Jimmy Diamond--or rather, Jimmy Diamond!--stared at the Cherries, Cherries, Lemon displayed on the slot machine he was pumping, his stomach clanging from the row of Bells on the $2-Play line: if only he had played two silver dollars instead of one, he would have hit an $800 jackpot!

He tried to talk himself into believing that the machine was now primed for the next pull, the very next one. But its grill work grinned back with the same smart-assed muteness of the Dog and he knew that nothing he could say would change its unrelenting "thingness," deaf as a statue and for that reason a heckler of words.

"Play me! Play me!" screamed his last dead presidents, their metal faces hot in his fist.

If he lost them all, he wouldn't be able to feed the Dog. The god-damned Dog! Already he'd blown auditions at half the casinos on The Strip, trying to get the Dog to talk--as it did back in East St. Louis. As it did everywhere except on stage. If only he had auditioned his own comedy routine as he'd originally planned, he'd be booked into a swanky room by now. How could he have been so dumb to trust fame to a dog!

As though in answer, the words WORLD'S BIGGEST BILLBOARD drifted through his mind. He hadn't been out of the Vegas airport ten minutes when he'd seen them: skyscraper-high words--Watch This Space!--plastered across, if not the world's biggest billboard, then at least a really big one, and if only the Dog would talk, his face--Jimmy Diamond's face!--would be the first to grace the newly erected sign. Some swanky hotel on The Strip would construct a swanky stage for him the way they all did for swanky acts that were expected to play into the next century. It's what he'd always dreamed of--pure swank. So he'd gambled. He'd thrown his act down the crapper in order to showcase the Dog. The god-damned Dog.