Chapter 40 ~ You Can Learn a Lot by Playing Poker
Joe exited at Anvil Road, took a left, crossed the overpass and turned onto the entrance ramp to I-40 west. Sam said, “This is the text I’m sending Jody, Great news. Text info on flight. I’ll pick you up at McCarran. You’re the best, Joe
“I didn’t say she was the best. Don’t send it. You know what she’ll think. You didn’t mention you. I don’t want to pick her up. I’m playing into her hand,” said Joe.
Sam smiled and touched send.
“What did you do that for? I wanted to say something different,” argued Joe.
“Opps,” said Sam with the kind of grin a child gives when they’re caught sneaking a piece of candy.
“I should take you to McCarran, buy you a ticket to anywhere and leave,” said Joe.
Sam started chuckling. When he stopped, he said, “You play poker with your buddies?”
“I bet you lose most of the time,” said Sam.
Joe thought back to the last time he played poker with Tony and a couple of his other buddies. It was always Thursday night, girls night out. Marie was off with her friends until eleven. The last time he played, he lost a hundred dollars. The time before, he lost seventy-five dollars. The time before he won ten dollars.
“Not all the time,” Joe said defensively.
“I’d like to have you in the poker game they hold at Catfish Coolege’s house. Having you in the game be like picking blackberries in August. I’d have enough to fill my belly and fill my bucket,” said Sam.
Joe didn’t want to hear any story about Catfish Coolege. He said, “What’s your point?
“Watch your speed. They catch speeders by aircraft. I heard a trucker say some states are using drones to catch speeders.”
“What’s the point about poker,” Joe frowned.
“Funny thing how Catfish got his nickname. You’d think it was because he liked catfish. Fact is, he hates catfish. He don’t fish and he won’t eat fish. It’s his wife that loved catfish. She made it every Friday. She told him he can learn to eat it or go hungry. Catfish said, he wasn’t gonna eat catfish and he’d go out and have a burger and beer with his buddies on Fridays. His wife claimed this was abandonment and sued for divorce. He was okay with the divorce because he learned she was having an affair with Jimbo Guthrie who runs the all you can eat Friday night fish dinner at Guthrie’s Restaurant.”
“What’s the point?” Joe begged.
“I’m getting there. When you’re playing poker you got to know the basic strategies and odds. That all makes sense. What lots of people who play poker don’t realize is that you’re really reading people. The better you can read people, the better your chances of winning. Granted you have to have the right hand. This is my point. Jody’s holding a pat hand. She’s pretty sure what she has in her hand is a winner. You got nothing. You’re only chance of winning is to bluff your way through. Jody knows you got nothing. She knows she holds all the winning cards. You gonna throw away your money by calling her bet or you gonna fold your cards and move on to the next hand?”
Joe raised his eyes up looking for a comeback but he knew Sam was right. He didn’t want to tell him he was right. He said, “Okay, I’ll fold my hand. You feel better?”
“It’s not about how I feel. I’m not looking for my father. I’m here to help you out. Recall the movie The Blues Brothers?”
“Just like the Blues Brothers, I’m on a mission from God,” said Sam.
“If you’re on a mission from God, how is this thing going to end,” contended Joe.
Sam reached for the bag of pretzels. He said, “When we get to Kingman, let’s stop and get a refill, these are really, really good. Now, for your question. How do you want it to end?”
“I’m looking for an answer, Sam. I’m not looking for another question.” Joe said, “A part of me only want to see him physically, not talk to him. I want to see what he looks like. Another part of me wants to get in his face and say, ‘I’m the son you never thought enough about to see.” I’d like to hit him as hard as I can for what he did to mom. I wouldn’t shed a tear for him if he was in line at a soup kitchen. That answer your question?”
“Too bad we don’t have a punching bag for you to hit. You got a lot of anger you’re holding on to. You sure you don’t want a pretzel?”
“Can you blame me for being angry? How would you feel if you were in my shoes? Look what we’ve learned about him. He cheated Max out of his music. He robbed Gloria of ten years of her life. What about Rosa and his daughter? Monica? She hasn’t hit bottom. How many did we miss? What do you say to all that?”
Sam finished chewing a pretzel, then took the bag and tipped it upside down into his mouth catching all the pretzel crumbs. He took a sip of his soda and said, “Two things come to mind. You ever hear of Willie Wilson?”
“Here we go again, Sam. Whenever you get stumped for an answer you start telling me a story about some guy you knew and try to teach me a life’s lesson. I don’t even know if these people are real. For all I know you’re a natural storyteller and you like pulling my chain. You like getting a rise out me so you can show me where I was wrong and where you are right.”
Sam didn’t answer. The miles passed one after the other. A half hour later a sign on the right read, Kingman 30 Miles. Sam punched Joe on the bicep.
“Ouch. I have black and blues on my arm where you whack me. What is it you don’t understand about me not wanting you to hit me on my arm to get my attention?”
Sam said, “You telling me you don’t want to learn from Willie Wilson’s experience? If you don’t want to hear it, I won’t tell you. It’s up to you. No skin off my back. Intelligent folks learn more from watching other people and listening to other people than by reading a book. A book gives you one kind of knowledge. It may or may not be useful. It’s like reading a recipe. My grandma baked the best chocolate chips know to mankind. Everybody wanted her recipe. My grandma was the kindest woman I ever known, she’d write out the recipe in long hand, there was no computers then. Truth is, even though the recipe was exactly the same one she used, she was the only one winning blue ribbon after blue ribbon at the county fair for her chocolate chip cookies. Her extra ingredient was love. She put lots of love into baking them. See, everybody was interested in the ingredients. Nobody wanted to watch her make her cookies.”
Joe turned a slightly apologetic look toward Sam, “I apologize for unloading on you, Sam.”
“I don’t remember anything, Joe. After we stop in Kingman, I’ll tell you about Willie Wilson.”
“I’d like that, Sam. I’d really like that.”