The hustlers and hookers they filled the room…down at the place they call the Spanish Moon…
Big John waved a hand in front of his face. “I can’t breathe from all of the smoke in here.”
I got up to open the doors leading into the backyard. The room had started getting cloudy after the first hour of the weekly poker game.
“Fight fire with fire,” Barney growled, tossing a cigar in his direction.
Big John turned up his nose. “I don’t like smoke.”
“Neither do I,” Barney snarled as he inhaled another Marlboro. “Shut up and deal.”
Smiley grinned and stared at the lights.
There was whiskey…and bad cocaine…the poison will get you just the same…
“What in the hell is that music?” Big John blared.
“Man, you bitch too much,” Burt grumbled. He nudged Barney. “I told you we shouldn’t have invited him.”
“Nobody invited me,” Big John said. “I just showed up on my own.”
“How’d you know how to get here?”
Big John matched Smiley’s grin. “I just drove around until I saw all the buzzards circling around this house. I knew I’d find a bunch of dead losers in here.”
“Man, that’s cold,” Little Stevie One said.
“Shut up, boy,” Big John coughed as he lit the cigar. “Nobody invited you, either. You wouldn’t be at this game ’cept you’re visiting from New York. We’ll take East Coast money anytime.”
“Don’t break hard on my buddy,” Little Stevie Two jumped in. “I invited him.”
“You shut up, too,” Big John spat. He cast a derisive glance at the two Stevies. “I don’t know why we let radio people in this game anyhow.”
“So we can take your money legally,” Little Stevie One said as he threw five white chips into the middle of the table. “Ante up.”
“All you guys can it!” I put in my money. “That’s getting awfully close to business talk. One more slip and it’ll cost you fifty dollars.”
“The hell you say.” Big John made the pot right. “Besides, you’ve got this music playing. I’m sure that’s a subliminal message your subtle, skinny ass is trying to get across.”
“It’s Little Feat, you idiot,” Burt laughed. “It’s so old, you worked it at Columbia.”
Big John slapped his hand down. “That is business talk, boy, put fifty in the middle.”
Burt flipped him off.
“Play cards,” Johnny C said from the corner.
“Play cards?” Barney lit another cigarette.
“You’ve been in the deep freeze ever since you won the first two pots. Why don’t you try staying in a hand for a change? You’ll never make it to the car with all that money anyhow.”
I checked my hole cards and made a Plen bet.
“What’s the game?” Big John asked.
“Seven card Macintosh, high-low, two spit cards and you can buy a card for twenty.”
Big John made a face. “How do you play?”
“Just call the two dollars and we’ll teach you as you go along,” I told him.
“I’ll be damned if I’ll do that,” Big John cried. “All you guys want is my money.”
“You sound surprised.”
Big John shook his head. “Nope, just hurt.”
“You keep playing all those hands and you’re really going to get hurt,” Kevin snickered.
Big John gave him a look. “When I want your opinion, hot shot, I’ll beat it out of you.”
“Come on,” Barney snapped, “bet or fold.”
Big John’s eyebrows twitched and he shot a quick glance in Kevin’s direction. He threw two chips in the pot and said, “I’ll bet a Seaweed.”
“Foul, damn it!” Johnny C yelled. “He’s talking business.”
“Fifty bucks, Big John,” I said. “You know the rules.”
Big John shrugged his shoulders and put in fifty. “It was worth it.”
“Call the Seaweed,” Smiley said, “And raise you a Lenny Kravitz.”
Before Johnny C could object, Plen tossed in another fifty.
“This is getting bad,” Little Stevie Two said.
Barney studied his cards, pursed his lips and reached for another cigarette.
“You gonna bet or look at those cards all night?” Burt asked.
Barney reached for his chips. “Call the Seaweed and Lenny Kravitz,” he paused dramatically, “and raise a Prince and a Tom Petty.”
Kevin threw his cards down. “This is really getting out of control.”
“Hey, I’m paying the tab,” Barney said as he threw in one hundred dollars.
“What’s up with you?” Big John asked.
“They’re already playing all of my records.”
Cards turned and the chips piled up in the middle. The table got tense. Smiley wasn’t smiling. Johnny C was in the freezer. Big John held his cards closer than a newborn child.
“Showtime,” Smiley said. “Let’em flop.”
Little Stevie One already had the lock low. It was a matter of who would split the pot with him…Big John or Little Stevie Two.
“Read’em and weep,” Big John cried. “Full house…Aces over Queens.” He reached for his share of the money.
“Not so fast,” Little Stevie Two said.
The table quieted down once more. All eyes were on the second Stevie. He played the moment like a maestro.
“Turn’em over,” Barney ordered.
Little Stevie Two did. “A blaze,” he said proudly.
Big John stared at the cards. “A blaze?” he yelled. “What the hell is a blaze?”
“Three diamonds, two hearts,” Little Stevie Two answered.
Big John’s face turned beet red. He leaned back in his chair and bit his lip. While the two Stevies split the pot, Big John opened his mouth a time or two to say something, but never did.
Finally, he leaned over and whispered in my ear. “Does a blaze beat a full house?”
I nodded. “It does in this game…as long as a radio guy is holding it.”
He shook his head. “That don’t hardly seem right.”
I shrugged. “So, what are you going to do?”
He was quite for a moment, then began shuffling the cards. “Shut up and deal.”