Sunday, December 16, 2012

The poker game

The final two players in the tournament anted a 2,500 chip each. The “dealer” for this hand added another 5,000 for the small blind while the other added five red chips for 10,000.
The game was Texas Hold’em.
The dealer called the pot good and tapped the table three times with his right hand.
He dealt a card to Lt. Julian Bashir on his left and another to Commander William T. Riker on his right. The cards slid to the table railing with three perfect spins.
The second hole card was dealt to the two players.
Quark had grown up dealing cards for Tongo and was as experienced as any other in the area. He hadn’t often used the rectangular cards hu-mons used, but he was a fast learner and adept at dealing. He dealt the final table for the tournament his bar was hosting. He was also making a handsome profit on the house's cut and drinks.
The tournament had come down to the final two players from the original 50 who had been invited from Star Fleet ships that were currently in the area of Deep Space 9. Each had paid 25 strips of gold pressed latinum as an entry fee.
Captain Jade Auruila, of the destroyer U.S.S. Audie Murphy, had gone out in third place a little more than an hour earlier. She received 63 strips of gold-pressed latinum for her efforts.
Second place would win 250 strips and the winner would receive 563 strips of latinum, as well as a custom made clasp to wear on civilian clothing that was reportedly worth several dozen strips of latinum.
Bashir, known on the station as a very talented card player, was first to act. With the fingernail on his left hand’s thumb, he lifted the corners of his two cards. The first was the two of diamonds. He let it drop down to the felt and looked at the second. It was the two of hearts. He had a pocket pair in a two-handed game. He let the second card drop.
He looked at Riker who had not looked at his cards yet.
Riker smiled.
Bashir knew whatever two cards Riker had they were most probably over cards to his pair. Quick mental calculation gave Bashir the answer of a “coin-flip.” He probably had about a 50-50 chance of winning this hand as the cards were right now. He was meticulous in counting his chips and put 25,000 into the pot.
Commander Riker, a legend in the quadrant for his poker skills, smiled at the bet, as if telling Bashir he’d already read him and knew Bashir’s hand was medium to weak.
Covering his cards, Riker lifted the corner and quickly looked at his two cards. He let them drop to the felt. He wouldn’t look at them again until the hand was finished.
“Raise,” he said, never taking his eyes off Bashir’s eyes. The commander was watching for any movement by the doctor of Deep Space 9. The doctor didn’t move.
“Raise announced,” Quark said. Riker counted out chips from his stack and placed them in front of his cards.
“The raise is 50,000,” Quark informed Bashir.
Bashir nodded ever so slightly. There had been very little talk since the captain of the Audie Murphy had been eliminated when Riker hit runner-runner to fill his straight over Auruila’s flopped three of a kind. It also brought Riker’s chip stack almost equal to Bashir’s.
The raise told Bashir Riker had decent cards, but probably not a pair. If he had a high pair, he would have raised more, if he followed his usual betting strategy. Riker’s face told him nothing. Riker didn’t get to be a good poker player by giving away information on his face.
Bashir guessed Riker was holding two face cards, but not an ace, or a mid-pair. Bashir watched Riker for any tell to discern the man’s strength. He saw nothing.
“Call,” Bashir said, not looking at his chips, but counting out ten of the red chips from where his memory told him he had them stacked. He never took his eyes from Riker’s.
The two had near equal stacks of chips, with Bashir having one 2,500 chip more than Riker.
After knocking out the captain, Riker promptly lost nearly half of his chips on a poorly timed bluff.  He tried to get Bashir to believe he had an ace-high spade flush, when in reality he only had a jack-high. Bashir held the ace-deuce of spades and smiled when he turned them over. He might have taken Riker out, but there was a pair of sevens on the board and Bashir was a little concerned with Riker having a full house.
Forty-five minutes of play later, Riker had earned back most of his loss.
Quark double checked the count and called the pot good. Both players agreed.
The flop was a Knave and 10 of hearts and the deuce of spades.
Bashir, first to act, remembered the adage of betting his hand. He had been watching Riker, just as Riker had been watching him, during the flop. 
The station doctor had flopped trips and bet them.
“Bashir bets 75,000,” Quark announced. Bashir hadn’t said anything.
Riker watched Bashir unmoving. There was a long pause.
“Raise,” Riker said. He moved 75,000 chips into the center and continued to look at his chips. “Another 150,000.”
Bashir watched the commander’s hand as he counted and stacked the 150,000 worth of chips. The commander had earned a reputation and was now showing why. The first officer of the Enterprise might have a pair of hearts, maybe an ace high, and if he did, he was on a draw. He might also have been playing ace-jack, in which he’d have top pair with the top kicker.
After a long minute, Bashir called and slid 150,000 worth of chips into the pot.
Quark called the pot good and both players agreed. Neither looked at the Ferengi bartender who was dealing, but were studying each other in an effort to pick up any tell.
Quark burned a card and flopped another Knave, this time it was the jack of spades, putting two jacks on the board with the 10 of hearts and deuce of spades.
Bashir was pleased but did not show it. If the commander had been playing the ace-jack, he’d just hit three of a kind against Bashir’s full house. Again, neither player had looked at Quark or the card that had been turned up on the board.
A full minute passed before Bashir bet 200,000 in chips. Riker called immediately.
Bashir assumed it was because Riker had hit his three of a kind. Riker wasn’t the type of player to call so quickly and might be trying to get Bashir to believe he had four of a kind. If he had hit quads, Bashir presumed Riker would have made a small raise, probably equal to Bashir’s bet.
No, Bashir convinced himself, Riker had ace-jack or king-jack, maybe even queen jack, but most likely ace-jack. His second thought the commander was holding the ace-king of hearts, in which Riker would be hoping for the two percent chance of hitting the queen of heart for the Royal Flush.
Quark burned one and flipped over the final card after making sure both players were good with the pot. The card was the nine of hearts.
Bashir was glad to see the card. There were now three hearts on the board and if Riker had been looking to fill his flush, he’d made it. If he’d been playing ace-jack, the nine of hearts was a non-issue. Bashir had played the hand passively because he turned the full-house. He doubted Riker had him on a flush, and if he thought Bashir had been betting a flush-draw, Riker would fold at a medium-sized bet, unless Riker had the ace-king or ace-queen of hearts, in which Riker would raise. That's when Bashir would pounce.
Bashir was sure he had the nuts, and the pot was big enough, he was going to force Riker to either lose a lot more chips or else fold. He counted out ten stacks of ten 5,000 chips.
“The bet is 500,000,” Quark told Riker.
The commander smiled and nodded without taking his eyes off Bashir.
“Raise,” Riker said almost immediately and looked down to count out first the 500,000, then added another one-million worth of chips, nearly three-quarters of his total chips.
Bashir watched the commander. He pushed the chips into the middle with confidence, but something about the way he did it, Bashir picked up as odd. It was like Riker was saving out his last few hundred thousand in case Bashir went all in, he’d still have some chips to play with.
“All in,” Bashir said and grinned wickedly when Riker said “call” without hesitation. He knew his boat would beat Riker’s flush, even if it was an ace-high flush.
“I have a full-house, commander,” Bashir said, tossing his cards onto the felt in front of him, “twos over jacks.”
Riker smiled.
Bashir knew he’d screwed up.
“Straight flush,” the commander said turning over his king-queen of hearts.
Bashir rolled his eyes. He couldn’t believe the luck of the Enterprise’s first officer. Commander Riker had played him. The first officer of Star Fleet's flag ship probably knew the station's doctor had hit the full house.
The crowd that had been watching cheered for Riker and looked on in shock at the doctor’s losing boat.
Bashir had enough to ante the next hand, but he lost that too to make Riker the official winner of the tournament. They shook hands and Bashir went to the bar for a few minutes of commiseration and “nice-try” from those Star Fleet members who were attached to the station, a pat on the back from Captain Sisko and a kiss on the cheek from Jadzia. He collected his winnings electronically from Quark and retired to his quarters.
He just finished washing his face when the door buzzer announced a visitor.
“Come,’ he said and the door slid open. It was Riker.
“Commander?” Bashir asked, “is there something I can do for you?”
“I didn’t want to say this where anyone else could over hear doctor,” Riker said, “but I wanted to let you know I have never played against anyone with your skill at poker. If you ever want to join in a game with me and some friends aboard the Enterprise, I’d be pleased to have you join us.”
Bashir stood opened mouth. Riker was being more gracious than the doctor had expected. He didn’t have to come to Bashir’s quarters to invite him to one of Riker’s home games, but he had.
“Uh, thank you commander, that’s very kind of you to say,” Bashir said honestly.
“Call me ‘Will,’” he said, sticking out his hand to exchange handshakes. “We’ll keep a seat reserved for you.”

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Light

Staring into the light, after-image shadows occlude my vision of things both near and far should my eyes waver. I can't stop looking into the light, but my head bobs on occasion and I have to do everything I can to keep my eyes focused.

Sometimes mom comes into my room and moves me around. She thinks I am uncomfortable when I crane my neck to, what appears to her, to be an impossible angle. It is not uncomfortable to me and I wish I could tell her how much I just want to look at the light. Words don’t come out of my mouth however. I know words and I know how to communicate, but I don’t have the focus to relate information to the outside world. All that mom ever hears from me is a gurgling or grunting when I’m moved.

Only light keeps me focused and my mind from running amok in the tempest of horrific and blinding rages. Only the focus the light brings to my mind can I live this day. Only the light gives me reason to live for tomorrow.

When my eyes can't see the light, my mind races in circles like two flies buzzing around a long-dead carcass. A torrent of all memories I ever had, every word that was ever spoken within my hearing, every thought I ever had congeal into one in my brain.

I hate being in my mind when there is no light. There are too many things crashing around and thoughts and ideas I can’t control. I hear the screams of feelings wanting to escape my mind; I wallow in the avalanche of images that aren’t of light. There is a burning turmoil from a thousand memories of everything I’ve ever seen, a thousand voices from everyone who has ever spoken to me, a thousand scenes replaying themselves, all clamoring for primary attention crashing into one another. Each clamor for their own place in the importance of the forefront of my mind; each blindly banishes the next in favor of itself, only to be shoved aside by another voice, another memory, another firing of a synaptic nerve ending.

The thoughts and ideas that overwhelm me know the answers to almost all the questions I have ever heard. I know why dad is often late coming home from work. I know why mom cries deep into the night. I know why I am left to sit by myself at daycare. I know why people don’t understand me.

What I don’t know is why I can’t take that which is in my mind and share it with the outside world.

My mind won't focus on the stuff mom and dad and others try to tell me, I just need to look into the light. The light is the only thing in my life that really matters to me.

The light keeps me calm and able to function to the extent I function.

When I hear music playing somewhere and the light allows me to hear the beat clearly, the music presents to me a mathematical representation of sound and I sometimes allow my body to sway with the rhythmic beat, but only if my mind allows me to focus and hear the music clearly. There are some rhythms the light is incompatible with and the music is drowned out by the focus the light demands of my mind.

In reality, it's the light I want. I want to look at it all the time. I cherish the light and the comfort it brings me and how it settles my mind. It isn't just one light, it is the light.

Wherever I am, I need to see the brightest thing in my world. If mom or dad takes me outside I want to look at the sun. The sun is my favorite light. It is warm on my eyes and the after images last for a very long time. They put glasses on me to darken it so I won't burn my eyes out, but I like the bright sun.

One time I saw and arc welder and it was brighter than anything I had ever seen. It was a very small and very bright light. The man who was welding saw me staring at the light and stopped welding. He asked if I was stupid, and then he told my mother what I was doing. She was very angry with me, but the small bright light left images for days.

I enjoyed those images and they curried favor with my mind. It was peaceful in my head and my thoughts were clear for many, many hours of what was left of that day and well into the night. I wish that clarity had lasted longer and although I can recall perfectly the image of the light in my head and can imagine how bright it was, only the sight of a light can keep my mind from tearing itself asunder.

When I am in my room, I look at the light in the lamp. It isn’t as bright as the sun or the welder, but I can look at it all the time. I watch it and it will move and morph into visions only I can see.

I see a world only I can see.

If I am put into a room where there is no light on which I can focus, my mind will rebel and I struggle to maintain control; my body will flail until I can see a light on which to focus. I need my mind to focus or everything in my mind will fall into turmoil more confounding and entangled than a kitten’s ball of yarn.

The sweat that drips into my eyes burns terribly and I have difficultly looking at any light for days. My mind battles itself until my vision gets better and I can focus again on a light.

I hate nights because of the darkness. I can remember all six of my years and it is at night that I am most afraid of not having a light for my mind.

I have to use a night light. It took a long time for my parents to realize I need a light on which to focus. After many nights of my mind running amok and my body thrashing around uncontrolled, my parents realized a simple light for me to look at was all I needed.

One time my parents turned it off when I was asleep. I believe they felt I had outgrown needing a light at night. I awoke with nothing to see and I wrecked my crib and broke my arm before I could see a light again.

One other time the light burned out before I fell asleep and I crawled out of my crib to lay with my head on the floor at the bottom of my door so I could see the light in the hallway. Sometime in the middle of the night, long after I had fallen asleep, my dad opened my door and broke my nose and knocked two of my teeth out.

I didn't cry out because I saw beautiful sparkling lights for many minutes, but my mom and dad cried over me. The spinning lights from the ambulance were beautiful for as long as I could see them. A doctor checking me shined a very bright light into my eyes as well. Those are memories I replay again and again when my mind allows me to.

Candles are good to watch because the flame moves. I could watch a candle the rest of my life. I could watch a candle flicker and move in currents of air no one can see. I am not allowed too close to candles because they burn things, as my grandmother found out one day while I was being taken care of at her place.

They don't understand that it is the light that allows me to keep control. Without the light there is nothing to keep my brain from killing me. My body may be that of a broken doll with muscles that twitch and jerk, but my mind is filled with everything I have seen or heard.

I am in here, but I can not control everything that I know. It’s like holding a hundred marbles in one hand. Only perfect and constant focus can keep those marbles from crumbling, except I have thousands of memories and shaking hands.

The light transfixes me and I am thoroughly addicted to it. If my parents didn't force food into me, I would probably starve because watching the light is more important to me. My body’s hunger is not important to my mind and my skeletal appearance bothers my parents, but I don’t care.

My body is not like their bodies. My arms don't reach for them; my legs only walk when forced to. My lips don’t utter the sounds they use to communicate; neither do my eyes search for them when I am alone. I know this bothers them, but my mind won’t allow me the niceties they exchange.

My misshapen body would rather crumble to the floor and watch a glowing light.

Sleep is the only thing that interrupts my watching the light at night. My eyes close because my body gives up to exhaustion and nothing I can do can stop the sleep from overcoming me. I hate sleep unless I can see the after-image of the light when I close my eyes.

Sometimes I dream of the light. I dream of bright lights shining on my face, I dream of a single pin point of light in a dark room that only I can see. I watch the light in my dreams as my body sleeps.

I think I know that it isn't a real light, but it lets my body sleep and gives me a light to see.

I need the light.

I love the light.

And it loves me.