“Be a Lady” by Lu Whitley


“Full house: Queens over Fours.” The cards fan out for everyone to see, but it don’t matter, the guy sitting behind them’s been a hot streak all night. With that win, he’s turned eighty-three bucks into almost four thousand. He stacks his chips up all anal-like while the dealer sends new cards sliding across the felt.

He doesn’t even break a sweat. Neither do I.

The next hand comes up as planned. Pair of Tens. Not much else. He starts to bounce his leg beneath the table. But I got this. Still, I let him go easy on the bets. No reason to blow your wad all at once.

He eyes down his competition, one-hundred percent sure he’s winning because he can spot their tells. Granted, the old-timer in the corner has what looks like an aneurysm every time he gets a face card, but I dunno where that’s coming’ from. Sure as shit ain’t me.

“Raise two-hundred,” my guy says. The dude to his left bows out. The one across the table raises another two, and the other one, well, I dunno what the hell he does. Other than slur and nearly tip over sideways in his seat.

It takes two more rounds for everyone else to either fold or call. And when the cards are on the table, my guy wins. Tens over Eights.

He rakes in his chips and does a quick tally. Up over the 5K mark. Where he told himself he’d quit.

“One more hand,” I say. He listens. Duh.

The slot machines behind me bing and whoop to entice gamblers to lay down their life savings. I don’t judge. People spend money on weirder things. Like cat-licking brushes. So you can LICK YOUR CAT. Let that one knock around in your melon for a while.

I roll eyes toward the ceiling and lean over my mark’s shoulder. “All in,” I whisper, glancing down at the cards, even though I already know his hand by heart. Three Jacks an Ace and a Five. Hot Streak lays a kiss on the cheek of his busty broad, who looks worried, despite the brave battle all that Botox is fighting. “Don’t worry, doll,” he croons in a calm Rat Pack swagger, “Lady Luck is on my side.”

Oh, he just had to do it. Didn’t he? Five hours of uninterrupted service, and this is what I get. “Do I look like a fuckin LADY to you, asshat?” Of course, he can’t see me, so what does he know? Still, I feel like whipping it out, right here on this sea of red felt, and letting him know exactly how much of a ‘lady’ I am. Stupid humans. “Learn your Goddamn mythology!”

Across the table, Big Georgie Kasmapolis – who’s down to his last 5K from fifty – blinks like he’s got Rhode Island stuck in his cornea. And before his eyes, his cards shift. He coulda swore five seconds ago, he had an ace high, and he was ready to fold. But now he has a flush. All those diamonds winking at him.

He swears to Christ – I take no offense – to lay off the sauce and pushes his chips out on the table. Matching the all-in bet from the asshole who’d been snaking his green for the last three hours. “Call.”

The round plays out predictably. The other players deciding the pot was too rich and bowing out like pansies. Except for the newb in the Hawaiian shirt, knocking back kamikazes and tossing out chips like he shits hundred-dollar-bills. He calls. Or “clllllllllll”s. And one of his three by-the-hour mistresses moves his chips out.

Georgie stares across the table, waiting for Hot Streak to lay down his cards. The meat of his hands aches from holding his own so tightly. “Calm, Georgie, you got this,” I say directly into his thick ear, and he takes a deep inhale like he’s been forgetting to breathe.

Hot Streak flashes his hand and fans it out in front of him. “Read it and weep. Three Jacks.”

Georgie, bless him, has the balls to look heartbroken as he lets Hot Streak puff out his chest and give a round of high-fives. Everything just shy of grabbing that pile of chips. “Too bad,” Georgie grumbles as he lays his cards out slowly. One. By. One. “All I got is a fist full of diamonds.”

“Oh, Georgie. You beautiful bastard!” The look on Hot Streak’s face is worth the 15K in the pot and a half a million more. “That’s what you get for callin’ me a lady!”

Georgie slides the chips to his side of the table and grabs them all in his calloused hands. “Where you going?” Hot Streak croaks as Georgie starts to stand and step back from the table. “You have to give me a chance to win back my money!”

“I don’t gotta do nothing, asshole.” Georgie lobs a fifty dollar chip at the dealer and walks away.

I stick my tongue out in Hot Streak’s direction and follow Georgie off, sliding my arm around his shoulders as he makes a bee-line for the cage. “The name’s Loki, my boy. But you can call me Luck, for short.” I’m not usually free with the name giving, but Georgie’s my kinda guy.

“I know who you are,” he says with a voice that sounds like he’s been gargling cement.

“Well, what the hell do you know? An honest to Odin fan.”

He snuffs a breath through his nose. “I ain’t no fan of yours. Where were you when I was losing all night?”

“Hey, now,” I huff, crossing my arms over my invisible chest. “You could be carrying a handful of nothing instead of all those chips.”

Georgie shrugs, catching one of said chips as it tumbles toward the floor. “The way I see it, you owe me about 35K.”

“Pfft. Child’s play.”

Georgie turns and stares at the spot I’d be occupying, if I was in the mood to occupy. “Prove it.” A couple of gamblers take their eyes off their game screens momentarily to give the guy a wary look. I mean, as far as they can tell, he is standing in the middle of a casino, talking to thin air. Not that that’s all that uncommon. But it does generally draw its share of rubberneckers.

Never one to back down from a challenge, I roll up my proverbial sleeves and step off in the opposite direction. “Come on, Georgie, my boy,” I say. “How do you feel about Keno?”

An impish smile passes over Georgie’s face. “Whatever you say, Mister Luck.”



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Lu J Whitley is a full-time writer and self-professed oddball who lives a quiet life in the mid-Midwest with her geeky, roboticist husband and their four-legged children.

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  1. I sort of wish there was more to this one. What there is isn’t bad. You can really feel the disdain Lucky has for his followers whether he’s helping them or not. But when you boil it right down to basics this is just a story about a guy getting mad that someone called him a girl and getting his revenge. The scene is painted well, and the prose is great, but I never found out enough about any of these characters to care one way or the other what happened to them.

  2. One of the things I admire about Lu’s work is her prose style. This is a good example of what I like about it too. It’s clean, polished, and she makes it look effortless. She’s either got the knack of turning this out on command, or she works really hard at rewriting, because the result is just so very readable.

    I like the idea Lu delivers too. It’s fun, and funny, and I really wish she wasn’t as good as she is. But she is. My sole quibble? I’d like more of this story, please.

  3. The language of this story just glows, though I have to agree with Al and Dave that it leaves me wanting more. Also, if I remember my Norse mythology, Loki *could* in fact manifest as female if he/she wanted to, so I’m not sure he/she would get as hung up on being called a lady as a human male might…

    Yet what we have here is a really delightful story. The judges have their work cut out for them this week!

  4. The prose is fabulous and the scene is vivid, colorful, and *alive*. I wish there were more to the story.

  5. It seems like the tournament leads to shorter stories. This isn’t a bad thing, it just means that we see a showcase of different skills while under the pressure of constant deadlines.

    The voice of the story was different than anything I’ve read from Lu, and it was fascinating. I feel like I wasn’t fully engaged in the stakes though, since I didn’t care much about the characters that Loki was influencing. I did like how this seemed almost to be Loki dealing with boredom while hanging out in a casino. I also liked the idea of a world where the Norse gods were still prominent.

    I was engaged by the story, but wanted to get further into this world. It felt like we were just about to find a bigger story.

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