son."
Almost all of the crowd were with Alex on the pass line with only Kandross and his nephew on the don't pass line. Meanwhile, the pit boss was standing in the middle looking utterly stunned when the same vicious insistent voice came at Alex.
"Hey old man, betcha can't do that again. What you got there, ‘bout $50,000? I'll give you 100 to 1 odds you can't do that again."
There was real hatred and disbelief in his voice now. Alex looked down the table at him and smiled again. The whole table had gone quiet, the pit crew motionless, watching this exchange. Then the silver haired Kandross spoke in a low sibilant whisper which carried right around the crowd.
"Shut up Peter." There was fury in his voice. He looked at Alex. "You don't know me, but I know you. You're a born loser and we both know that. Most people in life are losers. So apart from loser what’s your other name?" he sneered.
"Well, Alex you're really something special, one of life's major losers. You smell like shit and you look like shit, you're dying on your feet yet somehow you figure you're making a comeback for Christ sake. Well I'm about to prove you wrong and in matters like this, I'm never wrong."
Alex remained silent and calm.
"Charlie, what’s the record for straight winning passes on a craps table? Do you understand Charlie, the world record? Here in Vegas, Europe, anywhere?"
The pit boss looked at him with a strange expression.
"Well Mr. Kandross, Hollywood Jack Davison is alleged to have made 34 straight winning passes at Binions in August 1979 but I know for sure that Stanley Fujitakis ran the table for three and half hours right here in Vegas at the Hotel California in 1995 and finished with 27 winning passes and I can swear to that ‘cos I was one of the pit crew. Why do you ask sir?"
"Because I have a proposition for our Mr. Alex here. Get me your chief; I want to talk to him."
The pit boss made a quick call and within minutes Max Rollins, the crap tables crew chief, and two senior casino executives arrived.
The blonde model turned to Alex. "Do you know who that guy is?" she said, pointing down the table. "He's Kandross, the arms dealer and he's worth about a billion bucks. I met him once and Jesus, he's frightening.”
Alex was still in his dream state and simply nodded.
Max Rollins spoke, "Mr Kandross, how can we help you?"
“I've probably donated about ten million to this casino and now I want something in return, it’s very simple.” He glared at Alex and continued. “This bum has just cost me about $150,000 bucks and I have a little proposition for him so I trust you'll agree to it. He just made twelve straight winning passes so I'm willing to put my marker for a million dollars on the don't pass line. All he has to do is bet his $50,000, keep rolling the dice for another sixteen straight passes, and beat the world record set by a Stanley Fujitakis which stands at 27 straight winning passes according to you. If he does it then he gets the million and if he doesn't then I get his $50,000 and you throw him out of this casino. Mind you, if I'm any judge of character, he'll take his cash now and head back to the street where he belongs and get stinking drunk until he's broke again. So what’s your answer, Mr. Alex? Sir, you got the balls for this? Let’s see a real gamble here. I doubt that you have it in you because you're a born loser but you roll sixteen more winning passes and the million bucks is all yours" he taunted.
Now there was complete silence at the table, with everybody looking at Alex. Almost all of them around the table knew it was a total sucker bet and even the pit crew looked uncomfortable. The raw odds were huge, impossible, something like twenty million to one.
Alex looked up from his green chip and the preacher said, "Do you know the true odds son? It's a sucker bet, you can't possibly win."
There were nods of agreement from the crowd. They had all made money from Alex's incredible roll but they didn't want to see him lose everything to this arrogant son of a bitch who was openly insulting him.
Alex looked directly at Kandross. "I'm not a loser anymore sir," he said and there was a crisp, new note of authority in his voice.
Of course he knew the true odds, he was an accountant. But that's what gambling was all about--beating the odds, like he’d always known. He was a natural craps player wasn't he? From somewhere deep inside him a sensation of pure freedom washed over him. And he knew he could and would do it, beat this Fujitakis record. He knew now, he knew absolutely beyond all doubt that this was it, that finally he would challenge lady luck and beat her. He might even destroy her and declare victory over this monstrous Kandross and his sneering nephew.
"I accept your wager but I'll have it in writing and witnessed please."
Kandross nodded and a brief look of triumph flitted over his features.
“Charlie, have that written up on my marker and witnessed."
"What a dumb bastard, knew he’d go for that sucker bet" his nephew shouted.
There was dead silence, then a burst of shouting and excited cheering from the crowd. The executives conferred briefly then Max Rollins spoke to the pit boss.
"OK, Charlie, the bet is in order, take it away now.”
Charlie addressed the crowd, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a unique bet and we are declaring this table private. If you wish to observe, please do so quietly, otherwise you may play on the adjacent tables.”
Nobody moved. Almost without exception they had all been betting with Alex and making much more money than he had. They had watched the drama being played out before them with a mixture of astonishment and incredulity. When they heard the announcement there was a loud buzz of indignation as they were now out of the action. Slowly it subsided, except for a low murmur of excited comment. By now, word of the bet had spread through the casino and the crowd was six or seven deep in places.
"I want this whole table cordoned off please." He nodded at two security guards who quickly encircled the table with a white cord on brass stands.
The pit boss put up his hand and addressed Alex. "Do you understand the terms of the bet? You are playing solely against Mr. Kandross and only you will roll the dice. Your chips stay right there on the pass line and if you succeed in rolling a further 16 straight winning passes you will receive the marker now on the don't pass line for a million dollars. However, if you fail and roll craps or don't make your point your chips valued at $51,200 will be transferred to Mr Kandross. What's your full name by the way?"
"Alex Campbell,” said Alex still with that same strange dignified smile revealing once again his stained gapped teeth.
“Are we in agreement gentlemen?”
Kandross and Alex nodded simultaneously.
"Right, let's get this show on the road” he hesitated. "And good luck to both of you."
He shook his head ruefully. This poor bum didn't have a chance in hell. He nodded to the stickman. "Same shooter coming out."
Five sparkling new red dice arrived in front of Alex. Almost indifferently he picked out two and clicked them together. The white haired preacher looked at him intently.
"Are you sure my son?"
"Then God bless you and y’all go get ‘em tiger!"
Alex reached down and found his original green chip. He held it in front of him, turning it slowly between his fingers. It seemed to glow with a strange, deep green luminosity. Gently he placed it back on the pass line, slightly to one side of his stacked chips. He straightened up and his whole being was radiant with energy and confidence. He was, after all "Alex the Amazing Crapshooter."
It was beautiful to watch, he was in a supernova state but this time it was the real thing. His heart rate was steady and his throwing action effortless. The two dice sailed down the table, bounced off the backboard and there was the first winner-- a four and a seven. Fifteen to go. Again he hurled them down, a five and a two, another natural. He made four more winning naturals then chased the point successfully eight times in a row before he stopped to ask how many more he needed for the record.
Then he became aware of the powerful roar of the huge crowd. It shocked him, almost bowled him over. While he was rolling he hadn't heard a thing, but now it was overwhelming.
As word spread almost the entire casino came to a stop. The word was out-- someone was close to breaking the world record at craps and winning a million dollars.
Caesar's was jammed and the people at the back were frantically demanding, "How many more to go? C’mon, what’s going on? Has he made it yet for God's sake?”
Then it was relayed back through the crowd. “Just two more and he's done it. He’s on 25 right now.”
Charlie the pit boss couldn't believe it. The bum might pull it off. Kandross and his nephew couldn't believe it either. This was not supposed to happen.
"Still two more to go old man,” snarled the nephew.
Down the table Alex picked up the dice, he whispered "Tiger Eyes" and threw them a perfect five and two.
“Seven's a winner!” called out the stickman, another natural winner, just one to go.
The crowd was screaming, the urchin-cut model fainted and Alex started to pick up the dice when a terrible pain lanced through his chest and he crumpled slowly to the floor. The pit boss was out of his seat and at Alex's side in two seconds; the preacher cradled his head and started to recite a prayer for the dying only to be interrupted by the snarling voice of the nephew.
"You lose, you lose you dirty old bastard, knew you'd blow it" he screamed.
He smiled triumphantly at his uncle. Alex heard the voice from a long, long way off. Where was he? This was the same vicious voice he had listened to when he was panhandling. All he wanted now was to sink into oblivion and turn off the terrible pain in his chest.
Then he was shaking his head as the pit boss waved smelling salts under his nose.
"C’mon Alex, breathe deeply" the pit boss whispered fiercely into Alex's ear. "Get up and roll you bum, Kandross has had this coming to him for a very long time now. He treats everybody like shit, always getting dealers fired, never tips, insults all the girls here. He hates everybody and sure as hell hates you. The management all rush to kiss his ass and he gets away with murder. Now finally there's a chance to really stick it to him and his prick of a nephew so c'mon Alex, one more roll. Just one more.”
"Help me up," croaked Alex.
The pit boss and the preacher hauled him to his feet. The pain had subsided a little but he had trouble seeing straight.
The entire crowd was completely silent, hushed. Then Alex picked out the features of his tormentors, one face contorted with hatred and the other full of contempt and triumph.
Alex fought to stay upright.
Kandross spoke, "Looks like I was right, loser. Knew it all along. Told you I was never wrong about people."
Alex was using every ounce of will power he had, fighting to stay upright.
“Got to prove them wrong, just got to."
He fumbled for the dice.
"Stand back!" someone shouted, “Give the man room!”
The huge crowd watched in stunned silence as Alex, sweat beading his forehead, scrabbled and fought and finally lifted the two red dice. Just one more throw, that was all it took to be the greatest Crap Shooter in the world.
He shook the dice weakly and tried desperately to throw them. Once, twice. He had no strength, could barely lift his elbow. He concentrated on one last agonizing attempt. He pulled back his elbow as far as it would go and looked down at the solitary green chip standing alone, the source of a miracle.
It was then he felt the strong hard grip of the pit boss on his elbow.
"You can do it, Tiger."
His arm seemed to propel itself forward of its own volition. He let go of the dice, they had to hit the back wall of the table to be legal. One die caromed off the side then just kissed the end wall and came to rest, a six. The other wobbled its way along the table, almost expired before the wall, spun on its axis then ricocheted from the side to the end wall, spun again on the bounce then finally, absolutely, settled, showing a wonderful, a stupendous an incredible one.
"Seven a winner! Natural seven a winner!" was called out as the place erupted with screams, laughter, crying and cheers.
Alex promptly fell down again onto his back. As he lay there, a glorious grin spread slowly across his face. This grin said everything.
Charlie the pit boss leaned over him, winked, and said.
"Way to go, Tiger."
Jonathan Bennetts is an ex rock and roller born in the UK. He sang with Bob Dylan in London and has lived in over 20 countries for at least six months. He currently lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. He's halfway through a book, "Excerpts from the Life of a Street Singer."