Sunday, July 02, 2006

Nights of Iakaris

There is a chance that sometime soon Iakaris will create an eloquently written post about accompanying me to one of the weekly Group tournaments here in Cleveland.

If he does, don't believe a word of it.

Gentle reader, this is not some Rashomon-like attempt to provide a slightly differing point-of-view. There are no subtle shadings to be found here. Other than the fact that he and I met with the stated intention of playing poker, there can be nothing else in common between his version of Saturday night's events and mine.

Please, don't get the wrong impression. I am not here to bury Iak. After all, who is sinless in this baseless world? Certainly not me. Quite the opposite. In fact, this post shall also serve as a mini-confessional.

Blogfather, forgive me, for I have sinned. I shamelessly stole you.

After an exchange of e-mails, I finally got a call Saturday afternoon from Iak confirming that we would meet before the tournament for drinks and a bite to eat. I described myself in Iggy-like fashion as only 4-foot-10. I'm wasn't sure if he would buy it, but figured it was worth a try.

First to arrive, I sat at the bar, sipped a Budweiser and flirted with the bartender, whose ample breasts verged on becoming National Geographic specials. I remained patient as Iak's arrival stretched 30 minutes and then a full hour beyond the appointed time. I considered calling him, but instead dialed the the game's host and asked him to blind us in.

After ordering a third beer, a man walked in whom I immediately dismissed as being Iak. Large and round, maybe 5-foot-9 and a solid 250 pounds, he wore a flannel shirt despite the 90-degree heat, a tattered t-shirt emblazoned with the Candadian maple leaf, baggy shorts and sandals. His hair was wild and bushy, his face flushed and unshaven. As he walked toward me, I could hear him singing, slightly off-key ... a show tune? "Anything Goes?" Yes, that was the tune, but his version of the refrain had been changed significantly to "hookers and blow."

He stopped just a few feet from me and looked around the dingy bar, eyebrows furrowed and slightly agitated. "Fucker," he muttered to himself. "Where is that fidget fucker?"

No, not possible. How could this guy be the suave and urbane Iakaris? Before I could get his attention, the man bellowed, "Where the fuck is that donkey, Hacker?" startling the pathetic drunks and the elderly pensioners splurging on $4.99 liver-and-onion Saturday night specials.

"Whoa, dude. That's me. I'm Hacker," I blurted, hoping to quiet him.

"Shit! You're Hacker?" his expression switching to glee, volume undiminished. "You're not a goddamn fidget!"

He shifted onto the bar stool next to me and asked Ms. National Geographic Special to pour him a Dewar's. "Just put in a water glass, baby. I'm parched. And get my ol' buddy Hacker here something. Fuck it, make it a round for the whole goddamn bar." The drunks' faces pinched greedily at the announcement of free alcohol.

I spent a moment collecting my thoughts, attempting to reconcile the expected vision of Iak and the reality of the individual next to me. Night and day. He pulled a pack of Newports from his shirt pocket, lit one and inhaled deeply.

This guy is a doctor? He seemed more like a guy stopping for a boilermaker after his shift at the local sewage-treatment plant. But then I noticed his hands. They were small and delicate for a man of his size, nails manicured. A surgeon's hands. But the eyes? They belonged to a madman. A prodigiously fucked-up madman.

"So how the hell are ya, Hacker," Iak said slapping me on the back much harder than necessary.

I gathered courage to speak. "I'm fine," I said, the words not matching the sentiment. "Uh ... we shoould probably finish these drinks and get going. The tournament started a half-hour ago and we're being blinded in."

"I'm late? No shit? Sorry about that, old man. Apologies, apologies. Forgot the time. Had business to, er, take care of. Let's go then, let's go. Time's a wasting."

He bounced off the stool with surprising grace and barrelled toward the door at full speed, ignoring my entreaties about the unpaid tab. I followed him outside. Parked in front of the bar was a limo and behind it, a police car, lights awhirl. A giant of a man, perhaps 6 1/2-feet tall and dressed in chauffeur's livery, stood talking quietly with the officer.

Iak walked over to them and said something quietly before reaching into his shorts and pulling out an impressive wad of cash. With the speed of a magician, he peeled off several bills, folded them and tucked the against the cop's palm. Ms. National Geographic Special then flung open the bar door and yelled, "Hey, asshole, you owe me $67 for the drinks." Laughing, Iak repeated the sleight of hand with the cop, gave him a wink and walked over to the angry bar wench.

"Dear woman, never my intent to ignore my obligations. Not at all, not at all. Profuse apologies. Sincere, heart-wrenching apologies. Let me make this right, please."

He pulled two more bills from the wad and, in nearly one motion, got them into her palm while kissing the back of her hand. "Keep the change, my dear. For all my troubles, all my troubles, lass." Ms. NGS uttered a confused thanks and staggered back into the bar. Iak cackled at the chaos he had created.. "Time is wasting, Hacker. To the game! To the game!"

The chauffeur opened the door and Iak ushered me inside the plush bowels of the limo. This seemed all too strange. Iak. The Cop. A limo. Life seemed completely out of kilter. But at least we were finally headed for the game. Poker is, after all, the great healer.

On our way, Iak talked at a frenetic pace, failing to complete one thought before cliff diving into another. When I finally got the chance to ask him about the circumstances of him leaving his job, he begged off, muttering something about how it was a "complete misunderstanding" and that his lawyers were dealing with it. I didn't press further

Iak's mood lightened when reached into the console and pulled out a gallon-size Ziploc bag half-filled with pills of various shapes and colors.

"You need some treatment tonight, I have the cure for what ails you, eh," he said, shaking the bag. My face gave me away. "Don't worry, Hack. I'm a doctor, for God's sake. Do no harm and all of that Hippocratic bullshit."

He unsealed the bag, peered inside and picked out two small purple pills, smiling sheepishly. "Never know when you're gonna need some quality assurance."

His constant chatter was interrupted several times by calls received on what appeared to be a dozen cheap cell phones in a shoe box on the seat. The conversations seemed to be in Russian, save the last one, which was in Spanish. I had retained enough vocabulary from my high school to recognize words like "Federal Express," and "kilo."

A curious thing about all of this telephony. After each call, he would toss the cell into the driver's compartment. It sounded as if the driver, whom Iak addressed as Leonid, would smash each phone with a blunt object.

Our stacks, sitting at different tables, had not been damaged much by the blinds. In what could not have been more than four or five minutes, murmurs of a big hand rose from the other table. I turned just in time to see Iak stand up and tower over a timid little man called Lightning. I got up and looked. All of Iak's chips were in the middle and none were coming come. Lightning had pocket jacks, Iak the hammer. There was nothing on the board to help the good doctor.

"How can you play that shit, turd boy?" Iak screamed, spittle forming in the corners of his mouth. "I fucking push and you call with measly jacks? Don't you know who I am? How in God's name could you think those jacks were good?"

Iak turned to me, his eyes black holes of rage. "I'm gone. I don't know what kind of shithole of humanity you dragged me into, but you have utterly and completely wasted my valuable fucking time." He picked up the sad-looking 7 of spades and 2 of hearts, ripped them into tiny pieces and flung the plastic shards into the air before heading up and out of the basement and into the muggy evening gloam. I uttered a quick apology and followed, abandoning a stack that had grown impressively thanks to a set of eights.

Iak stood beside the limo, cursing the poker gods with such fervor that I feared he would be struck by one of their vengeful bolts. He calmed down when he saw me, shook his head and insisted that I join him in the limo. "Better fucking things to do in this town," he said. Against my better judgment, I agreed.

Discretion and considerable gaps in memory won't allow me to chronicle the rest of the evening's events. I woke up lying in the dew-soaked front yard of my home, the sun climbing high into the morning sky, enveloped by the scent of cheap stripper perfume, my nostrils clogged with powdery gunk. There appeared to be drops of blood on my shirt, now torn and buttonless. Fear and revulsion overwhelmed me.

Postscript: My wife has taken the kids to her mother's and has contacted a friend who also happens to be a divorce attorney. A badly dressed detective stopped by today and asked insistent questions about Iak and what happened that night. I begged off, telling him I had no answers. The detective promised to return. Soon.

I called the number Iak had given to me. A man with a thick Russian accent answered but hung up when I asked for Iak. The number has not been in service since.

8 Comments:

Blogger SirFWALGMan said...

The Scariest part of that whole post is I beleive every word..

3:34 PM  
Blogger Iakaris aka I.A.K. said...

You bettah believe ya little pancake...that's how this badass ROLLS.

Hacker...you beat me to the punch you bastard! No way I can top this...but I will give my revenge a good long think!

My wife laughed out loud for 15 minutes reading this. My lawyer and the defamation suit will follow shortly.

6:46 PM  
Blogger Pokerwolf said...

Awesome job, Hacker!

Bravo! Bravo!

9:48 AM  
Blogger surflexus said...

Hacker....oh man...i was coming here to tell you how great you did in the mookie....but this tops anything i was going to say. awesome narration and i'm sure you are understating the whole thing

1:06 AM  
Blogger Thirsty said...

I now have a picture of Iak in my mind that i will never be able to change.

Good work at the Mookie.

1:48 AM  
Blogger drewspop said...

I have to echo Surf. Great job last night but it pales in comparison to your detailed description of Iak. Hawesome.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous mookie99 said...

Great job last night and congrats on the win. Thanks for playing ! I'll send the questions to you soon.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Donnie (aka Shadowtwin) said...

Wait, wait, wait...

Iakaris is a man?

huh.

4:42 PM  

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