By on Aug 9, 2016 in ShortFiction | 0 comments

Briscola or “Brisk” in Brooklyn is an Italian card game. It’s played with a deck of forty cards and there is a trump suit. Who knows how it came to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and why it was the game of cards favored by teenagers hanging out on stoops with nothing particular to do? LJS

The Players

Jimmy O’Rourke Xaverian H.S. junior, baseball shortstop
Johnny Rahal Fort Hamilton H.S., sophomore, weekend mechanic

Arnie Arnesson Fort Hamilton H.S., junior, cross country
Louie Finnochio Stuyvesant H.S., junior, school paper
The Interrupter
Waldo “Junior” Crump No known high school, street fighter

Jimmy: “Me and you, Louie. Okay with youse?”
Johnny/Arnie: “Yeah.”
Louie: “Johnny, take out the 8’s, 9’s, and 10’s…oh, and the jokers.”
Johnny: “Ain’t none in the pack. Shuffle and draw, Jimmy.”
Jimmy: “Pulled a bullet. I’ll bury it. Okay. Clubs is trumps. You deal, Arnie.”
Arnie: (deals out three cards to each player)
“Ya seen Junior around?”
Louie: “Not since Saturday. Tough Tony hurt him some.” (throws down the deuce of hearts)
Johnny; “Some? Didja see his eye? Big as an egg.” (plays deuce of diamonds)
Jimmy: “Tough Tony’s an asshole.” (plays four of hearts.)
Arnie: “But he’s a fuckin’ monsta.” (five of hearts. Takes trick. Plays jack of hearts. Coughs so Johnny notices.)
Louie: “Tough Tony. Yeah, you guys know the story, right?” (Plays deuce of clubs. Doesn’t wait for an answer.) Tony wasn’t nothin’ ‘til Mickey McMenemy decked him good after mass at Saint E’s. Tony went down, then Mickey pantsed him, and him and his boys had a good laugh. Vicky, Tony’s brother saw it; went home and told the old man. ‘ had him on the weights the next day. That was almost five years ago. Now he’s badass. Started working as a bouncer at the Gallery this summer. Grew a mustache so’s they’d think he looked olda. All them muscle shirts he buys to show off his arms. They got big though. Oh, and he cleaned McMenemy’s clock for him just a year after he started liftin’. Nobody messes with Tough Tony. Why the fuck did Junior do it?”
Johnny: (Looks at Jimmy. Plays six of hearts.)
Jimmy: (Casually plays ace of hearts). “Gee thanks. Johnny. Your lead, Louie. And Junior is a simpleton, man. Every day ya see him, he’s smilin’. But what’s he smilin’ at? He don’ know and we don’ know.”
(Louie plays the jack of diamonds.)
Johnny: “I never seen his mom neither. He says she works nights at Victory Memorial and sleeps during the day, so ya never can go in his apartment. He got no brothas or sistas. And what kinda name is Crump? Sounds like something that happens to ya cah, between a crash and a bump. (plays queen of diamonds.) Junior Crump. What’s his first name? Somebody said it’s Waldo! Fuckin’ Waldo.”
Jimmy: “Louie, you fucked us over. (rubs left eye. plays four of diamonds)
Louie: “Me? Oh. (rubs right eye.)
Arnie: (plays ace of diamonds). “Nice, Johnny. Hey, remember when we dared Junior to kiss Howie’s mother on the lips and he did it? “ (leads with king of diamonds.)
Jimmy: (plays seven of clubs.) “Yeah, and then he tried to kiss his sister, too, with the mother standin’ there. They both came after him with baseball bats.”
Johnny: (looking at Arnie with apprehension; throws down jack of clubs) “Fuckin’ baseball bats. Wow! Couldya believe it?”
Louie: “Believe this, John John.” (plays the queen of clubs. Takes trick.)
At this point, the game is interrupted as Junior Crump rolls down the block like a sailor on shore leave: dressed in blue chambray work shirt and bell bottom jeans, with a bow-legged rolling gait, a great big grin on his face despite a swollen left eye all black and blue, scratches on his arms and hands, and his glasses held together with first aid tape.
Junior: “Hey guys! What’s goin’ on?”
Arnie: “Not much Junior. Didn’t think you’d be around for a while. Tough Tony did a real number on ya.”
Junior: “I’m good. Nothin’ broken. I’m goin’ against him again, next Saturday.”
Jimmy: “You crazy fuck! How many times doya need to get your head handed to ya?”
Louie: “Junior. It didn’t look good last Saturday. Took Tony about two minutes to take ya. Maybe wait…at least a little before ya get into it again with Tony.”
Junior: “Nah, I told Dolores that I’d take him down for her. Tony started grabbin’ her that day after the fight. Put his hand on her ass and all. Tried to kiss her.”
Jimmy: “Come on, Junior. You know Dolores has been around the block with just about everyone, ‘cept you.”
(Junior doesn’t speak, but looks at Jimmy long and hard.)
Jimmy: “Hey, I ain’t tryin’ to get you mad. It’s just the way it is with her. Ya might think you’re the only guy, but you’re not, for sure.”
Junior: “Next Saturday. Leif Erikson Park this time. Three o’clock. If you’re my friends, you’ll be there.”
(Junior walks away before anyone can speak.)
Jimmy: “Jeesh, what a dumb ass! Who leads?”
Louie: “ Be me, Jimmy. What say you to a change of suit?” (plays two of spades)
Johnny: (throws down three of spades.) “F-in’ Junior, boy!”
Jimmy: (plays five of clubs). “Yeah, but we gotta back’m.” (eyes Louie)
Arnie: (pretends to smash card on surface of stoop upon which they are playing with all his might, then lightly floats card down.) “Oh, yes. The lovely six of clubs ladies and gentlemen.” (Takes trick, then leads with seven of diamonds.)
Johnny “Nah, we gotta stop’m. No way he can win, and if he gets hit in the eye again, he might lose it.”
Jimmy: “Methinks Arnie Boy got no trump, unh? (smiles and plays three of diamonds.)
Arnie: “I got nuthin’”. (plays five of diamonds).
Louie: “So. Are we goin’ Saturday or not?” (plays three of hearts). “Yes, indeedly, Jimbo! Two bullets with one shot!”
Jimmy: “Ain’t much, but…” (lays down king of hearts)
Arnie: “Shit. Shit, and shit again.” (plays seven of hearts.)
Louie: “Got to load it up, Jimmy. (smiling, lays down ace of spades.)
Johnny: “Don’t know. I’m busy Saturday all day. Race day out on the Island.” (plays six of diamonds.)
Jimmy: “I’m getting’ used to this. I believe the rest are ours. (Lays down ace, three and king of clubs trumps.)
Johnny: “Ah, shit. Talk about getting the cards.” (disgustedly, Arnie and Johnny throw their remaining cards into the pile.)
Jimmy: “I’ll be there on Saturday with my cousin, Jerry.”
Arnie: “Yeah. Your cousin the opera singer wannabe. He can give us some muscle, right?”
Louie: “Scare’m with his singin’. “Our game, Jimbo. Nicely done, I must say.”
Arnie: “At least gimme a cig’, Jimmy.”
Jimmy: “How the hell can you run cross country and smoke?”
Arnie: “Just gimme a cigarette. I’’ll be there Saturday. You Louie?”
Louie: “Yeah, me too.”
And so it was that three of the four brisk players witnessed Junior Crump get his ass whipped a second time by Tough Tony Esposito in Leif Erikson Park on a perfectly nice late June Saturday. This time though, Junior got the girl. Dolores picked up his broken glasses and handed them to him as he staggered out of the park. He leaned into her and she leaned back.
Two years later they were married. Not even out of their teens. Junior signed up with the merchant marines. Doris kept house until she got bored. Then she started entertaining visitors. Junior never knew. He was happy when he was home.

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