The Symbiotic Club

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

This work contains adult themes and is not intended for children.

Chapter 8 - The Priest's Game

I was most content with myself as I looked down from the 747's window onto the bright lights and thought, "How beautiful it is! The Bank of Las Vegas! Whenever I need money I can come out and withdraw some."

It was my second trip. I had won $800. I had lost the $1300 on the trip with the Daltons. I didn't consciously consider the negative $500 between the two amounts. Yet, I retrieved the $2000 from the grip at my feet.

The money was real and it buoyed my optimism. It was net winnings. In three weeks, since collecting on the rain bet, I had added $1100 plus the cost of the trip by playing at the club.

Las Vegas had the right conditions, but the club was closer. The club provided the opportunity both to play and to deal.

Most importantly, the club offered the possibility of holding Wanda. She just hadn't been to a dance since I won the rain bet.

When I drove into club's parking lot the next afternoon, I didn't get a good feeling. It was almost empty.

In retrospect, I should have anticipated something else would happen. Almost as soon as the new officers took office, they gave Freddy his two-week notice. They had replaced him with the Taylors. The players viewed the act somehow as a move against them. Freddy had played cards when his duties permitted.

There were no games in progress when I walked into the game room. Five or six of the older members were sitting around a card table. One was telling a story. They didn't acknowledge me. Freddy, stood on the far side of the table. He nodded as I approached.

"Yes, them Williams boys were a riot. Y'all remember them, don't chu? On Saturday night, everyone would come to Tucker's store just to watch the TV. It jus' had a little bitty screen, an it was mostly snow anyway. Didn't take nothin to mess up the picture. Them Williams boys, they'd wait till everyone got involved in the program, then they'd go messing with that old car of their'n right in front of the store. Couldn't hear the set for all the racket"

Freddy walked to my side before saying anything. He wasn't much older than I. He was blond with baby smooth skin and pale blue eyes.

"How'd you do out west?" he asked.

"I did okay."

"Well don't plan on making up your losses here."

I noticed that the others had stopped talking. They all knew something that I didn't. They wanted to see my reaction and to share in the report.

A "Yeah!" and a "That's for sure!" blended with their chuckles in response to his caveat.

I shook my head, thinking, "They're having fun!" Freddy's face showed a sense of accomplishment.

Finally I said, "Okay, you got me. What's going on?"

"They've closed us down. We can't gamble up here no more."

"Who says?"

"The officers. They've put a ban on gambling."

"Well, it ain't a complete ban actually. We can gamble as long as it's $5 or less per hand."

"Oh, yes, we can play gin and pitch as long as we keep the money off the table, and we can play poker as long as we use chips."

"But, no more craps! Did you notice that the crap table's gone?"

"No, I didn't," I said.

"They sneaked in here in the middle of the night and got our crap table."

"In the middle of the night?" I smiled at the image of our Priests behaving like cat burglars. But, now, the reporters saw no humor at all in the situation.

"You're damned right in the middle of the night!"

"There was a game on it till after midnight and it was gone when I got here the next morning," said Freddy. "Now, you tell me if that's not the most underhanded thing you've ever heard of?

"The Executive Board made the decision."

"The Executive Board?"

"Yes," Freddy said. "The Executive Board's composed of the five Position Officers and the four FHP's. Traditionally, once a man completes his year as HP, he's routinely elected to a four year term on the board. Dale Chase, as Secretary, is an ex-officio member of the board, but everyone knows he fairly much runs the show. He had to have favored the ban. Evidently, not all the officers did."

"Yeah, I heard it was a heated discussion."

"They set it up well! Wayne Fello wasn't at the meeting."

"Yeah, you know, he's Sampson's chief foreman. No way he'd support this ban."

"His presence might have made the difference."

"Chase and Lansburg probably waited until he wasn't present to force the vote."

"Only three officers came upstairs to report the decision," said Freddy. "They were Richard Warren, Priest of Purity, Gary Sampson, Buster's nephew, and Arnold James, who sales real estate. Richard Warren spoke for the triumphant. The little man with the forceful voice strutted in like a knight on a holy campaign. He's ideal for the role of Crusader."

"They came waltzing in here and pronounced that we couldn't gamble for more than five dollars. They said that chips were alright 'cause the poker players were using chips."

"Didn't anyone talk back to um?"

"There wasn't very many people here that soon after meetin, it bein summer and all, but yes it did get loud."

"Yeah, Professor Miller told um off but good."

"He did, did he?" All I'd seen of Miller was mild manners.

"Sure did. He told um it was the dumbest decision they ever made. He told um they could just go back and talk about it some more until they changed their minds."

"Yeah! Now how'd he say it? 'Reverse yourselves!'"

"Did they give a reason?"

Freddy chuckled. "Said they wanted to make us legal. Nothing about this place is legal. We serve food without a food permit; we sell boozes without a liquid license; we play music without paying royalties."

"If anyone should know about such, it's you, Freddy. You were a damn good manager. Did they give you a reason for letting you go?"

"Not in so many words. They didn't like it that I didn't cook. They said in the meeting, about hiring the Taylors that they were getting two for the price of one. They did get a fairly good cook in her. She's been the one who kept their restaurant operating for as long as it did."

Freddy turned to me, "You know, he was on the pro golf circuit when he was young. That's how they met. She was managing a country club. That's his problem; he can't stay off the links. Just wait. When the dances usually start back in the fall, he'll be too busy golfing to host them."

"We don't have dances in the summer?"

Freddy looked at me and smiled. "Oh, yes, that could be a problem in your courtship. We rent this place for wedding receptions during the summer."

I shook my head in disbelief. I couldn't believe how quickly my life seemed to be unraveling.

The others returned to their story. "Tucker did put it to Williams boys, right?"

"Oh, you've heard the story."

"Yes, but Hunter hain't. Looks like he could use something more on the light side."

"Sure. You see, Hunter, the Williams boys got all over Tucker, 'cause he was sure proud of that ole black and white TV. 'Course, he had a right to be, it being the only one in the county. Finally, he decided to fix their wagon.

"He knew that the older boy was sweet on Mary Lou Wards. Tucker got Mary Lou's dad to invite the younger boy over for Sunday dinner. 'Course, that got them feuding. They got to where they would fight over anything. Of course, they stopped working on that ole car and everyone got to watch Tucker's TV in peace till they got one of their own. Mary Lou ran off with some Yankee, so both the Williams boys were losers in the deal."

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