jacks or better pt 3

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as the five men were entering the back room cypress johnny slipped a cd into the player. having played the cd at least twice a week for years he knew exactly where he wanted to be. he hit the advance button three times very quickly. ‘somebody robbed the glendale train’ by the new riders of the purple sage hit the speakers just as the back room door was closing. johnny doubted that was the purpose of this nights visit but he figured maybe one of of the five was bright enough to pick up on the tune. somewhere down the road a visit from this group or a portion there of this evenings players was going to be trouble. count on it.

after the bikers had gone into the poker room most of the slow night crowd decided to end their evening early. cypress johnny cleaned up after them and collected a few tips that were left behind. cool he thought. some extra money and jerry garcia on peddle steel guitar. very nice. he hoped the rest of the evening went as well.

johnny finished cleaning up and served another round of drinks to the customers that were still in the bar. he wiped his hands on a towel then positioned himself on a stool behind the bar within easy reach of the secret door containing the loaded pistol. cypress johnny thought, it made no sense not to be prepared.

as ‘somebody robbed the glendale train’ come on the speakers again the remaining people in the bar got up, said good night, and left. one of the men left a five spot on the table. johnny said good night and thanks. got off his stool and cleaned up after the group as the song tracked again.

when he was finished he opened the door to the poker room and asked if anyone wanted anything. jerry powell said he’d have a tequila sunrise because early 70’s music always made him think of that drink. no one else wanted anything. johnny noticed most of the chips were still spread out fairly evenly though it was still early. eddie otto gave cypress johnny a slight wink. everything was fine so far.

with the place now empty johnny removed the cd from the player and inserted an old byrds cd featuring gram parsons. ‘hickory wind’ filled the empty room. johnny sang along to the cosmic country tune as he made jerry his tequila sunrise. he finished up and took it into the poker room. jerry handed him a ten and said, thanks keep it.

cypress johnny was now alone with his thoughts and gram’s plaintive vocals. he was also alone the rest of the night because the bar remained empty for the evening. he sat at the bar and played dj to his own thoughts. 70’s stuff mostly. gram, the allman bros, the byrds, and the stones. some hank williams, senior and lll thrown in as well. he checked on the game every now and again and there were no problems. though doing so never changed his worried outlook.

at around 1:45am cypress johnny went back into the card room and said.

last call, gentlemen. last call.

no one wanted anything and eddie otto knew that was his cue for dealing two more hands. a little before 2am jerry powell and the four bikers came out of the poker room. cypress johnny was still behind the bar near the chubby hole and the pistol. the bar was quiet. no music. just the sound of shuffling feet. johnny spoke.

good night, gents. hope you enjoyed the game.

he didn’t add his other usual salutation, come back agin. no sense making anyone feel welcome.

well, cypress. it was an interesting evening. no big winners other than the fact tiny shared his buy in with all of us.

some nights are like that jerry. you never know.

the five men left and as the last one exited the bar johnny locked the front door and turned off the neon jacks or better sign. he stood by the door as the motorcycles revved up and boomed away into the silent night. when he turned back to the bar eddie was sitting in front of it drinking a sierra nevada. there was another one sitting on the bar top along with a bag containing that nights poker money.

you gonna join me, cypress?

guess i better. what do you make of those guys?

the two were sitting on bar stools facing the mirrored wall and reflected alcohol bottles.

man, i don’t know. only thing i know is the one called tiny can’t play poker. 5 or 7 stud and draw. fucking clueless.

interesting.

jerry was close to the vest on everything. he didn’t really interact with any of them. or me for that matter. all business. he ‘s a different player than before or there’s something else going on. don’t know for sure.

so do you think he’s a friend of the bikers?

not really. i’d say more of them being like employees or some damn thing.

yeah, fits in with my bad vibe of the whole evening. other than tiny’s lack of card skills what about the other guys?

well, you got tiny who doesn’t say much but none the less he might be the brains of the biker outfit. maybe. junior, talks a lot about nothing. busted everybody’s balls all night long. he left mine alone. thankfully.

hahaha. good one eddie.

thanks, man. as for the other two. you’ll like this. one’s called grease and the other fresno.

yeah, that’s rich. you pick up on any gang affiliation?

nope. nothing there. outlaws for sure though. grease and fresno just played cards and let junior’s wit bounce off them. they’re probably some sort of muscle or maybe even from another group. don’t know.

jesus. fucking jerry, man. what the hell is he up to? i mean now we have to let those guys back in here for the games. unless we or more to the point, julio changes the rules. plus, they can invite people now as well. not a good thing. jacks or better as an outlaw biker bar? so much for the cops leaving the place alone. may as well start looking for another gig tomorrow. shit.

tell me about it. you gonna call julio in the morning or you want me to be the bearer of bad news?

i’ll do it. guess it’s my job. that’s why i make the big bucks. any other intel, eddie?

not really. like i said just card playing and junior as the life of the party. that’s about it.

ok. let’s call it a night. i’ll try and catch julio early and see what he wants to do and get his take on things. see you friday night, eddie.

goodnight, cypress.

they tossed their empties into the recycle bin. eddie left. cypress johnny cleaned out the register put the money in another bag then placed both bags in a safe that was built into the concrete floor. it was an old safe but it would probably take several sticks of dynamite to open it without the combination. only cypress johnny, julio, and bill ‘willie’ lawson had the combination. willie was julio’s cousin and the man johnny rotated shifts with. he turned on the alarm, turned off the lights. and locked up for the evening. a light fog had rolled in and he could smell the long gone cows of chino and south ontario in the damp chilly fall air. cypress johnny walked to his car while the flying burrito bros song, ‘sin city’, played in his head.

cypress johnny got to his ride, unlocked it, then locked it again. he turned around and went back to the bar. unlocked it, turned off the alarm, checked the .357, to make sure it was loaded, touched it, left it there, grabbed two bottles of sierra nevada, then locked up all over again. went to his car, fired it up, u turned on the empty street. headed west. made a left on euclid ave. then cypress johnny drove south.

jmh

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4 thoughts on “jacks or better pt 3

    mike kamradt said:
    July 20, 2011 at 4:20 am

    I used to complain of growing up in a bedroom community where nothing of note ever happend. As I would never have survived the stress of these described lives, I’ve changed my mind.

    johnhauge responded:
    July 20, 2011 at 5:32 am

    there is that. thanks, mike. as always, most appreciated.

    Cheryl Timmons said:
    July 20, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Something bad is gonna happen…cypress johnny’s right about those bikers and a bad vibe. What’s really good though is the soundtrack. Makes me wish I could hear it…New Riders, Gram, Byrds, Stones, FBBs, Allman Bros and Hank I & III…gotta love it! Also, I know the cold damp smell you described. Turn left on Euclid and go south…

    johnhauge responded:
    July 20, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    so glad you’re enjoying it, Cheryl. yeah, love that smell. thanks much!

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