Thursday, May 29, 2008

Shark Chum LuAnne I: Fish to Fry

The hustle was on. Randal Breaux put down the phone after thanking the travel agent that he now owed a big check to. It was a simple squeeze really, Luanne DuBois was coming to town, and the room was going to be a feeding frenzy of sharks, looking to take her money... little did they know, Randal thought, the fishing on the coast this week was shark meat.

Luanne Dubois, was chum, pure and simple. Sharkbait that'd bring all the deep pockets into a casino. She led a legendary life and news of her impending arrival would make it around the coast in no time. Her husband had died young, to her he was a wannabe, a gambler with a trust fund who had enough of a bankroll to impress her, but little else. And soon enough, that bankroll wasn't enough. She was tired of him after she got finished saying the words, "I do," and it didn't surprise many that he died under strange circumstances in the French Quarter after a terrible run in a private game. There were too many suspects from all the money he ended up owing but there were also plenty of secret fingers pointed at LuAnne.

The one thing Luanne got out of her marriage and inherited from her husband was his love of cards. It was a parting infection. She also got a couple hundred thousand in insurance money but that didn't last long. She felt rich. And she played poker to prove it. She blew through the insurance money quickly at the casinos in New Orleans, the inept gold digger had become a great hole digger. She tried to dig her way out of the hole, because as much as she enjoyed cards even the casual players agreed she couldn't play for shit.

You'd think she was pretty unlucky in life. Tried to marry up, trading in her boring given name Stubing for DuBois, only to find out her husband was a denegerate and probably the black sheep of a family she never met. He was burning through the remains of his wealth buying her gaudy trinkets and trying to earn a living on the felt. To make matters worse, their boring and lifeless marriage, came to an end with his early demise. She lamented her bad luck wondering how opponents always held better hands and were given better lots in life.

When she was finally dry, without a cent to spare in her bank account, she endured two months, two long months, and she had a tough go. Friends she looked down upon when she thought she was ascending society's ladder now dismissed her without a second glance. She was an outcast and a tragic story whispered about in poker rooms. She borrowed money to eat, but would lose most of it on the tables. She tried to laugh it off, poverty was the best diet she ever had. Still, she thought she was one slot machine hit from turning it around. Her reckless spending was replaced by reckless pawning as the jewelry her husband probably couldn't afford to give her, but she insisted on receiving, became deals of the century for shrewd pawnshop owners who could smell her desperation when she walked in the door the first time. The third or fourth time they were simply stealing from her.

So yes, she was unlucky. Then in the third month after burning through the insurance money, and losing friendships over borrowed money, and three full years after her husband's passing, and having reached the bottom of the hole that could go no deeper, because she literally had nothing left, an attorney found her just as she was reading the eviction notice on her apartment.

She asked for dinner if he wanted to meet with her. He agreed, then he told her the unfortunate news of her father-in-law's recent death. He read a emotional letter written a few years before that spoke of a life of missed opportunities between father and son. It reminded her of the American Pie song by Don McClean. She was bored by the sorrow, and now only resented her passed husband even more for making her suffer through this meeting and listening to his "tragic" relationship.

Yet, within moments, instantly American Pie became her new favorite song because when the attorney finished the letter, he abrubtly stated the DuBois fortune was now hers. Fortune? She thought her husband had already burned through the lot. The lawyer told her, her father-in-law always was wealthy, and had willed his son, her dead husband, half despite his personal failings and their lifelong tension. Even better, her dead husband was to get the other half if his sister had passed. She had. Leukemia. LuAnne knew none of this. Then there was the caveat she or their nonexistent children would get the inheritance if something happend to her husband Vince DuBois.

Luanne, of course, had happenend to Vince DuBois. She asked, "Am I a millionaire?" The attorney responded she was a billionaire. While she took this in, he confided how astonishingly lucky LuAnne was because somebody as brillant as Vince's father had never ammended his will.

"Perhaps, it was from the sadness of losing his wife and children," the lawyer said. "Maybe, not changing the will didn't make their loss real. Maybe that's why he never reached out to her. The letter tears at me. They spent a lifetime in conflict and only in death could they reach out to one another. Yet, the son died first." He shook his head. She didn't respond with an obligatory expression of sadness, instead she pelted the lawyer with questions about her new money.

The lawyer, the dutiful lifelong attorney for the DuBois family, was of course disgusted by this interloper's aquisition of the fortune and though in private he schemed of ways to get a piece himself, he was angered by her unworthy windfall. He wanted to spit venom at her. He had half an idea to sue on behalf of a trust he could say Mr. DuBois had wanted to start with... him at the helm. He could forge documents, he could make it happen, but instead he gave a waxy, thin smile and realized perhaps fighting Ms. DuBois wasn't the easiest way to get his. Within ten minutes he was her new lawyer and advisor. He left his law firm with a terse phone call to the partner he thought was stealing the most from the firm and called an accountant friend of his with flexible policies.

So, unlucky LuAnne was suddenly lucky again. She was one of the wealthiest women in New Orleans and suddenly the owner of an international corporation. She was lucky because she was so wealthy and the corporation so stable it would take even her years to waste that kind of money or bankrupt the organization. Her lawyer, who was stealing a mint from her, was also business savvy enough to keep her in line and was determined to keep her from losing all of her vast fortune too quickly or to anybody but him. Plus, the more she made the more he did.

He convinced her to move to New York, to make gambling an excursion, to take up world travel and to satisfy her need to piss money away to give generously to charities. It was cheaper that way. She did give generously but not because she was charitable but because it got her on the society pages. Still, when LuAnne DuBois, went on her gambling excursions, she didn't piss money away she hemoraghed it. Like a recovering alcoholic on his first bender, the dam would come bursting open and whoever was lucky enough to play with her would get drenched.

When she came into town, poker players that couldn't get loans from anyone, could get loans from everyone if they could get a seat at her table. Sure, her chasing of hands sometimes broke even the richest pros when her miracle cards would hit and their bankrolls would be on the table, but for the most part it was Christmas on the coast. Literally her mere presence would turn an average night in the poker room to an event.

Ms. DuBois was coming to the Belle Riveria in Biloxi, and once Randal Breaux got the word out so was everybody else. Randal had some more phone calls to make. It was time for the team to come out of retirement.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Strip Poker

I fancied myself a pretty good judge of character, what I liked about Marcy was she had none of it. She seemed like she'd be up for anything, and maybe it was because she didn't have a curfew or a reason to be home, but if I could come up with a crazy idea she'd see it through.

The rest of our group, high schoolers with conservative parents who had nice surburbian houses on the right side of the tracks, we had people to answer to, images to protect, and a clear-cut future ahead of us. Yet, we didn't have fun unless she was with us.

One night, Robby snuck out a bottle of Jack Daniels, Charis her mother's gin, and Alison got some vermuth and vodka her grandmother made Manhatten's with. I had said let's get drunk, and Marcy in between Turkish cigarettes had enacted the plan. This was our first experience with alcohol and an hour into it, Charis had hit the gin too hard and was throwing up. Alison comforted her and Robby and I quarreled over nonsense. Looked like the party was over.

Charis seemed to get her bearings back after she stopped drinking and upon Marcy's advice hit the water. We were in Marcy's dad's house, he was out of town on business, though when Marcy said business she mimicked a blow-job so I didn't quite know what she meant. She told us he was a real stickler about his alcohol. He marked it with a sharpie on the bottles to make sure no one stole it. By no one, I realized he meant Marcy. Marcy said our parents would start doing the same soon enough, but for now we had to bring the booze.

We played a game called quarters, but Marcy said the hard alcohol would make it go too quick. She was right. Soon, Robby, me and Alison were also drunk. I felt like puking too. I managed to swallow my spit and after a while I got a head rush and an electric buzz. It was my first.

What now? We were blissfully drunk and excited about it. Everything seemed a little funnier and we had this group energy kicking in. Suddenly, we were all like Marcy and up for anything.

"Let's play another game!" Robby said.

"I don't have many games," Marcy responded.

We searched her room and found Clue and Mastermind. Robby fiddled with Mastermind for a little bit and Alison offered a bad suggestion about turning it into a drinking game. We passed. Marcy did find a deck of cards.

"You know how to play poker?" She smiled fanning the cards out.

"Yeah, kind of," answered Robby. "My dad plays with some of the lawyers on Saturday nights. He's let me play a hand or two."

"Is it like Bonco?" asked Charis, "My mom plays Bonco."

"I know how to play, I play it on Yahoo Games, don't you guys watch it on TV?" Alison smirked, she loved it when she knew something about anything we didn't. Sometimes I hated her, this night however, she was one of the most beautiful girls I had ever seen. Instead of resenting her, I found myself privately admiring her. I was thinking about just this and looking at her hair, when I noticed all eyes on me.

"Yeah, I kind of know how to play," I said, shrugging looking at Marcy but not really knowing.

"Okay, here's what will do," she took another long drag of her menthol cigarette. "Charis, you pair up with Robby, I'll play my own hands, Alison will play her own hands, and you, do you feel comfortable playing on your own?"

I didn't, but I said yes anyway.

Robby asked the question I wouldn't have thought to ask, "What do we do for chips?"

Marcy smiled, "We are playing strip poker."

We started to giggle. No way, I thought. We started to laugh really hard. Absolutely not. Marcy joined us in the laughter. "I'm serious. We'll use our clothes as our chips."

Charis seemed uncomfortable but felt okay enough to take another pull of her mother's gin. Robby and I drank some Jack and chased it with our cokes. Alison winced, "If everybody's playing I'll play," she looked at Charis as though expecting her cheerleader friend to back out.

Charis pulled on the gin again, this time laughing even harder, "Fuck it."

Marcy looked us over and shuffled the cards. "We'll play hold 'em. Just like on TV. You get two down cards, and there are five community cards. You bet an article of clothing when you look at your cards, if you want to see the first three community cards, same thing to see the fourth and the fifth. You can check or call or raise. Best five cards make your hand."

"So I can look at my cards and just fold?" I asked.

She nodded.

I tried to slyly eye Robby but I was too drunk to be sly and everybody caught it and laughed.

"You can not just fold," Alison said, "and make us girls play and lose our clothes."

"No," Marcy grabbed at my collar, "Absolutely not. Every rotation you'll be in the blind, and you'll start with a piece of clothing at risk in the pot. If you fold you lose it."

As the cards were dealt out, I noticed we were all suddenly assessing what we were wearing. Fortunately, it was winter, so we all threw our coats on in succession to give us more chips. Alison tried to put on her scarf but Robby stopped that.

On the first hand, I looked down at 3 of hearts and an 8 of clubs. I thought I should fold and I did. Robbie raised. Everybody folded including Marcy who was "in the blind" and she lost her her Steelers starter jacket.

There really wasn't much action. Robby's team or Alison would raised and we'd fold, the tone had gotten a little more serious, but we were still nervously having fun. I raised with a pair of 8s and everybody folded. We were kind of treading water.

I looked down at a pair of aces and fidgeted closer to the pot. I said, "I raise." Everybody started laughing harder.

"It's not your turn you idiot," Alison said, wounding me. Suddenly her hair wasn't so shiny.

"Well, I'm raising when it is," I said defensively.

"Okay, but it's my turn and I'll raise first," Marcy said and threw her sweater into the middle of the table. We sat in silence a little bit. We had all lost a hat, a purse, and a couple of jackets, but we had held on to them until the hand was over. Marcy had changed it up a bit.

Not only that, Robby and I were staring at her bra. It was a silky gray and it was full. Suddenly Marcy looked kind of hot. Alison and Charis were staring too. Then the silence was broken when Charis just started laughing again.

"Okay, I call and I raise," Charis took off her top too and then threw her shoes into the middle.

Whoa. Her bra wasn't as full but it was something to look at.

Robby, her partner, took the hole cards from her and whispered in her ear--he was pissed.

Marcy tapped him, "Um, you have to lose the clothes too.

"She already put our clothes in."

"Eh-Eh, soccer player, you have to put your shirt in too," Alison giggled.

"Bullshit," Robbie threw in his shirt and shoes. Now the girls had something to stare at too. I knew I wouldn't be able to match his toned chest.

Action was finally on me, "I still raise."

"One raise per round, we only got so many clothes," Marcy ordered.

I nodded and tossed my shirt and shoes into the middle. I had a t-shirt on too. They said that had to go as well. I said it was like a bra. Robby made a joke about me needing one. No dice they said and it went in too. I drew my legs up to chest and sat. I tried not to stare too hard at Charis and Marcy but everybody's head was on a swivel. The laughter had stopped a little bit.

It was Alison's turn. I expected her to fold, and to stop participating at any moment, but I was glad to see two bras on the evening, and considered the night a success. She smiled at me, yes she had beautiful hair again, and surprised me by quickly pulling her sweater over her head and throwing it into the middle. Then she took off her high heels. Great feet.

The flop was k of spades, 6 of hearts, 7 of clubs. I felt my aces were still good. I said, "I raise," out of turn again.

"So do I," said Marcy and worked off her tight jeans throwing them at me.

"This is great," Robby said.

"What I can't ever raise?" I asked.

Charis, pulled at her jeans, "We call." Robby again was irate and after pulling Charis back to whisper in her ear again threw his 501s into the fray. He had tattered boxers on.

"Yeah, you guys got a hand," Marcy said sarcastically.

"Umm, I'm going to call, but what about the socks?" I said. I liked how Charis' bottoms matched her bra and I tried not to look too long I was definitely physically effected by her. Marcy's panties were polka dot and a little ratty too.

Alison jumped up and shimmied out of her jeans, this time smiling even more, "I call too." I loved her again. Her underwear was like it was out of the Victoria's Secret catalog my mom got. It was hot.

Robby high fived me.

The turn brought a Queen, I said "I raise" out of turn, again, and the same betting ensued as the socks were quickly potted.

The river was a J.

Marcy looked around, "On the river you can go all in, but you don't have to put your clothes into the pot unless you lose, since we are all in our underwear, sound fair?"

We all agreed. She said, "All-in."

Charis was stumped, "We uh..."

Robby grabbed the cards from her, "We fold."

I had pocket aces, so I said, "I call."

Alison said it even quicker, "Uh oh."

"Whatcha got," asked Marcy.

"I got Aces."

"Nice hand," Alison shrugged, "but I got trip Kings" and she laid down two kings to go with the one from the flop.

"Does that beat Aces?" I asked knowing the answer.

"Yeah, give me ya'lls clothes," she cackled and got a high five of her own from Charis.

"Oh, not so fast," Marcy said. "I got what's known as a broadway, A, with the King, with the Queen, with the Jack, and with my 10. It's a straight. You two owe me your clothes."

Alison seethed, "I'm not taking off my panties OR my bra."

"What it was okay for me, but not for you?" said Marcy.

"No, it's not fair," Alison sulked, "I had three kings. You cheated nobody gets a straight. I wouldn't have called if I knew you had a straight."

"Yeah, that's poker, take them off," Marcy blew a smug burst of smoke Alison's way.

"No. I won't." Alison grabbed for her jeans.

"Umm... You are supposed to be taking clothes off not putting them on," Robby laughed.

"Fuck you, Robby," Alison snapped.

"Fuck me? Fuck you you quitter," Robby gave it back.

I sat there watching, neither undressing completely or reaching for my clothes in the middle. Alison kept getting dressed, "This was stupid anyway," she said, "playing this white trash game."

Marcy looked wounded. I didn't like Alison's pretty, shiny hair anymore.

"Alison, calm down," I said.

She glared at me, "What you like that trashy bitch now?"

"Fine quit..." Marcy screamed. "You snobby bitch, and get the fuck out of my house."

Alison stalked off to the bathroom. Marcy, Charis, and Robby were now looking at me.

"Um... do I have to?" I asked.

"No need dude," Robby said.

"I guess not," Charis shrugged.

"Absolutely, I won the hand, I get to see you naked," Marcy smiled and crossed her arms.


"Dude, I don't need to see that," Robby tried to help.

"Why not?" Charis smiled.

"No need dude, she didn't you don't."

"No, he does, it's my pot. But I tell you what, you can show me... in there," Marcy smiled and motioned toward her dad's room with her head.

I knew I liked Marcy's character.

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