Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for Jack

"That was your rent money."

He wasn't sure where the voice came from or why he hadn't heard it before... before he lost his ability to afford a place to live.  What the hell?  How could he have let it get so bad?  How was he going to get out of this?

He did his best to try to calm himself- he was sure that veins popping out of his forehead and a glean of sweat would be sure-fire signs to the others to be as merciless as possible when it came time to call.  But his heart wouldn't stop its fight to escape from his chest and his shirt suddenly felt like it was made of molten lead.  Maybe he could fold and explain what had happened and they'd let him go...

He hazarded as casual a glance as he could manage around the table.  Chris was the only person he knew even in passing and he was, if he was really honest about it, kind-of a dick.  And none of the other players looked like the kind of people you'd want to owe money to, for any reason.  Chris had warned him, he remembered.

"These guys are tough, man- seriously," he'd said.  But by that point he'd already downed a few beers and a high-stakes poker game seemed like the best way to possibly spend an evening.  How he could be so stupid?

"Please God," he thought to himself, "please just get me out of this and I swear- I promise you, I will never gamble again."

The next card slid in front of him and he looked at it.  A jack of diamonds.  He looked at his cards again- he already had a jack of hearts in there.  If he got another... but three of a kind wasn't going to get him out of this.  Not with these guys.

Maybe if he just folded and then tried again with another hand.  But looking at his chips let him know that after the buy-in he'd have nothing to raise with.  Shit.  He felt the room getting heavy, the air harder to breathe.  There was no way they didn't know he had nothing.

He handed over the three cards in his hand which threatened to destroy his existence and was glad to be rid of them.  He didn't know what he was hoping for, really.  Luck, that was pretty much it.

The first card came.  He grabbed it, unable to play it cool.  Jack of clubs.  Oh my god- maybe...

He held his breath without realizing it and his entire body froze.  The next card came and then the next.  He couldn't move, couldn't reach out his hand to look.  This was it- make or break, triumphant or devastated.  He reached out his hand as if trying to not to be seen by anyone and pulled the cards in.  He looked at them.  A three of hearts and... the jack of spades. 

He didn’t dare let himself move or smile or even look up.  He kept his head and down and prayed.  “Please let that be enough.  Please let that be enough…”

The dealer made the call and the cards were shown.  A full house.  Two pair, aces high.  A flush, diamonds.  And three of a kind.  He turned over his cards and silence fell over the room.

“Screw you, man!” Chris yelled at him.

All the breath went out of his body and he slumped backwards into the chair.  He’d made it.  Thank you, God.

Chris pushed the pile of chips at him, rather than let him collect them and immediately started to deal again.  He put his hand out to protest but then thought “Can’t cash out immediately- they’ll be mad.  Just fold a couple of times and then you can leave.”

He picked up the card and looked at it.  Ace of diamonds.  Well, maybe he could play one more hand…

1 comment:

  1. I feel so sorry for him. You built up his anxiety and hope very well.


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