Fiction: Ladies’ Night

An essay by Jane Wilding, as provided by Robert Dawson
Art by Luke Spooner


The sun was setting, and the neon was coming out overhead as I sashayed into the Platinum Horseshoe. It’s a small bar by Vegas standards, maybe two hundred seats and a double handful of slots, no floor show. Behind the bar, Tessa was taking a tray of steaming beer glasses out of the power washer and setting them aside to cool.

“Hi, Tessa!” I said. “Busy tonight?”

She looked over my low-cut ice-blue evening dress. “Well, if it isn’t ‘Lady’ Jane! What brings you here?”

I winced–that nickname is not for public use–but nobody was close enough to overhear. And Tessa wasn’t about to put her tip–twenty percent of my take–at risk. “Haven’t you heard? There’s a big conference in town.”

I know what you’re probably thinking, but no. Sure, in some ways it would be easier. Among other things, in this state, hooking’s as legal as driving a taxi, while my own job does not have the Nevada State Government Seal of Approval. But when Maddie gets a bit older and finds out how I pay for her cornflakes and ballet lessons, I’d like her to think of her mom as a card player rather than a hooker. Wouldn’t you?

So, I’m a freelance instructor in probability theory and applied psychology, and I planned to teach plenty that week. Of course, the PhDs there would already know as much as I did about the probability theory–okay, more. Lots more. That’s where the applied psychology comes in.

There’s a reason they call me “Lady,” and it’s not my sweet personality and impeccable manners. I’m one of the few female broad-tossers in Vegas, which means my usual racket’s a little game called Find-The-Lady. Maybe you know it as Three Card Monte. I didn’t reckon sophisticated folks like statisticians would fall for my usual spiel. But I had a brand-new angle worked out, and Christmas was about to come early.

Art for "Ladies' Night"

I shuffled the cards and laid them out: one, two, three. “Ready, Barbara? Last hand of the night. For our jackpot prize: which door is the car behind?”


To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Spring 2019 collection.


“Lady Jane” Wilding is a freelance instructor in probability theory and applied psychology, based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Keep an eye out next time you’re in town: she’ll be glad to give you a private lesson. She lives with her daughter Maddie, who can deal seconds better than anybody else in her Grade Four class.


Robert Dawson has taught probability theory but secretly prefers calculus. His stories have appeared in Nature Futures, the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, and numerous other periodicals and anthologies. His outside activities include orienteering, hiking, and cycling.


Luke Spooner, a.k.a. ‘Carrion House,’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree, he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales, his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy, or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility, as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at www.carrionhouse.com.


“Ladies’ Night” is © 2017 Robert Dawson
Art accompanying story is © 2019 Luke Spooner


This story was originally published in the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, February 2017.

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