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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Cards (11/06/08)

TITLE: The Joker's on Me


He had the calm confidence of a Christian with four aces.
Mark Twain

Unfortunately, a glance tells me Riley only has a pair of threes. And honestly, the way his eyes shoot to the door every time a floorboard squeaks, tells me he’s quickly hemorrhaging the confidence I pumped into him only an hour ago.

It had been put to me to convince Riley he was keeping his promise to his wife. I mean, it was Christmas time and cards were in his hand—ergo—he was taking care of Christmas cards. Tanya wouldn’t have a shapely legal leg to stand upon. Riley may be my neighbor and friend, but what a wimp. If only we hadn’t needed a warm house and body.

“I fold,” he says.

“You can’t fold every hand,” says Sherman, a buddy of mine who’s more lumberjack than financial analyst.

The last of our foursome, Marty, leans back and releases a long steady stream of cigar smoke up into Tanya’s fru-fru light fixture.

“I should be working on those cards,” Riley says. The paunch in his Grinch-like gut expands with every heavy sigh.

“Grow a backbone, man,” I say, fingertips working the bristle of my unshaven chin. “If she’s so hyped on Christmas cards, let her do them. I call.”

Sherman’s three-of-a-kind/jacks high beat out my two pair. I gather cards while Sherman gathers chips. It may be time to let Riley win a hand. I give the whistle.

“She does do them herself—she’s real creative. One year she’ll put in photos, the next a letter. She’s done a letter from her, from me, from the dog. This year, because of her mom, she asked me to do it—from an angel’s perspective.”

“Are we gonna play or what, Nancy-boy?” says Marty, grinding his cigar into the bottom of a cut-off beer can. “Remember what Oscar Madison said, ‘Marriages come and go, but the game must go on.’”

Cards fly across the table. Riley’s got another crappy hand. How many times do I hafta tell him—keep your cards close to your vest.

Sherman suddenly laughs, shaking the table. “One year, I offered to help wife number two with Christmas cards, but she didn’t like what I wanted to write.” He signals for two new cards. “Christmas—a time when people from all religions come together to worship Jesus Christ.”

“What’s wrong with that?” asks Riley. “Politically incorrect?”

“Nahh, she didn’t like that it was a quote from Bart Simpson. So I said, ‘Don’t ask for my help anymore, woman.’”

It’s Marty’s bid and he makes it big. The rest of us follow suit. With the next round, we all fold, leaving Riley with the pot. “You call yourselves poker players,” he crows, raking in his chips. “You know, you guys are right. If I want to play poker, that’s my right.”

“Exactly. You’re king.”

Riley antes up and deals. He’s sitting taller—the paunch no longer stressing the buttons on his shirt. I hear metal on metal coming from the front door. Sherman and Marty look at me, but Riley seems oblivious to the fact that his wife is now stepping through the door.

“Well!” says Tanya, dropping her bags with a thud. “So, this is your idea of helping me with Christmas cards? And to think mom felt sorry for you being all alone.”

Riley stands up and fans his poker hand at his wife. “It’s Christmas and these are cards.” He looks at me for backup.

I pound the table. “Riley, were you supposed to be doing Christmas cards? What’s wrong with you?”

Sherman throws down his cards—but not before checking his hand. “Amazing lack of consideration . . .”

“Yeah,” adds Marty, shrugging into his jacket. “We’re really sorry, Tanya—had no idea . . .”

Riley sighs and releases his cards—the picture of calm. “I am sincerely sorry, Sweetheart,” he says, gently unwinding Sweetheart’s scarf and removing Sweetheart’s coat—completely back to his namby-pamby self. “But how can I write a letter from an angel? You’re the only angel in this house.”


And Tanya buys it. I can’t decide if he’s bluffing or what. I want to shout he’s a fool—but he’s still married to wife number one. And he got the last pot.

That’s when I recall the most important poker adage of all: If you can’t spot the sucker within the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.

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This article has been read 1452 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Marilyn Schnepp 11/13/08
A delightfully down to earth and true-to-life type dialogue - almost making the reader feel they're right there at the table with the guys. I must admit I was lost with all the who's, what's, where, etc at the beginning; but when I got the hang of "who was who" & "What was what" - it flowed, made sense, and was absolutely a delight to read with it's "Classic" twist thrown in for good measure. You gotta give those male-counterparts a hand for "quick thinking" and "smooth talkin", eh? And Kudos to the Writer! (*.*)!
Joanne Sher 11/15/08
Love the banter here, and the atmosphere. Definitely a creative take on the topic. I enjoyed this read very much.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge11/16/08
I wasn't sure if I'd be able to follow this because I don't know anything about playing cards, but I did, and enjoyed it too. I even got Ken to pause the Redskins game to read it, and he thought it was great too. Great creative writing.
Lynda Schultz 11/17/08
"What a wimp?" Too cute—they all run out to be wimps in the end. This was hilarious.
Jan Ackerson 11/17/08
Well, the sure way to get me to love a story is to start with a quote by the best writer of all! And the rest of this has the sort of wit that Twain would enjoy--great characters, superb dialogue, and a tad of an attitude. LOVE it!
Sharlyn Guthrie11/17/08
This is fantastic writing! It's such a creative spin on the topic, humorous, and engaging.
Carole Robishaw 11/17/08
This was fun, I really enjoyed the end. I like putting a twist at the end, though mine are sometimes pretty predictable, unlike this one.
Gregory Kane11/18/08
Thoroughly entertaining and masterfully crafted. Could have sat in on that poker school for hours.
Only one thing - can't quite work out if there's a moral here that I'm missing or if it's just a load of fun and banter.
Joy Faire Stewart11/18/08
I know nothing about the game, but that didn't stop it from being one of the most entertaining entries I've read. Loved it!
Celeste Ammirata11/18/08
Great job of putting the reader at the table. Wonderful writing. I loved this humorous piece. Thanks for making me smile.
Betty Castleberry11/18/08
Love the easy conversation among the players, love the atmosphere you painted. Love it all. Two thumbs up.
Dianne Janak11/19/08
Loved the play on WORDS.. here and the dialogue was superb.. very creative entry..thanks much.
Marlene Austin11/19/08
Really enjoyable. Great characterizations. :)
Catrina Bradley 11/19/08
I like Riley - I don't think he's namby-pamby at all. And how like men not to back him up. ;) A delightful story.
Leah Nichols 11/20/08
Very creative! I liked the unique take on the topic. Nice job! :)
Joy Faire Stewart11/20/08
Congratulations on your 1st place EC win. Fantastic!
Gregory Kane11/20/08
Congratulations indeed. Very well done.
Marilyn Schnepp 11/20/08
Congratulations, Congratulations and One More Time! Terrific and well deserved! I loved it, and the Judges followed suit. Great job Lisa - and a wonderful, comical and well written story. Kudos!!
Scott Sheets11/20/08
Very funny and creative take on the topic. Effectively leaves you wondering about this Riley character. Congratulations on your 1st place. EXCELLENT!
Debbie Roome 11/20/08
Excellent story - well done on placing first.
Leigh MacKelvey11/20/08
Absolutely delightful! Sooooo (and I do mean soooo) well written.
I never read any of your entires before, so I'm glad I came back for this topic and got to read yours. Congrats on double placing.
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/20/08
Your delightfully creative story is definitely worthy of all kinds of honors!
Loren T. Lowery11/20/08
No gambling needed here, a winner before the cards are ever dealt! Way to go and congratulations on your win, I truly enjoy your writing style and the ensuing messages.
Yvette Roelofse11/20/08
What a fun, original story -- the card player in me relates! :) Congratulations on a well-deserved win.
Beth LaBuff 11/21/08
Lisa--Super congrats on your EC! I love this!!
Charla Diehl 11/21/08
What an original, fun, and creative take on the topic. Congrats on your win.