Hrisko heard the rumors about our stay in Fort Lauderdale, but it wasn't until the night of the poker game when he would bring it up.
The poker game? Oh yeah, that was pretty big in S-3 division. The man behind the event was 2nd class petty officer Hampton. (Or "Hammy" as we called him.) He was a mid thirties guy with scars on his face from his major acne problem as a teen. I think they call them pits. He also wore glasses and for the better part, took a shower about once a week, if we were lucky. Not a very attractive guy in the least. Not all that friendly either. He and I hardly spoke to each other during my time on the ship. He didn't care for me before I first sat down to play some poker, and he really didn't care for me much afterwards either.
I got the invite by him one night after returning from the latrine, all showered up and teeth brushed, and all that fine jazz. I had just came down the berthing stairs in my boxers when he, Hammy, sitting at the berthing table and about five guys with him, dealing up the cards, cried out, "There's a seat open if you want it, Carroll."
I really didn't want to play. I never gambled much. "No thanks," I said. "I'm just gonna write a letter and hit the rack."
Hammy decided to push it. "Or is it you just don't want to lose all that money of yours, rich boy?"
The guys at the table laughed. I stopped and looked them over. "Let me go get my wallet." I accepted the challenge.
Before I knew it, I was cashing in for a hundred dollars worth of chips. (No money on the table. That was the division officer's rule - in the event someone from outside of our division happened along. You see, gambling wasn't "technically" allowed.) It all started out pretty slowly. A small bet here and a small bet there, but by the end of two hours later, it was just me and Hammy at the table. He and I cleaned out the others. We each had a nice large stack of chips in front of us and he had just dealt a hand. I was getting tired. He stared across the table at me. I stared across the table at him. Then I rechecked my cards. "Make this the last hand?" He asked me.
"Last hand." I confirmed. I took another look at my hand. I had three aces. One was a spade, the other a club and one was a heart. I had two other hearts in my hand. He looked at me again. "How many you want?"
I had to make a decision. Keep the three aces and go for another one or perhaps a full house, or toss the two black aces and try for the hearts. I finally decided. I tossed the two black aces. "Two." I told him.
He dealt them out then replied. "The dealer will take two also."
The tension was mounting. he tossed me my cards but I didn't even look at them yet when he made his move. "All in." He announced. "My chips against yours. We're fairly even and since this is the last hand."
I leaned back in my chair. Half the division was standing around watching. When it came to poker, they all wanted to see Hammy go down. Poker was his game. "Let's do it." I answered, pushing all of my chips into the pot. Hammy kept his eyes on me. "Aren't you going to look at the cards I gave you?"
I shook my head no.
"Suit yourself." He said, laying down his hand. "Three Queens. Read them and weep."
I started to feel sick to my stomach. I just threw away two aces. I turned over the three cards I kept. "Three hearts." I needlessly had to say. Hammy grinned. I reached over to get the two cards I tossed and turned them over. Everybody gasped. "I had you beat." I again needlessly remarked. The guys were laughing it up at my expense. Eh, I didn't care. I was only out a hundred dollars. Hammy grinned even more. Then I took one of the cards he tossed me and turned it over. It was a heart. I couldn't believe it. The guys were sitting on the edge of their seats. So was hammy. I now started to grin. I don't know why, but I suddenly had this feeling. I reached out and turned over the second card he tossed me. I slapped it down hard on the table after taking a peek at it. "Hearts mother fucker!" I declared, when the place erupted.
Hammy was sitting there across from me in total and complete shock. I was in shock too actually, but I didn't let it show. Hammy started shaking his hand. "I'll be a son of a bitch." He mumbled.
I collected my chips and cashed out. 970.00 dollars. What a payday!
The game was over and everybody went to their racks or whatever and so did I. I got my pats on the back as I made my way through the berthing. They liked to see hammy lose. They also admired my balls for throwing away two of my three aces. No sooner did I get to my rack when 2nd class petty officer Burke showed up, holding a clipboard. Hrisko was sitting there in a chair by his rack. "So you took down Hammy, did you?' He remarked. I gave him a smile when Burke came up to me. "Hey Carroll, ever consider donating to charity?"
That's right, he is the "charity officer", as well as in charge of other things. What the hell, I was in a good mood. "Sure." I told him, counting out five hundred dollars and placing it on his clipboard. His mouth was half frozen open. "Wow." He stuttered. He then pulled a sheet of paper from under the cash from his clipboard. "Here, take a look at the charity's and tell me which one you want to donate to."
I blew him off. "You choose one." I said.
He hesitated. "Really?"
"Sure." I insisted. Then stipulating. "Just make sure it goes to one that helps kids."
Burke was all smiles. "Sure thing, buddy. Thanks for you contribution. Here, let me give you this tax sheet so you can deduct it from your ...."
"Keep it." I said. "I don't need it."
"But, don't you want to write it off at the end of the ...."
I interrupted him again. "No, just write down S-3 division as the contributor."
He appeared to be all giggly about it. "The entire division? Yeah, sure, no problem. Thanks again. God bless you." And off he went.
Hrisko stood up and patted me on the back. "You see, you have a heart after all. I think you just gave him an orgasm."
"We all have a heart." I mentioned. "Some just choose not to use it. Could have done without the God bless you part though."
"You and I need to sit down sometime and have a religious pow-wow."
"We will." I promised. "Just as soon as I figure it out myself."
He laughed it off, and switched topics on me. "Still feeling guilty about cheating on Lorraine?"
I turned and faced him. "I still can't get that image out of my mind of her sitting there in that car with her ex. How do I know she isn't cheating on me?"
"Trust, my man, trust."
"Trust just isn't something I have with her right now." I replied, before ending the conversation. "Good night dude." And I slid into my rack. Hrisko stuck his head through my curtain. "What, no kiss?"
I reached out to him. "Come here you big lug."
He quickly retreated. "Fuck that."
Ha! That will teach him to get fresh with me. I placed my headphones on my head and fell asleep to the cassette in my walkman.
The next two weeks I played a coupled more times. Each time, I won. I know, I couldn't believe it either. And each time I won, Burke was right there behind me. I gave him half my winnings every time. He was really loving me by then. All told, I gave him about 1500 dollars for charity. But after the third game, I retired. There was no point in pushing my luck. It didn't matter anyway, I was told by Teddy Bear that Hammy wasn't going to let me play anymore because he thought I was cheating somehow. Whatever. I mean seriously, me cheat? *Wink*
My retirement made Burke sad.
And so it was back to my other extra curricular activities with Naples just around the corner. Again, I was so looking forward to it. The best part was, we were scheduled to arrive the day before my birthday. A week before hand though, Burke showed up at the barber shop one day asking for contributions for an organized softball game on the nearby military base. It would appear he was also the activities director. (He was the "all everything" director, I think.) That man worked non stop. He was a hell of a guy. A hell of a nice guy that is. If I were forced to nominate someone for Sainthood, his name would be the first one I would throw into the hat. But it would seem the money he was looking to acquire would go to food and beer for all the participants of the softball game. There was a team from the military base that took on any and all who wished to play them. We got the team put together, but still needed funds for the food and drink. I dished out a few hundred dollars. I loved softball. I wasn't going to say no to this. It sounded like fun.
I got some letters from Lori. I read them. I missed her and Bernie something fierce. I was still conflicted though. I knew I had to address this trust issue sooner or later.
I'll address it later.