Friday, November 2, 2007

Chapter 50

“Thank God!” Mary Beth exclaimed causing Tricia who was dozing in the passenger seat to look up.


“We’re in Syracuse, we’re almost frigging THERE finally.”

“It had been a long drive. Too bad it was so expensive to fly.” Tricia said.

“Well both Dutch and Matt said we were nuts and as much as I hate to admit it they may be right. Too bad you couldn’t be sure you were going to win. If you were then you could have paid for us to fly.” Mary Beth grinned.

Tricia snorted. “I’ll be happy to cash. I just hope my results in Indiana were not a fluke.”

“Now who’s sounding nervous?” Mary Beth asked.

When they’d started out, after she got over being mad at Dutch, Mary Beth started worrying again about looking foolish and going broke. Tricia had done her best to assure her that she would not look foolish and as for going broke Mary Beth had set aside a fixed amount to play with and if that was gone then she was done so going broke wasn’t all that terrible a thing. None of that had made Mary Beth, who just seemed determined to worry about it, feel better.

The drive, which Tricia thought was mercifully coming to an end, was supposed to be around nine hours. That had given them plenty of time to talk about all sorts of things and it had been nice. They’d swapped off driving so Tricia wasn’t really tired, more like bored stiff of being in the car. They’d even swapped naps since they didn’t plan to go to bed early.

“Want me to finish up the drive?” Tricia offered.

“Nah, probably better for you to read me the directions and watch for our turn off. It shouldn’t be far so there probably isn’t anywhere to pull off and  switch anyway.”

That was the way they did it and after they rolled into the drop off and valet parking area of the hotel they gave each other a high five.

“Dutch can eat shit and die! We didn’t get lost one time. Didn’t even get a ticket. He’d never be able to drive six hundred and some odd miles without managing to get a ticket with his lead foot.” Mary Beth said. “Of course he might have gotten us here faster.”

“If we lived,” Tricia said. She’d been in the car with Dutch driving and he’d scared her just about to death. She knew that Matt tried very hard to do the driving the times they’d go with the guys on fishing and hunting trips because although he’d never admit it Dutch’s driving scared him too.

“This is a nice place!” Mary Beth said craning her neck to look around as the bellboy took their bags out of the trunk.

“Try not to look TOO much like a total tourist,” Tricia said with a grin.

“Oh bite me!” Mary Beth laughed. “I’m not like some people who go all around playing poker and having parties.”

“I’ve been on ONE other poker tournament,” Tricia said with a smile holding up one finger.

“One more than me,” Mary Beth said grabbing Tricia’s arm and tugging her toward the front desk. She looked back at he bellman “he’s going to bring that to our room when we get it right?”

“No Mary Beth. He’s on his way to sell our used clothes at the flea market.”

Mary Beth laughed and tugged Tricia harder toward the registration line.

Tricia found herself very amused by Mary Beth’s almost childlike attitude about being here. She and Matt, Tricia found out, got away a lot more, both with and without Matty, than Mary Beth and Dutch ever did. Tricia had also discovered that Mary Beth had never been away anywhere without Dutch. He went on fishing trips and hunting trips with the guys but Mary Beth had always stayed home with the kids. Until the tournament in Indiana though, Tricia had never been anywhere without Matt. Mary Beth had told her that she didn’t think she’ have been able to go all by herself the way Tricia had.

Mary Beth continued in her childlike enjoyment of their surroundings and Tricia found herself smiling a lot as she watched and listened. The hotel lobby was sumptuous, their room was awesome, the casino was ‘spectacular’. Tricia was starting to think that Mary Beth had swallowed a thesaurus.

The Mary Beth she knew better came out in the restaurant (which was ‘opulent’) when Mary Beth grinned at Tricia after they ordered and said, “Doesn’t that waiter have a fan-damn-tastic ass?”

Tricia had nearly choked on her drink but she had to admit that she had noticed that the waiter was cute. Then with a glint of amusement she had pointed out that the waiter was also probably not a lot older than Mary Beth’s oldest child.

“Now that was just mean!” Mary Beth had said, grinning.

“Yeah I know but if you can’t be mean to your friends what’s the point?” Tricia had said. “Besides he was looking at me not you anyway.”

Mary Beth gave her the finger and then laughed. “Well it’s good to know you still at least look.”

“Hell yes I do,” Tricia assured her then she sobered and said seriously. “It’s really great getting to do this together. We’ve never done anything like this and we should have way before now. You’re probably my best friend in the whole world. You’re about the only one who didn’t come down on me because of what happened with Jaime.”

Mary Beth’s reaction puzzled Tricia a bit. She looked uncomfortable and to Tricia that looked out of place.

“Hell Tricia Matt deserved it. I told you that at the time. He wasn’t being much of a husband, spending all his time either working or off fishing and hunting with his buddies. Even Dutch was doing a better job back then.”

Tricia had not meant to get into that topic and definitely didn’t want to get her started on another rant about Dutch who she admitted was acting like a supreme asshole. But they’d talked that pretty much to death in the car and she didn’t want Mary Beth to lose her good mood and start dwelling on that again.

“When we’re finished here we can go scope out the card room. The first event doesn’t start until day after tomorrow but they are running satellites now and tomorrow so there should be plenty of players here already.” Tricia said.

Mary Beth was agreeable, even eager. They talked about poker, kids, the waiter and any number of other things as they ate. Tricia was again filled with a sense of happiness and wonder at how much she was enjoying having Mary Beth here with her and just getting to spend the time with her. She hoped, that once she began to have to focus on poker and was totally absorbed for hours at a time, that Mary Beth would not feel left out. She could watch of course but Tricia knew that was not easy and Mary Beth was not that dedicated a poker player. Actually, Tricia thought with a smile, Mary Beth was purely a recreational poker player. It was a social thing for her, but then so was everything. Mary Beth was a social animal.

Tricia found herself wondering how it was going to feel without Jaime or Rick or Kevin or Caroline or anybody else she knew there. Then she had to laugh at herself. When she started out, not all that long ago, she hadn’t known a soul other than Jaime in the poker world and she’d been scared to death at the prospect of maybe seeing him again. Now here she was wishing that somebody from her previous tournament experience would be there. But, she told herself, I have Mary Beth. Anybody that has Mary Beth around is never alone.

When they were done eating and Mary Beth was done flirting with the waiter they left the restaurant and went in search of the poker room.

“So what are you looking for?” Mary Beth asked. “I know you like to play limit but Kevin had you practicing seven card stud and you said he also told you to try some no-limit games. What are you going to do?”

“I thought I’d start with a nice small limit game,” Tricia said. “We had a long drive and that doesn’t require a whole lot of concentration. We can play that and just have fun.”

“We?” Mary Beth asked, surprised.

“Why not? You’ve got to play sometime.”

“I want to just watch you tonight. Sort of get the feel of things.”

“You’re going to sneak back and get a feel of that waiter’s ass,” Tricia said with a smile.

“I wish,” Mary Beth said with a bark of laughter. “You said I could watch you.”

“And you can but you know how to play low-limit hold’em just fine. Why not play yourself? Won’t you be bored?”

Mary Beth shook her head. “Nope. I like to watch you play. Does it bother you when I talk to you while you’re playing?”

They’d spent a fair amount of time when they first went to some of the Canadian casinos closer to their home with Mary Beth sitting behind Tricia watching. At first Tricia had actually found Mary Beth’s chatter distracting but she had learned to play through it. She’d figured out that when she needed to focus she just did so and Mary Beth didn’t take offense at the silence. The amazing thing to Tricia was that Mary Beth, even seeing Tricia’s cards had never given away the strength of her hand. There had been people who tried to read Tricia’s hand through whatever Mary Beth had been talking about but they’d either met with dismal failure or if not then it had been luck. Tricia had told Mary Beth that she had a good poker face, and she did. Her emotions were always flashing across it but you couldn’t read them and she could control them when it suited her to do so.

Tricia had actually learned to talk a bit more at the table thanks to the time spent with Mary Beth sitting behind her chatting to Tricia and anybody else in range. Tricia had naturally been drawn into many a conversation and, through observing Mary Beth had learned a little about how she so easily started conversations. It came down to the fact though that Mary Beth, unlike Tricia, could and would talk to almost anybody about almost anything. She was also a consummate flirt when she wasn’t with Dutch who didn’t like it when she did it.

They found the poker room and Tricia was pleasantly surprised to see a good variety of games already in progress, not bad for a Monday in the early evening two days before the first event kicked off.

The brush at the podium told them there were two seats in a 4/8 game, the lowest limit they were spreading. Tricia briefly and unsuccessfully tried to talk a suddenly shy and insecure Mary Beth into playing instead of just watching. Then she relented seeing that Mary Beth looked genuinely uncomfortable.

She took her seat and looked around not seeing anybody she knew. That wasn’t surprising she was six hundred miles from home in a casino she’d never been to, a STATE she’d never been to there for what was essentially a minor league tournament series she supposed. Still it was new enough to her, even after her previous experience for her to feel a little nervous. Trying to look confident for Mary Beth kept her from saying anything about her nervousness.

Tricia began playing tightly and conservatively as she watched the other playersand tried to get a feel for how they were playing. She whispered comments to Mary Beth at times and listened to Mary Beth whisper a comment to her about a player a time or two. Really Tricia found herself wishing they’d had a list so she’d have had time to walk around and check out the games before just jumping into a game that might or might not be a good one. She could have, and probably should have, not gone right to sign up she thought.

Kevin and Jaime both, in their discussions with her about the game, had told her how they liked to play tightly and try very hard to make the first hand they really played count. Win the first hand you play, they’d said and it could set the tone for the evening.

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