Gambling, Coke, & Millennial Ennui in a Rocky Mountain Casino


“With Damien in Blackhawk”

Brent L. Smith

Zero Ducats #4

I’m always excited to see another issue of indie lit zine Zero Ducats (“Reprint by any means necessary”). This is a particularly good issue. If you go to page 35 of the PDF you’ll discover a three-page story by Brent Smith called “With Damien in Blackhawk.” I recommend reading it.

Here’s the deal: it’s about a young guy who does a lot of blow with his friend Damien (with an e) and the two go to a fairly empty casino in the small west-of-Denver gaming town called Blackhawk. So they drink and do lines and meet a couple girls and gamble and a couple other things, and that’s the story, pretty much. Simple, to the point. Understated. Very reportorial in its matter-of-fact, unadorned style and presentation. But what’s interesting about this story, what led me to read it more than once, is the fact that it’s far more than a simple Alt-lit doing-drugs-and-feeling-existentially-numb narrative (as we’re so often subjected to by Tao Lin et al). There’s much more to this piece than simple postmodern, millennial-gen numbness.

There is emotion here. It’s understated, but it’s here. Over the few pages of this narrative, we see our narrator go through feelings like disappointment, envy, lust, admiration, anger/irritation, and even sadness. Smith hits quite a few emotional notes, in fact, but he does so with great subtlety: his protagonist isn’t numb, but his feelings (through life, through drugs, through whatever) are significantly muted. This, I think, is what makes Smith’s piece considerably more interesting than your typical alt-lit narrative: its emotional complexity. Ultimately, this piece isn’t numb or apathetic so much as sad–but it’s sadness of the unforced, creeping variety. This piece is skillfully done.

Check it out at Zero Ducats issue 4 (see page 35 for the story).


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