I have a knack for getting into trouble. In this instance, the mitigation was the mother of all losing streaks. If it hadn't been the mother of all streaks I wouldn't have even gone into the sedate little club for 'afternoon'-amateurs, let alone invited myself into the game with five women who were clearly intent on gossiping a bit during a break from the downtown shops.
But they didn't really object to my presence. In fact, two of them had slipped into the Ladies during the early hands, separately of course, and returned with hair and lippy freshened and a button or two, well, you get the idea. And the way my luck continued to run they had no reason to object, in any event. I was propping up their cards for another round of the shops later on.
So I was noticing some things. The pert little blonde to my left was hot and knew she was hot, that was easy – and the bling blonde kitty corner to my right was hot for me, which was also easy. That sort of thing I was getting. When I should've been paying more heed to the cool slim brunette straight opposite. Because it was her ( Naomi?) who really twisted the knife when I finally, finally got a hand worth investing in.
In fact everyone else was out of the hand, sipping wine and chatting.
"No," She said quietly, with a quick glance from the marker I was jotting to the sign on the wall. The sign which read Table Stakes Only.
Most of the others didn't even notice the exchange. Still didn't when I slipped off my watch and help it up in unspoken question. She nodded and I added it to the pot. At which point She said, "See your five and raise you five."
The blonde who was hot for me wasn't as distracted as she appeared to be. Winking, she broke off her chat with the redhead beside her and raised her glass slowly, "Watch Na...she can be very very strict."
So her name was Naomi. I had Jacks over 8s as a full house. There was, oh, $200 in the pot. "If it's table stakes...?" I broke off, shrugging, searching for some hint.
"Then anything you put on the table has to be considered." The blonde winked, again, over her glass as she sipped the contents. Alli. That was her name, Alli.
It was the other blonde who nonchalantly kicked off her shoe. Nice little gold anklet flashing quickly.
So I took off my shoes and showed them briefly over the edge of the table. After all, there were three other tables, primarily occupied by females. Naomi promptly said, "see your five and raise your five."
"Will anything be worth more than ten?" I tried for a quip.
Naomi merely shrugged, gestured for me to drop the socks besides the shoes. Alli was saying, "I think bare feet can be very erotic," while Naomi slipped first one then the other $5 chip onto the pot.
Quit, my inner voice said. But I didn't really want to walk out of there barefoot. That would be the height, well, the depths of something. Not to mention it was cold out and the car was several blocks away. I'd have bet the car but I was living in it until I could get together the money again for a motel . Alli wasn't helping this time and all five were definitely focused on me now – and although in all probability not much time had passed it felt as though it had – and it felt like if the silence persisted much longer someone else at one of the other tables would notice...and, besides, so the thinking went, they were females and therefore the nurturing gender and therefore if I feigned sufficient helplessness they would settle for amusing themselves gently at my expense and draw a line under the whole business...
But they didn't. Naomi didn't and none of the others did a thing except sip drinks and smile in silence... because there was yet another $5 chip waiting to be covered...and with my slacks already around my ankles it was either my shirt, or my briefs – or of course fold and walk out of there not just barefoot but with no slacks.
Briefs are easier to remove discreetly than slacks. There are no zips or buckles, etc. All you have to do is heft your butt and inch or so from the chair and they're around your ankles. I didn't expect the blonde who knew she was hot to place her unshoed foot between my feet, trapping my clothes to the floor – a clear unspoken instruction to lift my feet clear, and let her sweep away my slacks and briefs. Leaving me completely naked from the waist down. And, you know, sticking a bit to the chair –rocking sideways a bit first one way then the other, to keep from making that obscene sucking sound... and...
Watching as Naomi first covered then raised. Again.
You know how perspiration tickles when it rolls over the base of your spine. It was hard not to wriggle now. But I couldn't move, not now. "Okay, you've had your fun." Naomi cocked an eyebrow slightly and I added, "it would be nice if you let me at least play my hand."
Maybe my tone hadn't been quite right. "Okay, what if I asked you nicely, please, to let me play my hand."
I could see their point of view. Being a guy, if the roles were reversed, and the opportunity arose I'd probably take full advan...at which point Alli said, "I think the point is we don't really appreciate your attempt to sandbag us. "
The temperature escalated rapidly and I knew I'd flushed crimson.
I also knew it was simple. Play. Or fold.
Easy for you to say. Getting into the situation had been almost logical. Now that I was actually in the situation, and the ladies clearly wanted their pound of flesh, there was no logical solution to the dilemma. Looked at in the cold light of day, from where you are...well, please feel free to advise me – what would you have done? – but of course that's purely hindsight and without the distraction of a raging erection. It certainly seemed to me that I had no real choice...that there was only option really.
A female would do this with some grace and elegance. But of course perspiration makes the shirt stick and of course I didn't undo the sleeves before the rest of the buttons and of course that was just that little bit panic making...and of course it now seemed to me that the entire world was aware of and overtly amused and enjoying my predicament...and of course by the time I struggled out of the shirt and got it on the table most of the room, and everyone at the table, was in fact amused and enjoying my predicament...and of course the blonde who knew she was hot made very sure to compliment me on my endowment, which is in fact at the upper end of average or slightly beyond – and although this was flattering, of course...the total effect was to create a hubbub sort of haze out of which the only clear figure was Naomi. And she was absolutely crystal clear. So it was like watching a car accident, in that unique slow motion over which you have no real control, when she laid out the first chip then – denying me any mercy whatsoever – added the second, her slim fingers laying it carefully on top of the first.
She didn't own my ass. Yet. I could still fold. I would be stark naked, in a public place, with absolutely nowhere to go. But I could still fold. That again, however, is purely hindsight.
I have no idea how long elapsed. I was aware of the ring of onlookers, of course...and of the wall of noise and then the even more intense silence. But I was conscious specifically only of Naomi...and the idea of folding never once crossed my mind. I'm sure it didn't.
Being denied mercy leaves you helpless. At least it did me. She could have let me lay out my hand...and hadn't... but I didn't now even resent that, strangely. I simply had nothing to bet. Nothing whatever. I wasn't going to plead or beg. Not in front of a room full of women. There had been few enough men in the place to start with and I certainly wasn't aware of any around now...which may, oddly enough, have been a mercy, because I'm pretty sure making eye contact with another male at that point would have been utterly humiliating...but the absence of males is irrelevant. What would I plead or beg for? Fact is, I could think of no initiative I could take. None.
THAT was intensely calming. Freedom is another word for nothing left to lose. Odd the things you think about. But the old lyrics were true. She was waiting for me and I could think of nothing I had left to bet and therefore I had nothing left to lose. We had arrived at an impasse but it was more like we were in an oasis, just the two of us...and from my point of view it wasn't a bad place to be at all. Judging from the faint smile playing across her face, she seemed to be thinking something similar.
It was Alli who produced the notepad and pen. Naomi, of course, wrote the note, tore of the sheet, folded it and handed it across to me. My balls literally tightened when I read it. She was a female and therefore treacherous and now that smile seemed to have meant something completely different. Or not. Who could say?
I read her note a second time, then a third...to be sure I understood it. I also thought about it. Then I folded it one more time, carefully, so it wouldn't open for someone else to read and put it in the pot, saying, pleased by own calm, "I agree."
Then she put in first one chip, followed by a second.
I very nearly chuckled out loud as I tossed in my hand.
Now there truly was nothing left to lose...