Full Tilt

One would think I could at least get a little light from the moon I mutter to myself as I walk down the dark road.  Not even a damn street light. “That’s never bothered you before” comes a voice from the shadows. I roll my eyes and retort that I’m tired and may be inclined to stumble tonight”.  I hear the laughter and then comes a gentle reply”You never stumble, but I will humor you”. Suddenly there are torches lining the road. “Well damn”, I think to myself.  “If bitching was all I needed to do, I’d have done it long ago”. Again comes a laugh and the admonishment to not think so loudly.  I grin to myself and continue on to my destination. The bar comes into view, and light and music and laughter flows out its doors. I stop to survey the scene before I enter and the voice again comes from behind me. “Something wrong Cher?” I shake my head, but am a little nervous.  There will be big time players at this little soiree and some of them make me more than a little apprehensive in their sideways looks . “Do not worry about the others.  Just deal the cards and make sure they go where they are supposed to”. I chuckle.  “Is this rigged?” He laughs. “Isn’t it always? We go inside and the party seems to already be in full swing.  We make our way past the bar toward the private room off to the side. If one didn’t know where to look for it, you would miss the door .  Nondescript, no visible handle , looking like a piece of furniture standing beside the bar. We enter and the players are already there. I recognize each and every one, catching the eye of one as she gives me a wink of encouragement. Our host greets everyone and sees to their refreshments, handing out cigars and rum and coffee to those who wanted to keep a clear head. The cards are brought out, sealed, shown to all and then I am introduced as the dealer.  If there were objections, they were wise enough to not voice them to the host of this fete. We all assume our seats and I break the seal, holding my breath as I do so. I hear a voice in my ear whisper”just deal the cards ma petite, things will be fine”. I let out my breath and start to deal. One by one the cards fall, and the players start to look and calculate their bets. And so it goes, first one then the other folding, winning, losing, until at the end there are but two players left. “I think we should take a break” says our host. It is agreed and I stand for the first time that evening.  My legs tremble slightly as I get my bearings. I go to the bar to get a snack and something to drink. The rum I get comes in a coffee cup and I look confused. “This one is for the player on the left” .  “But she says coffee only,” I began…”She will need the fortification later” he says. I know by now to not argue because one way or another, what happens will be as he dictates. I shrug and place the cup before her and take my own to my seat.  At her first sip, she raises her eyebrows at me and I shrug.  She nods and then we resume the game.  A new deck is brought forth.  I almost salivate at the cards.  The most delicious designs I have never seen before and it makes me want them so much. The host grins and shakes his head as he places the cards in the center of the table. “My friends”, he says to the players. “Feel free to inspect the deck”. The player on my right picks up the deck and inspects it so closely I thought for a minute he might break out a magnifying glass.  He sits it back down. “What about you Girl?”, asks the host to the player on my left.  She shrugs and gives it a cursory glance, checking that the seal was intact then sits it back on the table, folding her hands in front of her. “Very well”, he says. Then he breaks the seal and hands them to me. “This hand is winner take all, one hand only and its final in its outcome.,  Agreed?” Both players agree and I begin a slow shuffle, feeling the cards slide together and I swear I could hear them sing and drum as I did so. I look up hoping nobody else was paying attention.  But the host of the party smiles and winks.  I begin to deal the cards. The game moves quickly at first until the last round of cards. The tension builds and the bets grow.  Everyone in the room seems to hold their breath.  I have no ideas what the game is for, but it’s a big deal I know, but I can’t think about that now.  I deal the last card face down to each player. The player on the right lifts an edge and I see just a glimmer of a tic at the corner of his mouth.  “Ah, not good” I think to myself. We all sit waiting for him to bid. He does and I look down at the cards in my hand so as not to betray my surprise that he would try and bluff his way through his suck ass hand. The player to my left has been watching the whole scene play out and finally touches her last card, just lifting the corner to glance at it then laying it down. She says nothing then sees the bet then goes all in. If the room was quiet before, it was cemetery still now. Everyone stood still, scarcely breathing to see how this played out. The player on the right seemed to have lost more color in his face(if that was possible) and took an inordinate amount of time in turning the cards over. “Is there a problem Monsieur”? asked the host.  He shook his head.  “Then we will see your cards please”. With a sigh, he turns them over.  Not a great hand, but certainly not one that garnered his full tilt play. The player on the left says nothing, but I can see the small smile in her eyes as she knows that she has indeed won. “Madame” says the host.  She turns her cards over slowly one by one until she reveals the last card that proves that she is the winner .  “No”! yells the first player as he begins rising from his seat. The host stands before him looking every inch of the owner of the domain that he is. “This is not where you want to start something you will not finish”, he tells the first player quietly. At that one word of warning, the player nods, and seems to shrink in size and he walks dejectedly from the room.  The other players congratulate the second player and they took take their leave. “Well now”, he says.  “I think we deserve a drink”. The rum begins to flow, and I lose count of how many glasses I downed. “Congratulations Girl,” he tells the second player. She raises her glass in acceptance and murmurs her thanks. “And you ma petite, thank you for your adept dealing”. I laugh because they were just cards after all.  “Were they?” he asked. “Did you not hear the singing and drumming of them”? I choke on the rum and think “oh dear gods, I wasn’t hearing things”. He laughs and soon the winner of the game tells us she has to leave.  She thanks me for the dealing and the game and thanks our host then makes her way out of the bar. “Why did you have me switch her drinks?” I ask him. “She needed it, and will again” he says, drawing on his cigar.”Am I to know what the prize was of this little game?” “Not at present”, he says. “But you will find out soon. FUCK! There will be a second part to this evening.  Why things can’t be simple, I have no idea,lol. I soon take my leave and wake up the next morning with a slight headache from the rum. Not too bad considering all I downed, so maybe I am getting used to drinking with him..damn, that’s can’t be a good thing..can it?