When I arrived at Ian’s house for our regular Friday night game, there was an extra poker table set up in the basement, all glossy and new. The regular guys were there, but a couple of kids from the junior class were milling around as well, eating chips from a basket near the wall and looking around skittishly, like they were afraid someone was going to jump them and kick them out. I dropped my varsity jacket on the couch and slapped hands with Ian.
“What’s with the new blood?” I asked.
“Well, I realized that having such a finite number of players was an unnecessary hindrance to my augmenting my income,” Ian said sagely, putting on a businesslike demeanor. “So I thought I’d put the word out, get a few more people in. Besides, it might be good to infuse the game with some new energy.”
“New meat, you mean,” Chris said, joining the conversation and clapping Ian on the back. “This was the most sagacious move you’ve ever made, man. We’ll take these little losers for all they’ve got.”
Ian and I both laughed. “Now, now, Chris. Let’s not get too cocky,” I joked. “Everyone here has an equal chance of winning.”
Chris looked at me and scoffed, rolling his eyes. “They wish.”
He walked over to one of the juniors, took a chip right out of his hand, and popped it into his mouth. He stood there, chewing it in the kid’s face, goading him. Luckily, the kid was smart enough to let it slide. This night was going to be interesting.
“All right, everyone, let’s get started,” Ian called out, taking his place as dealer at our usual table. Tyler, it seemed, had been tapped to run the new game—he took the seat of authority there. I settled in with Chris, Brad, and a couple of the new guys.
Ian dealt the hole cards, and I checked my draw. Five and three, suited. Not bad. Looked like I was going to have an auspicious night. Just as I was about to put in my first chips, the door to the basement opened, and everyone fell silent. For a split second, I’m sure we all thought we were snagged, but then our visitors stepped through the door, and everyone looked at me.
“’Sup?” Dominic Thomas asked, striding in like he owned the place. “Heard you got a poker game going.”
There wasn’t a guy in the room who didn’t know what had gone on between me, Dominic, and Marcy. Even if you weren’t a fan of the rumor mill, no one could have missed their stunningly inappropriate make-out sessions in the hallways all week long. As Dominic and his friends closed the door behind them, my jaw must have been on the floor. I was totally flabbergasted. What the hell was my number-one adversary doing here? Just the sight of him made my blood boil and got my adrenaline pumping. I felt like he was invading my private space, which just added insult to serious injury. This was my game. These were my friends. He had no business being here.
Dominic took off his ever-present leather jacket and hung it carefully on one of the hooks near the door. His tight black T-shirt made him look like a total Gotti wannabe. What an extreme loser.
“So, where do we sit?” he asked, rubbing his hands together. His eyes fell on me, and his smile turned rancorous. As if I’d ever done anything to him. He had no reason to hate me, while I had every reason to get up from the table and kick his ass from here to the other side of town.
Ian looked at me, his expression full of gravity, and I knew that if I just said the word, he would dropkick Dominic and his friends out the door. But as I stared at Dominic, I was overcome with a new sentiment. I was going to wipe that smirk right off this kid’s face.
“Sit here,” I said resolutely.
The juniors at my table glanced at me quizzically, and I nodded at them. They got up instantaneously and moved to the wall to wait their turn. I even kicked a chair out for Dominic to take. As he sat down, the acrimony between us was palpable. I think everyone in the room was waiting for one of us to explode.
“Deal them in,” I told Ian nonchalantly, tossing over my cards.
My friends did the same, and Ian shuffled the deck. I glanced sidelong at Dominic as he placed a toothpick in his mouth and started rolling it around. This asshole was going down.