This is another installment in my Story Every Day series, which, now that I'm in graduate school, will change for the time being to Story Every Monday. I'm adding story-every-monday to the tags for watchlisters. For the first installment, go here. For more stories, see the blog.
My dad taught me when I was five years old. He took me to the basement so Mom wouldn't see. He laughed because the cards were almost too big for my hands. I thought he was laughing at me. Two days later I could beat him.
I played my first real tournament at seven. I sat with Dad and five fat men in the basement of an Elks Lodge. My wrists were the width of magic markers back then; the men called me "Big Guy." When I cleaned them out, they made a new rule that the winner had to be 21 or over.
"The law's the law," they said.
That night Dad explained to me that we lived in an unjust world. He left in the morning.
I kept on playing. At ten I got admitted to an illegal game in the warehouse district. I had to steal money from my mom, a little every week, to make buy-in. I told myself I'd pay it back, and I did. The warehouse guys didn't try anything with me. I told them I was a 40-year-old with a genetic condition. I said I had three years to live. I wasn't sure if they believe me, but they were scared of me. I was happy to make them afraid.
By the time I was 13 I was famous. All the crooks and bookies in the city knew my name. I didn't get a growth spurt like the other kids, and my upper lip stayed smooth. Some people said I was six and some people said I was 60. Nobody liked me and everybody wanted to be my friend. So I started a gang. It was the only thing I could do.
Now I have 40 guys working for me. I have a girlfriend and a mistress and a Rolls-Royce. Nobody gets to be mayor or police chief without going through me.
So why am I on this train? Take a look at my pantlegs. They were too long a month ago; now you can see my socks. Something my dad taught me: find the source of your power. Know it, keep a watch on it, and cut out when it's gone.