RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Thursday, October 15

SONG OF THE DAY: Drunkard's Hiccups

I am the spiritual grandchild of the Mothman, though my parents saw him as the Bat Monster. He appeared from the woods as they procreated in a station wagon, and this was when I was conceived. 273 days later, my parents were playing poker, and my father always had my mother sit to his right, because it made it easier to cheat when he dealt. But on this particular night, he noticed the Jack of Diamonds flowing her way, nearly every hand, regardless of who dealt. He started calling jacks wild when he dealt, and it seemed the Jack of Diamonds ended up dealt to my mother every hand. She was not the greatest poker player at this point, having just turned 17, and not fully ingrained in the ways of the lost, doomed, and delinquent like my father.
The deal came round the table again, back to my father, and he dealt a seven-card no-peek, boldly calling “Jack of Diamonds wild” to the table. The table gawked at this shit apparently, both recognizing that my mom had kept getting that card, but also the folly in calling a singular card as wild, in a slow moving seven-card no-peek hand, with seven people around the table (as it was that night, according to my dad’s retelling of this). The high hand grew, and it got back to my mom, who flipped a pair of queens with her first two cards – the hearts and clubs. My dad busted, flipping all seven cards, unable to beat a pair of queens, with only the one wild card floating. More people busted out, but one guy – Wolfie – flipped the queen of spades, which my mom would’ve needed as a pair. Tip, who ended up being like a second father to me later in life, hit a pair of kings to take the lead. Then another guy – Bozo (who actually used to live not far from where I live now, and I need to look him up, although the last time I went by there he almost shot me accidentally because he’s paranoid as fuck) – he flipped a pair of aces and took the lead. It came back round to my mom. She flipped her third, fourth and fifth card… nothing worthwhile. Her sixth card was the queen of diamonds, a natural three-of-a-kind of face cards, the queens running together, giving her the upper hand. They were playing a one dollar limit, and she picked up a quarter to bid a quarter, which to be honest at the time was a pretty high bet. My dad tapped at a dollar bill, somewhat indiscreetly, encouraging her to bet big. She looked at him like he was stupid (which repeated often through the years), but also listened to him halfway and bet two quarters (this pattern of my dad’s influence also repeated).
Tip flipped an ace, which Bozo would’ve wanted, and then on his last card, hit a third king. “Dollar!” he said emphatically dropping a crumpled bill into the kitty in the middle of the table. Bozo had three cards left still, but also had seen Tip flip one of the two remaining aces. But also, with seven people playing, that’s 49 cards out of 52, and that last Ace of Spades was still hiding, either in the three cards left undealt, in one of his last three, or my mom’s final card. The Jack of Diamonds was still floating too. Bozo looked down at his small pile of money, contemplating the odds of having three out of seven remaining cards, with another ace and that wild card floating.
He stacked eight quarters. “I call you, and I bump you a dollar.”
My mom looked nervous. She was pregnant as fuck, looked at my dad. She only had three dollars left in her stack, quarters and dimes. He had a few dollars too, but she’d had the good hands that night, and hadn’t bet them as cocksure as my dad would’ve, even if he was losing. So though the cards had ran her way, their combined money stack was still light. She was thinking about babies on the way, shit like that. My dad was just thinking about the fact he knew that Jack of Diamonds had gone to her all night long, and that she needed to call. And he told her this in his look, “DON’T FOLD” screaming from his eyeballs. She called, reluctantly, counting out her remaining quarters, and then her remaining dimes. All she had left was a few more dimes and a small pile of nickels.
Tip figured this was it for the night, and he saw her on the ropes, and he didn’t really think Bozo was going to beat his three kings. “I call, and raise you another dollar.” The pile in the middle grew bigger than most of their broke ass rural Virginia eyeballs could believe.
“You motherfucker,” Bozo said, but he still had the advantage of three cards, so he called. Then he pulled out ten dimes. “And I’ll raise you back.” All eyes looked at my mom.
“Two dollars to you, Dot,” said Tip. She didn’t have enough to cover the bet. She looked at my dad. “I’ll give you the money. You’ve got to call, to see it out at this point,” and he slide his change over to her. She counted out two dollars in change and added it to the pile, which must’ve been well up over $25 at this point, in 1973 dollars. Tip called, and he looked at his change for a second, dramatically contemplating raising again.
“You motherfucker,” said Bozo, and Tip laughed and said, “Call.”
Bozo flipped his first card… a five. Then his second… a nine. No help. One card left, his two aces sitting there like a promising foundation early on, but followed by mismatched garbage. He popped the corner of his last facedown card, and flipped it. Ace of Spades. “Goddammit!” Tip said, and flipped his busted hand over.
Bozo counted out four quarters, and confidently said, “Dolla!” My mom counted out dimes and nickels to call the dollar bet. He used to love to tell me this part, because he’d say, “Son, we didn’t have shit left by a handful of nickels, and the gas tank on the car we drove there was empty too. But she looked at me, and I just shot ‘bet it all’ into her head.” So according to the story, my mom counted out my parents’ last seven nickels, and raised Bozo 35 cents. Everybody saw that was the end of the combined stack of money for my folks, and that this was the last hand, and there was one card left, and she was pregnant as fuck, about to have a baby any day now, and that they were teens – not just my parents but all of them, all doomed to one extent or another, but riding the high times of another oblivious night a wide walk outside the margins of responsibility. Bozo still had change enough to raise further, but everything had been laid out, no need to add more drama. He counted out his own 35 cents, and called.
My mom lacked the dramatic pop of a car that the men could do, especially in a moment like that, no queens left to be had. But she flipped her last card, and sure enough, it was that Jack of Diamonds. Four queens beat Bozo’s three aces. And then her water broke, and I was born right there, literally beneath a poker table full of nickels and dimes, Valentine’s Day, 1973.
I still feel that Jack of Diamonds energy, and that Bat Monster/Mothman energy in me, when I'm living right, walking the allegedly wrong ways off the responsible path, where the mushrooms grow and coal trains rumble. Yesterday was just such a day, when I was wandering through the woods, and a beautiful piece of rose quartz was popping up out the ground, like that last wild Jack of Diamonds. And I knew that even though I was nobody, nowhere, I was beating anybody else's aces.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wild story.