Shall I Return

Damon Runyon

I have bet practically all my life.

I will continue to bet until I die.

In fact, you might say I will be betting after death, as a wise guy recently laid me $1,000 to $10 that I will not return from that bourne that is popularly supposed to permanently detain all travellers.

Most persons will no doubt say that I have a bad bet. I think I have a good one. In any event, could I resist the price?

It all started at a sidewalk session at Broadway and Fiftieth when the name of a departed brother came up and someone recalled that he had promised to return after death and visit his old friends.

“So will I,” I remarked, sociably.

“You will?” said the wise guy, emphasizing the “you” as much as to say that no matter who might return I am least likely to enjoy that privilege.

“Yes, I will,” I said, stiffly.

“I would like to lay you ten thousand to a nickel that you don’t,” said the wise guy.

At these words, everyone present turned around and scrutinized all persons nearby lest some of them be coppers.

“You have a wager,” I said to the wise guy after noting that the coast was clear.

He quickly reconsidered.

“No,” he said, “that would be too far out of line. I might not be able to pay off if you won. Let me do a little figuring on this proposition.”

So he outs with a pencil and an old envelope and did some calculating. Then he went into the corner drug store and made a telephone call, possibly to his lawyer to see what he thought of the bet. When he came back he said:

“The best I can offer you is a thousand dollars to ten.”

“Bet!” I ejaculated, the laconic Broadway binder of a speculative deal.

The story that I have since tried to scalp the bet, which is to say that I have endeavored to bet enough the other way so that I am bound to win no matter what happens, is strictly a canard. In fact, it ain’t so. I think I will win my bet as it stands without any manipulating being necessary and who are you and you and you and you to doubt it?

I feel that I would be a sucker not to return to a world that has treated me well, all things considered; that has given me much pleasure and many thrills including the most pleasant of all, which is the winning of a good bet. I have heard a big gambler say that next to winning a bet his greatest thrill is losing one, but I cannot go along with that philosophy. I hate losing. It makes me angry with the whole world.

It is in memory of my pleasures and my thrills only that I will return and it will not be in grisly mood or manner or to the accompaniment of weird rappings in darkened rooms for morbidity is not the atmosphere I have pursued in this world. It will be all a-grin but you are not to tell this to the wise guy because I am saving up a big laugh against him.

It is my wish that when I divest myself of this mortal coil that my ashes be scattered to the gentle breezes over Biscayne Bay down in Dade County, Florida, that my spirit may mingle with the throng here through the years to come and also that I may keep hep to the scandal in my set.

The wise guy spends his winters there and I am giggling right now in anticipation of his expression when I tap him on the shoulder one day and say:

“How about my G-er, mister?”

I think the wise guy is already perturbed because he called me up the other day and asked:

“Do you consider me an old friend of yours?”

“No,” I said, “nor a new friend, either.”

“That’s fine,” he said and hung up.

His question puzzled me until I reflected back to the original discussion and the promise of the departed brother to return and visit “old friends.”