Rules of the GamebyMarciaRH©
I had never considered myself a slut. I'd had my share of sexual adventures in school, sure, including the loss of my virginity to a friend's brother when I was 14, and a few misadventures at parties and at bars, and in dorm rooms during college, but no one ever called me loose, no one ever wrote filth about me on bathroom walls, and certainly no one ever accused me of being a total slut. I am quite sure I now deserve that title.
It happened a month ago. Four weeks and two days ago. I was at my laptop emailing when Chelsea called my cell phone. "What's up, Scooter?" I asked. I'd called her Scooter since middle school.
"You know what I forgot to ask?"
"What?" I said, backspacing to start the sentence over again—I was emailing my sister, Jenn.
"Tonight's Dad's poker game night."
I sat up straight. I let the phone drop into my hand and held it to my ear. "What?"
"I know," she said, instantly contrite. "I'm sorry. I forgot. I really did. I'll call Dad and tell him it's no go. Right now. I'm really sorry, Lise."
I bit my lip and looked around the house. It belonged to her dad, who let us have it for a ridiculous $850 a month. One of the conditions was letting him borrow the huge dining room for his Friday night poker games. An inconvenience, sure, but not a particularly painful one. So what if we lost a party night? We always had Saturday night. And half the time Mr. Burns pitched in the rent from his winnings, bought us food, paid the cable and phone bills, the utilities...for God's sake, we practically lived there rent free.
"Don't you dare," I ordered. "I'm not doing anything to endanger our free ride." I cringed, praying her dad wasn't in earshot.
"No way. I am not leaving you alone with those old lechers. Dad'll understand."
"Don't you dare," I repeated. I closed the Macbook to free myself of distraction. "After all your father does for us? I think I can handle an eight-some of geriatrics. Let them come."
"Even, Gary?" she asked doubtfully.
"Even, Gary," I agreed, though doubtful also. Gary the pig, oink-oink. I hated him. "Tell him I'll be out for the evening and he can do whatever he wants. The house is his. Fill it with smoke and stinky farts. I'll be OK."
She laughed, imagining the 50-somethings grouped around the dining room table smoking cigars and raising a cheek to emit noisy toots. It made me laugh also.
"What are you gonna do?" she asked.
"I'll think of something," I said, reopening the Macbook. Matt was in San Jose, visiting his mom for the weekend. Chelsea was on her way to Salinas to weekend with her mom. My mom lived in Oceanside now, too far for a casual drive down the coast. I'd think of something to do.
"Don't worry about it," I assured her. "It's Friday night. I'll party somewhere." On a beautiful May evening, that was an absolute fact.
She thanked me again...and again...and again, and finally we hung up. I sighed, wondering whom I'd call. I was so used to being with either Matt or Chelsea that I felt helpless without them. Not that I was helpless. I was anything but helpless, usually. But I'd fallen into a rut in the past year because of grad school and I needed a little wing-stretching. I had just opened my phone to decide who to call when my email program pinged. I looked up from the display. You have I new message.
I didn't recognize the name. I didn't like the name: OzoneBreather. Who the hell was that?
I leaned forward to tap the touch-pad at the same moment that I noticed the attachment. I paused, biting my lower lip. This was a Mac, relatively safe from all those nasty little critters attacking PCs. I'd listened to Chelsea rant and rave recently about her own lack of PC security though, and didn't want to press my luck. I leaned forward and read the header without touching anything.
Lisa, you'll want to see this.
No name to go along with the email address; just OzoneBreather.
Delete this email, I told myself.
Don't delete this email, I told myself.
I sat on the edge of the chair with my legs crossed uncomfortably and my lower lip caught between my teeth.
I knew what it was. Someone was dropping a dime. Matt was about to be outed. Who with, I wondered, although I knew.
Sitting there, tears stung my eyes.
I'd suspected a while, but suspecting is the equivalent of an IOU instead of cash, a whiff of smoke, rather than flame, a breeze, not a hurricane. A hurricane, bearing down on me.
With a trembling hand I moved the cursor over the email and tapped it gently. There was no text; the body was empty. The attachment was a ZIP file, simply labeled Archive.zip. I moved the cursor and right-clicked the file. I told Mail to scan the files for viruses, which it did busily. It declared the file harmless. With my trembling fingertip I told Mail to download the file to the desktop. It did. I told another program to examine the file and expand it. The file was a folder containing 3 videos and 16 still pictures. One video was sufficient.
* * *
Three hours later, Mr. Burns arrived with two of his friends. I heard the sound of his truck in the driveway. It was a big diesel, one of those monsters with front and back doors and four tires on the back. It was loud, the diesel engine burping out black smoke. The engine died and I heard doors open and close. I heard voices, two of them, and then three of them. I shivered. I had shivered all afternoon. I met them at the side door.
"Hey, Mr. Burns," I said, pecking him on the cheek. Behind him were Jim, and Richard, his two closest friends. Jim was a construction worker, a job-site supervisor or something, Richard a plumber. "Hi, guys," I greeted, grinning. The grin felt taped to my face. I shivered continually, but the men seemed not to notice.
"Lisa," Mr. Burns said, returning my kiss. I stood aside and let the men in. I left the door open for the coming arrivals. I counted on everyone tonight, the whole eight-yards.
"This is very considerate of you, Lisa. I know you'd rather be out enjoying yourself tonight," Mr. Burns said. He was 55 years old, graying with short-cropped hair, stout, but still muscular. He wore glasses he didn't need for anything but reading. He wore a mustache, mostly gray. His clothes were Sears or JC Penney standard issue. He wore scuffed brown work boots. So did the other two.
"I wasn't doing anything anyway," I lied. "Might as well play barkeep and waitress. You know I love you guys," I added, offering a fragile grin. I kept my hands casually in my front pockets. I leaned forward on my toes. I wanted just the right combination of guilelessness and appeal.
Jim blinked. Mr. Burns winked affectionately and Richard seemed not to notice.
I had set up the table as well as memory allowed. Five decks of cards sat in the middle, along with the trays of multicolored chips and scratch pads and pencils, bowls of chips and pretzels, and glasses for their beer around the perimeter. I couldn't remember who did, and who did not drink beer from a glass. It didn't matter. Jack Daniels was in the cabinet beside the sink, but I'd never seen the men drink anything but Coca Cola and beer. I had stocked in Heineken, Coors and Corona. There was a lot of beer, eight cases. I wanted them drunk. The drunker, the better. I wanted them malleable, suggest-able, horny and eager. My plan depended on it. My plan was foolproof. They were men, after all. My only worry was Mr. Burns. Him, I had to convince.
By ten after seven, all eight men were present. Mike had arrived alone. Bill and Nick showed up ten minutes later with another, mostly unneeded case of Heineken. Robert and Gary showed up just after seven o'clock, but stood around in the driveway trading jokes with the next door neighbor for ten minutes. Come on, I muttered to myself, annoyed. Finally, they detached themselves and came in.
"Hey, Lisa," Robert said, offering a hug. Gary, Mr. Pig-eyes, glanced at me, nodded, arched his right brow and eyed me speculatively. I shivered, for an entirely different reason than I had before.
"You look good tonight," he offered.
I felt myself blush and nod. I fought the urge to hunch my shoulders and hide my breasts. "Thank you," I muttered and closed the side door. Robert and Gary continued into the dining room while I headed for the kitchen. Mr. Burns followed.
"Let me help you with that, sweetie."
"I got it," I said. I removed nine bottles of Heineken from the cooler and sat them on a round drinks tray. I planned to drink mine from the bottle also. Just one of the guys.
He lifted a bottle and untwisted the cap, dropped it in the trashcan. I opened mine. We both took a gulp, and I shivered.
"You cold or something?" he asked.
"Uh-uh. No, sir."
He put his right boot on a chair rung.
"You been shaking since we got here tonight." He eyed my forehead, my cheeks, my ears, my neck. "You shouldn't be doing this if you're sick, Lisa. We should be taking care of you, not the other way around. Chelsea'd whup my ass if I let you serve beer when you should be in bed. You're still shaking," he noted.
"I'm fine," I lied. Changing the subject, I asked: "What are you playing, tonight?"
"Is that like poker?"
"It is poker," he corrected, downing another gulp. "The most popular kind of poker there is nowadays. It's where the big money is. They play it in all the casinos."
"Five card draw?" I ventured.
"That too. Not as popular as Texas Hold'em, though."
"How do you play?" I asked.
"Come on out, and I'll show you." Tray in hand, I followed him out to the dining room.
The men were already seated around the table, each in his usual chair. The dining room set seated six; the other two chairs were hand-me-down mismatches that Mr. Burns had scrounged somewhere. We'd need a ninth chair, if I was to sit in, so after placing the tray on the table, I wheeled my chair over from the desk.
"I thought we'd instruct the youngun here," Mr. Burns said. "Let her sit in a few rounds. Get some experience under her belt. The least we can do, seein's how good she's providing for us."
Jim, seated to his left, scooted sideways, opening a space. I wheeled the chair in and sat down nervously. I didn't have to feign discomfort, believe me: a single girl, surrounded by her future gang-bangers. They just didn't know it yet.
Not surprisingly, with the exception of Gary, the table looked pleased by my inclusion. I flashed a general smile, met their eyes momentarily and sat with my hands studiously clasped on the table. I hadn't stopped shaking. I hadn't stopped wanting to scream. Mike Colson, directly opposite me, said: "You're a newbie, then?"
"Play any card games at all?" he wondered.
"Draw poker," I admitted. "A little. With my dad, mostly, when I was young. Sometimes we get a game up, Chelsea, Matt and Mark and me." Mark was Chelsea's sometimes boyfriend, from Chino. "Mostly I just loose a lot," I said, laughing. I was surprised that I could say their names without grimacing.
"So you know the basic rules?"
I shrugged. "Call, bet, check, fold. I know you deal five cards."
Mike shook his head. "In Texas Hold'em, you deal seven. Two are your hole cards, five more are for the table." He tapped the table with his middle finger. "The table cards get dealt three at a time, then one and then another. In the game, they're called The Flop, The Turn, and The River." He grinned at the silly names. "The Flop gets dealt after the opening round, after the initial betting. The Turn gets dealt after the second round of betting, after The Flop. And The River gets flipped after that."
I grinned crookedly, to show I was confused.
"Don't worry. It'll make sense once you're in the game. You're the Small Blind, by the way."
"The Small Blind?"
"There's a Small Blind and a Big Blind," Jim explained. "The two players to the left of the dealer. You're Small, I'm Big. You put in half the amount I do, which is a dollar. You put in 50 cents."
I shook my head to show I still didn't understand. Most of them laughed. Gary scowled at me. Robert looked worried. Should I be worried about that, I wondered?
There was a hockey puck on the table. It sat before Mr. Burns, who expertly shuffled the cards, sucking his unlit cigar. Four cigarettes were going around the table, and the cigar being puffed on by Gary (of course), with packs of Marboro's and Kool and lighters at the ready. I knew Mr. Burns hadn't smoked in years. The cigar was a placebo. He mouthed around the tip: "That's the button there. The button shows who's currently the dealer. It travels clockwise around the table along with the deal. You'll be dealing next," he advised with a grin.
A little panic leaked into my voice. The men all laughed.
"You won't have any trouble, believe me. Simple as pie," Steve said. "The whole game is."
It didn't need to be, as I planned to lose every hand.
I didn't think to ask how Mr. Burns—Steve—got first deal. Maybe it always started that way; maybe they had drawn for it while I'd been in the kitchen. Regardless, he would deal first and the deal would go clockwise around the table with each hand. It turned out the decision to deal or not was mine; what worried me more was how I'd buy in. I had 20 bucks.
He watched me rub my arm in embarrassment. "Steve," he said. "None of this 'Mr. Burns' shit. Mr. Burns is my father."
I nodded, embarrassed, while the others laughed. "I don't have any money," I said. "You guys play for big stakes. I'd last less that a minute."
He grinned at me again. The others laughed and snickered. "The buy-ins a hundred bucks. I don't expect you to put up the money yourself, kiddo. We will," he said, grinning around the table. When Gary, or maybe it was Robert started to object, he said: "She'll just lose it back to us again, really fast. We'll most likely have to front her a second hundred. Maybe a third, even, before she gets the hang of it. No one's counting here, anyway. Right, boys?"
"I can't pay it back," I said quickly, shaking my head, not looking at the others. Everything depended on this. If Gary or Robert or one of the others objected too strenuously, I wouldn't get in the game. Or stay in the game long enough to earn their trust. Trust wasn't the right word; pity was better. I needed to play long enough that my presence was accepted at the table, my sexuality was absorbed, my dependency understood. I needed them to want me there, want to fuck me, fantasize about me. They also needed to be drunk. I picked up my beer and sipped at it tentatively.
"We don't expect you to," Steve said evenly. He looked at the others. "We invited you in. You're our guest now. If I can't take care of my daughter's best friend, what the hell good am I anyway?" he said, laughing.
Gary, Robert, Nick and Bill were obviously concerned. Gary for the money he'd shell out; Nick for the advisability of having an inexperienced and obviously nervous young girl in the game from his expression; Bill for the same reason, and Robert, from his expression, worried that what I planned could actually come about. Robert worried me. He could ruin this. Then Mike came to my rescue.
"Steve's right. We're playing with our own money. Chances are we'll each of us win back exactly what we put in. And if not--" He grinned hugely. "—it's more in my pocket cause you guys don't play worth shit, anyway." He dug out his wallet, extracted five $20 bills, tossed them at Steve, and then counted out an additional $13 which he set before him on the table. Nodding, Steve dropped the $100 dollars into the bank, stacked a corresponding dollar amount of white, red and blue chips in separate piles, and slid them across the table to Mike. While he picked up the $13 and set it aside, I mentally counted $5 in white chips, $50 in blue chips, and $45 in red chips. The denominations were 50 cents, $1 and $5. In a group, the rest of the men, some of them grumbling unhappily, repeated the process and took their hundred in chips and antied up my buy-in.
"Thirteen times eight," Steve said. He dropped the stack of ones, fives and tens into the bank and counted out $104 dollars in chips. Shoulders hunched, hands clasped between my thighs, suitably grateful, I nodded as Steve slid the pile of chips over in front of me. "You'll do just fine," he assured me fatherly, patting my shoulder. I intended to fuck Steve last, and spend more time with him than anyone else. I prayed it would work out.
Steve put one of my white chips in center of the table, joined a moment later by a blue chip put in by Jim. I still didn't understand.
"Ante," Jim explained. "It insures there's something there to play for on every hand."
"That doesn't seem fare," I commented. "Not that I'm complaining because it's me. How come everyone doesn't ante up."
"Rules of the game," Jim said simply. "It follows the deal around the table so nobody gets singled out."
"Oh." I still didn't understand. I kept my hands clasped between my legs to keep them from shaking, my shoulders hunched to keep the men from seeing how hard my traitorous nipples were. I didn't understand that, not at all. I was terrified. Determined, yes, but terrified. Part of me was aroused?
While Steve dealt, I followed the swish of cards around the tabletop. I knew more about the game than I let on, not enough to play it well though. I knew the betting would get very heavy once the "The Turn" was dealt, with the bet raised over and over again. I'd seen a thousand dollars won at this table in one pot. Amazing. Frightening. I figured my $104 dollars would last about ten minutes.
"Those two are your hole cards," Jim said about the two cards sitting before me on the table. "Look at them, but don't let anyone else see them." He demonstrated by cupping one hand over his cards, and peeking at them with the other. His expression remained completely neutral. I had a lousy poker-face. One look at my face would tell everyone exactloy what I had. That's why I always lost. Peeking, I discovered a Three of Diamonds, and a Six of Hearts. I grinned, purposely, like an idiot. The men around me snorted, taken in.
"You don't bet," Nick said, grinning sarcastically. In all innocence, I said: "I don't?"
"No you don't. The betting starts with Bill. You put out the Small Blind; that's your initial bet. You'll see when we get farther along."
I said "OK," as if that meant anything to and put my hands back between my thighs. Would I ever stop shaking? My insides vibrated like Jell-O. They felt like Jell-O, especially my bowels. I shuddered; hoping none of them saw me. Why was I doing this? It was insane.
The rest of the men examined their cards. To a man, they donned their poker faces. Grunting, Bill picked up a blue chip and said, "Call" as he tossed the chip onto the small pile. In order, the rest of the players followed his example, each calling in turn. I noticed they were much more reserved this evening than normal; any other time they'd be cutting up and laughing and giving each other a dangerously hard time. They needed to do that tonight, I thought. They need to be looser tonight than ever. Much looser. Feeling stupid, I wondered what I could do to loosen things up. I was too scared to generate a coherent thought, much less formulate a plan. I felt helpless and pedestrian, mediocre. Who would want me, I wondered?
The betting came back to me and Steve explained: "You already put in half your bet. All you do is add 50 cents to match the Big Blind. Bets are based on the Big Blind, and whatever is raised during the hand. During the round, actually," he clarified. "If you bet, you have to match the Big Blind, and whatever the raise amount is." He picked up another white chip from my stack and held it expectantly. "Call? Or fold?"