Peter McMillan | ‘Poker Night at Papa G’s’ Illustration by Rosa Middleton
Lou was agitated in the beginning but he gradually settled down. He drank like a fish and that always improved his outlook. He had been a little worried about his poor sick wife, but now he was looking forward to swinging by little Alice’s on the way home.
Papa G dozed, off and on, through most of the game, and since he wasn’t allowed to smoke at the table anymore, he wore an unlit stogie stump in the corner of his mouth. The others were all too glad to help him out where they could, though. After each deal, Papa G’s cards came to him nicely ordered from low to high or high to low depending which friend, Lou or Ozzie, had lent a hand.
For no apparent reason, Mr. Chance frequently leapt up in the middle of the game and paced about, then just as suddenly stopped and ran back to check his cards. No one could hail him, because Mr. Chance was deaf as post. Unlike Papa G, he was too unpredictable for his neighbours to assist him. And when it came to tricking Mr. Chance, Ozzie, on his left, was a little jumpy, and Roscoe, on his right, was just too well-mannered.
Ozzie barked whenever Mr. Chance went on tour and he even barked at Papa G to wake him up, but every time Lou’s great big furry mitt reached around behind the forward-slumping Papa G and grabbed Ozzie by the scruff of the neck until Ozzie submitted.
Roscoe was the new guy, and he played the waiting game. He simply wanted to watch, enjoy his scotch and cigarillos, have a good time blowing smoke rings into the green lamp shade … and, of course, leave with his shirt.
Frankie was the other loudmouth, and between him and Ozzie, there was enough racket to wake the baby next door several times, each triggering a howling contest. Frankie was well-connected so nobody said or did anything to him lest he get his nose out of joint. Although he had a keen nose for business, at cards he was hopeless, so he kept a low profile at the table, paging through the girly magazine in his lap.
Lemuel was the oldest and he didn’t play. After he finished his steak tartar and a six pack of Becks, he was snoring and making sundry other noises on the couch the rest of the night. Later, Frankie, who knew Lemuel from way back, slipped Lemuel a few of his winnings and told him that he did pretty well for an old guy. Next day, Lemuel had a spring in his step.
Despite the neighbours’ complaints, the super didn’t bust up the game. It wasn’t necessary. Everyone, even Lou, was sound asleep by 10:00.
Illustration by: Rosa Middleton