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   o a k s    c a r d    c l u b

---   J O S E P H   M I L L A R  

They bring their hunches and combinations
to these trancelike rooms with no windows,
where they'll be called guests
and summoned by name
to the sessions of Hold 'em and Five-dollar Pan.

It's five A.M. and the Gold Room's buzzing. You're forty feet above the blackjack table changing out the paging speaker, hoping you don't drop your wirecutters on the aging blonde in the cowboy hat slouched behind four stacks of chips.

This is the only time they'll permit you to work here, and you must move in silence on your perch but you can see the highball straw the woman's chewing and the hairless, smallboned hands of the dealer.

Later you eat pancakes in the lounge surrounded by eight TV's showing highlights and scores from last night. You're trying to decide if you feel lucky. Smoke hangs like a beckoning ghost over the studious Asian, caged at his window, counting out new hundreds to a winner wearing Ray-Bans and a Phillies jacket.

When you step outside, you're surprised by the sun, half dazed on the crowded sidewalk, the eyes of the mailman on San Pablo Avenue distantly fixed in the morning haze, like the face cards you might someday hold in your hand or the lights on the lift truck at quitting time.

© crossconnect 1995-2000 |
published in association with the |
university of pennsylvania's kelly writers house |