Precious Cargo

All characters appearing in this story are mine of my own design.
This story is a work of fiction based upon nothing in particular.

Precious Cargo is copyright The Silver Coyote

The Waiting Game

Chris looked at the cards in his hand, at the pot in the center of the kitchen table, and then up to the two furs looking at him. Several soda cans were scattered about the table, as well as several bags of different kinds of snack chips in various stages of depletion. Behind them the HDTV illuminated it's corner of the small living room, the volume turned down low. The ten o'clock evening news was on. Running his free paw through his light brown hair, he contemplated his next move.

"C'mon Chris, we're going to fall asleep waiting for you!" his sister said plaintively. "I'm so tired I can hardly see my cards!" She reached for a soda can and raised it to her lips. Her blue eyes gazed steadily at her brother over the top of the can as she sipped.

"Shut up, Deb," Chris growled at his sister. Looking at his brother, Chris said "I'm in," as he tossed a quarter into the pot at the center of the table. Approximately three dollars in change cushioned the fall of his quarter.

Mike looked at his own cards. The only five he didn't have in his paw was the five of diamonds. He looked at his brother. Chris looked tired, as he was sure he himself looked. Mike also saw a trace of annoyance in his brother's glance towards his sister. But most of all he could tell that Chris was worried about their parents. Chris had always been the worrier on their crew. Even now he was looking at his watch.

Mike looked at his sister sitting across from them. She had grown a lot in the past year, turning from his kid sister into a good looking young female. There were many physical characteristics that Debbie shared with their mom, not the least of which was her long blond hair, blue eyes, and fabulous figure. Her body was all fox, but her face had somethng of their father in it, as well. She had their dad's practical, no nonsense approach to life as well, and like him could be a pain in the rear about some things. Right now she was grinning at him, flashing a lot of white teeth and fangs, the amusement plain on her face.

Debbie in her turn was reaching for her change before Chris's quarter had finished it's landing in the pot. She selected two quarters and, with minor fanfare, tossed them into the pot, announcing "I'll raise you twenty five, brothers." She looked into Mike's eyes, the challenge underscored by her expression.

"Comes the power," said Mike, leaning back in his chair and again looking at the cards in his paw. He paused only momentarily before adding a quarter of his own to the pot. "Call." Looking at Debbie he asked "Dad teach you poker?"

"Of course..."

"I think we're in trouble, brother." Mike intoned. He smiled at Debbie, then turned his gaze upon his younger brother.

"I've got a headache," Chris grumbled. He was a smaller version of his father, he had the same coloring and build as Joe, and most furs could pick him out of a crowd of young furs as being Joe's pup. He wasn't paying much attention to the game of five card draw, he was wondering why their folks hadn't arrived or called in yet. Chris held a seven-high straight, but the cards were out of sequence in his paw, and the three percent of his brain that was devoted to the game hadn't noticed the value of his hand yet. Mike's five of diamonds was in Chris's paw. Absently Chris tossed another quarter on the table.

"Are you calling?" Debbie asked.

"I guess."

"Full house!" she announced with a giggle, laying out queens and sixes on the table.

"That beats me," Mike said, laying out his own cards.

"Me too," Chris said, tossing his cards face down on top of the pot. Standing, he walked through the front room of his apartment to turn up the HDTV volume slightly. On the screen were columns of numbers superimposed on a weather map. As the volume came up, the voice of the network news weather 'caster was describing a cold front moving through the Rockies of western Colorado.

"Come to mama," smiled Debbie as she stood and leaned over the table to sweep her winnings toward her. She left three nickels as an ante for each of them in the next game, a point of poker etiquette her father had taught her. Straightening, she stretched languidly and giggled as she caught her older brother eyeing her. She was becoming accustomed to all the attention from the males, but it hadn't gone to her head.

Unfazed at being discovered, Mike grinned. In general Mike appeared to be a Red Fox, he was lean and wiry and tall. But there was a lot of Gray Fox in his facial features and coloring, his fur was a dark reddish brown. "Sorry Deb, I was just observing how much you've, well... uh, grown in the past year." Mike's sister, at five foot eight, was a good three to four inches taller than their mom. Her jeans fit in all the right places, as did the tee shirt she wore. She had that "California Fur" look about her, but thankfully didn't have the attitude to go with it. "I guess I don't get home as much as I should anymore," Mike admitted. "Between the church and school I've been busy."

"I know. Mom and Dad miss you. You should come home more often." Turning her head to the side she called towards Chris. "Chris! Are you in?"

"Yes," Chris replied from in front of the video screen. "Let me check out the weather first."

Debbie swept up the cards and began to straighten the deck. Mike rose from the table and went to the refrigerator in Chris's kitchen, looking for another soda. As Debbie shuffled Mike selected a can from the refrigerator. Standing in the kitchen as he popped the top on the can, Mike listened carefully, tilting his head from side to side as his ears turned. He could hear rain on the roof overhead. "It's raining," he observed to the room.

"It's raining all over the Four Corners area right now," said Chris from the living room. Debbie began dealing the cards.

"What are we playing now?" Mike asked her as he returned to the table. He watched her deal, standing next to her.

"Dad's game." She smiled. Each of the three knew what that was, straight five card stud poker. No wilds, no frills, it's pure poker. It was actually Grandpa's game, he had taught it to their father when he was but a pup. "The way poker is meant to be played'," as Grandpa would say. She began to deal the cards onto the table, first a down card for each of them, then another card, face up. As she dealt she called to her brother in the living room "Cards on the table, Chris."

"Coming," he said, not moving from his chair, staring at the HDTV.

"You're betting," she called back to him a moment later. "You're high with a queen of hearts." She placed the rest of the deck face down to her right and looked at the two of clubs in front of her, and then to the seven of spades in front of Mike. Looking up to Mike's face, she winked at him. Lowering her voice she asked "Are you hanging in there? You must be whacked after driving all those miles." They had arrived from Orange County earlier that evening.

Mike nodded towards the cola on the table in front of him. "I'm OK. Just keep the caffeine coming. Soon as mom and dad get here I'll go to bed." Looking at the cards on the table, Mike reached across the table to the pile of coins behind Chris's cards and selected a nickel. "Chris, you just bet a nickel on your queen," Mike called to his brother.

Getting out of his chair Chris said "OK, thanks." He walked out of the room momentarily.

"I'm good for that," Debbie said, tossing her own nickel on the table. As Mike tossed a nickel of his own in, she picked up the deck and began to deal three more cards face up, naming them as she went. "Three of diamonds, no help," she told Mike. "Eight of hearts, our brother is building a flush." She placed the last card in front of herself. "Dealer takes an ace!" she declared as the ace of spades dropped in front of her. "I'm high with the ace. That's worth a dime!"

Mike looked up as Chris came by him on the way to his own seat. Chris had a GSM phone with him in one paw, a small handy talkie radio in the other. As Chris took his seat Mike noticed that both the phone and the radio were turned on. Mike tossed a dime into the pot while asking "Any traffic?", indicating the radio Chris now placed on the table between them. "Bet's a dime to you."

"No," Chris replied. Quickly scanning the table, Chris reached for and tossed in a dime of his own. He continued as Debbie dealt a six of hearts to Mike "Both of these have been on all evening since mom called, but neither of them has made a sound since then."

Debbie dealt Chris the two of hearts and paused, saying "Chris's got a flush building." Dealing herself the ace of hearts, Debbie smiled and said "We all got hearts this time around. How sweet, and I'm high with a pair of aces! That's worth a quarter."

So far none of the players had looked at their "hole cards", the ones that were face down. Now that there was only one card each left to be dealt, each player was fighting the urge to peek. Chris succumbed to the temptation first, stealing a glance while Debbie was fetching her quarter up onto the table. A corner of his mouth turned up ever so slightly.

Mike tossed in a quarter, looking at Chris but not really paying attention, wondering what his own hole card might be. He resisted the temptation to look.

Her brother's slight smile was not lost on Debbie. She looked curiously at him as Chris tossed in a quarter of his own wordlessly. "OK boys", she said with a flourish while brandishing the deck once more, "Here they come." She tossed a four of spades in front of Mike. "Possible straight," she observed, looking at Mike. Next was Chris's final card, the six of hearts. "Hmmm...", Debbie allowed, smiling with a knowing look at Chris, "looks like somebody has his flush." Lastly Debbie dropped the two of diamonds in front of her own cards on the table. "Girls do love diamonds," she said, placing the deck back on the table. Looking at her brothers, Debbie grinned, flashing her fangs again. "Time to get the riff raff and shoe clerks out of the game," she said, placing a dollar on the table.

Mike looked askance at her. "Somebody's had too much soda, I think," he said to Chris. Mike looked carefully at the cards on the table. Chris indeed looked as if he had a flush. Debbie had two pair showing. He might have a low straight, but he hadn't looked at his hole card yet. He stared at the back of the card, but wouldn't reach for it, and then glanced up to meet Debbie's gaze.

"Bet 'em high and sleep in the street," she said sweetly, teasing him. It worked, he reached for a dollar and placed it in the pot without further comment. They both turned to look at Chris.

Pondering whether or not his sister might have another full house, Chris reviewed the situation. She needed an ace or a deuce to pull it off. There was another deuce up on the table in his own paw, but neither of the other aces could be accounted for. He knew he could beat Mike even if Mike made his straight. He reached for a dollar of his own. "I call."

"What you see is what I have," Debbie replied, flipping her hole card over to reveal the king of hearts. Flipping her blond hair back off her shoulder, she looked to Mike.

It's enough! Mike thought, stealing another glance at her figure. Changing his train of thought he said "I can take that," grinning while turning his hole card over, revealing the five of clubs. "I've got the straight." His hazel eyes twinkled in anticipation.

"I can take that," Chris announced without excitement. He turned over his own hole card, the seven of hearts.

Mike frowned slightly. "A flush beats a straight?" he asked.

"It does in this game," Chris replied, reaching for his winnings.

"Is that right?" Mike appealed to their sister.

"I think so. But we can ask dad when he gets in if you're not sure." She turned to Chris.

"If it turns out that I should have won this hand," Mike said, looking at his brother with a meaningful smile, "you're buying us dinner. Me and Debbie."

Chris rubbed his blue eyes as he picked up the GSM phone, then began dialing their mother's number, not listening. Mike fell silent and he and his sister watched as Chris held the phone to his ear for almost thirty seconds. Holding the phone in front of him again, Chris pressed more buttons on the phone, terminating the first call and dialing his father's number. He held the phone up to his ear again, and another thirty seconds ticked away.

"No answer?" Debbie asked gently as he folded the phone up.

"Either both their phones are turned off or they're not in the service area." Chris said with a worried tone of voice.

"You know better than us that there's a lot of holes in the coverage area between here and Ouray," said Mike.

"Yeah, but if they were this side of Coal Bank Summit they'd be in solid."

"Don't sweat it. I'm sure they're fine. They know the area, they've got a good vehicle, and dad's spent most of his life in these mountains. Relax."

Chris put the phone down. "Who's deal?" he asked, knowing all too well that Mike would serve up some horrid game of seven card stud with more wild cards than any of them could keep track of. He put three nickels in the center of the table.

To Chapter Nine: She's Keeping Time.

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