EveryThing I Heard About Poker, Firsthand

Their laughter doesn’t echo like the sharp giggles of women. Men are different. They laugh full bodied. Their deep bellows sink right into the paneling. They scoff and spit with such determination their hands slap the table. In my own childish uncertainty, I am frightened…I am always on edge waiting for the laughter to turn to yelling. And the possibility of violence; that’s what troubles me the most.

My bedroom is the next to the kitchen. Nothing escapes my ears, even with a pillow on my head. I tremble beneath my quilts as the beer bottles knock against the wooden table. The cigarette smoke settles beneath the crack of my door. I close my eyes as if I can make it all disappear.

I toss and turn with the shuffling of the cards. Smack. Smack. Smack. Smack. The cards make the round to each player. Cough. Groan. Mumble. Sigh. Men have a way of verbalizing without words.

I listen hour after endless hour to the verbal bets, raises, and checks as the quarters ding, rattle, roll, and spin across the wood and against bottles and cans. Occasionally the coins thump completely off the table and mute into the linoleum floor.

I can almost see the beer cans flatten as I hear them crumple beneath the stomps of steel-toed work boots.

“Cards are starting to bend on the corners. We need another deck.”

The pitch of the shuffling becomes sharper and firm. The cards are clicking together, no longer comfortably sliding into place.

“You’re just a damn cheat!” Raucous laughter. Fists slamming the table. The bang of the front door. Thump, the kick of boot against rubber tire. The clank of the truck door and the roar of the motor….tires spinning away from us until the humming can no longer be heard.

Crash. Crunch. I recognize the sounds. Another one of my mother’s kitchen chairs. You’d think the fat man would know by now not to lean back as he studies his poker hand. This must be the third chair he’s broken. I know my mom is going to fuss about it for weeks, but every time he apologizes she’ll smile sweetly and tell him it’s ok.

One by one I listen to their leaving noises and watch their high beams bounce around the walls of my room. Finally all is quiet. I drift off enveloped in the scent of stale cigarettes and sour beer.

Early morning light warms my cheeks and dances across my bed. The only noise I hear is the long-awaited melody of the blue jays in the cedar by my window.

41 thoughts on “EveryThing I Heard About Poker, Firsthand

    • Not excessive, but more than I’d have liked. They usually played at someone else’s house…I heard the stories about fights etc., and feared every time there was a game held at our place.

  1. My dad also hosted poker games with his “frat brothers” from college. I can hear in my memories almost word for word that sounds you are describing. These guys weren’t really rowdy, but the sounds were much the same.

  2. My dad was an alcoholic and I heard many nights like this, sometimes in the room where I was trying to sleep, when they were partying at a hotel and there only WAS one room. To this day, loud male voices frighten me. The silly thing is, I don’t know of what. Some people have no idea the long-term effect they have on other people.

    Even my gentle husband frightens me when he starts one of his rants. I am always amazed that he has never, not once, yelled at me in our 4.5 years of marriage.

    • I have always been sensitive to noise, chaos, and disagreements…maybe it was that I was the youngest child of six that I just wanted peace and thus became a peacemaker for a time.

      • My dad did drink and he was much louder and rougher than when not which could have frightened me as well and is probably what frightened you. Some people (myself being one of them) are super sensitive people…those who feel things on a deeper level, difficult to keep emotions in check. It has taken me a lifetime to balance and find peace. I think my upbringing makes me want to center and appreciate the calm. Even though you’re an only child, maybe it is more of a reason you were affected because you didn’t have anyone to detract the attention.

  3. Sheila Bender uses the term “Velcro words” in her critiquing system to highlight words and phrases that sing and stick in memory. This is a Velcro post! Like the others, I’m right there with you, huddled under the covers, and also waiting to find out why you are so fearful of fights. I want to read the rest of the story to find out what really goes on in your family. When does the book come out? I’ll host a stop on your blog tour.

    • I was always fearful of loud noise, fights, and confrontations…not sure why accept maybe being from a large family with large extended families, there were many disagreements. And I was super sensitive with an overactive imagination. You’re too kind about a book tour! Some things might be better left buried…

    • I was a nervous wreck yes, but never physically harmed in any way. In fact, if I was in the room with them it wasn’t nearly as intimidating as listening from a nearby darkened room which was eventually where I ended up.

  4. Reminds me that adults can so easily forget that children do wait in dark crannies, learning fear, questioning adulthood, being conditioned and building defenses.

    Suzicate, in the midst of those times, you certainly grew a grand soul!

    • I seemed to grow up in fear, intimidated though I was never physically harmed. It has taken me many years to find security and now peace…I suppose that is why I have such a difficult time with change. I guess I feel threatened by new things.

  5. What an incredible reminiscent story, Suzi!

    I felt as though I was actually there with you, smelling the cigarette smoke, hearing the cards slap, and feeling your desire to make it disappear.


    Hope you had a FAB day, my friend!


    • I actually do know the basics of a simple poker game…however when it comes to the big deal stuff on tv, like casino games and stuff, I don’t understand all that stuff.

  6. Great retelling!

    Awhile back we had these really noisy neighbors. About 11:30 pm on Sunday they would start grilling. They would be loud for about an hour then it would get quiet. We would think, “Yay. They’ve ended the party because it is Monday at 12:30 am.” Then about 10 minutes later they would laugh and talk loudly. Then quiet, then a few minutes later, laughing and loud talking. Then quiet, then loud, quiet, loud. It was annoying because they would be quiet just long enough for me to be almost asleep, then they would shout and laugh. After a few days, my hubby would go ask them to be quiet. This would last for about two weeks. Then nothing for a week, then on a Sunday it would start again. We did this the whole time they lived there. Their parties would continue for weeks and they were always outside, even in the rain. One time when my hubby went over there he said he saw them playing cards. For months we didn’t understand the quiet, loud, quiet, loud, quiet, loud. Had I lived with poker games as you did, I probably would have know what it was. But I didn’t. It would get really annoying when at about 3:30 they started singing. I was so happy when they moved and took their late-night-last-for-weeks-parties with them!

  7. Wow! This brought back lots of memories of Daddy’s poker games. I guess since my bedroom was farther down the hall it didn’t bother me as much although it would occasionally wake me up when they’d laugh too loud or slam down their bottles or start yelling. Well told.

  8. Suzicate, this is phenomenal…talk about a feast of sounds and it seems like you did it so effortlessly. So glad you joined this to the prompt…mine are always open to whatever genre you want to submit. It’s all about writing! Victoria

    • Thanks, Victoria. I assumed it was for poetry only…and though I write poetry, this was what came to mind and heart. I look forward to participating in more. I didn’t link your prompt on the piece bacause I wasn’t sure if it would be included. Next time I’ll link both ways. And thank you for the prompt and to Aurora for leading me there.

  9. So I take it that you probably aren’t much of a card player now. I suspect that negative connotations would have washed those dreams away in a hurry of stomping boots & cigarette smoke. Pity

    Where are the pictures of the red barns by the way? I was all keen to feast my eyes on some more red pics. Your flower pics from a few days/weeks back are lovely though.

    • I probably could play a mean game if I wanted….as long as there was no smoke!
      The barn pics are in my draft file…haven’t written or posted yet.
      Want me to leave you a FB message when I do it?

  10. My parents weren’t poker players but before we were married, we all played poker once or twice a month. Then we all got married and had kids and I don’t think we’ve played in over three years. Our games were never so lively as the ones at your house!

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