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“What the Cat Overheard” by Alan25main

February 19, 2019

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This fiction piece by Ronald G. Pittenger is a brief snippet into Lois’s life, as heard by her cat, Princess. Read on to find out what’s got her hooked on Replay Poker, and why it’s a good idea to stay home at 4pm on the third Thursday of the month.

“Lois looked at her ringing phone. Must be another damned telemarketer, she thought, as she waited for the caller ID to show. No, it was Mabel, her widowed sister-in-law. Lois turned down the volume of Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time,” her background music.

“Princess, get off the table, Mama has to talk.” She shooed the cat to the floor. “Hi, Mabel. What’s up?” she said into the handset. Lois’s feet had stopped tapping the floor in time to the music. That old fashioned rock beat felt and sounded just right. Lois listened intently for a few moments.

“Tomorrow? Sure, I’d enjoy that. I haven’t eaten a meal out in weeks. Where do you want to go?” There was a short pause while Lois listened. “Yeah, that sounds great. Their food is good and it fits my budget. What time do you want to meet? I need to be home by 3:30, though.” A pause. “No, there’s a poker game I want to play in at 4 PM, and it takes a while to get my computer up to speed. What? Yes, it’s online at Replay Poker. What? No, of course we don’t play for real money, Mabel. I can’t afford to lose.” A pause. “Of course they’re all poker playing degenerates. They’re just like you and me, except nobody swears like you and I do. They really all seem quite nice. I even have a few guys flirting with me.”

During the longer pause while Mabel talked, Lois looked down at herself with a mildly critical eye. I really ought to wash this bathrobe, she thought, but, when you’re 77 years old, with no one left to answer to, why bother? “Mabel, it isn’t like they can peek through the computer screen at me. My profile says I’m a widow in my late 60s, a retired airline stewardess, and my picture–which is very small, by the way–shows a curvaceous brunette with long hair leaning against a Corvette convertible. What? No, I stole the picture off the internet. Mabel, we’re poker players; we’re supposed to bluff. It’s part of the game.

Actually, most of the men seem very polite. Much nicer than the ones at that dating site you told me to check out. Not only are most of them polite, they’re fun. And, none of them has a revealing picture posted in his profile. What? Oh, a lot of them have pictures of pets or cars, a few have snaps of their kids or grandchildren.

Some of them talk about books, some talk about their families. One guy even sang me a song! Well, he really just typed the words, of course, but the phrasing was right. What? Johnny Mathis’s “Chances Are.” The guy had to really know the lyrics because he didn’t have time to look them up and he misspelled a couple of the words.

Everybody there talks about poker. You’d think they lived for the game. Maybe I’m starting to, myself. What? No, I wouldn’t say they were saints. There’s a few I wouldn’t mind kicking, but they’re a small minority, not the general rule. Think back to grade school. There were kids you liked better than others, weren’t there? That doesn’t change. There are always a few would-be bullies and wannabee tough kids in any group.

Most people don’t chat much. Some of them can’t because they don’t speak English. What? No, they’re from all over the place, it’s an international site. What? Well, if there’s anyone from the backside of Borneo, I haven’t met them yet and I doubt I’d recognize their flag if I did.

Mabel, let me make a suggestion. Instead of eating lunch out, why don’t you come here at about 1 PM? We can get a couple of sandwiches from the guy at the corner and I already have wine. I’ll help you set up an account–it’s free, by the way–and build a profile. You already know the game’s basics, it’ll just take you a while to get used to the betting. If you’re a good girl–hah!–I’ll even show you how to enter the big monthly tournament tomorrow at 4. What? It’s called “Bust the Staff.” We get to play against the people running the site.

Great. I’ll see you tomorrow at 1:00, then. Stay out of trouble, Mabel. I have a game with the singer in a little bit.”