Charlie West walked down the aisle of Flight 137 looking like a salesman who’d been out on the road too long. Half a dozen men, already onboard, looked the same; it’s like that on the dawn flight out of Las Vegas.
He stopped at Row 22, looked at the boarding pass in his hand, then at the man in Seat A, and almost laughed. “So, I’m leaving Vegas sitting next to a priest … perfect!” he said and sat down in Seat B.
“’Perfect’?” the priest repeated the word, but with an accent.
Charlie paused, changing what he was going to say. “Mexico?” he asked.
The priest nodded
Charlie regarded the man next to him, whose hair was as white as his collar and whose eyes were serene but unflinchingly direct. “I didn’t see many priests in Las Vegas,” Charlie said.
“We don’t do a lot of gambling. If one of us spent a night with the dice, the archbishop would want to have a conversation, and I’m sure he would do all the talking.”
“Everybody’s got a boss,” Charlie said. “So, why did you come to Las Vegas?”
“The gambling,” the priest replied.
Charlie stared at him.
“I am traveling from Mexico City to Los Angeles, and there was an opportunity to spend the night here, so I did. I wanted to see what gambling and gamblers are like. I took off my collar – we’re allowed to – and walked into the casinos to see people playing the card games, the wheel, and the machines.”
“And no one knew you were a priest,” Charlie said. “So, did you have some conversations you never thought you’d have?”
The priest smiled. “Yes, three young women spoke to me. Church was not on their minds.”
Charlie laughed. “And what did you think of Las Vegas?”
“Before I came here, I wondered why people gambled.”
“And what did you learn?”
“I learned that it’s not about the money.”
“It’s never about the money,” Charlie said.
(End of excerpt)