CONTESTS

Who Loves the Vegas Minotaur?

JEROME STUEART

Of course we love the Vegas Minotaur! Who doesn’t? He croons Frank Sinatra/Bobby Darin jazz into froth, and his horns glint like, at any moment, this thicc-ass bull might charge straight at us. He is Danger—and a warm, soulful baritone. Honestly, people freakin’ love this guy. But we are told when we arrive: “Do not, under any circumstances, tell Monty Hereford how to get out of the casino.” No clues, don’t talk to him about escape, and certainly don’t guide him to the exits. And there’s my dilemma. I came into the casino to #FreeMonty.

A whole group of us exist on social media, plotting to get Monty out.

He’s found clues we’ve left. We hear he has a huge board in his penthouse suite where he pieces the clues together. The problem is, he thinks the staff is on his side. Some of them give him fake maps of the casino. Or misdirect him. They remind him how much he values his privacy, and how the world outside is a mess. Look at what he’s got inside, they tell him. Room service! His own suite, his own band! He never has to go out. He has a balcony where he can watch the weirdness of the world, and isn’t it better this way? they ask.

The Four Nines casino doesn’t want to lose him. They live off the people he brings in. He’s the guiding star. We shmucks dump our money waiting to see his show, come two hours early to get a good seat, eat a nice filet mignon, play some slots. I’ve seen some of these same people here multiple times. #CashCow, yeah. That’s him. If he escaped, he might disappear from the public eye, have a worse life. Would he even sing without the casino?

“Monty’s happy,” the ushers tell us. “He’s loved, cared for, and he would be lost in the outside world. No sense of direction—a bit #bullheaded.” We laugh, but we know it’s probably #Bullshit.

Freeing Monty is not easy. I can’t toss a flower with a message on stage, or try to slip something into his hand as he passes (the damn spotlight watching him/us), or yell a codeword at him.

He needs a friend, a familiar face, to get close.

So that’s what I’m doing. This is my fifteenth show. I get a VIP complimentary room discount when I’m here. A hundred dollars’ worth of tokens I can play. It’s really nice! Now I know, that’s not how I planned to #FreeMonty. But the process of #FreeingMonty has become important to take slow. It’s what’s best for him. I think he knows I’m trying. When he winks at me, I wink back at him, to let him know I’m here to help.

I heart his sexy, glittery, aching soul.

He’s always here for me to free—but not free too abruptly, because in some ways, we love the Vegas Minotaur best when he’s crooning for his release.

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JEROME STUEART

Jerome Stueart is a queer artist/writer whose writing has appeared in F&SF, Tor.com, On Spec, Lightspeed, and elsewhere. He was a finalist for the 2020 World Fantasy Award in Short Fiction and the 2017 Sunburst Award. A former Yukoner, he is now a vagabond between Dayton, Ohio and the cabin of a bear in Tennessee.


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