It took almost an hour at the table before Jerry finally came to the point.

 

The table in question was at Ethel's Lounge, near the back.  On top of the table were two pitchers.  One was empty, the other half full of Budweiser.  Both had been paid for by Jerry.

Now Jerry was known for a few things, but excessive generosity was not one of them.  So if Jerry was buying me drinks, it meant he wanted something, and I had  a pretty good idea what.  Until he got around to it though, I was happy to drink his beer.

After exhausting his supply of small talk, and pretending to be interested in my personal life, he finally came to the heart of the matter somewhere near the middle of the second jug.

"So, hey, how about this.  I heard some talk about a game, after hours at the Strathcona Hotel.  Word is, there's...."

"Jerry, don't even get started.  I'm not interested in any game, anywhere.  I'm not getting back into the life.  It was never worth it, even when I was on top of my game, which I'm not."

"Never worth it?"  Jerry retorted, "When you were...hell, you're still one of the best.  We could make real money off this one.  I know that thing at the Comroy got you spooked, but I swear, this game is serious, with real security.  Nothing like those half-wits at the Comroy.  And the fish...unbelievable..."

"Look, I've told you before, I want nothing to do with it.  I've put it behind me.  I go to meetings now."

Jerry poured the rest of the beer into our glasses, and then clinked mine with his, in a toast.   He took a  quick sip, then waited for me to lift my glass to my lips so he could get his word in.

"Look, I'm not taking no for an answer.  If I had somebody else could do this job we wouldn't be here. The fish himself is nothing, but it's the qualifiers.  If I could get onto the table with this fella I could take his money myself, but it's a tough field vying for that final table  I'm not buying your story about losing the gift.  You can make the table, and I can get you into the game.  That's the end of it."

"This," I said, "is indeed the end of it.  I'm not playing in your game, no matter how much money is at stake for me," and I paused pointedly, "or for you.  Thank you for your painfully transparent attempt to ply me with alcohol, and good day."  With this I pushed back my chair and stood up.

"Don't walk away from me, Simon, dammit.  You don't know wh...."   His words were swallowed up by bar noise as I made my way through the crowd toward the door.

I'm not a proud man.  I can admit when I'm wrong.  It's not all that often, but when I'm wrong, I admit it.  In this case, I was wrong.  It wasn't the end of it, that's for certain.