The hustlers and hookers they filled the roomâ€¦down at the place they call the Spanish Moonâ€¦
Big John waved a hand in front of his face.Â â€œI canâ€™t breathe from all of the smoke in here.â€
I got up to open the doors leading into the backyard.Â The room had started getting cloudy after the first hour of the weekly poker game.
â€œFight fire with fire,â€ Barney growled, tossing a cigar in his direction.
Big John turned up his nose.Â â€œI donâ€™t like smoke.â€
â€œNeither do I,â€ Barney snarled as he inhaled another Marlboro.Â â€œShut up and deal.â€
Smiley grinned and stared at the lights.
There was whiskeyâ€¦and bad cocaineâ€¦the poison will get you just the sameâ€¦
â€œWhat in the hell is that music?â€ Big John blared.
â€œMan, you bitch too much,â€ Burt grumbled.Â He nudged Barney.Â â€œI told you we shouldnâ€™t have invited him.â€
â€œNobody invited me,â€ Big John said.Â â€œI just showed up on my own.â€
â€œHowâ€™d you know how to get here?â€
Big John matched Smileyâ€™s grin.Â â€œI just drove around until I saw all the buzzards circling around this house.Â I knew Iâ€™d find a bunch of dead losers in here.â€
â€œMan, thatâ€™s cold,â€ Little Stevie One said.
â€œShut up, boy,â€ Big John coughed as he lit the cigar.Â â€œNobody invited you, either.Â You wouldnâ€™t be at this game â€™cept youâ€™re visiting from New York.Â Weâ€™ll take East Coast money anytime.â€
â€œDonâ€™t break hard on my buddy,â€ Little Stevie Two jumped in.Â â€œI invited him.â€
â€œYou shut up, too,â€ Big John spat.Â He cast a derisive glance at the two Stevies.Â â€œI donâ€™t know why we let radio people in this game anyhow.â€
â€œSo we can take your money legally,â€ Little Stevie One said as he threw five white chips into the middle of the table. â€œAnte up.â€
â€œAll you guys can it!â€ I put in my money.Â â€œThatâ€™s getting awfully close to business talk.Â One more slip and itâ€™ll cost you fifty dollars.â€
â€œThe hell you say.â€ Big John made the pot right.Â â€œBesides, youâ€™ve got this music playing.Â Iâ€™m sure thatâ€™s a subliminal message your subtle, skinny ass is trying to get across.â€
â€œItâ€™s Little Feat, you idiot,â€ Burt laughed.Â â€œItâ€™s so old, you worked it at Columbia.â€
Big John slapped his hand down.Â â€œThat is business talk, boy, put fifty in the middle.â€
Burt flipped him off.
â€œPlay cards,â€ Johnny C said from the corner.
â€œPlay cards?â€ Barney lit another cigarette.
â€œYouâ€™ve been in the deep freeze ever since you won the first two pots.Â Why donâ€™t you try staying in a hand for a change?Â Youâ€™ll never make it to the car with all that money anyhow.â€
I checked my hole cards and made a Plen bet.
â€œWhatâ€™s the game?â€ Big John asked.
â€œSeven card Macintosh, high-low, two spit cards and you can buy a card for twenty.â€
Big John made a face.Â â€œHow do you play?â€
â€œJust call the two dollars and weâ€™ll teach you as you go along,â€ I told him.
â€œIâ€™ll be damned if Iâ€™ll do that,â€ Big John cried.Â â€œAll you guys want is my money.â€
â€œYou sound surprised.â€
Big John shook his head.Â â€œNope, just hurt.â€
â€œYou keep playing all those hands and youâ€™re really going to get hurt,â€ Kevin snickered.
Big John gave him a look.Â â€œWhen I want your opinion, hot shot, Iâ€™ll beat it out of you.â€
â€œCome on,â€ Barney snapped, â€œbet or fold.â€
Big Johnâ€™s eyebrows twitched and he shot a quick glance in Kevinâ€™s direction.Â He threw two chips in the pot and said, â€œIâ€™ll bet a Seaweed.â€
â€œFoul, damn it!â€ Johnny C yelled.Â â€œHeâ€™s talking business.â€
â€œFifty bucks, Big John,â€ I said.Â â€œYou know the rules.â€
Big John shrugged his shoulders and put in fifty.Â â€œIt was worth it.â€
â€œCall the Seaweed,â€ Smiley said, â€œAnd raise you a Lenny Kravitz.â€
Before Johnny C could object, Plen tossed in another fifty.
â€œThis is getting bad,â€ Little Stevie Two said.
Barney studied his cards, pursed his lips and reached for another cigarette.
â€œYou gonna bet or look at those cards all night?â€ Burt asked.
Barney reached for his chips.Â â€œCall the Seaweed and Lenny Kravitz,â€ he paused dramatically, â€œand raise a Prince and a Tom Petty.â€
Kevin threw his cards down.Â â€œThis is really getting out of control.â€
â€œHey, Iâ€™m paying the tab,â€ Barney said as he threw in one hundred dollars.
â€œWhatâ€™s up with you?â€ Big John asked.
â€œTheyâ€™re already playing all of my records.â€
Cards turned and the chips piled up in the middle.Â The table got tense.Â Smiley wasnâ€™t smiling.Â Johnny C was in the freezer.Â Big John held his cards closer than a newborn child.
â€œShowtime,â€ Smiley said.Â Â â€œLetâ€™em flop.â€
Little Stevie One already had the lock low.Â It was a matter of who would split the pot with himâ€¦Big John or Little Stevie Two.
â€œReadâ€™em and weep,â€ Big John cried.Â â€œFull houseâ€¦Aces over Queens.â€Â He reached for his share of the money.
â€œNot so fast,â€ Little Stevie Two said.
The table quieted down once more.Â All eyes were on the second Stevie. He played the moment like a maestro.
â€œTurnâ€™em over,â€ Barney ordered.
Little Stevie Two did.Â â€œA blaze,â€ he said proudly.
Big John stared at the cards.Â â€œA blaze?â€ he yelled.Â â€œWhat the hell is a blaze?â€
â€œThree diamonds, two hearts,â€ Little Stevie Two answered.
Big Johnâ€™s face turned beet red.Â He leaned back in his chair and bit his lip.Â 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.Â â€œDoes a blaze beat a full house?â€
I nodded.Â â€œIt does in this gameâ€¦as long as a radio guy is holding it.â€
He shook his head.Â â€œThat donâ€™t hardly seem right.â€
I shrugged.Â â€œSo, what are you going to do?â€
He was quite for a moment, then began shuffling the cards.Â â€œShut up and deal.â€