The ripple of the cards upon the table, the shifting of everyone upon their chairs, the thumbing of glasses and clothes, the shuffle of money and hands: Burgess can hear it all. His eyes are closed and there is thunder in his mind, but he can hear it all. The air is redolent with the stench of rotgut whiskey, sweat and the wood burning in the stove they are all huddled near to keep out the winter cold.
Burgess opens his eyes at the sound of the door opening and sees Pederson returning within from the outhouse. A gust of frigid air makes them all tremble. Pederson takes off his coat, his breath still staining the air in clouds around his head. Everyone watches as he returns to the table and picks up the deck.
“Sorry boys,” he says with a smile. “Where were we? Five card draw?”
There are grunts of assent and the cards go out. Burgess does not touch his until they are all dealt, his eyes intent upon Pederson’s hands. His face feels hot in spite of the chill in the room, and his gaze goes blurry and then steady with each blink of his eyes. There is the sound of the ocean in his ears as someone stands to refill the glasses and someone else asks a question about Maggie Garneau. He thinks about saying something witty, but decides not.
The cards are dealt and he looks at them. Trip fives. He looks around the table. Everyone is looking at their cards. The bet comes to him and he throws in five dollars.
“Spending all your winter funds,” Pederson says, not glancing up from his cards.
Burgess bristles. “We’ll see where I stand at the end of the night.”
“You’ll be standing because you’ll have nowhere to sit again.”
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