Savannah Georgia, September 1895
It was hot, stiflingly hot. Tempers frayed as temperatures in the small room rose, making it harder to breathe. The poker game had been going on for hours now, and the players, though weary, weren’t willing to walk away. One man, afraid of changing his luck, soiled himself rather than take a break. The thick, humid air stank of sweat, urine and cigar smoke as the men searched one another for that fatal tell that would let the others know he might be bluffing.
A few of the men relented, looking at their cards one last time, wishing for something better and knowing the cards they needed weren’t going to magically appear. Earl Buchanan had been one of the men who had folded, throwing his cards on the table in disgust; a last thought passing through his mind, had he done the right thing? Earl Buchanan looked about the room as he got up from his chair and took a place along the wall with the other men who had dropped out of the hand. He wondered who held the kind of cards that could win the engorged pot of money in the center of the table. He cast a glance at his friend, George Hutchinson, who still sat at the table his face showing no emotion. Earl Buchanan had never been able to find his friends tell in all the years they had worked together or played poker.
The stakes were high in this hand with thousands of dollars at risk. Now, only three men remained vying for the ultimate victory. The tension between them crackled in the moist, fetid air like heat lightening. As Orville Devey shifted in his chair he looked over his cards again, secreting them close to his chest so no one could peek and give him away. He looked at George Hutchinson to see if he might reveal anything about his hand. Then his eyes darted to the man named Patrick Lemp who claimed his family brewed beer in the caves of St Louis, Missouri, his grandfather having perfected the krausening process nearly fifty years earlier.
“I fold, gentlemen,” Patrick Lemp threw his cards to the table with a sigh. “This has gotten beyond what I can afford to lose.” He leaned back and mopped the sweat from his brow. He counted the cash he had left, and then eyed the kitty longingly.
Orville Devey darted a quick look at Lemp as Lemp pushed away from the table, getting up for the drink he’d needed for a while now. The dense smoky air had parched his throat. The only sound in the room came from the liquor pouring into a glass, and Lemp drinking greedily before sighing with satisfaction.
Devey shifted his gaze back to Hutchinson. He could feel a trickle of sweat dribble down from his forehead and run down his cheek. He wanted the hand to be over so he could collect the pot. His nerves frazzled by the glut of money tossed on the table. The pile of bills and gold coins glittered in the wavering gas light. He took in a breath, slowly filling his lungs, waiting to see what his opponent, Hutchinson, would do next.
The gas lamps hissed in mockery as Devey hesitated, searching again his opponent’s face.
Tag Archives: gambling
Savannah Georgia, September 1895
Taking real life stories/incidences and blending them into a story…
People often ask ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ It is a question common enough to all writers. For me, there is always some nugget of truth in what I write. I have been dubbed as the protector, guardian and repository of the family memories ever since I was a child. Those pieces of information have made their ways into the many stories I have written. Here is an example of what I mean.
There is a scene in Clara’s Wish about the young man, Bergin Halverson, being invited into a big time poker game in Omaha and winning lots of cash. This may sound a little far fetched, but it was exactly what happened to my Grandfather in the early 1920’s.
When I was about twenty-three, one rare night my Grandfather, Father and I sat around the kitchen table drinking shots of whiskey and my Grandfather began to talk. I don’t remember how it happened, he was not much of a drinker, and I barley touched the stuff, and it was not the usual cocktail my parents enjoyed. However, the whiskey, the night, the company created a once in a lifetime event for us all. Usually a reticent man, it was wonderful to hear my Grandfather relate tales about his life before he got married in 1924 and settled down.
What I learned that night was that my Grandfather’s life, before marriage, was right out of an adventure book. In some ways his life experiences took up where Mark Twain left off. He was a ‘River Rat’ where the Missouri and Mississippi rivers came together in St. Charles, Missouri. He was one of ten children and grew up on the family farm. He told a story about snow coming in their room in winter, and sparrows, that he called chippies, that would be there in spring.
The best of his tales was about a poker game.
He was a young man in his early twenties, and liked a game of craps or poker with his St. Charles friends. One evening he met someone from a big poker game in St Louis. Grandfather was invited. They probably saw a young man that would be an easy mark, and they would fleece him of his hard earned cash and send him back across the river and never think about him again. But fate had a different hand to deal.
Grandfather was made welcome, and began to play cards. It was not that he was so a great poker player, but the cards are fickle, and have a mind of their own. Just ask any gambler about Lady Luck! They played late into the evening. My Grandfather kept winning. In fact, he won enough cash that night to go on a shopping spree the next few days. He bought some clothes and had three suits custom made; he bought a new car and a few other items. One of which were brass knuckles. He wanted to be prepared in case the guys at the game got a little touchy when he went back the next weekend.
Grandfather was smart enough to go back to the poker game, and though he was still pulling winning hands, he threw them away, and managed to lose three hundred dollars to the men in the room. He also agreed never to return to their game again.
This story about the poker game was too good not to include in Clara’s Wish. It fit with the direction of the story, and was a way to honor and preserve the recollections of my Grandfather’s experiences.
Though my Grandfather is no longer alive, I still have the brass knuckles, and the memories of that night when I learned so much about the reticent man who was my grandfather.
To read Clara’s Wish, go the Second Wind Publishing and order your copy today! From the reviews that have been coming in, you will not be disappointed.
Clara’s Wish is a page-turner! I did not put it down till I was finished. January 31, 2013 By If I like it, I want to tell you. From Amazon
Clara’s Wish blends old-fashioned real Midwestern history with thoughtful and fascinating psychological profiles. Sweet-and-sourness-of-life dramas, truthful character assessments, soul-enlightening judgments, criminal motivators. All people portrayed in this book, from fine upstanding characters and horrible criminals, all get the lush language treatment from S M Senden. Reading her words, I became one with the character’s sensory experience. Very, very EVOCATIVE. Also, very spooky! I recommend!
Comments from C. Major about CLARA’S WISH ~
Your book is awesome, just finished it. I really liked it, started this morning and didn’t put down till just now when I finished it. Really keeps you wanting to read more. Thanks again!!!
Saturday, December 18th, found me sitting in a comfortable chair in the Center Bar at the Hard Rock Casino listening to my friend Alan’s band play amid, above and around the noise from the slot machines and the hubbub of a multitude of people.
I watch situations and reactions, and on Saturday night I was in my element. I was in the middle of a people buffet. What I saw ran the gamut from average to bizarre to just plain sad.
What were their stories? I like to hear about the lives of others, but a good deal of the time the facts are highly glossed. People typically want you to think everything is hunky dory and will give you the impression their life is spent in a ray of sunshine.
I tried to avoid talking directly to a guy wearing Don Johnson’s Miami Vice, but even as I kept easing away, I was sizing him up as a character in a future book. I did the same with the trench coat-wearing, fiftyish Nicolas Cage look-alike who was hanging all over a girl who was half his size and looked barely twenty-one.
The women and men who were dressed to the nines for a night out on the town were interesting, too, but not as much as the craggy folks mindlessly playing the slots. These were the real people as they wore who they were and what they were about for the entire casino to see. They were the “regulars.”
In the three hours we were at the Hard Rock, I noticed several people who did not move from their allotted slot seats. Now, while I like the slots and love Vegas, I don’t have a problem walking away from Wild Cherry whether I’m up or down. You can tell the ones who do have a problem – they have an invisible name etched on the back of their seats.
Alan’s band, Five Star Iris, played “Is There Something I Can Do,” the song that introduced us to each other back when I was in a black pit of grief. This song is about the helplessness the singer feels toward a grieving friend, but I realized it is more than that: it’s a song about hope amid the chaos of life. It’s Alan’s creed and a lesson he teaches by words and example: we’re all here to help each other.
The people I observed wore masks (except the “regulars”). They looked, for the most part, happy and upbeat and ranged from tipsy to drunk. These people hanging around Center Bar were the fakes, yet, in my opinion, they were in more need of help than the gambling addicts.
After Alan sang my grief song, I wondered how a person could help a total stranger when said stranger is unaware he needs help. How do you help a drowning man when he believes he’s a fish? It was an unusual question to ponder in the middle of a night of music and gambling.
We are all writers of our own fate and the fate of others. Our stories are written by our actions and interactions with the people around us. Our words don’t have to be put down on paper; they can be sung or spoken out loud or whispered quietly into the ear of a grieving friend.
Alan Schaefer’s band
Five Star Iris
Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch