Reno Finds His Footing
When it rains the clouds descend the surrounding
mountaintops and stamp out all noise, quiet with raindrops constant with
purpose, showing mankind that this plateau is 9000 feet in the Andes, cool and
cruel to those wet and exposed. The air is full of water falling steady with no
hurry. Rejuvenation is in the air and the cold kills bacterium and cleans the
water but a cold nonetheless that shouldn't be equated with a city right on the
equator. In a way it's the safest place in the world. Twelve hours of day all here,
sunny, rainy but always constant. Never minus 30 or 100 Fahrenheit. Here a man
can trust the weather, depend on a consistency. It affects the pace of life,
the choices people make and how they live life. A geography-based life
philosophy, thanks to the Creator for the friendly ebb and flow of hot and
When the centering of self comes a
bolder character emerges, a firmer voice without fear of attack, opening the
door to ideas and wit normally kept censored by inner vociferous clamoring of
consternation and trepidation. With these noises discredited there is a leap of
wit, a new resource ready for a quick delivery, an ease that can dictate the
flow and subject matter in a group. Because there is no fear, laughter and
acceptance come from others with the natural ease of falling water. Respect and
nurturing of ones doppelganger is the path to evolution of self and the
starting point for an upward-moving dialectic. Very quickly Reno ran with it
with the belief that what was interesting to him was interesting to at least
Noble was at the bar with the Dane
nursing a first pint. Just the two of them as if old regulars devoted to the
bar's health. The Dane, thin and melancholy, pushed his pint aside and said
he's be right back.
"Two minutes." He was a man who
never engaged in exaggeration or hyperbole, a man who admired and employed
understatement whenever possible. Noble assumed he was off across the street to
call Diego the Argentinean who somehow ended up with his credit card. Innocence
and sober thought were his comfort zones, never taking words as inaccurate, but
the doppelgänger in Noble soon thought he had stepped out to score a baggie of
nose candy. Five minutes and then ten, Reno emerged in a cloud of smoke and the
fizz of the huge glass of beer in front of him.
The Dane, being every bit able,
competent and worldly went straight into the bathroom and then to Reno's side,
grin, lines and the slight twinkle in his eye that to Reno was beautiful. Here
was a man who knew his likes and dislikes, his stimulants and had no
inclination to ask permission or announce his minor crime. In a single leap he
had body-checked the melancholy out and lifted his spirits to a sporting
playfulness. I sucked on my cerveza wanting to acknowledge what he had
done but Reno held firm and curled his lips to feel the blonde hairs of his
"Here." One word. No doubt. Complete
matter-of-factness and said as if Reno were a brother and old friend. The small
bag of coke went into his hand, for a moment worried at how obvious the handoff
was. But the thrill Reno felt trumped the caution Noble wanted to exercise.
Only a nod and off to the washroom.
somewhat experienced after 48 years of never partaking in the white powder,
Reno did the only thing he knew: deposited a large hit onto the porcelain
mantelpiece of the toilet, a pile unmanicured by credit card or cigarette box.
He rolled a bill tightly and then took a deep breath enjoying the knowledge
that the door was locked and the bar still empty. The long-suppressed rascal
bent down and demolished the cocoa in two goes, stinging the nostril lining but
knowing it was both a clean execution and a high yield. Breaking rules and
breaking laws and being bad all combined to scare Noble but fuelled Reno, a new
swagger emerging when he re-entered the bar after making sure there was no
evidence around his nostril. Even the glance in the mirror added to his poise,
savoring the knowledge that he had never looked better. Who ever said pride was
Noble wanted to verbally enthuse but
with Reno now in the driver's seat, he slipped onto the barstool, resumed
watching the football and casually handed back the coveted baggie. Nothing
said. Action known but left unacknowledged, successful execution of a crime
resulting in a faster heartbeat and now nurturing the urge to talk about all
sorts of things.
Noble felt like a tea-totaling prude
contrasted against the muted relishing concealed under his unembellished grin,
the long dormant Viking surfacing with the Dane. Neither of them switched up a
gear too obviously, words dry and delivered with mischief, suddenly savoring
the moment, the beer and the night's possibilities.
"You two playing poker tonight?"
Reno noticed the bar filling up, the candles lit on the tables and the fire emitting
orange from the fireplace. I looked at the Dane. So recently his shoulders and
posture had been overrun by gravity and fatigue. His blue eyes sparkled,
devil-may-care-I-can-do-anything-if-you're-game spoken without words.
"Oh come on!" Monica, the most
beautiful of all the regulars, manager no-nonsense Scot who spoke her mind,
challenging the two alpha males to play ball, crossed her arms ready to
challenge two bad-assed big spenders.
‘Yeah, what the hell." Her hand
slammed on the bar, flattered and relieved, looking even prettier in her
Their height and swagger and glow attracted
others to the table, with them taking the best seats around the two tables
side-by-side. Ecuador social etiquette was very clear about introductions.
There were Andreas from Switzerland: 27 years old smart and laidback to Reno's
left, and PY from Quebec across the table, Jason from New Jersey who whatever
he did could not conceal his crassness and loud voice; Monica, the bar manager
and Mare also from Quebec. Right from the start the Dane and Reno dominated and
toyed, teased and joked, leading by example that this night could not be
anything but fun. But there was a cool expertise, words enunciated clearly,
stoned-state concealed, aplomb and firmness noticed and respected by all except
Jason. There was one thing about the Dane: he was unable to tolerate
drunkenness and stupidity, especially during a poker game. To Reno it was
because he was European and had class. And he was right. The American was
flippant and careless, disrespectful not to the players but to the code of good
sportsmanship. Reno knew the Dane well enough to sit back in silent awe of
witnessing him pull rank while he reveled at his unabashed assertiveness.
Jason settled down from the Dane's
policing, clearly unaccustomed to European sensibilities of etiquette. Reno
loved it and took note of the Dane's technique, direct and fair, firm and
They quickly settled into a robust
and well-played game of Texas Hold'em, all showing a keenness to win but most
of all to play well. And when the pace was brisk it brought out the best in
Noble was usually conservative when
betting but Reno usurped any serious contemplation of prudish sobriety and
caution, and let loose with the blunt cockiness that garnered replies from all.
With a good two cards he said: "Being a fair man I thought I'd tell you I'm
going to win this hand." Reckless abandon, cocksure and coy, the jester was
welcomed into the mix.
"So that's how you bluff." The
Swiss, smart, polite and tattooed, responding well to the challenge. The bets
went high, Reno was in, the face cards matching well to his hand. But it was
the American who simply refused to believe Reno would make such a bold
statement if he did have a good hand. With the Swiss out, he knew exactly what
was happening. The American adamant, stubborn, stupid and loud, loaded the pot.
From what he could see, Jason probably had three kings but he knew he had his
favorite hand and Reno kept raising the bet.
"Lure him in," the Swiss whispered,
keeping his cigarette hidden under the table. The Dane, dealing and folded,
snuck a peek at Reno's cards. Nothing. No expression or utterance but Reno
could see his pride in him.
"We're trying our hardest to get the
American out of the game." Reno, full of bluster, everyone laughing at his
boldness, Jason slurring in defense.
With the pot high with chips, he
finally called. Careless and without fanfare, Reno's two low cards showed not
even a pair, for a moment caught in a bluff, the American about to erupt in
triumph until the Swiss pointed and said: "A flush!" A moment until the Dane
struck him hard, the laughter coming from a deep and sincere place.
"Three kings," said Jason, not
believing that five low cards showing clubs could beat his royalty. Simple,
understated cards, smart yet effective, the hand so many forget to play. The
more Jason resisted yet accepted the outcome, his tattooed arms refusing and
gesturing, belching futile resistance, the game became something more. The
bluff had been a bluff until the first three clubs were laid, Reno aware his
chances were fair with his two low clubs.
Everyone drank, the to Quebecois
loving the American's resistance and deflation and his struggle to accept the
unsung flush. The chips overflowed in front of him, mild embarrassment but for
Reno a moment to remember. The Dane was proud to be his friends, the Swiss
handing him his cigarette under the table, acceptance and digging Reno's cool,
the Quebecois all grins, and Monica suppressing her smile that revealed more
than her perfect teeth.
And so the game went.
Only when Monica was focused on
something did Reno and the Swiss sneak a smoke, and only when the Swiss was
watching did Reno fling the cigarette over her head and into the fire, swallowed
into the flame every time.
Antonio had shown up and had set up
a party at Paul's so he tried to lose quickly, beefing up pots and calling
bluffs, but Reno kept winning. Jason from New Jersey was the first to lose
followed by the Dane. Being the way he was, he bought in with more chips but
lost those two, settling into being the dealer for every hand yet still
rotating the order of bets. A flow, the well-oiled machine purring, the rare
moment of levity, a contained silliness hidden, consistent and free, flowing
and sharp, bouncing retorts with one liners, his smile only interrupted by the
steady flow of pints he and the Dane consumed at an impressive pace.
"Two more el grande por favor,
my bill," said Reno
"No, no. My bill." And so it went.
game went on for hours, Antonio drinking and sulking in the corner, looking at
his watch, the Dane not caring, Reno pushing his recklessness so he could lose
and get to Paul's. He even snuck in a second visit to the washroom after the
Dane had returned, serendipitous hand-off unseen by even the most prying eyes,
another thick line, the rest of the game employed in the constant concealment
of a nasal drip. The Dane and Reno unable to halt the cracks, all arid as the
desert, the Quebecois polite and loose, the Swiss wide-eyed and notably piqued
at the level of it all, and at the absolute fearlessness of the Dane and Reno
sharing and balancing the flow, opening the doors for others to crack the joke,
encouraging the rascal to break free.
But it was Monica who he thought
felt the deepest emotion, proud of her two men, proud of the ambiance of the
four candles on the table, proud of the music selected and the warmth of the
fire and impressed by the underlying grace so evident in the humor that could
not be killed. Noble knew that she was aware that they were witnessing a
harmony of parts, a fleeting moment that could never last, a chemistry always
hoped for, the flawless coming together of personalities, the good stuff from
good hearts, the genuine sharing of mutual joy, a breaking down of walls and
inhibition through a fluke of the mix, life how it should be, and in the back
of her mind the knowledge that it was all her doing, her initiative and her
efforts that had made this magic happen. Monica's expression also showed that
she knew it could not last, a tinge of the underpinning of life's sadness, that
perfect moments could only exist as a memory that could warm her heart anytime
she recalled the non-stop laughter, the fountain of comic wit coming from these
giant men that looked like cousins, fair and kind, meanness never knocking on
the door, the storm of banality kept locked out by the will of two men, proud
and unabashed and perhaps unaware at the utter exposure of their characters for
all to see and savor. Monica knew this was about what human beings were capable
of, so completely different from the wars and crimes and squalor that most
people never stopped talking about.
Noble could all that on her face,
but Reno was noticing her flushed cheeks, her coquettishness and the way she
watched him, a heat he could sense. Monica was beyond Noble, beyond his
capabilities, too much to handle, too full and confident a woman but a perfect
match for Reno, rare, gifted, imbued with ease and the grace of God, a full man
on display showing all, baring his soul, bringing the best out in others, the
man she knew existed but could never find. Noble could see Reno had restored
her faith in the goodness of men, her belief in the possibility of love, and
her nagging hope in a partner that could enhance her life through laughter,
openness and the safety of a good heart. Monica couldn't help restoring and
refilling those areas in herself that had slowly drained and dried, her
instinct encouraging her to heal the jaded edges in her soul created by the
drought of fully experiencing an honest and full man, and being surrounded by
the petty disharmonies of the immature and selfish, who never embrace all that
was good and noble in man. Silently she feasted on the vibe and soothed the
frayed tissue in her heart, stitching and sewing herself, becoming stronger and
safer and even happier, even if just for a moment. Humanity could be beautiful.
Total strangers meeting in her bar over cards could create something bigger
than its parts, a hovering synergy that was palpable, and poetry to her.
But as they all knew the moment
could not last. Antonio was causing a raucous outside because the front doors
had been locked at closing time and he had been caught outside and couldn't get
in. Around the back door he knocked and bitched, a no-no of etiquette,
upsetting the stern bouncer who came to the table and said: "Antonio."
The Dane gave Noble a look and he
knew what they had to do. Under no circumstances could we allow him to upset
Monica and attract the police roaming the streets of Mariscal, causing
turbulence to the special privilege the pub had in the neighborhood, the gentle
balance of knowing and allowing Finn's to illegally drink and smoke all night
if they wanted as long as they were quiet and didn't cause trouble. And the
Dane and Noble knew Antonio had it in him to wreck it all. They didn't say
The irony was Reno was playing and
about to lose the last of his chips. He was brave when he nodded at Monica and
stood up, motioning to the bouncer that the problem was about to go away. The
real world infringing on a thing of beauty, the magic marred by a man who could
not share and who was unable to laugh.