Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fireworks Bluff

I always thought the fireworks were for me. My birthday is July 3rd, and so naturally it seemed that everyone including aunts, uncles and cousins would come to the beach for a weekend party, complete with a bonfire, all day fishing and fireworks at the end. I expected that every year I’d see everyone and we’d feast on Texas sheet cake and vanilla Bluebell ice cream. The cake would still be steaming from the icing that Mom would make, and I’d sit on the deck even if the mosquitoes were bad, drinking a sweaty coke-cola and eating from a paper bowl. The fireworks would go up and my birthday would end with a dazzling display while I petted our pet lab, Midnight who sat hoping I’d drop a bit of vanilla her way.

Most years, it happened like that and I loved it. Then, I turned sixteen.

Being stuck with countless cousins at a family beach house minus a single peer, even a related one, unable to get any rock-n-roll or persuade my crazy Uncle with the tattoos to change the station from Country Western, I did what any teen would do. I sulked around the house, moaning about how boring it was to be stuck at a place with no television, no stereo, no chance of real fun. The water was bad for fishing, too muddy, too rough even for redfish. Body surfing in the morning had left my arms and legs scraped from the shells and sunburned, which didn’t improve my adolescent mood.

Sensing my extreme displeasure, my uncle tried to cheer me up with the prospect of a bonfire that night. Momentarily, the gloom lifted, but a lightning crack over the water crushed that possibility before it could even start. So it was that my uncles performed an intervention on their sixteen year old niece and taught her poker. We spent the rest of the day in that un-airconditioned room at the giant butcher block table and I became the Queen of cards, though to be honest, I think they threw a few hands my way early on. My mother still served the cake but I scarcely noticed it as I was deep in a hand with a full house and wondering if my Uncle really had a straight or was just bluffing. With pennies, nickels and dimes on the line, it mattered and I found myself down to my last forty two cents.

I had three nines. Hardly a great hand but I was irritated and wanted to win more than anything. I put in a red chip, a dime and I watched as three of my uncles folded. My dad and Uncle Mike remained. He bumped the pot a dime. I met it. My dad bumped it a dime. Uncle Mike met it and I met it and bumped it my last twelve cents worth of chips. Dad folded. Uncle Mike met my bet. We then were given the opportunity to improve our hand. “How many cards do you want?” he asked.

“None.” I answered.

“None?” Uncle Mike looked at me. “You can’t improve your hand at all?”

It was a bluff, of course I could improve on three nines but the whole goal was to win and asking for two new cards at this point would have shown weakness. (That’s what I tell myself, but the reality was, I didn’t know what I was doing). Uncle Mike folded. I took the pot.

“Wait a minute. What did you have? Show your hand.” He demanded.

“Technically, Sherry doesn’t have to show you her hand since you folded.” My dad corrected his brother.

“Three nines.” I proudly announced.
The ribbing over being beaten by a niece over three nines by his four brothers was great. I had a second piece of cake and the cousins came in to say they’d managed to start a fire and were going to shoot off bottle rockets into the sea.

So today, when my teen came to me upset because they couldn't go to the movie they'd hoped (sold out), I knew of only one solution.  Poker anyone? 


Sue said...

As a fellow birthday celebrator of the 3rd of July I couldn't leave this post unread :) and you sure did tell a great story, I love reminiscing on good memories as well Cheers Sue

Hannah said...

That is a great story!

Anonymous said...

This technique will come in handy for calling teenagers bluff on "of course the parents will be home' or we have not gotten our tests back."

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