The men could not resist gathering in the backyard on warm summer nights and into the mornings the call to play their poker. The neighborhood was an immense gambling neighborhood. ‘Their poker’ was how the Abuelita described it–as if she wanted nothing with the sessions. I’m sure she felt this way because of the drinking and the yelling. I’m sure she felt this way because of the loud voices carrying down the alley into other family’s windows and kitchens. There were marathon matches going on for hours. The Abuelito and Lolo playing for 12 hours and 18 hour sessions. And the games attracted so many men from the neighborhood.
There was Robert Garcia the steelworker and Chapulin his best friend and the son, Nacho. Sometimes my cousin Kiko and his friend Fatso and then old man Hernandez and his bankroll. All the men played and laughed despite the main object of the games which was to steal the other man’s bank roll. That was the main attraction of these sessions.
In my mind these sessions have turned into legend. The time Robert Garcia went out to his car to find his Saturday Night Special police issued pistol after losing all of his money in order to bet. I remember how he emptied the piece of bullets and then dropped it down onto the middle of the Abuelita’s makeshift picnic table. The time Kiko bet his motorcycle and lost it to my Tio Lolo and the two almost went toe-to-toe in the alley when Lolo tried to collect. The time Chapulin lost all of his money down to his leather boots and kept borrowing more and more money from anyone around him so he could win back his rent money–he was so crazed he wouldn’t let any of the men leave with his money and so they played for hours and hours and were still playing in the late morning when I woke to mow my lawns in the neighborhood. The time Lolo woke me up in the middle of the night to borrow my money from the hiding place in the concrete foundation in the basement. I remember as he puleld the money he told me, You gotta make your bets with faith and then pull them over on them all fake, Manito. he also told me how I had to take care of my Tio because I had no one else in this world.
There also was the time the chojas pulled up following up on a call of the noise and the music coming from the back yard well into the morning hours. The Abuelita was on the porch in her nightgown and crying for the chojas not to take her husband from the house. She pleaded and begged with the uniforms and the flashing lights. She cursed and she spit–she smoked a cigarette and held her hands and forearms. Nothing good comes from these damn poker matches, she thought to herself. These cabron men, she thought.