Chapter 20: You Win Some, You Lose Some
Oh, man, what’s going to happen to Travis in this chapter? I bet some things will go well for him, but some other things will go poorly for him!
Travis, Abby, Shep, and America fly to Las Vegas to win $25,000 to free Abby’s father from his debt with a mobster, because that is actually what this story is about now. Travis takes this moment to uncover an explanation for what is clearly the story’s biggest mystery: how Abby has a fake ID!
Vegas was where they had procured such flawless IDs
Oh good! I can go back to suspending my disbelief now that I know where the fake IDs came from! [Ariel says: Yeah, that was the one detail in this whole series that I just couldn’t wrap my head around. I thought fake IDs in college were just a myth! But Vegas you say? Of course they’d get them there.]
and why America never seemed to worry about what Abby could handle. They’d seen it all before, in the bowels of the city of sin.
Sin? Bowels? Sounds super serious!
[Ariel says: By “seen it all” what exactly does McGuire even mean?]
Jamie McGuire tries really hard to capture the contrasting depravity and opulence of Las Vegas, like a modern Charles Dickens, except shit.
A girl walked past, eyeing me with a drunken smile. She carried her heels in her hand. As she ambled by, I noticed her blackened feet. The ground was filthy, the foundation for the glitz and glamour above.
I bet McGuire was really proud of that line. [Ariel says: Serious question, was she more proud of this line or the one last chapter about Abby and America putting on their sunglasses in the elevator all “stone-faced.”]
Travis is super excited to be in Vegas, admiring the glamour and spectacle of the hotel room they can afford somehow (Oh, right, because Travis makes tens of thousands of dollars in an underground college fight club! Which he doesn’t even do anymore! Silly me! Back to how totally not unbelievable this book is. [Ariel says: Matt, I feel like you’re being sarcastic, but you know full well the fake IDs thing was the only unbelievable thing going on, and McGuire resolved that moments ago!]). Abby, on the other hand, isn’t happy to be there at all, nor is she even pleased that Travis is there, because never being on the same page with your partner is what love is all about, dear reader.
She turned to face me. “I don’t want you there, Trav. […] I have to concentrate. I don’t like who I’m going to be while I’m at those tables, and I don’t want you to see it, okay?” […]
“Okay, Pidge.” I couldn’t pretend to understand what she meant, but I would respect it.
Let’s keep track of how many times Travis’s doesn’t respect it! How about when he goes to where she is an hour later and then tries to create a scene!
I checked the time on my cell phone. “It’s been an hour. Let’s head back.” […]
I searched the poker tables for Abby, knowing that’s where she would be. […] Abby was standing, talking to a guy with olive skin and dark hair, in a suit and tie. He had her by the arm, and I immediately stood.
Shepley grabbed my shirt. “Hold up, Travis. He works here. Just give it a minute. You might get us all kicked out if you don’t keep your head.” […]
The only thing I could make out was have dinner with me from the douche in the suit, and Abby saying I’m here with someone.
Shepley couldn’t hold me back this time […] “Who was that?” I asked.
Abby nodded in the suit’s direction. “That is Jesse Viveros. I’ve known him a long time.”
[…] “Travis, I don’t have time for this.”
So respect! Wow!
“That’s your ex-boyfriend?” I asked, instantly angry. […] Everything inside me wanted to throw a typical Maddox tantrum
Much New Travis! Many mature! Wow!
Jesse knows Abby’s underage, but makes a deal with her where he’ll let her stay until midnight if she’ll go to dinner with him, because women haven’t yet been reduced to bartering chips in this story yet, so I guess it was time to pop that misogyny cherry.
“He knows I’m not old enough to be in here, Trav. He gave me until midnight.”
[Ariel says: It didn’t hit me until today, but how come Jesse is able to give her until midnight and then claims that’s all he can do? I mean, clearly he could just give her another hour. If she agrees to a handjob will he give her two extra hours?]
An astonishing three paragraphs later, Travis has already forgotten this apparently incredibly complicated turn of events.
“I don’t understand why she had to make any deals with that Jesse guy,” I growled.
“So that she could stay, I guess?” Shepley asked, staring up at the ceiling again.
Surprisingly, Shepley is quickly becoming my favorite character for being the device through which Jamie McGuire unintentionally admits how stupid her story is.
“What do you want to do first?” I asked.
“I’m definitely not marrying you.”
[Ariel says: How could you forget Kara so quickly?] [Matthew says: Kara’s only had one line in my book 🙁 ]
Travis meets up with Abby again at the winnings table at midnight, but she hasn’t made enough.
Abby sighed. […] “I’m still short five grand.” […]
“I won a little,” I said, digging in my pockets. “I’m up six hundred. You can have it.”
Shepley handed Abby his chips. “I only made three.”
How the fuck did all of them make money gambling in Vegas?
“I’m five K short, Jess. I need more time.”
“I’ve done all I can, Abby. […] Maybe I can get my dad to talk to Benny for you?”
“It’s Mick’s mess. I’m going to ask him for an extension.”
Jesse shook his head. “You know that’s not going to happen, Cookie, no matter how much you come up with.”
Then what was Jesse’s dad supposed to be able to do? There isn’t exactly a wide variety of ways to get out of this bind.
[Ariel adds: Okay, also, if Abby was gambling when she was thirteen, why is it so fucking hard for her to find other people to play some poker against? If she was winning money at thirteen and everyone around was just like “lolol that’s cool” why the fuck can’t she go find somewhere else to gamble for the rest of the night?]
Jesse encourages Abby to just leave Vegas and not get involved, but she insists. Jesse apologizes for not being able to do more to help, but isn’t so sorry that he doesn’t leave without reminding her they’re getting dinner tomorrow. [Ariel says: “Sorry your dad is prob gonna die, pick you up at five?]
Jesse lifted her chin with his finger. “I’ll see you tomorrow at five.” He bent down to kiss the corner of her mouth, and then walked away.
Male representation in the media is of course nowhere near the issue that female representation is, but having stories where every single male character is a one-dimensional borderline sexual predator isn’t doing much to subvert the patriarchy either.
Travis continues to be a whiny little baby about the deal Abby made with Jesse. Let’s pretend we can take the stakes seriously for a second: Abby is trying to raise money to save her father from being murdered, and agrees to dinner with an ex to buy herself time to accomplish this act, which is – again – to have her father not murdered. It is absurd that Travis does not understand this, even more absurd than that the reader is supposed to take this premise seriously. It does, however, result in a pretty unintentionally hilarious line of dialogue:
“You had a choice,” I said.
“Have you ever dealt with the Mob, Travis?”
Travis and Abby go to talk to Benny.
“I’ve been waiting for you, Cookie. I hear you have a payment for me.”
Okay, we are now three for three with Las Vegas characters who use the word “Cookie” when talking about Abby. Do any of our readers live in Las Vegas? Can anyone confirm that, yes, everybody in Las Vegas calls women “cookie”? Because I kind of seriously doubt this. [Ariel says: Matt, this was Abby’s special nickname! Poor Abby with her her unexplained, lame nicknames.]
Abby explains she’s $5000 short, and Benny determines this is no good and he must make an example of Abby to get the message to her father, and motions for his goons (one of whom is armed with a knife) to move in. Naturally, Travis beats them up effortlessly. And cartoonishly, although I’m pretty sure McGuire was going for “dramatic tension”.
David rushed me. He was slumsy and slow, and before he even had a chance to reach for his knife, I incapacitated him […] Two more punches and an elbow later, David was lying on the floor in a bloody heap.
Benny’s head fell back, laughing hysterically […]
Dane grabbed me with both arms, hurling me to the ground. He was faster than I had anticipated, but not fast enough.
Travis uses a cheap move to gain the upper hand, because apparently McGuire is trying to alienate even the people who were on board with this whole Travis-is-an-unstoppable-badass thing.
I grabbed Dane’s nuts and twisted.
But wait a second? How is Travis an unstoppable badass who effortlessly beats up two professional Las Vegas thugs without taking a scratch?
He may have been a fighter, but Thomas hit a lot harder than he did.
Right! Because he and his brothers were always beating each other up! I’ve written before about what a cliched, boring, and not-entirely-believable explanation this is, but it’s even stupider and more implausible now that we’ve actually seen how well Travis and his brothers get along, which isn’t even remotely consistent with his supposed troubled family life where he got beaten up so badly that he became a good enough fighter to take out trained bodyguards. [Ariel says: Yeah! We’re clearly meant to adore the Maddox family, but then we get odd throwaway lines like this that make them sound like horrific people.]
Benny is impressed with Travis’s performance and makes him an offer. [Ariel says: An offa he can’t refuse.] If he does a fight for him tomorrow and wins, he’ll forgive Abby’s dad’s debt. He accepts, although Abby is uncomfortable with Travis fighting in an underground Las Vegas fighting ring, to which Travis counters with this infallible logic:
“Well, I don’t want you to go to dinner with your ex-boyfriend tomorrow night. I guess we both have to do something unpleasant to save your good-for-nothing father.”
Because true love is really just about overcoming constant jealousy forever and ever.