December 10, 2020 at 10:49 am #16278witenbergParticipant
The Cincinnati Kid
by Richard Jessup, Jerome Charyn
- ISBN: 9780917657580 (0917657586)
- Language: english
- Format: paperback, 168 pages
- Release date: November 13, 1985
- Genres: fiction
- Publisher: Plume
- Author: Richard Jessup, Jerome Charyn
About The Book
He was a skinny kid, just twenty-six when it started, with a face set off by a large nose that gave him the look of a hawk. He was a tight man. Everything about him was close and quiet; his gestures were short and clean, with no wasted movement. His eyes were bright and hard, the kind of blue you might see in the sky at high noon, if you looked straight up at the sky; almost white, but still pale, pale blue. He had dark yellowish circles under his eyes that rested on his cheekbones where the skin was drawn tight, as if he might have liver trouble from too much drinking, but he was physically sound and the circles came from playing stud poker all day and all night for many years.
He had been playing in the back room of Hoban’s Pool Room and Poker Parlor since Monday at 4 p.m. It had started out as fooling around and then, as happened so many times, it developed into a game. The others began to drop in and a gig was working. It was nickel-and-dime stuff as long as it was The Kid and The Shooter and Pig, but when Carey and Carmody came in, both of whom bet the Cardinals and had won nicely over the weekend double-header, the play moved, deceptively, from nickel-and-dime to a quarter and a half and then wide open. It was Wednesday now, eleven in the morning. The game, like an endlessly circling bird, moved with a slow inexorable pace toward the center pot of money that grew magically with each dealt hand; revolving hands of cards, accompanied with a musical comment of silver upon silver tossed into the center of the table as the chant was heard, so soft as to be a litany calling on ghostly assistance and deliverance. “Queens bet.” “A half.” “In.” “Kicking it a half.” “And another half.” “And a half more.” “Buck and a half to me, and a half more.” The ritual quickened. It was the fourth card. Now the whisper and flutter of paper money would wash into the middle of the table. Someone dealt. The cards sliced through the smoky airless room like silent stealing death. And with each card, face up, a chant of destiny from the dealer, for he was the sole instrument in the life of a rambling-gambling man, bringing face up for all the world to see the next wonderful secret. There is nothing more for the gambling man. It is all there, sealed in the narrow turn of the next card.
“A five to the queens, a jack to the possible, a nothing to the fours, an ace to the kicker, and the Gun shoots himself a red ten. Still queens.”
The raiser came back with a touch, a breath, feeling his way into those checking queens like a man fumbling in the dark. He touched it and then the queens slammed down hard on him.
It was the clap of doom. Three players dropped out and it was back to the raiser. He hesitated. He knew three fours could not beat three queens. And to make sure (though there was another card coming and another chance) there were three queens, it would cost him twenty dollars. Pig had the fours. The Kid had the queens.
They looked at each other’s cards. They were past the point as rambling-gambling men where they could play each other’s faces. Pig played the cards. There was no hope in playing The Kid. And it was not worth twenty dollars to see if The Kid was bluffing. He folded.
The Shooter gathered up the cards and began to shuffle. In his huge hands the cards were like summer moths around a light, fluttering, singing, tightening and then disappearing as he cut them and rippled them again. The Shooter was acknowledged as the best man with cards along the Mississippi and west to Vegas. He looked over at The Kid who was stacking his half dollars. “They say Lancey is in town,” he said softly.
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