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Oh, the comparison? Apparently some Southern Gentleman of an ancestor found himself playing poker in one of those POW camps for pieces of rats. Actual rats, not military slang for rations, though I guess they served the same purpose. Gram claimed she'd once had letters this poor fellow had written to his wife, promising that all was well and he'd be home directly, but the interesting bits were in another set he'd sent to a cousin. Given that my ancestor never quite made it back after contracting an unspecified disease in that camp, I'd say the thing about the rats is marginally more likely to be true than it would otherwise seem. But only marginally. Gram's stories seem to improve over time, with new details and twists she simply forgot to mention before. I used to hate that one in particular, and wished she'd shut up about it. Over the years, though, I've changed my mind. I'm not sure why.

But none of this really explains why I play poker every Thursday, does it? And it was at the Thursday Night Game that I met Beatrice, so I should probably begin there. The rest of it ought to fall into place somehow.


* * *


We were playing Texas Hold 'em at Clark Boswatch's place because the game had become popular on TV and suddenly you couldn't find any other kind of poker on a bet. Just my little joke. I'm always looking for a new audience for it.

Hold 'em was my favorite anyway, ever since . . . well, since a while ago, but until the television thing happened I could only play it in Vegas or at Red's pot-limit game on Sunday afternoons. Red had died of complications from a bee sting back in '92, and I could generally get to Vegas only once a year, so although I don't watch TV myself I guess I'm grateful to it for that one thing.

The game was five-handed until she came in with Sammy Keegan. Given what he's like, all the whining, I figured he must've paid her for the evening. But I was too busy just then to give her the look-over that went with the supposition. Clark, that syphilitic toad, had just check-raised me for all I had on the table. Maybe three hundred or so. I had the second-best flush available, with no full houses possible, and was reaching for my chips to call when she tapped my shoulder.

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