Chapter 6

A Gambler and a Comedian

Warning: Major The Ballad of Buster Scruggs reference ahead. You have been warned.

It was getting late, Amanda knew. She could just feel her body getting drowsy with every waking minute. Despite that, she managed to carry on. Rocky's poem had attracted quite a few people to their spot, and he was having a great time having a laugh with a few of them.

Amanda smiled, and glanced around. Apart from a few other people on the dance floor, there was a lavish poker table nearby. A quartet of people were gathered around, smoking from long pipes or from large, fat Cuban cigars. As she watched, one person slammed his draw of cards on the table in disgust and stormed off, taking a long and fat puff of his cigar. She moved toward the table, but felt someone's hand on her shoulder.

"I wouldn't play that draw if I were you," Rocky said, watching as the round concluded and the remaining gamblers started to reshuffle the deck and continue on with the game.

"Why?" Amanda asked, looking confused, reaching over the counter to get another shot of gin. "It looks like a normal draw to me."

"He probably drew a Dead Man's Hand. Explains the hurried look," Rocky suggested, watching as the third person reached for the discarded cards. He lifted the draw, shuddered, and stuffed it into the deck as the others reshuffled. Rocky shuddered, his fears confirmed.

"No way," Amanda whispered, gripping her shawl tightly. "That's what Bill Hickok was holding when-"

"He was shot dead," Rocky said, nodding and sipping his whiskey. "Wouldn't want to be in his position." As he lowered his glass, he was instantly reminded of something.

"Speaking of poker," he said, "I once walked into an old saloon that bared guns. Hell, I could have snuck in my derringers, but I chose not to.

So anyways," he said, taking a sip of his drink, a smile on his face. "I walked over to a table where a man had just left because of a draw just like that. I took his spot, glanced at his cards, saw the Dead Man's Hand, and called it quits. But the truth is, once you see those cards, you play 'em. Anyways, I tried to leave, but one guy ain't havin' none of it. I even tried the nice route. And then, that sucker pulls a gun on me! I told him to deposit his gun by the entrance and THEN continue playing, since that it was a violation of the rules in the first place." He suddenly giggled.

"Anyway, after it appeared that the fellow wasn't gonna go anytime soon, I slammed my foot down on the loose centerboard of the table, and it went up just as his gun goes off! Call me crazy, but that was damn insanity that day."

"Well you are!" Amanda said, shoving him hard. "You could have died!"

"I told you, my luck runs as thick as whiskey. But when you're unarmed, your tactics might gotta be downright Archemidian," Rocky said. "Anyways, after that son of a gun goes down, I thought of a song to remember the old fellow by." He made sure to announce the last part a little more clearly to the pianist, who stopped playing the Maple Leaf Rag, and leaned closer to listen. The bar went ghastly quiet. Even Mordecai stopped cleaning glasses to listen.

Rocky grinned, and stepped forward.

SOUNDTRACK TO PLAY: "Little Joe the Wrangler," from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

"Surly Joe, the gambler, he will gamble nevermore," he sang. "His days of stud and hold 'em, they are done." The pianist responded with a few notes that matched his singing.

"It was, long about last April, he stepped into this saloon. But he never really took to anyone." The pianist responded with a satisfactory puff from his smoking stick and launched into a full-blown song following Rocky's tempo.

"Surly Joe."

"Surly Joe!"

"Surly Joe."

"Surly Joe!"

"Oh, wherever he's gambling now, I don't know."

"We don't know!"

"He was slick, but I was slicker, he drew quick, but I was quicker, and the table stopped his ticker Surly Joe. Yee-haw!"

"Surly Joe."

"Surly Joe!"

"Surly Joe."

"Surly Joe!"

"Won't be missed by anyone, will Surly Joe."

"Surly Joe!"

"Our kind he frowned upon, But not now, his face is gone, guess your frowning days are done oh, Surly Joe."

"Yee-haw!"

"Surly Joe."

"Surly Joe!"

"Surly Joe."

"Surly Joe!"

"A cedilla on the C of Curly Joe."

"Surly Joe!"

"He was mean in days of yore, now they're mopping up the floor, one more sight to make him sore, oh, Surly Joe."

"Yee-haw!"

"Surly Joe."

"Surly Joe!"

"Surly Joe."

"Surly Joe!"

"Where the rest of his face has got to, we don't know."

"We don't know!"

"He was never any fun, now his grumpy race has run. Kisser's blown to kingdom come, oh, Surly Joe."

"Yee-haw!"

Amanda couldn't help but laugh and tap along as Rocky sang about the gambler's demise. The patrons of the bar responded with hearty laughs and roars of approval to some parts. Ivy and Freckle were dancing and laughing like maniacs, Mordecai was smiling and tapping along, and even Viktor was roaring with laughter. He even got two people to hoist him onto one of the counters, where he danced around, singing at the top of his lungs.

When the last phrase ended, Rocky jumped down from the counter and landed with a flourish, to which the entire Lackadaisy erupted in cheers and applause. The crowd lifted him up and carried him around like he was a war hero. He spotted Amanda in the crowd and waved, to which she just laughed and waved back.

Tonight was a fun night after all.