Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Aunt Clara Part Fourteen

 He layed the deck on the table, face down, and said to Aunt Clara, "Cut 'em, sis?" Aunt Clara merely tapped them, saying, "That's okay, Jack, I trust you."
      "Good", he said, and began dealing the cards. "Dealer's choice", he exclaimed, "And I choose five card draw. Nothing wild. Nickel ante. "So", he said, "Ante up ladies and gentlemen!"
      We all threw in a nickel each and studied our cards. Yvonne was to Jack's left and so it was up to her to go first. She looked at the hand she was dealt and stuck her tongue in her cheek. "I'll bet a quarter", she said and slid a quarter to the center of the table. 
      All I had was a six of hearts, a three of hearts, a nine of somthing or the other, a ten of diamonds and a Queen of clubs. Some hand, but I didn't want to chicken out this early in the game, so I threw in a quarter to match Yvonne's bet. 
      Aunt Clara was next and immediately placed her twenty-five cent bet, announcing, "It's your turn, Jack!"
      Jack placed his quarter bet and turned to Yvonne.
      "So... how many cards, young lady?"
      Again, tongue in cheek, Yvonne carefully pulled one card from her hand and layed it face down on the table.
       "Only one?", Jack asked, "You sure?"
      "Yes", she said, "Only one, thanks."
      Jack dealt her a single card and she picked it up and looked at it, slowly, and placed it in with her other cards. 
      "Bet?" , said Jack. 
       "Uh...hmm...ok...I bet... fifty cents!", she exclaimed and slid two quarters across the table.
      I threw away two cards, the six and the three, and picked up two cards. Damn it. A five and a four! Useless! This time I layed all of my cards on the table, face down, folding. 
      Aunt Clara said,  "I'll take two cards, please", discarding two as she spoke. Jack dealt her two cards and she placed them in her hand, cocking one eyebrow. "I'll see your half a buck just to see what Yvonne's got there!"
     Uncle Jack said, "I think I'll just stick with what I've got. I will see the bet and raise you... another half a buck!"
      Yvonne and Aunt Clara matched the bet and Jack said, "So... young lady... whatcha got?"
      Yvonne presented a full house. Three eights and a pair of aces. Pretty good I thought. Clara showed a pair of fours and nothing else. "Oh well", she said. "Can't win 'em all". 
      Jack cleared his throat, slightly, and whispered, "Not bad, young lady, not bad at all... but not good enough I'm afraid. I do not believe that a full house beats ... a straight flush. Read 'em and weep." He layed his cards on the table for all to see. Eight, nine, ten, Jack, and Queen. All the same suit. I can't remember what suit they were, but they were the same and Uncle Jack had won the first hand. He rubbed his hands together and, rather quickly, slid his winnings to his place at the table, then stacked the quarters neatly in front of him.
      To make a short story even shorter Jack cleaned us all out over the course of the next several hands. I think Aunt Clara might've won one hand. Yvonne won two or three and I won zip.
      Jack pushed his chair back from the table and, not bothering to count it, put his money in his pocket. He stood up and, with his hands on his hips, he did a little tapdance, singsonging, "Now that was fun and that's how it's done, that's whatcha get if ya bet with me!" He took a slight bow and grinned that shiney toothed grin.
      I was feeling bummed out and a little bit embarrassed. I didn't mind losing, but I didn't want to lose THAT bad. Not even one hand? Jack, sensing my mood, came over and stood behind me, resting his hands on my shoulders.
      "C'mon Davey, don't take it so hard. It's just a game.....right...? Besides, there's always next time... maybe... and maybe you'll win next time... maybe... I doubt it...", he whispered, "..... but maybe."
      He walked around and sat back down in his chair, drumming his fingers on the table and humming what sounded like some kind of jazz tune.
      Then there was an unmistakable moment of awkwardness. Finally, after several seconds which seemed like hours, Yvonne spoke up.
      "Uh... Uncle Jack... do you mind if I ask you a question?"
      "Sure, why not?", said Jack. "Go for it, young lady."
      "Well", she said, "I was just wondering... uh... well... why, exactly, are you here?"
      "To teach you a thing or two about playing poker, young lady! Right?!"
      "Well, no," Yvonne said. "I mean... why are you REALLY here?"
      "Like I said, I'm here to play a game of poker with you and your dad. And my sister, your Great Aunt Clara. Anything else? I could loan you a few bucks if you want to play some more!"
      "No", Yvonne said, "That's okay. I just thought. I don't know. I just thought maybe you were here for some... I don't know... just some other reason. Nevermind, Uncle Jack. I was just wondering."
      More awkward silence, then Aunt Clara said, "Oh, c'mon Jack, tell us why you're really here. I mean besides just to play a game of poker..."
      Now Jack's mood changed. His eyes lost that sly little glint and took on a more serious, darker, look.
      "Well, uh... if you must know, I'm here because... I... uh... it's getting kind of... lonesome... back there. Nobody really wants to ... you know... play poker.. or anything...with me. I don't know. They.. everybody just... sort of... ignors me. Even my enemies. They don't care... what I do. Or don't do. I owed them a pile of dough and they stabbed me to death. They left me dead on the beach in Jersey and that was that. No more games. No more sneaking around and, after a little while, they just ignored me altogether. So, I came here. Clara's here and she likes it so I thought... maybe I'd check it out, too. Never thought I could get... bored... or lonesome... but.... well... anyway... you asked. So there. I guess I'm in need of .... maybe... a little fun... maybe.... friends..." 
      "Love?", Yvonne ventured.
      "Well", said Jack, "I don't know about all that."
      "Oh, c'mon Jack," Aunt Clara volunteered, "Everybody needs love, Jack, even you... right?"
      Then she patted him on the top of his derby hat as if he were a little boy. He grinned a little, looked at her with one eye, and said, softly, "...Yeah, well.... whatever."
      By the way folks, you can read Aunt Clara's story, beginning with part one, atsingingcobbler.blogspot.com      There are lots of other stories there, also. Thanks! Duffy

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Aunt Clara Part Thirteen

 As I drove down Magnolia Avenue I sang along with Willie. "Whiskey river take my mind..."
I was feeling really tired so I decided to take a nap in the parking lot at the shoe shop. I shut the motor off but left the radio on at a very low volume. I leaned the driver's seat back as far as it would go and closed my eyes. The next thing I knew,  there was a light tapping on my window. It was Yvonne motioning me to roll the window down. I recovered my senses, rolled it down, and she handed me a cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee. "Here you go, Pop, just the way you like it. Real cream, no fake stuff, and two sugars. Careful, it's hot."
      I turned the radio off and, gratefully, took the coffee. She was right, it was hot. It was also very tasty.
      "So", I said, "You ready for your poker lesson?"
      "Oh, yeah", she said, "I'm ready. Only I think I'm going to be giving him a lesson!"
      "You go girl," I said, as cool as possible. She rolled her eyes a little, reminding me of me.
      "What time is it?", I asked. "Ten 'til midnight", she said. "Can we go on in? I'm cold!"
      We walked across the street and a little ways up the alley to the side door of the shop. I unlocked the door, but just as I was about to step inside, Yvonne touched me on the shoulder and whispered, "Shhh, Papa, listen... you hear that?"
      I nodded my head yes. It was some old song I didn't recognize. It sounded like something from the nineteen twenties or maybe the thirties.    
      We made our way through the backroom, the "storage" area, in the dark. When we got to the swinging door, the one leading into the big showroom, Yvonne tapped me on the shoulder again and said, softly, "Wait, let me take a look." We could hear the music plainly now and, as Yvonne moved past me in the darkness, I could also hear what sounded like shuffling shoes. Like... dancing. Yvonne opened the door slightly and a beam of light fell across her face. I was listening and watching as her eyes grew wide and she smiled big. 
      "What is it?!", I whispered, "C'mon, Yvonne, what is it?!"
      "Oh... my... God", she whispered back. "I can't believe it. Oh, Papa, you won't believe it either. Look". She stepped back into the darkness and I moved forward and peered into the room. The music, louder now, was playing fast and, as I adjusted my eyes to the light, my heart fairly skipped a beat. Or maybe it doubled up on the beat. There they were. Uncle Jack and Aunt Clara... dancing! Jack in his silk suit and his gold toothed grin beaming. And Aunt Clara, not in her wheelchair, but rather... twirling and swirling and kicking up her heels. They were doing the Charleston!
      Then, suddenly and at the same instant, Jack and Clara turned and looked in my direction. They were dancing in place now and motioning with their heads for us to come on in.
      Yvonne had been watching over my shoulder and did not hesitate to push past me and into the lighted room. She stood there for just a moment and then took off in sort of a quick skip. When she got to where they were doing the Charleston she began doing it, too. The three of them were dancing up a storm and I just stood there like a dummy. An absolutely amazed dummy.
      Yvonne was motioning wildly for me to join in. 
      "C'mon Pop! It's fun! C'mon!". But I just stood there, breathing a little too heavily and tapping my foot imperceptibly  I've never been much of a dancer and didn't want to embarrass myself. I just stood there staring and wondering.
      Finally the song ended and the three dancers hugged as they smiled and laughed.
      Uncle Jack lit a cigar, took a swig from a silver flask, and sat down on Great Grandma's old wicker chair. Aunt Clara eased herself into her wheelchair. Her magical, flying, wheelchair.
      She said to Yvonne, "Sweetie, your papa looks a little confused!"
      Nodding her head in agreement, Yvonne walked over to me and said, gently, "Papa, think about it. I mean really. If Aunt Clara can fly... what makes you think she can't dance?!"
      Then, once again, I felt that wonderful, indescribable, sense of ... joy... and peace... and light.
      Uncle Jack scooted his chair over to the card table and began shuffling the deck.
       "Let's play poker", he said, as he winked at Yvonne.