Louie glanced around the table. He studied each face and nodded as their eyes met his. He made his way around the group until he reached Gill. Gill shot him a cheesy grin and waved. Louie shook his head, rolled his eyes, and shuffled the cards in front of him. “You’re probably wondering why I called this meeting.”
Five heads bobbed along with Gill’s. So much for a talkative bunch. Bettina’s head body guard Biff, who decked anyone who actually called him that, pulled his cards to him. Louie had introduced him as Guido, who knew his sainted Italian Grandmother married a southern California surfer and insisted her grandson carryon her maiden name as his middle one, as a safety precaution. Next to him sat Hadley who snarled every time Guido looked his way. Lobos and bats couldn’t quell their animosity all the time. Good things the boys had agreed a friendly rivalry wouldn’t hurt their reputations.
Opposite Gill, sat Hadley’s second in command, Ranger. The fool wore a park ranger’s hat like it was a permanent part of his head. Louie kept dealing and counting. The fourth of their group grunted and messed with his cards. Porker knew when to keep his head down and his mouth shut. Mary’s mother had done a number on him recently with her demands about making an honest sheep out of Mary. Being a were pig wasn’t easy. Then there was the fifth. How Bettina had talked her way into this Louie still wasn’t sure. She played cutthroat poker. He hoped she remained calm and didn’t make blood bets.
Gill picked up his cards one by one. He gave a low whistle, winked at Louie, and turned his cards over. The squirrel gods were smiling on him tonight. “Explain the rules again Louie.”
Louie smiled back at Gill. “Thank you for asking. It’s football season, my friends.”
Grunts and nods followed. Louie carefully laid the undealt cards on the table. “We’ve got humans coming in to watch the games. They’re gonna bet on the outcomes. Gill and I are attending gambler’s anonymous meetings thanks to our local squirrel wrestling event a few months back.”
Three heads shot up as Louie finished his last remarks. Eyes narrowed as they gazed at Gill.
Bettina rapped on the table. Everyone turned to face her. “Hear Louie out. I am backing this.” She flashed her fangs and went back to examining her cards.
“Thank you Bettina.” Louie cleared his throat. “In your hands are football trading cards. The rest of the deck is other player’s cards like those you have. Gill, you came up with the basic idea for this. Please elaborate.”
Gill gulped. He grabbed his beer glass and downed a hefty portion of his acorn beer. He rubbed his lips together, inhaled, and sent a few quick prayers heavenward. “All right. We’re forming a fantasy football group.”
A few titters and snorts sounded. Gill shoved his chair back and rose. “Rattigan’s patrons want to mix in with the locals from the towns close by. They’re human for the most part. So what better way to get a conversation started and mixing happening in a natural way? Males and some females like football.”
Louie held up the deck. “I’ve given you each the number of cards equal to the starting line up for a team. This is your team. We’ll toss dice and see who goes next to draw to fill in their roster. There’ll be cards left over. As the season goes on, you can trade or bench players. Some of you may work out trades. Each week one of you will play a wild card match against Rattigan’s team.”
Murmurs grew in volume as the men looked at their players. Bettina glanced at her cards and leaned back grinning. Louie glanced around the table again. “Since Bettina is the only female present, she represents Rattigan’s. I’m playing with the rest of you for fun.”
“So where do the patrons come in,” Hadley asked.
“You have something common to discuss with them. You’ll watch the games and talk, maybe even cheer together. And. . . .” Louie shot Gill a harsh look.
Gill slumped back into his chair. “Yes, Louie. There is no hard-core betting. No cash, no credit cards, nothing that can be traced. That means gents and lady, only nuts, pretzels, popcorn, and buying a round for the bar is permissible tender.”
Gill let go a deep sigh. He wasn’t cut out to be anyone’s bend over boyfriend, except maybe Melinda’s while they watched the Friday night game.
Happy Weekend Gang!
Football season officially starts. Thus fall is in the air. Be safe as the weather changes and the last of summer fights to hang on before letting fall take over.
Hope you enjoyed this week's flash. Figured Talbot's Peak could use a new sport or two. Maybe next week I'll have the sand castle contest figured out to continue Jackson and Abebi's story.
Until then, share a few good books with your spice and loves,