Beer, Poker, Pool
Doreen Drinks a Glacier
Beer, Poker, Pool
“This is good,” Red said taking a pull from the bottle.
“You think all beer is good.”
“That’s because all beer is good – for a fact.”
“But your statement implies that some beer is better.”
“Well, some beer is better.”
“Not that you could tell.”
“Of course I can tell. Just because I’ll drink any beer doesn’t mean I can’t tell the difference.”
“See, I drink Bud. But the fact that I drink Bud and not Pabst proves I can tell.”
“No, it only proves that you can read.”
“I’m saying that, if you couldn’t see the label, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between brands.
“I bet I could.”
“Five says no way.”
“You’re on – but you buy.”
Watley returned from the bar with three bottles and three glasses. He arrayed them before Red. “Here’s a Coors, a Bud, and a Miller. Now let’s see what you know. Turn around.”
Red angled his chair toward the dance floor while Watley poured, putting an equal measure of Bud in all the glasses. He then placed all three bottles beneath the table.
“OK, turn back around.”
Red studied the glasses. He took a sip from each, then drained each glass in turn.
“Well?” Watley inquired. “Which is which?”
“One of them’s Bud.”
“Duh! I told you you could read. We know that.”
“And one of them isn’t Pabst.”
“We know that too. I didn’t buy any Pabst, smarty pants.”
“But you said I couldn’t tell the difference, and I just did. I told you I could tell Bud from Pabst, and that what I did. Pay up.”
“But you didn’t say which beer was which. Which one was the Coors? Which one was Miller?”
“The Coors and the Miller were the ones that weren’t the Bud. Pabst isn’t Bud, Coors isn’t Bud, and Miller isn’t Bud. Get it? Now pay up.”
“You’re trying to cheat me,” Watley protested. “I’m not paying.”
“You owe me five.”
“And you owe me five. So we’re square.”
“At least give me one of those beers you bought.”
Watley retrieved the bottles from below the table.
“I’ll take the Bud,” Red asserted.
“There is no Bud. There’s only Miller and Coors. You drank the Bud.”
“Oh, I guess we see who the cheat is! Let me have the Coors then.”
“I can’t do that,” Watley explained, “because you drink only Bud.”
“I didn’t say that I drank only Bud. Obviously I drink other beers. That’s why I know the difference between Bud and Pabst. Why would I bet on being able to tell the difference between them if I drank only one brand?”
“Because you’re stupid.”
“That’s what you think. So who paid for the free beer I drank?”
“But who won the bet?”
“Settle it over pool?
“Five a game?” Watley asked.
“You’re on,” Red said, “but I break.”
“You broke last time.”
“What do you mean?”
“I said you broke first last time.”
“But I didn’t break last.”
“What’s that got to do with it?”
“If you broke last, then it’s my turn to break.”
“No, you broke first last time, so it’s my time to break first this time.”
“So we’re alternating?”
“Yeah, but not like you think.”
“How do you think I think?”
Watley stared at Red. “Maybe you don’t.”
“If I don’t, then how could I have developed a plan about alternating? So my plan proves that I think, and my thinking proves that you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.”
“Are you going to talk or shoot?”
“Eight ball, right?”
“That’s a slop game. Nine ball.”
“That’s dumb. We can’t use all the balls. We get fifteen balls; we’ve paid for fifteen balls. We might as well use them all.”
“Hey, genius, we could hold six back for the next game and save quarters.”
“Then we would be playing six ball in that game.”
“We could, or we could put in three more quarters.”
“How does that save money?”
“You wouldn’t because I’d still be clearing $4.25 a game off you every time I beat your ass.”
“Let me ask you something. If we play nine ball, does the fifteen become the nine ball in the second game?”
“The object is to make the nine ball in nine ball. Is the object to make the fifteen ball in six ball?”
“The six ball probably won’t be on the table.”
“I know that.”
“So what’s your point?”
“Is the highest ball the six ball?”
“No, the fifteen is the highest ball.”
“So the fifteen is the nine ball in six ball?”
“Wanna shoot eight ball instead?”
Watley drove the cue ball through the rack of balls, smirking as the last came to rest. “My choice,” he said. “I sunk a stripe and a solid, so I’m either.”
“No, you made the stripe first, so you’re a stripe.”
“That’s not the rule. It’s my choice.”
“You’ve got a choice as long as it’s a stripe. If you shoot a solid, you’re shooting my ball.”
“Suppose I had scratched?”
“Then it would be my turn.”
“But what color would I be?”
“You wouldn’t be any color. You’d be through. It would be my turn.”
“What would you be?”
“I wouldn’t be anything until I made a ball.”
“So you could be anything you like?”
“No, I’d be whatever I made.”
“So why can’t I be what I made?”
“Because you made a stripe and a solid. You can’t be both unless you plan to make all the balls.”
“If I can’t be both, then I get to choose to be something.”
“I told you you don’t get to choose to be something. You either are something or you’re not.”
“So what am I?”
“I told you. You’re through.”
Three turns later Red sized up a cut shot on the eight.
“How can I be expected to beat you when I have this big sore on my wrist? Doesn’t it bother you to take advantage of me that way?” Watley asked.
Grinning, Red stroked the cue unhurriedly. Ever so slowly the white ball eased past the black. It missed it narrowly but nevertheless altogether.
“I win,” Watley announced.
“I win. You scratched on the eight ball.”
“I didn’t scratch on the eight. I just didn’t hit it.”
“Same thing. That’s a scratch.”
“A scratch is when you sink the cue ball.”
“That too. But if you miss the eight ball, it’s a scratch as well – a table scratch.”
“And what kind of scratch is it if I sink the cue ball?”
“That would be a pocket scratch.”
“But you scratched earlier on the four, and you didn’t lose.”
“That’s because it wasn’t on the eight.”
“You still didn’t lose, did you?”
“No, you don’t lose by scratching on the four. If this weren’t a bar table, I would have to pull one of my balls out of the pocket and spot it.”
“So you got to scratch for nothing?”
“What do you mean?”
“Did you pull a ball out of the pocket?”
“Of course not. How could I do that on a bar table? You don’t get the balls back.”
“So you scratched without any penalty whatsoever?”
“Not really. I had to watch you shoot. That’s penalty enough!”
“And now you get to shoot. Same same. Why should I lose when I scratch, and you don’t get penalized at all when you do? Do make up the rules to every game you play?”
“How about a compromise?”
“What do you mean?”
“Let’s say that, when a player scratches and can’t put a ball back on the table, then the other player gets to take one off. OK?”
“OK,” Red agreed. “So you owe me a ball for scratching on the four. I’m taking one of my balls off the table now.”
“But you don’t have any balls left. You just have the eight.”
“I know.” Red picked up the eight and dropped into the side pocket. “You owe me five.”
“Say, what is that sore on your wrist anyway?” Red inquired.
“Feel it,” Watley said. “Go ahead. Feel it.” Watley raised his forearm toward Red’s face. A marble-sized swelling was visible above the wrist.
“I don’t rightly know.”
“The how do you know it wasn’t a spider?”
“Would’ve felt it. I didn’t feel anything.”
“Do you feel something now?”
“A knot. I feel a knot. See? Touch it.” Once again Watley extended the risen flesh toward Red.
“No, thanks. That’s all right. What are you going to do about it?”
“Watch it I guess.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m going to see if gets any bigger.”
“And if it does?”
“I don’t know. I hope it doesn’t.”
“What if it doesn’t get bigger?”
“But it’s likely to. They always do.”
“So you’ve had one before?”
“No, but I’ve heard about them.”
“Heard about what? I thought you didn’t know what it was.”
“I don’t – but I’ve seen things like it. And they’re dangerous.”
“Dangerous enough to warrant looking after.”
“But what good does looking do?”
“You know, the watched pot thing.”
“Or in this case a watched boil.”
“Same difference. If I watch it, it might not grow. But if it does, I’ll notice.”
“Then I suppose I’ll have someone take a look at it.”
“But you’ve been looking at it. Even I’ve seen it. Will one more person do any good?”
“I’m not talking about just anyone. I’m talking a bout a doctor or somebody.”
“Not when it comes to this thing on my arm, you’re not. You’re certainly no doctor. If you were, then you’d know what this thing on my arm is.”
“So why did you show it to me then?”
“Because it’s the kind of thing that everybody should watch out for. And while you’re not somebody, not in the doctor sense, you are someone.”
“Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep this a secret until you know for sure what it is? You don’t everyone getting upset over nothing, do you?”
Watley was puzzled by Red’s remark. “But if isn’t nothing. I can feel it. That proves it’s already something.”
“But if only one person needs to watch it, then why tell everyone – unless it’s contagious? It’s not, is it?”
“Why, are you afraid to touch it? Admit it, you’re afraid. Or jealous!”
“You can’t be jealous of a sore. You have to be jealous of a person.”
“I’m a person.”
“Yes, you are, but I’m not jealous. If I were, it would be envy anyway, not jealousy.”
“But you are curious. Admit it. You’re stumped and don’t know what it is.”
“No, you’re the one who doesn’t know what it is. I think it’s a spider bite.”
“But I told you it wasn’t.”
“No, you said you would have felt it if it were a spider bite. And you admitted that you could feel it, that everyone could feel it. You offered to let me feel it. So maybe it’s a spider bite.”
“Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t. Want to settle it at cards?”
“Yeah, let’s cut to see who deals.”
“What’s the point in that? Why not just cut for the money you owe me?”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you, particularly since you got to break at pool?”
“All right, we’ll cut to see who deals. Then what?”
“Then we play.”
“Poker – a man’s game. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised you’re not familiar with it.”
“I suppose now you’ll be telling me that stud is the only game to play.”
“It’s what I’m accustomed to.”
“I’ll bet you’re accustomed to studs. Is that why you took so long in the rest room?”
“Watley, you’d play strip with a nun just for a glimpse of heaven.”
“Nun? Why bring up your sex life? None is the only sex you’ve had.”
“Just get the cards.”
“Right here,” Watley said, opening the pearl snap on his shirt. The cards had blue backs, but they weren’t Bicycles, and they were worn too much to shuffle easily. Watley didn’t offer Red a cut.
“Just make sure you deal clockwise,” Red admonished.
“There’s only two of us, so there is no clockwise.”
“Of course, there’s clockwise. Lookie there.” Red pointed to the clock behind the bar, its red second hand sweeping in standard fashion. “That’s clockwise.”
“So if a clock runs ten minutes fast, that’s clockwise? That clockstupid.”
“What I’m saying is, clockwise won’t change the cards I’ll get or you get – unless you try to cheat – but it will change the direction the cards come to me.”
“What are you talking about? You couldn’t find north with an atlas and a pocket full of lodestone.”
“I’m not talking about that kind of direction. If you deal clockwise, then your right hand leads. You can’t hide it behind the deck and palm a card as easily. If you come at me counter-clockwise, your left hand leads, and I can’t be sure what you’re dealing.”
“All right, cry baby. Have it your way?” Watley made a grand gesture with the deck, then peeled off the first card awkwardly with his left hand.
“You did that for spite,” Red said.
“No, I’m going to kick your ass for spite.”
Watley dealt each two cards face down. Then he dealt another for each of them, this time face up. Both received Jacks, two nearly identical nudes except one was blonde.
“You’re a sick puppy to look at her that way,” Watley asserted.
“Well, you’re a suck puppy. Bet.”
“How do you figure?” Watley asked.
“Your Jack is lower. It’s a club. Club is the lowest suit. Low card brings it in, so you go first.”
“The first Jack dealt has the right of way. And the lowest suit I ever saw was the one you got married in. How’d you make it shine like that?”
“I know you’re wrong,” Red countered, “but we can’t cut the cards to decide because we’re already using them to decide who won at pool. But since I’m eager to get my money, I’ll speed things along. Pass,” he declared.
“Check. It’s called check.”
“Pass is for bridge. Check is for poker.”
“There’s no passing on a bridge, idiot. Everyone knows that. And I’m not accepting any of your checks at poker either. Only good old American greenbacks.”
“If you don’t want to bet, say, ‘Check.’”
“Why didn’t you say that right away instead of dragging this out?”
“Because of the rules. Rules are important. They’re what separate us from the savages. Without them dogs and cats would be dancing in the streets. Without them how would we get anything done?”
Watley was unprepared to debate whether dogs were savages. He checked Red’s check, and both stared impassively at one another for a moment.
“Speaking of rules,” Watley explained, “there is a special rule on the fourth card. If either one of us has an exposed pair . . . .”
“I’ve got an exposed pair,” Red interrupted. “Look at the ones on my Jack.”
“I’m not talking about that kind of pair. If either of us shows a pair, then that person can double the bet.”
“But neither of us has bet,” Red observed.
Watley shrugged. “Nevertheless, those are the rules.” He dealt Red a deuce and himself a King.
“Wait, wait. Hold on!” Red said. “You’re supposed to burn a card. You didn’t do that. You should have burned the two. So that King is rightfully mine.” He slid Watley’s King – a naked brunette dressed only in what appeared to be a gold cardboard crown – over to his side of the table. “Deal yourself another.”
Red may have been right, maybe not, but he didn’t argue the point. He turned over an eight for himself.
“Check,” Red said.
“You’ve got two face cards, and you’re not betting?”
“I don’t need to bet to the win the money; I just need to win the hand. Besides, I spent all my quarters at pool.”
“So you’re not going to bet on any round?”
“Street. They’re called streets, aren’t they?” Red corrected. “So why don’t you bet?”
“On what – a lousy eight against your King?”
Watley burned and dealt alternately until each had six cards. Neither man showed a pair, but a gallery of eight nudes in exotic poses smiled before them. “The last card,” Watley explained. “The river.”
“Streets, rivers – now who’s playing bridge?”
“Bridge is a girl’s game.”
“It sure was the last time I played. And I had a good time too until the policeman shined his flashlight under the bridge.”
Watley couldn’t hide his smile. He dealt Red a card face down and then one to himself. It was clear that neither intended to open. Both men studied their hands.
“OK, let’s see ‘em. What have you got?” Watley demanded.
Red turned over his hole cards and pushed his best five forward: two Jacks, the King he’d taken from Watley, a nine, and a seven. Then Watley turned his.
“Flush,” he said, pointing to five naked blondes, two with dimples.
“Nice try,” Red said, “but color isn’t the same as suit. And the way I see it, these women aren’t wearing suits of any kind.”
“But they’re the same suits.” Watley reassembled his hand, laying down his Jack, a Queen, a King, an Ace, and a two. “Straight,” he declared.
“How so?” Red asked.
“Well, an Ace can be both high or low.”
“Yes . . . but it can’t be both high and low.”
“Hoyle, I guess.”
“So who said you won at pool?”
“I did, I guess.”
“But you didn’t. I did.”
“No, you scratched.”
“So it’s one apiece. Let’s settle it. I’m thinking of a number.”
“Perhaps you should start with a letter instead of a number.”
“Double or nothing?”
“M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i. That’s three double letters to your nothing.
“But who has the sore on his wrist?”
Both men sat back in their chairs. There was nothing more to shoot or cut, nothing left to drink. Nothing to decide. Nothing to consider but the swelling on Watley’s wrist.